“Mom, what’s for dinner?”
Are you the chef in your family? Do you have finicky eaters? Do you struggle with what to cook for dinner each week? And also have to stay within budget? If you said “yes,” to any of these questions, I feel ya. I struggle every week. But I noticed that if I plan ahead on what to make for the week, I feel less stressed out and save money because I am not buying groceries on the day I am cooking or while I am hungry.
I have two picky eaters in my family, my husband, and five-year-old son. My one-year-old daughter will eat anything I put in front of her (well, except Gerber oatmeal). I am a foodie, I love almost all types of food but sadly, I am allergic to shrimp. Shrimp is like one of the easiest seafood ingredients to cook to make a delicious meal. I love going out to eat too but that can get expensive.
My husband and I made up a list of meals that he likes to eat that I can make. But the list of 10 things can get pretty stale if you know what I mean.
I used to love to cook until time became my enemy with two little ones and working from home.
My two major musts for cooking are
1.) recipes must have five or less major ingredients and
2.) budget friendly.
I am happy to report that this week, I am making three meals that would last six days to feed three and a half people for under $50. This doesn’t always happen. But it happened this week because I planned. Planning takes time, and who has that? So here are some ideas to get you started. But remember, it will take a little more time initially but once you get the hang of it, it will be more efficient and cost-effective.
- Find sources that house your favorite recipes. I search on cooking websites but good old-fashioned cookbooks will do. My favorite website is skinnytaste.com; easy and healthy recipes. Another site that I keep seeing simple but not so healthy meals are from Tasty on Facebook. You know, the one with the fast-forwarding videos that show you all the ingredients and then out comes this yummy chicken dish or cheesecake bites?
- Be familiar with your grocery stores. Call me crazy but I go to at least two grocery stores each trip because I like particular items at particular stores. This doesn’t even count the once every two months trip to a warehouse store like Costco. If you are familiar with your grocery store(s), you will know their sales and coupons, which will help you with budgeting. Also, if you know where the food items are, you can save time and not wander down each aisle which will then cost you not only time but money because you saw that bag of sweet and spicy Hawaiian chips you’ve been craving.
- Write it down. Be intentional or you won’t do it or won’t do it effectively. Here is a calendar I use to write down our daily meals by weeks and a grocery list next to it (http://frugalliving.about.com/library/pdfs/MonthlyMealPlanningWorksheetBbw.pdf). Writing it down will make things so efficient at the grocery store and for budgeting purposes.
Another idea is to meal prep; spend a day and cook and freeze meals for the week so you’d only have to heat up the food during the week.
This method doesn’t work for me because I can’t take a whole day out to cook. I would buy a week’s worth of ingredients but would only cook two or three times during the week and have leftovers. My best friend in the kitchen is the slow cooker. How great is it to throw everything in the pot and set it on low to cook all day? I try to avoid slow cooker recipes where you have to brown the meat first; that would be considered “cooking” so what’s the point?
How do you meal plan?