Thursday, March 12, 2009

Meal Planning = Saving Time & Money

Over the last decade I have gotten pretty lax on my meal planning. Cooking for 2 is challenging in a different way than cooking for a family. I found myself running to the store several time a week because it was fast and convenient, or so I thought. The past few months I have completely reformed my way of meal prep, reduced our food budget by $200.00 plus per month and we have been eating much better. I like to cook in bulk because I figure if you are going to make something, why make just enough for one meal? I also do not like thinking about food or what is for dinner at 3:00 pm when I am at my lowest point in the day and not very imaginative.

I now shop only once a week (working on getting it down to 2 times per month) and I always go to Winco, sometimes Sams's and Trader Joe's. I do it all on Mondays, the least crowded day of the week. If I forget something...oh well. That way I am more apt to plan well and not enter the store more than one time per week and that in and of itself saves time and money! I also like Mondays because it is my Weight Watcher day and so I am highly motivated to buy healthy nutritious foods and if they are in the house~that is what we eat.

We stay out of restaurants except on special occasion or under special circumstances which save lots of calories and money as well. We enjoy going out more now because it is special, not just the normal Friday night thing or whatever. If we are planning in advance I like to look at the menu online and look at the nutritional information before we get there. This is very educatioal and scary to see just how many grams of fat, sodium and sugar, plus chemicals and calories are in most restaurant foods. It is just easier to eat at home and know what you are actually consuming. That may just be me being lazy but it works out better for us.

The other thing I am doing is getting out of my rut and cooking new things and purposely trying to do things differently. I quite like cooking, just not rut cooking. I am learning from my peers in the kitchen from their blogs. I read this tip about cooking meat in bulk this morning from a comment on a post where, "Pretty Organizer said...

" I crock pot my ground beef now. I buy that gianormous package of ground beef (10 lbs?) and put a layer of it in the crock, sprinkle with dried onion flakes, salt, and pepper, put another layer of meat, repeat. The result is a pre-seasoned loaf of meat you divide and can use in ANY MEAL. I'll often let it cook over-night and portion it out in the morning."

Cooking meat in bulk is not a new idea but I like the idea of using the crockpot for this rather than having to brown it in a frying pan..less hassle, less mess. This came from a fantastic post by Jen at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, of whom I am a big fan! In it she talks about preparing meat for 15 meals for her family of 7 in one hour and 15 minutes. Just imagine how long that would last for 2! Since the kitchen is not my favorite place in the house when doing routine cooking~ I am in! It needs a little pizazz to keep me interested.

I wish I had known this one yesterday as I am waiting for a frozen solid brick of hamburger to thaw out even as I type this. I should have just cooked it and then frozen it when I came home with it and others from the store. If I had done this dinner would be cooking in the crockpot already.

Anyhoo, check these ladies out if this is an area of interest to you. They are the gurus.


Laura said...

I am glad to know Monday is the least busy shopping day. I'll have to keep that idea on my mind when I am shopping. I will also have to check out Jen's post, thanks for sharing, Laura