Thursday, September 20, 2012

Meal Planning Ideas to Save Money

Today's blog post was written by NiseyB. The last time she was a guest writer, she wrote this which touches upon a lot of the same things. But read both posts. She is a wise woman with her money and I am sure that we all can learn something new.

We are always looking to save money!

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”  Luke 16:13

I will be the first to validate anyone that meal planning, food shopping, prep and clean up is one of the most tedious tasks in our homes!!!  I love cooking, but I don't find I have a lot of time to always do it so here are some things I found that help me be prepared.

First of all, I no longer feel the need to be creative with finding and introducing new recipes on a regular basis.  In fact, we probably eat the same 5 to 7 meals in some variation most of the time.  It helps with shopping and I also know my kids will eat it.  My food budget is about the same as Theresa's - $75 to $100 a week.  I have beef in my freezer though.  I often buy one package of chicken per week and try to make it into two meals.  
I too wish I could eat healthy all the time, but reality is we are on a tight budget too so we do our best but I don't feel bad when I just can't make the budget on all nonboxed foods.  

If the children take bag lunches I can share some tips for that.  I learned to send small lunches because they really don't have time to eat much.  

Stick to one or two grocery stores, running around to multiple grocery stores to save a few dollars is not worth your time or effort.  I recommend Shoprite and Aldi's.  They are the most affordable for every day prices.  Honestly I do coupon shop and it saves me money but it doesn't make or break the budget.  SALE shopping does make a difference though and being aware of what is a good price to pay for something.  Cereal is always a good price at Aldi's, etc.  Another convenient option is Wal-Mart I am not a fan of Wal-Mart for many reasons but you could shop for most of what you need - food and household and save yourself time and money.  Or if Target is your preference, open their card - it is NOT a credit card, it links directly to your account and so it's like using a check card, but using it takes 5% off your bill.  

Here are a few ideas I do on a regular basis to stretch my food:

1) Pray and ask God to provide and stretch your food.  Seriously.  We have had a 5 lb bag of rice that reminds us of the widow's oil.  We just can't seem to use it up!!  Also pray God will stretch your food money - He does - I can't explain it - but He does!!  Ask Him to help you plan and shop wisely. Yes there is some time and effort that goes into this but with His help you can be efficient and once you get into a routine.

Click here to read that Bible reference.

2) Serve from the counter.  If you know what you have is really more then your family needs to eat, serve it on to plates from the counter and then put the rest into the fridge right away for leftovers (and then use the leftovers!!).  I have a clean out the fridge night from time to time when we just have odds and ends to clean up what we have left.  

3) Make a meal plan and food prep all at one time.  For example if you are having sloppy joes (a.k.a Beef Barbecue) and taco's during the week, cook up 3 lbs of ground beef and then divide it out.  Make up the sloppy joe and taco meat while you're cooking it, put the rest aside to add to spaghetti sauce for spaghetti.  

Meal ideas:
  • Spaghetti and Sauce (sometimes wiht meat and sometimes with Garlic Bread if it's on sale.  I can get a box of 6 for $1.50 - and everyone gets one piece and we divide the last one).  
  • Taco's: 1) in a shell; or 2) bake a corn bread and serve the meat on top of the corn bread; or 3) with rice and mix favorite toppings into it
  • Rice and Beans: add tomatoes, peppers, onions (I know you won't add onions), corn and serve with sour cream and some mexican cheese (optional if you don't have it)
  • Homemade pizza: I will send you the recipe, I make a double batch and freeze leftovers into small portions for my kids lunches.  You can add any toppings you'd like.  I also buy tomato sauce and make my own sauce by adding a little brown sugar and seasonings - much cheaper then buying pizza sauce on a regular basis.  
  • Stove top Lasagna - ground beef and Italian dressing and water, boil broken lasagna noodles on the stove top in the mix (also add whatever you'd like - tomatoes, peppers, etc).  Serve with mozz cheese on top
  • Hamburgers with a side of veg
  • Tomato soup and grilled cheese
I will serve fresh fruit whenever I can, obviously I had the benefit of having that often from the farm this summer, but even if you get canned fruit like pineapple or peaches (Aldi's is cheap) and serve that on the side.  

Ok, I know that is a lot already, so I will stop for now.  But, getting into a routine is the easiest thing.  

What she meant to say is that once you are in a routine it will get easier.

It is still a challenge every week, but it does simplify.  My 2012 word!

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