Sunday, June 5, 2011

Six on Sunday: Time, Energy, & $$$ Saving Meal Tips

One of the things I strive for as a wife is to make delicious meals for Mr G. I'll admit we've resorted to Ramen Noodles many times for the sake of budget or time (and sometimes Mr G requests them!), but overall I like to cook as much from scratch as possible. It is a little difficult to accomplish this every day with our work schedules but, here are some time and energy saving tips I've learned that at least help make meal prep easier.
  1. Have a plan: At the beginning of each week, take a few minutes and jot down menus, assigned to a specific day, based on your whatever your  upcoming schedule may look like. Then make your grocery list. This will save both time and money, since you won't wonder and wander at the grocery store. The easiest way to spend too much money is not having a focused list for very specific items.  
  2. Prepare multiple meals: When cooking casseroles, meats (chicken & turkey work the best) soups, sauces or just about anything else that will freeze well, make two more meals at a time. My favorite is to make lasagna for dinner for tonight, then make another to put in the freezer for later. 
  3. Freeze homemade baked goods: I make a huge batches of fully baked cookies, rolls, bread sticks and cinnamon rolls(these stay in dough form) every time I get the chance. It's just not worth it to take the time to make homemade yeast breads for 2 people, so the extras go in the freezer to later pull out to thaw in the microwave or oven when needed.
  4. Pre-Chop your vegetables & fruit: This works well if you have your menu planned for the week since you will already know their uses. When you get home from the store, just chop what you can and put them in baggies for the weeks use. Just be careful with vegetables or fruits that brown easily. Those should always be chopped at the last minute.
  5. Don't be afraid to buy in bulk: Even with only the two of us, it's still worth it to buy in bulk. Just utilize your freezer! It will save you time from the grocery store and can save you money if you buy things at the right price. If you are like me, I'd rather NOT spend my time in the grocery store.
  6. Left overs are OK!: Yes, it's okay to pick one night per week that you eat up the remnants from your meals. You can either create something new with those leftovers, or just have samplings of each thing. The key to staying in budget is not to be wasteful!
Here is what our last week's menu looked like, so you get an idea how I used these tips.

Monday: Turkey Fettuccine Alfredo with Veggies, Homemade Bread Sticks :
I used fully cooked and chopped turkey from the freezer, and chopped broccoli and cauliflower from the fridge. I also made the bread sticks from scratch this time, but put 1 dozen extras in the freezer for later.

Tuesday: Taco Salad in Homemade Tortilla Cups : 
I used ground beef purchased in bulk 3 months ago!

Wednesday: Dinner at Family's

Thursday: Leftovers :
From Monday's meal and the previous weekend

Friday: BLTs on Homemade Rolls, Green Salad & Fresh Pineapple :
Used frozen dinner rolls from the freezer, and bacon that I had stocked up on 2 months ago.

What you'll currently find in my freezer:
Chili Verde Green Sauce
Enchilada Red Sauce
Alfredo Sauce
1 dozen Italian Breadsticks
1 pan of frozen Cinnamon Rolls (still in dough form)
1 dozen Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls
Stocked Ground Beef
Stocked Chicken Thighs
Frozen Egg Whites

Please comment and share your meal tips, I'd love to hear them!

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