Excited about meal planning
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
OK, maybe I'm a total dork but I'm a planner by nature and when I create a plan that looks totally "doable", I get excited. It probably has something to do with giving me a sense of control and we all like to control our destiny, right?
I'm trying to reduce our family spending in preparation of quitting my job next year to pursue a career in Nursing. I figure, if we can make fiscally smart habits now while we have wiggle room, then we won't feel the pinch quite so much later when we no longer have that buffer. Plus it allows me to pad the savings account now.
I've already switched to homemade laundry detergent (which I LOVE), started using vinegar and baking soda as my main cleaning supplies (super cheap and so very effective), learned how to make a powder form of cream soups for a fraction of the cost and storage space, learned how to make my own leave-in conditioner by diluting the rinse-out conditioner, learned how to make foam soap so maybe the kids won't go through so much soap (kids like bubbles and foam soap is just diluted soap in a special pump bottle that adds air. 4 pumps of foam soap = 1 pump of traditional hand soap). I'm cooking more at home but we still eat out at least once a week due to lack of planning. We also toss out way too many left-overs. I've gotten in the habit of cooking large meals so we intentially have left-overs which are easy the next day but if they don't get eaten, that's money out the window. I am so SICK of throwing food away!
I've read several blogs about freezing meals....some before you cook them, some after you cook them. You do several hours of prep work one weekend and then the rest of the month is supposedly easy (or so I've read). I've also read several blogs about planning meals up to a month in advance, making a master shopping list (after taking inventory of what's in the cupboards), and trying to avoid the store the rest of the month except for staples. These take planning, but I'm a planner so it should be doable, right?
So, last night, after our 4 mile family walk, we all sat at the dinner table (each with his own left-over dinner) and I had everyone tell me ideas for dinner, things we've had that they'd like to have again. When we had racked our brains and couldn't come up with any more ideas, I pulled out the cook books and we all thumbed through them looking for recipes we want to try. Everything was added to a list (including the cookbook name if it's a new recipe). I then re-wrote the list, sorting it by main ingredient.....beef, chicken, fish, meatless, and other. The other category included things like hotdogs, pork chops, chili-chips-n-cheese, etc.
Now that I have so many dinner ideas and I've categorized them, I'm ready to plan a month of meals...chicken night, then beef night, then fish, etc. Of course, we'll need a leftovers night. I'll try a new recipe on a night when we have left overs available as a back-up plan. I also want one meatless night a week to start and work my way up to 2 meatless nights once their tastebuds get used to it. I have a hubby and 3 sons.....they like meat. I may work up to 2 fish nights as well (I'm not a huge fan of fish but I can adjust my tastebuds I guess).
Hubby and I are going to go shopping for a chest freezer and I'm gonna check out those blogs again. Gotta love Pinterest. I've saved most of the blogs there for future reference. Now it's time to put them to use. I want a BIG freezer since we have a family of 5 and I want to make a month of meals at a time. The electricity required to run the biggest one averages $5/month. I could run that thing for 6 months before I'd pay for one fast-food meal for the family. I think it'll pay for itself. Sure, there's the initial cost, but right now (while I'm still making good money), we can afford the investment. And I see it as that.....an investment. It'll help us eat healthier and cheaper. That's a HUGE win!