Refresh Your Kitchen:
Tips For Meal Planning On A Budget
Sometimes it seems there's never enough time in the day or money in the bank to do everything we need to do. That means something in our daily lives suffers, but it doesn't have to be your dinner! Here are 5 tips for meal planning on a budget.
Have everyone in the family put together a list of the things they want to eat each week. Use the list as a guide for what you should be cooking for dinner. You may get some outrageous requests, but remind your family members that these are just ideas to help you plan better. Once you collect the recipes you need, line them up against each other to compare and consolidate ingredients to help you can shop more efficiently. Some recipes may require the same ingredients as others so you can buy in bulk, and the recipes may give you the opportunity to use up items that are already in your pantry, making it a more manageable experience.
Chart out your meal plans with a calendar you can post in the kitchen. Put it on display on the refrigerator, chalkboard or whiteboard to help you get a bigger picture of your daily food needs. You can use it to anticipate and prepare for trips to the grocery store as well as help you take inventory of the pantry each day. For example, if you buy all your bananas on Sunday, they'll be brown by Thursday. If you know your family doesn't like speckled bananas, you may need to plan a mid-week trip to the grocery store. That means if you take two trips to the store you don't have to buy everything at once; you can break up the grocery list between two trips.
Slow cookers are making a fierce comeback! That's good news for you because they save a lot of money and time in the kitchen. For slow cookers, dried beans are cheap and easy elements for healthy recipes. Additionally, you can use cheaper cuts of meat because slow cookers tenderize the meat when it's left to cook for hours to create a delicious meal. Set aside some time to do two days of prep work before the week begins and you will have nearly effortless meals ready to go during the week.
One Dish Meals
Casseroles get a bad rap, but they're a tasty way to make a fast meal cheap. If you look through a few cookbooks, you'll find dozens of casseroles that are easy to make and perfect for a winter warm-up. They can be prepared ahead of time and frozen or refrigerated until it's time to cook, so you can make them in bulk when you have time and eat them when you don't have time to put together a square meal. It's also a great way to repurpose leftovers.
Fresh produce and meat are almost always going to be the more expensive items at the grocery store, but don't let that scare you away from making fresh meals. If you choose recipes based on what's in season that all use similar ingredients, less food goes to waste, it tastes great and you won't be eating as many processed foods. This method allows you to cook awesome inexpensive and healthy food from scratch.