Monday, January 10, 2011

Saving $$: The Lazy Way

With the new year upon us, everyone is doing their best to make good on their new year's resolutions. For me, my resolutions are simple: eat a little healthier, eat a little less meat, and always, always, always - watch my spending. What makes this easier for me, a little planning. Only 10-15 minutes worth of planning per week keeps me focused, less stressed, and keeps my spending in check. How do I do it?

Meal planning.

Let's imagine it's 4:30 and you're just now thinking about what to make for tonight's dinner. We've all been there...unless you're independently wealthy and you can pay someone else to do your meal planning and prep for you. For the rest of us, that little bit of time is worth it's weight in gold, or our case, dollars and cents.

After reviewing the weekly ads that come Wednesday, I plan my meals based on a few things: produce on sale, my stockpile, my freezer, and my schedule. Knowing what I have on hand is as important, if not more so, than knowing what's on sale. No point in buying something if I already have it and bought it at a better price. I spend 15-20 minutes per week organizing my stockpile, rotating items so nothing gets expired, and making mental notes of what I'm low on. I'm a bit of a slave to produce deals - only so many things can get frozen for use later on (berries - I'm talking about you). Sometimes you just need some fresh bananas, a whole pineapple, or some killer salad.

Once I've eyed the ads and perused what I have on hand, I typically ask hubby what meal or two he'd like to have during the week. (Less back and forth later on about what we'll be eating.) I try not to duplicate one meal more than once per month. I find the better variety we eat, the less we are likely to want to go out for dinner or grab takeout. Not that we don't enjoy those treats, but I like to keep them as a treat.

I like to plan my meals one week at a time, because that's the approximate shelf life of the produce we tend to buy. There are some people that meal plan for 2 weeks to a month at a time, but for me, weekly is perfectly manageable. It allows enough flexibility to make small changes, without disrupting the entire system.

For this week, I've created 2 new recipes based around my meal plan, mostly to use up odds and end in my fridge. I like to track my new recipes to see which ones will keep popping up over and over in my repertoire. It's always interesting to see what becomes a standard mealtime favorite and what just falls by the wayside. I try to plan my meals according to my schedule, leaving off time-intensive meals for during the week and making bigger dinners on the weekends.

Tell me, how often do you get to the dinner hour and start wondering what's for dinner?

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