Thursday, October 11, 2012

Meal Planning ~The meal philosophies~

If you are looking to cut your grocery budget down the major tool you should be using is meal planning. It sounds easy enough. Just pick some meals your family likes and go shopping. However I have found this is the most expensive way to do it. You have to have a plan in place for your meal plan. Man that sounds like a lot of work doesn't it? Since I only meal plan once a month I don't mind as much. Now if I was doing it every week I would probably cry.

First off lets think about the types of meal you are going to be making. I have done some research and some reading and come to the conclusion that there are lots of ways to make cheap healthy meals that still taste good. Here are the tips I have found from speaking with some majorly frugal mamas....

  1. Meat is not the center of the meal. Meals that call for a cut of meat to be the star are going to be more expensive to make. I don't know how many times I have heard "meat as a side dish" when it comes to frugal cooking. I don't know about your family but in my family my husband LOVES his meat. I serve something with no meat in it and he is not a happy camper and will not be eating the leftovers. I instead pick meals that call for meat as an ingredient but not the main star. These include casseroles, soups, and stews. He can see the meat so he is a happy man and I don't use nearly as much meat as if I were making a meal where the meat is the center of the dish.
  2. Cut the expensive ingredients in half. If you are going to make a meal where the meat is the center of the meal you can always cut the meat in half and replace it with other more frugal options. A half a pound of ground beef and the same amount of mashed black beans make a great frugal taco. Same with hamburgers, half a pound meat and equal portions of rice. Same flavor, same filling meal, half the price.
  3. Filling side dishes. Makes sense doesn't it? Good options include rice, pasta, homemade bread, potatoes, and vegetable casseroles.
  4. Choosing meals that  don't require 24 different ingredients. Lets just face it the more ingredients in a meal the more it is gonna cost and the longer it is gonna take you to make it. No fun all around. I try and stick with meals that have less than 10 ingredients, and I try and make sure that at least half of those ingredients are staples I already have on hand. I also refuse to buy a entire bottle of something if all the recipe calls for is 1/4th a tsp. I mean come on! Not happening. I will never use the rest of that bottle and you will never be able to tell that I left that ingredient out.
  5. No prepackaged mixes. I can make muffins, bread, pancakes, waffles, cookies, etc all a whole lot cheaper from scratch than I can from a mix. I usually make up a GIANT batch of what ever I am baking and then freeze 3/4ths of it. So if I make 4 dozen muffins I freeze 3 dozen and leave one dozen on the counter for the week. Makes my life easier since I only have to bake that item once and I can feed my family for a month. Plus it is cheaper, which we like.
  6. No store bought frozen meals. My husband gets up at 4am for work. I love him to pieces but I am NOT getting up at 4am to making him a hot meal. I used to buy him those prepackaged frozen sausage breakfast biscuits. Then I got smart. I can take one afternoon and make double the amount of the same thing for half the price. Kind of a no brainer. Again I make up enough for a month at one time and call it a day. He can just warm up his breakfast and he is good to go.
  7. Leftovers are your friend. I was shocked when I heard that people throw away their leftovers. Seriously shocked! Those leftovers are lunch in our house or used for dinner the next night. 
There are my basics "meal philosophies" when I am picking meals to add to our monthly meal plan. Really nothing complicated or shocking there huh? Pretty simple and straightforward. Stay tuned for my next meal planning post where I will breakdown the actual step by step procedure I use for setting up my monthly meal plan each month.

2 comments on "Meal Planning ~The meal philosophies~"

Cina on October 14, 2012 at 12:34 AM said...

Can you elaborate on step #6? What kinds of biscuits do you make/buy and also for the sausage? Do you only refrigerate your batch or can you freeze them too? .. just curious, since I buy the frozen packaged ones. I can get them fairly cheap, but I'm always looking for ways to save even more on my grocery budget.

-mimi- on October 14, 2012 at 10:14 AM said...

Sure :) I will make another post with my quick breakfast ideas. Both for the freezer and the fridge.


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