I've taken the past several months off from blogging. I needed a break. A friend had some questions about how I plan and save money on groceries and that is all it took to spark my interest in my blog again. I will probably not go back to posting daily (it takes so much time away from my family) but I do enjoy writing a post when I can.
The first step to saving money on groceries is to plan meals. It sounds cliche. I never used to plan meals. I would buy whatever looked or sounded good at the grocery store. My cupboards would be over flowing with random items that once I got them home, they would sit untouched. There were always items that no longer looked appealing once I was out of the grocery store. Then I started this challenge to save money and started meal planning. Wow. It really does make a difference.
Now that you want to meal plan, where do you start? I start in my kitchen. Remember all those items that you bought and haven't gotten around to using? Those are the first meals that you plan. You wouldn't throw away a five dollar bill so why would you throw out a five dollar ingredient (if you let it expire)? I plan a few meals with items I already have at home whether it be items in the cupboard, freezer, or things that need to be used up in the fridge. Next, I turn to Pinterest. I get a lot of meal ideas on there. I may not follow recipes exactly but they at least get my creativity flowing and get us out of dinner ruts. As you are browsing for recipe ideas, keep in mind what meals you have already planned for the week. You don't want to end up with three nights of pasta meals (well, I wouldn't mind that much pasta but the rest of my family might!). Also, I like to tie two meals together. If you need to buy an ingredient for one meal, you may as well plan another meal that will use up the rest of that ingredient. If you use it in a completely different way, you won't feel like the dinners are repetitive. Lastly, don't forget to keep your schedule in mind. I like to have easy meals for nights where the kids have multiple activities.
Here is an example of my meal planning:
- Sunflower cookies
- Chicken (vegetarian equivalent for hubby and I) with coconut sauce
- Pineapple & portobello tacos with roasted chickpeas
- Cream of potato/leek/fennel soup
- Vegetarian meatballs & mashed potatoes
- Shepherd's pie
I mentioned tying meals together. I need to buy sweetened coconut flakes for the sunflower cookies that I am craving. A bag of coconut is way too much and I don't want the rest to go to waste. So I planned a meal around using up some more of the coconut. I LOVE the coconut sauce (copycat of Red Lobster's) and it needs coconut flakes. Perfect. The sauce also uses some pineapple. This leads me into the pineapple and portobello tacos. Ok, bear with me. These next tied together meals will sound strange but when my hubby tried it months ago..... it was pure genius. I made a batch of cream of potato, leek, and fennel soup and the following day he used some of the leftover soup as a pizza sauce. It was incredible. Pasta night is a quick meal for busy nights. My hubby bought me a pasta roller/cutter set and I have been having so much fun making homemade pasta. We dry some of the pasta to keep for busy week night meals. Shepherd's pie is the perfect follow up meal when you have leftover mashed potatoes. Not all weeks flow so nicely together.
Last week's menu:
- Buffalo cauliflower & quesadillas
- Fish tacos
- Vegetarian sloppy joes
- Roasted red pepper mozzerella, & arugula pesto sandwiches
- Burgers (vegetarian grillers or roasted garlic & quinoa)
Last week's meals didn't really tie together but I had a lot of the ingredients at home. I had a head of cauliflower from the week prior. I always have tortillas (quesadillas and enchiladas). I had two types of fish in the freezer. I had burger buns that needed to get used up.
After you meal plan, the next step you can take is to use up leftovers. Ugh. I just said the dreaded "L" word. We were horrible about leftovers prior to this challenge. We still have a way to go but for the most part we are well on our way to not being so wasteful. The kids pack lunches with most days leftovers or at least using up our never ending supply of bread on sandwiches. The best way to use up leftovers is to use it in a completely different way. Then it won't feel like a leftover. I have used leftover vegetable and quinoa soup (scooping it out as to not use too much of the broth) as a base for shepherd's pie. It turned out so well that my daughter asked me to make more for lunch the next day. Leftover mashed potatoes, mashed rutabagas, or mashed sweet potatoes are perfect for shepherd's pie. It makes it a quick meal versus a labor intensive one. Shepherd's pie is so versatile. You can use up leftover ham, turkey, ground meat, beans, and I've even used leftover vegetarian meatballs chopped up for shepherd's pie. I always seem to have too much bread. If you plan a meal outside of the box, it will make it more appealing to use up leftover bread. To me, breakfast is boring. I hardly ever eat breakfast. But, serve it to me at dinner and somehow it becomes fun. Ha. Grilled cheese made like from my childhood (simply with american cheese) ....Boring! Now we make them with caramelized onions, tomato, avocado, and a variety of cheeses. This past week we made them with sourdough bread, swiss, dill havarti, horseradish cheddar, sauerkraut, and mustard. It was delicious!
Here are a few ideas to help you create your meal plan:
If you have extra: Make:
- Arugula Pesto
- Bread Croutons, Bread crumbs
- Bread as dinner item Breakfast for dinner, fancy grilled cheese
- Chili Pasta sauce (put through food processor)
- Cooked cauliflower Cauliflower soup
- Tortillas Tacos, Enchiladas, Homemade chips
- Hotdog/Hamburger buns Garlic bread
- Cream of potato/leek/fennel soup (any cream soup) White pizza sauce
First night's meal: Second night's meal:
- Stir fry with rice Stuffed peppers with leftover rice
- Rotisserie chicken Casserole, soup, or broth
- Sausage & sauerkraut Reuben sandwiches
- Ham (or any meat) & mashed potatoes Shepherd's pie