One of our goals for 2014 was to save more money. Part of that comes with making changes to our lifestyle so that we have more extra money hanging around to actually save. One of our ways to to do that: eating dinner at home. We’d recently fallen into a routine where we ate out pretty much every meal from Friday through Sunday. Our new plan was to limit that to one dinner and one lunch per week. That meant I needed a plan to get dinner on the table even on our busiest nights. Want to know how I do it?
1. Collect recipes.By this, I mean find recipes that your family likes and actually print them out or collect them in one place on your tablet/computer. Honestly, I recommend the printed route even if it seems a bit archiac. I keep mine in a binder in our kitchen so I can easily get to them when I need to.
2. Make a menu.
From my printed recipes and new recipes I find on blogs and in magazines from week to week, I create a menu. I do a weekly menu and post it on our chalkboard wall each week. I know some people prefer a monthly plan and that would totally work too.
3. Shop with a list.
Create a shopping list from your menu and only buy those items. I find that if I have exactly what I need and not a lot of other “clutter” in the way of ingredients that I tend to stick to my menu. Of course, take into account the lunch ingredients and other items you need when shopping but don’t buy any random ingredients.
4. Use convenience to your advantage. When doing your shopping, don’t forget about items like prechopped onions or rotisserie chickens. Those things make prepping for dinner very easy and don’t add much to your grocery bill. Even with a small added expense, a home cooked meal would still cost way less than going out to dinner.
5. Plan prep time.
I do mine on the day I get my groceries and try to do it immediately upon bringing them home. Use this time to pre-chop your vegetables, marinate your meat and wash/dry any other ingredients you can. This saves a ton of time when it is time to start cooking.
6. Pantry plan.
If you have room, consider getting some plastic plastics for your pantry and tossing all of the recipe specific ingredients into a bin for each recipe. For example, I know I need black beans, corn, salsa and few other things for my enchiladas so I put each of those items into a plastic bin with a chalkboard label on the front. Then, I write the recipe name on the front.
7. Cook in batches.
When I plan my menu, I always choose recipes where I cook a larger batch of something and then use it on multiple nights. For example, pork tenderloin might become shredded pork sliders for a different night. Or, I will plan to use quinoa in two different recipes but cook it all on the first night.
8. Set a dinner time.
I know this one seems odd but having a specific time when dinner has to be on the table helps actually get it on the table. It becomes part of your routine and, therefore, happens more often than not.
9. Leftover night.
We always have leftover night the same night that we take out the trash. This helps us eat dinner at home and also reduces the potential for wasted food.
10. Freezer meals. Know you have a few weeks that are going to be really busy coming up? Cook one extra meal a week for a few weeks and freeze them for later. Having them at hand will make it easy to just throw them in the oven or crock pot so I know we will get a yummy dinner at home.
How do you ensure that you get dinner on the table each night? What are your goals for 2014?
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