One of the challenges that I constantly face at Casa de Insanity is how to feed my family healthy meals that are appealing to kids and adults and won’t break the bank. I have learned that an essential piece to this puzzle is a meal plan. I am sure that this strategy won’t work for everyone but for me it is a must. Just a few minutes with the calendar, my spouse and a reasonable knowledge of my freezer and cabinet contents saves me much headache down the road. One of the traps that we fall into is if there is nothing handy to eat, we eat out. Families trying to keep their food costs down know that this is not the key to a balanced budget. There are several ways you can do a meal plan but here are the 2 that make the most sense to me. I like to plan my meals for each specific day making sure to rotate beef, chicken, and pork along with the various vegetables that we enjoy. For some this is too restrictive so I would suggest going ahead and planning your meals without assigning them a specific day. This gives you a bit more freedom say if Monday was to be meatloaf night and then on Monday meatloaf was the last thing you wanted to come home and cook. I do sometimes have a bit of rearranging in my meal plan but generally once I get a weeks worth of meals set, I stick to it. Posting one of these handy sheets up in the kitchen lets everyone in the house see what is on slate for the week. They can then offer suggestions for future meals or suggest days that they might want to help with the cooking!!!!
Another thing that has really helped us to find more affordable groceries are the great people at Angel Food Ministries. We found out about this great program through a friend in our church. It is a great way to get cheap groceries and cut your food bill. We have tried it for a couple of months and found the food quality to be just fine. The selection varies somewhat from month to month, and that also helps to add variety to your meals.
Also, shopping the ads for your local grocery store is a good way to a) save money and b) work on your meal plan. I usually revolve my plan around what is on sale and that way I get all the shopping done for the week at one time. The local farmer’s market is also a great way this time of year to save on things like fresh vegetables and fruits. The local stand where I do my shopping is beating my regular grocery store by about $1 per pound on my most purchased items. Plus, we all know that fresher is better.
Keeping what i call “cupboard meals” handy is also great for that night that you forgot to defrost your chicken or you just plain don’t want to cook. Having something like spaghetti and a jar of marinara handy helps fight the temptation to go ahead and order that pizza. At our house, you can always find mac & cheese, spaghetti, some type of pasta sauce, and peanut butter and jelly on hand to make yourself something to eat. What are some tips you may have for making mealtime more affordable?