You can avoid that state of panic or moment of frustration that occurs whenever you hear the question "What's for Dinner?" by doing some pre-planning and kitchen prep. Without a meal plan, you may find yourself dashing into the grocery store on the way home and picking up something without evaluating its impact on the budget. Worse yet, you may opt for the easy, but not necessarily the healthiest or most budget-friendly option of grabbing fast food. There are some easy kitchen preparation ideas that can save you time and money and eliminate unwise food related choices.
Weekly Meal Planning
You can save money on groceries by devising a weekly meal plan that coincides with the weekly grocery sales ads. At the beginning of every week, write down exactly what you need for that week’s meals. Then, organize the list by the stores that you can get those items from that are the cheapest. Shopping according to what's in season can also save you some money.
Do Your Own Chopping
You might be tempted to buy those neat little packages of pre-cut cheese, fruits and vegetables until you compare their cost to the cost of the uncut version. Opt for the better bargain. When you get home, store the food appropriately until you have time to cut, chop, slice and dice it. Try to set aside an hour or so to devote to this activity. Be sure to store the items properly so that they will remain fresh until you're ready to eat them or use them in a recipe. Keeping bags of chopped fruits and veggies in the refrigerator can encourage you and your kids to grab a healthy snack instead of an unhealthy option.
Buy in Bulk
Making bulk buys when meat is on sale is great for the budget. However, it's only a money saving experience if you use the meat before it spoils. Vacuum sealed foodsaver bags are also ideal for storing items you buy in bulk. It's best to package and freeze meat on the same day you purchase it. If possible, plan to shop on a day when you have some extra time. Then you can cook the bulk amount of meat that you purchased. When cooked, divide it into quantities that are compatible with your recipes and cooking style and put it in the freezer.
Make Meals Ahead of Time
Making double batches of casseroles, pasta dishes and other meals is a great time-saver. You can eat one and freeze the other. Having meals prepared that go from freezer to oven to table can eliminate a lot of stress on an evening when you work late or your schedule doesn't leave time for preparing an entire meal from scratch. Don't overlook the need for some quick breakfast foods. Preparing some breakfast casseroles and putting them in the freezer can be a time saver on a hectic morning or a luxury on the weekend.
Sometimes it's the small details that get overlooked or left out of a meal completely when you're pressed for time. As part of your kitchen preparation plan you can set aside some time to prepare several pans of biscuits. Once they're cool, package them in bags according to whatever amount you typically need at meal time. Having biscuits in the freezer can be helpful for any meal and, by freezing them, you can make sure that none go to waste. Actually, this is a really good idea to do with any type of bread that you might have as well.
Planning, frugal shopping and proper food storage are time saving and money saving habits that anyone can benefit from. If you oversleep or work late, having a heat and eat item in the freezer is a convenience you'll appreciate. Keep on top of what's in your refrigerator so that food doesn't spoil. It's a good idea to have something like a pizza or omelets to use up small portions of veggies leftover from the weekly meal plan.