My good friend Emily requested that I throw out some tips on thrift. So per her request, here it goes!
Let me preface this by saying that being thrifty, or down right cheap, runs in my blood. I truly believe if I were a millionaire, I'd still have a difficult time buying something that were not on sale. The urge to save most definitely comes from my mom. When I was younger, I'm sure I complained about not getting the name brand clothes and expensive accessories. As I got older, I discovered clearance. You can still wear brand names, just happen to be one season behind. Seriously, who really pays attention.
When Neil and I first got married, there wasn't much to go around, so saving money was a necessity. My grocery budget including toiletries & dog food was around $30 a week. I stuck to it too. Now, in case you just dropped your laptop or fell out of your chair, I'll wait for you to regain your composure...Better now? It's true. We kept that budget until Owen turned 1 when I upped it to $40 a week. We're now around $50 with the addition of Blake and it doesn't include dog food or diapers. So how do I do it? It takes time & commitment, and it's not easy. But I'll tell you what, I'll lay out my secrets a little at a time and you can take them or leave them, but maybe (just maybe) you'll keep reading.
Tonight's lesson is about meal planning. Step one is to get yourself a couple of good cookbooks. They need to contain simple recipes that can be done quickly, with a few NORMAL ingredients, and that everyone will like. I personally choose "It's Good for You" & "29 Minutes to Dinner" from The Pampered Chef (shocking, huh?). Then make a list of your staple meals. You know the ones I speak of...everyone has 3-5 meals that they just know how to make (no recipe required). Please heed these instructions: do not sit down to plan meals with a pile of cookbooks & recipe clippings. It will take you a year to pick 5 meals to get you through the week. Start small and simple.
Step Two is to get a calendar. It's best to use your family or personal calendar if you already have one. I recommend planning your meals on Sunday. Before you get started, check your pantry and fridge. Make a list of staple items that you're running low or out of, like milk, bread, sugar, salt, butter, eggs, etc.... If it's a big week and you'll need to restock, then plan inexpensive meals using items you already have to cut down on cost. Now take your cookbook, list of staple meals, and your calendar and sit down at the kitchen table. Plug in any "special days" first, like Kids Night at Chick-Fil-A (I love Tuesdays), date nights, or dinner at the parents. Then choose one day for a staple meal like Spaghetti, Chili, or Tacos. Next, pick three-four original meals from your cookbook. Space them through out the week. Here's the thing about picking meals, try to choose ones that feed off eachother (no pun intended). For instance, one night I might roast a chicken. A couple days later, I'll make fajitas with the leftovers, or chicken & dumpings. This way, you can be creative with leftovers, and need less groceries. One night should be devoted to leftovers. Knowing you have a night built in for leftovers might take the stress off of a busy day, like Bible Study night or in our house, a Pampered Chef show. Make sure you cover all 7 days of the week, including the following Sunday. This is what a typical week might look like at my house:
Monday: Family Sized Baked Burrito
Wednesday: Corn Beef Brisket, Baked Potatoes, & Asparagus
Thursday: Stew with Brisket
Saturday: Tamale Verde Skillet
Sunday: Food & Fellowship at Church
Step Three: Make your grocery list! Start with your staples first, eggs, milk, bread, cereal. Now add items specific to your meals. Don't forget about lunches as well. Now I'm not exactly what you call monogomous with my recipes. To save money or cut down on waste, I might leave out an ingredient or substitute it for something else. For example, if a recipe calls for fresh parsley. Instead of spending $1.89 for the pinch of parlsley that will actually get used. I use dried parsley flakes. Now if you have a green thumb, you can grow your own for pennies. Since I kill most everything I touch (except my children, thank God), I just use the flakes. It's not exactly the same, but it will do! Just remember that unless you are baking, recipes are more like guidelines. If it calls for something obscure (which normally translates to expensive) it can normally be substituted for something else. Get in touch with your creative side.
That's just meal planning. I haven't begun to tell you how to save big bucks on what's on your grocery list, but I will. Oh, this is going to be fun! Stay tuned! Tomorrow, I'll cover coupons.
Disclaimer: My system does not work for everyone. In fact, it may only work for me. If you have a picky husband who only like specific foods or brands, I may not be able to help you at all. My hope is that you'll be able to use a few tips that might help shave even a couple dollars off your grocery bill and bring a sense of order to your already chaotic world. That would make me so happy.
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