The holiday season is a distant memory…even if the tree is still up dropping needles all over. Many of us have made and already fallen off our New Year resolutions, like spending less on dining out and eating healthier.
Reducing what we spend on food isn’t just a New Year’s concern though; it comes up year around in our financial counseling offices. And it is a tough one. We do have to eat, after all. There is just the basic cost of groceries—we can’t bargain on the price of milk. We also have to contend with our busy, hectic lives. How many times have you stopped at a fast food place after picking up kids because everyone is tired and crabby? I only have my tired and crabby self to deal with these days and I’ve made more stops than I care to admit.
Cook BIG on the weekend
What’s a solution to the tired/crabby syndrome? Cooking. Cooking big. I always say, “If you’ve cooked and don’t have leftovers, you’ve just wasted your time.” I know a few people who cook something new each night, but when I come home hungry and worn out, I will eat whatever is easiest, which is typically not the healthiest and comes directly out of a bag.
Make a BIG pot of soup, stew, casserole, or salad on the weekend. Go for low-cost but protein-packed legumes (beans.) Flavor with meat, if you like. There are like a million different kinds of beans, each with unique taste and texture. Don’t be afraid to go beyond the typical grocery store choices.
Load up your pot with vegetables. Add kale, spinach, or other greens to everything, whether it is included in the recipe or not. If fresh produce isn’t in season, go for frozen. Frozen vegetables typically retain more vitamins than the produce in the grocery store that has traveled half way around the world. And they can be less expensive than fresh produce in the dead of winter. Get adventurous with vegetables. Sweet potatoes in chili? Why not? Variety is the key to getting the full complement of vitamins and minerals we need.
Great time for life lessons
Cooking on the weekends is far less stressful than weeknights when you are tired and crabby, so it is much easier to have kids get involved. We all need to learn to cook, after all. What is the proper way to chop vegetables to retain all your fingers and be safe around the stove and appliances? Take turns picking out a recipe. Dole out cooking chores as appropriate. Bonus – give everyone a cleanup chore!
Office mates will be envious
Not only will you have a few dinners in the fridge that just need heating up, you’ve got lunches, too! When that chili is heating up in the office microwave, I guarantee someone will say how good it smells and wish they could trade their factory-produced, flavorless frozen entree for a bowl of your chili. Check secondhand stores for small thermoses to send food to school with the kids. Then freeze some for future meals.
Investing time over the weekend will pay off. You’ll save money staying away from the drive-thru or passing up take-out. And you’ll feel better about the delicious and nutritious meals you and your family will have.
More great food blogs from us…
Our counselors have written several blogs on managing food costs. They all merit re-reading! Check out: How to Maximize Your Grocery Savings, Eating healthy without wasting money, Grocery shopping for one, and Grocery Shopping on a Budget.
Looking for more help to improve your bottom line? Consider a free session with an LSS financial counselor. We will work with you to create a realistic budget and plan of action to conquer your debt for good. Get started online or give us a call at 888.577.2227 to schedule your session. Don’t let debt hold you back from the life you want.
Author Mary Ellen Kaluza is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling and she specializes in budget, debt, and credit counseling.