Here is a snapshot of our meals over the past month and a half. We cook meals at home 4-5 nights a week. That is not as simple a task as it sounds. There is a lot that goes into not only cooking at home, but also doing so on a budget. We only spend $90 a week on our groceries. That includes toiletries and other essentials, as well as food for meals and snacks for the kids. In order to cook meals at home and pinch pennies, you must PLAN AHEAD.
When meal planning there are several points I address:
VARIETY– When you eat meals at home often, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut fixing the same 5 or 10 meals. This can make eating at home much less enjoyable. By constantly changing up the menu, you can look forward to dinner time at home. When searching for variety, the internet is your friend. I like to search HelloFresh’s recipe collection because you can search for a wide range of food all at once. You don’t have to look first in “pastas”, then in “chicken” or “pork”, etc. For instance, I just went to their website and saw recipes for a Chicken Orzo Dinner, Beef Bibimbap, Teriyaki Chicken and Cherry Balsamic Pork all together in a row. I like being able to see different style recipes at once, it helps keep my thought making process fresh.
BUDGET– I read somewhere that restaurants charge around a 300% markup on the food they serve. That, alone, makes dining at home sound much more appealing. But, even more so, if you think about in terms of your family’s dollars. Say you are a family of 4 that eats out 5 nights a week. In my Midwest restaurants, we’d be lucky to eat at $8-10 per person. At a minimum you would be paying $40 (including tip) per dine out trip. That equals $200 a week, that’s 55% of my MONTHLY grocery budget (which, as I’ve said, includes more than just our food)!!! But being mindful of not eating out isn’t enough. You need to be intentional and purposeful when meal planning. I’ve talked about this before, but your ingredients should serve as double duty. If you’re buying a bag of peppers for an upcoming dish, find another recipe that also incorporates peppers. Now you’re not spending $3 on a bag of peppers for one dish, you’re spending $3 for two dishes. Stretching your dollar further and getting the biggest bang for your buck is key when meal planning on a budget.
WASTE– The average U.S. household wastes almost 32% of the food it brings in (according to medicalnewstoday.com). That equals $115 of our monthly grocery budget, that is a lot for our family. For that reason, when I meal plan, I am very cognizant of what we already have available at home when deciding on recipes to use. For example, if there’s asparagus in the fridge that needs eaten then we’ll plan on cooking a meal using asparagus. Another example, if we’ve got hamburger buns in the pantry, then we’ll cook something to use up the buns. Don’t forget to be creative here. If you’ve got hamburger buns, you don’t have to fix cheeseburgers. You could make a simple crispy chicken sandwich, or turn them into garlic bread, or maybe even croutons.
SCHEDULE– Our family’s schedule is another important piece to the meal planning puzzle. Our kids don’t get home from school until 4:00 and on some days, it’s 4:45 and I don’t get home from work until 5:00. Now factor in the kids’ extracurricular schedule, the time my husband and I spend playing with them and helping them with homework, etc. That leaves us about 1 hour to cook, eat and clean up from dinner. 30-minute meals are a must in our house, we also utilize crock pot meals from time to time.
If eating at home seems too daunting or impossible with your busy lives, I encourage you to take one week and try it out using the methods I’ve mentioned above. I think you’ll be surprised how easy and cheap it can be with proper planning. If you do employ my methods, let me know how it goes for you! And as always, most of my dishes can be found on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/OrganizedChaos4
Happy Meal Planning!!
4 thoughts on “The Madness Behind Cooking at Home”
May I please have the monthly cleaning sheets sent to me please and thank you
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Would you mind sending me your monthly newsletter, please? You have been such an inspiration to me. I work 12 HR days and your 6/10 has helped me tremendously!!
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