Good Monday Morning! Let’s Talk About Saving Money on FOOD :-)

Filed under :Food Storage, Freezer, Meal Planning, ZIPLOCK Bags and Containers

This past weekend was a test for me personally.  I know that you’ve been there before too.  You take off on a Saturday to run errands, visit some friends, go places with the family and then you come home and it’s late and everyone is HUNGRY!  But you didn’t leave out anything to thaw and you didn’t really have plans for your dinner today because you thought you would be back home much earlier and you’d just take care of it them.  But you didn’t arrive home early – you arrived home LATE.  Now – what are you going to do?

Let me introduce you to DOUBLE COOKING.  Yes…. There are times with some of our favorite meals that I will DOUBLE UP and cook two of the same meals (at the same time).  We have one of the meals for dinner and the other meal I place in the freezer for times that I’m unprepared and I need to cook something quick!  Now this doesn’t work with all meals – some things freeze well and other food items do not.  I’ll share some of the meals that I like to DOUBLE COOK and they work well for my family.

Our favorite of course is spaghetti – it is to easy to cook a double batch of sauce and noodles.   And it is so easy to freeze and lasts very well in the freezer too.   Just double your recipe for sauce – put aside 1/2 of what you cook and let it cool down.   Then place into one of the ziplock plastic containers and pop into the freezer.  It’s equally as easy to do the spaghetti noodles as well.  Just double up on the noodles you are preparing for your meal, drain and rinse.  Many times I will let the extra noodles sit in cool water while we eat our meal.  Then when I’m cleaning the kitchen, I’ll scoop them out and place them in a ziplock plastic container (or I’ve even put them in a ziplock freezer bag) and then place them in the freezer.

Another item we like to double up on cook is beef or pork roast.    It can be reheated and eaten again.  Or, if you want to change things up a bit, make BBQ for sandwiches from it :-)   That is always a hit.   Baked or roasted chicken is a great item to double up on when cooking.  It takes the same amount of electricity to cook one as it does two – so you’re saving some money there too!   For the 2nd chicken, I like to let it cool down and then remove the meat from the bone.  I separate the white meat from the dark meat.  The white meat is used for preparing items like chicken salad and the dark meat is what I use in soups and casseroles or even chicken pot pie :-)

Another item that freezes well is soup.  We love soup – beef, chicken, pork or just plain vegetable soup.  And it’s so easy to cook in the crock pot or the pressure cooker.  Let your 2nd batch cook well and then place in the freezer in a large ziplock plastic container.  When you’re ready to re-heat it, let it thaw for about an hour or so and then just heat and serve with some cornbread or garlic toast.

So where’s the ‘SAVING MONEY’ for this post?  There are several money saving tips – first, when you cook the meal it usually takes the same amount of electricity to cook one batch as it does two.  Second, instead of coming home and ordering pizza delivery, you’re saving money because you already have a home-cooked meal right inside your freezer than can be microwaved :-)

I’d love to hear from some of you – what meals have you had success freezing that would work well for double cooking?

 


Monday Morning Breakfast (Cyber Monday)

Filed under :Breakfast Costs, Extreme Frugal Meter, FRUGAL METER, Meal Costs, Meal Planning

Well this morning is a bit dreary and overcast.  Rain is in the forecast for tonight – finally!  We have been in a drought situation for about two months so rain will definitely help the situation and threat of woods fires.

As I continue to document and track food costs, it also gives me a chance to look more closely at how much money we are spending and where there are opportunities to reduce costs.  One of the immediate things I noticed was how incredibly expensive it is to eat out versus cooking at home!  In some cases, one meal for a person cooked at home is less than the cost of a soda when eating out.

So, this morning’s tally of breakfast costs for two adults:

  • $2.24 — 1/2 lb of Conecuh Sausage
  • $0.75 — 3 eggs
  • $0.40 — 2 biscuits
  • $3.39 — Total or about $1.70 per person

Analysis:  Today’s breakfast was a bit more expensive since we had the 1/2 package of Conecuh sausage.  But, I cooked more sausage because I only had 3 eggs (we usually eat 2 eggs each).  Plus my husband loves sausage :-)      Instead of just baking the two biscuits, I went ahead and baked an entire pan of biscuits (it takes just as much electricity for an entire pan as it does just 2).  So I will put these into ziplock bags and place in the refrigerator to go with other meals in the next couple of days.  For the price of the eggs, I always purchase the free range eggs so I pay a little bit more for those.

Back to the sausage — I will add Tennessee Pride Mild Sausage Patties (30 ct box) to my grocery list.  This would have been a better and more economical choice for breakfast this morning to go with the eggs and biscuits.  Each sausage patty cost is only about 26 cents each.

While $3.39 isn’t a bad cost for breakfast for two adults ($1.70 each), our breakfast costs could have been even lower:

  • $0.52 — 2 sausage patties
  • $1.00 – 4 eggs
  • $0.40 — 2 biscuits
  • $1.92 — Total or about $0.96 per person

I will be adding more eggs and the Tennessee Pride Sausage Patties to my grocery list :-)    How cool is it to get breakfast costs for an adult below $1!

 


Sunday Dinner – Making Use of Thanksgiving Leftovers (Ham)

Filed under :Extreme Frugal Meter, Meal Planning

Today we are making use of leftovers from Thanksgiving :-)

We have large family gatherings for Thanksgiving as well as Christmas.  It’s always nice to be able to take the time to spend with our families at the holidays.  And, food is an important part of our celebrations.   To ensure we have enough food for everyone, we always cook much more than what we know we will need.

Part of the cleanup after Thanksgiving dinner was putting away the leftovers.   We always purchase spiral cut hams (bone-in) because they seem to have the best taste.

I package up ham leftovers in ziplock freezer bags with enough to make a pot of beans.  So this year I ended up with 6 packages of ham and 1 package that contained the ham bone with some meat.   I froze all of the packages of ham except for one that I saved in the refrigerator to make a pot of black-eyed peas for today.

So our Sunday dinner costs are as follows:

Pot of Beans:

$1.48 — Great Value Black-eyed Peas from WalMart 16 oz bag

$0.68 — Great Value Diced Tomatoes w/Green Chilies 10 oz can

$0.16 — Chicken Bouillon Cubes (from Sam’s Club) QTY 4 cubes

Dill Weed / Salt for additional seasoning

 

Rice — I purchase the ParExcellence Premium Rice from Sam’s Club (10 lb or 25 lb).  I found that this is the best rice to pre-cook and then dehydrate to make instant rice.  I re-hydrated 1 cup of rice to go with our black-eyed peas.  I would estimate that the cup of rice costs no more than $0.50.  Next time I purchase rice from Sam’s to make instant rice with, I will price out the exact costs per cup.

After eating dinner, we have enough food for another meal – which we’ll be having for lunch tomorrow :-)    So, the total cost per person per meal was approximately 70 cents :-)   I didn’t count the cost of the ham since it was just leftover from Thanksgiving.   I love costing out the price of our meals and then comparing it to the cost of going out to eat.  It’s amazing how much money you can save by cooking your meals and eating at home.


Happy New Year – Welcome to 2013!

Filed under :Food Items, Meal Planning

Good morning!  I’m getting an early start to my 2013 New Year :-)

Today will be filled with many things to do as our family gets things in order from the Christmas and New Years holidays, and gets organized and prepared for going back to school, work and LIFE!  Every year since I can’t remember when, we’ve had the traditional cabbage/corned beef and black-eyed peas for GOOD LUCK.  This year will be no different…. why take a chance? LOL

So, off to Wally World I trudged last night to purchase the items I was missing.  I thought it would be a good idea to document the prices that I paid on 12/31/2012.  So here goes!

Cabbage — Regular $0.53/lb on sale for $0.33/lb — 2 heads total cost $2.20

1 Can of Corned Beef — $4.88

1 Pkg of Dried Black-eyed Peas — $1.38

1 container of herb salad — $3.38

1 box of cornbread mix — $0.50

So today, for our lunch, we’ll be eating a green salad, cabbage & corned beef, black-eyed peas and rice, cornbread, and tea to drink.  I guess what really surprised me was the price for the corned beef @ $4.88 per can.   Actually, I haven’t seen corned beef in the grocery store in about two years!  Last year I couldn’t find any and ended up using ground sausage with cabbage.

The total approximate cost for our meals today (and this will be for lunch and dinner for 3 people) $12.34 – not counting the cost of some seasonings, the tea and some rice.  Not bad at all when comparing to the price of going out to eat!


Meal Planning…. Where Do I Get Started?

Filed under :Meal Planning

This blog post is going to be an extension of STEP #2 post on “How To Be Frugal With Your Family”.   I hope that you will also take the time to read all of the blogs on the website, because in many cases, they will all work together and go hand-in-hand to help  you create a frugal lifestyle for your family.

Meal planning is so important – without it, your family will waste thousands of dollars per year eating out.  That’s just the bottom line….

How many times have you found yourself in a situation where you forgot to take something out to thaw or you didn’t have that one final ingredient that you needed to cook dinner?  That is why planning and scheduling is so important!   If you can create a workable schedule for yourself and your family, so many of the “putting out the fire” situations will cease to exist…. once again you can be pro-active versus re-active.    Anytime you find that you are in a re-active situation, you will probably have to spend more money or time to resolve the problem than if you would have planned ahead and been prepared.

So let’s apply that to the meals we prepare for our family.  Most of the time, just a little time spent planning can relive stress and save your family money.   And, we’re going to take small steps to reach our ultimate goal…

To get started, we are going to do plan for only 1 week ahead.   We’re going to plan all of the meals that our family will eat during this one week – breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Not only are we going to what we will eat for these meals, we are also going to plan to purchase the items we need from the grocery store (or from what we have in our pantry and food storage) AS WELL AS plan for the time that it will take to cook the meals.  My opinion is that most meal planning fails to work because even though the person created the best plan for what each meal will be and they’ve made sure to purchase all of the ingredients, they’ve failed at planning the TIME to prepare the meal.  Do this sound familiar to you?

We’ll begin our meal planning by selecting breakfast meals, lunch meals and dinner meals.  Now, consider that this DOES NOT mean that you have to cook all of these meals.  Be realistic – for example, if your child buys their lunch at school, and if you’d rather them to have a warm mid-day meal instead of a sandwich, then plan accordingly for your meal plan.

Here’s an example (my meal plan for the coming week):

  • Monday
    • Breakfast:  Cereal for everyone, coffee
    • Lunch:  Spouse will bring leftovers to work, I will bring leftovers to work and children will purchase their lunch at school
    • Dinner:  Spaghetti with garlic bread and salad, tea to drink
  • Tuesday
    • Breakfast: Cereal for everyone, coffee
    • Lunch: Spouse will bring leftovers to work, I will bring leftovers to work and children will purchase their lunch at school
    • Dinner: Red Beans & Rice, Sausage, Tea, biscuits
  • Wednesday
    • Breakfast: Cereal for everyone, coffee
    • Lunch: Spouse will bring leftovers to work, I will bring leftovers to work and children will purchase their lunch at school
    • Dinner: Beef Stew, Garlic Bread, Tea, biscuits
  • Thursday
    • Breakfast: Cereal for everyone, coffee
    • Lunch: Spouse will bring leftovers to work, I will bring leftovers to work and children will purchase their lunch at school
    • Dinner: Chili, Tea
  • Friday
    • Breakfast: Cereal for everyone, coffee
    • Lunch: Spouse will bring leftovers to work, I will bring leftovers to work and children will purchase their lunch at school
    • Dinner: Chicken Soup, sandwiches
  • Saturday
    • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits, gravy, coffee
    • Lunch:Chicken salad sandwiches, tea
    • Dinner: Tunafish Casserole, green peas, biscuits, tea
  • Sunday
    • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits, gravy, coffee
    • Lunch:  Roast, rice, gravy, green bean casserole, fresh bread, tea
    • Dinner: Left overs from lunch

By the way, this is actually what my family’s meal plan will be for next week :-)    So, let’s get started by developing our shopping list for the grocery store.  First, I’ll go through my meal plan and determine if I already have any of the ingredients available in my pantry and food storage.   If I do, then I will not purchase those items at the grocery store this afternoon when I make my weekend shopping trip.  Something that  you need to consider is that if you plan on having leftovers to bring to work the next day, then you MUST prepare enough food when you cook that particular meal.  A good tip to use is to make sure that before you serve the meal, go ahead and make your “plates” for your lunches for the next day and put them aside.  That will prevent family members from coming back for 2nd’s and eating the extra food that you were going to have for lunch the next day.  What if you have unexpected guests for dinner one night and they have the portion that you’ve allowed for your lunch the next day?  Here’s an easy solution and it involves “planning” — when your grocery store has a special on the TV dinners (our WalMart currently has Banquet TV dinners on sale for 88 cents each), buy 10 of them and put them into the freezer!   Then you can always grab one to take to work with you in a hurry – or in case of unexpectedly not having leftovers from the night before.  It’s all in the planning!

Now let’s talk more about planning and TIME.   Even if you have the best intentions and the best meal plan, it’s nothing if you do not plan your time!  You have to plan the amount of time that it will take you to prepare the meals that you have on your list.   So, if you know that Monday’s are super busy at work and that you’re going to come home tired and not want to spend much time cooking, PLAN to put  your dinner in the crockpot that morning so that it will be ready to eat when  you get home.  And make sure that the meal that you’ve planned for dinner is something that you CAN cook in the crockpot.

Another trick that I use to save time and help me to plan is cooking at night after I’ve gone to bed.  You’re probably thinking that I’ve flipped my lid, right?  Well, consider this as an example:  on Monday for dinner I am planning to have spaghetti for my family.  To prepare and cook spaghetti, I will need to brown 2 pounds of ground beef (remember, I am making a double batch to have enough for 2 lunch meals on Tuesday), add the spaghetti sauce and simmer.  Well, tonight, before I go to bed, I can go ahead and take care of browning the ground beef, adding it to the bottled sauce that I purchase, and placing this into the crock pot to cook for 4 hours on low while I sleep.   When I wake up on Monday morning, the spaghetti sauce will be ready!  I just have to turn off the crock pot, let the sauce cool down while I am showering and getting ready for work, and then place the sauce in a container and into the refrigerator.  When I get home tonight, instead of cooking the sauce, I can just warm it up.  The only item I will need to cook is the spaghetti noodles, toast the garlic bread and brew a batch of tea.

Let’s take this a bit further…. on Monday night while I am cleaning up dishes from dinner, I will plan on putting my red beans and spices into the crockpot to cook while I am sleep so they will be pre-cooked for Tuesday’s dinner.  It will only take me a few minutes to put this together when I’m already in the kitchen cleaning anyway.  How about the rice to go with the red beans on Tuesday night?   Well, that’s another easy fix – I can go ahead and get the rice cooking in the rice cooker and it will be cooked in about 30 minutes.   All I have to do is turn it off and let it cool down and it will also be pre-cooked for the next night’s dinner.   If you’re in the kitchen cleaning up anyway, why not make the most of your time and multi-task?

If you take a few minutes to review and study your meal plan on Sunday, then you will know what you can do to make the best use of your time during the week to prepare your family’s meals.  It just takes a small amount of time to initially plan – and it will save you a lot of time and effort later.

Something else that is very important — you never know when SOMETHING unexpectedly is going to come up.  It happens even in the best planned situations.  Instead of completely throwing off your meal plan, make sure that you are prepared for the unexpected!  How?  Well, make sure that you have those TV dinners in the freezer, make sure you have some hotdogs and buns frozen and a can of hotdog chili in the pantry for a “just in case” scenerio.  Just be very careful NOT to rely on these emergency items and forgo your meal plan.

What meals does your family enjoy?  Are they meals than can be prepared ahead of time or, can they be cooked in the crockpot?  I’d love to hear some of your meal ideas!  Email me at information (at) simplefrugallife (dot) com.