Happy 2019!! January is that magic time of the year when many people sit down, take a good look around and within, and decide it all has to change TODAY! While I love healthy and positive changes for the better of you and yours, I personally believe trying to change it all at once is just a recipe for disaster (haha recipe, get it;). If you are serious about change, then I think taking small steps is the best way to get there. The major specifics of how to get your mind ready and to really make those changes is something outside of my food world. If you need some juice to start, there are many, many, many books, podcasts, shows, websites and programs guaranteed to Change Your Life to purchase or borrow from your local library. But if you maybe wanted to tighten up the kitchen budget a bit and not waste as much, I have a few real world tips that work for me. I hope you find some assistance and I really hope you get at those changes and make them, even if they have nothing to do with food!
A Few of My Favorite Tips-Kitchen Money Saving Edition
- Eat what you buy. Now before you say, “Um, duh!”, really sit back and think about how you use your food. I would say think about usage before the holidays as between Thanksgiving and Christmas is pretty much survival mode man! Did you check out a good book or an awesome website and find a dish that looked so fun that you had to rush out and buy all the things to make it, only to find those things a few weeks later in a sludge pile in your fridge? No judgement because I think every person who has ever tried to make food as done that more times than they want to admit. So my advice is simply, eat what you buy. How?
- If we have a week where people are everywhere, then it’s leftovers and dinners I can make quickly. No time to experiment here! But, slow weeks and the guarantee of a bit more kitchen time means I may dig up some tasty recipes and try those out. I personally try to avoid recipes that are mostly or all new or seldom used ingredients in our house. I do experiment for sure, but I try to keep an even mix of familiar and new ingredients in a recipe so I’m not breaking the bank to try something new (especially if it gets a household thumbs down).
- I’ve began to focus more pantry clean out days. In those weeks, I don’t make a weekly shopping list and just figure out meals with what we have on hand and only buy absolute necessities. I don’t recommend this on a week where life is hectic as you have to get a little creative and many people’s creativity is zapped when they are a million things going on. This is good for a slow week with few outside activities.
- Eat less meat. Let that just sit for a moment and please don’t think about kicking me or anything mean. Let’s be real here, meat takes a bite (haha) out of everyones budget and the super size amount we eat isn’t doing our bodies or the land any favors. When I say less, I mean less for you. Maybe you cannot even think about a meal that doesn’t have a meaty hunk with it or mixed in. My advice is don’t go crazy and try to do a Meatless Monday right away because you will anger yourself and probably everyone at the table. Change does not work if you begin huge and hating every minute if it. Much like walking, it’s taking little steps at a time until you are moving. Here’s a few things that worked for us.
- Become more aware of the amount of meat that is actually being consumed by your family. For example, instead of 4 of my Busy Day Meatballs, I’ll give everyone 3. Some times this works and I have 3 meatballs for another meal, but sometimes everyone is starved and needs that extra meat. Do you need your chicken breast to be the size of a small plate or could you cut that up and serve two people with one enormous and kinda scary chicken breast served with some tasty sides? Another example is when I make Jambalaya, instead of a whole link of kielbasa, I’ll cut it in half, chop the chunks smaller and add more rice and veggies. I still get the enjoyment of this dish, but now I have half a link of kielbasa that I can turn into another meal. Before I would only get one meal out of the package, now I get two!
- Let sides have a large role in your meals. If you are a protein, starch, veggie family, maybe try making more of the veggie and starch and bit less meat. A word of advice: if you are going to cut out some meat, I would save the veggie battle with the kids for another day. Just make veggies everyone likes. You always have tomorrow to arm wrestle a 6 year old into eating one spear of broccoli. Don’t be a hero.
- Don’t do this every day. At the beginning of this, it will be frustrating, annoying and seem just dumb to fuss over the meat so just start with a few dishes a few days a week. As you and your people get used to the meals, you will find that you really didn’t miss the extra meat anyway.
- If you ever feel ready, try some fully meatless meals. I have a few on my site you might like such as Cherry Tomato Cheese Tart, Edamame and Tomato Pasta, and the star of meatless nights, Creamy Pasta and Cheese (or Mac and cheese if you will;). But remember this will not work if you don’t start small. Every person in existence gives up when they try to change too many things at once. Our poor brains need time to set routines so give your brain time and be patient with yourself.
- Meal plan. Please don’t roll your eyes, mutter or insist you have tried this and you stink at it. I don’t go about meal planning super strict. My meal planning is a little more loose as well it should be.Here’s my take on it.
- Think of a handful of meals you like to eat and you like to make. Doesn’t matter what goes in them, how long they take or anything like that. Right now you are thinking. Next, check out what you have going on the kitchen right now. Do you have anything to make any of those meals? If you do whoo hoo you may have the beginnings of a meal plan.
- Next, think about the week ahead. Is it busy? Are there meetings, clubs, work, or just days where you know everyone is going to be tired and dying for takeout? Look back at your meals you like list. Do any of them fall into the category of you can cook it fast and without any brain power? Do you have time to make any of these and do any of them sound good at the time? If so go ahead and write down the ones you want to make, know you will have time at some point in the week to make and either have what you need or can get supplies before.
- If your list looks short don’t worry! Check out Little Prairie Kitchen for some inspiration as my meals go form simple to time consuming because some days I got time to fuss and some days people need to eat before they eat me! Also when I first started out, I used some packaged sides and lots, lots, lots of chicken breasts to get food on the table and that’s ok! For me a major goal is to use as few packaged items as I can, but keep in mind I’ve been working this goal for years now! If you can just eat at home for the most part and Rice a Roni and rotisserie chicken save your day, it’s still better than a restaurant or drive through and cheaper to boot. Work your goals slowly and surely.
- Don't plug in what day you are going to eat each thing. Have a general idea of when you want to use the items that will spoil versus the ones that can sit as well as fussy meals versus quick meals. Planning what day each food has to be eaten has proven to be the number 1 way I fail at meal planning. I feel restricted by being told I have to eat something on a certian day even if I'm the one doing the telling! But I love the feeling of crossing off meals on my meal plan that I planned for and made! So my solution was to make a plan but let my family's input and scheudle make the final call on what we ate that night. Over time you will save money, become a bit more comfortable in the kitchen and you will probably see your family more since cooking a meal forces everyone to eat around the same time usually. Check in with those folks, I bet they are pretty cool! Plus it just feels good to plan something and actually follow though with it all week!
Well are you ready to make some small changes? Remember these things work for me as they are but you may need to tweak and play with them a little to make them your jam. But don’t give up! Food is a necessary thing but that doesn’t mean it has to take over our budget or be unappealing to be healthy or unhealthy to be fast. I have faith in you but remember to take it just a little bit at a time. A little progress is better than no progress. And if you have any tips, tricks or food ideas you want to share, email me or find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and share away!