Tuesday, September 30, 2008

31 Days of Less Challenge! Day 1: Cutting Costs.

Good Morning Ladies!

Today we are going to focus on our entry ways and on our meal plans.

Cutting Costs...

One of the best ways to cut costs is to stock your fridge, freezer, and pantry at home. With a well stocked kitchen, you save in so many ways. You save money because you are less likely to go out to eat or order take out. You save money because you are making less trips to the grocery store (saving time, gas, and money on impulse buying). You save your sanity because you are less apt to succumb to the "5 O'clock witching hour"

Before you head to the grocery store to stock your kitchen though, it is best to have a game plan before you leave your home. That game plan is plan your meals (a menu), and figuring out what you need based on what your meals are (a shopping list).

There are many many variances of how home managers create their menus and shopping lists.

There's the plan for the day ahead method, which may be effective to get dinner on the table, but may not save gas because you are more likely to make last minute trips to the store to get ingredients you don't have in your kitchen.

There's the weekly menu plan. Effective for getting food on the table, and saving you daily trips to the store. You can plan for one week, and make one weekly trip to the grocery store. Most frest produce will stay fresh for one week, so you can also incorporate more fresh vegetables and fruit into your menu.

There's the Monthly Menu plan. Usually this entails buying the majority of ingredients in bulk, preparing, cooking, and freezing meals for the month ahead. While this does save time and money overall, it's probably not the best way for a novice to start menu planning because some times it feels pretty overwhelming when you are facing an one month calendar and you feel pressured to fill each blank square with something to eat.

There's also what is called a rotating menu of main dishes. It can be a weekly menu or a monthly menu. But it's simply several pre made menus that you rotate. There can be as few as 1 or 2 monthly menu's that can be used, or 4 to 5 montly menus premade to rotate from. Each menu also has a pre made shopping list of all the ingredients needed for those main dishes. All you have to do is buy frozen veggies or fresh veggies, or your choice of sides, to go along with the main dish.

I like to keep it simple, and I like being able to try new recipes. I usually use the weekly or bi weekly menu, but I do try to think ahead a week or two and start on the next weeks menu thru out the week. Here's how I do it.

In my home management binder, have 4 blank weekly menus and 4 shopping lists. I keep them in clear page protectors. The menu is on the front and the shopping list is on the back (such asa book page). I also have pantry inventory pages. When I make my menu and shopping lists I write on the page protectors with a fine point sharpie, which can be cleaned off with dry erase board cleaner. That way what I write down won't be smeared, but it can be cleaned off making my menus non consumable and re usable.

Our ad day is Tuesday or Wednesday. That's the day we get the circulars from stores for the next week. I love those days. It's like Christmas for me. I know it's wierd, but hey, it's a highlight in my week.

When I get my add day, I like to do a quick clean of the fridge. You know, do a brief clean of each shelf to find any forgotten leftovers that have turned into a science experiment. It also gives me an idea of what I still have in my fridge that needs to be used before it goes to waste. Fairly often I'll get an ingredient and forget to put it into what I'm cooking. I also take a quick inventory of my cupboard to see what canned and dry goods I have left. I have a small fridge and only one cupboard, plus my fridge is usually pretty empty by this point so it doesn't take me long.

Then I sit down with my ads and I see what's on sale. If I see there's a great price on chicken, I can base my weeks menu on chicken. If meat is on sale, I can work some meat into my menu plan. (If it's a really good price I'll try to buy extra to put in the freezer.)

To help my menu I have lists of recipes handwritten in my recipe binder or on the computer. I have lists of recipes for chicken, roasts, ground beef/turkey, etc. I go through my lists and find several things that sound good for that week and write them down as dinner main dishes. I also have lists for breakfast ideas (my kids love oatmeal, but it gets old if they eat it every day), lunch ideas, and snack ideas. As I see an idea I'll add it to a list either in my binder or on my computer.

When I pick a recipe, I will either print it out, take out the hand written recipe, and put it in my home management binder in menu planning tab behind that weeks menu. That way, I have every recipe in one place and I don't have to try to remember where I found the recipe when I want to fix it. When it comes time to fix dinner, all I have to do is take out that one recipe and tack it to a cork board on my cupboard door. That saves confusion, and that also helps to keep my cook books nicer because I'm not spilling food on them.

If sometime during the week I find a recipe I really want to try, I'll write it on next weeks menu and go ahead and put that recipe behind that menu page.

Also, as I pick a recipe I write down all the ingredients I need on a sheet of paper. After I pick all my recipes I will add up how much of each ingredient I need and write that on my master shopping lists.

When I start to run out of necessities during the week, such as dish detergent, cleaners, trash bags, toilette paper, etc... I simply write it on next weeks shopping list. That way I will remember to pick it up next time I'm at the store.

On my shopping day, all I have to do is take the page protector with my shopping list out of my home management binder and put it in my errand binder.

I'm starting to love my binders....

Tomorrow we'll cover a little bit on price booking, so you can be sure that what you're buying is really a good deal and you are getting the most for your money.

Be blessed today.

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