Make a weekly meal plan.
Something I've stuck with since buying our own house and living on our own is a weekly meal plan. I go to the grocery store ONCE a week, do you?
The main reasons I do the plan is to save money (if I only buy whats on the list, those impulse buys go out the window), save time (I cant lug 2 babies to the store daily), and its fun- really, I enjoy the organization and planning for an entire week. Planning meals and writing them down is healthier- I get to see what each meal consists of and add veggies accordingly. If a meal looks too unhealthy, I can see right away since its written down- for example, I erase "gravy" and add "veg" instead.
To begin, I search online for the weekly flier from whichever store I am shopping at. We go to Publix and I think those fliers come out on Thursdays, as do most. To plan each meal, I first look to see what meat is on sale that week. If chicken breasts are on sale, I will get those to make a meal or two. Or if something weird is on sale, like ribs, then we have those that weekend or something. I just wouldnt buy a turkey, a meat that you just dont eat everyday and its more expensive, on a normal week. But if it were on sale that week... then we would! Remember, only buy whats on your list! You dont need reserves, you dont need a freezer full of crap in case WW3 breaks out, only buy enough meals for that week and thats it. I dont care whats on sale, if it didnt make the list, it didnt make the list.
Since meat is the most expensive item on our list, we do not eat it every meal. Thankfully Jason is not a meat and potatoes-guy. Sure, he looooves steak, but he's also happy eating his veggies. With that in mind, I begin with my recipes. I like to make family favorites, things that dont require recipes like meatloaf, pastas, or pot roasts. I'll add one of those to the weekly menu just so I dont have to think too hard one night! But I love to make new recipes. 4 nights out of the week are new recipes at our house. I find these online at foodnetwork.com or I find them in magazines I subscribe to, like Famiy Circle, Real Simple, BH&G, etc. Whatever we are eating, Sunny is also eating- so pasta and rice dishes are in right now, tomato and spicy dishes are out- I'm breastfeeding and Lachlan appreciates this. I keep a file folder full of magazine recipes or things I've printed online- if we like the recipe, I write "Good!" on it (thanks mom!). If we dont like the recipe, I THROW IT AWAY. That seems obvious...
If, for example, I roast a chicken for one nights' meal, the next day I will usually do some sort of soup for dinner where I can use the remaining chicken. I hate wasting food, and I really dont eat leftovers, so incorporating it into a meal works perfectly for us. Since I dont like leftovers (leftovers get sent to work with Jason for his lunch, he loves it) I also wont buy huge portions of anything. Two small chicken breasts, a handful of fresh green beans- this is all we need! You have to figure this out for your own family.
As I think about recipes, I double check the pantry. Any random item that is in there (there are only random items if a) my dad gave them to us since he loves to find anything on sale b) I caved at the buy-one-get-one section c) I skipped a meal a previous week and ordered pizza) I will try and use up, ultimately saving us money at the store. I do the same thing for a bag of frozen peas in the freezer or a jar of opened alfredo sauce in the fridge that needs to be used soon- I'll base an entire meal around peas if I need to use them! SAVE MONEY.
As usual, the reason I do a weekly meal plan is to save $$$$$ (this is my job as a stay at home mom, save the family money!)- by only buying whats on my list and only eating meat on average 3x per week, we save plenty of money. I hardly ever have buy-one-get-one's sitting around in my pantry just because. Something we use daily, like mayo, I do buy when they are BOGO. Something like peanuts or canned tomatoes (I see these 2 things all the time!) I do not buy because they are on sale. We just dont use them often enough so it is a waste. Even if they're on sale. So dont buy BOGO unless its needed! Got that?!
To make the weekends fun we try and grill Saturdays; I buy meat for the grill and also veggies that you can throw on there too. Or we just do something easy, something we can eat outside. Sundays I try and use the crockpot- also easy, as you all probably know. There are a zillion crockpot recipes online, it doesnt have to be just meat, potatoes, and carrots in there (thats actually our meal today!) Basically I free up the weekends so that we can spend more time with family, not slaving away in the kitchen.
Here is my meal plan for the week. Target has fun meal-planning lists like this one. I use it for shopping and then I stick it to the fridge so I know what meal to cook next. Its not my most amazing meal plan for the week, but I've got it down to this, simply. Everything not on the list to buy, I already have stocked up on at home... I wanted to make a stirfry on Monday because I have lots of rice. I wanted potato soup so that we dont need meat that night. And my "wedgeless" salad is a wedge salad! Only I have a bag of salad that I wanted to use up so now its wedgeless...
Buy enough of these main items to last you the week so you dont have to go back! Bread, eggs, milk, etc. We buy lunchmeat for sandwiches, but I am weird about how long I let lunchmeat sit in the fridge. We get 1/2lb and when its gone, 2-3 days, its gone. Then we eat tuna or whatever.
I think I've exhausted this subject. Email me with any questions!