We know that our grocery budgets are probably one of the first places we can comfortably cut expenses. Most of us think about clipping coupons and shopping sales as the best ways to trim the food budget, but did you know you can take an even more aggressive step towards some big savings?
Many frugal homemakers have started planning their family dinners with their food budget in mind. Instead of regularly making the same meals they’ve always made, they are replacing several dishes each week with a frugal alternative and planning these menus in advance. These dishes often include a variety of dried beans and peas, a less expensive cut of meat, and “reinvented” leftovers.
My challenge for you is to try this approach for just one week and see if you save money on your food budget… along with saving yourself a bit of stress!
Let’s see how it works.
First of all, you need to create a meal plan for the week. Develop a menu for 7 days, beginning on the day that you want to serve a big meal. You will use this big meal to create at least one additional meal with the leftovers. This, in and of itself, will save money because you will be cooking two meals at once, using leftovers, and not stopping at fast food places.
For instance, if on Wednesday everyone is home at the same time and a nice, big dinner is in order, plan a hearty pot roast cooked in the crock pot. Choose a large roast so you are guaranteed leftover meat to use in open-faced sandwiches or beef soup. Cooking in a crock pot allows you to choose a budget cut of meat like a rump roast because a crock pot cooks the meat at a low temperature for a long time which breaks down the tougher cut into a fork-tender meal. You are saving money in a couple ways with just this one meal by creating leftovers and by using a budget cut of meat.
Another option might be to bake a large ham when you find a good sale price and serve it with a big dish of scalloped potatoes. Choose ham with a bone so you can use it to make Split Pea and Ham Soup later in the week.
You could choose to roast a chicken and then boil the carcass and leftover scraps to make broth, which you can use for Lentil Soup for another day. You can shred the leftover chicken and turn that into chicken salad to make sandwiches on a night when you want to eat light.
These are just a few options of where to get started with your big meal, but you see where this planning can really take shape now.
When you decide which day to begin, sit down with a pad and pencil and figure out what large meal you would like to make on day one. Then start searching for recipes that are nutritious and frugal that will use up leftovers as your week progresses. When you plan your big meals, keep in mind how you can use those particular leftovers for another meal using inexpensive, but nutritious, foods like black beans, lentils, dried peas, garbanzo beans, navy beans, and the like.
If you haven’t tried to plan a menu for your family in the past, this will be an eye-opener. Once you get one week of menu planning behind you, I know you’ll be patting yourself on the back, congratulating yourself for having nutritious, delicious, and inexpensive meals on the table every night for your hungry family.
This is a great way to save money on the grocery bill because no one feels the penny pinching with dinner on the table every night! I sincerely hope you’ll try this frugal challenge on your family this week.