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Budgeting for Groceries: Preparation is Half the Battle

Before I was a mommy, “cooking” meant throwing a frozen pizza into the oven or throwing together some noodles and pasta from a jar.  My husband and I both worked full time so neither one of us really had any time to cook.  Or, perhaps more accurately, we didn’t have the inclination to cook.

After our daughter was born I dabbled a little in cooking but not much since she nursed and then moved on to jarred baby food.  There didn’t seem like much of a reason to pull together a home-cooked meal when it was just my husband and me sitting down to eat it.  Besides, I was tired.

Once my daughter started nibbling on table food I realized that I couldn’t serve up highly processed foods any more.  I figured that if there was a time to start learning to cook, this was it.  I started clipping recipes and through trial and error I became a pretty decent cook.  We eat far more meals at home than we eat at restaurants.  It has saved us a lot of money and I’m pretty sure it’s a lot healthier too. If you play The Grocery Game you stand to save even hundreds more!

The key to being successful with pulling together home-cooked meals is to plan ahead and prepare.  I like to plan my entire week’s dinners all at once.  I sit down and figure out what I’m going to cook and compose my grocery list.  Sometimes – when I’m really on the ball – I plan out the meals according to what coupons I have and what’s on sale.  I also try to only plan meals that feature ingredients that are in season.  For example, you won’t find me making strawberry croissants for breakfast right now when strawberries are over four dollars for one container, but when they come back in season and the price drops to two dollars it will be a common breakfast meal for us.

Planning out meals ahead of time also have the distinct advantage of giving you a glimpse of what you’re eating and figuring out how to make things more healthy.  I usually only put one meal with beef in our weekly dinners, one or two with chicken, one with fish, and the rest are meatless meals.  I also make sure that I’m not relying on pasta meals too much, because that it one ingredient I usually gravitate to.

I can also plan out the meals according to how the week looks.  Hectic nights call for crockpot meals that can be eaten whenever all the activities are over.  Days that I have a lot of work to do and I know I’ll be really tired by dinnertime I plan easy meals, like grilled cheese sandwiches and soup.

I know if I didn’t do this I would spend a lot more time driving through fast food restaraunts because I’m not the kind of mom who can glance at random ingredients in a pantry and pull something delicious together.  If you think planning your weekly menu out is too time-consuming, think of how much time you’ll save from running to the store at the last minute to pick things up for meals.  It saves you time and money.

Eventually my little one will help mommy in the kitchen. Not only will it provide a basis of learning to cook for herself one day, but cooking with your kids also helps to develop motorskills once they reach the preschool age.

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