One of the greatest ways that we have reduced costs since starting our budget is by careful grocery shopping and preparing meals at home. When I first introduced the idea of planning meals for the week to my husband (many years ago) he said to me “that won’t work, because I don’t know what I’m going to be in the mood for before the meal.” I was raised differently than that (we did grocery shopping once a week and every one was in charge of one dinner each, so they put those ingredients on the list the week before), but eventually I fell into the faulty thinking that meals were about cravings and what we might “like” to eat, versus what healthy food we can afford to eat.
As our financial situation changed last fall, we began putting ourselves on a $75/week food budget, which we were able to achieve because we started shopping “in the aisle” with coupons…that means processed food…guess who gained 15 pounds in 3 months? Yup. Where we had usually only gone in the soda, frozen (I can’t make homemade ice cream *all* the time), and baking aisles and then kept to the perimeters of the store for fresh produce, dairy and meat, we were now eating all of the wrong, high-sodium foods that we had previously avoided. We needed to find another way.
When watching the Food Network, we came across Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller and purchased the cookbook. She has this concept of “Morph-ing Meals” meaning that you prepare your protein one night and use if for the next 3-4 meals. Plus, it makes it really easy to make your grocery list (especially if you use the online plans – she prepares them for you). The meals are tasty – we’ve tried about 8 different plans and we’ve been using a rotation of them for the last 4 months.
This has also engaged my husband more in the kitchen, because the recipes are so easy and quick. We created our own variations and we’ve been able to purchase our proteins (usually at $1.99/lb) when they are on sale and then freeze them for later use.
I anticipate that we’ll eventually start to create our own morph-ing meals, but it has been a good way for us to keep to our weekly budget and cook together.