10 Tips For How To Save Money On Food

There are some expenses that just aren’t going to go away, and food is one of them. This list of ideas will help make your grocery budget go further.

There are some expenses that just aren't going to go away, and food is one of them. Here are 10 tips for how to save money on food that you can use today!

10 Tips For How To Save Money On Food

Produce your own food. This can be growing a vegetable garden or even raising chickens in your back yard for eggs. Producing your own food sources is a great answer to how to save money on food. This usually takes a small up front investment and some time to make work, but is well worth it in the long run for a better grocery budget.

Shop with coupons and sales. This obvious answer has to be on the list because one of the best tips for how to save money on food is to clip coupons and shop sales at your market or grocery store.

Stockpile seasonal items. When you find a fruit or vegetable you love and know is only available during a specific time period, stocking up and freezing or canning for future use is a great way to save money in your food budget.

Menu plan consistently. Nothing kills your grocery budget like take out or last minute ingredients for a fast meal. Take the time to menu plan consistently utilizing what you already have on hand and sales at the time to build a low-cost menu everyone will enjoy.

Make more vegetarian meals. For most meals, the meat is the highest priced item by far. Make more vegetarian meals and skip the meat in your menu plan at least 2-3 days each week.

Use low-cost staple items as a base. Don’t forget about things like dry beans, brown rice, potatoes and pasta as the base for many hearty and healthy meals that are full of nutrient-dense vegetables, healthy fats,and the occasional lean meat.

Make your own and avoid processed foods. Instead of buying cake mixes, ready-made bread or even cookies make your own. Avoid all of the nutritional bombs in processed foods and save money by making your own.

Barter with friends and neighbors. If you don’t have time for a garden but have a friend or neighbor that does, it’s time to barter. Offer cleaning, babysitting, mending or other services in exchange for fresh produce from their garden.

Plan for leftovers. Make your menu in a way that each meal always has enough leftovers for two meals or at least, a smaller lunch portion the next day for every family member.

Avoid food waste. If you have just a bit of vegetable or roast left that isn’t enough for a meal, toss it into a freezer bag and save for future stews or soups. Use the chicken bones from a roasted chicken to simmer and create your own chicken stock. Toss vegetable peels and bits of vegetables into a stockpot and simmer for a practically free vegetable stock.

These tips for how to save money on food are easy, practical things anyone can do on a regular basis to keep their food budget low.

How I Put Menu Planning on Autopilot

You know planning a menu is a good thing, but sometimes it only feels like another chore to cross off the to-do list. Well, end that once and for all by putting your menu planning on autopilot!

You know planning a menu is a good thing, but sometimes it only feels like another chore to cross off the to-do list. Well, end that once and for all by putting your menu planning on autopilot!

You guys, I have not been feeling the love for menu planning for quite some time now. That makes me sad because without a menu plan, our meal time is definitely not what it should be. I’ve been resorting to quick prep meals (think frozen pizza, pasta with a jar of sauce poured over top and grilled cheese & tomato soup…) Not good! Between picky palates and no desire to cook, menu planning took a real nosedive in the last year or so. On the other hand, the grocery stores were probably quite happy, because I was spending more since I had no plan. 🙂

That brings me to today. I’m pleased to say, I’ve found a system that works for me! Actually, I’v put menu planning on autopilot! It initially took a little bit of work upfront (still only 4 steps!), but now we’re smooth sailing.

Here’s how I put menu planning on autopilot:

Step 1: Brainstorm

This part took me the longest. I sat down one afternoon (interrupted by the 4 year old and baby, often) and wrote down all the meals we like to eat. Our family favourites. My goal was 60 meals, but I quickly realized that was a lofty goal. In the end, I came up with 40 meals. Enough for 8 weeks of eating when I allot 5 meals a week. I like to leave 2 days free for last minute events, trying out a new recipe and Sunday dinner at my parent’s house.

Here are the meals that made the rotation. Keep in mind that they must be simple, enjoyed by all family members and not require any weird ingredients:

  1. Slow Cooker BBQ Sauce Pork Chops
  2. Sausage and Potato Bake
  3. Waffles/Pancakes
  4. French Toast
  5. Chicken in basil sauce
  6. Balsamic Beef Roast
  7. Pesto pepperoni pizza
  8. Hashay
  9. Creamy chicken soup
  10. Spaghetti
  11. Meatballs
  12. Quiche
  13. Sweet & Sour chicken and rice
  14. Sloppy Joe calzones
  15. Peanut chicken pasta
  16. Pesto pasta
  17. Fettucine Alfredo
  18. Balsamic almond chicken
  19. Chicken Cacciatore
  20. Baked Beans
  21. Sesame chicken
  22. Pizza
  23. Perogies & Sausage
  24. Lasagna
  25. Melt in Your Mouth Chicken
  26. Hamburgers & pasta salad
  27. Sticky garlic chicken & broccoli
  28. Chicken pesto stuffed shells
  29. Maple pineapple ham
  30. Chicken satay with peanut noodles/rice
  31. Ramen Vegetable stirfry
  32. Soy sauce pork tenderloin
  33. Greek Chicken
  34. Shredded beef sandwiches
  35. Tacos
  36. Chicken Broccoli Alfredo
  37. Hamburger soup
  38. One pot pasta
  39. Chicken Fajitas
  40. Black Bean and Salsa Burritos

Most of these meals can be made with pantry staples, which are easy to stock up on when they’re on sale. Also, I whipped up a couple of printables for you to help you brainstorm. A “Our Favourite Meals” sheet and some recipe cards! (click on the images to get the free printables.)

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Step 2: Write all recipes on index cards

Now, once I picked all 40 meals, I wrote each meal down on an index card. Sometimes I wrote the entire recipe (if it was not found online or in a cookbook). Other times I wrote the name of the meal and where the recipe could be found (Pinterest, page 3 in a cookbook…etc.) I also wrote down side suggestions and any adjustments I like to make to the recipe.

Step 3: Place them all in a recipe box/binder

Next, I placed all of the index cards in an empty recipe box that I had, in no particular order. You could place the index cards in a binder with protective sheets instead, but I liked the idea of a recipe box.

Step 4: Pull out a week’s worth of meals and place in front

Here’s where the autopilot comes into play. Since I’m only choosing 5 meals a week, I pulled out 5 random index cards and placed them in the front of the box. I put a divider card behind the five recipes so I know when I’m done for the week. Once all 5 meals are made, I rotate those index cards to the very back of the recipe box.

Step 5: Repeat Step 4 over and over!

On Sunday, when I pull out the 5 meals for the week, I also create my grocery list. I write down everything I don’t already have in the pantry/fridge/freezer.

Now, you could take this a step further and look at your store flyers first to determine which index cards you should pull out for the week according to what’s on sale. For example, I may not want to make the Balsamic Beef Roast this week because I don’t have one in the freezer and I don’t see a sale at any of my local stores. However, pork chops are on sale so I’ll make the slow cooker BBQ Sauce pork chops instead.

Does that all make sense?  This system has been life changing for me! I hope it might work for you as well if you’ve been struggling with menu planning.

Have you found a menu planning system that works for you?

Meal Prep Ideas for Quick Dinners all Week

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Check out these great meal prep ideas for quick dinners all week! I so need these ideas right now!

7 Budgeting Tips For Menu Planning

When it comes to menu planning, these budgeting tips are going to transform how you view your grocery budget. There are so many simple tricks to help you create amazing meals for your family on a budget, and this post has some of the best. With a few simple tricks up your sleeve, you can provide your family with delicious meals without breaking the bank.

Check out our Top 7 Budgeting Tips For Menu Planning to give your family amazing meals while easily saving money!

7 Budgeting Tips For Menu Planning

Ask your butcher for budget cuts of meat. Not only can you watch for the sales on meat at your market or grocery store, but you can talk directly to the butcher. Sometimes they will have meat that isn’t bad, but can be sold at a fraction of the regular price for some reason. End pieces of whole rib eyes can be found at low prices because they aren’t enough to be a “steak”. Ask for these bits and then cube for stews or braised beef dishes. Sometimes meat isn’t out of date, but close to it and the butcher has to mark it down. Grab those mark downs and cook in advance simply then freeze to add into other menu items later.

Use your slow cooker. Slow cooker recipes are one of the best ways to stick to your menu plan as well as stay in budget. One of the best budgeting tips is to utilize those budget cuts of meat and tenderize them for amazing meals in your slow cooker. A beef roast or whole chicken can feed your family several meals for half the price, but may not be as convenient or easy to cook fast. Put into a slow cooker and let it do the work for you.

Utilize your own garden if possible. If you have time and space to have your on garden, this is a huge savings for your menu plan each week. Learn to can or freezer excess produce for future use, and utilize this year round in your weekly menu plans.

Build around low cost staple items. For most this means picking up things like dry beans, brown rice and sweet potatoes that are low cost but can stretch a meal further. While many would find this unhealthy, if you combine this with nutrient-dense vegetables and limit your high-fat proteins you truly can eat healthy. Focus on whole grains when possible and limit the regular potatoes, corn and white rice.

Buy what is on sale and match with couponed pantry items. For sales at your market or grocery, take the time to check your coupons and shop using coupons on sale items to get twice as much value toward your menu plan.

Create your menu with what you have on hand first. One of the best budgeting tips for menu planning is to start not with what you want to buy, but what you already have on hand. Look at your pantry, freezer and refrigerator for great starts to a meal. Utilize your on-hand items and limit your week to week expenses as much as possible focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Utilize one item multiple ways. One of my favorite ways to save money is to cook dry beans in my slow cooker. Dry beans can be seasoned and eaten by themselves, added to soups or chili, refried to make dips or put into burritos. This simple item can be used multiple ways for very cheap.

Take advantage of our favorite budgeting tips for menu planning that will stretch your budget even further.

I’m Wondering: What Are Your Menu Planning Challenges?

Having a planned menu each week is a lifesaver for me. I find that on the weeks I fail to plan, we eat out more often or I’m grabbing something super simple from the freezer (Pizza? Premade appies?). This results in higher than normal spending and not so healthy eating. (Though, I’m all about giving myself grace and being mostly okay with weeks like that when it’s not our normal.) So, this week:

I’m Wondering:  What are your menu planning challenges?  What keeps you from implementing or succeeding at menu planning in your home?

I’m Wondering: What are Your Favourite Freezer Meals?

As I’ve mentioned before, February is fill the freezer month in anticipation of the new babe due to arrive next month. While I’ve compiled a list of meals to make, I’d love to know what others enjoy freezing (and eating)!

I’m Wondering: What are your favourite tried and true freezer meals? What are some things that always turn out and taste great after they’ve been frozen for a while?

The Ultimate Before Baby Freezer Cooking List (Fill the Freezer February)

Have your meals taken care of with this Ultimate Before Baby Freezer Cooking List! The post includes a great printable recipe and shopping list pack.

The time is quickly approaching for our new baby’s arrival! Baby is due to arrive around the middle of March so I’ve dubbed the month of February as “Fill the Freezer February”. Clever, right? 😛  Last month during the January Declutterathon, I made a bit of room in our freezers so I can fill it up with plenty of freezer meals to keep us well nourished for a while.

Preparing meals isn’t one of my favourite things to do at the best of times, so I know I have to make it as easy as possible for myself once the baby is born. I want to avoid as much eating out as possible but I also want well rounded meals.

So today, I present to you, Fill the Freezer February with my Ultimate Before Baby Freezer Cooking List! My plan of attack is to make the meals I have picked throughout the entire month of February. I want to avoid a big one day cooking session because my body is just not handling extra standing as well these days. Once I create the meal, I will do a post for you with a photo and the recipe.  How does that sound?

Whether or not you have a new addition arriving in your family, I’d love for you to join me. After all, in the long run, freezer cooking can be a great money and time saver.

If you’d like to join me, today I will provide my list of meals and snacks I plan on making plus, a free downloadable Ultimate Freezer Cooking pack. The pack includes a grocery list, recipes and labels!

Here’s what I have planned to fill my freezer. All recipes will be included in the Freezer cooking Pack unless otherwise noted:

Breakfasts

  • Waffles (1 batch)
  • French Toast (1 loaf)
  • Maple Oatmeal packets

Lunches:

  • Chicken Noodle Soup (2 containers)
  • Cream of chicken soup (1 container)
  • Hamburger soup (1 container)

Dinners:

Snacks:

That list should give us over 30 meals, taking care of breakfast, lunch and dinner for a while. Plus, there are quite a few snacks. Since I am not making everything in one day, I didn’t have a budget in mind, because I will pick things up while they are on sale with my regular grocery shopping.

Get the downloadable Ultimate Freezer Cooking pack here.

Also, I’m really considering purchasing a set of these Hands-Free baggy racks. I think they would be so handy!

baggy rack

I’d love to know what your favourite freezer meals are. Let me know in the comments!

8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas: Plan your Food

One way to lessen your Christmas time stress is to Plan Your Food! Sit down for a short spell to plan your meals and make your grocery lists to feel like you're on top of the season.

I think this will be a fun week in the 8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas series!  It’s all about food! Specifically, we’re going to plan our holiday menus.  You’ll want to think about:

  • Christmas dinner
  • Christmas brunch
  • Christmas eve
  • Boxing day

And well, any meal surrounding Christmas day.  My planning is quite simple.  My parents cook our Christmas brunch and dinner so all I have to do is bring the cheesecake and some baking!

For inspiration, I highly recommend taking a look through Pinterest.

While you’re planning out your dishes, be sure to start adding items to a grocery list.  You don’t want to forget anything!

To help you out, you’ll want to check out the Christmas dinner planner and grocery list that are available in the Holiday Planner, here.

Also be sure to print off the 8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas checklists to make sure you’re on track for the final week’s until Christmas day!

What will be on your holiday menu?  Leave it in the comments! Any food traditions you have to uphold?  How do you keep on budget?

Sign up for the 8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas newsletter to receive a FREE Christmas Dinner Checklist!  This checklist is quite detailed and will help you remember all the details needed for a memory filled dinner with family and friends. You’ll also receive a weekly email with each week’s “task”.

Here are the posts in the 8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas series so far:

8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas

Free July 2015 Monthly Menu Planner

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Download a free Monthly Meal Planner for the entire month of July!  Included in your download you will find all of this:

  • Meal Planner for 7/1/15 – 7/4/15
  • Meal Planner for 7/5/15 – 7/11/15
  • Meal Planner for 7/12/15 – 7/18/15
  • Meal Planner for 7/19/15 – 7/25/15
  • Meal Planner for 7/25/15 – 7/31/15
  • July Flexible Meals
  • July Flexible Meal Calendars
  • July Blank Week
  • Dessert Menu for July 2015
  • Dessert Calendar for July 2015
  • Fill In the Blank Ingredients List – Entire Month
  • Fill in the Blank Ingredients List – Weekly
  • Blank Family Shopping List (Food, Sundries, you name it included)
  • Blank Costco Shopping List

Download your menu plan now.

Take Them a Meal

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I came across this really neat website that is perfect for those of you that may find yourself in a situation of organizing meals for a family you may know.

TakeThemaMeal.com is a free service that allows you to create a meal schedule for a family in need. It’s easy to do!  One person creates a profile for the family with instructions for drop off and dates needed.  Then you are provided a link that you can share so that others can sign up for the days they can prepare a meal for the family. No more time consuming phone calls!

You can read the TakeThemaMeal.com story here.

How neat is that?