After a handful of hot days, yesterday the temperature dropped more than 20 degrees, and we had rain on and off all day. It was another wonderfully inspiring autumn day, which I put to very good use. I used the time to prepare myself and the house for the upcoming first week of school. It was also a time in which I got back into my frugal frame of mind...
I was a Domestic Goddess in the kitchen yesterday. Among my culinary manifestations was a large pot of Split Pea and Ham Soup, a pan of cornbread, a whole chicken, some cupcakes, and a cake.
The chicken was put to very good use. I shredded the meat. Some was used for chicken and rice soup, while the remaining was set aside and frozen for Chicken Enchiladas later in the week. The carcass and fat was used for making 16 cups of chicken stock, which will put to very good use in the future.
While the cupcakes and part of the cake... Those are earmarked for small treats in the kids lunches for the week.
It was a busy day of cooking, yes. But my freezer is filled with the fruits of my labor. I have 4 meals stashed away, in addition to the two meals of ham and beans that I had made a couple of days previously. So, while I have a meal plan that will get me through the next ten days, I have some back-up meals tucked away in the event that I'm just not in the mood to cook.
Looking to stretch your food budget? This is something that I've been learning to do, myself...
The Menu Plan - The first thing I do is plan out a meal for every night until payday, and while I will assign a particular meal to a specific day, I don't always stick with it. What we have any given night will really depend on what sounds good and what I'm prepared to make that night. The only night that anyone will really count on is Friday night. That's Pizza Night in our house...
The trick to this, though, is to plan for meals that share the main ingredient. For instance, a whole chicken... rather than have it AS chicken, which would only really yield one meal in my house, I make several meals out of it (as illustrated above). In addition to this, the carcass and bits that would otherwise get tossed, get made into chicken stock, which will be used for other meals.
I will also get a turkey ham. I will generally used this for several meals as well: Blue Plate Special (a mac and cheese casserole that includes ham), ham and beans, split pea and ham soup, as well as ham on our pizza.
These are just a few of the ways that my family has come to stretch the food bill, itself.
The Grocery List - I do this for a number of reasons. 1) I don't forget anything necessary to make any given meal. 2) I buy only what is on the list - more times than not - which prevents me from impulse buying, something that I HAVE been known to do.
Crockpot Cooking - Like most households, things have been known to get really busy around here after school has begun for the year. I LOVE using my crockpot on days when I know things are going to be especially busy. When I use it, I know two things to be true. 1) My family is STILL going to get a healthy meal and 2) we won't be finding ourselves going through drive-thru because dinner will be ready by the time we're ready for it.
Freezer - Admittedly, our family is horrible about using up left-overs. Given that DH is currently deployed, we generally have quite a bit more than we would few of them. I suppose I could half my recipes, but why not make the full amount, freeze the left-overs and have a quick and easy meal later down the road and on a night I just don't feel like cooking?
We are by no means perfect where our grocery bill is concerned. During the summer, we ate out a lot more than I would like to admit. Between DH being gone and it being too hot TO cook, it just seemed easier more days than not. Our bank account, however, is reflective of that fact. We've not saved a dime since the beginning of this deployment. That's a fact that I hope remedy this fall and winter, and this is reflective of my first steps in the right direction. I know how to accomplish it... I just have to DO it.