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HELP ME!!! I spend nearly $900... - Page 3

post #41 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by lovebeingamomma View Post
whoever talked about the 14 meals: could you share with me the 14 meals you rotate? I can't even come up with 14 different ones...maybe that's one of my problems.

Btw I'm 22 & was not taught well how to cook. So I have ALOT to learn ...been married 4 years and I can't tell you how long it took me to make a pizza that cooked correctly!
When I was your age I had been thrown into living in a foreign country where there was no such thing as a boxed food. EVERYTHING was made from scratch. I had one cookbook, Better Homes and Gardens, and I learned "trial by fire". You just need to jump in there and try.

Meal planning is KEY. If you plan out what you are going to make each day, you can prep ahead as a pp mentioned. You need diced onions today and Friday... chop it all now.

Here are some of our go-to meals. These days we eat out twice a month (at a nice restaurant) and we don't eat any fast food at all. This is from recent meal plans...

Ham & Beans
Grilled fish
Scallopini
Chicken Fajitas
Bean and Cheese burritos
Pork Chops
Mattar Paneer
Taco salad (with and without meat)
Beef Stroganoff
Sundried tomato and basil pasta
Baked chicken and rice
Eggs Benedicts and asparagus
Salisbury Steak
Pizza
Keema Mattar
Stoved Chicken
Aglio e Olio (pasta with garlic and oil)
Ham Casserole
Roast and Yorkshire Pudding
Cottage Pie (or Shepherd's Pie if we have ground lamb)
Cheese Enchiladas
Dorowat (ethiopian)
Sloppy Joes (all from scratch)
Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce
Chicken Crepes
Tas Kebap (a turkish dish)
Beef with Chanterelle Mushrooms
Breakfast for Dinner
Stirfry
Lahmacun (another Turkish dish... dh is from Turkey)
Parmesan-crusted chicken
Split Pea soup

That's one month (we leave room for leftovers) and that is a fraction of what I cook. It took me a while to cook from scratch too, but you can't learn unless you try. Of course, I'm old enough to be your mother, so I have a few years on you.
post #42 of 117
I totally feel your pain. Up until the past six weeks or so, DH and I ate out 2-3 times a week, every week. My "explanation" is the exact opposite of yours: we both work outside the home full time (DH way more than full time) and it's haaaard to come home after work and start cooking dinner! I also used to buy my lunch almost every day.

This year, however, I'm doing differently. We're cooking dinner at home, and I'm bringing my lunch to work. Here are some things that are helping me, so far:

1. HAVE A PLAN. I've been planning menus out a week in advance, and having everything ready to go-- fridge, freezer, pantry, stocked; dishes done; counter clear. That way when I get off work, I can JUST DO IT, without having to think about what to make, go shopping, or clean anything first. Trust me, it is SO MUCH EASIER when you know ahead of time what dinner is going to be!

2. RECYCLE! Make as many meals as possible "stretch". If you're going to go to the trouble to cook one meal, it's very little *extra* work to double it up and make two. Take something like, making butternut squash as a side dish. Roasting 2-3 times as much squash as what you need for one night takes exactly the same amount of effort-- then just toss the extra in the fridge for another evening! I generally do a big, casserole-style or soup/stew-style meal at least once a week, (you know... lasagna, enchiladas, lentil soup, chili, etc) that will feed DH and me for two dinners and make two of my work lunches. To keep from getting bored with the meal, divide it with something else: for example, if you do a huge pot of spaghetti Monday, don't serve it for dinner again Tuesday-- make something else Tuesday and have the spaghetti leftovers Wednesday.

3. In the same vein of thinking: SIMPLIFY. Having 28 home-cooked meals a week shouldn't mean coming up with something new, fancy, or special 28 times! Breakfast = simple. Do the same thing every day, or rotate a few basic things. Like: a big pot of oatmeal, every morning, to feed everybody. Or, every M-W-F is scrambled egg morning, while T-Th-S are cold cereal. Whatever your breakfasts are, just simplify and get into a routine. Lunches = dinner leftovers! Even if DH and I were both at home, I wouldn't cook something new for lunch. My lunch every day is pretty much the same: tupperware of dinner leftovers (if DH accidentally ate all the dinner I have canned soup as an emergency backup), yogurt, hard-boiled egg, apple, orange, banana. (Pregnant. Eating a lot. Sorry.) When you make dinner, plan ahead for next-day's lunch.

4. EASY. I finally figured out that "dinner" doesn't have to be the 1950's ideal of protein-two veggies-etc. Pancakes can be dinner, or eggs. Simple sandwiches and/or soup. Not that I do that every night, but it sure is a relief some of the time.

Basically, those ideas should make the whole cooking-at-home thing easier, less stressful, so that you aren't driven out of the house every third day to eat out. I KNOW that feeling! Don't knock yourself out-- make eating at home as easy as possible for YOU.

Another thing that has helped me, is to set a date when we WILL go out to dinner, and look forward to it as a goal-met. For example, I first decided that I was going to do this home-dinner-every-night thing back around New Year's Eve. My birthday is mid-January, and we always go out to celebrate it. So I thought, let's see if we can go 2 full weeks without eating dinner out, then have our traditional, steak-house birthday dinner! It worked. Having a concrete goal of X number of nights in a row "at home", made it easier than just lurching into the project. Just try a week, at first. Think, "I will make lunch/ dinner every night between today and ____, and if we make it then we will eat at ___ restaurant Saturday!" Cutting meals out cold turkey is hard; this gives you something to look forward to and a nice, manageable goal to work with.

I've noticed that this has had the unintended consequence of making it so that, when we DO go out (all of three times so far!), it's much more special, because we haven't done it in awhile. When we think ahead and PLAN to go out (instead of just, we're hungry and the kitchen is a mess), we can spend more time thinking of where we'd like to go, and when. We used to always say to each other, "We spend too much time and money at these crap chain restaurants (Friday's, Chili's, etc), instead of exploring all of the unique, locally-owned places in town!"-- while driving back to Chili's because it's 8:30 at night and we're too tired and hungry to investigate new places. But going out to eat only every 2-3 weeks, we can think about it more, you know?
post #43 of 117
Here's how I do chicken in the crockpot:

Remove giblets.

Put chicken into crockpot.

Cook on low for 10 hours or high for 5 hours.

Sometimes I add salt and/ or pepper before turning on the crockpot. But that's it!
post #44 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by lolar2 View Post
Here's how I do chicken in the crockpot:

Remove giblets.

Put chicken into crockpot.

Cook on low for 10 hours or high for 5 hours.

Sometimes I add salt and/ or pepper before turning on the crockpot. But that's it!
: Occasionally, I will add some leftover veggies to cook in with the chicken, but it depends on what I have planned for it later in the week. A crockpot is nice because I can wander off, run errands, etc and not worry about it. You can just as easily boil it on the stove.
post #45 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by iowaorganic View Post
OK- so I don't want to thread hijack- but we have our own meat, and milk and I still probably spend at least $600 in groceries and eating out. At least that much! When I go grocery shopping I spend about $100. when DH goes with me- which is most of the time- it is $150 + he wants to eat out (but what leaks me off is he will buy like $10 worth of avacados just for him and then they all go to waste- grr). That is about the only time we eat out though. I buy all ingredients and rarely buy anything prepared. But I do buy organic when possible.

Can you help me?
Apart from banning your husband from the supermarket?

Buy less expensive stuff (less meat, less exotic fruit or vegetables)
Eat more cheap stuff (part of every meal as a cheap thing, pasta, beans, rice as a side on every plate)
Use everything you buy (don't go to the supermarket again until you have nothing left, even if your last meal is really weird)

In a nutshell, fewer mangoes, more bananas and use the old ones for smoothies IYKWIM
post #46 of 117
If you boil it on the stove, though, you need to add a cup of water. And it would be for a shorter amount of time though I don't know how long exactly. So don't follow the exact same procedure for crockpot and stove-boiling pot.
post #47 of 117
i'm single, i have an 8 year old, 4 year old, and a 1 year old(like as in, just turned 1). Life is chaotic. I use the baby's naptime to do meal prep if possible like cutting vegetables. Once a week at dinnertime, I sit with my girls and we brainstorm meals for the next week while looking at the grocery store sale flyer. They each get to choose one dinner that they want. They really like to look at the food in the flyer and pick out what they want to eat. That kind of power is exciting to them. Lunches are usually leftovers or grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly. Breakfast is cereal and milk, oatmeal, or fruit and yogurt. Something simple since mornings are hectic with two school schedules. When the baby takes a particularly long nap or their dad takes them out somewhere and I have extra time, I make a meal to freeze for chaotic days when everyone is miserable and I get nothing done. That way I just chock up the day to a loss and pull a meal out of the freezer to toss in the microwave or oven. Sometimes meals are simple like a crusty bread from the freezer(gotten on the reduced rack from "yesterday's bread" section) and some cans of soup. Sometimes they are more involved like yesterday's tofu, spinach, and mushroom stuffed shells(which sounds all fancy for me but it was really VERY simple). And there are those days when I have nothing in the freezer and everyone is miserable and whiny and I stick the baby in the sling and hand her a cracker and bribe the big ones to help me whip up something. But when there's NO budget to go out, you simply DON'T go out. It's just not there in the budget so it doesn't happen.
The easiest way to make meals is to use the leftovers from one to create another. Case in point, my kids love pasta with butter topped with steamed carrots and broccoli and baked chicken and a little parm cheese. I am veggie so an entire chicken breast is too much for two little girls. We cut it in half and they eat the other half in chicken and cheese quesadillas or burritos the next night. That second meal with the chicken breast literally takes 15 minutes to make.
post #48 of 117
freezer cooking is my solution. Double the meals you do make and freeze them! Lasagne, meatloaf, cooking chicken ahead and chopping it... making batches of soup and freezing it. It really helps with small kids around-my kids melt down around suppertime! I also cook beans in the crockpot (2 lbs at a time) and freeze them for quick additions to meals.
post #49 of 117
Here's my meal rotation list if this helps any. DH is pretty southern home cooking so please excuse some of them! If you need recipes, just let me know!

Pork
Hot dogs/kielbasa
BBQ pork
Pulled pork sandwiches
Beans and hotdogs
Hot ham n cheese sandwiches
Sausage gravy n biscuits

Beef
Easy Dinner Surprise (crock pot)
Taco salad
Sloppy Joe’s
Baked ziti supreme
Hamburger helper Stroganoff
Meatloaf
Pot roast
Steak
Soft tacos
Shepherd’s Pie
Hamburgers/cheeseburgers
Cheeseburger Rollup (Kraft)
Salisbury Steak

Chicken/Turkey
Grilled chicken/turkey
Chicken crunch casserole
Chicken Divan
Chicken Parmigiana
Italian Chicken
Chicken pot pies
Chicken tenders
Jerk Chicken
Big basil (turkey) burgers
Blackened chicken poor boy sand
Spaghetti (turkey meatballs)
Chicken tetrazzini
Swiss chicken
Poppyseed chicken








Misc:
Scrambled eggs/omelets/etc
Quiche/strata
Baked spaghetti
Lasagna
Pancakes
French toast
Fish sticks
Crab cakes
Pizza
Chili
Potato soup
post #50 of 117
You've gotten some great advice so far. A few years ago, I probably could have written your post myself (minus the kids). These are some things I did to cut back our food expenses.

Bought an espresso maker (a cheapie) and make it at home. DH was spending $5/day on coffee, 5 days/wk. It didn't take long to recoup the cost of the machine. Now he might buy coffee a couple times a year. I make it fresh every morning, religiously. That's the first thing I do while he's in the shower. Pour it into his travel mug, rinse the carafe, and it's ready for tomorrow. It only gets washed every few months.

Joined a CSA. We're having trouble finishing all the produce we're getting right now, in the middle of winter. Once summer starts, we'll be getting even more. This costs me $29/week (goes up to $32 in a few weeks), year round. It is all organic, all local. I gave up control over what we get, in exchange for cutting my produce bill by 2/3. It makes planning a little more difficult, but the boxes come in on Friday morning, and I shop on Saturday morning, so I can change any plans I may have. The only thing I'm buying at the store lately is extra potatoes.

Prepare breakfasts in advance for the week. I usually do this on Sundays. I've slacked off lately, but was religious about it for a long time. Egg muffins, egg custards, quiche, baked oatmeal, etc. Make 1 dish to last all week, and next week make something else to prevent boredom. We go out to breakfast one Saturday a month. The rest of the time I'll put a little extra effort into weekend breakfasts. Sometimes that's french toast, pancakes, muffins, sometimes it's an omelette stuffed with everything.

Shop alone. This cuts down on impulse buys, and also the amount of time it takes to do the shopping. I do my grocery shopping on Saturday morning while DH sleeps in - once this little one is a little older, I'll be leaving her with him while I do it... I have it down so I can get it all done in under an hour.

Go shopping once a week, period. Stock your pantry, your freezer and your fridge with the basics, and then buy the fresh stuff once a week. Use a list. If you forget something, you'll have to do without until the next week. This has been crucial for me to reduce my spending. That extra trip to the store for one thing inevitably winds up being an extra $30-50.

Buy in bulk. Those items that you use a lot of, buy in larger quantities. Shop around. My WF has a decent bulk selection, but the local independent HFS has a better (and cheaper) one. So I make the extra trip a couple times a year to stock up on those things we use. Everything from baking soda to organic popcorn. Buy legumes dried if you're currently buying canned - there's a considerable cost savings. I soak them overnight and then freeze them in 2 c portions. They cook in under 20 minutes that way, and I only have to soak once a month or so.

Plan. Plan. Plan. I know it's been said before, but I'm saying it again. Plan out a week's meals. And use today's leftovers for tomorrow's meal. So tonight you're having a roast chicken - then tomorrow shred whatever meat is left and make a pan of enchiladas or a shepherd's pie. Pop the carcass in the soup pot overnight, add some veg and on the 3rd day you have a pot of soup - add some bread or a salad. The effort from 1 to 2 to 3 is minimal, since the meat is already cooked, you're basically making leftovers. If you can come up with 3 different sets of (1,2,3)s, then you just made your life a whole lot easier. And here, a pan of enchiladas and a pot of soup both serve as lunches as well, since there's always leftovers from those.

Lunch is the most difficult meal for me, personally. I'm SAH and half the time I just wind up grabbing a piece of cheese and an apple. But planning ahead can resolve that issue as well. I pack DH a lunch every day without fail. Usually it's made up of leftovers from last night (veg & meat), some fresh fruit (apples), a fresh veg (carrots), a cup of yogurt, a piece of cheese, and usually some nuts or another dry snack. If I've made something (cookies, cake, muffins, etc.) then I pack that in there as a special treat, too. I know you said your DH WAH, but planning for "packing" that lunch means you'll always have those items on hand. Sometimes I'll plan something in particular for his lunches, like his favorite casserole. I'll make that on the weekend while I'm making breakfasts, and then we'll both eat that all week long for lunch, with the addition of some fresh produce.

Then there's the subject of convenience foods. I highly recommend learning to make them. My DH is a huge pasta lover, and would live on (Kraft) Mac & cheese if I let him. So I had to learn to make it myself. I always stir in a meat and a veg (usually sausage and peas, but I've done ham, chicken, even leftover Xmas goose, broccoli, asparagus, etc.), to make it a bit more healthy. And I make a huge pan of it, so he can eat his fill. He knows it's a treat, so I might make it once a month, tops. We'll have it for dinner, then the leftovers go in his lunch. Most convenience foods can easily be made from scratch. If you need help with a particular favorite, posting a question in the Nutrition and Good Eating forum will usually get you half a dozen favorite recipes. If you're making something like pizza from scratch, then oftentimes the sticking point is the time to make the dough. So every month take a little time and make a BIG batch of it. Divide it and freeze it. Then if you want pizza for dinner, just pull the dough out and let it thaw, minimal prep required.

The last thing you seem to have trouble with is feeding your 2 yo. She is at an age where she should be able to understand the concept of "this is your food, eat it when you're hungry". You can make a tray of easy stuff for her to eat, and just do it once a day. Cut up an apple or an orange, a couple pieces of cheese, a handful of nuts, some veg, maybe a dip - whatever you would normally give her as a snack. Doing it once a day cuts down on your work, and just put it where she can reach it. It allows her a certain amount of control about what she eats when, and prevents the constant requests for mommy to fix something. She can still sit down with you for "meals", but all her snacks have already been dealt with.

And on the subject of snacks - keep some on hand at all times. Whether that means designating a snack drawer or a snack cupboard or whatever. For you, your LO and your DH. Easily grabbed food that doesn't require any prep. A bowl of fruit, string cheese, crackers, whatever. Around here my DH will grab for string cheese or some wasabi peas if he's feeling peckish. Just make sure you keep plenty of them on hand, and make sure it's items that you're okay with.

You say you're spending that much on food right now, but only have an over-the-fridge freezer. If you cut back on your food buying, will you still have that money available in the budget? I think we spent about $200 to buy our chest freezer. If you have the space for one, I highly recommend it. Between buying in season produce, buying on sale meat, and cooking for the freezer, it can save you lot of time and money.

I hope all of that helps.
post #51 of 117
Thread Starter 
Thank you all so much-can't tell you how helpful this is- I will be reading all of this in detail later.
:
post #52 of 117
A couple of cookbooks that have been helping me are:

Simply in Season, lots of easy and healthy recipes using in season produce. I got this for Christmas and have made some of the Winter recipes (especially soups).

The Crockpot cookbook put out by Rival.

Good luck, I can see why being at home with a baby and toddler doesn't leave you with a lot of time to cook!
post #53 of 117
A couple of cookbooks that have been helping me are:

Simply in Season, lots of easy and healthy recipes using in season produce. I got this for Christmas and have made some of the Winter recipes (especially soups).

The Crockpot cookbook put out by Rival.

Good luck, I can see why being at home with a baby and toddler doesn't leave you with a lot of time to cook!
post #54 of 117
Something else I have found helpful that saves time and money is to buy hamburger in large quantaties, When I get home I will patty it out into hamburgs, roll some into balls for meatballs and then pack some in bags for spaghetti sauce, the ones in the bags just get frozen but the patties and the balls get laid out single layer on a cookie sheet and big square cake pan, I then stick the pans in the freezer and let the meat freeze then I will pop them off, basically twist the pan or tap it like an ice cub tray and then put the already balled up or pattied up meat into bags, they are quick to pull out and make into a meal then.

Can do the same thing with chicken breasts, buy a bunch, cut them up, freeze the so they don't stick together on a pan, bag them up and pull out only a few when you want to have chicken.

If there is something like tomato paste that you only use a Tbs of get a extra ice cube tray and divide it up when you open the can into the ice cube tray, freeze it and then put it into a bag. Pull out one when you need it.
post #55 of 117
Thread Starter 
I may actually print this whole thread it's so helpful!

I love the idea of cutting up onion (and for me pepper also), and freezing a bunch...I know you can't freeze broccoli because it will lose it's taste, are their any other things I definitely shouldn't freeze?

So you just put the chicken in the Crockpot no water or any liquids? It doesn't get too dry?
post #56 of 117
I don't think there's one magic answer for saving money, but there are several strategies and meal prep styles and it's definitely worth experimenting with each one to see which one works best for you. There's no point forcing yourself into a mold that isn't you, because you won't sustain it.

I would write down everything your family spends in a month on food just so you know what you're working with.

Then take a month and try a new routine. Keep what works, ditch the rest, and try a new routine the next month. Some people do well with a very structured budget and planning out all their meals. Some people do well with batch cooking. Some people do well with a modified stockpiling buying pattern.

Personally, I need a flexible routine. I hate planning meals and I often don't know what I'm in the mood for until the moment hits. So I've gotten *very* good at shopping sales and stockpiling on goods that we'll definitely use before they go bad (and not stockpiling on perishables that we don't use regularly enough) and cycling through what we have in the house in an organized way. About half the time I will cook enough to either freeze several more meals out of it OR transform it into different meals to take us through 3-5 days. For example, I'll make a big pot of Spanish rice one night to eat as is. The next day I put it on tortillas with cheese, refried beans, and chopped tomatoes for lunch. The day after that I fry it up with scrambled eggs for breakfast. The day after that we finish it off with veggie crumbles (like browned hamburger) and sour cream. I might add some different spices each time to change the flavor a bit: cayenne, ginger, tumeric, cinnamon.... The rest of the time I make quick and easy one-shot meals, like mac and cheese loaded with veggies and nutritional yeast, or a big salad with cheese and seitan or tempeh for protein.

DH likes to plan his meals, so he picks two or three meals a week ahead of time and writes them on the whiteboard on our frig where I keep track of what we've run out of, and I just make sure I pick up the ingredients when I go grocery shopping.

Grocery shopping is one area where we've tried hard to cut down on "extra" runs, and that's made a big difference. Running out for just one missing ingredient often turns into a bag of impulse purchases, so if we're missing an ingredient, we tend to work around it or make something else, and add the ingredient to the shopping list for the next planned trip. I go to Trader Joe's on Mondays since we're in the area anyway and get our milk, eggs, some fruit and veggies, and staples like bread, cereal, and pasta. I go to Whole Foods once or twice a month for seafood and random organics I can't get at Trader Joe's. And I hit Stop & Shop for the rest, again once or twice a month. For our area, that works best for us in terms of price and quality. During the summer, we drop Stop & Shop and cut back on Trader Joe's and Whole Foods in favor of using our CSA, backyard garden, and farmer's markets. Again, flexibility works for us here because we're not locked into just one way of doing things.

Find what works for you. Be committed to cutting back on your expenses, because yeah, that's a LOT of money and a lot of eating out, but also be realistic about your family's planning and meal prep style so you can make realistic changes that last.
post #57 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by lovebeingamomma View Post
I may actually print this whole thread it's so helpful!

I love the idea of cutting up onion (and for me pepper also), and freezing a bunch...I know you can't freeze broccoli because it will lose it's taste, are their any other things I definitely shouldn't freeze?

So you just put the chicken in the Crockpot no water or any liquids? It doesn't get too dry?
I put 2-3 cups of water in so that I get a nice amount of chicken stock.
post #58 of 117
Thread Starter 
What a timely response! I JUST stuck my whole chicken in the crockpot (someone said on high for 5 hours is that right?)...so I will go add some water now...does that mean I'll get a stock the same as instead of boiling the carcass after? Easier is always better for me
post #59 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by lovebeingamomma View Post
What a timely response! I JUST stuck my whole chicken in the crockpot (someone said on high for 5 hours is that right?)...so I will go add some water now...does that mean I'll get a stock the same as instead of boiling the carcass after? Easier is always better for me
Yep!

It will be like chicken jello when its cold so don't freak out if you find it like that in the morning You should get a really good stock this way. I also take the fat off the top the next day and save it to the side and use for my rice ( not all just some ) for extra flavor MMmmmm!
post #60 of 117
I haven't read all the replies, so maybe someone already said this:

Try making all your meals at night. I at least chop veggies, if not cook everything, the night before.

Also, if I can get DH to corrall DS for an hour on the weekend, I can prep food for several meals then.

Whenever you make a homemade pizza, make a second one at the same time, and put it in the freezer.

Whenever you make a batch of soup, make a bigger pot, and freeze half of it in small portions to defrost for a quick lunch.

When you plan meals, try to plan around the same set of veggies (we bought tons of brocolli because it was on sale this week). On one day I chopped all the brocolli for stir fry, a plain side dish, on pasta, and for dipping in hummus. It is all ready for the week.
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