HELP ME!!! I spend nearly $900... - Mothering Forums

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Old 02-24-2009, 06:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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on food alone just in February! I've never kept track of it but this year I decided to and it's just insane...so a quick breakdown...

We've gone out a total of 33 times for food (this includes, groceries, Dunkin Donuts, and eating out)

DD- 7 times
Eating Out- 12 times
groceries- the rest

So help me! I buy almost exlusevley organic, so I understand that makes it more expensive, but this is something that I'm not willing to give up. Dunkin Donuts is my husbands thing, but he brings in all the dough so I cannot ask him to give up his coffee! So that leaves eating out. The reason we eat out so often is because I'm a SAHM, and DH works from home, so that means preparing 28 meals a week (we eat about 4 times a day), and that's HARD with chasing after 2 kids! So that explains the nights out. So how do I do this? I want to stop wasting so much money!

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Old 02-24-2009, 06:36 PM
 
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Can you write out the amount that went to DD , eating out and food? that way we get an idea how much is going where?

Can you buy DD coffee and make it at home?
Are you eating out organic?
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Old 02-24-2009, 06:38 PM
 
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that is tough!

I don't have a lot of ideas, but I do have a coffee addiction. Would you DH consider making his own coffee at home. YOu can buy DD coffee at that store and it is just as yummy! I spent $100 this year on a nice new coffee pot that grounds whole beans and keeps it hot. It was a splurge at the time, but has saved me on my Starbucks costs a TON!

We also started meal planning. I only 'make' 5 meals a week. The rest are throw together things that we can easily just grab. Believe me I HATE to cook, so some convience grocery items are still cheaper then eating out (for me that means cheese cube, premade pizza crusts, organic mac&cheese, ect) Think pizza, tacos, sandwiches, cereal, ect.... We do lots of grab and go fruit as well, nothing easier then a pb&j and an apple for a meal.

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Old 02-24-2009, 06:39 PM
 
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we spend around $800 for our family of four. we usually only eat out twice a month though. sometimes only once. we buy all organic for the most part. organic cheese is through the roof. so much so, that I got conventional a couple of weeks ago but it just doesn't compare in taste at all! my problem is buying expensive premade deli stuff at the co-op (which probably counts as "eating out"!) my partner works at home and I am a SAHM who freelances part time from home and my kids are homeschooled. so we are all here ALL the time. I hear ya on the 28x3 meal thing.. ughh!

this month I am determined to go back to my once a month cooking that I used to do when I was single.. that should help. I hope!

: for other ideas

ETA-that $800 includes most household cleaning supplies and personal items like shampoo, herbs, cat food, etc.

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Old 02-24-2009, 06:40 PM
 
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Ouch. That's a lot.

Eating out will get you every time, though. We started doing takeout instead of restaurant meals, which cuts down a little. We also budgeted envelope style for the takeout and that means if we only have $10 left in the envelope, we have $10 to spend on take out, PERIOD. Well, mostly - Dh and I have also budgeted "fun money" for each of us, so sometimes we kick in from that for it, but that's also in cash, so when it's gone, it's gone.

Also, if you post your typical grocery list, usually the ladies on here are REALLY good at helping you cut costs - even while staying organic, I think. Have you checked for organic food coupons? What about restaurant coupons?

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Old 02-24-2009, 06:41 PM
 
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If it makes you feel any better, the USDA website puts your food bill into the "moderate-cost" monthly plan for a family of 4. That's entirely reasonable for a nearly-all-organic diet. However, of course it is best to save when and where you can. Do you do much freezer cooking? That can help.
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Old 02-24-2009, 06:57 PM
 
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eating out 12 times in one month? (and technically, less than a month since Feb isn't over yet) That's an average of one meal out every other day. I totally understand the whole SAHM thing, being tired of cooking every meal, but that's a LOT of eating out. Can you plan for easy replacement meals for those times you want to eat out? (frozen pizza, etc) It would save you money, for sure.
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Old 02-24-2009, 06:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm so happy to have so many caring responses!

I'm not going to get the exact figures, but when I say eating out I really mean take out or cheaper places like crackle barrel. So probable between $15-$25 each time eating out.

DH also makes coffee at home...but goes out when his wife doesn't clean the coffee pot I really don't think I can get him off this, it's also his escape to be able to get out of the house (since he's in his office probably 10 hours a day working).

Where would I get coupons for Whole Foods Market? That's where I get all my organic goods.

Talk to me about freezer cooking I've ALWAYS been interested and NEVER done it! Is it the once a month type deal? Because I only have a small freezer about fridge...

Any more tips welcome!

Christian SAHM & birth doula.
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Old 02-24-2009, 07:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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kitten in the shade if I knew how to do easy replacement meals I wouldn't be going out to eat! (saying I go out to eat ALOT in caps doesn't make me feel good I'm just going to be honest...I don't need any more shame here) This is why I'm posting, for help! I make my own pizza don't like frozen.

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Old 02-24-2009, 07:01 PM
 
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Figure out meals that you can prepare together either for the day or for the week so you are not actually in the kitchen 28 times a week, it can really lessen the amount of time spent in the kitchen. Things like crock pot meals or on the stove soups are quick prep, they sometimes take planning or a little longer to actually cook but they are ready without you standing over the stove.

Things like if you make beans today but make more than you guys will eat and then use the leftovers for refried bean burritos...

Combining prep of meals can save time with the cleanup..if your cutting up veggies for dinner go ahead and cut up veggies for the omlette your going to make in the morning for breakfast. Only have to wash that chopping block and knife once.

How old are your kiddos? can you make part of their play helping you with meals, whether it's the prep, or the cleanup

I understand where your coming from about not wanting to ask your husband to give up his coffee, but look at ways he can still have his coffee and you guys save a little. Does he just stop and get the coffee and come home or drink it on the go to drink it or is sitting there in the store part of his treat. If he's just getting it to go maybe buy the same kind and make it at home.

oops I'm a slow typer, you posted 2 times in less time it took me to write this one
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Old 02-24-2009, 07:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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lol lightheart! You're very "light hearted"

I have an 8 mo old & a 26 mo old...so not exactly helpers! This is also a reason this is so hard, I can't say no every time my 2 year old asks to help, because I want to foster homemaking skills in her early, plus she WANTS to help...so needless to say, this makes food prep time harder & longer!

what is a girl to do!

That's a good tip abou the veggies, I had completely forgotten about omlets as a good breakfast!

Here's a nother hard thing, my 2 year old is a peanut, and it's hard to get her to eat her food, and she litterally asks for food ("num num"), every half hour. It drives me insane. I need ready on hand healhty snack ideas for her, because she doesn't sit & eat a full meal. She's a moocher too! I only get to eat half my meals most of the time :P

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Old 02-24-2009, 07:27 PM
 
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It sounds as though your 2-year-old is eating a full meal, it's just off of your plate! So put more on your plate and have that be for both of you.

As far as freezer cooking, some of this might be more appropriate for the nutrition and good eating forum, but in general, you can double any tomato-based recipe (such as pasta or chili) and put half of it in the freezer. Wrap it in freezer paper or put it in a plastic bag or container.

Snacks my 2 yo likes: apples (tiny ones, or cut into slices), bananas, cheese, crackers, and muffins.
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Old 02-24-2009, 07:37 PM
 
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I think the first step would be to come up with a budget.

Since your not comfortable putting real figures out we will put Fake ones out LOL

SO lets say you spend:

DD - $100
Eating out $300
food $500

in a given month you would do something like this:

Food: $600
Husbands spending money $50 ( so he can get has DD )
Eating out $100

That cuts it $150 and you can work from there. Id put the extra money from the food and buy frozen meals and give your self a break and then start working on making meals or learning to make meals. Cut the food budget as you go along. I found I was spending about the same as you on food and we upped the food budget and bought more snacky silly stuff. it helped us kick our habit and gave me a way to WEAN myself off buying take out LOL.

We also have been focusing more on local rather then organic and shopping the sales. I buy conventional Avacados but organic apples , blueberries ( when on sale) organic potatoes etc. We are gluten free and dairy free so some things we just cant find organic. We try not to buy produce that's grown in another country for the most part. Or like rice I buy Eco farmed rather then the certified because its cheaper but still grown the way I would like it to be.

www.localharvest.org has CSA's you can find one in your area and hook up with local farmers. This way you are one) eating in season and two) lowering your carbon foot print. Allot of places grow using the organic growing practices but arent certified because of the price.

Sorry this is so long and HTH
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Old 02-24-2009, 07:40 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lovebeingamomma View Post
I'm so happy to have so many caring responses!

I'm not going to get the exact figures, but when I say eating out I really mean take out or cheaper places like crackle barrel. So probable between $15-$25 each time eating out.

DH also makes coffee at home...but goes out when his wife doesn't clean the coffee pot I really don't think I can get him off this, it's also his escape to be able to get out of the house (since he's in his office probably 10 hours a day working).

Where would I get coupons for Whole Foods Market? That's where I get all my organic goods.

Talk to me about freezer cooking I've ALWAYS been interested and NEVER done it! Is it the once a month type deal? Because I only have a small freezer about fridge...

Any more tips welcome!
I would really recommend you learn to make some quick easy meals. You could probably do your 12 meals out for $25 total...as opposed to 12 meals at $15-$25/each.

My "I'm too tired and lazy to cook" meals are usually pizza (homemade crust that DOESN'T require rising...takes about 30-35 minutes from start to completely cooked and finished!), spaghetti and salad or whatever veggies i have on hand, burgers and fries and veggies (I like to have a pack of frozen veggie burgers on hand for those REALLY lazy days, where i'm not up to cooking at all) - i buy them on sale at grocery outlet or trader joes usually has them for cheap too.

That's not to say you can't go out a couple times a month (depending on your budget)...it is nice to get out of the house...but 12 times and it's only the 24th is a LOT.

The coffee thing...wash the pot or teach DH too. Plain and simple. If he needs to get out of the house (which i'm sure YOU need to get out of it occasionally too!) then how about something free like going for a walk, a trip to the library (he can bring a thermos of coffee and go to the magazine/newspaper section and pretend he's at his coffee shop, lol!), etc. etc.

I would also recommend you shopping elsewhere. Saving money while grocery shopping USUALLY requires you to shop at more than one store. You can find cheaper organic produce at regular grocery stores. And try trader joes if you have one! They have great deals on organic frozen produce. I used to shop for a family of 3, exclusively organic and vegan for $300/mo.

Cutting down meat and dairy will also help significantly lower your bill. Don't feel like you have to go all rice and beans though (although that's a good cheap meal too, lol)...find some vegan recipes online. If you do a handful of veggie meals a week you'll save

Freezer cooking? I was never a pro at that...but when i did it on occasion i would double a recipe that i knew would freeze well (such as lentil/rice loaf) and stick 1/2 the recipe in the freezer...so next time i needed a meal quick i'd just pop it in the oven.

Good luck! I know you can cut down your budget, probably by HALF, if you're really motivated to do so
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Old 02-24-2009, 08:06 PM
 
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What do you make in the crockpot? I try to cook in large batches so that we can eat off leftovers.

Also, for lunches, I've been making homemade calzones on the weekend and then doing some kind of crockpot meal for the other week's lunches. Friday DH eats out. I stuff the calzones with either pizza stuff or a mix of spinach,mushrooms, ricotta and mozzarella.

I would try to brainstorm a menu of easy meals that don't require lots of prep. Frex cottage cheese with carrot sticks (or avocado slices) and fruit for lunch twice in one week. And then oven quesadillas with sauteed zucchini and yellow squash (pre-saute this on the weekend) for the other two days. Then a treat of takeout on Friday and maybe a pizza on Sat.

Or maybe everyone just has sandwiches or leftovers for lunch and it's DH's job to do it? Don't feel like you have to be a whirling dervish and cook all.the. time. That's not really practical.

I also keep a stash of frozen stuff that I know DD will eat (she's still not quite up to speed on what we like) like Amy's pesto cheese tortellini, Amy's indian stuff, and frozen spinach and cheese ravioli (2 ravioli = 1 svg for DD).

As for the freezer cooking, I just became disciplined about immediately packing up one serving for the freezer once a meal was cooked. So I have a bunch of 1-2 svgs frozen meals.

ETA: Since you are into organic only, you would probably benefit from stocking up when there are sales and deals to maximize savings and cut costs.

ETA #2: Also, most food coops doe organic stuff. Google buying clubs and food coops and try to find one in your area.
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Old 02-24-2009, 08:23 PM
 
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Check out your local grocery stores for organic food. Whole foods is really expensive. I buy lots of organic food at our local Meijer. They even have their organic house brand and it goes on sale a lot!!! They also have a nice selection of organic produce that goes on sale. Bags of carrots and celery for $1 and so on.

Cut back on eating out. All that cheap Cracker Barrel food isn't all that great for you anyways. Maybe choose one night a week to eat out. At our house Saturday we either eat out or get take-out. The rest of the week I cook.

Stock up on healthy snacks and ingredients for quick simple meals. Every meal doesn't have to be a major ordeal. Dinner can be pasta with sauce and some fresh veg and fruit.

Fast yummy pizza- Make pita pizza. Buy your favorite pita bread and top it with sauce, cheese and your favorite toppings. Toss it in the oven for about 10 minutes and viola dinner is served. Tasty and healthy!

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Old 02-24-2009, 08:25 PM
 
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Ok, someone posted a coupon site that was all organic convenience foods... I can't find it now :embarrassed: hold on, I'll look more...

ETA...

ok, I found these via google...
http://frugalliving.about.com/od/foo...ic_Coupons.htm
http://www.horizonorganic.com/coupons/index.php
http://www.organicvalley.coop/coupons/
http://coupons.mambosprouts.com/online_coupons

There were more, but i didn't have a lot of time...

Also, there's a book called Don't Panic, Dinner's in the Freezer which I have, but haven't actually used The recipes look fairly tasty, though...

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Old 02-24-2009, 08:29 PM
 
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I used to spend that much, and have resolved to cut back. My grocery bill will be under $500 this month.

Some things that have helped me:

1. Using localharvest.org to find a group selling free-range eggs, meat and butter. Their prices are lower than WF (I actually pick up my order every week at the WF, lol) and the discipline of having to but these things online in advance help to cut down on impuluse buys.

2. Buying raw milk at a local dairy farm. $4 a gallon versus $7.39 at WF!

3. Simplify, simplify, simplify your diet. I have eggs for breakfast almost every day. I make and freeze a Crockpot of nice hearty soup every weeks and my dh (also a WAH) eats it for lunch. No boxed snack foods - the kids eat cheese sandwiches, PB&J, fruit, etc. We have pasta at least twice per week - even organic sauce is very cheap if you stock up during a sale.

As for restaurants - we've just stopped going at dinnertime or on weekends. I occasionally "break down" and hit the Starbucks, just like your dh hits the Dunkin Donuts, but our budget can survive this minor luxury. It was takeout that was really killing us.

I think the USDA's averages are total bs, frankly. They assume that you are eating a whole bunch of processed food, which in addition to being very $$$ is very, very bad for you. Why not let each member of your family pick ONE convenience-type food per week, and other than that you shop for ingredients rather than already-prepared meals?

And now, to go against my own advice above : You need to have some prepared stuff on hand to keep you from giving in to takeout temptation during your transition. Costco sells a two-pack of vegetarian lasagna. My MIL keeps a bag of Stouffer's mac-n-cheese from Wal-Mart in her freezer. I often buy a frozen pizza when there's a good price on it. Etc.

Believe me, I relate to your hate-to-cook attitude. I don't think I will ever love to cook - but I DO love the way I feel now that there is no much less processed food entering my body. The health benefits are extreme. And the savings are huge.
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Old 02-24-2009, 08:37 PM
 
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I don't know how much it keeps down costs, but it does help my sanity in cooking so many meals! I have a two week meal plan that I use. I have the same 14 meals that I make basically two times a month. I've gotten to know them so well that I don't have to get out the recipes most times and I've gotten really fast at them! I occasionally throw in a new recipe to mix things up when I find one that looks good.

It also makes grocery shopping much easier because every other trip is the exact same items.

We also save money on groceries by not buying any processed foods (it's been great for my body too, I'm below my pre-baby weight!)

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Old 02-24-2009, 08:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I so wish I could buy raw milk! But it's illegal to sell in RI! I will check out localharvest.org...

thanks for all the other posts I DID read them I just can't remember everything so I won't comment but will scan again later...

yes I know I know eating out 12 times is ALOT OK OK LOL!

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Old 02-24-2009, 08:51 PM
 
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I can totally relate...we usually spend between $800 and $900 on food, and we rarely eat out, maybe once or twice a month. So that's ALL groceries. However, eating delicious, healthy food is our only splurge and it's important to us, so I don't worry about it too much. If I had to slash the budget, I could easily reduce it, but we definitely wouldn't eat as well!

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Old 02-24-2009, 09:05 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smithie View Post

I think the USDA's averages are total bs, frankly. They assume that you are eating a whole bunch of processed food, which in addition to being very $$$ is very, very bad for you. Why not let each member of your family pick ONE convenience-type food per week, and other than that you shop for ingredients rather than already-prepared meals?
They don't assume anything. They are based on surveys of what people actually buy.
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Old 02-24-2009, 09:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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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!

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Old 02-24-2009, 09:19 PM
 
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Try replacing the eat-out meals with quick meals. $900 a month is more than my family of 11 kids spent on foods.

But the part that is getting you (and it gets me too) is making a meal 3xs a day every day. Ugh I hate cooking.

So I asked my mom how she does/did it. (Don't we all arrive at the point of asking our mom how in the world she did it? lol)

Anyways, she pointed out that she varies her meals so that only 1 meal is made from scratch, big and hearty...typically dinner every night. Breakfast is fruit, then oatmeal. A late lunch is something light and easy such as frozen pizza, tossed lettuce and cottage cheese. The kids can even get these things themselves and clean up is easy.

Then for dinner, she does the big shebang...hormone free steak, whole wheat pasta, mashed potatoes, garlic bread..just an example.

I adopted her idea and it really helps. Especially b/c we are always on the go.

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Old 02-24-2009, 09:21 PM
 
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Speaking of breakfast, you can also cook and freeze waffles and pancakes.
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Old 02-24-2009, 09:31 PM
 
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I didn't read the whole thread so forgive me if these have been addressed already:

Do you have a local food co-op or CSA? - we can buy a share at a local CSA for about $250 a share to feed a family of 4 with fresh organic veggies spring through fall.

Can you plant a garden?

Can you make extras and eat leftovers the next day for lunch instead of "cooking" lunch all the time?

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Old 02-24-2009, 09:41 PM
 
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I totally relate to the "everyone's stuck in the house syndrome" and wanting to just have a meal without two under two making it a near impossible task!

I wouldn't ask your dh to give up his coffee either, if it's his escape. That's just me though.

As far as feeling like you are cooking cooking cooking all the time, we do stuff like muffins and granola in big batches that last the week. Dh coralls the boys while I bake (sometimes ds "helps") and then we have healthy yummy grabable (is that a word? ) breakfast/snacks.

As for your two year old asking to eat all the time, this is my two year old ds. When I grocery shop, I chop veggies and fruit and stick them into ziplock baggies. Then they are easy to grab for snack. I also keep some healthy cracker type thingies on hand, and cheese sliced up. We are grazers, and these snacks being on hand at all times helps so much.

Soups are another great time saver. Throw everything together and it's easy to re-heat, thicken into a stew etc.

I am not crunchy enough for this forum. Everyday I get a little crunchier though! :
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Old 02-24-2009, 09:58 PM
 
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I was not taught to cook either. It's hard to learn without a teacher. So I think you might want to recognize this is going to be an evolution. You will need to acquire some skills, over time, in order to cut your bill, so expect to continue to rely on takeout. Expect mistakes. Maybe start with eliminating one takeout run each week and work your way up.

Try Taste of Home magazines, recipes are submitted by people like you and me and tested. I also like Cook's Illustrated and Bon Appetit although they are more advanced.

Taste of home and Cook's Illustrated have websites with a certain amount of free content. Once you are more proficient, allrecipes.com is a good place to continue to expand your repertoire. You need experience to evaluate the recipes on allrecipes.com, even the five starred ones can backfire.

Here are 2 of my fave slow cooker recipes.

Slow Cooker Pepper Steak

* 2 pounds beef sirloin, cut into 2 inch strips (I use super cheap round steak sliced across the grain to maximize tenderness)
* garlic powder to taste
* 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1 cube beef bouillon (I usually use chicken or beef broth in a can instead)
* 1/4 cup hot water
* 1 tablespoon cornstarch
* 1/2 cup chopped onion
* 2 large green bell peppers, roughly chopped
* 1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes, with liquid (I use diced tomatoes as the stewed ones are kind of big)
* 3 tablespoons soy sauce
* 1 teaspoon white sugar (I omit this)
* 1 teaspoon salt (I omit this)

You could also add mushrooms to this recipe.

DIRECTIONS

1. Sprinkle strips of sirloin with garlic powder to taste. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the vegetable oil and brown the seasoned beef strips. Transfer to a slow cooker.
2. Add stock OR Mix bouillon cube with hot water until dissolved, then mix in cornstarch until dissolved. (NOTE: I find adding the cornstarch at the end is much better for thickening, I spoon out some of the hot liquid and mix in some cornstarch and then pour back into the pot.) Pour into the slow cooker with meat. Stir in onion, green peppers, stewed tomatoes, soy sauce, sugar, and salt.
3. Cover, and cook on High for 3 to 4 hours, or on Low for 6 to 8 hours. (add some peppers later to keep crisp)
4. Serve over rice.

Unstuffed cabbage casserole

1. Brown diced onions in a skillet and then cook ground turkey or beef in skillet (add some garlic powder).
2.While meat is cooking, chop and dice a green cabbage and toss into the slow cooker.
3. In a bowl, mix 2 cans tomato paste with 1cup of hot water. Add 1/2 cup ketchup. 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce and 1 tbsp. sugar (I often skip these last two).
4. Dump a can or two of undrained diced tomatoes into the slow cooker.
5.Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and cook for 6 hours. (If it seems really watery, scoop out some of the liquid and discard.You can also thicken with flour or cornstarch if necessary at the end.)
6.Serve over rice or this also really good on top of toasted and buttered rustic bread.

HTH

V

Happy Momma to DD (almost 3) Fall Coleslaw -- Simple Italian Stuffed Peppers -- - Fall Toddler Activities.- We Made a Play Kitchen Selling gently used books on all topics here.
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Old 02-24-2009, 10:03 PM
 
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Learning to cook: In raising me, my mom was rebelling against her own upbringing. She declared that she would not force me to learn homemaking skills; I was a smart capable woman who would learn when I wanted. So when I moved into my first apartment, my mom gave me copies of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and The Joy of Cooking. I also collected some other "fast, easy, and healthy" cookbooks. (I currently really like Saving Dinner for a great combination of simple ingredients and a wide variety of healthful meals!) I think I watched some Martha Stewart for techniques, like how to chop veggies. LOL. Ten years later I am a pretty capable cook with lots of no-recipe meals and complicated recipes under my belt. You can do it! (As an aside, my grandmother got married in the 1930s or so without knowing how to cook. That was a huge embarrassment for her! She taught herself with the Fannie Farmer Cookbook which is why my mom chose that one for me!)

We have the same budgeting problem. Last month our food budget (for two adults and a toddler) was about the same as yours, and that was WITH my making an effort to shop sales, meal plan, and avoid impulse purchases! Admittedly I did put up a lot of freezer meals.

This month I had a baby. So DH is in charge of food. I was certain our bill would skyrocket, but do you know, his bachelor-days buying habits are standing us in good stead. He buys generic store brand foods and cooks simple meals, we're eating from the freezer or getting pizza pretty inexpensively, and I'm not going to the farmer's market. Our grocery bill is going to end up almost HALF of last month. We're not eating *that* badly either. Not organic or local, but fresh and homemade, you know? Sometimes you just have to compromise when times are tight.
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Old 02-24-2009, 10:17 PM
 
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I have to laugh at your reasoning for eating out so much because you SAHM. I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing at human nature. We all can come up with the most interesting reasons for why we do what we do.

I work out of the home full time and have two kids. I make 3 meals a day for all of us on top of working. We never eat out. (My house, however, normally looks like a bomb went off, for which my excuse is that I WOH. )

Freezer cooking is your friend. The crockpot, if you can hack it, is your friend. (I can't, as everything I cook in it comes out watery and tasteless.) If you have something in the freezer that you can slap on the table in less than half an hour flat, you will be much less likely to eat out.

You don't have to do the whole once a month nothing but cooking thing, unless you want to. When you cook, make a triple batch and package up the extras. If you are home on a lazy day, throw something extra, like a pot roast or soup over to simmer while you are hanging around. You'll have a freezer stash before you know it.
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