Resolve to Plan Meals to $ave
By Shannon M. Medisky
If the holidays have left your pocketbook feeling a little less full than your stomach, you’re not alone. At the top of nearly everyone’s New Year’s resolution list is the wide-reaching goal to simply save more money.
If saving money happens to be one of your goals for 2011, you’re in luck because there’s much you can begin doing now to help you do just that. A great way to begin is to reduce your monthly grocery bill. For most households, this is the single most expensive cost that you have the most control over. If you’re thinking to yourself, “I gotta eat!” Sure, you do, but wouldn’t it be great to eat while keeping more money in your pocket? With a bit of planning and strategical shopping, you can have your cake (more cash) and eat, too!
Begin by planning out your meals in advance. Whether you plan a week’s worth or a month’s worth of meals in advance, doesn’t matter, you’ll quickly begin to save money. If you’ve already got the food purchased and in your home ready to go, suddenly getting in the car, driving to the restaurant and shelling out a bunch of money for a meal doesn’t seem as attractive. Additionally, you’ll minimize the need to run out at a moment’s notice for a missing ingredient. As a result, you’ll save energy, money and likely eat better all at the same time.
Rethink how you spend your grocery dollars. Yes, it makes sense to base your shopping list and purchases around the specific meals planned for that week or month. On the other hand, it makes even more sense to stock up when there’s savings to be had on staples you purchase and use all the time. Strive to keep a supply of such ingredients in your pantry and only purchase to replenish if they’re on sale. In the long run, you’ll appreciate having the stock of staples on hand and the added savings.
Become a master of disguise when it comes to leftovers. Forget boring leftovers and instead purposefully plan your meals to create enticing “encore” entrees. For example, instead of eating the same meal two or three nights in a row, devise and discover different ways to reinterpret the same food. One night’s mashed potatoes and pot roast can become the next night’s shepherd’s pie. What once began as leftover spaghetti noodles can quickly become the next night’s stir fry. A bit of culinary creativity can help ensure no food goes to waste, no money gets squandered and no one’s taste buds suffer from boredom.
Get crafty in order to keep convenience cheap. Eating in or trying to save money needn’t mean trading in all conveniences. Just get a bit crafty in how you can save while choosing to take advantage of them. Purchase grated cheeses in bulk and then divide into smaller, more manageable amounts and freeze for later use. Opt to buy heads of lettuce, but wash it and cut it up for convenient use later. (Cut lettuce can be effectively and easily stored inside a large resealable plastic bag with a paper towel or two thown in to help wick away excess moisture.)
Eating out? Plan that to save, too! Choosing to eat out doesn’t have to mean paying a boatload of cash, either. If you plan in advance, you’re better able to first seek out savings to help whittle the final bill down. Check out the restaurant’s website for any printable coupons or discounts (such as happy hours or early bird specials), flip through your Entertainment book or visit Entertainment.com to print restaurant coupons on demand or visit RTUI.com or ValPak.com to print restaurant coupons organized by zip code.
Photo credit: mallix
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