“After a long day I love to spend 2-3 hours in the kitchen preparing dinner!” said no one ever.
I mean, let’s face it. After a hectic day, cooking is probably the LAST thing you’re looking forward to. You’re ready to come home, hang up your bra, slip on a comfy sweatshirt and crash on the couch with Netflix.
Except, you’ve got to eat. Chances are, everyone else in your house needs to eat too.
So, what do you do? You stock up on a whole bunch of foods at the grocery store. Maybe you even join a meal-order service like Blue Apron. You might buy ALL the ingredients for delicious healthy meals and store them in the fridge with the best intentions…
…But there it sits. Instead of preparing a gourmet meal after work, pizza and takeout suddenly sound better and better. You feel guilty about the food in the fridge going to waste, but cooking after a long hard day is simply too daunting and overwhelming.
No one feels great when the takeout person recognizes your voice and knows your order before you even give it (this has seriously happened to me before). Some nights, though, “adulting” isn’t in the cards, even if more pizza and takeout isn’t exactly in the budget.
Put down the phone! There’s a better way. You will reduce grocery spending and your time in the kitchen. I’ll tell you how!
1. Shop Once Per Week or Less
So, it sounds counter-intuitive but hear me out. If you want to save money on food, you must limit your shopping trips. You may end up going to the grocery store several times a week to purchase ingredients or pre-made meals. When this happens, inevitably, other stuff ends up in your cart too: a box of cookies here, a few frozen treats there.
Soon, you’re spending $40-50 a trip, several nights a week and totally blowing your budget. Yes, buying food in the store’s deli is probably slightly cheaper than fast food or takeout, but let’s be honest, it’s not a huge savings. Not only that, but when you get home you still need to prepare the items, mess up your kitchen and do the dishes.
Instead, shop once a week or less. Follow the next steps to reduce grocery spending, so you go in prepared and ready to get EXACTLY what you need and only what you will use.
2. Buy Only What’s on Your List
When you get to the store, you’re going to go with a list already prepared. When you shop with a list, be militant about it! Don’t deviate from your list. If you want to reduce grocery spending, I mean, really save money at the grocery store AND spend less time in the kitchen you shouldn’t buy extras or complicated items you really don’t need.
Buy only what you’re going to use until your next trip to the store. If an item was accidentally missed on the list, weigh the pros and cons of giving in. If you’re just starting to shop with a list, stay really strict about it for a while (okay, if it’s toilet paper or another mandatory item, make an exception).
3. Automate if Necessary
Want to make your life even easier and reduce grocery spending? Automate your grocery shopping. There are a few ways to do this. You can use a grocery delivery service like Peapod or Amazon Fresh. Check with your local store to see if they offer a delivery service or curbside service (many do). You pull up and your groceries are delivered right to your car. Easy!
Use a service like Grove for cleaning products. (Grove is fantastic, by the way—they even price-match and everything is delivered right to your door.) I know you might think this sounds way more expensive than shopping on your own, but here’s the deal: your time is important. If you can spend less time at the store and more time working, playing and doing what you love, it offsets the extra cost.
The other savings comes by avoiding temptation to throw extras in the cart as you shop. If you find you often walk out of the store spending way more than you planned, automation could SAVE you money.
4. Create a Meal Plan
Ready to level up your cooking-at-home game? The biggest secret to saving at the grocery store is to meal plan. Meal planning is going to help you create the list of all the ingredients you need (and eliminate what you don’t).
Look for ingredients to do double duty—tonight’s ground beef for tacos becomes tomorrow night’s ground beef for spaghetti. When meal planning aim for dishes with common ingredients or bases you can use several times such as rice or pasta. Don’t forget about breakfasts and lunches in your plan as well. Remember a few snacks too!
Having a meal plan ensures you’re easily able to create a list and stick to the list with confidence. You won’t worry you’re forgetting an ingredient. Better yet, you won’t get home with a fridge full of groceries and no idea what to cook and you’ll reduce grocery spending.
5. Create 10 Meals in an Hour with MyFreezEasy
Ready to get out of the kitchen completely during the week (without resorting to the drive-thru every night)? It’s time to give freezer meals a shot!
Here’s the deal with freezer cooking. When you first start it may seem a little tough. When I started I loved the fact I was in the kitchen only one day a week. Unfortunately, planning was a little complex and I’ll admit I spent 3, 4 and even 6 hours cooking—on a Saturday?!? Ugh!
Then I discovered MyFreezEasy. Guys, can we say TOTAL GAME CHANGER?! This is the plan you need to help you cook ten meals in an hour. Yes, one hour (and I swear, that’s how easy it is, you’re literally in and out of the kitchen in 60 minutes flat). You simply select your meal plan and with the click of a button you’ve got all the ingredient lists, amounts and details.
So, now, imagine getting in and out of the kitchen in ONE hour and bam, you’ve prepared 10 meals. For the next two weeks you don’t need to dirty a pot or a pan. You simply heat the meals (most use the crockpot or oven) and you’re ready to eat. Dinner is hot and ready the moment you walk in the door. It. Does. Not. Get. Any. Easier.
6. Keep Notes on Your Families Favorites
A few notes on finding maximum success with MyFreezEasy (or any meal plan, honestly): Keep a few memos about your family’s favorite recipes. I always think I’ll remember when a dish was too garlicky or what I added to a recipe when it turned out awesome. You know what? I always forget. You will too. So, write it down!
Let go of the idea you need to explore each and every dish, especially if your family is picky. We have one particular eater in our house (my son). Finding food he loves is challenging. So, when I find a hit recipe I write a note, along with any modifications I made.
7. Stick with What You Know
The MyFreezEasy plans are very beginner-friendly. However, if there’s a new recipe you want to use or an unfamiliar ingredient you’d like to experiment with, go easy. Incorporate one new item into your plan each week or every other week.
We’ve all had a whim where we’ve purchased an odd ingredient (Tahini? Capers? Miso paste?) because it was called for in ONE recipe that we never ended up making. What happens? The ingredient lingers in the back of the fridge or pantry until finally it gets tossed out. It’s a waste of time, energy and money and we feel guilty, right?
Instead, stick with the familiar. Try a different regional dish or exotic combination occasionally. Introduce new ingredients gradually and in small amounts. Don’t buy a case of food you’ve never tried. Buy one.
Fortunately, with the MyFreezEasy plan you can read through the recipes to find familiar favorites and discover less-intimidating new dishes to experiment with, helping you to reduce grocery spending .
8. Always Plan a Back Up (Just in Case)
Now, if you really want to save money, time AND avoid fast food, you need a back up plan. Freezer meals are awesome and work super great most of the time. There will come a day though, where you forget to turn on the crock pot, where a meal burns in the oven or a dish doesn’t turn out for one reason or another.
Keep a few select back up items in your pantry. These are meals like macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and marinara or a quick stir fry over rice. I always keep Tyson frozen pre-cooked chicken on hand. If worse comes to worse, I know I’ve got a filling protein I can heat up, toss in a wrap or on top of a salad and enjoy.
Think of a few fast solutions in case you hit a meal plan fail. Keep these items on hand (add them to your list and store in your pantry) just in case.
Don’t forget to build in a few cheater days on your meal planning repertoire too. If you’re not a “cold turkey” type, swearing off fast food completely sets you up for failure. After all, takeout is great as a once-in-awhile treat.
You will reduce grocery spending and save a bundle by following these simple tips to organize and automate your meal planning system. Weeknights just got a lot simpler!
What are your go-to weeknight dinner solutions? Do you use a meal plan?