By: K.H. Smith
Eating at home is a great way to cut expenses! However, if you don’t like to cook, or don’t feel that you have time to cook, the idea of eating at home is less appealing. I know how you feel! I am not a great cook, nor do I love prepping and cooking all day. However, I AM a fan of saving money and I also like the added benefit of eating healthier that can come with eating at home. Below are some tips that have helped me enjoy cooking a bit more, as well as some easy recipe ideas that have lessened the stress of daily home cooking.
I know you have heard this before, but a meal plan makes shopping, and cooking much easier. You know what your options are for the week and you know that you have all the ingredients. So, no last minute runs to the grocery store on your way home from work!! Yay!
There are many ways to meal plan, and Pinterest is full of adorable printables and planners if you so choose. I go very low tech with two post-it notes! On one I write out the days of the week and what ideas I have for dinner. Then I can stick it to the countertop or the fridge for the week. On the second post-it, I go through my pantry and fridge and fill in the needed groceries. I have a regular rotation of meals, but I do try to add in some fresh ideas (not as often as I should though)! I also like to use up items in the pantry that are open, so we may have spaghetti 2x in 2 weeks just so the box doesn’t sit open for months. Also, I consider what is in season for produce to reduce our grocery bill, since we eat a lot of produce.
I plan on leftovers at least one weeknight, and my husband likes taking leftovers for lunches. So, I try to have those meals towards the beginning of the week so he can pack them for lunch. I have a rough idea of which meals for which night, but it is not cut in stone. If I feel like Fridays dinner on Wednesday, no big deal! Consider your family’s weekly schedule when planning which meals for which night. Monday and Thursday nights I get home super late from work, so easy options are planned for those nights. We also clean out the fridge on Sundays so, we eat the final leftovers before stocking for the next week. This helps us lessen how much fresh produce is tossed. We have meal planning down to a science, and I know you can do it too. It really makes eating at home almost less effort than takeout.
My Meal Plan This Week
My Grocery List This Week
I enjoy simple, but flavorful meals. Once I have a recipe that the family likes, I add it to the rotation. I always come back to quick and easy meals. Some of our favorite eat at home meals are crock pot chili, salmon with roasted veggies, stir fry chicken, turkey burgers, taco chicken, and spaghetti with meat sauce. They would not impress Gordon Ramsey, but they are simple, tasty, and satisfying!
These meals take 10- 15 minutes prep time, and most are 30 minutes of cook time (except the crock pot!) I try to limit prep time, and how much hands on time the meals take. We are all busy so finding a lot of time to prep veggies and such is not realistic everyday.
Some of my favorite recipes do require some chopping and prepping of veggies and sauces. If I can, I try to prep the veggies on Sunday evenings. Sometimes we even cook chicken breasts ahead of time for easy weekday meals. Our favorite stir fry recipe has a sauce that is better if it is made a day or so in advance, so I try to do that as well on Sunday to make the weeknight easier.
Freezer meals and crock pot meals should not be overlooked either. It is so nice to just pop a dish in the oven or drop in the crock pot and walk away! Many times it is not twice the work to make double the recipe and have one to freeze. Consider that when making a lasagna, a casserole or crock pot meal. Crock pot freezer meals are very appealing to me. I love the idea of prepping once for 4-5 meals ready to go from the freezer.
Buy Meat in Bulk
We buy most of our meat a Costco. Many times in larger cuts that we can portion and freeze at home. They have had many good deals on pork loin and while the original portions are huge, we can cut them into 4-5 meal portions for a fraction of the cost at our local grocer. This also means that we have more expensive Costco trips from time to time, but if we stagger these meat purchases it is not as painful for our weekly grocery budget. We still look for deals at our regular grocery store, but in our area those are less common. This helps us have more variety of meats than if we just stuck to what is on sale this week.
Cook Together or Alternate Nights
I enjoy cooking with my husband 1000x more than I enjoy cooking alone. We can chat about our day and catch up while putting the meal together. Even in our small kitchen, we work well together! We enjoy cooking together even when we get in each other’s way a bit! It’s nice to share the chore and get some extra quality time in. Why not ask your partner to join you?
With my irregular work hours, my husband is great at getting dinner started on my late nights. I appreciate the effort to get dinner started so we are not eating at 10pm! We try to plan easy dishes so he can just pop them in the oven 20 minutes before I get home. It has worked out nicely so we can still enjoy dinner together on those nights.
Occasionally, I can even get my son to help with cooking. He enjoys some of the chopping (what 12-year-old boy doesn’t like using a knife?) and cooking. I like that he is learning valuable life skills, so that he might be able to prepare more than mac & cheese in college! But, I also like that he is learning how to work with someone in the kitchen and preparing healthy foods. Obviously, the amount of help your kids can give depends on their ages, but even littles can be interested in helping. Even if it slows you down, consider letting them help sometimes. These are the everyday moments they will remember!
Eating At Home Challenge
So with these tips and tricks, I want to challenge you to Eating At Home for 30 days! Consider this challenge to save you money, improve your cooking, eat healthier, and spend time bonding with your family over some good home cooked meals! What do you have to lose?
Need crock pot recipe ideas?
I would love to hear how it goes! Leave me a comment on how you are eating at home!