Menu Planning – The #1 way to stay in budget

Menu Planning - The #1 way to stay in budget

Have you ever realized in the afternoon that you had no dinner plans? You look in your cupboard and feel uninspired. This leads to a trip to the store, where your growling stomach leads to 30+ dollars worth of dinner supplies and assorted snacks. If you did that every night of the week, you could easily spend $200! By planning your menu and shopping ahead of time, you can cut that cost down to a third. Looking at my menu for this week that I posted above, I would like to point out some money saving techniques.
Tip #1: Double Up. By this, I mean to use ingredients that come in bigger packages more than once. This week we reused the rice. On Monday we made twice as much as we needed and put half in the fridge for Thursday. Not only did we save money, but prep time was cut in half! Thursday also used the pizza sauce (homemade) for flavoring, so we will get two uses there, too!
Tip #2: Leftover Night. Once a week we pull out all the leftovers in the fridge and set out a buffet on the counter. Everyone goes through and puts what they want on their plate and pop it in the microwave to reheat. I recently read an article on US News that said the average family tosses 25% of the food they purchase. At first, I thought it was ridiculous. But when I think to pre-budgeting days, we wasted a lot of food – whether through old leftovers no one ate or produce that got gross before we consumed it. Often, we still end up tossing ends of bread because a new loaf is open to get the soft inner pieces and the ends get hard or moldy.
Tip #3: Use Frozen/Canned Food. In Thursday’s Rice & Bean meal, the beans are canned and the mixed veggies are frozen. At 79 cents for a can of Goya beans and 99 cents for 1-lb of frozen vegetables at Wegmans, this meal is downright cheap! Especially when you consider the other ingredients were also used in other meals.

These are just a few tips that I have found extremely helpful in using menu planning to stay within my budget. The article from US News is a really good one that also addresses budget. I recommend checking it out here: http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2013/04/02/how-much-food-does-the-average-american-waste .
Up next – how about some Banana Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins with only 33 calories apiece?

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