We were off to such a promising start. As we embarked on our debt diet, we reined in our habit of ordering takeout at the end of an exhausting day. We were saving money, eating better and getting smarter about how we shopped.
Then Christmas came… and we fell off the wagon. We’re back to takeout a couple of times a week and we’re relying more on prepared foods like frozen pizzas and canned soups. It’s getting a lot more expensive too – food prices are on the rise, so it’s extra important to curb these habits.
To get us back on track we’re retooling our approach to meal planning and preparation – we’ve come up with more tricks to keep our menu options interesting and minimize the work and stress involved in making dinner at the end of the day.
Here’s what we’re doing (note: I am open to more suggestions so please feel free to comment):
Making our takeout favourites at home: Meal planning is a great idea – but when you’re tired and uninspired, you end up cooking the same things over and over again. We’ve been in a recipe rut – so we’re more inclined to order in. Last night, I shook it up and made cashew chicken for the first time – I used an easy, quick recipe from Martha Stewart to satisfy our craving for Chinese without having to dial up.
Keeping cookbooks in the car: I have put a copy of our two current favourite cookbooks in the car for shopping trips so that we’re not struggling to come up with ideas for dinner while drifting through the store aisles. We’re currently driving around with Everyday Food and At Home With Madhur Jaffrey (simple and straightforward takes on Indian classics – we are cooking our way through the book.)
Learning to use a slow cooker: Our kids wake up at 5:30 a.m., so our days start early – by 5 p.m., we are beat. I’d like to try preparing dinner in the morning instead of struggling to pull a meal together when we’re dead tired. This is where I ask for your help – please feel free to share your favourite slow cooker recipes below (if they’re kid-friendly even better).
Discovering the magic of eggs: They’re not just for breakfast! The kids love them, prep work is minimal and they’re fast cooking. Plus there are a ton of things you can do with eggs (I love them wrapped in a tortilla with cheese, salsa and guacamole).
Keeping a running list: This is probably a no-brainer for a lot of you, but one of our big grocery shopping mistakes is that we try and make a list of everything we need all at once. Of course, we usually forget something important like olive oil or some spice – which means we end up making more trips to the grocery store. We now have a list in our kitchen (out of reach of the kids) and we note everything we are running low on, or have run out of, as we go through the week.
Let’s hope these fixes work for the sake of our budget!
Note to readers: If you’re looking for a cookbook (to toss in the backseat of your car) that is packed with quick and easy dinner ideas that will please the entire family, check out the beautiful new Chatelaine cookbook: Modern Classics