It’s a Wednesday night and it’s already been a long week at work. The kids are about to head back to school and you’re trying to get everyone back into a daily routine. You still have to take your daughter to soccer practice, your son to guitar lessons and you haven’t even thought about what you’ll do for dinner. Before reaching for that take-out menu or whipping through the drive-thru you remember you’re on a budget and trying to be financially savvy. You know dining out can wreak havoc on your wallet, not to mention your waistline. Here are a few tips to save you time and money in the kitchen.
- Plan Ahead: Instead of taking that nap Sunday afternoon, load the family up and head to the grocery store. Making it a family affair gets everyone involved. Let each member of the family chose a meal or two they want that week. Then give them the responsibility of helping prepare that meal later in the week and help prepare school lunches.
- Track Your Spending: Make yourself aware of what you are spending when dining out vs. buying groceries to eat at home. Record ALL of your spending on food and drinks for a month. Include the coffee you grabbed on the way to work yesterday and that bag of chips from the vending machine you had as an afternoon snack last week. They add up. Compare your findings to what you could have saved if you would have waited until you arrived at work to have a cup of coffee, or brought an apple from home.
- Consider All Options: How could you make it easier at home? Try making larger servings of meals and freezing the extras to save time in the future. Take leftovers for lunch, so you aren’t throwing food and money away, and remember the value of a good sandwich.
- Set Goals: Start small; set a goal to bring leftovers for lunch twice a week. Search online or ask co-workers for new recipes you can try at home. Share your commitment with a friend or another PTA Mom and get them onboard to help hold each other accountable.
Don’t allow yourself to get caught in the “make a dollar, spend a dollar” philosophy. It’s ok to be frugal and save your money for a rainy day. Remember that one of the most important benefits of dining at home is the money you can save. Meat, vegetables, and other ingredients from the grocery store are more affordable than eating out. The total cost of one meal out can be a week’s worth of groceries to dine at home. Even the most moderately priced restaurants can cost around $20 a meal. Taking the time to plan ahead and dine at home will bring substantial savings in the long run. What are some of your tips for saving money in the kitchen?