The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!
When I read about frugality, one tip that I see repeated over and over is weekly menu planning. And yes, I see the appeal of knowing that Sunday is pot roast, Monday is spaghetti, and Tuesday is pizza. But I don’t buy it. I consider myself to be the Queen Empress of frugal cooking, yet weekly menu planning ends up being more expensive for me because I find myself planning complicated meals instead of working with what I already have on hand. And incorporating leftovers that are needing to get used up becomes more difficult if the menu is unyielding.
I rarely shop for individual meals, but to stock the pantry and refrigerator. By utilizing this method, I’m able to prepare almost endless varieties of meals based on how much time I have and what we’re in the mood for. (I don’t work full time, and I’m aware that this affords me the luxury to be a bit more casual about meal preparation.)
Foods that I try and always keep on hand:
- Dried beans, such as pinto, black beans and lentils.
- Onions, potatoes and garlic.
- Eggs, milk, butter and sour cream.
- Cereals such as raisin bran and Cheerios.
- Shredded mozzarella, bleu cheese and blocks of nice local cheddar cheese.
- Tortilla mix, bread, dried pastas.
- Individually frozen chicken breasts, (even though I complain mightily about my husband buying them.)
- Frozen corn and peas.
- Canned tomatoes, peanut butter, pumpkin puree, condensed milk, and El Pato tomato sauce in the yellow can. (Which is the best hot sauce and comes in a lovely small tin, perfect for avoidance of food waste.)
- Fours, sugar, cornmeal, baking soda and powder.
- A single box of S&W brand Japanese curry.
- Brown and white rice.
- Romaine lettuce that I have washed and chopped, and is stored in the salad spinner.
- Homemade salad dressing.
- Chocolate chips. (This above all else is vitally important!)
- I also buy fruits and vegetables based on what’s in season and on sale.
I really do feel that I save money employing this dinner prep flexibility, but I still hear from readers who say they save money and avoid food waste by planning out their meals.
Are you a meticulous planner or a what-do-I-have-the-ingredients-for style of chef? Maybe a little of both? Please share your meal planning ideas in thecomments section below.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”
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