Nov 5, 2009

TOT Thursday - Dinner is served - twice!

I chuckle to myself whenever one of the nurses I work with finds out what I've done with our food budget through budgeting, couponing and cooking more at home. The first reaction is generally amazement at how little we spend. But the second response is almost ALWAYS "I just don't have time to cook every night". Sound familiar?

I certainly don't expect the mom who works full time, runs her kids to activities, shops and cleans to throw the ol' apron on and put out a five course spread every night...but with a TEENY bit of pre-planning you can easily reduce how often you eat out or grab frozen entrees during the week. Both dinnertime options are not only costly, but can also have an impact on your health, when you consider the preservatives it takes to make fresh food shelf-stable.

Here's an easy way to reduce your dinnertime costs THIS WEEK:

- Look at your schedule for the week. Is there one night you will have about 30-45 minutes free before dinnertime? Ideally you should try for two nights, but one's better than none!

- Take a minute to browse your cookbooks or online for recipes that won't take long to make. Pasta bakes and rice casseroles work very well for this exercise. Need a place to start? Try some of these resources:
30 Minute recipes at
Quick Dinner Recipes at Taste of Home
Allrecipes.Com Quick and Easy recipe library

- Now for the tricky part: DOUBLE THE RECIPE. It will only add about 5-10 minutes of prep time for you to make two full meals worth, and since you're already in the kitchen you may as well put the time to good use! Make your grocery list ahead of time so you'll have everything you need (and to help you stick to the plan - writing down your goals and plans increases your chances of acheiving them!)

Before an hour is up on the day you cook, you will have TWO fully prepared meals - send one to the table, and immediately wrap the other one and pop it in the freezer. I use a sharpie marker and write what the dish is right on the foil, along with the reheating instructions. If your family's schedule makes it hard to all sit down together, invest in some single-serve plastic storage containers. Dish out the servings and freeze for lunches or dinners on the go. Then make your family do the dishes as a reward for your hard work :)

If you can do that once or twice a week, before too long you'll have a nice reserve of frozen entrees sans preservatives at your fingertips - not to mention you'll have made dinner for less than $3 a serving, instead of $10 a head at a restaurant! Getting in that habit may inspire you to start meal planning a week at a time, which will do wonders for your food budget and your peace of mind. Get REALLY good, and you can try your hand at once a month cooking!

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