Less is More - saving time and money

One of the greatest money AND time saver for me is meal preparation shortcuts. Today's post sort of flows from yesterday's!
.  My rule of thumb is to know what's for dinner by 9 am. Even better is to know the night before!  But just don't wait til 5pm to figure it out.  Even noon is really too late to make those decisions.  The physical preparation may not begin that far in advance but the planning needs to.  I try to get the family's schedule on Sunday afternoons and then plan out our food for the week.  I don't shop based on what we plan to eat - I plan our meals based on what's in the pantry.  (Remember "the pantry principle"? I stock up when things are a good deal and then just replenish the basics.)

Here are some tips that help me save time and money -

1.  Crockpot meals. You can cook lasagna, meatloaf, granola, breakfast casserole and even boiled peanuts in your crockpot!  There are entire cookbooks devoted to crockpot meals.  And websites.  My personal favorite is Fix it and Forget it
2.  Freezer meals.  Again, a plethora of websites and books available to enable you to prepare an entire month's worth of meals in a day. I recommend Frozen Assets.  I don't get an entire month of meals but I do employ the idea to get a couple of weeks done.  And I continuously double or triple whatever I am preparing in order to stash some in the freezer. Also very helpful when I want to take dinner to someone but am at the end of my grocery budget.
3.  Creative use of leftovers. The emphasis is on the "creative" part. No need to just reheat the last night's dinner! This just takes practice.  Our Moms and Grandmothers were experts at this and we can achieve the same status.  Just gotta get started. For example, leftover roasted chicken becomes chicken spaghetti the next day.  Extra roast beef is shredded to make yummy french dip sandwiches.  Taco meat is used up the next morning when added to scrambled eggs and turned into a hearty breakfast burrito. Pinto beans from one day are used as enchilada filler the next.  Any remaining strawberries or blueberries are smoothie material at our house.  Stale bread can be used to make french toast or croutons or bread crumbs.  Don't throw it out or feed it to the birds!!  When you have completely exhausted your options, set all the leftovers out - hodge podge as it may be - and announce you are having "CORD" for dinner.  That's "clean out refrigerator day"!!
4. Grocery shop less often.  There have been seasons in my budget that I have only gone once a month.  (Except for an occasional stop for milk but even that can be frozen so we really could get by with just a once a month trip!)  Learning to "make do" with what we have has saved me a bundle.  Interestingly, my family rarely notices that I am "stretching" it.  They think it's fun to have pancakes and sausage for dinner!
5.  Have a buddy.  My friend, Dianna, loves the challenge of managing household income as much as I do and she is a constant source of ideas, encouragement and FUN.  It helps ALOT to have an ally in this adventure so I urge you to find a like-minded friend and share with one another.  Proverbs tells us "iron sharpens iron".