Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Next Undertaking: Food

I have two big challenges when it comes to food:

1 - My husband, Zach, is the chef, and I'm the baker. I'm so lucky that Zach loves cooking and is truly a great chef. I've been his sous-chef for ten years, so my cooking skills are lacking. It's just been so convenient to rely on his cooking initiative!! But it's time for me to step up and cook, to help with the next challenge...

2 - Leaving my job is a huge hit to our income. So we now stick to a tight budget, which means no more froufrou foods and no buying food just on a whim. To date, grocery shopping has meant buying whatever looks good, whether it's on sale or not. Which means this new frugal life style is a BIG change for us!

Getting Started

I've been trolling the internets for ideas about how to eat more frugally, and for fun recipes to get me excited about cooking. Again, Money Saving Mom has been a treasure trove of info, and I've found a few other sites with useful information. With the info I've learned so far, I'm going to focus on three food-related efforts:

1 - Meal Planning
2 - Smarter Grocery Shopping
3 - Freezer cooking

1 - Meal Planning
Zach and I almost always made our dinner decisions last minute, which often resulted in unhealthy quick dinners. It may sound funny, but I hadn't heard about this meal planning concept until coming across some ideas on Pinterest a couple months ago! But it's total common sense: Plan your meal for the week and you know exactly what you need to buy. No extra unnecessary grocery store trips, and no take-out dinner slip-ups. Plus it sounds fun to be able to show your family a menu of what to expect during the week! I'm going to work on easing my way into meal planning.

2 - Smarter Grocery Shopping
This ties into #1 - Meal Planning. I rarely paid attention to grocery sales when both Zach and I were working. Now I'm constantly on the hunt for a deal. But, I'm going to work on tying these deals into meal planning. Based on what I've been reading, the best thing to do is sit down over the weekend with grocery store sales fliers, and plan the week around the sales as much as possible. Factoring in any pantry items that may be reading and waiting! I'm assuming this will get easier with practice.  :)

3 - Freezer cooking 
Over the last couple years, I've frozen cookie dough balls and banana bread; that is the extent of my freezer cooking and knowledge. Little did I know that people put so much effort into cooking and freezing entire meals and/or key pieces of a recipe, to save time later. Genius! But, kinda intimidating. However, by sheer coincidence, Money Saving Mom's May challenge is just that: freezer cooking! The challenge is calling "4 Weeks to Fill Your Freezer", and she designed it to ease her readers' fears about freezer cooking. It involves cooking and freezing one meal type per week: "breakfasts the first week, lunches the second week, dinners the third week, and snacks and desserts the fourth week." Perfect!! I'm going to start the challenge next week...

What's Next?

This is a really busy week for my family, so I don't have much time to do anything other than more research to better prepare for my food challenges. I'll share what I learn as I start tackling them!

Freezer Cooking Mini Test: Silver Dollar Pancakes
I did do a mini breakfast freezer challenge today, making silver dollar pancakes. Annabel is a carb fiend, and loves her some Eggo frozen french toast sticks and silver dollar pancakes! As I was nuking her li'l pancakes yesterday I thought... $3 for 40 of these teeny things?!? Could I make the equivalent? And how much will it cost?

So today during her nap (and after my cleaning tasks), I did just that. I used my go-to super simple Better Homes and Gardens buttermilk pancake recipe (so fast to put together!) and made 50 silver dollar pancakes (well 51, but I had to taste test... right??).

I'm going to do a taste-test with Annabel tomorrow morning, to see which pancake she prefers. :) Then I'll post the results and more info about how I made then froze (and finally reheated!) them.

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