Lesson Three: Find the Buried Treasure

In Lesson Three, we must challenge ourselves to get more organized. Go through your pantry and freezer, throw out all the stale or freezer-burned foods, then put a system in place that is going to work for you. You may wish to use bins or baskets in your pantry or freezer to help keep things organized. I grouped like things together, such as cans, pasta and rice, baking supplies, snacks, etc. In the process of doing this you may discover you have an abundance of almost finished bags of rice, random cans of beans and you may even find things you don’t remember purchasing.

Reasons to organize your pantry and freezer
• You probably have more food than you realize, you just can’t find it
• It’s easier to do inventory before you go grocery shopping, you can clearly see what you already have
• It’s less frustrating when you are trying to throw together a meal (it feels like you have nothing to make because you have to dig through your pantry and freezer trying to find ingredients to piece together a meal)
• Food doesn’t get wasted and left behind, I was pulling out freezer burned meat, stale crackers and ridiculously old bags of chips, etc.

Reasons to portion and label your meat and other frozen items
• No products are wasted because you have to defrost a pack of 4 chicken breast when you only need 2, etc.
• The labelling is especially useful if you’re sick of your husband/other holding up pieces of meat to you and asking you what they are
• When everything is portioned into convenient little baggies, it’s easy to group like items together or even put the smaller baggies into a larger freezer bag so you can keep all chicken together, all beef together, etc.

So far with the better organization and planning, dinner at our house has been way less annoying. I keep the meal planning list on my fridge so I can refer to it everyday and choose what’s for dinner. Because I have also been packing up the left overs, labelling them and freezing them … I am beginning to  build up my stock of ready to heat meals which I suspect will come in handy after the baby is born.

Download Meal Plan Sheet

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Lesson Two: One Pot Wonders

In my quest for frugal meals I have discovered that it is all about the ‘One Pot’ Meal. Things like soups, stews, casseroles, pies, crock pot meals, roasted meat with veggies and stir frys ( I think that’s the plural form ). The advantage of these meals is that you can basically just chuck whatever odds and ends you have in your fridge into a pot or other cooking device and create a hearty meal that goes far. Obviously I’m not going to suggest living purely off these items alone, of course if you are an extremist you may wish to do so, but the rest of us can certainly incorporate these types of dishes into our lives 3 times a week or so.

Soups are great for lunches and they can be made in large batches and frozen. Feel free to get as creative as you want with soup, there really aren’t any rules, just chuck whatever you want into a pot and cook it. However, for a little guidance you may wish to consult such resources as Pinterest, Allrecipes, Martha Stewart, Canadian Living, Chatelaine or simply do a google search for one pot meals.

Another advantage of these meals is that they are easy. You basically just have to chop and dump things into a pot then cook for at least an hour. The only disadvantage is that you generally need to plan ahead because most recipes require a bit of time for cooking in order to get the most flavour out of the dish. Lucky for us, Planning Ahead was lesson one.

Lesson One: Plan Ahead

So far in my research I have learned that planning is they key to success. I suppose that should have been obvious, however I am one of those people that floats through both life and the grocery store zigging and zagging all over the place, so for me it was not. In an effort to be more organized, I have created this list to plan out my meals and groceries for a 2 week time period.

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 1.41.49 PMDownload Meal Plan Sheet

To save money on food, it is important to plan out your meals and buy items that can be used for multiple dishes. Buy sale items in bulk if it is non-perishable or freezable. Make big batches of things and freeze the left overs. Grow what you can. Produce like potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, and beans can all be grown from kitchen scraps. Make yourself a little herb garden you can use year round, or buy dried herbs if you prefer.

kitchenScraps

The Beginning of a Journey

As I get ready to welcome my second child into our family, I find myself yet again wondering how one can possibly afford to live without working. I am a part-time waitress at a pizza place, I live off minimum wage and tips. My husband makes a comfortable salary and takes care of the main items such as the house and car expenses. I usually cover all the little bills like cell phones, internet, cable, etc. and the groceries. To get to straight to the point, I am not entitled to much as far as maternity leave goes and will have to get a little creative with our budget. Lately I have felt inspired by ladies of the past. It has occurred to me that people use to get by on much less than we are accustomed to now. Yes, I know prices have changed and so on and so forth. People didn’t have cell phones, cable, internet or often cars to pay for, but that wasn’t the only reason they were able to get by on less. Somewhere along the way of becoming  independent women, we have lost touch with the thrifty home-maker’s spirit. Now I’m not about to go and become some sort of pioneer woman living in the dark ages, but I would like to learn to stretch a buck a little further. That being said, let the adventure begin.