Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mission: Organization

My mom was never super organized. In fact, when I was growing up, she was one of the worst housekeepers around. Thankfully, she's much better now and has a very lovely home.

Even though she didn't teach me the best housekeeping skills, I definitely don't need a visit from Kim and Aggie! I'm in more need of someone to just organize me!

Still, I did carry away from my youth one very important skill...Meal Planning. I am always amazed at how many people don't plan meals ahead of time. This is a completely foreign concept to me. It is not only a great time saver (no standing in the pantry going "what shall we cook today?") but is incredibly economical. This is key with the way food prices are running.

We also use up our left overs! In our house, we call it recycling food. We are encouraged to recycle everything else. It makes perfect sense to recycle foods not eaten in one more for use in another.

I try hard not to get our family in to a food rut, but we do have some food routines. Friday and Saturday nights are usually pasta and spaghetti. D isn't usually home those nights and he hates both those foods. If something comes up at the last minute and I'm pressed for time, I've been known to pull out the pancake mix and we'll do the old breakfast for dinner. The kids love it.

Every two weeks, I head to the big warehouse store and purchase meat. Ten pounds of chicken thighs and 7 pounds of extra-lean ground beef. I sometimes spice it up by purchasing a giant bag of meatballs or some pre-breaded flash frozen chicken. I also pick up milk, eggs, 10 lbs of apples, 10 lbs of potatoes, sometimes oranges or other fruits and veggies we may need in large quantities. This may not be practical for some, but we do go through massive amounts of fresh fruits and veggies each week.

When I sit down to meal plan, I pull out the weekly sales flyer from our neighborhood store and see what the loss leaders are. I then look through all my cookbooks and see what type of dinners we can create with what's on sale. If there's a super good deal at the store, I will stock up. This allows me to pull from my pantry later on. I write down my menu on a list and every single ingredient I'm missing on another list.

Now some people enjoy making grocery shopping a game. I found that it wasn't worth it. I do not buy pre-packaged foods and cook mainly from scratch. This really helps to cut down on my food costs and is much healthier as I control how much extra "stuff" is in my food.

This whole process takes about 20 minutes a week. Not too bad. It's what allows me to feed my family of 7 for under $100 a week. I used to be able to feed us for about $70 a week, but Alex has this bottomless pit of a stomach lately so I'm having to adjust my purchasing volume to account for him becoming a "growing boy."

More grocery tips to come later this week!

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