Squeeze Oranges Not Your Wallet
We all know the struggle of mat leave, or of adding an extra mouth or two to feed. Pre children you probably microwaved a lot, or wore out your UberEats account. But now you’re on a limited budget, probably down to one and a half incomes or less, so it’s time to get your Pinterest on and meal plan.
Tighten the belt strings
The fastest, and most common, way to hike up your grocery bill is by buying sh*t you don’t need. You know what I’m talking about: the impulse buys. You came in for bread and cheese and somehow left with coffee cake and chocolate milk. I’ve been there. You need to make a grocery list and stick to it. If you don’t think you, or your spouse, can do that, then do click and collect. Loblaws and Walmart both offer it, and Loblaws now has more frequent time slots so you can do you shopping later. Bonus: you don’t need to get out of the car, they bring your order and load it.
Now comes the tough part: meal planning.
First thing your going to do is assess your family’s dietary habits. Are you big meat eaters? Does your husband loathe veggies like mine? Or are you grazers, and like to have a snack on hand at all times?
Once you know that, shop your flyers. Is ground beef on sale? Perfect, that’s your protein for the week. Now you plan three or so meals around beef; hamburger helper, pasta, meatloaf, chili, burritos etc. Plan simple things. One night you can do hamburger mac and cheese, and then the next day use the leftovers for mac and cheese grilled cheese. Then use the extra pasta noodles and make a veggie pesto, or an easy bolognese.
Be prepared to shop at multiple stores. If you’re using Flipp, look through all the flyers of the stores closest to you. Circle all the ingredients you need, then go through the list and compare prices at each store. Make your list accordingly. Personally I typically shop for meats and breads and Farm Boy, and non-perishables at FreshCo. You want to make your money work for you, but you’ve gotta put a little work in yourself.
Avoid getting unnecessary things. Is KD fast and efficient? Yes. It is good? Meh. You can just as easily make it from scratch, and freeze half for another day. However, if you know you’re not going to have time this week, get it, because it’s better than the last minute scramble to order delivery.
Make your ingredients work for you.
With ground beef, cheese, and tortillas you can make burritos, quesadillas and mexican lasagna. You can have leftovers, or freeze some for another night. Stock up on staples when they’re on a good sale, and you’ll know it’s a good sale because you’ve been watching the flyers every week.
If you want the biggest bang for your buck, big batch is the way to go. But it’s not for everyone. For example, my husband hates leftovers that aren’t pizza, so getting him to eat the same thing for 4 days is harder than it’s worth. Find a big batch meal prep recipe online, Budget Bytes is a great resource but keep in mind they are american so their prices do not reflect ours.
An easy thing to do is find some seasonal veg for cheap, mix it with some chicken, and then keep it in the fridge. Then for dinner you make rice one night, use the leftovers and make chicken fried rice the next. You can then do some noodles, and use the last bit in a wrap. Four weeknight meals you cooked mostly once. It also makes dinner very quick, so you can spend more time running after the kids, or reading a nice book (ha!).
The Freezer is Your Friend.
There is a way to make all your dinners for two weeks in one day. And it’s cost effective. Pick two proteins, split them two or three ways. You can make lasagnas, pastas, soups, casseroles, wraps, omelet bites, honestly any recipe that’s freezer friendly. But pick ones that use similar or the same ingredients. I would make a big batch of stew, using stew beef on sale. Then I would use the remainder of the stew beef and the veg to make a casserole. Finally, I would use the pasta with some ground stew beef as a bolognese. Minimal ingredients, maximal output. If you’re bored, use different spices or cheese. Cheese is always good, but expensive in the long run. You can also freeze a bunch of premade pizza dough to use the leftover spaghetti sauce with. Bonus: make it a make your own pizza night tradition - use the leftover deli meats, cheeses and veggies and see what kind of pizza creation you can make.
If you’re on a shoestring budget, pasta and breakfast are your friends. Make a big batch of pancakes, stick most in the freezer then pop them in the toaster for quick eats. Eggs can be eaten all day everyday. Get some cheap produce, scramble some eggs and throw them in a muffin tin and you’ve got mini omelets. Frittatas, breakfast burritos, egg sandwiches, waffles, eggs in a hole. They are all cheap, easy to make, and freezable. You can throw almost anything in pasta, add some broccoli and ragu and it’s a somewhat balanced meal. Throw some cheese on the leftovers and bake- it’s a whole new meal, and it’s all kid friendly.
Stay tuned mamas, we’ll be starting a series of meal prepping and easy recipes to help you get through the seasons. I hope you stocked up on cinnamon!