Monday, July 26, 2010

Money Tips for Busy People- Saving Money on Food

Working moms, single moms, moms of many or moms of littles. There are so many situations in which we moms find ourselves that make us pressed for time. When mom is busy and tired, the food budget often skyrockets and you often feel helpless to do anything about it. Don't despair- even with the clock ticking and your pillow calling you, there are other ways to save money in the food department that don't take too much of your time.

Save Money on Food- For Busy People

The most important part in saving money on food is knowing your weak points. Do you get the urge to buy takeout when you're simply too wiped out to function? Or do you rely on expensive frozen dinners for those stressful nights? Are your easy, go-to meals on the expensive end, causing even your made from scratch meals to stress your budget? Or do you find yourself buying expensive specialty items which are the real cause for your pocketbook to groan?
Once you know what makes you tick and the cause of your inflated food bills, you can get set to saving your family money in the food department.

Eat Homemade Foods

You know as well as I do that "eating out" is probably numero uno on the reasons why your food bills are so high. Food from home, no matter the variety, is almost always undoubtedly cheaper than the takeout variety. If you're eating out because you have no energy to cook, that needs to be the first thing to go. Here's some tips for easy food preparation so you don't rely on restaurant food when you are short of time and energy.

Eat from the freezer.
  • Bought frozen dinners. Even though this is not so cheap, it is still less expensive than takeout. Stock up on those if you know that eating out is your vice.
  • Homemade frozen dinners. Stocking your freezer with homemade ready to eat meals is the cheapest way to always have good food  available when you have no energy. You can stock your freezer two ways. On a quieter day like a Sunday, make a bunch of meals and put them in the freezer for a later date. Alternatively, whenever you cook a meal, simply double or triple it and put what you don't need in separate portions in the freezer. Cooking larger quantities is not twice the work so you save yourself lots of time and money this way. You can even freeze leftovers as I mentioned already as a way to prevent food waste and make your life easier at the same time.
  • Quick to cook frozen foods, like frozen veggies and stir fry mixes. Though the food isn't already cooked, from start to finish, the food will likely take less than 10 minutes. Food ideas further on.
Keep a supply of easy foods.

These foods should preferably be non perishables so that you always have a supply on hand when you need a quick meal. These can be frozen foods, ready made non perishables, instant foods, jars and cans. Ideas of easy foods to keep:
  • Canned: tuna, baked beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, sloppy joe, salmon, green beans, peas and carrots, potatoes, corn.
  • Instant: mashed potatoes, noodles, rice noodles, couscous, tvp, milk powder.
  • Non perishables: crackers, jerky, salami, dehydrated vegetable chips, peanut butter.
  • Frozen: green beans, broccoli, carrots, fish sticks, chicken nuggets, French fries, hot dogs, cheese, bread, pita, ground meat.
  • Jarred: salsa, pickles, olives, herring, jam.
You can make any combinations of these into a quick supper when you simply have zero energy, like instant rice noodles with a can of tuna and a can of green beans and some mayo and ketchup. Or instant rice with canned beans, frozen corn, jarred salsa, and frozen cheese. Or even crackers or bread with peanut butter and a veggie on the side. When you've got no energy, you can make a meal in 4 minutes flat or less, using these ingredients. I timed it.

Easy Food Prep.

Even if you don't have energy to sit in front of the stove making supper, you can make supper less of a hassle by cooking in these effortless methods:
  • Crock pot cooking. Set up before you leave for work or at night before you go to bed. The food cooks on a low heat while you live your busy life, and you get to come home or wake up to a nice hot meal. There are whole sites dedicated to crock pot cooking where you can learn more, but the options are as varied as crock pot soup, casseroles, oatmeal, roasts, stews, etc.
  • Solar cook. This requires you to look at the weather forecast the day before, but with most solar cookers, you can set up your food in the morning and come back to it in the afternoon or evening for a delicious meal waiting for you.
  • Pressure cook. When you've got no time or patience to stay in the kitchen cooking, if you pressure cook you'll cut your cooking time drastically.
  • Keep ready cut foods in the freezer. As with the prepared meals, you can also cut up and freeze many parts of dishes so you can have them when you need them. Ideas include chicken chunks, saut├ęd onions, chopped cabbage, carrots, zucchini, garlic, etc.
  • Keep a list of easy meal ideas. When pressure is all around, you may not have the head space to think of a meal idea. Either meal plan at the beginning of the week or keep a list of easy to make meals that you can go to when you have no time or energy to make something more complex.
Hopefully, by following these tips, you'll be able to keep from spending extra money on convenience food because you're too wiped out.

Eat Cheaper Foods

Even if you're really good at making all home cooked meals, if you're buying expensive foods and home cooking dishes that are more expensive, your grocery bills are probably still too high.
To save money on the foods you buy, make sure to read my frugal grocery shopping tips. Nearly all of these ideas are applicable to busy people.
Being adventurous and trying new things doesn't need to take extra time or energy. If you usually cook all animal products, try having one vegan or vegetarian meal each week and then increase to more, as vegan meals are the cheapest. This doesn't need to take extra time. You can use instant tvp, or canned beans or pressure cooked chickpeas. This will save you much money without taking any extra time.

Your Lunches- A Final Note
If you're a working mom, bring a lunch from home. Unless your boss is paying for your cafeteria meals, takeout or bakery bought lunches, you probably are forking over way too much money on lunches if you're not bringing from home. If you have no energy to be making food to take with you for lunch, just take last night's leftovers in a spill proof container.
Your pocketbook will thank you.

Are you a busy mom? What are your tricks and tips to save money on food even when you're extremely busy?
Linking up to Frugal Friday.

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