If you are looking to spend a little less time and money when it comes to cooking, consider planning and making meals ahead of time. Although some people find it laborious to plan a week of meals, it can really cut time and costs.
Spending an hour or two on the weekend cooking a few meals can leave you with more time during the week for all of the other areas of your life that need to be taken care of. By doing this, you can save a few hours each weeknight by heating up a meal you’ve already prepared.
The first way to do this is by having a plan and a list. Make a list of your families favorite meals and the ingredients you need to make them. Take inventory of what you have and what you will need in order to prepare those meals, then overstock on those items (such as pasta, tomato sauce, rice, dried beans and other items with a good shelf life). This is also a good way to learn to substitute for what you don’t have. For example, if you are making a meal and find that you don’t have one spice, substitute it with another.
You should also consider buying higher quality and fresh ingredients which you will get more use out of. Using fresh herbs, for example, you can buy less but will have enough to use in more recipes. You can also use some tricks to replace having to use too much meat or cheese. Replace half of the ground beef for tacos with beans or add vegetables to spaghetti sauce in order to use less meat.
Cook Sides Ahead Too
Making a large batch of favorite side dishes will help you to stretch your meals. Instead of making sides after you create each meal, make them when you prepare your meals so you will be able to consider sides that will compliment each meal you make. Making sides such as rice can also be used as ingredients for the meals you are preparing to save you even more time.
If you don’t want to freeze an entire meal, freeze part of it for leftovers that you can use at a different time. Even herbs and sauces can be frozen so you can stock up and prepare for future meals. Also, be sure to eat meals that may not be good at the end of the week, at the beginning of the week. For some meals, letting it sit for a few days can actually enhance the taste as the ingredients have time to blend together.
Determine what meals your family likes most and save time and money today by planning ahead!