Conventional wisdom tells us our homes are our biggest investments. I think most would agree that our cars are probably the second largest purchases we make.
You may want to think again.
I kept thinking we were out of control with food but we weren’t tracking expenses. We were both working long hours which meant we didn’t have a lot of time to plan, organize, and shop wisely for groceries. Whoever got off first would stop by the grocery store and grab whatever looked good. That is, if we didn’t just give up and meet somewhere for dinner.
One weekend I decided to see just how much we were spending; what I found shocked me!
Since we only used a debit card, I download all the expenses for a random month. We had spent well over three times as much as we thought on food and restaurants. The restaurant expenses didn’t represent nice dates; they represented eating out at a chain because we had worked late and didn’t plan.
I showed my husband and he pointed out that it was a holiday month. I had him pick a different month. After another download and more crunching, we learned we spent even more that month.
There’s only two of us!! We didn’t even have kids in the house!
The only thing we had to show for that money were bulging waistlines. He pointed out that we could be making payments on a new BMW 7 with what we were wasting on food. Sadly, a lot of that food was thrown out as much of it spoiled before we could use it.
We learned a few tips that saved us some money; they can put more money back into your wallet too.
- If you have a changing schedule, plan some meals that can be made quickly with little thought or preparation.
- Freeze ground beef in flat sheets like this that can be broken off in sections and quickly thawed.
- Keep jars of spaghetti sauce and pasta on hand for fast meals from your pantry.
- Artisan dough, mozzarella cheese, and pepperoni in the fridge make great pizza at the drop of a hat.
- A sweet potato can bake while you get a few chores done with no mess to clean up afterwards.
- Individually frozen fish fillets thaw quickly in water and cook even faster. Frozen vegetables are your friends.
- Don’t defrost a whole chicken unless you’re certain you’ll be home to cook it when it thaws. (I can’t tell you how many chickens went bad defrosting in our refrigerator because plans kept changing.) Consider buying individually frozen chicken breasts. They thaw quickly in water when you’re ready to cook. You’ll pay a little more but you’ll actually use what you purchase.
- Spoon leftovers into indiviudal freezer containers to microwave later for quick meals.
- Breakfast for dinner is always an option. Cereal or bacon and eggs are a welcome change sometimes.
- When cooking one pot meals like chili, double the recipe. It doesn’t take much more time or work to make extra to freeze for busy nights. Having meals in the freezer that can be thawed in the microwave is like having money in the bank!
- It’s hard to avoid a restaurant or fast food when you are tired and hungry. If you often find yourself in that position with kids and after school activities, keep some great snacks in your car. A handful of shelled walnuts with a crispy apple is even a decent meal replacement once in a while. It will definitely hold you until you can home to fix dinner.
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