If I could pick what’s for dinner everyday, I’d pick Cafe Rio Salads. Okay fine, alternating with Chik-Fil-A’s Spicy chicken sandwiches. Don’t worry I’m not a monster.
My point is– cooking has not come easy to me. In fact, just this week I threw a huge fit because my Monte Cristo Sandwich that looked so good on the Tasty Video DID NOT turn out tasting (or looking) like the Disneyland sandwich. What the heck.
It’s been an uphill battle, and I am ashamed to admit that there have been many days where I would say “screw it, let’s just go to Wendy’s.”
We were living like we owned Wendy’s! (On a young married couple’s budget. )
One time I even added up how much we were spending on eating out a month, and for a family with just one income the amount shocked me. $300. THAT’S TWO ZEROES. That was $300 on top of the groceries we were already buying every month. Oy vey.
Something needed to change.
I decided to kick some new habits into gear.
Sit down once a week and meal plan
I actually have a cute little file on my computer that is called “Recipes to Try, Send Help” where I list all the meals I am planning to make that week. It helps me to not assign them to specific days quite yet, because Tuesday might roll around and the toddler could have been a terror. And you know what? I am not in the mood to make 3-cheese-double-decker-macaroni. Tuna Fish sandwiches are going to have to do.
Shop once a week, not every other week
Check your veggie drawer right now. Are the green onions wilting? Is the cheese going bad? We were often spending so much money on vegetables and perishables that would get bad in .6 seconds.. By shopping once a week, and meal planning before I head to the grocery store, I have a clear vision about what I’m going to make that week, and I have a 7 day window to use those items.
The Walmart Grocery App is your best friend
My husband loves grocery shopping. He lives for it. I am the exact opposite. GET ME OUT OF THERE.
The easiest way to compromise is to know EXACTLY what we are planning on purchasing before we head to the store. That way we still get the typical grocery store experience, but at my speed. We are in and we are out. Boom.
I use the grocery app to see exactly what we need to buy, down to the very cent. The best part is, you can use that as a gauge on your budget. My husband and I have a very strict budget, and the app calculates exactly how much we are spending in real time. We’re $4 over? Oh, let’s delete those fruit snacks, we don’t need those anyway.
Once I’ve finalized a shopping list based on the ingredients I need from my meal planning session, I transfer each ingredient individually on a shopping list to print out- that way I can categorize them by grocery section ie. Baking, Canned Goods, Dairy, etc. and I take that to the store with me!
If you don’t have a Walmart Grocery option near you, or maybe want to support the local grocery store, I still highly recommend hopping online and seeing if your grocery store has an online catalog of their inventory. It is always helpful to be prepared to know what you’re going to spend, before you get there.
Grocery Pick up is life
If you haven’t done grocery pick-up, what are you doing with your life? I am obsessed. It is exactly what it sounds like. You order your groceries online, and pick a time slot to visit your local Walmart, and within minutes, sweet angels are putting your groceries into your trunk. No unbucking out of car seats, no having to change out of your jammies, and best of all NO WALMART LINES. It is a mother’s heaven.
Warehouse Club Stores can save you money
I am half-Peruvian. The amount of minced garlic my family goes through on a monthly basis is SHOCKING. We have to buy the extra-jumbo-feed-the-neighborhood sized jar and yet we still scrape it clean.
I found that buying certain things in bulk (not everything) helps save me money in the long run. The trick is to not get carried away. What does your family eat regularly? Perhaps you make a big breakfast every Sunday before church and use up a whole dozen eggs. Or maybe you’re like me, and love yourself some garlic. I encourage you to check out your local Sam’s Club or Costco and decide for yourself if buying in bulk is a good option for you.
Plus, the samples and the $1.50 meals at the food court are good meal options too. Just kidding!
Get intel from friends and family
Lastly, use this opportunity to connect to other people. I ask my Instagram friends at least once a month for what new recipes they have. They’re probably sick of me, but it helps me get out of my same-dinner-every-week-rut. That, and then I can learn more about them. It helps build connections.
Every week I FaceTime my sister (and sometimes my brothers too) while in the midst of meal planning and they give me ideas, and at the same time, we chat about work, relationships, and life. It sounds cheesy but food can really bring people together. Even when we are thousands of miles apart.
Get creative with who/how you ask for recipes. My girl Stori sends recipes to my pinterest messages, my friend Sam and I discuss them over Marco Polo, and when I asked my Granny for recipes, she was so sweet and gave me four cookbooks.
My point is, cooking doesn’t have to be isolating. It’s a way for you to kindle friendships and serve members of your family.
If you are a pro-cook, or a peanut butter and jelly kind of mom, I hope these tips resonate with you in some way. Either way, I’ll see you at grocery pick up. Good luck, mama!
Briana is a stay-at-home mama to a busy one-year-old boy. When not wrangling her toddler, she’s probably eating Cafe Rio or watching The Office with her husband. Actually, she’s definitely doing both; and definitely at the same time. She can be found at @bribrooksy on instagram!
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