I am always looking for quick and easy meals during the week, especially on the days I work. Now that I have been faithfully meal planning and sticking to a cash budget, these quick and easy meals are even more important. Although it is tempting to just order takeout or stop at the grocery store for a few things, I have been able to avoid these temptations through careful planning and an ever-growing list of quick and easy meals. If you take the time to plan a week's worth of meals and do one shopping trip, it will pay off during the busy week. No more aimlessly walking around the grocery store at 4:30pm wondering what to make for dinner, or spending extra money that you don't have on eating out. We budget and plan for takeout one night a week, but we stick to just that one planned ahead takeout meal.
If you don't menu plan, I would totally recommend giving it a try. It does take me about an hour to plan the meals each week (I have a master list of meals categorized by main ingredients - ground beef, chicken, pasta, etc. - and I use this list in conjunction with grocery store sales or what I have in the freezer or pantry). After planning my menu, I make a list of what I need, crossing off what I already have at home. Then I shop at three stores, which does take a little time (and patience if you are taking two little kids with you). This is a commitment which will become easier over time with practice and experience. It seems daunting the first couple weeks, but stick with it! It will pay off in the end, and once you have a few weeks of menus under your belt, you can re-use them in future weeks. You will be amazed at the cost savings (and stress reduction) you can obtain just because you planned ahead.
A friend lent me this book, Family Feasts for $75 a Week, and it was a tremendous help in menu planning and saving money. It also came with several great recipes:
I ended up ordering the book for myself since I loved it, and I would strongly recommend it. I will be sharing some of my favorite recipes from this book soon.
I love to cook but I don't always have the time (or the money) to plan a gourmet meal. Coming up on Pie Birds, Buttons and Muddy Puddles is a mini series on quick and easy weeknight meals. These are our favorite meals that are quick, affordable, easy AND most importantly, TASTE great.
How does Sweet and Sour Pork sound? Or Thai lettuce wraps? Or Mexican Bow Tie Pasta with Chicken? Or Chicken Chimichangas? All these and more coming up! Stay tuned.