One of the best things about summer time, is the bounty of fresh food that is just a short drive from where you live. If you live near a community garden, farmers market, or even a local farm, you have access to some amazing produce.
With so much going on in the home (even if you have just two young kids!), you’ll almost certainly need to figure out how to make your grocery shopping choices really come together in the kitchen, without spending too much time cooking.
If you’re a busy mom with a busy life, we understand. Even from the first few days of our lives as parents we often feel like we’re living one of those sitcoms with all of the crazy plot twists going on.
We have to do everything, and above all, we feel like we need help. Or at least, to find some way to manage it all.
So, if you’re a mom who isn’t a self-professed chef, you might be stuck in the kitchen trying to figure out how to plan all the groceries you need to go get, and what to do with them. What’s a busy mom to do?
Well, these tips should help.
1. Know Your Pantry
A good first step to cooking on the fly is to start with what’s on hand. What are you using right now? What can you find in your pantry, fridge and freezer? Make a list of all of the foods that you can get your hands on right now, and then build your meals from there.
If you can’t find an ingredient that you need, you can order it online or from your local supermarket.
The key to this is to avoid buying ingredients that are too expensive or that you don’t know how to cook. If you’re buying canned tomatoes, try to get the ones that are the best quality that you can afford, because the “cheaper” ones often just have less tomato in them. Look on the label, and you’ll see that the cheaper ones often just contain more water. At the same time, avoid the fancy types that cost extra too.
And remember, if you’re out of a certain food, out of oil, parchment paper etc., you can always try cooking your meals in different ways, or with substitutes.
For example, a frozen chicken and vegetable mix can be used in many ways. You could simply boil it in water for the most basic of meals. You can bake it, grill it, make it into a stir fry or even use it in a soup.
2. Plan Your Meals
Once you have all of your ingredients on hand, it’s time to think about what you’re making.
Think about the size of your family, and how many mouths you’ll be feeding. Is there a food that you can cut down on to make your meals more substantial? Do you need to get creative to make the most out of the ingredients you have?
You can plan for leftovers, or even cook two or more meals on one day and freeze or refrigerate the rest.
3. Stock Up
If you’re not already, get into the habit of planning ahead. Whether it’s planning meals ahead of time or buying more than you need for one day, it will help you to save money.
And when you plan ahead, you can buy the ingredients that you need to prepare the meal. You’ll also know what you need for the next day, and can always make sure that you have enough ingredients on hand.
4. Make Lists
Have you ever been shopping and ended up buying way more than you need?
Whether you’re getting groceries or going to the store, try making a list.
Having a list will help you avoid this problem. You’ll be able to see what you need for the week, and make sure that you don’t get carried away.
5. Cook a New Meal
Sometimes, it can be easier to cook a new meal than to buy new ingredients.
Even if you’ve been cooking the same meals for a while, it can be fun to cook a new recipe. You can try new foods, or prepare new ways of cooking the same food.
Sometimes, it’s more fun to cook a new recipe than to plan a new meal. You might not want to buy a bunch of ingredients and then have to spend time preparing the meal.
If you’re trying to save money, it’s a great way to save money. Instead of buying new ingredients, you can just buy the ingredients that you already have.
And since you already have them, it won’t cost you any more money. It can be cheaper to cook a new meal than to buy the ingredients for the meal.
You can also find recipes online. You can search online for recipes that you’d like to make, and you can find out if you can make the meal with ingredients that you already have.
6. Cook Together
There are some people who like to cook meals together.
Sometimes, cooking with others can be fun. It’s easier to work together than to work by yourself. You can share the cooking and the cleaning, and save so much time and effort.
7. Start a Meal Swap
Have you ever heard of meal swaps?
It’s a way of sharing meals.
You buy a meal for a friend, and you pay for it.
The person who buys the meal also pays for it.
Then, you cook and eat the meal together.
Meal swapping is a great way to save money.
8. Cut Costs
The first step to saving money is to cut costs.
If you want to save money, you need to cut costs.
And when it comes to cooking, cutting costs is as easy as cutting back on some things. It’s that simple.
If you’re going to a restaurant, you can save money by cutting back on the number of times you go to the restaurant.
If you’re planning to have a special meal for an event or holiday, you can cut costs by buying things that you’ll actually continue to cook with afterwards.
Or you can cut back on your meal costs by using frozen meals, or by using meals that you already have in the freezer. That saves on clutter in your freezer too. You can make regular staples like making your own homemade bread, and then freeze it.
Also, when you eat frozen food that’s more complete like TV dinners, frozen pizza etc., you don’t have to spend any money on ingredients, which often can be more expensive than getting the whole pre-made meal. Especially if you know you tend to let spare ingredients go to waste.
You can also cut back on the number of times you go grocery shopping. When you eat out, or when you buy groceries, you’re paying for fuel as well as the food you’re eating.
And you’re paying for the time it takes to go to the store, and then get home again. And that time is precious if you’re a busy mom.
8. Intermittent Fasting
You can take a break from your eating habits. As in, you can have a day off from eating. It’s called intermittent fasting.
Or, for a simpler way of doing it: Instead of eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks all in one day, you can eat breakfast, and then not eat anything else until you have lunch the next day.
Though what I’ve found personally is getting hungry at night is the main problem, so I tend to eat breakfast, and then not eat again until right before bed. Then I’ll have a keto snack or very small keto meal which tides me over until the morning.
If you’re busy throughout the day you won’t even notice missing lunch, dinner and snacks. It’s an easy way to lose weight as you might imagine, if you’re interested in that.
Following on from the last point, you can try a diet called keto, which is low in carbohydrates, and high in fat.
It’s a popular weight loss diet, but the only drawback is it’s not sustainable for the long term. That’s because you’re not going to go into ketosis (the state where your body uses fat as its primary energy source) very easily. It’s very limiting, because you have to have almost no carbs or sugar at all for that to happen. We’re talking under 30 grams total per day.
When you don’t eat carbs, your body starts to use fat as a primary energy source. But the problem is that if you’re not used to it, you can’t sustainably burn fat as an energy source without feeling a bit weird. However, that phase passes quickly if you make sure to get enough fat in your diet, and soon you’ll get that brilliant feeling of wakefulness that is widely reported by people who have tried keto.
The main thing about keto is it reduces hunger. That’s why it’s so good for weight loss, but that also makes you save money and save on cooking effort when you stick to a few simple keto meals.
Thanks for reading, and I hope I’ve given you some ideas to think about.
I know most of these are about cost-saving and other things like that, but saving money on your food really does go a long way to smoothing out your day to day life, because then you can always buy the things you really need rather than making-do and settling for less.