Well it’s New Year’s Day which means I am sitting here with my coffee looking forward to a fresh start like the rest of us. I for one have over indulged on just about everything the past few weeks over Christmas:
- over-binged watched Netflix
Today is the start of a whole new year so I’m ready to set some priorities and get back into some sort of routine. Since we’ve over indulged in December, January is a good month to reign it in. Each January we try to reset our eating and spending food habits.
Over the years we’ve tried a bunch of things but there are a few we do each year to lower our spending and get us back to eating better:
1) Eat from the Press
Remember last week when the grocery stores closed for two days over Christmas? Anyone else succumb to the fear of running out of food those few days and buy double the food its possible to actually eat?!?!?
Totally ridiculous I know but my excessive December grocery shopping has left me with presses and a freezer pretty well stockpiled. It’s a perfect opportunity to undergo a ‘Pantry Challenge’.
A Pantry Challenge is really just making a commitment to eat what you have on hand as much as possible. Chances are you have a plenty of staples in the press to make a good few meals and reduce your grocery budget for the next few weeks. Sure you’ll need to buy fresh stuff but you can still cut down on your spending if you try to eat what you actually have. GoodCheapEats.com has a great post on how to have a Pantry Challenge in your own home, but you can make is as simple or complex as suits you and your family.
2) The Grocery Money Envelope
We really could be better at budgeting around here-especially when it comes to food shopping. It is so easy for me to throw things into the trolley absentmindedly; or buy ingredients to try a new recipe but never actually make the recipe.
During both my maternity leaves we kept to a tight grocery budget by taking a set amount of cash out at the start of the month and putting it in a grocery fund envelope. All month we would shop only using cash from that envelope. We’d even use the envelope for those quick trips to the shop where you go in for bread and milk and come out having spend €20! By spending cold hard cash we were more intentional with our spending and thought twice particularly during those mid-week quick trips. If we had anything left over at the end of the month we treated ourselves somehow….it was good motivation for us to stick to our budget.
Right now we probably don’t have a lump sum of cash to carry us through the month but we can definitely decide on a set amount for this week and put it in the envelope.
A few years ago we managed to spend €400 a month on groceries and household items (excluding nappies) but that was long before ThisIrishBoy started eating like a teenager so we’re going to have to think about what will work for us this year.
3) Meal Planning
Throughout the years meal planning has been hands down THE single most successful strategy to reducing our food spending budget. By setting a meal plan we not only spend less but eat healthier and are less stressed during the week. Having a good meal plan cuts down on the last minute midweek chipper runs.
If we have a plan whoever is home first in the evening can get dinner started without thinking too hard. Meal planning also allows us to sit down to dinner regularly as a family which is important to us.
There are 10 million resources on meal planning on the internet- especially Pinterest. You can find dozens of pretty printables to get started if thats your thing, OR you can grab a pen and a blank piece of paper and start meal planning right now.
- Without thinking too hard write down all you go to family dinner meals.
We all have a repitoire of dinners that are our go to so make a long master list. Now add those recipes you tried once or twice before that were a hit for the family but you forget to keep making. Next add a few new recipes you’ve been meaning to try.
- Decide how long you will plan for.
One week? Two? A whole month? You decide. We sometimes go week by week and other times we can plan loosely for a whole month. Knowing we have the ingredients in the freezer means we can change our meals around to suit what fancies us on the day.
- Get out your family calendar/diary
What do the next few weeks look like? When do you need to plan light and simple meals because of the kids activities? Do you have a big work meeting you know you won’t want to come home and cook after? What about birthday celebrations that might need a special meal? Meal planning has to work for you. At least once a week we can’t have a ‘proper dinner’ – that’s life. Having a meal plan means we have omelettes or quesadillas for dinner instead of MacDonald’s on those nights.
- Write it down.
Make a plan of what you’re going to eat for however long you chose and write it down. Print off one of those pretty Pinterest printables, write it in your diary or on paper. Write it somewhere.
- Shop of what you need and GO FOR IT.
Check your presses and shop for only what you need and try out your plan. Our biggest downfall to this day is forgetting to take things out of the freezer so be careful with that:)
I enjoy cooking on the weekends when we have more time and can be more creative. Cooking midweek for the purpose of feeding the family after a long day drains me. During the week I need simple and nutritious and meal planning helps me achieve this. Whenever life seems to get too rushed and I feel overwhelmed I always come back to meal planning to bring some order into out lives.
Truth be told we can’t stick to these all the time, but whenever we find ourselves low on cash and needing to save we start with saving on food spending using some or all of the above….and this January is certainly one of those times for ThisIrishFamily.
We’re always looking for ways to save so drop us a line in the comments section and let us know how you save this time of year!