So your pantry is full…

But you have no idea what to do with any of it. Seems to make that whole grocery trip useless, doesn’t it?

The main focus behind this series is to be prepared. Chaos will [eventually] ensue, so you must plan ahead and be smarter than the nonsense that will happen during the day. I have finally put my process into a few steps.

Meal Planning

1. Browse the ads 

In my area, our main go-to places include: Publix, Winn-Dixie, Target and Walmart. I choose to shop at Walmart because overall, their prices are much cheaper than Publix, Winn-Dixie and Target. Walmart also MATCHES ADS. I’ve had some bad experience with this.. they don’t seem to train all of their cashiers on their policies and sometimes it’s a fight. But they do match competitor ads, we’re talking the BOGOs and the 10 for $10 ads. Some Walmarts have posted new signs lately about their ad match policies, but not all. For more details about Walmart’s coupon policies, click here. More details to come about coupon policies later in the series.

I tend to browse the ads to see what’s on sale before I make my list. If you’re trying to maintain a budget, look for those items that you would normally buy that might be on sale. Don’t go buy anything special just because it’s on sale, you’ll end up spending more.. defeating the purpose.

2. Browse your own cookbook

When you’re picking your brain for dinner ideas, refer to your own cook book for tried & true favorites. If you don’t have your own or a collection of favorite recipes, check out my blog post on creating your own recipe book here.

3. Browse Pinterest and check your own boards

I’m guilty of overpinning on Pinterest. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I need some sort of schedule in order to keep finding new things, but actually get around to trying some of what I’ve pinned also.

Using Pinterest to meal plan is a way to spice up your menus, but this little schedule keeps your organized & gives you a chance to have time to make some of the things you’ve pinned.

By giving yourself a meal planning schedule, your give yourself the opportunity to be organized and not pressured to do everything in one evening. Been there, done that – 3 hours of searching the ads, browsing Pinterest for meal ideas, and searching for corresponding coupons.. can make you see stars. This is what works for me, I have a couple days to go crazy on Pinterest and decided to reel myself in the rest of the time so that I can actually make some of the things that I’ve planned (same concept for DIY crafts too).

4. Make a list of meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and [yes] snacks

Another issue with trying to fill your pantry to fill your belly and not eat out is that meddlesome urge to open the fridge and stare into it and that nonsense phrase: “there’s nothing to eat.” If there are quick options or something already prepped, that phrase is never uttered. While I make my grocery list of items to put in my cart, I make a separate list of meals that I can make with things that are already in my pantry and the items I’ll put in my cart. I try to leave no option unwritten. When it’s busy or it’s a messy day, you don’t want to have to figure it out anyway, it’s easier if you can grab & go.

5. Take inventory

Evaluate what you already have vs. what you need. Add what you need to complete your chosen meals from your previous meal planning session to your list to eliminate extra trips back to the store for forgotten items, wasting gas and time & luring you into impulse purchase territory.

 

What does your process look like?

 

Part 3 to come soon! 

 

 

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This Ain’t Yo Grandma’s Kitchen

Happy Tuesday everyone!

If you’re like me, you didn’t really get alot of cooking instruction growing up. Heck, my mom cooks (bakes mostly) more now than she ever did when I was a kid. My sister and I ate mostly chicken nuggets and good ol’ mac and cheese and I remember lots of TV dinners. I cringe at the thought now but mannnn was that stuff good when I was 8. 🙂

That being said, I have been trying to navigate the cooking world for the past 3 years since I moved out of mom’s house for good. My first year away from home, my roommate cooked (if we cooked) and we experimented here and there but never enough to claim to “cook.” After that year, I moved into an apartment with just Asia, my pup. I learned pretty fast eating out is a ridiculously expensive habit, even if you’re eating the cheaper stuff. On the cheaper side, $6 a meal x 2 meals a day x 7 days a week (we’ll say I scrounged something for breakfast every day)= $84 a week. $84!

I’m not sure about y’all, but my college self and even post-college self is still not rolling in riches. I have a budget dollar amount set for everything you can possibly imagine (I even include gas as a set bill in my budget) and $84/week was definitely not a way to save money. So, I started trying to learn how to cook.

Two years later, I still wouldn’t call myself a great cook but I can manage for our household. I can also spend $150 (max) at the grocery store and feed me and my bottomless pit man every  meal and go two full weeks without cracking and ordering in or going out to eat. That’s a HUGE accomplishment. If you don’t think so, I dare you to try it.. It’s tougher than it sounds 🙂

Now, I’m not entirely sure how I would’ve managed without the turn that social media has taken in the last year or so. Without Pinterest, I would just have a much tougher time of the whole cooking thing. Grocery planning takes a good amount of time for me, I go through the ads, I make my list, and I search for coupons that correspond to my list. Then I browse Pinterest and look for a few new dinner ideas to keep dinner exciting and add the ingredients not in my cabinet to the list. Part of why people don’t like to cook is that they get bored with their options. I’m always finding something new on Pinterest for every grocery trip though, the options are infinite it seems like.

So, what next? Well, this just ain’t yo grandma’s kitchen anymore. How many cookbooks does your grandma have? I’d say mine has at least 20. How many do I have? 3. Do I use a large percentage of the recipes in there? No. I will say I do have a Fix it and Forget it cookbook and it’s all crock pot recipes and I do flip through there for at least 1-2 crock pot easy meals during the two weeks before the next grocery trip. But mostly, there’s probably 5 recipes in those that I turn to in a book of 200. My solution to that was to make my own recipe book.

my personal cookbook

First Step:

Pick a decent sized binder to house all of your favorite recipes. (I’m a big fan of the Green Studio office supplies and chose a binder from that brand, found at Target.)

Second Step:

Get some tools to organize your recipes.

I used Target Brand dividers and printed some cute and FREE labels.

Lots of free printable labels here, courtesy of BHG: http://tinyurl.com/printablelabels

I chose to cut my labels out and simply glue them to the divider and then hand write the chosen section. You also have the option of printing the labels out onto actual labels and using your computer to type in your categories if you want to be fancy 🙂

Third Step:

Add your favorites! This can include (and does for me) all of the Pinterest recipes that you found online and printed out as well as handwritten recipes that have been in your family or told to you by a friend.

Handwritten recipes

A great feature about making your own cook book is that everything in there is a recipe that you’ve tried and loved, so it’s definitely worth having again. You don’t have to flip randomly through a cookbook looking for that one recipe you tried one time that you think you liked. You are also free to label your sections as you like. Mine include: chicken, baked, soups, desserts, etc. Also, if you like to modify recipes like I do, you can make those notes without the guilt of marking up a book. (Or is that just me?) I always make modifications. This way, I’ll remember for next time that I varied the recipe a bit.

Modify ingredients in your cookbook so you remember for next time

Well, that’s it! Instead of having loose papers laying all over your kitchen (if you’re a Pinterest cooker, or have the habit of going on Kraft and punching in ingredients you have and trying to generate a dinner out of it) corral those recipes into your very own personal cookbook. Give it a month and you’ll be glad you did when you are scratching your head trying to come up with 1 or 2 more dinner ideas for the grocery trip. Tried and true recipes never fail! Happy cooking!