Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Make the Most of Your Meals (Part 5)

We're more than halfway through this series on meal planning. Is anyone doing this along with me, or are you enjoying watching me suffer?!?

One very positive aspect of this project is that I'm not running to the store for just one or two ingredients. Plus, I can start working on dinner any time during the day that I have a few minutes to thaw, chop, or mix.

On the other hand, it's becoming tough to find the line between stocking up because of good deals, keeping the spending down, and having a manageable level of food in the house, so none is wasted. I am feeling very humbled looking at the bottom line each week.

On that note, I spent $89.71 on groceries at Target this week. I think this is where I've been having some trouble, because while I get a lot of food at Target, it's also mixed in with other household items like diapers, health and beauty items and other legitimate stuff. I had to open up a spreadsheet to figure out what exactly I spent on food items.My purchases included multiple packages of the following: peanut butter, snacks for the kids, cereal, and coffee, plus OJ, eggs, and frozen salmon filets. My hubby also stocked up on frozen lunches and crackers for the office, for when he's not taking in leftovers for lunch or being treated by vendors.

At the grocery store, I spent $50.22. What you see pictured here is from the first trip; we returned the same day for the absolutely necessary bread, butter, sugar, and $1.88 bottle of Hershey's syrup that didn't make it the first time. I was distracted...big time, but I did stick to the list for the second trip.

The refrigerated biscuits were on sale for $1 apiece and the krimpets were on sale, too, and just had to come home with me :)

The menu this week

Monday: A "hash" of sausage, pepper, onion, tomato and pasta with side salad.
Tuesday: BLT sandwiches and zucchini-corn fritters (you really must try these) to use up more produce and most of a carton of buttermilk
Wednesday: Texas Roadhouse!
Thursday: Salad with chicken
Friday: Homemade pizza and salad
Saturday: Dinner with friends
Sunday: Panini and hand-cut fries

So, let's talk a little bit about freezing. I am still learning this, because it seems that as soon as I have room in there, it gets filled back up. Sometimes we can't find things without a little "discussion" between me and the freezer, or between me and my wonderful hubby.

[Again, not my real house, but fun to dream!]

Here are some items I typically keep on hand:
  • A variety of meats: ground beef, chicken breasts/tenders, venison, hamburgers, bacon, pulled pork, salmon filets, often salmon burgers, fish filets or fish sticks
  • Boxed lunches (e.g. Lean Cuisine) for my husband
  • Bags of shredded cheese purchased on sale
  • Breads: I stock up during buy-one-get-one sales and freeze bread inside a zip-top bag in its original package. I also freeze hamburger buns and hot dog rolls, sometimes bagels and English muffins purchased on sale.
  • Baked goods like banana bread or zucchini bread. It's much easier to make several loaves at once and pull them out of the freezer as needed.
  • Frozen vegetables, including green beans from the garden (ours or my in-laws)
  • Herbs like basil and parsley
  • Yeast purchased in bulk
  • Applesauce that we make each October
  • Ice cream, sometimes popsicles, and dessert ingredients like cool whip, pie crust or puff pastry.
As I'm typing this list, I see a lot of non-essential things, but I also see a lot of common ingredients that are nice to have around. Except for prepped food like the baked goods, I can buy anything at the store anytime, though not necessarily at the best price.

I think this is where I need to focus: buying only at the best price and preferably with coupons. Also, it seems that I need to start treating my freezer a bit more like my counter top and organize it regularly. Part of the problem comes from quickly throwing in groceries after a shopping trip without finding a place for the items. (This usually has something to do with hungry or tired kids, but that's a whole other post.)

I think I'll revise my cleaning schedule to include a regular freezer "straightening" session.

Am I the only one with things falling out of my freezer?

Next week: Leftovers

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