It’s that age old question, right – “Mom, what’s for dinner?”. Planning family meals can have it’s challenges, especially on our busiest of days. When we don’t have an advance meal plan in place, how do we come up with those last minute meals without breaking the family grocery budget?
The best way to do so and not impact the family grocery budget is to look to items we already have in the house and build our meals from there.
When we are stuck for meal ideas, usually our first thought is that we need to go to the store. Fact is, often times we have the ingredients on hand to create the right meals. By just taking inventory of what is already in the house, we might be surprised how much we do have on hand. Taking these 3 steps will allow you to create meals with what you already have without the stress.
Here are 3 great steps to take to create a meal with what you have in stock and on hand rather than going to the grocery store:
First, take stock of what you have on hand that is fresh. Start with your refrigerator and consider what you have in the way of fresh dinner ingredients. That would include any fresh meat or fish in the refrigerator as well as fresh vegetables, fruits and more. Check items in your refrigerator for expiration dates that might be near expiration, like processed meats, cheeses and the like. Incorporating them into your next meal plan is a great way to use them up versus throwing them out.
Second, take a look at what is in your pantry. Most of us have non-perishable items on hand like canned vegetables, sauces, canned fruit, pasta, rice and the like. Give some thought to what entrees or sides could be created pairing the items from the refrigerator and items on hand in your pantry.
Third, head to the freezer and see what is in there. Check for not only meats that you might thaw for a main dish but also frozen vegetables or other sides. Is there something in there you feel you need to use up? Why not do so and pair it with some accompanying sides to create your meal?
Once you know what you have on hand, you can get creative and try new things. Maybe there is a can of chunky soup that could be served over rice. You could create your own pasta dish, either hot or cold, by mixing cooked pasta with fresh or frozen vegetables and meat. You can also create a unique rice dish the same way. The list goes on and on.
There are also many great recipes out there for skillet and one pot meals that can incorporate the ingredients you have on hand. Or, you can use these recipes as a guide with a little improvising with the ingredients you do have in the house.
There are two ways that this will help you stick to the family grocery budget:
- It provides you savings because every trip to the grocery store is proven to raise your grocery bill. When we shop day to day, and especially last minute and when we are hungry, we spend more.
- This is beneficial also in that it will create savings for you because it will eliminate spoilage or waste.
So, before you head out to the grocery store take these 3 steps and let the creative cook inside you come out. You’ll be able to create a last minute meal the family will still enjoy.