Hands Free Dinner (3/3)

For my last installment on how to make dinner as easily as possible, without going unhealthy or expensive, here are my final tips:

1. It’s OKAY if you don’t have all the ingredients.
Substituting white potatoes for golden ones is totally fine. You don’t even have to tell anyone.

2. Invest in appliances
Our favorites? Rice cooker, crockpot, and bread machine. Delay timer is our new best friend.

3. PLAN AHEAD
I’ve found that the most expensive or unhealthy meals are the unplanned ones. You don’t have much time, so you grab something on the road or on the way home and it’s guaranteed to be more expensive than if you made it yourself. So plan your meals, and check your meal calendar before going to bed so you can de-frost any pre-made foods (crockpot meals, meats, spaghetti sauce, etc…)

4. Identify your meal staples

Planning out 2 weeks of food is so much easier when some days are on auto-fill. For example, Wednesdays are leftover days and Thursdays are for spaghetti. Of course, it’s great to add variety into your menu so I wouldn’t recommend having the same thing every day, but adding at least 3 days of consistency makes planning meals and making them stress-free.

Thanks for joining me on our hands-free food foray! Any tips of your own to add? Comment below!

Until dinner,
Chloe

Hands Free Dinner (2/3)

I promised you all an update on my grand hands-free dinner experiment and I’m glad to report: So far, super easy, super successful. We have a few favorite recipes and not-so-favorite ones but all the meals have been yummy, edible, and best of all–so efficient! There is really not much better than coming home from work with dinner already made. We also invested in a small rice cooker with a delay timer so there is literally nothing else to do but serve yourself some delicious pre-cooked grub.

I also promised some of my more general tips on how to eat good, healthy food on a budget. While making this list, I realized I had too many for just one post so stay tuned! More culinary craftiness to come.

Tip #1: Buy in Bulk. Always.

Whether you’re single, married, or have 10 kids, bulk just makes sense. For those of us in 1455221148.pngthe 2 and under households, this doesn’t mean buying all your fresh produce in bulk. Here are the staples that we’ve found save money and trips to the grocery store –>

The first time you do this, the bill will be upwards of $250. DON’T PANIC. You will only have to replace these items every few months, so the overall bill is significantly less.

Tip #2: Switch convenience for cheapness

What is easier? Opening a can of beans, ready to throw into a soup or soaking them overnight for 10+ hours and then cooking them for another 2-4? Convenience sells which is why I am convinced grocery stores make most of their profit off of individual-serving and pre-made foods. Don’t spend an extra $5 on adorable individual servings. Buy a box of 150 Ziplock sandwich bags, and make your own.

Tip # 3: Say goodbye to snacks and sandwiches

For the BLT lovers out there, this one is hard (I feel your pain). What is lunch without a sandwich? The reality is, deli meat and sliced cheese is costly. And snacks can be pretty pricey simply because they are easy to grab off the shelf in the store and your pantry (see Tip #2). By doubling the size of your dinners to make enough leftovers for the next day, you can have delicious and healthy lunches all week long. The additional cost to make more of a meal you’re already prepping is far less than buying sandwich supplies and snacks.

More to come!

Until then,
Chloe

Hands Free Dinner (1/3)

I love maximizing efficiency. I also love cooking and budgeting so finding a cheap way to create frozen crock pot meals by buying bulk items and making 10+ meals in an afternoon? ALL OVER IT.

Luke and I started on My Great Hands-Free Culinary Adventure by hitting up our favorite weekly hot spots: Costco and Walmart. We’ve been trading convenience for cost savings and quality food since we got married over 7 months ago. Costco’s got the staples of our existence: flour, brown rice, beans (uncooked), sugar, yogurt, and eggs. Walmart fills in the gaps, since buying milk and tomatoes in bulk isn’t as practical. With lots of pre-planning, re-packaging, and re-purposing, we’ve gotten our meals down to about $1.50 per meal per person.

 

All that back story to say, our grocery bill for My Great Hands-Free Culinary Adventure was only $50 higher than usual, less than I was expecting since we bought the ingredients to make enough meals for 5 weeks using 2 frozen crock-pot meals a week (no way I’m giving up Spaghetti Wednesdays!)

3478I used this fabulous frozen crockpot meal recipe/instructions/grocery list as a guide and supplemented with ingredients I already had in the pantry. Plus took out all the green beans and spinach. Perks of being in charge of the food!

The whole process took me about 3 hours start-to-finish. Post-shopping trip, Luke was struck with food poisoning (thanks Olive Garden) and was out of commission for the day. If we had been working on it together, we probably could have whipped up the 10 meals in 90 minutes. Several tears were shed but the 5 quarts of diced onions were worth it. Overall, it’s a 3 minute and $1.50 a serving investment. No huge cost savings, but I’m so excited to come home from work to dinner ready to go!

If you’re curious how we make the rest of the weeks’ meals work for $1.50/healthy serving, comment below! Economics + cooking + planning + efficiency = my kind of heaven. I’d love to share our tips if anyone’s interested.