Back to school… for some, these words are a Godsend, and for others they represent their last baby going to school (I’m the latter, sniff sniff). Back to school will be an incredibly busy time with new jobs, kids in school, fall activities starting for everyone, and the general business of life starting after the summer. It’s easy to eat out for meals when you’re on the run, but just think about the excess money and decreased health benefits in take-out dinners. Michael Pollan is a food authority in U.S.A, and he is a proponent of eating whole foods, and most importantly cooking those foods at home. He says the best thing that North Americans can do to improve their health (and reduce the cost of our health care) is to make our meals at home, even if they are not the healthiest meals possible. Easier said than done, right? Especially with the time constraints we all face, like a busy career and children. How can we save money by preparing our family’s meals?
Crock pot cooking
It seems like crock pot cooking has become a recent internet sensation. I see crockpot recipes, links and pictures everywhere on facebook and pinterest. I am a huge crockpot fan as it is a super easy, quick way to get tasty, melt-in-your mouth meals together. Check out Who Needs A Cape for a simply amazing 40 meals in four hours crock pot recipe list. Wow, I am amazed that people actually do this, hats off to them. I can never seem to get my stuff together to cook in large batches or chunks of time. How about some recipes you can throw together on a week day or weekend? There isn’t a recipe much easier than this one for Pineapple Salsa Chicken. This looks so easy and delicious. Make a side of rice to go alongside, and you have a pretty nutritious and easy meal. We love Indian meals at our house, and this recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala is an easy, delicious weeknight dinner for kids and parents alike. These Crockpot Chicken Fajitas are super easy to make, and really, how can you screw up making chicken fajitas in the crockpot? As you can tell, I really like making chicken, as it’s so versatile and I love having leftovers. As much as I love chicken, I also adore a beef roast in the winter like this one. My mom wasn’t an adept chef, but I have vivid, happy memories from my childhood when she made any crockpot beef dish.
I used to be a batch cooker, but abandoned it once I had two kids. I just couldn’t give up a few hours every Sunday to hang in the kitchen, unless of course I had copious amounts of wine to drink while cooking. If you have the time, the patience and the love of food, maybe batch cooking is for you. Chatelaine has some awesome tips for batch cooking. In particular, I really think that preparation is the most important step, so you aren’t caught missing an ingredient or two at the last minute. Here are some simple Batch Cooking Recipes to try. I have seen this idea a few times in the past, and I love the idea of preparing your weeks’ worth of Lunch Salads in advance using mason jars. Although I don’t tend to batch prepare my lunches, I do prepare some staples like hard-boiled eggs, chopped raw veggies and individually packaged hummus so I’m not stuck at the last minute for lunch ideas. Preparing your own lunch and snacks is probably the best way to save money on food. I am amazed at the amount of people I work with who purchase their lunch on a near daily basis. When you combine that purchase with the daily coffee they are buying from Tim’s, those costs really add up. It literally takes me 20 minutes to pack my lunch. I have to pack my kids’ lunch anyway, why not add mine to the list?
Make homemade school snacks
Sure, those $2.50 packages of goldfish crackers are tempting to buy, but I can’t even imagine the food colourings and preservatives in those crackers. I would much rather spend an hour or so on the weekend preparing homemade school snacks for my children. Many schools are now nut-free, so that is another reason people are tempted to buy pre-packaged snacks. But don’t fear! As long as you aren’t using nut products in your homemade snacks, they are safe to bring to school. What are some of my favourites? These granola bars from Weelicious are an absolute favourite with everyone in my house, including my picky husband. They aren’t that difficult to make, although it can be a chore cutting these off my baking sheet. The results, however, are totally worth it. I individually wrap these in little plastic bags and put them into a school snack drawer which my kids dig into to help make their school lunches. Although I have never tried it, this fruit leather is a healthy alternative to fruit rollups. If my kids were into candied fruit I would totally make this.
Preparing and planning your food prep in advance is beneficial not only for your pocketbook, but also for your mental health. Why bother with the stress of not knowing what to make every night for dinner when it’s easy to make a menu at the beginning of the week for your meals? Take it a step further and plan your meals around what’s on sale at the grocery stores, and you will save lots of money!
Bargainmoosers, do you prepare your meals in advance?
(banner image credit: Melissa)