1. Know what's in your pantry, keep it organized & use it! A pantry is a great tool that we moms have - we can buy items when they're on sale and use them accordingly. This can lead to a great savings in the food budget (not to mention the savings created by simply eating at home!) In the pic below, you can see a shelf in my pantry that is somewhat in disarray right now...that's because I have 3 boxes of tacos and too much pasta to count. This happened because I didn't quite know what was lurking on that shelf before one of my last shopping runs. I intend to work through some of these extras in the coming weeks and return this pantry shelf to a bit more order. Figure out what works for you - do you keep a running grocery list on the kitchen counter, your fridge, in the computer? Keep a list, use it when you're menu planning and don't over-buy and don't under utilize what you already have!
2. Remember that your pantry extends beyond your physical pantry! For me, that means my freezer & my baking cabinet. I have dedicated one kitchen cabinet to my baking goodies (flour, sugar, baking spices, chocolate chips, boxed mixes, cookbooks, etc. Unfortunately it could also use a little help right now (my recipes are definitely out of control!) - but when it's time to bake, I know right where to go!
I also am fortunate enough to have a standing freezer - at times in our marriage it hasn't had much in it, but we now try to stock it when we find sales (especially on meat) and then work through those to eat week-to-week for less $$. You can check out this post for how we deal with buying those meats in larger quantities - it's specific to ground beef, but we do the same thing for other meats as well. Just remember to label (Sharpies are a blessing!) so that you don't have to guess at what you've got! One of the other things we try to do - especially in the freezer - is keep a running list of what's in there. Sometimes we do better than others, but it certainly is handy to know (without having to go look in a cold freezer) if I have 2 lbs of ground beef or none.
2. Have a weekly plan!! Some folks plan by the week - some by the month - but however you choose to do it, JUST DO IT!!! I truly don't mind cooking - I hate coming up with the plan - that has led my husband and I to our current arrangement. We do menu planning together - usually on a weekend - that takes the pressure off of me and we have a game plan for the week. I've also found some great resources both online & on FoodTV.
Another favorite of mine is Robin Miller on FoodNetwork - her show usually showcases 3 meals, 2 of which come from the same meat base, so that you're only cooking that meat once, and then utilizing the leftovers in a 2nd recipe. All of her stuff is quick and easy and great for someone like me who doesn't want to be in the kitchen for hours. One of the best things about her show, is it has helped train my brain to look for ways to "reuse" left0vers and to plan for leftovers that I can then use later in the week. Her way of cooking has been a great resource for me!
And then who hasn't heard of Rachel Ray? Quick, easy, tasty meals that are fun to make - again - a great resource!
So at the end of the day ladies - make sure that you have a plan and make sure that it includes your pantry! Not only can you save money, you can also save your sanity at the same time! I am happy to report that we greatly tightened up on our eating out budget for the month of Sept and that caused us to really rely on our meal plan - and we did it! We had a significant eating out surplus as of the end of the month! And we really didn't ever feel deprived...we just only ate out when we planned to, and not as a last resort. For us - that's huge - and the pantry played a huge role! For more great WFMW ideas, head on over to Rocks in my Dryer and check out other great kitchen ideas!