As a mother with two kids, I have always planned our meals. They’re both grown up now and my son has moved to L.A. already. With my husband, my daughter and I to worry about on a daily basis or at least 3-4 days a week. We try to eat out on weekends or just buy take-out so we can have something different depends on our cravings. I need a break too, don’t you think? We all do… ;p
As the years go by and being married for almost 27 years, I have learned some tricks, techniques to make life much easier especially when doing housechores and cooking meals for the whole family. I have been living here in the US for almost 30 years and my husband who just followed us in year of 2000. I was born in the Philippines and grew up there until 19 when my mother have petitioned me to live in Hawaii. My husband and I were living comfortably back home, so to speak, due to a lot of help around the house. There is someone to cook, wash and iron clothes and drive you to places. I didn’t have to worry about doing all the chores except cooking. Cooking is my passion and what I really love doing. It is a therapy for me and no matter what, I would always go to the “wet market” to get fresh fish, meat and vegetables regardless of how much help we have at home.
Eversince moving here in America, lifestyle has changed drastically. You do everything here . As for me, I lived here for the first few years before my husband could even join us to take care of some business issues back home. Living here was never easier since you have to do everything and no help to rely on. Unless, 1. you can afford to pay for a housekeeper, 2. you can buy take-out food everyday, and 3. you are so blessed to have parents or parents-in-laws, who have retired, supportive, generous and assist you with some housechores and willing to babysit their grandchildren. With this lifestyle, what do you expect? The result? Stress and fatigue. That’s right! I hear yah.
For me, eventhough I love cooking, I consider it the most difficult chores of them all. The fact that for this type of chore alone, it includes meal-planning, grocery-buying, loading and unloading stuff, putting them away,chopping and cooking all the necessary ingredients, and washing all the “tools” used just to put food on the table. After all these preparations, the food you just cooked, in few minutes, are gone caput, and inside your stomach ready to be digested in few hours. Isn’t that too much work? Is it really worth it to cook or to just buy fast food, or to go out to dinner instead? Some would say yay and some would say nay.
These days, times are really tough for most people and not only here in America but the whole entire world is feeling it. Each one of us has to learn to be really smart and wise in every penny we spend especially when it comes to food. Statistics show that at least on average, every household throws or wastes $100-$400 dollars worth of food a month with leftovers thrown away, spoiled fruits, veggies, meat, old frozen items, etc. That’s $1200-$4800 dollars a year right there! Enough to feed the whole starving population in Africa or even Philippines for the next 10 years! I am one person who refuses to toss any single piece of food that’s still edible. I raged when I see my kids waste even a piece of meat and just throws them or not being able to finish their plate. I always think there are a lot of people starving around the world and here we are, doesn’t even bother to think twice throwing pieces of food where some would even grab and take it just to put something in their stomach even it’s already in the trash. There’s a saying by Benjamin Franklin, “A penny saved is a penny earned”. Totally agree. So planning your meals for the whole week(ok, 3-4 days at least is ok) will definitely save you lots of dough in the long run. No more spoiled/rotten veggies, less leftover to throw and minimizes buying take-outs. Plus you become more productive since you have more time in your hands than being stuck in the kitchen the whole night, prepping and washing dishes every single day. Here are some tips on planning meals on a weekly basis:
1. First of all, be willing or rather start learning to eat leftover foods. If it’s edible and not spoiled, it’s still okay to eat it. It’s just all in the mind. Train your kids while they are still young and your husband? Ignore his face. He’ll get used to it. lol! Think of Africa, Philippines, other third world countries who has people that’s dying because of poverty. Be thankful that we have so much option to consume good food that we want to eat.
2. Plan your meals ahead of time. I know bad habits are really hard to break. Quit the habit of just last minute cravings and that’s when you only starts preparing for food, or much worse, ends up buying fast food. This does not only waste your time but also not saving you money in the long run.
3. Write down all the ingredients needed. If you have everything listed, you are less likely to buy stuff you don’t really need. Again, that saves you another dollar.
4. Never go hungry! Don’t ever go to the grocery store when you’re starved. Your eyes are going to get bigger than your stomach can handle. So you end up stuffing your cart and paying for something you don’t really need.
5. Once in a while, cook meals that are in the same family like let’s say kids want some spaghetti. Cook a little bit more of the pasta than the sauce so that you can make the extra pasta for a cheesy garlic noodles with lots of parmesan cheese on top. Kids will love it! You can also double up on the meat when you sautee and you can save the other half for an omelette the next day or so. Or If you baked/roasted a prime rib larger than usual, you can make the rest of them, a prime rib sandwich. All you need is a mayonnaise and a bread. And beef noodle soup/stew, the next! Just add chopped veggies. Voilah! Yummm! That’s already 4 different meals you have there and good for one week and I’m sure one of those days you might have to eat previous day’s menu. So you skipped one step of boiling the pasta for the cheesy garlic noodles, you skipped baking/roasting the prime rib for making a sandwich plus, less washing all the dishes! You have more time to do other stuff. Like that overdue ‘workout” regimen you’ve been putting off for months now.
6. Think of menus that can be frozen for weeks or months. You can freeze veggie soups or any type of soup you prefer. The beef stew or chicken teriyaki for BBQ, or any marinated meat that you have. This way you can always have what I call “Emergency food” instead of having canned goods, which are not actually good for our health. Canned or processed goods are very convenient and gets cheaper sometimes when they go on sale but it is a trap to being unhealthy.
7. Eating lunch out is great but bringing home-cooked meals to work is a greater deal! A lot cheaper, better and healthier than take outs or to-go.
8. If you love eating breakfast i.e. eggs n sausage with bagel, or ham n eggs with toast, try cooking or making them good for 2-3 days in one cooking. Buy those small plastic containers in same sizes and stuff them in there and stack in the fridge. This way it’s just a “grab-and-go” for the both of you.You’re lucky if you have toaster in your office kitchen, if not just don’t eat with the bread and forget the carb! You’ll loose weight as well. If you and your husband will bring and eat it to work, you’re gonna need 6-10 of them since there are 5 days of the week. Okay, okay maybe only 8 coz you deserve a break. Fridays, it’s a break so you’re excused to buy that breakfast burrito you’re craving from that deli next to your office.
9. Buy lots of food containers. They come in very handy and so easy to plan your meals/snacks with them. You can also cut up fruits and veggies like cantaloupe, pineapple, papaya, carrots, celery, etc ahead of time to bring to work. You can stack them up in the fridge so it’s just, again, a “grab n go” for you.
10. Last but not the least – refrain shopping and buying bulks of perishables from wholesale club i.e. Costco, Sam’s Club, Smart and Final. If there’s only two of you who’s gonna eat a certain type of food and if there’s a dozen of them, or one huge box or packaging, how much could you really eat for the next 2-3 weeks or so? Then it will end up stocked up in the freezer/fridge for months and before you know it, it’s expired or you feel you don’t want to eat it anymore since it’s been there for the last 6 months, so you end up throwing them away eventhough it’s not expired yet. Sounds familiar? So instead of thinking with buying in bulks to save $$$, just go to the regular grocer closer to your home unless it’s necessary. Trust me because 99.9% they just end up in trashbin. Don’t you agree?