Now that I have children, dinner time almost always means instant chaos. Every. Single. Day. Can you relate?
Whether it’s running out of the office. Picking kids up from school or crabby, starving cuties waking up from nap time, it’s the end of the day and everybody is ready to eat. But dinner isn’t always ready. I almost always know what I’m going to make for dinner, that’s not the problem. My problem is my bad time management. I literally try to squeeze every second of work in while both my kids nap because I know once their up… it’s all hands on deck.
So, since dinner is the most chaotic meal of the day at our house, I’m guessing it’s the same way at yours.
Here’s my weekly prep:
Once a week, I peruse the grocery ads, make my list and then menu plan based on what foods are in season or what food is on sale. This is a LIFE SAVER.
I realized I needed to menu plan after one to many times of reaching into the cupboard to grab an essential ingredient for dinner only to find that I had SPONTANEOUSLY used it the night before. Of course, you can always throw random ingredients together to make something edible or you run out to the store and buy that essential ingredient again but either way it’s more costly and stressful.
The solution is to make a plan, implement it and then follow through. I do it with this simple menu chart.
If you would like to download your own copy just click on the this link: Menu.Planning.
I fill this in once I have my game plan of meals decided. I head to the store with chart in hand. Once I have my groceries unloaded, the chart goes on the fridge. This is perfect for rummaging husbands and kids to stop and glance at the “snack” section of what is on and off limits in between meal times. I never had to worry about this when my husband worked at the office from 9-5 and I would pack his lunch. But now that his office is literally a few feet from the kitchen… we he need this. 😉
I include a section for a master list of groceries so I can check my cupboards before buying duplicate food items. Next, I check online or paper ads for store sales. Since I primarily shop at Costco and the local grocery store, I can pretty much predict which store would be more economically for our family in the long run. I take my master list and break into 2 lists depending on what store I buy it from.
At Costco, I usually buy my meat (organic), coconut oil, frozen vegetables, frozen fruit and gluten-free bread. Now that we live in CA, I go to Costco bi-weekly instead of every week since it’s a farther drive and takes more gas and time.
I like to buy my fresh produce at the local store weekly. Fresh produce goes bad quicker so this keeps me from throwing out spoiled food. Benefit 2: It helps me stick to produce on sale or in season. Benefit 3, It allows me to cook with variety so we don’t end up eating mass amounts of the same vegetable for two weeks straight.
I haven’t checked out any of the Farmer’s Markets here in San Jose, but I’m hoping that I can visit one soon. Fresh produce is much more expensive here than in Grand Rapids so I’m hoping that I can lower my grocery budget by finding some good farmer’s market prices.
Because, groceries are more expensive I have had to hone my grocery budget skills again. I had gotten quite confident back home and could easily predict how much my total grocery bill would be (give or take $5) just by looking at the amount of food in my cart. But then CA threw me a curve ball.
Warning: Embarrassing Moment Ahead
This is really embarrassing to admit but the day after we moved into our new apartment, I went grocery shopping. I was really tired from the busyness of the day before. We needed food but I was in NO STATE to grocery shop. Although it was 7 pm, my body and brain were operating on a 10 pm clock. To make matters worse, I decided to take our two old daughter with me, who was also a basket case. Still not sure why I made that decision… 😕
Okay, so most of you that have food allergies, know that reading labels are a must. Moving to a new state and shopping at a new grocery store I quickly realized that getting acquainted with the new brands was the last thing I should have been doing at that moment.
My let’s run in and out grocery trip turned into two hours of wondering aisles trying to figure out the lay out of the store. Did I mention the grocery store was only a 5 minute drive? It didn’t help that my daughter and I got lost in our new parking garage for 15 minutes either. To make up for the lengthy time I had spent looking at ingredients, I plopped produce in without a second thought. Produce is easy, right?
I bought the usual stuff – lots of vegetables, some fruit and a few pounds of beef and chicken. During check out, my daughter proceeded to have a temper tantrum. While trying to soothe her I realized no one was bagging my groceries. So, like any rational mom, I prepaid and started the juggling act of trying to console my daughter and throwing produce into random bags.
I was so relived to get out of there that I missed how much the grocery total was. My husband asked me when I got home and I told him I didn’t know. My answer surprised him but he shrugged it off when I told him that I probably had spent about $100. A few hours later, he logged into our bank account to see a $233 charge from the grocery store. He was livid and so was I. Our groceries didn’t even last us a week.
Ouch! He wanted to know what on earth I bought? And so did I. Apparently, a head of broccoli at $6, 4 avocados at $6, 2 lb. of carrots at $6 and so forth… REALLY?!? I definitely wouldn’t be making that mistake again and I haven’t.
First mistake, I went shopping without a plan. Mistake number two, was I was too tired to realize that the grocery store had several produce options varying in conventional, local and organic and in price. Outcome was that I spent a lot of money for very little food and I couldn’t make many complete meals.
It’s REALLY all about planning.
Let’s Recap – 7 Goals to Shop Smarter
Create a Menu Plan – Know what you are going to eat before you head to the store.
Make a Grocery List Before you Shop – Prevents duplicate purchases & extra trips
Organize your Grocery List by Like Items – This allows you to start and finish shopping quicker
Only Go Grocery Shopping Once a Week – Prevents extra expenses
Prepare your Kids – Make sure they have a full tummy or you bring a snack along for them.
Set a Grocery Budget & Stick to It – Make sure your kids know this too. 🙂
Take Time to Enroll in your Grocery Store’s Rewards Program – I typically save about $5oo a year doing this.
So know that you know how to shop smarter here’s great recipe that you can add to your own weekly menu planning. Even though dinner is chaotic…I love this recipe!
Butternut Squash Turkey Chili
I LOVE Butternut Squash Turkey Chili because:
1. It literally takes 15 minutes to make.
2. The ingredients are budget friendly.
3. It makes a lot of food so it’s an easy left over meal for lunch.
4. Great balance of meat vegetables and taste!
This butternut squash turkey chili recipe has a deep rich taste from the blend of cumin, cinnamon and all spice seasonings that will instantly have you thinking about Fall even when you live somewhere sunny.
Butternut Squash Turkey Chili & How I Menu Plan
Rate this recipe
Cook time is based on using frozen butternut squash.
10 oz bag of frozen butternut squash or 1 1/2 cup fresh cooked butternut squash
1 can of tomato paste (6 oz)
1 bell pepper chopped
1 onion chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp all spice
salt & pepper to taste
1 avocado (optional)
2 cups shredded non-dairy cheese (optional)
If using fresh butternut squash, you will want to poke the sides and begin baking in the microwave for 15 - 20 minutes. Rotate butternut squash every 5 minutes. For the oven, cut the butternut squash in half and place it face down in about an inch of water. Bake on 350 for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until fork tender. If you are using frozen butternut squash than start with your onion.
Begin by chopping your onion. Add chopped onion with ground turkey and begin browning. Add a few tbsp of water to prevent meat from sticking to the pan.
While meat is browning, chop bell pepper and add it in.
Once meat is completely cooked, add chopped tomatoes, drained black beans, tomato paste and spices.
Allow chili mixture to simmer for 5 minutes. While the chili mixture is simmering place frozen butternut squash into the microwave to thaw before adding. Add warm butternut squash at the last minute to prevent the butternut squash from falling apart.
Top with shredded cheese or avocado and enjoy!
You can also make this recipe with 2 sweet potatoes instead of the butternut squash.
Since sweet potatoes take longer to cook you can make this recipe completely in the crock pot. Simply add all of your ingredients to your crock pot with 1/2 to 1 cup water depending on the size of your sweet potatoes. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for about 6-7 hours depending on your crock pot.