Like many of you, at the start of a New Year, I try to take a fresh look at the way that money flows in and out of my hands. Taking a conscious look at it might help me make better choices with things like the food I buy and eat. I reached out to my friend Tina Curtis of Curtis E Organizing to help with this.
I’ve always resisted the idea of creating a budget. I guess I’m not the only one. Tina says it’s best to toss the term “budget” out completely because it DOES have limiting and negative connotations. Ok! I feel better already. She says, “It’s best to formulate a reasonable ‘Spending Plan.’ Evaluate what your family’s NEEDS vs WANTS are and how to live BELOW your means to save for the future and your goals.”
To assess the difference between needs and wants, Tina thinks that with the start of the new year, there’s no better time to take on the spend-free month challenge. “You’re never going to spend less if you don’t know where your money is going… Basically, it’s a financial fast where you spend no money on anything outside of your basic expenses. By cutting back, you’ll be able to analyze your habits and do a reality check on what you can cut permanently out of your budget.” (To balance out the sacrifices, read Tina’s January blog about how to do kind things for yourself and your finances in 2019 https://www.curtiseorganizing.com/5-financial-resolutions-youll-be-able-to-keep-in-the-new-year/)
We can’t change the habits that we aren’t aware of, so this is a fantastic way to take charge of the choices that we are making.
Tina puts the spotlight on food choices, which for all of us is a sizeable—and necessary—part of our spending plan. (Oops, I almost said “budget.”) According to National Resources Defense Council, American’s waste an enormous amount of food. For a family of four, the money wasted could total from $1,365 to $2,275 a year.
So, let’s take a few minutes to examine how this plays out in our lives and see if there are some new ways we can look at food and the money we’re spending on it.
I bet this topic elicits conflict in your household: LEFTOVERS
It seems that most families have at least one family member who snubs their nose at leftovers and ends up turning the tide against having them as a meal option. (Who is this person, and why aren’t they the one cooking meals???)
Ok, maybe it’s time for leftovers to get a rebranding.
There are quite a few meals that are just fine to freeze and eat at a later date (stews, casseroles, soups, lasagna etc) Do you have a recipe for a good one? Because if we prepare these meals, we might as well make a double batch and freeze half of it for another meal. Pull it back down into the fridge a day of two before heating it back up for dinner. Your picky leftover family member might not even notice. Technically it’s not leftovers, it’s future meals… Let’s explore more of these types of dishes together this winter. Shoot us over any recipes you have! I have more children’s books in my library than cookbooks.
Here’s a real culinary way to rebrand leftovers (yes restaurants do this!) Keep your scraps of meat (especially bones), veggies (onions, peppers, broccoli and cauliflower stems etc). Label and date them and put them in ziplock bags in the freezer. Can you guess what this can turn into? Yup! Soup! Throw it all in a big pot and let it simmer and fill your house with wonderful smells. No one will complain about those leftovers.
But, let’s get to the real dinner leftovers… Let’s think of ways to NOT have to throw them away. Well, if you dole out mini-meals into individualized containers when you go to put them away, someone is more likely to grab it as a handy lunch to take to work. The extra few minutes after dinner can give those leftovers more hope for a future.
I actually love Leftover Buffet Night (often a Thursday). Kids like choices, so they get to make a plate based on all the leftovers (and maybe a batch of rice or ONE dish you make that night). That’s what’s for dinner. If a staunch anti-leftover family members digs in their heals, point them to the stove. There’s not a better motivation to learn to cook!
One other thing that my husband and I do at home is to try to use up “stray food” and create yummy recipes without having to go to the store (a.k.a. spend money). I made a great spinach and Canadian bacon quiche on Sunday and used up eggs that were getting close to the expiration date, two different open cheeses, one refrigerator pie crust left over from Thanksgiving but not expired, the rest of a giant container of fresh spinach and half of the Canadian bacon that I bought to make Eggs Benedict with on New Years Day and never did. The yield: I got three meals out of that “stray food” quiche. I’ll put the recipe at the bottom.
Ok, back to our “Spending Plan.” We are going to make more conscious decisions on what we buy. That means taking the time to make a grocery list. Yes, this makes me think of my grandma and how she would align it with her coupons… We might not have time for that (but do we have time to peruse the store flyers as we make the list? Could even be good for meal inspiration…)
If we take the time to make a list beforehand, not only will we save time when we’re actually in the store, but we can save ourselves more TRIPS TO THE STORE because we will have a more robust plan. Don’t try to think of all the meals yourself. This is also a time to take suggestions for meals that week. Add the ingredients to your list. (Inspire that family member to help COOK the meal on that night too…)
When you get to the store, trust your list. (Don’t even go down the chip aisle.) I do allow room for spontaneous decisions too. I start in the produce section, and if I see that say, eggplant and zucchini are both on sale and looking pretty, I’ll stop right there and google recipes with them. If I find one that strikes my fancy, I’ll pick up the other ingredients for that recipe right away.
This awareness around our food spending should in no way limit the dishes we make. Actually, it should encourage us to discover new things and rely on take-out less. We all need more inspiration with meal ideas. Do you have a website that you like to go? Is there a food blogger who you like? We’re ready to try new dishes. Let us know!
Here is Tina’s blog if you want to keep on this path and continue organizing and de-cluttering other aspects of your life https://www.curtiseorganizing.com/blog/
Here’s my “stray food” recipe:
Spinach and Canadian Bacon Quiche
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup milk or cream
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cups of fresh baby spinach packed
- 5 pieces of Canadian bacon diced (approx. ¾ cup)
- ¼ cup chopped onion
- 1 ½ cup shredded cheese (Swiss and Parmesan is what I usually use)
- 1 (9-inch) refrigerated pie crust, fitted into a 9-inch glass pie pan
- Wisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper
- Add Canadian bacon, cheese, onions and spinach to the egg mixture
- Pour mixture into pie crust and even it out
- Top with grated Parmesan cheese
- Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes
- Let rest for 10 minutes or so
- Pour yourself a mimosa
- Take a picture of your quiche