Five Ways to Save Time and Money at Dinnertime

Five Ways to Save Time and Money at Dinnertime

Managing a job, a home, and a family can be tough. When dinnertime rolls around it can be easy to opt for something fast, cheap, unhealthy, or all of the above, to just get everyone fed because you’re already so tired from your long hard days work. Unfortunately, eating out can start to become very expensive and before you know it you are spending two or three times as much for meals that you could have cooked yourself. Where is the balance? Why can’t it be easy to find a way to enjoy a healthy and inexpensive meal without spending hours in the kitchen? It’s never easy to keep up with your day to day responsibilities and sometimes you just feel too tired, so here are five ways to save time and money at dinnertime to ensure that you are making the most of every family meal.

Meal Planning

It is absolutely amazing how much time and money you can save just by preparing your meals ahead of time. Not only does it allow you to separate food into properly portioned sized meals, keeping you from overeating while also stretching your rations, but it’s also perfect for those nights when you don’t feel like cooking. All you have to do is cook in bulk, and grab your healthy homemade meal from the fridge whenever you’re hungry. Cook pasta, rice, veggies, and your weekly meat selections all in one day when you get back from the store, and you can easily turn seven nights of cooking into one day of meal prep. Mix and match your prepared ingredients to make diverse and flavorful dinners that are microwave-fast, healthy, and inexpensive. It may even be ultimately faster than sitting in line at the drive-thru, and all you need is a spice cabinet.

Don’t Be Afraid of Frozen

Not every frozen or prepackaged meal deserves a bad reputation; you just have to know what to look for. As much as that produce section is eye-catching with its vast assortment of colors and flavor possibilities, the truth is the second those fruits and veggies are picked, they begin to loose nutrition and go bad. The idea of eating fresher is admirable, but chances are you have no intention of eating them all right away and they will likely go bad waiting for you. Frozen fruits and vegetables not only retain more nutrition because of their perpetuated state of freshness, but they will undoubtedly last infinitely longer than the “fresher” items in your fridge as well as take less time to cook. From initial purchase to food waste, buying frozen is always cheaper in the long run.

Upscale Your Favorite Ready Meals

Prepared meals are often a go-to option between eating out and cooking from scratch, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle when it comes to flavor and nutrition. One rotisserie chicken from the hot food section of your local grocery store can provide enough meat for several meals at home including simple chicken pasta dishes, chicken salad, chicken tacos, and more. All you have to do is be creative and you can turn any plain store bought meal into something that even your family will believe is homemade, for a fraction of the time and price.

Repurpose Your Leftovers

The best way to avoid cooking, without spending extra dough, is by taking advantage of the food you already have in the fridge. Now this may mean eating the same meal twice or more in a row, but it doesn’t always have to. Have leftover chicken and veggies from the previous night? Make a hearty pot of soup or stew for an exceptionally simple, easy, and satisfying meal. Any food in your fridge can be reimagined into something new. Some of the best meals are known to have “everything but the kitchen sink.”

Cheat Meals

Everyone knows that breakfast for dinner is a solid plan for those nights when you need something fast and easy to make, but what about other options? You don’t always have to cook a holiday worthy multi-course meal for everyday weeknights. Try finger food meals. Veggies and dip, fresh cut fruit, deli meats and cheeses, crackers, and more can all be incorporated into one mealtime that kids especially are bound to love. It offers the easiest cleanup, absolutely no cooking, and you can still rest easy knowing that your little ones are getting the vital nutrition they need. Grab a few platters or trays of your favorite finger foods and enjoy a movie night without the hassle, anything leftover makes for perfect snacks throughout the week.

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Image credit: Susan Ho