Welcome back to the next post in my “Ask an Expert” series!
This week, we’re talking about: How do you get out of a meal planning rut?
Tiffany at Don’t Waste the Crumbs has a few good ideas on how you can jumpstart your creativity when you’re feeling stuck!
Her site is awesome for those who are trying to save money, utilize everything we’ve got in our fridges and pantries, cook fresh, wholesome (mostly organic) foods for our families… and not break the bank in the meantime!
I love Tiffany’s email newsletter because she’s always sharing something that is actually helpful.
If you’re not signed up for her emails, I really recommend that you go do so right now. I’ve been a subscriber for a while now, and I genuinely look forward to her emails! It’s never just an update or a pushto buy something, but genuine ideas to get you cooking fresh food and while saving money, too.
And I love her idea for banishing the meal planing rut, down after the jump. I’m totally going to start doing her idea now!
Please note this interview has been edited slightly for clarity.
Ruthy: Hi Tiffany! Let’s start: How do you decide what to cook for dinner each night? Do you have a binder, a list, “theme nights”, etc?
Tiffany: All of the above! I have a general theme for what to make each night (i.e. Tuesday is salad night), but when I make my meal plan for the week, I ask my family what they’d like to eat.
I also keep a running list of recipes I’d like to try and if I’m stuck on what to make, I look at previous meal plans for ideas.
What motivated her to figure meal planning out.
Ruthy: When did you start meal planning?
Tiffany: I started meal planning when I shopped on a monthly basis. My kids were little and the budget was tight. The best way to maximize the budget was to shop in bulk at Costco once a month, but in order to do that, I had to know what to buy. It took a couple months to figure it out, but once I saw that meal planning kept us under budget, that motivated me to keep going!
Ruthy: What’s a good way to get out of a ‘meal planning rut”?
Tiffany: Trying a new spice. I found myself in a meal planing rut recently and picked up two spices from the store – Chinese 5 Spice and Red Curry. I tried them in all sorts of ways and just these two spices alone inspired several recipes that were amazing, and will be shared on the blog!
Secret tips for food savings.
Ruthy: You have a great grocery savings course. What’s your favorite ‘secret tip’ for saving money on groceries?
Tiffany: I don’t know if my “secret tip” is really all that secret because, in the frugal community, it’s common knowledge that meal planning and eating leftovers will save you money. However, in Grocery Budget Bootcamp I teach a strategic method for applying all the money saving tips you’ve heard of. It’s when you use them in a very specific way that when you maximize your time and money saved!
Ruthy: What would you tell someone who feels overwhelmed about where to start meal planning?
Tiffany: Just plan tomorrow. Look at the pantry, fridge, and freezer and decide right now what you’re going to cook. It doesn’t have to be fancy – it just has to be healthy. If you’re committed to buying healthy food or cooking from scratch, even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich can be nourishing! The freedom from already knowing what’s for dinner is addicting, and you’ll soon find yourself wanting to plan more than just tomorrow.
Ruthy: What’s your favorite ‘use up the leftovers’ dinner recipe?
Tiffany: I actually have a few of these, but I don’t use them often! Salads, fried rice, sandwiches and soups are what I turn to when we have an assortment of individual portions of leftovers (i.e. steamed carrots), BUT my husband is diligent about taking leftovers to work for his lunch. This means I rarely have these random leftovers in the fridge. About every 10 days or so, we’ll have a “leftovers” for dinner night, and that’s when all the containers get pulled out and dinner is slightly different for everyone.
Organics on a budget
Ruthy: You feed your family lots of healthy, natural and organic food… on a budget! What’s your best piece of advice for someone who’s trying to buy organic and natural foods without breaking the bank?
Tiffany: Prioritize. If you buy everything organic, you will break the bank. There’s no way around that. But if you prioritize what’s important to your family and put your money there, first, everything else will fall into place behind it.
Whew! that was such a great interview, and true to form, I thought Tiffany was mega-helpful. Didn’t you?
You can learn more about Grocery Budget Bootcamp here. Enrollment is currently closed, but she’s opening it back up in September; just in time for back-to-school budget slashing! You can also sign up to be notified about when enrollment opens.
You can also check out Tiffany’s blog Don’t Waste the Crumbs.
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