Friday, March 5, 2010

Once A Month Cooking: Does it work and is it worth it?

At the beginning of the year I decided to raise our grocery budget from $200 to $300 per month - a little splurge after Matt got a a new job. After just a couple of months spending that much, it makes me cringe looking at our final expenses. We're not really eating better food - just more junk. So, I decided to cut the budget back down to $200. Then I started think about cutting it back even more - just for fun (yeah, I know I'm slightly nuts).

I've been following two of my favorite blogs, Money Saving Mom (who feeds a family a 5 for only $40/week) and Life as Mom, for over a year now. They both regularly post about stocking their freezer with meals to eat over the next month. This month I decided to give it a try to see if it saved us any money.

Sunday, I made my grocery list. I picked some of our family's favorite dishes and a couple of new ones.

Monday, I went to the store. Luckily, I got to go alone. It would have been a quick trip if it hadn't taken me 30 minutes (literally) to check out. Long story... Anyway, I spent $87 on everything.

Tuesday, I got down to business. I put a movie on for the kids with a giant bowl of popcorn hoping that would keep them out of my hair and out of trouble for a little while. No such luck. They were under my feet the whole time. I had hoped to finish all of my cooking in 4 hours. It ended up taking 5.

I ended up with all of this:

1 Chicken Spaghetti
2 Chicken Pot Pies
2 Tacos in Pasta Shells (recipe to follow)
1 Chicken and Spinach Enchilada (new one - I'll let you know how this one is)
4 Chicken Salad (we like to eat this on yummy butter croissants with cucumbers)
1 Chicken Fajita
1 Pizza Casserole
1 Buffalo Chicken Pizza
2 Red Beans and Rice

I was hoping to add some hamburger patties and Brown Bag Burritos (for lunches) to the mix. I'll have to work on those next week, though.

So, was it worth it? I think so! I made all of that in just 5 hours. I was spending about an hour each day thinking about and preparing for dinner then I had to spend 30 minutes cleaning up afterwards (at least). Even if I had my menu planned, there were days that I just wouldn't get around to making dinner in time. So we were eating out at least twice every week (probably more). Now, all I have to do is grab something out of the freezer and pop it in the oven! AND (as if that wasn't enough already) all my clean up is already done! I only had to get the cutting board, knives, bowls, pots and pans out once! I'd say it is going to save me an enormous amount of time and money!

We have $113 left for our monthly budget and all I have to think about is milk and lunches! With some careful planning, I'm hoping we can get our budget down to $160 per month and eat just as well or better than we were before!

I'm going to do a big Baking Day next week to work on adding some breakfasts to the mix (tried doing that yesterday, but the kiddos needed some attention after being so neglected the day before). I'm hoping to eventually pre-make some lunches, too.