I’ve mentioned previously that after dinner is our daily witching hour, when the boys are bundles of energy and emotion. (They’re like that before dinner too, but it’s even harder after dinner.) Although Marc didn’t complain much, I could see that taking care of the boys while I made dinner and then cleaned up afterward was taking its toll. So for the last couple of months, I’ve mostly stopped cooking and we’ve been buying a lot of takeout and fast food.
The financial impact has been noticeable. It’s been worth it, because I have my usual chipper husband back. And in some ways, the whole point of having money is to make life easier. Buying pre-made food definitely makes a big difference in our quality of life.
However, it hasn’t been entirely easy for me to watch our spending go up and our saving go down, especially when our net worth is simultaneously heading south due to the stock market. So I’m ready to try making a few adjustments.
The main adjustment is going to be buying more convenience foods at the market. As we’ve noted in the past, pre-made convenience foods from the grocery store are still cheaper than fast food or takeout. But this adjustment to our eating patterns requires me to make a mental adjustment and forego the “all or nothing” approach that tends to come naturally to me.
For example, I’m very fond of my macaroni and cheese recipe. I can make it from memory, and it’s really delicious. It’s also, as far as macaroni and cheese goes, quite healthy. I use Barilla Plus elbow macaroni (because I’ve yet to find whole wheat elbows), add chopped spinach or grated carrot and lean ground beef, and use organic milk, RBST-free cheese and butter, and whole wheat flour. So the thought of serving a boxed macaroni and cheese to my kids, instead of this delicious wholesome meal, was downright repellent. And it pained me all the more because I knew they’d love the boxed mac and cheese and probably even prefer it over my from-scratch version.
But I used the $5 off $25 Whole Foods purchase coupon over the weekend to buy a few boxes of their store brand organic mac and cheese. The kids devoured it when I made it. And having made it once, I’ve realized that I can pretty easily add a few things to it to make it a little healthier.
The next time, I’m going to add a half pound of cooked lean ground beef and a jar of winter squash baby food. I bought some jarred organic baby food, and cooked up a pound of ground beef when I had ten minutes to spare. I froze the ground beef in two half-pound portions, so all I have to do is take it out of the freezer, put it in a colander, and drain the cooked macaroni over it. The hot pasta water will help defrost the meat. Then I’ll make the sauce in the pan, stir in the baby food, and add the ground beef and macaroni. If I could just find a boxed mac and cheese that comes with whole wheat pasta, I’d actually be pretty satisfied with the nutritional content of this meal. And it’ll take only a fraction of the time it would take me to make my from-scratch version, plus I can get most of the kitchen cleaned up and start prepping the next day’s lunches while the macaroni is cooking.
I’m hopeful that adjustments like this will reduce the amount of money we spend on eating out, and on food overall. If you have any quick and easy meals that your kids love, please share them in the comments so we can all benefit!
Image credit: Amazon.com.