Mar 4, 2009

A wake-up call: Time to go back to menu planning and cooking at home

As I cursorily reviewed our finances earlier this week, I realized that we are over-spending. Not in a way that causes any alarm – we have no problem paying our bills, no problem with the extra payments on our debts, no problem with the automated savings. But there should still be money left over, and I'm frustrated that there's not.

One area where we've been spending more money than necessary is food. I haven't been cooking much, we've been buying more take-out and fast food, and we've also been wasting food due to poor planning on my part.

I'm optimistic that a few changes will make a huge difference:
  • I am going to plan our meals on a weekly basis. Unlike the past, when I looked forward to experimenting with new recipes and ingredients, my focus will be on speed and what the kids might like. I'll still make new dishes, but I'm going to plan more carefully now.
  • We are going to follow Ellyn Satter's recommendations on raising healthy eaters. Marc and I will handle the what, when and where of eating, and the kids will determine the how much and whether of eating. I am going to serve the entire meal at once, and the boys can eat as much or as little as they want. I will try to make things I think they'll like (especially the sides, like fruit salad), but I will no longer whip up a grilled cheese sandwich or heat up some frozen macaroni and cheese.
  • I'm already shopping differently. I now hit Ralphs or Pavilions before I go to Trader Joe's. That means I can buy loss leaders, and fill in the rest of my needs at TJ's. Last week, I spent $30 less on groceries, even though I stocked up on bottled water for Alex's birthday party.
These changes should be simple, though the second one might be somewhat difficult. I've already discussed it with Marc and we're on the same page, so hopefully it won't take the boys long to adjust. I'd kind of started implementing this change a few weeks ago, but had slacked on it because I hadn't discussed it with Marc and we weren't working as a team. Now that we are, things should be easier, but I'm a little anxious about how the boys will respond (though determined to stick with it).

I'm off to plan my menu!

P.S. I tweeted the other night about an interesting LA Times article on markets battling with manufacturers over the rising price of food. Apparently, markets want manufacturers to reduce the wholesale price of products since commodity prices (e.g., the price of things like milk and corn) have come down, but manufacturers say their costs are still rising.


Anonymous said...

Good luck! I know you have been struggling with this, so I hope it works.

Kiki BE said...

I'm a long time lurker and I wanted to ask you a question about your new shopping technique. I also used to shop at a general grocery store after TJ but I found that I was wasting a lot of money that way and buying too much food. So I switched over to shopping almost exclusively at TJs, but I also find that there are some items that I might need that end up not being there. And I also want to be able to take advantage of the great deals at other grocery stores. So with your new strategy do you sometimes find you have to go back to Ralphs after already shopping at TJs to pick up items that are not at TJs? I guess I'm asking about the time vs. money saving tradeoff.

Good luck with your menu planning!

Chief Family Officer said...

@Jennifer - Thanks!

@Kiki - I sent you an email.