I’m an empty nester. I love being an empty nester! Life is a lot less frantic as an empty nester. I have fond memories of the years when my nest was full, but absolutely an empty nest = a more relaxed lifestyle! I don’t have to cook 3 meals a day for a family of 6 any more. So, you’d think that I wouldn’t need to buy as much at the grocery store and that my monthly expenses would be way down in that category, right? Wrong!! I’m always shocked when my tab rings up in the $80-100 range each week (depending on whether or not I’m getting paper goods and other non-food items). How does that keep happening??? Food prices are up so that’s part of it, and I do indulge in a few things I don’t really need, so that’s part of it too. But every time I get that total, I wonder how much higher would that number would be if I was still feeding a family??? Yikes!
If you’re having that sticker shock too when you go to the grocery store, here are a few tips that might help trim that total a little bit. You probably already know all these, but maybe you’re not really doing them (like me!) Hope you find something that’s useful!
1. Make a plan and a list before you go!This tip helps tremendously! It will save you not only money when you shop, but the most precious thing of all–your time! One of my daughters has done this faithfully for years, and she’s told me what a stress-reliever it is to know what’s for dinner before she leaves the house in the morning! If something needs to thaw, it comes out of the freezer and into the fridge the night before. If meat needs to marinate, it does so all day. There’s no mad scramble when everyone gets home and kids need to do homework, and everyone’s tired, and everyone’s hungry, and everything’s crazy! Whoever’s in charge of dinner can get things going quickly and get dinner ready so that everyone can get on with their evening activities. No scrambling to throw something together with whatever’s in the fridge/pantry–the decisions have been made and all necessary ingredients have been purchased and are ready to go!
2. Do your own prep work! It’s tempting to purchase fruits and veggies already peeled and cut; or to buy meats already prepared to just heat up; or to get prepared foods from the deli or chef’s case. Sometimes that’s a necessary solution in a real time crunch. But if you do that on a regular basis, you’re really paying a lot for someone else to do the work. It’s pretty easy to peel and chop your own onions, cut up a whole chicken instead of paying a premium for boneless chicken breasts, or doubling a recipe and freezing the extras for another day. The savings add up!
3. Do your own cooking! Cooking from scratch seems to be almost a lost art! Most people (and I’m guilty of this too!) “assemble” a meal, they don’t really cook it. Cooking involves taking food from the raw state to the serving. Re-heating something, cooking a frozen entree, opening a can, or putting together some combination of the preceeding, is not cooking, it’s assembling! Learn to cook and do it on a regular basis. Not only is it more economical (fast food may be fast, but it’s not cheap!), it’s potentially healthier (if you’re not frying everything!). When you cook from scratch, you control what goes into the meal you serve and you can do it without all the chemicals and additives that pre-prepared food contains. It’s not hard to do–can you read? Then you can follow a recipe! Try it sometime! Here’s an easy one to get you started:
Slow-Roasted Garlic and Lemon Chicken (adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe)–this one is good to make when you have time and then use extra chicken for other meals:
1 whole chicken, cut up–leave skin on
1 head garlic, separated into unpeeled cloves
2 unwaxed lemons, cut into chunky eighths
small handful fresh thyme (or use dried)
3 T. olive oil
1/2-1/3 c. white wine (I buy those 4-packs of small bottles and use 1 whole bottle)
pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 300. Put chicken pieces into a roasting pan. Add garlic cloves, lemon chunks, and thyme; add oil and mix everything together. Spread misture out, making sure chicken pieces are skin-side up. Sprinkle wine over all and grind pepper over. Cover lightly with foil and bake for 2 hours.
Remove foil from pan. Increase oven temp to 400 and cook uncovered for another 30-45 minutes until skin is golden brown. Serve from the pan. Chicken will be super tender and juicy, falling off the bone. Use leftovers for soup, casseroles, or other recipes. Be sure to use good lemons and fresh garlic for best flavor and wonderful aroma!
I have a couple more tips, but I’ll save them for next time! Try these and see if they make a difference when you check out. I’m going to–I’ll let you know if I see a difference!