Of course there are some nights when I don’t cook for one reason or another, so we either eat leftovers, fast food, or whatever we can find in the kitchen (we call that fend for yourself).
I understand why you can’t cook
Now before you think I don’t get it, trust me, I do. I understand that there are some people who would love to cook dinner every night for their family but they just can’t, whether it’s because of their work schedule, they don’t know how to cook, or just don’t like to. That’s okay, don’t ever feel bad for not being that wife or mother who doesn’t cook.
I was lowkey groomed for this task. My mom started teaching me how to cook when I was 9 years old. By the time I was in the 7th grade, I was cooking full dinners for the family when my mom was unable to. Then there came a time when it was my responsibility.
So to be fair, it’s been instilled in me to cook. But it’s also something I love to do because I love food!
However, I’m not here to try to convince you to cook every night for your family or make you feel bad for not doing it.
Why you should try:
- It saves money – Making dinner can help you save money on food when you have an entire family to feed. Yes, there’s a dollar menu, but that still adds up.
- It can be healthier – CAN is the big word here. You can still cook unhealthy and processed food. I know I do sometimes, but for the most part, whenever I can I try to use healthier ingredients or use ingredients as close to their natural state as possible. Some people call it cooking from scratch, but that’s just how I prefer to cook.
- Lunch the next day – This goes back into saving money as well. When you cook dinner you will likely have leftovers and you can use them for lunch at work the next day. This way you don’t have an excuse to go out and buy lunch.
How I make it easy
Although I love cooking, generally it can be very time consuming having to do shopping and cooking and everything else in between. I haven’t always been super busy, so there were habits that I had no reason to change until I did have a reason to do so.
I started to think of ways I could save time while still being able to feed my family and get other things done. I used to go grocery shopping once a month and bought meat and sides for the meals I was used to preparing. Then I would go to the store every day after work to get the missing ingredients I needed for dinner that night. I would figure out what I was going to make for dinner that night during the day while I was at work.
After doing some research and trying a few things, here’s what works for me:
- Create a menu – I create a menu every week on Friday evenings which lists what we will eat for dinner the next week. When I’m feeling really good, I always plan breakfast. This also helps you to plan if you actually need to cook every night. I know if I am making spaghetti, that’s dinner for two nights. If have an event or workshop to attend in the middle of the week, I know that I need to make a quick dinner or plan for leftovers.
- Make a grocery list – Now that I know what I am going to cook for the week, I can now figure out what ingredients I need to get from the store. This part is crucial for me because my rule is if it’s not on the list, it doesn’t get in the cart. This goes for everyone in my family, because it helps us stay in budget and not buy a bunch of junk food.
- Go shopping only once a week – I learned that by going to the store multiple times a week, even when it was just to get a few items, I would still get items I didn’t really need or just because I was craving them. So I found myself going outside of the budget.
- Go shopping during non-busy days and hours – I used to go shopping on Saturday or Sunday, and sometimes I still do when time doesn’t permit during the week, or I have slacked off and didn’t plan like I should have. But I like to go on Friday evenings, as for some reason it’s not as busy. Fridays are also good because I will have Saturday and Sunday meals planned and it prevents us from eating out. Its so easy to find an excuse to eat out on the weekend.
- Look up sales and coupons prior to your shopping trip – If you have a list of items you need, it’s good to check and see if there are any sales right now or coupons. It also helps if you see some items that may not be on your list but you may need to add. When I see a sale in the store that I didn’t know the store was offering, I still feel the need to purchase it because it’s too good an offer to pass up. When looking at the ads ahead of time, I can talk myself out of purchasing the sale items I don’t need before even going to the store, which saves us money.
- Take cash – If you are budgeting and serious about sticking to it, TAKE CASH! If you have a budget of $150 for groceries that week and it’s time to check out and you go over the amount, you have to put back some of those items you snuck into the cart that weren’t on the list to begin with, or that you really don’t need. It also encourages you to stick with the stuff on your list because it’s really embarrassing when you have to tell the cashier to take some things off. It’s funny because I know a lot of us can relate, but while it’s happening to you, it’s not so funny.
The hardest part
I do this ALMOST every week. Being realistic, I have to be disciplined and determined to stick to the plan, but there are some weeks when I really don’t have it in me (I’m just being honest).
Having the discipline to sit down once a week to plan out your meals and prepare your list doesn’t seem like it would take a lot of time to do. But after a long work week when all you want to do is binge watch TV and spend time with your family, it’s hard to force yourself to take care of business.
Eating my lunch used to be hard for me, but now not so much. Before, if I craved something other than my lunch, I would just go and buy it and not eat what I had brought. This of course defeats the purpose of planning ahead.
Sticking to the menu was also a tough one for me. I can resist eating out, but there are some times when I’m not in the mood for cooking or whatever I had planned.
Questions of the week:
How often do you cook dinner?
Do you enjoy cooking and grocery shopping?
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Listen to this episode on the Ny’s Growing Space Podcast