Working part-time takes me away from our home for a significant portion of the the week now. That's a lot less time in the kitchen but I am looking for and finding routines that see us continuing to save money on food. Given food can be one of a household's biggest expenses, I am trying to make sure the amount we spend doesn't blow out with last-minute takeaways!
One of the routines that I find really works for me, in terms of keeping homemade food on our table and in our lunchboxes, is baking on Sunday mornings. I get up early, when all is still quiet, and bake at least two items ready for the week ahead. Biscuits, slices, muffins and cupcakes that freeze well are popped into lunchboxes for morning tea and are ready for a hungry, high school boy to "gobble up" after school.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes
Being organised for breakfasts is another routine that is working well. There's always eggs and either baby spinach or leftover roasted veggies for omelettes at our place. This is my favourite breakfast, as I really believe that it's important to have some veg at brekkie time. I am NOT a fan of boxed cereals as they typically have significant amounts of sugar in them, so on my days off work I make homemade granola and batches of breakfast muffins. I adore Jude Blereau's muffin recipes as they are made with healthy and nourishing ingredients. I have a tub of her breakfast muffins, from her cookbook Whole Food for the Family, in my freezer right now and it's just so easy to take one or two out to defrost for a quick breakfast if I'm running late. Faster that a drive through queue even!
(A lot less sugar than supermarket cereals.)
Using up the food we do spend our money on is something else that I am trying to keep on top of. If I buy fruit in bulk, like the tray of mangoes I bought earlier in the Summer for a really good price, then I chop them up and freeze portions. It's easy then take out a portion of frozen fruit chunks for smoothies. There's always at least one banana in our fruit bowl and at times they reach that over-ripe state where the only thing I think they are good for is banana bread.
Making sure food, like these over-ripe bananas, doesn't go to waste...
Banana bread instead!
Freezing extra fruit.
(Ready for quick and easy smoothies after school.)
Making breadcrumbs from the ends of loaves.
(I use these when I'm make meatballs.)
Another routine working for me is doing my grocery shopping on Friday mornings straight after school drop-off. I don't work Fridays so this means I am not rushing around the shops and I have time to spot bargains. I picked up some bottles of our favourite pasta sauce (and one with a much lower % of sugar than many on the shelves) for half price last week. I bought bulk and have these stored in my little stockpile.
A bargain on our favourite pasta sauce.
(I now have many bottles in my stockpile.)
When I do forget to defrost something for dinner, which I inevitably do, then these bottles of pasta sauce come in very handy. One of my go-to meals, besides homemade pizza, is to fry up a chopped onion with some diced bacon and capsicum (if I have it). I then add lots of diced zucchini (I always have zucchini) and fry that until it's cooked but not squishy. I usually throw in a handful of frozen peas too! I then turn the heat down and add a bottle of this pasta sauce. While all that is happening, I boil some pasta. Mixed through the pasta, and with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, it's yum and it costs a lot less than takeaway.
Leftovers are still making it into lunchboxes though we have 'tweaked' the lunch-making routine somewhat. When I wasn't working, I would pack lunches each morning. Now, my sweet hubby makes his own lunch the night before, popping leftovers in, making sandwiches and getting fruit and yoghurt ready. I still make my lunch and my son's lunch early in the morning but somehow, only having two to pack instead of three seems to work better up at our kitchen bench. I have no idea why!
These are the routines working for us at the moment. I think those working and trying to save money at the same time would have their own routines that work for them. I'd love to hear what you do at your place!