Seven Money Saving Menu Strategies for Every Day of the Week
Need some ideas for saving money on your meal menus? Hey, life gets crazy and having a few standby ideas that can be implemented simply and affordably is critical to maintaining budget discipline. Here are seven streamlined suggestions. One for every day of the week.
Have a “big night in”.
Everyone knows it's cheaper to eat at home. But for at least one night a week, make it a big deal. Pretend you're having a party, even if you're not. Your family will dig it. Pick something fantastic to serve and go for the appetizers, full dessert, bar items and mocktails for the kids. Even a fifties diner style dinner would be fun for families. Think topping options for your burgers and homemade milkshakes and fries.
Sunday soup night.
Incorporating soup at least one night a week is a good idea in its own right, but doing it on Sunday just might be inspired. It's a day when many people are wanting to relax more with family anyway, and you can even pre-prep it the night before and have the crock pot standing by. Get some discounted whole grain dinner rolls to store in the freezer and toss a few in the toaster oven for a frugal healthy side. Gather a few nifty options for soup garnishes, and you'll feel like you're eating at a café for sure. Some really great news? Chronicle Books has a new title on this very subject featuring a gazillion and one ideas for tasty nourishing soups. (I've already requested a review copy from my publicist colleague there, so stay tuned.)
For some people, this won't be difficult to incorporate. For those who are tasked with cooking for serious meat and potato lovers though, some additional creativity may be in order. Never fear. We have an article or two on Wise Bread that will help get you started.
One dish wonders.
Pick a night of the week to do a meal that's more or less presented in one dish. This doesn't have to be super boring. Think breakfast rice, pizza, carbonara or stuffed pumpkin. Of course there's nothing wrong with hash or a killer casserole.
Frugal family favorite night.
At our house, it's Wednesday pasta night. A full blown spaghetti dinner, or some variation of it will always be on the menu mid-week in our little corner of the world. At your house, it could be falafel, tacos, fish sticks, meatball subs with veggie sticks or even chili-topped potatoes with shredded cheese. The idea is to find something super affordable that everybody loves and make it a tradition. You'll have at least one night a week that you don't have to plan for and be able to skip the finicky eater arguments all together. If it's a recipe you can assembly cook ahead, all the better. You can also build in some flexibility with this strategy by having several frugal favorites to choose from. For example, breakfast for dinner, or not being able to pick one absolute favorite could be addressed this way. Just make sure you include the yum factor as well as the cost.
Experiment with ethnic.
I'm certainly not the first on Wise Bread to recommend this. Others have gone before me, for certain. But I am going to go on record as suggesting you incorporate something ethnic and frugal at least one night every week. With the unbelievable variety out there, you can guarantee that whatever night you routinely pick to do this won't be at risk of becoming the “hum-drum” night. No groans here. Who knows, you might even find a new frugal family favorite.
Quick and convenient.
We all have at least one night a week that's busier than all the rest. Pick that one to indulge in those slightly pricier convenience meals that have been calling your name. It's way better than dropping a hundred bucks on a dinner for two. A few suggestions? Frozen pizzas and lasagnas with a pre-washed salad mix, rotisserie chicken with rice and a simple side, or one of several money saving restaurant articles by Julie, Xin and Debbie. You might also enjoy the happy hour and mantinee combo suggestion in Eight Cheap Dates, or some of these sandwich ideas.
I chose these seven for several reasons. They are streamlined enough to fit a busy lifestyle, flexible enough to accommodate food boredom and affordably implemented across a variety of income levels. If you have another strategy, or a slamming recipe suggestion that fits into any of these categories, by all means share the love. Looking forward to hearing from you.