Plan Your Meals
January Money Diet

Plan Your Meals and Save Big Money

Dear friends,

Welcome to Day #4 of the January Money Diet, and I hope you had a good weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the things you unearthed during the Home Scavenger Hunt Challenge.

Shelley repurposed an old pipe holder into a rack for her art carving knives. Sinead organized her gift bags and wrapping paper. Janicke plans to use up some of her paper towel and toilet paper stash.

Yolanda has been knitting mittens and making barrettes from materials she already has on hand. Robyn started using her stationary bike again. Donna is enjoying the simple pleasures of warm socks and hair conditioner.

Several of you mentioned using nice toiletries and essential oils. Kate’s find might be the most unusual, as she is enjoying some Japanese KitKat candy bars this month. Thank you for sharing your discoveries!

Today’s challenge has the potential to save us all BIG BUCKS.

We deserve to eat really well during the January Money Diet! Cooking at home is also a wonderful way to save significant dollars.

I think you’ll be amazed at how much money you can save this month on food. With a little creativity and planning, cooking at home doesn’t need to be a lot more work.

How to Get Started

If you participated in yesterday’s “Home Scavenger Hunt” challenge, you likely unearthed some pantry items that you can incorporate in meals this month. You may wish to make an inventory of your other basic ingredients so you can use up food from the freezer and refrigerator this month.

For inspiration, you might enjoy checking out the oddly-named but helpful search engine Recipe Puppy. You simply plug in the ingredients you have on hand, and Recipe Puppy provides recipes that match those ingredients.

It’s usually more economical — and healthful — to plan meals using seasonal, regionally-grown produce. You might want to consult your grocery store’s website or weekly sale circular to plan meals based on what’s available at a reasonable price. Here in the U.S., for instance, citrus fruits, hard squash and root vegetables are generally in season during January.

I keep a running list in a small notebook of dishes my family especially likes; then, when I’m low on inspiration I can review the list and get some ideas for sure-to-please meals.

I’ve also collected a bunch of easy, family-friendly dinner recipes on this Dinners and Suppers Pinterest board.

While you’re on Pinterest, check out my friend Kathleen’s boards at The Fresh Cooky. Her wholesome, easy, kid-friendly recipes are gems, and it’s easy to see why her account gets over 3 million views a month!

Another place I find good recipes for home cooks is the Taste of Home website.

Pizza, Please

One dinner my family seems to consistently love is pizza. Back in the olden days I used to call for pizza delivery on a regular basis, but now I prepare a a big batch of pizza dough early in the month and freeze the extra rounds of dough. I remove the dough from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before pizza night, and after that it’s really easy to press the dough in a pan, add the toppings and bake. We can make a great, piping hot pizza with organic ingredients for less than $2.00 using this method.

My homemade pizza recipe (archived over at Happy Simple Living) includes detailed instructions, two crust recipes, a homemade sauce recipe, dozens of topping ideas and lots of photos. If you don’t have a pizza pan you can simply use a cookie sheet for the pizza, and it’s so easy, economical and delicious you may never call for delivery again.

Soup-er Meals

Soup is another great choice in January. I remember how my mom always carefully saved and froze leftover meat and the cooking water from vegetables for homemade broth. Her soups always have the most incredible flavor, and I follow her example now.

If you have a slow cooker, you can prepare a meal in the morning and enjoy an easy dinner that night. A slow cooker is great for a less expensive cut of meat, which becomes nice and tender after cooking at low heat all day.

If you have an Instant Pot, you can make homemade soup in a jiffy. You might find some new ideas from Delish’s 25 Instant Pot soup recipes.

Daily Specials

For easy planning, you may want to assign days to meals during January.

Here’s an example:

* Mondays — casserole night
* Tuesdays — stir-fry night
* Wednesdays — slow cooker night
* Thursdays — pasta night
* Fridays — pizza night
* Saturdays — cook-on-the-grill night
* Sundays — soup night

Breakfast and Lunch Ideas

For breakfast, I like to make a big batch of breakfast burritos and put them in the freezer. We also like homemade Greek yogurt and fresh-baked granola.

Leftovers are great for lunch, as well as salads, sandwiches and soups.

You might want to visit the website of your local grocery store and see what’s new. It may be worthwhile to join your store’s loyalty program. Our King Soopers offers free items periodically, as well as convenient coupons that can be downloaded on the loyalty card so you don’t have to clip and save.

Your Challenge:  Plan Your Meals

Figure out the meals you want to prepare and serve this month. Begin by utilizing what you already have on hand. Try to take advantage of seasonal foods and specials at your grocery store, and stay within your budget. You’ll be way ahead in the challenge to spend less and eat well this month.

Bonus challenge: Plan to cook a double batch of at least one of your meals, and freeze half.

Do you have some favorite recipes you can share with us? Tips for saving money on meals? I invite you to share your thoughts and ideas in the Comments section of this post or on the Money Diet Facebook Group page.

I hope your new year is off to a very good start, and I’m so glad we’re supporting each other during this spending break.

Best always,

Eliza Cross's signature

P.S. BIG thanks to the 2021 January Money Diet’s generous sponsor YourMoneyFurther.com and the Open Your Eyes to a Credit Union campaign. To find a credit union near you to stash your JMD cash, use this handy Credit Union Finder.

P.S. If you use Pinterest to save ideas, here’s a handy pin linked to this article:

Plan meals and save money

Eliza Cross is the author of 15 books, including recent titles like Bacon Beans and Beer and Small Bites. She blogs at ElizaCross.com and is the founder of the BENSA Bacon Lovers Society. Her articles have appeared in publications like Sunset, Parents and Writers' Digest. Eliza lives near Denver with her family.

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