By: Karla Wheaton
When my five-year-old son sat down to dinner one night and asked me this question I knew it was time to make a change.
I started researching meal planning. At first it seemed like a lot more work, but we’ve found that the benefits really do outweigh the effort. It has helped our family eat healthier, eased my stress, and saved time and money.
Four Easy Steps To Meal Planning
Decide to really make an effort to stick with meal planning. Commit yourself to keeping it up.
Sit down and make a list of ten dinners you normally make. List the ingredients you need to make each one. Make copies to use as shopping lists.
Don’t forget to add meal staples to your list such as bread, pasta, rice, tomatoes, garlic, onions, eggs, chicken breasts, and milk.
Check to see what you already have in your fridge, your freezer, and your cabinets before you go to the store. Cross off any items that you find off of your list.
Tips For Success
Have your children help you plan which meals you will eat that week. They will be more likely to want to eat them and you will have less waste.
Make sure you choose quick and easy recipes that use shortcuts rather than ones that make every step from scratch.
Is your partner scheduled to work overtime or does your son have soccer practice? If you know you have a lot going on one night, plan for something quick.
Also plan simpler meals for during the week and save your favorite but a little more complicated recipes for the weekends.
When you can, use coupons and check newspaper ads for sales. Choose meals around weekly deals.
While planning, you do not have to specify which meal is for which day. You can always choose five meals and then pick whichever one you are in the mood for that evening.
Use the “cook once, eat twice strategy”. For example, a meat from a rotisserie chicken can be used for chicken salad sandwiches one night and for soft tacos the next.
Try to make the grocery shopping process as painless as possible. Shop on a day and at a time when the store isn’t too busy.
If you really want to make shopping easier, take your shopping list and organize it by the items’ locations in your grocery store.
Always cook perishables such as fresh fish and salad greens first. It would defeat the purpose to have to throw out items such as fresh produce out at the end of the week because you didn’t use them.
Try to stick with meal planning, but don’t be too hard on yourself. If it is not possible one week, try to get back on board the next. With time you will build up a collection of recipes your family really enjoys and all of this effort will make your life easier.
By: Karla Wheaton
With the current tensions in Libya and other countries in the Middle East, the price of gasoline keeps going up and up. Gas prices near where I live are around $3.50 to $3.60 a gallon. This also comes at a time when many families’ budgets are already stretched to the max.
I don’t know about you, but this situation has me thinking. What can you do to save money on gas while also using less fuel to help the environment?
What can you do to your vehicle?
- Minimize the weight you are carrying around in your car by cleaning out the extra clothes, kids’ sports equipment, and bags of items to donate to charity from your trunk.
- Be sure to check your tire pressure regularly. Under-inflated tires can increase your fuel cost up to thirteen percent.
- Take care of your car by keeping up with regular maintenance and changing your spark-plugs.
- Use regular gas instead of premium. There is little difference in energy content between the two, but the premium can cost twenty to forty cents more per gallon.
- Don’t top off your gas tank at the pump and make sure your fuel tank cap is on tight and working right.
- Keep your luggage inside your car if possible. Using a loaded roof rack increases fuel consumption.
What can you do while driving?
- Drive as if you don’t have brakes and be gentle with the accelerator.
- Avoid idling. If you are waiting for someone and you’ll be parked for ten seconds or longer, turn off your car’s engine. Turning off the engine and then restarting it uses less fuel than idling for any time more than ten seconds. For every two minutes a car is idling, it uses about the same amount of fuel it takes to go about one mile. Idling is also linked to increases in asthma, allergies, heart and lung disease, and cancer.
- Go slower up hills and faster down them.
- Park in the first spot you find rather than driving around for another one. Also park for easy and direct departure.
- In a hybrid, pulse and glide. How does it work? Say you are on a road and want to go sixty miles per hour. Instead of driving along at a steady sixty, you accelerate to seventy (that’s the pulse), and then coast in neutral with the engine off down to fifty (that’s the glide.) This technique can save gas with a hybrid, because you are basically using no gas at all during the glide.
- During the colder months, “warming up your car” really only needs to take thirty seconds rather than ten minutes.
- Don’t drive too fast. One of the biggest gasoline wasters is excess speed. Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly with speeds above fifty-five miles per hour.
- Use the air conditioner less. It can increase fuel costs from thirteen percent up to twenty-one percent.
What sort of lifestyle changes can you make?
- Limit your driving. Find more fun things to do closer to home. Use public transportation like the bus or a train when you can. Carpool, walk, or take your bike. Work at home if your boss will let you.
- Find the best gas prices. The website GasBuddy.com will let you know what the prices are by town or city and then by gas station in your state. Fuel prices can vary ten percent within a few blocks.
- If you have one close by, buy your gas from a discount store like Sam’s or Costco. It doesn’t make much sense to drive too far out of your way to get to one of these places, though.
- Limit your purchases when prices are high. Only fill your tank up halfway when they are higher and completely fill your tank when they are lower.
- Buy a different vehicle – a diesel, a hybrid, a smaller car, a motorcycle, a scooter, or alternative fuel cars such as those that run on biodiesel, compressed natural gas, electricity, or ethanol.
- Instead of having two cars in your family, share one. My husband and I shared one car while we were saving up to buy our home. We saved money by paying less for insurance, car maintenance costs, taxes, and inspection fees.
Some of these tips may seem obvious, but let them serve as good reminders. Even if we can’t run out and buy a hybrid, at least there are some things that we all can do to save some money and help save the planet.
One last thought – in Europe they pay 5.64 Euro or about $7.85 per gallon for gas. Why so much? It is mostly because of taxes. Is that crazy or just really smart? Look how many more people walk, bike, or use public transportation in European countries than in the United States.
[Photo Credit: TahoeSunsets]