So you've committed to eating at home in order to forge your way to fiscal fitness. But one day the doldrums set in, and you discover that you'd rather do anything than cook another meal at home. Don't speed off for a burger just yet. Here's nine ways to refresh your cooking routine.
- Take a week off. We all need a break now and then. For one week, have everyone eat things like cereal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or sliced up apples, cheese and bologna. If necessary, warn your family in advance that you won't be cooking for a week, and consider using paper plates to eliminate dish-washing. Give yourself as much as a rest as possible.
- Hit the library. Dedicate an afternoon to digging but not in your backyard though, unless you're planting a garden. Search your local library, the Internet, or your own stash of cookbooks. Fire up your coffee pot, sit down, and take a good look at those recipes. Are there any that sound appetizing, but don't require expensive ingredients? Jot down a few and try one a week.
- Put the kids in charge. If you have kids, let them plan dinner every once in a while. Just make sure the little ones are supervised, and that the meals they're choosing don't require ingredients that cost too much.
- Splurge on something you don't usually buy. Find an area to cut back on in your regular grocery bill for the week and use the extra money to buy a special ingredient for a recipe you normally wouldn't make. Or take the extra available money and buy something from the freezer section that you only need to heat up, like frozen pizzas.
- Buck the norm. Sure, we've all had pancakes for dinner, but how about a "Bread Meal" or a "Granola Meal?" In the More-With-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre, there are ideas like this and others. For the "Bread Meal," set out slices of homemade bread along with nut butters, cheese, and raw veggies. The "Granola Meal" involves setting out a batch of granola, yogurt, and fruits. Everyone assembles their own meal, depending on what they'd like.
- Find a friend to swap with. This doesn't save you from having to cook, but at least you'll be getting something different from what you always make. Double the meal you're swapping, and freeze half of it for yourself to use at a later date. This could be a regular thing. Maybe you can swap meals once a week.
- Go around the world in seven days. Every day for one week, visit a different country's cuisine. It's easy to get carried away with this and make exotic, expensive dishes, but it's possible to do without breaking the budget. For example, to visit Italy's cuisine you might want to make some polenta. This only requires cornmeal, water, and salt for the basic version. You could visit a different country every night for one week, or pick one night of the week to be "Around-the-World Night."
- Get spicy. Learn a little bit about which herbs and spices go with what foods. Next time you cook omelets, throw a little tarragon in them, or try thyme in your carrots and potatoes. Fresh herbs are wonderful but expensive, so consider planting an herb garden if you don't already have one.
- Spring clean. I don't know about you, but this cook benefits enormously from a fresh environment. Wipe down those cabinets, spend some time cleaning up that stove, clean off your windowsills, and change the scenery a little bit. Attitude counts for a lot, so if you feel better when your kitchen looks clean, invest some time straightening it up.
Hopefully these ideas will inspire you through any dips in motivation, and you'll be on your way toward saving money!
Take the Next Step:
- Have the cooking doldrums set in and you just can't stand the idea of cooking even one more meal? Don't despair and don't order takeout just yet. Try one or more of the above ideas and see if you're once again inspired. I can attest that #7 is a lot of fun. We do this in our household periodically. Just jump on the Internet to find ethnic, yet frugal recipes and take your family to another country for the evening. For some inspiration, peruse World Cuisine recipes from allrecipes.com.
- To explore meal swapping a little more, don't miss The Great American Supper Swap.
- For all things "Groceries & Food," please visit the Dollar Stretcher library section.
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