Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Number 2 on My Thursday Thirteen Ways That I Save Money

I bet you thought I would never post this. Well, to be honest, I completely forgot! This is number two on my list of Thirteen Ways that I Save Money - Planning Ahead.

Not only does planning ahead help out with saving money, but it is a must when you have food allergies in your family. And two of my favorite things are saving money and making our life with food allergies manageable.

Some of the ways that I plan ahead are having a "to do" list for every day that I am not working. This will list everything from returning books to the library, baking muffins, dropping off things at Goodwill, to ironing and laundry. Anything that needs to get done, including phone calls that I need to make will  go on my list. I found my lists here. I love this site, there are all kinds of lists that you can print off.

I plan ahead on just about everything. When I grocery shop, I do what I call "offensive shopping". Which means that I buy things at the lowest possible price, knowing that I might not need it now, but will definately in the future. For instance, when green peppers are at their lowest price of the season, I buy a bunch and cut and freeze them for when I need them during the out-of-season times. I do the same things with onions, fruit, meat, I will freeze just about anything for use later.

So by planning ahead with my grocery shopping, I am able to buy things at great prices and have them there when I need them, so that I don't have to  run to  the store because I planned on making something with ground beef. I have 20 pounds, packaged individually in my freezer that I got for $1.25 a pound!

When I have leftovers, which I discuss here. I make sure that I plan ahead and not only label them (with item and date), but make sure that I divide them properly for future use. So for instance, if we have baked chicken one night, I will take the chicken off the bone and freeze it that way. That way it is ready to use, already in bite size pieces.

As for hamburger, I buy whatever is on sale and freeze it. But if I have bought it in a bulk 8 pound package, I will individually wrap one pound sections in wax paper, then put many one pound helpings into a large freezer bag. I do this the day I bring home my meat. I always separate it out into the proper sizings before I freeze them. This way when I need a pound, I simply take a wax paper section out and reseal the bag. This way I am not trying to thaw 8 pounds of meat when I only need one.

When I make a large batch of pasta sauce, I make enough for 4-5 meals. Same thing, I make sure that I package enough for one meal,  label them and put them in the freezer for another night.

I also plan ahead by making a two week meal plan. What I normally do is when I come home from the grocery store, as I am putting my groceries away, I keep a notepad close by. As I come across  my pork shoulder, I write it on the list, same for lasagna noodles, hotdogs, chicken, you get the picture. Then I will sit down with my meal plan papers, printed from and go to work. I make sure that I keep in mind what activities we have going on that week and also how many days a week I work.

On the days I am home, I often make not only that days meal, but the meal  for the following day when I work. It is super easy since I have the oven on anyway. If I am baking a chicken, I might also make meatballs for the next days spaghetti. If we are having homemade pizza or bread sticks, I will make the dough the day before when I am home so they are ready on a work day. I night throw in a roast at the same time as my chicken. So that I can make shredded barbeque the next day.

Another way I plan ahead is with baking. When I know that we have 2 birthday parties to attend this month, I make sure that I have cake made. I will make an allergy safe cake, ice it and then cut them into individual servings, wrap in wax paper and freeze in a large container. Then I simply pull out a piece of cake and put it in a container and by the time we get to the party, it is thawed and ready for my daugther to eat.

As for snacks, we go through a ton. The older 2 girls like to pack their lunchs, they can be a bit picky with the school lunches. And since I am home half the time, we just go through a lot it seems. I always have fruit on hand and veggies of course. But I also like to have some sort of crunchy, salty snack. We usually have pretzels and I will buy the generic rice "chex" cereal. So about every other week I will make a big batch of homemade Chex mix.

We cannot buy many store bought snacks due to the food allergies, with the exception of very few. Homemade snack mix is not only healthier, but by making it at home, I make sure that it is safe for my daughter to eat.

I do  the same thing with muffins, granola, oatmeal, cookies, I make all my own at home, from scratch. I usually make a batch or double batch and always freeze some for later. Again, planning ahead for those mornings when we are rushed. Or when the kids are hungry and are not in the mood for fruit!

Dealing with food allergies means that you cannot count on others to make sure that they have safe food for you or your child, you have to do it. By planning ahead, you can do this easily and don't have to be stressed and rushed.

I also do it to make sure that my child doesn't miss out. Sure there will be times that we simply cannot help it, that she will not be able to have certain foods to eat and will have to simply deal with it. But a little planning and work on my part means that she can have cake at the party too, or a snack at a friends, or popcorn at the movies. It is the simply everyday things that are taken for granted. But they can mean a lot to a little 4 year old with food allergies.

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesdays and Frugal Fridays.

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