By 2000 the kids are all involved in activities and our family is busy. Since we home school everyone is home all the time, meaning: eating all meals at home. It seemed that as soon as the breakfast dishes were done it was time for lunch and then dinner. I felt like I could never get ahead.
I began planning all 3 meals each week. That does not mean that all meals were fancy, but I knew what we were having. This took all the guessing out of the constant question: “What is there to eat?” I also cut out all snacks at this point. Our kitchen had turned into an all-you-can-eat buffet and seemed to be open 24 hours a day. With all the snacks, so one was hungy for meals but were hungry 1 hour later.
With menu planning I could be more prepared and felt like I used my time better. The kids were old enough to start helping with kitchen chores and were enlisted for various prep and cleaning jobs as their skill allowed. The older kids could prepare simple meals for themselves and younger siblings. Just becasue we had a menu did not mean that it was all gourmet food. Realistically, most of the lunch foods were simple: grilled hot dogs with pork and beans, mac and cheese, turkey sandwiches, etc. Breakfasts were planned too, but many days it was cold cereal of your choice. I would cook hot breakfast on days that we did not have morning activities away from the house. Planning did help me to add more variety to our meals rather than just having the same things.
I am using a lot of food to feed us. I have determined the store that I think has the best consistantly low prices on the items that I purchase most often. I have found that generic or store brands of most items are comparable to the name brands and generaly cost less.
Again I asked Tim about store brand items. He said that generally store brand and name brand items are made on the same assembly line. For some items, like cereal, may have a slightly different formulation, but are generally the same. Other items like produce the only difference is size, not quality. Producers have to sell produce by the case and must have a specified number in each case, like 80 apples. So apples that are too big or too small for the 80 count box are called B quality. Not because the apples are of less quality, but mearly the wrong size. The good news for me is that these items are often priced quite a bit less. Often the B quality produce is sold in preweighed bags.
I have learned to be very flexible in how I purchase the items we need. If bags of apples are less per pound, I buy them in the bag. But if they are less to buy them individually, I buy them that way. I am always compairing produce prices to make sure I am getting the best deal.
Since most of the items I buy are store brand and produce, there are very few coupons. So I have not used a lot of coupons for food items. I like using coupons, but only for items I use and that are less than the store brand.
Next: Cooking tools and gadgets