If you’ve been following Crumbs for the past couple weeks you know that Mr. Crumbs is out of town. With him safely tucked away at training, the kids and I have been eating whatever suits our fancy. Spaghetti… again? Sure! Pancakes for breakfast AND dinner? Why not?!
The kids and I are crashing Mr. Crumbs’ hotel room this weekend and we’re going to a Giants game tonight. With that said, we have no meal plan whatsoever.
I’m bringing the blender for smoothies, some trail mix to replenish Mr. Crumbs’ stash and we’re having garlic fries at the game. Other than that, we’re making the best of the hotel continental breakfast and the gift cards Mr. Crumbs recently received for his birthday (thanks Nana!).
This post isn’t for naught though – I do want to address one of YOUR meal planning woes that I recently encountered this past week myself:
Meal Planning Problem #7: Trying New Foods Without Overspending
This problem hit home with me this past week as I tallied up my receipts for the first half of the month. Without realizing it at the time of the purchase, I was forking over a good portion of my meager grocery budget on several “experimental” items, not knowing if they’d be worth the pay off in the end. (Which some of them weren’t.)
How are we supposed to balance trying newer, healthier foods into our regular eating habits without overspending our grocery budgets?
SET ASIDE EXTRA FUNDS
When we try something new, there’s a possibility that it won’t go over well with the family. We’ll be left with eating it anyway or buying something else to replace it. More often that not, it’s going to be the latter of the two. This means that while you likely will have the money for the new item (since it’s usually replacing something else), you may not have the money for the replacement item.
Before trying something new, make sure you have enough money in the grocery budget to cover both the new item AND the old item. The easiest way to do this is to wait until the grocery budget resets. Spending the last few dollars on a new, experimental item is not a good idea, unless you…
TRY THE NEW ITEM WHILE YOU STILL HAVE SOME OF THE OLD ITEM LEFT.
This is the option I chose last year when we tried quinoa for the first time. My goal was to use quinoa in place of rice, but my first attempt was awful and the family was not ready to give it a second chance right away! Thankfully we still had rice left. If we didn’t, my only options would have been to either buy rice or re-plan the meals that required it. Re-planning meals isn’t always an option either, especially if everything on the meal plan has already been purchased.
FOCUS ON ONE AREA AT AT TIME.
This is fairly easy to implement. Instead of looking at grains AND dairy AND meat all at the same time, choose just one to concentrate on for a few months. The last series covered fats in depth, and that was an ideal time to concentrate on improving that area in our kitchen. While immersed in education, how-to’s and research, we could make better decisions on what we specifically wanted to improve within the realm of fat. For example, taking a look at our baking fats (butter and coconut oil) and trying to find a good sources for each. Then looking at cooking fats and seeing where we could specifically improve those. Speaking of research…
RESEARCH DILIGENTLY, AHEAD OF TIME.
I don’t know about you, but there’s not much wiggle room in my grocery budget. We’re usually down to the last $5-$10 right up to the last day or two of the grocery cycle. Every dollar counts!
You want to know what it is you’re buying, why you’re buying it and where you can find the best price. Fully researching new items ahead time means that each expense is a fully informed decision. As a by-product, each purchase is purposeful and nothing is considered a waste.
If I had done my research ahead of time, I would have known that the eggs I bought earlier in the month were actually WORSE than the eggs I had been previously buying… and I wouldn’t have wasted $6.30 on something that didn’t provide any more nourishment than its conventional counterpart.
Once you’ve decided on an area to improve…
TRY JUST ONE NEW THING AT A TIME.
This is a classic a rookie mistake and the one I made last week. I tried to buy raw milk AND pastured eggs, both of which are expensive. I should have gone with one or the other, that way if it failed, I only had to replace the one, instead of both.
The same goes for if we ended up liking both. If the eggs turned out to be the most amazing eggs ever, you bet I’d want to get more ASAP! But by taking on more than one at a time, it forces me to choose one over the other to replenish. The goal is to replace the bad in our habit with good, not choosing one good over another good.
IMPLEMENT THE CHANGE SLOWLY.
One of the changes we’re making this year is switching to wheat flour. After spending 30+ years eating baked goods made with white flour, the taste needs to be acquired by half of our family. In addition, it’s baking properties are different than white flour.
If I had started making 100% whole wheat breads and baked goods right off the bat, there would have been a good chance the recipes wouldn’t turn out well (if at all). And if the recipe DID turn out, the family may not have even liked the taste.
That leaves me with either re-buying whole wheat flour (which still costs more) and trying again, or I’m going back to white flour again and not making any progress towards the goal of switching to whole wheat flour. In both cases, I’ve also wasted all the other ingredients required for the recipes – yeast, sweeteners, eggs, salt…
When you’ve fully researched and decided on a change, gradually include it in your diet. You’ll likely have greater success in keeping the change in both budget and family arenas. By the way, having the family on board with your changes is just as important as staying within budget. Making changes that others refuse to go along with only creates more work on your end (and tends to cost more money too).