I think the biggest money saving thing I do is plan our menus! If I don't, things go to pot in a hurry. When I don't have a menu in place, I'm stopping at the store every couple of days and trying to find something to cook for supper or searching through the freezer trying to find something and hoping that we have other ingredients that might also work with it. I plan at least a week at a time...only dinner though. The kids are at school for lunch and I don't eat lunch and breakfast is a do your own thing. The 12 year old girl usually has eggs or waffles and the 17 year old boy will eat whatever meat we had the night before or a frozen burger or breakfast sandwich. He pretty much eats nothing but meat. Vegetables do not willingly pass his lips. I have become pretty good at sneaking them into our meals lately.
Yesterday I was stressed about a sick pet so I was in cooking mode. (Update: Sick pet was cat, Rocky and he was put to sleep earlier today. RIP Rocky) We did stick to the menu which was Chicken Divan (very tasty..borrowed the recipe from Paula Deen! Food Network Paula Deen's Chicken Divan ) But I also made pasta salad with some tuna, orange jello with carrots and mandarin oranges, Brussels sprouts, and because I'd bought some whole mushrooms that were on sale for .99 and I had too many soft bread crumbs I made stuffed mushrooms. I didn't have a recipe so I pulled the stems off of about a dozen mushrooms and chopped them with 1/4 cup onion and 2 cloves of garlic, minced. Then I cooked two pieces of bacon and sauteed the stems, onion, and garlic in the bacon grease. I added in my excess 1/2 cup of fresh soft bread crumbs, the 2 pieces of bacon, chopped, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper, and about 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese and stuffed it into the mushroom caps then added a few pieces of shredded cheddar and shoved them in the oven for 20 minutes on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Wonder of wonders, the boy decided to try them. He HATES mushrooms..not the flavor, just the texture...he's an Aspy so textures bother him. He ended up liking them. I almost fell off my chair when he had another! I didn't blow our budget and there was enough for lunch today and there is still more pasta salad for lunch tomorrow!
I just use a notebook to plan my menu and I pull out all my recipes that I'll be using (if I use them!) and keep them all together so I can make my grocery list. There's a lot of free menu planners here if you would rather have one printed out. But the important thing is make a plan and stick to it. I have a list of everything the kid's like so if I'm stuck on a day, I can just pull out my list and pick something that I know will be pleasing to everybody. Happy budget cooking!