Saturday, November 3, 2007

Fun Food Fixes

A relatively common conversation I run into with various friends and acquaintances is that of food. Or more precisely, food budgets. In this economy where prices are rapidly going up, how do we afford good food (I despise the fact that healthy food is so outrageously expensive!) and what do we do about those days when we come home from work or whatever and we just don't want to cook dinner? Going out to eat will blow a food budget in no time flat, yet it can be such a tempting solution sometimes!

Well, personally, I am now attempting three new ideas to solve some of our food crises that arise.

1. Planning! Now, don't laugh at me. I know this is such a basic tool, but I'm so bad about planning out ahead of time what our meals are going to be. So, for the last few weeks, Chris and I have been sitting down on Saturdays and determining what meals we are going to make for the week ahead, what items we need to buy to complete those meals, etc. Now, has this worked perfectly since we've started doing this? No. Changing several years of habits is hard and (for this last week) cooking when my kitchen floor is torn up because of mold just wasn't appetizing to me! However, I think we're getting the concept, and we shall see where it takes us.

2. Share Colorado. What is Share Colorado? It is an non-profit organization (actually through Catholic Charities) which - because of its size - can buy huge amounts of food for way cheaper than the individual would pay at the grocery store, and then proceeds to turn around and sell that food to individuals families and groups for extremely low prices.

Different churches can volunteer to be host sites for this program (my brother's church is where we go), and people order through that church and pick up their groceries every month at that location.

I really like it because (a) unlike some programs of this nature, you are not required to buy a certain amount of food from them or spend a set amount of money (b) they actually sell (again, unlike many of the organizations of this nature I've run into the past) fresh fruits and vegetables of all sorts. The meat is always good quality; we've never run into any out-dated products. And the amount of food you can get for the money you spend is amazing! Plus, you can donate extra money for some of the basic food boxes to go to families in need, and I know the food is good because it's the exact same stuff I'm eating!

This program has really started changing some of our meal planning and food budgeting just because of the amount we save. I highly recommend it!

3. Social Suppers. This is another fun organization I have recently gotten into. And this is for those days when I don't want to come home and cook a meal. Social Suppers essentially is a place you can go where - for pretty good prices - you can assemble all the ingredients for several meals which then get placed into your freezer until you're ready to cook it. Then you pull it out, thaw it, pop it into the oven, and the only cooking left to do is any sides you might want to have with it.

Now, these are a little more expensive than if I would have just made this meal at home from our own ingredients. However, it has several advantages:

1. It's cheaper than eating out, so we're saving ourselves money there, and we actually get more food from these meals than if we went out to eat.
2. The meals are varied (anad amazing!) and provide some interesting new experiences to our dining life (along with some great new ideas for meals I can make).
3. I go with some girl friends of mine, so it's a fun time to socialize and hang out!

So, these are my latest solutions to the never-ending problem of What's for Dinner?!

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