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Survive This Economy: Plan Meals Ahead To Save Time, Money

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Chef Kendra Peterson gives Sinora Wright some tips about planning ahead for family meals and cooking food for several meals at once so food is ready to heat up quickly on later days to save time and, ultimately, save money on groceries. (Credit: CBS)

Chef Kendra Peterson gives Sinora Wright some tips about planning ahead for family meals and cooking food for several meals at once so food is ready to heat up quickly on later days to save time and, ultimately, save money on groceries. (Credit: CBS)

Dorothy Tucker Dorothy Tucker
Dorothy Tucker has served as a reporter for CBS 2 Chicago since 1984....
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CHICAGO (CBS) – With the cost of food going up, everyone is looking to save money in the kitchen.

We’re not talking about clipping coupons, we’re talking simple solutions, something the Wright family is looking for.

The suburban couple has four kids, and a very busy schedule, so they’ve been learning the secret to cooking quick, healthy meals that cost less than $3 per person.

As CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports, it’s a tip that could help your family save money too.

This week, Sinora Wright planned ahead and prepared meals for five days with the help of chef Kendra Peterson.

    RECIPES:

Balsamic Rosemary Chicken Breasts with Steamed Green Beans and Smashed Sweet Potatoes
Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Orange-Avocado Salad and Brown Rice or Sweet Potatoes
Vegetable Stir Fry with Cilantro, Green Onion and Brown Rice
Chicken and Quick Tomato Sauce Pasta with Spinach
Roasted Vegetable Pasta Bake with Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce and Basil

Peterson was helping the Wrights make quick, convenient meals at home, instead of eating out and spending too much money.

“You’re running with the kids; ballet, dancing, theater. You get tired,” Marcus Wright said.

“I’ll be out, and come in, and I have the kids, and everyone’s hungry. It’s like, what can I cook real quick?” Sinora Wright said, “So, if there’s nothing I can cook like a like pizza, or something quick like that, or pasta, or macaroni and cheese, we’ll go out to McDonald’s sometimes … to grab something quick.”

Peterson’s number one tip for saving money on meals is to plan dinners ahead before you go to the grocery.

Otherwise, Peterson said “you end up with all these extra things that you don’t end up cooking. Especially produce; if you don’t use the produce then you have to throw it away, so you end up wasting a lot of money just by not planning ahead.”

Peterson helped Sinora prepare five different meals for about $60 total. Sinora was instructed to mix and match for dishes that will include chicken, pork, pasta, rice, and veggies.

Here’s one trick to saving time:

“If you’re gonna make brown rice for one dish, just make double the amount, because you can freeze the extra. And then that way, you always have brown rice ready,” Peterson said.

You can also make extra pasta. Just add a little olive oil to the extra cooked pasta and put it in the fridge to reheat and use later.

By preparing everything early, when the family gets in from a soccer game, Peterson said, “it’s already ready. So, I kind of tried to play with all the ingredients to make sure it was minimal prep time, minimal ingredients, for a lower cost.”

That’s the biggest bonus. The meals cost about $2.40 per person. That’s a lot less than the $6.00 per person if they eat out. So, every time they stay in, they’re saving the family more than $18.00.

Sinora said the tips will make life much easier for her family.

“It’s immensely easier,” she said. “Not only physically, but mentally. .. I can be relaxed, you know, knowing that I can cook food that my kids can eat, that’s healthy for them.”

Tasting one of the meals, Marcus said, “This is very good.”

Sinora said, “I can’t believe I made it.”

“Me neither,” Marcus joked.

By planning ahead, when it’s time to prepare a meal on a busy work day, you can have dinner on the table in 10 to 15 minutes.

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