By now you may have heard of a process called “chaining” in which you build a few recipes off of one another in order to save money. This is a completely useful strategy, and it makes meal planning a breeze. Here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Search your recipes for common ingredients. What are some things that you make all the time that have ingredients in common. My three most common recipes are enchiladas, pasta, and pizza. All three of those require some common ingredients like veggies, cheese and tomato paste. Make a list of the ingredients that come up in multiple recipes, and start your chain planning from there.
2. Think about substitutions. While those three recipes have a lot of things in common, what can you substitute to keep the recipes based off of each other? If instead of making an italian style pasta, I make a mexican form of pasta, then I can make extra enchilada sauce and use that for the basis for my pasta sauce. I can also use green peppers in the enchiladas, the pasta, and put them on the pizza. While sometimes this might require you to buy a few more green peppers (for instance), it will cost less than buying a whole set of different veggies and ingredients for a whole different type of recipe.
3. Get creative. The enchilada pasta is the most creative thing that I’ve done with chaining. Ask yourself what you can do if you make extra sauce from the meals you’re making? How could you use that same sauce in a different way? Or if you make rice for a meal, can you throw it in a soup the next night? Don’t let ingredients go to waste in your fridge. The biggest tip is to remember to use all of what you bought. Even if you don’t plan your meals for the week, get creative each night and figure out what you can do with what you have. This is especially important with things like rice, or pasta that people tend to pack up for leftovers and then throw out later. Instead of letting that stuff go bad in your fridge, get creative with it!