Living your best life: Infusing your best life into your your everyday

In today’s fast-paced world, gathering for a family meal has become increasingly challenging due to various factors. As parents return to work and children head back to school, striking a balance between work, school, and preparing meals has become a formidable task. The need to manage family meals efficiently and affordably has never been more critical. To address these challenges and offer valuable insights, we turn to Nanci Giovinazzo, a seasoned restaurant expert with extensive experience in the culinary industry. In this live session, we’ll delve into Nanci’s journey in the restaurant business and uncover her strategies for effective meal planning and cost-efficient cooking that can benefit families looking to make the most of their meals.

Nanci’s Journey in the Restaurant Industry

Nanci’s foray into the restaurant business began at a young age when she and her ex-husband embarked on their entrepreneurial journey. Starting a café in the late ’80s and early ’90s presented its unique set of challenges and experiences. Over the years, she managed multiple restaurant locations, both with her former spouse and independently. Her deep involvement in the industry exposed her to various facets of restaurant management, including the critical aspect of financial planning. While their restaurants thrived in popularity, Nancy realized the importance of understanding the financial side of the business to ensure profitability.


Understanding the Basics: Food Costs and Menu Pricing

One of the primary challenges Nanci encountered was grasping the intricacies of financial planning within the restaurant industry. Despite their restaurants’ success and bustling patronage, they often questioned why their profits didn’t reflect their popularity. This realization prompted Nancy to take a closer look at food costs and menu pricing, two fundamental components known as prime costs in the restaurant industry.


Food Costs: The first step in effective meal planning and cost-efficiency is understanding food costs. Nanci advises families to identify their staple ingredients and assess their costs. By calculating the cost of these essential items, individuals can gain insight into their food expenses. This knowledge is invaluable when striving to create budget-friendly and delicious meals for the family.


Menu Pricing: Nanci highlights the significance of menu pricing in the restaurant industry. Similarly, at home, individuals should be mindful of the expenses associated with each meal. By pricing out their signature dishes and favorite recipes, families can determine how to make the most of their budget without sacrificing taste and quality.


Adapting to Changing Food Trends

As the culinary landscape evolves, families must adapt to changing food trends and economic conditions. Nanci shares that one effective strategy for addressing rising food prices is to reconsider the types of proteins used in meals. Shifting towards more sustainable and affordable options, such as plant-based proteins, can help families reduce expenses while still enjoying nutritious and flavorful dishes.

Another key aspect of cost-efficient meal planning is minimizing food waste and repurposing ingredients. Nanci offers practical tips for making the most of every ingredient, reducing waste, and extending the shelf life of food items.

Repurposing Leftovers: For example, when preparing a roast chicken dinner, consider how to repurpose the leftovers. Beyond making sandwiches, you can use the chicken carcass to create a homemade stock, which serves as a base for delicious soups and sauces.

Batch Cooking: Nanci encourages batch cooking, where families prepare larger quantities of certain ingredients or dishes. This approach saves time and resources in the long run, allowing you to freeze extra portions or pre-cook staples like rice for convenient future use.


Creating a Mise en Place at Home

Drawing from her restaurant experience, Nanci emphasizes the importance of mise en place, which means “everything in its place.” At home, this translates to having a well-organized kitchen and prepped ingredients ready for cooking. By creating a mise en place, individuals can streamline their meal preparation process and reduce stress.

Inventory Database: Start by creating an inventory database of your go-to recipes, detailing the ingredients required. This helps identify which ingredients are commonly used across various dishes, enabling efficient batch cooking and meal planning.

Portion Control: Determine how many portions each batch recipe yields. This allows you to plan meals accordingly, portion out servings, and even freeze extras for future consumption.


Engaging the Whole Family

Incorporating the entire family into the meal planning and preparation process can foster a deeper connection to food and strengthen family bonds. Nanci suggests making mealtime an interactive and enjoyable experience.

Cooking Together: Encourage family members, including children, to participate in cooking sessions. Whether it’s making homemade pizza or assembling tacos, involving everyone in the kitchen makes meal preparation a fun and educational activity.

Grocery Shopping: Make grocery shopping a family affair by discussing meal options and shopping lists together. This collaborative approach can help prioritize needs, stick to the budget, and reduce impulse purchases.


In an era of busy schedules and rising food costs, mastering meal planning and cost-efficiency is essential for families looking to enjoy delicious, nutritious meals together. Drawing on Nanci Giovinazzo’s insights from the restaurant industry, we’ve explored the importance of understanding food costs, menu pricing, adapting to food trends, minimizing waste, and creating a mise en place at home. By incorporating these strategies and engaging the whole family in the process, individuals can maximize their culinary experiences while minimizing expenses. Ultimately, with careful planning and a dash of creativity, families can savor quality time around the dining table without breaking the bank.

Team Jackie Porter is happy to help walk you through these financial circumstances and get you to where you need to be. Reach out to our team at for a free 30-minute financial strategy session.



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