Spoonful Test Blog

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Meal planning for dummies like me.

I've been looking for ways to spend less money recently, because it turns out the tree in our front yard is NOT a money tree.

The sellers obviously lied to us.  We've been waiting for the money to bloom since we moved in!  All it has produced so far is a bunch of spiky gum balls that cause me to nearly break my ankle every time I step into the yard.  Stupid tree.

Anyway.  I'm working on saving money.  I'm cooking at home more (eating out is our budget killer), using blankets instead of turning the heat up, and I'm doing some pretty hippy-like things, which you'll hear about later.  NOT TODAY, OKAY?

Now I'll share one of my favorite ways to save money: meal planning!  WOO HOO!

In college, I would go to the grocery store with no plan whatsoever.  I filled my cart up with food that sounded good, and would spend well over $150 each time.

And then I got back to my apartment and realized that I didn't have all of the ingredients for ANY meal.  Unless I wanted to eat butter-less macaroni and cheese, or bun-less hamburgers.

So I ate a lot of canned ravioli.

For real, though, is there anything better than Chef Boyardee ravioli?  I submit that there is not.  And all the ingredients are right there in the can!  Perfect.

At some point (after we got married) I realized that having a plan when I went to the store would help keep the cost down, and I would end up with the ingredients for entire meals!

Who would have thought?

So now we go grocery shopping once a week, and I have a plan before we leave the house.  Making the plan can be daunting, though, especially at first.  Here's how I do it!

I start by looking in our refrigerator and pantry to see what we have already and try to base our meals on those things.  That way we don't have cans of beans collecting dust in the lazy susan forever.

Except that still happens.  But hey, I try!

Then I make a list of four or five meals that I want to make for the week.  We generally only eat three (sometimes four) different meals during the week, so one or two of those will roll over to the following week.

I try to make a couple of meals that share ingredients; that way we don't have crazy amounts of leftovers...we're fine with eating leftovers, but if a recipe makes enough to last a week we're going to get tired of it.

So one week we'll have shredded barbecue chicken sandwiches, chicken quesadillas, and barbecue chicken tortilla pizzas.  I make an entire bag of frozen chicken and set some aside for the quesadillas and pizzas before I put barbecue sauce on the chicken for sandwiches.

If I didn't do that, we would literally turn into barbecue chicken sandwiches from eating so many.  Because a bag of frozen chicken breasts makes SO MANY SANDWICHES.

And if I became a sandwich, I couldn't type.  And then who would write my blog?  So you see, it's better that I plan the way I do.

After I have written the list of ingredients we'll need for dinners, I make a list of the food we need for breakfast, snacks, and lunches for the week.  And if the list is fairly short, sometimes I'll put ice cream at the bottom.  But only sometimes.

And then we go shopping!  We shop primarily at Aldi, because HOLY COW you can save a lot of money shopping there!  And while we're shopping, we stick to the list.  OR ELSE.

The "or else" is mostly for my darling husband who likes to talk me into buying junk food.  It only works sometimes, though.

During the week, I make the meals with fresh ingredients first; that way they won't go bad if we don't get to that meal before the week is up.  Meals with frozen and non-perishable ingredients get pushed to the end of the week, and sometimes roll over to the following week.

Our grocery budget is around $250 a month, which includes dog food, toilet paper, paper towels, sandwich bags, and trash bags.  If I didn't meal plan I'm pretty sure we could spend that amount in one shopping trip.  And end up with mostly canned ravioli and chips.  YUM.

I mean, gross.  Who would want to eat that?

Definitely not me.  *cough*

And now I need something from you all!  Tell me your favorite money-saving tips!  Whether it saves you on toiletries, utility bills, your grocery bill...anything!  I just want to know how you save money, please!

Also, you should all hop on over to the VivoPrint gift card giveaway and enter it!  You can make literally whatever you want on their website!  ...as long as they offer it.  So.  There are some limitations, I guess.  BUT NOT MANY.
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  1. I watch for sales and stock up. I make my meal plan off of the sale ads. I don't care how much I want mango stew...if mangoes aren't on sale, I go with an alternative. I don't buy anything except milk, which is never on sale, at full price. If I have coupons I use them, but I don't go crazy. I only buy produce in season, and Aldi is my go-to store, too! Mostly because you told me about it! I always make a list, and I always make it in chronological order of where things are in the store. If they switch the store around, I'm in big trouble. I save on my heating bills in the winter by dressing warmer and keeping it cooler in the house. In the summer we lose our winter savings because we are weenies and don't like it hot in the house. Our biggest savings, though, came from our children moving out and not using up all the hot water! ;)

  2. I am thoroughly impressed at your $250 budget. I am only feeding two people right now and it tends to cost me more than that (with beef already in the freezer at home!). I definitely need to step it up!

    As for my money saving, I also try to shop at Aldi for just about anything I can get there. For fresh produce, if you have a grocery store in town that caters towards Latin Americans, the produce there is usually really good and reasonable.

  3. I also meal plan and that really is a money saver! I also meal plan for lunches. My hubby and I get leftovers and I plan kids lunches out for the week. It ends up cheaper and healthier than school food.
    In the spring/summer we belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm so I plan my meals around what I get in my weekly box of produce.

  4. I meal plan your way! Deciding on every meal for every day of the week is too strict for me. I can't plan what I'm going to eat on Thursday a week ahead of time. I prefer to have in mind a list of meals when I go to the grocery store and buy the things that compliment what I already have in the house.

    To save money, I mostly shop at Food Basics. Unfortunately, no local stores price match, but that is one way to save money on groceries. Couponing is pretty useless in Ontario. But Food Basics here generally has their regular prices the same as other store's sale prices, and their sale prices even lower. So that's good enough for me.

    I also grow a lot of our own food, especially in the summer, and can the produce for year round deliciousness.

    We almost never eat out, and I do our own baking.

    I also have a list of meals that we eat almost every week/bi-weekly. Not as much fun, but they are family favorites and no one complains. Potatoes are a staple.

    Our budget is approx. $100 a week for a family of six including toiletries, soaps, etc. We're lucky that beef, eggs and milk are available on farm. Otherwise I would expect I could manage with a budget of $130-150 here.

  5. I know this is belated, but I just remembered I wanted to comment on this post the other day and then totally forgot about it. Whoops!

    Chris and I are kind of terrible at saving money and following through with tools like meal plans, BUT we are getting better because we just finished a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace course! It costs $100 up front, but we learned so much in just 9 short weeks that the class has already paid for itself. We're already much better at paying bills on time, avoiding eating out if we don't need to, and learning how to manage cash instead of using cards, especially for simple stuff like groceries and filling up our gas tanks. Plus we paid off one credit card and are in the process of paying off another.

    If you haven't taken it and a church near you is offering it, I highly suggest it. I know some people don't like Ramsey's methods, but all of it is very straightforward and involves a lot of common sense. We just didn't have a lot of it when we first got married. Good luck!


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