11 days down, 19 to go!
Before we get into the meat of today’s post, let’s talk updates on my progress so far in this month.
Another week under my belt and I can honestly say that not one frivolous penny has been spent. I’m like kinda happy, and like kinda feeling a little bit nauseous….keep reading….
BRS and I are feeling pretty discouraged right about now. Of the past 8 months we’ve been married (HAPPY 8TH MONTHS BABE!) , this so-called “No Spend September” might be our most expensive month to date.
1. The alternator in BRS’ car went out and had to be replaced….$$$.
2. We had to purchase our tickets for our 2014 family vacation with BRS’ side. (Correction : We did not have to…that makes me sound like a brat. But we got to…you might know how that sort of thing goes, though. You need to purchase them before the prices skyrocket or flights are sold out. Regardless, it wasn’t cheap.)…$$$.
3. Truth time : I got a speeding ticket. And I just confessed this to the world wide web. I sped and “Weee-oh, weee-oh” (how’s that for my siren sound?), there was the cop ready to hand me a fat ticket requiring me to pay some fat stacks. I just said fat stacks…$$$.
Isn’t God funny? When He challenged me with a month free of spending money on myself I thought, “Wow! I’m still going to reap some big benefits because I’ll be saving all month long and I can spend the $$$ later!!! “
HAHA! Wrong. Not to mention, that would have totally defeated the purpose of setting aside this time to find contentment in eternal things, not stuff I can buy.
These past two weeks alone have challenged me to see my need for a strict budget so that these unexpected events don’t throw us for a crazy loop when they do occur. And we all know that they will occur. Hello life!
Anyway, I’m praying big time that the next 19 days don’t consist of the same expenditures as these first 11.
Now onto the fun stuff for today…A How-To for Meal Planning (and Saving Money!)
When creating my guidelines for this challenge, I decided to say “No” to Unneccesary Eating Out and “Yes!” to working on meal planning and home cooking. This has been a huge area of weakness for me in my semi-adult life (see #3 in this post) and is something I really hope to improve in.
Since I just admitted this is an area of weakness for me, it is clear that I am not the expert to speak on this topic. Enter my oh-so-budget-savvy sister-in-law, Jaclyn, to save the day!
Jaclyn is married to BRS’ brother and is the queen of meal planning, coupon-ing, budgeting, etc. She’s super organized and a Family/Consumer Science teacher so she knows her stuff. She offered to provide us with a little insight on how she handles planning her meals each week as well as the WHY behind all this madness. So let’s get started, shall we?
MRS : What does “meal planning” look like to you?
Jaclyn : I usually pick Sundays as my meal-planning day—that is when the coupons come! To begin, I consider my week at hand. I generally only plan Monday - Friday because the weekends are usually full of events that keep me away from my kitchen in the evenings. When I plan my meals, I think about the following things:
MRS : How many times a week do you “eat out?”
Jaclyn : Honestly, before I was regimented with my meal planning this would happen all too often during the week. David and I would get home from school (both are teachers), not have a plan or ingredients that we needed, so we’d order pizza or Chinese. While both are delicious and convenient, they were not friendly to our waistlines or wallets. We were probably eating out 4 or 5 meals a week. After implementing the meal planning, and sticking with it, I’d say we’re down to about twice a week, on average. Most of those dining experiences happen on the weekends though (date nights!).
MRS : When meal planning, what steps are necessary before you even step foot in the grocery store?
Jaclyn : My biggest advice would be to write it down! Make a list of the meals you want to eat each night of the week. Then, begin making a grocery list of needed ingredients for those meals. Add to it the staples: milk, eggs, bread, cereal, fruit, etc. Voila! You have a shopping list!
To take it one step farther, you can look at the grocery ads each week to check for sales. If an item is on sale, I usually write the sale price next to it.
To take it even a step further, you can cut out coupons and take them with you.
Oh and EAT! Never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach! You will put more things in your cart than you would if you were full.
MRS : What is the most efficient way to handle “coupon-ing?”
Jaclyn : As nerdy and “mom-like” as it sounds – get a coupon organizer. It makes the process so much more efficient! I used to keep all my coupons in a big envelope. That was a disaster every time I went to the store. I would see something and think “I know I have a coupon for that.” Then, I would have to sift through tons of coupons to finally find it!
Then life got more organized when I found a coupon-organizer on clearance (Ironic, huh?!) at TJ Maxx
. Best $2 I ever spent! This organizer has sections that you can label yourself. My sections include cleaning products, personal hygiene, breakfast foods, other groceries and restaurants.
MRS : Why is meal planning important to you?
Jaclyn : First, I know that nearly every meal I prepare in my kitchen is healthier than what I would order at a restaurant. I am a firm believer in taking care of your body by exercising and eating right. Second, I am always ready to save a buck or two. It is incredible how much money you save when planning out your meals! When David and I go out to dinner, we can spend anywhere from $25-$50 for one meal. I can shop for all our meals for an entire week for $50 AND we still have leftovers for lunch! Third, I need to practice what I preach. I teach my students about budgeting, meal planning and preparing nutritious meals. I want to show them that it can actually be done.
MRS : Biggest benefit to meal planning?
Jaclyn : It’s a 3-way tie! Nutrition, saving money and time spent together are all such great benefits of meal planning.
(Jaclyn’s Meal Planning Calendar)
MRS : Anything else you’d like to share with my readers?
Jaclyn : If you get nothing else from this blog post – get this: start small! When making a lifestyle change, start small and gradually add to it. For instance, if you are eating out nearly every meal a week, pick one or two that you will plan. Begin by picking the nights and what you will have. Then, create a grocery list. Go shopping to buy necessary ingredients and cook your meal on the appropriate night. Once you have done that for a couple weeks or even a month, add another night. Continue doing this until you are meal planning for a full week!
All too often, we dive head first into something that will drastically change our life, and generally requires hard work. We can set ourselves up to fail because the change is so drastic. By starting small, you are able to conquer tasks and feel victorious. It is then that the confidence is built and you can begin challenging yourself with more.
(One of Jaclyn’s favorite planning quotes!)
How about that for a “How-to”?! I am so thankful that Jaclyn was willing to share her expertise and I know that this motivates me to get the ball rolling in my meal planning journey! How about you? What tips are you taking away from today’s post? Comment to share below!