Meal Planning

I’m going to be up front and honest, I hate meal planning. It is so laborious. I am not the type A person, I can be to some extent, but I love to have the freedom to go with the flow. The freedom to give in to the whims of my cravings. When those cravings come a knockin’ it’s hard for me to ignore. This has been one of those weeks, nothing has sounded good. I’ve slugged my way through the week, and to be honest I have slipped up big time this week. Oh well, today is a new day to start fresh.

So when I do meal plan I give myself grace, I think that is where I failed this week. Having a few ready to go meals (preferably homemade, so much cheaper!) stocked in the freezer or pantry help when the day gets away from you or your original meal no longer sounds tasty.

I use a method which is referred to as reverse meal planning, when I am not on a kick to clean out the freezer and pantry (more on how I adjust for that). I use to meal plan by picking all these fabulous meals, that would call for gobs of ingredients I didn’t have on hand (thanks pinterest!). I would dutifully write out my grocery list, filled with items that I would only use a fraction of (spices, exotic veggies/ fruits anyone?) Then after a week or so these moldy odds and ends would get pitched or the spices shoved in the back of my spice drawer to be forgotten. My grocery bill was crazy! So I tried a new plan.

On Sundays I get the circulars of the local grocery stores delivered (free!) to my house. After church I take a few quiet minutes to peruse them. I jot down all the food that we like that is on sale and at what store. Now for those of you that hate shopping at multiple stores, I don’t blame you, but sometimes (when your budget is tight) you have to. Thankfully I can typically go to 1 store and get everything I need. Once I find the sales, I look at what I currently have to see what I can make based on what I have and what is on sale. I make a meal plan based on this. I do take to pinterest if my creative juices get clogged (I guess you redeemed yourself here pinterest!)

That is it! So basically unless an item is an absolute staple (i.e. milk, butter, eggs, etc.) I will not purchase it if it isn’t on sale. For example: I hardly ever pay more than $1.99/ lb for chicken breasts. In fact I know that if I am patient enough I can get chicken breasts at my favorite store for $1.77/lb. When they run that sale, I stock up baby! I love grassfed beef, but it is so EXPENSIVE! Again at the same store they will run it on sale for $3.99/lb (everywhere else sells it for $6/lb), I even was able to get it for $2.99/lb once ūüėÄ I won’t pay more than $2.99/lb for roasts (beef), but I live for when they put it on sale for $1.99/lb.

This is where knowing what items typically cost when not on sale, and what the typical sales are, comes in handy. Again I am not a type A personality. I love lists, lists do not love me. In fact they typically run away from me….er get lost…or thrown away or destroyed by the fruits. So if you are like me and you are blessed to have a smart phone, take a picture. Sounds nerdy I know, but it works. Someone recently asked me if the organic maple syrup at Costco was cheaper than the regular maple syrup at Trader Joe’s. I didn’t know! I hadn’t looked at their maple syrup in a while, in fact I hadn’t been to Trader Joe’s in a few months. As fate would have it I need to go to TJ’s a few weeks later. I took a picture of the maple syrup with the price listed below. Then on my next trip to Costco I compared the price. Costco was $2-$3 cheaper! I was so glad that I took that picture because I had run out of maple syrup that week.

So what do you do when your money is really strained or you just need to come up with a little extra cash? Cut the groceries of course! Typically you have to cut money some where (or make more income) and groceries (when you are already on a bare necessities budget) is what gets cut. I sat down and meal planned 4 weeks worth of meals based on my freezer and pantry, then allotted myself $50/ week. It is similar to the above, but the emphasis is on using what you have 1st before buying the sale items. Typically I have my meal plan already written out based on what I have before I even look at the sales. So my grocery list is mainly staples (milk, eggs, etc.) and then only fruits and veggies that are on a great sale. As a sample here is what I purchased this past week:

12 lbs chicken breasts ($1.77/lb!), asparagus, peppers, lettuce, peaches, 2 pineapples, bananas, onions,  3 boxes of pasta, 1 rotisserie chicken, soda (yeah bad habit that needs kicking), and baby food.

My total was $60 for this week, I allowed myself to go over because of the sale on chicken breasts. I only had enough food to get through the 4 weeks on $50, but I really needed to get through 6 weeks. Purchasing the extra chicken will allow me to do that, thankfully my wallet also had the room to allow it. Wait! No milk?  I have cut down on the amount of milk that I serve my children per day, so now I can make a gallon of milk last longer than a week. They each get one small cup a day and we might have to skip a day of milk, but they will live! They still get plenty of calcium from cheese and yogurt that they eat throughout the week. Again cheese is bought in bulk from Costco, so I only need to purchase 1x a month and the yogurt is every other week deal.

I think that about covers it! How do you do grocery budgeting? Do you meal plan?

Making Progress~ Baby Step 1 complete!

So after starting Financial Peace University at home in the beginning of December we have met our $1000.00 emergency fund! Woot Woot! Time to cancel all those credit cards! Wait already done~ well except 1 card, hubby needs to call that one in. Either way, the cards are still gone.¬† It is sooooo¬†freeing to not even have the temptation anymore. Buh-Bye Mastercard….you will not be my master anymore!

On the debt front we are working on baby step #2 The Debt Snowball. I paid off 2 medical bills today (high-five!) and we’re working on the next one. We started off with a total of¬†7 creditors and $45k in debt. This is credit card, student loans, and medical. We are now down to 5 creditors ūüôā Yippee! The goal is to by the end of January be down to 4 and by tax return time be down to 3.

Littlest Fruit

However there is a slight glitch in the plan…..littlest fruit has to go see a neurologist¬†soon. She has been recently having a few issues caused by something that happened at birth. It is no big deal as far as her health goes. Everything will be fine and the problem should be treat-able. Now we are staring down another medical¬†bill that we didn’t know was coming. Her umbilical cord was too tight against her spine as she came out¬† which we were told could cause a pinched nerve. It doesn’t always happen and just to keep an eye on her. A few days before Christmas we started noticing a few of the signs that they told us to watch for. Unfortunately hubby’s medical insurance has a LARGE deductible that has to be met before they will pay even 80%. Given that he also just got a smallish raise, we have decided to have that amount put into our HSA¬†pre-tax to help cover any new medical expenses.

This is disheartening on so many levels. I want my baby to be healthy and whole. We were relieved as she was hitting developmental milestones without a problem and even a few early. I am so thankful that we caught this problem right away and that it shouldn’t (other than financially) be a problem to correct. It is also frustrating on another level to feel like we are getting somewhere with this debt only to have more future bills that are going to delay our goals. Don’t get me wrong I will pay ANYTHING to help my baby or any of my other kids. My top priority is their health, education, and happiness. I also recognize that this is also our fault for not putting more into our HSA¬†to begin with. My mentality is that in general we have a very healthy family so what was being put in the account would have been sufficient. Aside from the occasional ear infection, we don’t need to go to the doctor unless I’m pregnant. We have been praying asking the Lord to show us things we can sell or ways to make extra money so we can stay on track with our goals and ¬†be able to pay off the new medical bills is full when we receive them. Our God is faithful and I believe that since we are acting in accordance to His will, in regards to paying our debt, that He will provide a way! We would appreciate prayers in this as well!

Living Like No One Else

It’s that dreaded time of day again. Maybe you have put it off yesterday, but today you begrudgingly¬†put one foot in front of the other.¬† Why does this short distance seem to take so long? Finally you are there. It’s like ripping a band-aid off, right? Just get it over quickly. You open the door, close your eyes, and reach in. Grabbing a stack of envelopes, you slam the mailbox closed and hurry back inside.

One step done, but your stomach twists inside, hurriedly¬†you riffle through the mail and sigh in relief! There are no bills today. Then you gather your courage to login to your bank account. Your stomach drops and¬†tears start to well up. The balance is dangerously low and you don’t know how you are going to make it to the next payday. Flip on the radio to drown out all the tumulus thoughts screaming in your mind. Then an ad plays for Financial Peace University. What a crock, finances and peace? Uttered in the same sentence?

Yes my friends it can be done! You can be in control of your finances, tell your money where to go and what to do. Maybe you don’t have debt or don’t live paycheck to paycheck. Have you saved up for a rainy day? Have you invested in your future? Have you started leaving an inheritance to your children’s children? Do you know the joys of being able to bless someone else? Maybe you have all that, but you and your spouse aren’t on the same page, or nobody has ever taught you how God wants you to handle your money.

Financial Peace University is a Biblically based program about how to handle money. Did you know that God gave us a manual in the Bible on what to do with our money? Rules and guidelines? I’m sure I’m parroting everything that I have heard. I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey for quite sometime now. Currently I am getting ready to help lead the class at my home church. I am going through the program at home before leading the class. I assure you that it is NOT dull or boring, Dave is very funny and makes it interesting.

So why am I taking FPU? Well my husband and I grew up in different types of households, which affect our view on money. When one person is in charge of the money it is too restrictive, when the other is in charge it’s too free spirit. This has caused us to miss step in our finances. It isn’t one person’s fault, it’s both our faults. So we are taking the class to get on the same page, find balance, and re-direct our financial course. I am excited to start this journey and I hope you can join me on it.

Dave breaks down the key to financial success into what he calls 7 baby steps. The 1st step is to have a $1000 emergency fund. I am excited that as of tomorrow we will have that fully funded! Then on to step 2 debt snowball reduction.

Do you have financial peace? Do you have a budget and how does it work? What successes or trials have you faced?

While I am leading a FPU class I by no means am paid/compensated for this post. It is a program that I fully believe in and I am excited to share with you. If you would like more information please visit https://www.daveramsey.com/fpu