Family Magazine

Menu Planning: 101, Meg Style

By Megthamama
So, my previous post about Dave Ramsy and being debt free sparked some emails and text messages. 

Questions that my 3 readers asked:

1- What did we do for entertainment to keep from going crazy?
2- Meal planning: How did I manage it?
3- Vacations: We cut out vacations, but we still took some weekend getaways. How did we budget for it? 

Questions #1 and #3 are easy to answer:

Entertainment: we lived walking distance to a country club, and we own a golf in the Spring/Summer, H would play golf and I would go to the pool. Thankfully, our friends would always want to cook out and hang out about every weekend, so that kept us busy and occupied. Plus- it was always a lot of fun! You don't have to go somewhere every weekend to be entertained. Not to mention, H and I were both in grad school, so that took up a LOT of our time.

Vacations: we have taken 2 international vacations since our honeymoon that was almost 8 years ago! Our last vacation, was the final ditch effort to get pregnant on our own before moving forward with infertility treatments. After that didn't work, we nixed big trips. However, to keep our sanity, we would still take some weekend get-a-ways with our Marriott Rewards Card. A lot of times, our stays were free. We deviated from Dave here. He says NO CREDIT CARDS.....with NO if's, and's or buts. However, we have always had and will always have a credit card........simply for this reason. When we have large purchases, we put them on the credit card, then H will schedule for the online payment pretty much the next day. Meanwhile, we rack up points with Marriott and have free hotel stays. BOOM! We paid for all 3 rounds of IVF on our credit card. Mama got a couple of weekend get-a-ways with that purchase. The key is to pay it off that month! If you don't think you can do it......then don't get a credit card. This is H's department......and literally, he will schedule a payment before he walks out of the Dr.'s office! If you have a hotel preference, join their reward system and email list. You can get some pretty good deals! 

Question #2 is a bit more comical:

Menu Planning: 101, Meg Style

Meal Planning: Y'all. I don't have time to coupon. Before my wild monkey man arrived, I would occasionally look at the online Kroger ad and do a little menu planning from there. But here's the thing: chicken and veggies will always be on sale. And even if milk isn't on sale, I'm still gonna buy it. So, I stopped doing that. Instead I began a routine. 

-During the week, I start making a list. I sometimes write down items that we DON'T need. I no longer rely on my infertility fried and pregnancy drained memory. 

- Pick a cookbook and start flipping the pages. 

I had a TON of cookbooks and cooking magazines that I have accumulated over the years, and I NEVER used them! So- pre Jax, I would sit on the couch with a cookbook and plan the menu for the week. I would make myself use only that cookbook. Because I'm a fearless cook, I would deviate from the recipe. If it was a big "fancy" pasta dish.......I would simplify it to say, spaghetti or just minimize some of the ingredients. The next week, I would pick a different cookbook, or I would use a magazine like Sandra Lee or Paula Deen. Sometimes, just the photo would work for me. It was a reminder that we haven't grilled burgers in a while, or had breakfast for dinner, etc. 

During our last move, I sold a TON of cookbooks! Thanks to Pinterest, I will never need another cookbook. And because I'm a minimalist, that is a great thing. Oh, and scarves. I don't need anymore scarves. People always give scarves as gifts. I have no more room for scarves. 

Anyway, now days, I will use Pinterest for my meal planning.  I make myself actually use the pins! I have put Pinterest into the "cookbook" meal plan rotation. Again, sometimes just looking a picture will remind you to cook something that you haven't in a while (i.e. last night I sautéed shrimp and I didn't even pull up the original blog post that it was linked to. The pic alone was my inspiration). 

I used to coupon a little, but since some of the wild and crazy coupon shows, a lot of companies have changed their policy. While I use coupons, I just use the ones that Kroger mails me. 

So here's my advice:

- Don't go to the store hungry. Otherwise, you will leave with just popcorn, wine and Little Debbies. And, you will buy a pack of gum in the check out line. 

- Go with a list. If you don't have a list, you don't need groceries. After you make your list.......stick to it. Again, it's not a bad idea to write down items that you DON'T need too. When we were seriously saving, I would leave my debit card in the car. I would ONLY use the money that was allocated in the envelopes. Talk about motivation! I didn't want to be the person who "couldn't afford their groceries" in the check outline.

-Get organized. If you use coupons, put them in the order of the store layout......otherwise, you will be flipping through coupons in each aisle and you will be frustrated.

-Shop at a real grocery store. Walmart doesn't count here. Any store that sells motor oil and has a hair salon in it doesn't count as a real grocery store. Everyone says "but, they have the lowest price", etc. That may be true on some things, however, Kroger doesn't offer all of the additional shinny items that can easily distract you and jack up your bill. Kroger is my store of choice. It was just this past weekend that I texted a BFF and told her that a store employee told me they are starting a $5 million dollar renovation next month. I was super excited about it! WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!?!

- Take your menu plan with you. Again, I no longer rely on my memory, and sometimes you need to deviate from the plan because of an great sale in the store. I keep my grocery list and meal plans in my trusty Erin Condren planner. 

- Make your meals last. If you cook a big crockpot of chili and have left overs.....freeze them. Pinterest gave me the idea of putting cornbread in the waffle maker and pouring chili on top of it! 

-Your ref ridge/freezer doesn't have to be stocked for a Walking Dead Zombie attack. My mom has 2 deep freezers, and a refridge/freezer jammed packed full......yet she still grocery shops. Every time I cook at her house, I remind her that she doesn't need to go to the store until November! It's ok to be a minimalist when it comes to grocery shopping. 

- Eating better costs less! Put down the box of Little Debbies and buy some bananas. When H and I started eating organic and clean foods, our grocery bill was lowered as well. You can save money by shopping the perimeter of the grocery store (veggies, bread, meats, dairy).

I hope this helps! These are just the bullet points that have helped me along the way. 

 Do you do something great to make your meals stretch or to save money?

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