Feeding the Calvary

Having two kiddies in daycare is, among other things, not cheap. In fact, I write a $375 check every single week. Feel sorry for me. Feel very, very sorry for me. I know my checking account does.

But just like we did with Bean, we’re somehow finding a way to make it work. It’s not easy and we have to go without a lot of things (goodbye wonderful hair stylist I just found who I can’t afford to ever see again…), but we’re doing it. Our bills are paid, we’re all healthy, we’re all (mostly) happy. What more can I ask for?

To help with the costs around our house, one of the things I’ve started doing again is meal planning. I used to do it many moons ago when we first had Bean and I was, ironically enough, flipping out over how we would ever afford ONE child in daycare. But after a few months, I realized we weren’t going to be living in a cardboard box and so I got lazy and stopped. When we moved into our new house and the kids started daycare, though, I decided it was probably time to get back to the ol’ recipe book and shopping list thing so that I could scrimp and save as many pennies as I could.

For me, meal planning begins with a menu. I know some people who start with coupons and whatever is on sale, but to be honest, I don’t really have time (or the patience) to be that strategic. With a good menu, a few coupons, and a shopping list, I get our grocery bill down low enough. On Saturday mornings, I sit down at our kitchen table with a few tools. My church’s cookbook, all of my Gooseberry cookbooks (if you don’t have any of these – get one, get many of them…), my Betty Crocker cookbook, a notepad, and my envelope of coupons.

First, I begin by flipping through the cookbooks for meal ideas. Because I work and don’t get home until around 5:00, I look for quick, simple, filling, healthy meals. We do a lot of grilled meats (chicken, ribs, porkchops), a veggie, and a starch. But lately, I’ve found that I can cook a little more substantial meals and then use leftovers to make a second meal the next night. For example, last week, I put a whole chicken, potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, and garlic into the crock pot before work. That night, we had chicken and veggies with a big salad. The next night, I took what was left of the chicken and put it into a chicken, rice, and broccoli casserole. And the next day for lunch, Chris and I were able to take leftover casserole. That was three meals for two people out of that one chicken, and we probably could have stretched it one more dinner or lunch, but Chris was over chicken at that point.

When I’m hunting for recipes, I look for things that cook large quantities at one time – like that whole chicken, or I’ll make a couple pounds of ground beef for one meal and then reserve the beef for the next night. That saves me time and it enables me to cook bigger meals for our family without wasting any food.

Here is my menu this week:

Sunday night: Low Country Boil (a Louisiana classic: shrimp, corn on the cob, potatoes, and sausage all boiled together with Old Bay seasoning) and french bread
Monday night: Sante Fe chicken (in a crock pot with black beans, corn, and salsa), Mexican rice, and a salad
Tuesday night: Flank steak (marinated in V-8 juice, Worcestershire, and hot sauce), leftover Mexican rice and black beans, and watermelon
Wednesday night: BBQ ribs, homemade french fries (baked, not fried), and lima beans
Thursday night: Leftover chicken on homemade pizza and fruit salad
Friday night: Leftover night

With my recipes chosen, I make my grocery list based off of what I need for my recipes (less anything I already have). I also add fresh fruits and veggies, bread, milk, and a few other staples, like Cheerios for Bean and Chris’s breakfast. Usually, if I stick to my recipe lists, I don’t actually end up having to buy a lot at one time. I keep my panty well stocked with things like chicken broth, canned veggies, and pasta by buying it in bulk when it’s on sale. Really, the only things I end up buying on my weekly shopping trip are the necessities for dinner that week, replenishing my lunch supply, and fresh produce.

With my shopping list prepared, I go through my coupons. I’m not a big couponer, but I do keep a giant envelope on the side of my fridge and I toss in whatever coupons I find throughout the week. We don’t get the paper, but I get a lot of stuff in the mail and so I stick the whole ad down in my envelope and on Saturday mornings I clip out all the coupons. That way I’m not wasting time through the week clipping and snipping. Saturday morning, I clip all my coupons from my envelope and pull out any that are for products on my list.

Then, with my list and coupons in hand, I head off to the grocery store – ALONE. In the past couple months I have learned two valuable lessons about grocery shopping:

1. Never take your kids.
2. Never take your husband.

I leave all of them at home and go by myself. For one thing, I don’t like having to stop and explain to Chris everything I’m buying or listen to him complain about how he doesn’t like sour cream when I’ve been putting sour cream in our food for years and he’s never noticed. But for another, it takes a fair amount of concentration to save money at the grocery store. And when my babies are all over the place and my husband is throwing things like bags of Coco Puffs and four tubs of ice cream into the buggy, I’m not trying to save anything but my sanity.

On average, we spend a little less than $100 a week on groceries, but with meal planning, I’m seeing that number get smaller and smaller each week.

What about you? How do you save a few pennies in your family?

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60 thoughts on “Feeding the Calvary

  1. I am really glad you posted about this! I’ve been trying to get motivated to start meal planning!

  2. Erin

    Have you heard much about Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University? Every time you write something about your financed I’ve wanted to ask you about it. The class brought an incredible amount of peace to our marriage–we didn’t even realize the stress it was causing. (We never fought about money, we just silently worried about it.) It might be something for you guys to consider. (And PS, I really respect and admire you and your blog!)

  3. I don’t have kids yet, but this grocery bill thing is making me feel a whole lot better. We do exactly as you do. I buy in bulk when it’s on sale, so our pantry is stocked. I shop weekly and buy produce, milk, bread, breakfast things, and then the necessary ingredients for dinners that week. For the two of us, we usually average about $50 a week. This week I didn’t have to buy any meat because I stocked up on chicken breast when it was on sale and I still had some ground beef, so I bought a few extra staples to stock up on.

  4. Erin

    finances, that is, not financed 🙂

  5. Jennifer

    I’ve been couponing, and have found once i get a routine down in doing and meal planning i can save a good bit. I have a hard time meal planning, ans i’m scared to death to leave the crock pot alone (you never know it might throw a party). I shop alone, sadly i find it to be my ME time.

  6. I used to be so good! Avid couponer, meal planner, the whole she-bang. But…like everything else…the kid came along and it got shot to hell. I still coupon, but it takes me forever. Also, I thought I got a deal at $140 for 3 days a week for 1 kid in daycare! Ya beat me!

  7. We plan too and it’s just for my husband & I. Usually on Sundays I sit down and plan two weeks worth of meals. I should coupon to help us save money, especially now with oil prices the way they are. But I do look through the sale ad to help. I also stock up on chicken once a month when it’s on sale.

  8. Sonya

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who can’t shop by the sales and coupons. I have to go by what sounds good when meal planning and then I’ll search out coupons. There are only 2 of us, so we have only been going on a big trip once a month and that has saved us a lot. We still have to go at least one other time during the month just to get stuff that expires.

  9. hilary

    I WISH we could pay $375 for daycare! That’s almost $100 a week cheaper than what we pay. Although we love our daycare provider so I’m thankful that I don’t worry about my kids when I drop them off. They love it and they’re doing great. Oh and I definitely don’t allow my husband to go grocery shopping with me.

  10. Janet

    I had to comment when I read #2 comment about Dave Ramsey’s FPU…I totally agree. My husband & I have taken that class (on dvd) & oh…the peace that I have felt about our finances since then is remarkable. You don’t have to be miles deep in debt to learn from this program, it’s just great. Anyway, your meal plans sound wonderful! Also, I love that your ‘panty’ is well stocked, lol…typo 😉

  11. Dawn

    Funny how we have both gone back to meal planning at about the same time. We (I) had done it for several months after #1 was born and I went back to work, and we really saved a lot of money. Then, my mom moved in with us for the summer, and our meal planning went out the window (partly because I felt wierd forcing my mom into yet one more of my crazy sceduling/planning/organizational quirks, and partly due to laziness). With the anticipation of # 2 and having planned out our budget for when I am on leave and when we have incrased daycare expenses when I go back to work, I see that groceries are really the only place that we have room to cut back. I coupon, and have a binder with all that organized, and have been making my shopping list based on the weekly ad, but re-realized that we only really see a decrease in our grocery bills when I ONLY buy what we plan to make for the week. I try to use the crock pot once a week, and will do that more once #2 arrives – I like how we can always get 2-3 meals out of whatever I make there. Also, since I get tired of cereal, I try to mix it up by making breakfast casseroles that can be eaten off of for several days. We are also starting to have themed nights – such as soup and sandwich night, casserole night, pasta night, breakfast-for-dinner night, etc – I am trying to compile enough themes to rotate them every two weeks, then have several go-to recipes for each theme.

  12. Meal planning and coupons are a huge help for our budget and our sanity bc it stops the “what do you want for dinner/I don’t care” fight. I just started doing most of our shopping at Target. They have store coupons on their website that can be combined with manufacturer coupons. Plus their red card saves 5% every time. As if I need more reason to shop at Target 🙂 and I totally hear ya about the no kids and no hubby. Done that once- never again.

  13. May I have your grocery bill please? With teenagers in my house, it’s approaching your daycare bill!

  14. I signed us up for E-mealz and I love it! Their recipes line up with the sales at Publix! I buy extra of whatever meat is on sale and then I’m usually good to go for awhile!

  15. Victoria

    I just started meal planning about two months ago and so far it is saving us lots of money and we both have lost 5lbs! This probably has more to do with our previous reliance on fastfood/pre-packaged food than anything else but it still feels good. I use cook books as well but I also discovered the recipe section on the whole foods website recently (there is also an iPhone app!) and LOVE IT! Even if you don’t shop at whole foods it has some really awesome, healthy recipes and it is mostly seasonal which is really nice if you shop at farmers markets (we do since we live in Chicago and there are tons!). Happy planning!

  16. I’ve started meal planning too. Last week I only spent $57 at the grocery store. But I’m like you when it comes to coupons. If I come across one I’ll use it, but I just don’t have the time to cut and clip coupons.

  17. I sit down and meal plan every Sunday, and we’re only a family of two! I save the most by buying produce in-season and making sure to check out “family packs” of meat that are on sale– even though we may not eat 6 chicken breasts at one time, when they’re $1.50/lb, I’ll buy the big pack anyway and freeze the rest for later. And if you guys are eating whole roast chicken, DEFINITELY save the bones and make stock with them later (so so handy to have around, and you can freeze as well). The only bummer is that we’re in NYC so I’m lucky if we only spend $100/week on groceries for just the two of us. :/

  18. You eat like that and you only spend $100 a week?!?! Ribs?! Seriously we eat rice and beans and I chop up my meat to stretch it as far as I can (think asian style with a little beef and a lot of filler) and we spend $100=$150 a week. But that’s including everything. Laundry soap, kitty litter, diapers. Maybe Chicago is more expensive, I don’t know.
    We shop store brand, switched to powdered detergent, cheap shampoo, eat leftovers, make sandwiches for lunch, don’t buy soda or chips anymore. And we do nothing, we never go out to eat, never go to movies or concerts. Being a stay at home mom is starting to get tough after 2 and a half years but there’s no way I could enter the work force making enough to pay daycare for 2 kiddos. That’s why I quit my job in the first place.

  19. Trish

    Doug is not a vegetable eater..but, I’ve discovered over the last few years if I buy frozen vegetables…it’s easier to get him to eat them instead of the canned veggies..plus, it’s a lot healthier. I usually get at least two meals out of one meal…by redoing the dinner like you do..but, not the next day. I’ll wait a day or so and then make enchiladas or a casserole out of leftovers..it’s easier to get him to eat leftovers this way. We live in New Orleans and thankfully seafood is dirt cheap. I paid 3.75 a pound for 12-16 count shrimp tonight…the shrimp was caught this morning!

  20. alexandra

    $375 for two kids at daycare is pretty reasonable compared to over here. I pay $70/day for 1 child, and that is standard. That would be $700/week for two – yikes!

  21. Such great ideas – I totally need to start menu planning again. I go through phases of it, too and have found it’s also a great way to get my husband excited about helping me cook – since I keep our weekly menu with recipe page #s marked on a whiteboard on the fridge and he knows what we were having.

    Have you tried Mint.com? I love how it helped me create a budget by letting me see how I’ve been spending my money already and then decide how and where to cut corners. It also sends me an email when/if I go over budget. LOVE!

  22. Menu planning is a great way to save some money. I’ve been slacking in that department the last couple months, I need to get back on top of things!
    My husband is a teacher and I stay at home, so we try to save in any possible way. We use cloth diapers, do baby led weaning (no buying baby food), only have one car, shop thrift and consignment stores, don’t eat out (unless we’re being treated by relatives, of course) and limit our use of disposable paper products.

  23. Carlene

    Try the website Five Dollar Dinner Mom. She’s got some great recipes (I heard she just pt out a cookbook too) that stretch out meals over several nights. And on the website, she provides links to good coupons and meal planning tips. That website is the reason I started meal planning for just my husband and I, and its made a high difference!

  24. A CSA farm share has totally been the way to go for me. The veggies work out to be around $20 a week. I’m single and there is more than enough to last the whole week. I plan my recipes around whatever is in the box and just buy the items to complete the recipes I choose. A CSA share really forces your hand in the sense of, you have a specific food now you’ve got to figure out what to do with it. It’s actually easier to eat and shop and budget this way.

  25. I do the exact same. Though there is only two of us right now, I’ve noticed that it is so easy to just grab dinner out or pick something up on the way home – and expensive! Since meal planning, we can spend less than $100 a week, too – sometimes only $75 or so.

    And I’m glad i am not the only one who thinks bringing my husband to the grocery store is a nightmare….

  26. Can I come over sometime for that low country boil? Sounds fantastic!

    We meal plan every week as well. It saves us money and also my sanity. Both of us are busy grad students and I’m the only one that cooks, so we have to figure out meals in advance to make things work.

  27. My hubs has a crazy work schedule (night shift one month, day shift the next month) so my meal planning is….sporadic. I like your plan, though! Oh, and I always go grocery shopping alone. And with a full belly, so I won’t be tempted to buy Snickers ice cream bars or a random pack of Oreos. Not that I’ve ever done that….

  28. Check out this website too. It has weekly meal plans for two but obviously you can adjust the recipe for as many as needed. The website also provides weekly grocery lists which saves me a ton of time!
    http://www.reservation4two.com/weekly-dinner-menus.html

  29. Katie N.

    We have the exact same shopping strategy! Although…I feel as though my husband and I cook the same 5 meals constantly, so perhaps I should start breaking out the cookbooks instead of just coming up with our meals out of my head! 🙂

  30. Isabel

    I have just started menu planning and it really does save a lot of money. I like to cook enough food so that we can have leftovers or can use some component of the meal for another night’s dinner. I find it helps to space out similar meals, so that we don’t get tired of something like we might if we had it three nights in a row. It’s also nice to only really have to cook every other night.

  31. Deepa

    Oh Katie, I am considering moving to FL atfer hearing those day care costs – Boston is $460 a week for ONE kid! ONE! We pay more for daycare than we do for our mortgage… I am meal planner too; it stemmed from when we first got married and I would come home from work late and Josh would be sitting on the couch with a “what? I didn’t know what you wanted to make, so I just waited for you to come home” look. If I put the meal list up on the fridge, he had no excuses:) Now, it is for budgeting and simplicity. We did a CSA this year that threw us a few curveballs, but it was fun adapting and making up new recipes. This post inspired me to pull out the cookbooks again!

  32. $100.oo a week!??!? with two kids?! WOW!!! You need to definitely write a book on that.. that’s incredible!!!
    You would like:
    Krazy Coupon Lady:
    http://www.iamthatlady.com/

    Anyways… can you build a section of JUST your recipes? That would be cool..

  33. I am one of those crazy couponers who bases meals off of what is on our stockpile and what’s on sale. It’s really not very difficult, once you get the hang of it. Like you said, I stock up on staples that keep (canned veggies, pasta, soup) when they are one sale and I try to find coupons too, making them cost next to nothing. On my weekly trip to the store, I buy all the items I can get the deep discounts for, and maybe a stray item or two we may need for the week, but generally, I try to avoid buying items that are not on sale for a specific meal. For my meats – I go big. I hit up Costco and buy their frozen tilapia, chicken, salmon, and beef so that we always have it on hand. Pair two frozen chicken breasts with the rice, beans, corn, and other staples we have around and we have a quick meal ready to go.

  34. Ahh, so glad you posted this! I’ve been doing a series on my blog about spending less. I’ve also posted alot of questions about food spending. I meal plan, try to cook most weeknights and stretch my meals as much as I can.

  35. I can’t believe you can keep your bill so low with four people in your family! I spend about $100 a week and there are just two of us. I would love to only spend $50. I do buy organic though, so that adds up. And lots of fresh produce. We meal plan too and it works well – I don’t get home until 6:30 and then usually have a run so we eat late. Last night we ate at 10:30pm! I have a ton of yummy recipes – we should definitely exchange.

  36. I try to plan my meals a week in advance too, and I’ve found it really saves on time and extraneous grocery store purchases (although I do admit to grabbing a bag of cookies not on the list every now and again!). Here’s this week’s menu:
    Sunday I made a large veggie and ground turkey in tomato sauce stew, which gave us lunch Monday, leftovers Monday night, and lunch Tuesday. Tuesday we had Pioneer Woman’s awesome summer shrimp stir fry–shrimp, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and corn (took about 15 minutes to make). Have lunch for today.
    Tonight we’re having chicken, cooked in a bit of soy sauce and brown sugar, served over rice.
    Thursday we’ll have shepherd’s pie which will give us plenty of leftovers. Friday is our weekly ground turkey taco night! Saturday will be Shepherd’s Pie leftover day. Maybe you could post your weekly menus to give us all some meal ideas, and it would hold you accountable to planning!

  37. Brittany

    When I meal plan, I spend about $50-60 for the two of us. Last winter, I purchased a CSA from our local farm and have been receiving a HUGE box of local, organic produce weekly from them since last May. It’s helped cut our grocery bill substantially. I also start with a menu and make my list from there (1 whole chicken equals chicken, chicken enchilladas and a chicken casserole for example) and will skim sale ads for our staples like broth, canned beans, cereal, etc. I stock up on non-perishables that are on sale and if a few of my menu items are on the cheap too, then bonus. Our local newspaper doesn’t have coupons 🙁

  38. Wow, I’m so glad I’m not the only one that does this! My friends said I was crazy, but I think it makes sense (cents!). We don’t have kids, but my husband and I both work and run our farm. If the meals aren’t planned, we just don’t have time to make a good dinner!

  39. ashley

    I just laughed at the sour cream thing…my husband is totally the same way. If he finds out there’s sour cream in something that he previously LOVED, he will hate it the next time… just don’t tell him his favorite mashed potatoes have sour cream AND cream cheese in them! 🙂

  40. Love your blog!! I saw a Dave Ramsey comment, and was going to advise the same!! My husband and I completed FPU while we were engaged last year and we are huge fans. One thing he recommends in addition to keeping a budget is to try e-mealz.com. We started it a few months ago and really use it as a guide for our meal planning. It allows you to pick a preferred grocery store, pick a meal plan (low fat/glutten free/family of 2 or 4+, etc) and then go from there with a subscription. I think it’s $5/month? It finds recipes based on sales and it also allows you to purchase ingredients that will be mixed into most of the meals that week, with variety. It’s pretty cool!! It takes the thinking out of searching for recipes and if we don’t want something ,we find something new or similar and go from there!

  41. Donna

    We do a menu too, but we look through the weekly ads to see what meats are on sale and build it from there. We also clip coupons, but I get the Sunday paper, about a year ago I realized that the procter and gamble coupons that come out once a month for things like Tide, Bounce, shampoo, toothpaste, and so on saved me more than the paper costs. Then for gas we save by either getting the WalMart gift card, which give you $0.10 per gal off right now, or use the debit card with pin that also gives us $0.10 off at a local gas station right now.

  42. I do a weekly Menu Plan Monday post on my blog. I’d love for you to come by and have a look, and maybe get some ideas that work for you also. I’m a working mom and can only make things that I can just throw together at the last minutes. Sometimes that means doing prep work the night before, but that’s doable.

  43. Gin

    I have been trying to meal plan for about the last year or so. For me, it is because I’m cooking for just me, so whenever I make something I tend to have leftovers, which it is easy to get tired of eating. However, if I can make a pork loin and eat it with mashed potatoes one day, and then use to pork the next day in green chili or stir fry the next day, I’m much less likely to not eat it and waste food.

    This week is my first attempt at getting a bountiful basket (www.bountifulbaskets.org). It will be interesting to plan my meals around what fruits and vegetables I get rather than planning my produce purchases around my meal plans.

  44. Melissa

    Check out southernsavers.com. It can be overwhelming, but if you just pick one store that you frequent (for me it’s Publix) and stick to only that store, Jenny (she runs Southern Savers) matches up all of the coupons and sales for you. She also does weekly menu planning that combines the sales and coupons. When she tells you to buy something, she links to the coupon (or tells you which coupon paper it’s in). All you have to do is save your Sunday coupons (don’t cut them, just save them and put the date on them), check her site once or twice a week, and you’re done. I spend 30 minutes a week on this and over the past year, I have cut my grocery bill in HALF. I tried meal planning, but that took too much time. Plus, I change my mind between Sunday night and Wednesday!

  45. Becky

    Okay, I am doing meal planning and I’m not near spending $100 or less every week. CLEARLY, I need to change something. wow. You rock.

  46. Elizabeth

    Katie, I hate it when people correct my typos and grammar mistakes…but since it’s in your title, I can’t overlook it since it will be in your archives forever. Calvary is the hill where Christ was crucified…Cavalry is affiliated with infantry/soldiers/etc. I’m sure you already knew that. Again, not trying to be one of “those” people.
    Loved the post! I’m in college and I’ve been meal planning to cut down on eating out.

  47. We use http://www.mealtimemakeover.com for our meal planning. For $5/month it gives me the grocery list and recipes for 5 meals a week. It’s usually enough for my husband the next day at lunch, too. I spend $35-45/week for the groceries from it. It’s awesome!!

  48. Cindy

    I am a dietitian and I still have a hard time with this sometimes so I use E-Mealz which is supported by Dave Ramsey. You should check it out. It gives you the recipes and the shopping list off of the sales that week at some of the local grocery stores. I have found it to be the easiest thing to use. It does cost $15 every 3 months but I think that I save more than that by using it!!

  49. HeatherM

    I used to grocery shop alone and meal plan alone, until the one time when I asked my hubby to run up to the grocery store, and he insisted he could not do this because he didn’t know his way around the store. I decided this was a life skill he needed to learn (even though his mother saw no problem with his reason why he couldn’t go to the grocery store). Ever since I have started including him in the meal planning and shopping, I don’t hear much complaining that there is nothing to eat, he (a picky eater at 29 y/o) actually likes what I cook, and he is cooking more too. Even if he doesn’t shop w/ me, I always make him help put away the groceries so he knows what food is in the house.
    I agree the crock pot is key for a couple where both people work. We even got a 1.5qt crock pot, that makes the perfect amount for the two of us. Btw, have you ever made your ribs in the crock pot, lay sliced onions on the bottom of the pot, throw in the ribs, and 1/3 to 1/2 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce. Cook on low for 8-9+ hours, and they come out fall-off-the-bone tender.

  50. I am incredibly impressed. Seriously. There’s not a bone in my body that’s this organized. I wish I was…but I just can’t seem to get it together like this. Brad typically does all the meal planning and most of the cooking, actually all of the cooking. But, say I were to have an ounce of a planning spirit, my menu would look like this “Monday: chicken, rice and green beans. Tuesday: chicken, rice and green beans. Wednesday: maybe hamburgers and salad. Thursday: take out. Friday: chicken, rice and green beans”.

  51. Less than $100?! Holy moly…I need to start doing your system. There are only 3 of us, and my daughter is 1 so she really doesn’t eat much, and I hardly ever leave the store spending less than $100. I am a SAHM, and my fiance packs his lunch….so maybe I’m just buying too much lunch stuff. I don’t even eat lunch half the time. I like your strategy—thank you!

  52. Ignoring the last comment…we knew what you meant 🙂 Anyway, I need to start doing this meal planning thing. My problem is I love to cook so I always pick expensive recipes. I’m looking into the books you recommended! Thanks 🙂

  53. Carlene

    Wait what? Where is your BFF’s cookbook?! Have you seen her show yet?

  54. Alison

    This is my first comment on your blog-I discovered u couple days ago and i have to say I felt like “is this girl in my head or what!!!” It is good to know so many other moms and wives experience the same highs and lows I do! I also try to cook for several meals (like w/ the cx and ground beef). It certainly makes it easier when you work FT to come home to something ready to put in the oven or that only takes a short time to put together. One way we have additionally been able to cut our grocery bill is to have a leftover night (other leftovers are used for lunches), a breakfast food night, and sandwich night (in fall/winter we do soup and sammies at least once a week and again on the weekend). this is usually soup I have made in a big batch in the crockpot (for the woman afraid to leave hers all day-have no fear!!!) then save in batches and re-heat as needed. i can control the ingredients and salt this way vs. canned.

  55. tammy

    Wow! I’m so impressed! You’re off to a great start with meal planning. I can’t believe it took me so long to “discover” meal planning. Now, I take the easy way out – I subscribe to E-Z Mealz. $15 for 3 months – I choose my favorite store and they plan the weekly menus based on the sale ads for the week. Probably not as effective as your method, nor as much fun, but for me it’s easy.

  56. That’s pretty awesome for a family of four! Are you including formula in that figure? I’ve heard it can get fairly pricey. My husband found that by taking a certain amount of cash out of the bank and using that for groceries. It forces us to stay within our budgeted amount. I also plan meals, but I usually stick to one kind of meat per week, use it for 3-4 meals, and fill out the rest of the week with vegetarian meals like veggie chili, omelets, pasta, pizza, etc.

  57. I need to get back into this flow as well. I’ve stopped because I just never seem to find the time to actually GO to the grocery store. Which means we “stop by” for one thing or another or order food which is just so much worse and probably takes WAY longer in the long run. I am like you though – stratagizing and couponing is just above and beyond my willingness to do it.

  58. Jessica

    I use websites (only the free ones!) that match coupons to what’s on sale for me so I don’t have to spend a lot of time on it, and it’s worked really well for me. I think someone else mentioned one of the websites already, but when I was in NC I used mycouponteacher.com and since we’ve moved to IN I now use ingoodcents.com. I realy like the couponteacher website because she also lists meals and she has tutorials for how to start shopping with coupons. Using sites like those actually saves me a lot of time in addition to money. All you have to do is find one of the sites that posts coupons/sales for stores you shop at (including Target 🙂 ) and they tell you what items are on sale and which coupons to use (and where to find the coupons – newspaper, online (with links), etc.). And getting just the Sunday newspaper will more than pay for itself, especially if you can get a special deal subscription (you can get the Sunday paper for like $1 an issue and get hundreds of dollars in coupons). And using the websites you can just cut the coupons you need. When stores have specials like triple coupons we normally only pay about 1/3 of the original bill using those sites.

    I have tried the meal planning thing before, and it worked really well for a few weeks…and then I got lazy and stopped 🙂 But the coupons websites are really easy, even my husband has even successfully grocery shopped using those sites 🙂

  59. Jessica

    In addition to the novel I already wrote, those websites also have coupon databases so you can see if there are coupons for something you want to buy that’s not on sale. Which is much faster than looking through all my coupons to see if I have one for butter or whatever it is I need.

  60. Yonitha

    Oh that is too funny I read your post about grammar and spelling and then I come across this sentence in the post about feeding the clvary “I keep my panty well stocked with things like chicken broth, canned veggies, and pasta by buying it in bulk” oh so cute

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