Thursday, September 25, 2008

Meal Planning Advice

Hey faithful readers...I'm asking for your advice...

In January, Jason and I decided to adopt the "envelope budget system." It brings so much freedom because we know how much we can spend each month and when the envelope gets low--that's it. No more till the first of the month, no matter what. So anyways, the biggest point of tension/conflict/frustration/confusion for us is how I'm so bad at keeping money in our grocery envelope. Grocery prices are going up so much--even storebrand foods/products (which I buy when possible). All that to say...could you point me in the direction of a website or blog or something that helps with meal planning? On a small budget? Like, really small?

Any tips or words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, girls!

13 comments:

Mags said...

Hey Rach! You guys are amazing! Check out moneysavingmom.com, great coupon sites to visit, and she tells you what the good deals are at CVS, Walgreens and Rite aid. You really can get all your toiletries, paper towels, tissues, and misc items for free or close to it! THe coupon sites make it really easy, just print off as many as you want at home, and often I can get the namebrand stuff for cheaper than the store brand!

drew, melissa, and jonas said...

I can SO empathize with your dilemma! I've recently been thinking about how to make some meal planning changes, as well. Have you heard much about "bulk cooking" or "cooking for a month"? I'm seriously considering it...seems like you can save a significant amount of money AND time.

Tricia said...

Rachel - I actually take a whole day once every couple of months to do a mass cooking day. It goes off the premise of cooking for a month but I don't use the meals every day, just when we need a quick meal and don't want to go out. Anyway, I plan for about 20 meals, figure out what I am going to make and amounts of everything needed, buy disposable pans at the dollar store and bulk buy the supplies at Sam's. I have done it several times now and it ends up costing me about $150 to make 20 meals that feed 4 people (less than $5 a meal). That means we have left overs or can invite others over to share. It takes an entire day to prepare everything but it is worth it.

If you are interested in talking more about doing it or organizing one just let me know, I would love to help. I have some tried and true recipes as well as some worksheets I have developed to make things easier. It is great to do it with someone else so perhaps I could help you and Melissa team up for one.

Here are some websites that help with organizing a once a month cooking day:
http://www.once-a-month-cookingworld.com/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1
http://www.myrecipes.com/recipes/freezable

Tricia Callahan

Matt and Traci said...

Hey Rach,

I'm not too good at planning ahead for meals unless I sit down and make a list of everything I need; however, I've been using coupons a lot lately, and they really save money. I saved over 10 bucks today at the commissary. I also now go to Aldi's for canned goods or items for parties. I got cans of tomatoes for salsa for 45 cents a piece. It's a great place for basics. I only go though when I'm on my way somewhere b/c it's about 2.5 miles from our house. I'm trying to conserve as much gas as possible now that we're living in Huber, and our massive Tahoe now costs us about 85 bucks to fill up... not good. One thing you can also do is sacrifice a few other things throughout the month if you want to put more money in the envelope... like give up one or two Starbucks drinks each week. (Our huge downfall... Matt and I both love us some chai lattes!) Or... buy other things when they're on sale. I do all my Christmas, baby shower, birthday etc. shopping all throughout the year. I always find awesome deals that way, especially during the off seasons. I recently bought a complete baby outfit for 3 bucks at Kohls.. no joke! I bought Isaac some polo style shirts there for $1.60 each... brand new and very cute!! I'm a frugal spender, so I completely understand where you're coming from. Finding any way to save money these days really helps. I also check Craigslist for good deals. I've found soooo many good things for Isaac on there. So, those are some of my random thoughts. I've never really heard about cooking for the month, but it sounds really awesome if you have the freezer space. I'd be interested in trying it as well. Let me know how things progress!

Joel said...

Hey Rachel,
Not sure what everyone already said, but Kari and I have been using the envelope system since last September or so. Groceries have been a persistent problem and point of frustration for Kari. She ended up sitting down and planning out meals for a whole month. That way she knew what she needed to buy and nothing more. Yet prices have still gone up. We've had to adjust our budget several times to account for this. We've taken money out of other envelopes that had some "cushion" to account for the change.

i'm beccy. said...

A long term thought: some fruits and veggies are cheap and easy to grow yourself with a little homework (gardeners love to help anyone who wants to learn anything if you just ask). Plus I have heard that kids who grow their own food are much more likely to eat veggies, and I am finding that true w/ my boys (our new home came w/ a tomato and cuke plant). A packet of seeds is really cheap. Plus you can do your own herbs, too, and they are super easy to grow - that is how I learned a little about gardening.

drew, melissa, and jonas said...

p.s. tricia is the one who got me all hyped up about once a month cooking :)

Anonymous said...

www.menus4moms.com

cheap and easy meal planning!!!

Anonymous said...

opps, forgot to say... on menus4moms go on the left side links and click on basic dinner menu for the week... you can also look at the menu archives for other past menus.

lydia said...

I agree with Mags - check out moneysavingmom.com. She feeds her family of four on $40 a week (currently increased to $70/week because of severe morning sickness). Anyway, she'll at least give you some good ideas. Let me know when you figure out the perfect system~;-)

The Meal Planner said...

Hi Rachel,

I totally hear ya on the tight food budget thing. I've totally been there. My website has lots of meal planning tips if you want to check it out: http://themealplanner.blogspot.com

Also, there's a mom who has a blog called $5 Dinners, who manages to feed a family of 4 for $5 or less every night. She has some great tips for saving money. http://5dollardinners.com

Stacie@HobbitDoor said...

Rachel,
You can check out http://www.e-mealz.com/. I haven't tried it but have heard rave reviews from other bloggers. They send you a meal plan and a grocery list based on your grocery store/dietary needs, etc. It looks cool. There is a small fee. Also, http://babycheapskate.blogspot.com/ has lots of heads up on coupons, sales, etc mostly related to babies but it is helpful.

Karen - Lily On the Fly said...

I am a working mom who was blessed with an ah-ha moment related to meal planning, and I would love to send you a free copy of the meal planning system that I developed to help busy moms. It is based around family friendly meals, and makes it possible to plan 'on the fly' You can read about it at www.lilyonthefly.com - Just send me an email through the website if you are interested in a free starter kit. Good luck - it is surely challenging at the grocery store these days -- I really like to help where I can...