Family Meal Planning on a Budget

Beside the cost of housing, food, literally, eats up one of the largest percentages of the average family budget. If we’re not careful, we could easily end up spending way more than we can afford on dining out and groceries. Our family rarely eats out, although, we do budget a small sum each month “just in case” we need to eat on the go. Instead, we try to plan and shop smart, for meals at home.

I haven’t done a budget grocery post since 2015’s Pantry Staples on a Frugal Budget, when I was unmarried, and without a child; and I thought now would be a good time to do so. Back then, I wasn’t cooking or eating (as a nursing mom) nearly as much as now, and cooking for 1 is much different than cooking for 2 adults and a choosy toddler. Furthermore, since I’m a stay-at-home momma (SAHM), I’m making food and snacks for myself and Cookie Girl throughout the day. So, my $30 a week budget from 3 years ago, definitely wouldn’t fly today. Now, we have about a $100 weekly budget. Some weeks we spend a little more and others a little less, but since we create a monthly budget (using the Every Dollar app), as long as we stay within what we’ve budgeted for groceries for the month, we’re good to go.

I’m gonna be honest, I struggled with meal prep and budgeting, for a while after baby was born. The hubbs did a lot of the cooking and grocery shopping, and while he’s a great cook (thank you, Lord), he doesn’t care much for sticking to a budget. When I did begin cooking again, it was a challenge because our family needs had changed. When we both worked outside the home, I would batch cook on the weekends so we’d have frozen/leftover meals for lunch and make simple stuff for dinner during the week. However, I’m no longer working outside the home, and we now live 30 minutes away from town; so we need meals that require little time for preparation, or we’ll end up eating fast food. Now that I’m a home during the day (for the most part), I have a little more freedom to make a variety of delicious, but simple home-cooked meals.

So, how are we doing it? Well, we’re still following those simple tips from that 2015 post, but we’re also incorporating the following…

  1. Monday morning I plan my week. That way I know what’s happening during the week.20180910_120555.jpg
  2. Then I plan my meals around what we’ll be doing during the week. We usually have leftovers on the days I won’t have time to cook, use the slow cooker, or pull out a freezer meal. (We’ve been testing recipes from the “Seriously Good Freezer Meals” cookbook; so far, I love it.)
  3. I plan 4 meals for the next week, so I can go grocery shopping the week before. That means, I have all the groceries I need this week, because I picked them up last week.
  4. I do most of our shopping at Aldi. We buy practically everything at Aldi because you just can’t beat their prices. Yes, it’s further away for me–we have a grocery store much closer to home–but the prices are nowhere near the prices we can get at Aldi. If there’s something I can’t find there, then I’ll go to another grocery store. (Note: Target is not a grocery store! Grocery prices tend to be much higher there.)
  5. We only go to Costco twice a month. I’ve found that if I made weekly trips to Costco I would over-spend every time and always end up busting our budget. When I do go, we only pick up pantry items, or items we can freeze, like meat, fish, chicken nuggets, peanut butter, bread, or rice; items that won’t spoil before we can eat it all and that will last us for a long time. There’s no point in purchasing groceries at a good price only to have them spoil. Additionally, Costco’s prices aren’t always the best deals you can find; I hardly ever buy fresh produce there, because the prices are too high. Always compare the cost per unit/lb/oz before purchasing.

As you can see, that takes care of dinner. As far as breakfast and lunch go, there are always items we keep on hand.

  • Bread
  • Eggs
  • Milk (Almond milk in our house)
  • Rice
  • Lunch meat & sliced cheese
  • Peanut butter & jelly (The hubby’s go-to are PB & J sandwiches.)
  • Kodiak cakes (pancake mix)
  • Flour
  • Cornstarch
  • Sugar/Stevia
  • Pasta
  • Cheese (blocks)
  • Frozen fruit & vegetables
  • Cheerios
  • Oatmeal
  • Yogurt
  • Tomato Sauce & paste
  • Crushed Tomatoes
  • Canned beans
  • Coffee & creamer
  • Fruit & veggie pouches
  • Fresh fruit
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Garlic (fresh or minced)
  • Vegetable/olive oil
  • Butter
  • Chicken/Beef Bouillon, powder, or stock
  • Seasonings: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, celery salt, cumin, cinnamon, parsley, chili powder, oregano, etc. (we have a pretty big collection)

Some of these we only keep on hand because we have a 13-month-old in the house, the fruit & veggie pouches, and Cheerios, for instance.

But these are pretty much staple items that we try to always keep on hand in our house. From here, we can fill in the gaps for specific recipes we put on the menu. Usually, that would include meat or fish, fresh herbs or veggies, or milk or heavy cream. Planning our weekly meals, grocery shopping with a written list, and on a full stomach are just some of the things that we do to prevent us from overspending on our groceries each month (which is very easy to do). What are some of the ways you save on groceries?

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2017 in Retrospect

It’s that time of year, again! I was thinking and talking to my husband, just yesterday, about all that has happened this past year. We have been so blessed. My husband and I went on a babymoon, we purchased a car (with cash), we became aunts/uncles again (×2), WE had a baby (my Cookie girl!), I left my job be a stay-at-home mom, AND we became debt free.

Wow! There’s just so much to be thankful for, and yet, we know that there’s more to come in 2018. We have multiple friends who are expecting babies, my sister is expecting again, and we’re hoping to begin house-hunting in the next few months. 

Now, that’s not to say that 2017 didn’t knock us back a few steps here and there. A broken down car; sleepless nights with a new baby; one of my sisters lost her home in a fire; my brother-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia; family in Puerto Rico were affected by the two hurricanes that passed through; and my husband’s grandmother passed away. But God continues to provide and prove His faithfulness over and over again. 

So as I sit here, with a napping baby on my lap, I’m jotting down some goals for 2018. They’re different from what I’ve desired previously, mostly because I’m in a new season of life. Yet, the same, in that I desire God to be at the center of all that I do. (You don’t realize how difficult that can be once you have a little one vying for all your attention.) If I were to write everything down here for you, it would take forever to explain, but I’ll go ahead and share a bulleted list of four areas I’d like to focus on for 2018.

  • Relationships…with God, spouse, baby, and friends.
  • Finances…budgeting, saving, and home buying.
  • Ministry…my family, homeless, worship, hospitality, and this blog.
  • Health…eating/cooking healthier, exercising, and taking time for self.

    As I look at this list, I know I’m going to have to be intentional, organized, and very diligent with my time. However, I also know that with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). 

    So, what are some goals you’re hoping to accomplish in 2018?