Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wordful Wednesday - Gettin' crazy with menu plans - yeah, baby!

I already told you about how we're having to pinch our pennies like crazy this month, and that our grocery budget is a measly $150.

How can a family of three possibly manage on that?

Well, it helps that our child refuses to eat pretty much anything besides goldfish crackers, graham crackers, yogurt, eggs and milk, but that's beside the point. And, eliminating non-essentials like sodas, cookies, etc., helps as well (but, since we stopped buying soda can I just tell you how bad I want a Diet Coke???)

Over a year ago, I started getting into coupons. Yes, I became *that* crazy coupon lady.

I joined a website called Coupon Sense that helps you organize coupons and matches up grocery store sales with coupons to maximize your savings, often resulting in free groceries.

They also teach you the strategy of stocking up on certain items when they're on sale, such as canned goods and anything that can be frozen.

So, I try to keep stockpiles of things like boneless, skinless chicken breast and 93% lean hamburger in my freezer. I also stock up on cereal when it's on sale (like the time I got 15 boxes of name brand cereal for $13.84), as well as things like diapers, baby wipes and personal care items. CVS is one of my favorite places to get those types of things for free.

Anyway, at the end of October when I tirelessly crunched the numbers to attempt to get our budget balanced, I realized our grocery budget needed to be cut - waaaay down. I hadn't been too gung ho with the coupon usage (I tend to go in spurts with it), and I realized I needed to hunker down and get back on the bandwagon.

I started with a menu plan, and I was able to come up with an entire month's worth of meals based on just the ingredients we had in our house (of course, things requiring dairy and other perishables would need the occasional ingredient here or there).

Sure, we don't have much of anything extravagant - you'll see things like bean and cheese burritos, blueberry pancakes, sloppy joes, Hamburger Helper, and spaghetti, but really - those are the kinds of things we like.

When it comes to side dishes, I've got things like Betty Crocker boxed potatoes and frozen veggies that I got for free or nearly free with coupons.

So, looking at that calendar and seeing what I was able to do for our family as a result of using coupons, stockpiling, and planning ahead made me feel really good.

We've got roughly $37.50/week to spend on groceries, and for the rest of this month, I'll be telling you how that goes. So far this week, I've gotten 3 gallons of milk, a carton of eggs and some Egg Beaters.

I love a good challenge, and I'm confident we can do this. When times get tough, we just need to get creative.

Your turn: What are your favorite meals that are cheap to make? Do you do menu plans? How do you save money on food?

*This post is a part of Wordful Wednesday, hosted each week by Angie at 7 Clown Circus.


Dee said...

I'm impressed! A good cheap on is potato soup

blueviolet said...

Eggbeaters are expensive. I hope you had a coupon!

Michelle aka Mommy said...

i'm soooo thankful that i'm not the only one pinching pennies. its nice to have a "band of penny pinchers". a quick, cheap and easy recipe is porcupine (sp) balls (essentially hamburger meat, rice & spagehtti sauce) and our family favorite, italian roast (roast, italian seasoning, can of beer, peppercinnis, beef consume - crockpot it baby!)...yum!

Meal Plans - i only wish i had half the due diligence it takes to do meal plans. if there's an easy template to use, please let it be known. i'd be thankful.

thank you for the coupon sense link!

Summer said...

You so need to teach us your ways!!! Groceries is a HUGE expense for us.

Tina said...

I do menu planning. I find that it makes it easier when grocery shopping, because you know exactly what you need. We love roast and it is fairly inexspensive. I also do a lot of my shopping at Aldi and buy generic whenever possible. Good luck on your budget.

Allyson said...

hmmm...cheap meals...

~goulash (elbow macaroni, tomato sauce, hamburger...it's even good w/o the meat)

~hobo dinners (on a somewhat large piece of tinfoil place a hamburger patty, carrots, potatos, onions, and whatever veggie you like. wrap up in tinfoil and bake until meat is done)

~farmer skillet (scrambled eggs with cut up potatos and onions)

~egg bake

i'll grill my hubby for ya. i'm sure we've done more!

i know you can do this. look how creative you've already been! very proud of you :)

pam said...

You impress me!

Stina said...

you've inspired me. i need to do some type of planning. my son barely eats anything. he's super picky, but the hubs wants everything. need to find a balance. take care.

Jenners said...

You eat like we do! Yeah! And I kind of like when I'm faced with challenges like this ... it brings out your creative and organizational side.

And I never drive by CVS without thinking about you!

angie said...

My husband is a HUGE MEAT eater so we usually have to have some sort of meat. I usually buy whatever meat is on sale.........same for fruits and veggies, and I make my meals based on what's on sale.......not recipes that look good.....I find when I cook that way (recipes) I spend more money b/c they call for speciality items. Spaghetti is always an inexpensive stand by. :)

Connie Weiss said...

I've been working at cutting my food budget too and I find that my go to meals are soups (because there is always leftovers) and anything with beans in it. Breakfast is also pretty cheap.

Good Luck! I can't wait to see how you do!

Molly said...

meal planning is one of the best things you can do in my opinion. i have been doing 1 week at a time, but totally need to go with the whole month! you are doing a great job!