We tried something different for July meal planning. In an effort to give healthy meals and varied meals, balanced with a hectic schedule in June (and the past year) we were overspending in our food budget.
We have been completely off in our budgeting practices in the past two years, and are trying to get back on track. We follow the Dave Ramsey methods and use cash only (well we are working on that part). We used this method 6 years ago to get out of debt, and I am happy to say that shortly after the birth of my first child we were debt free. It is a sound Christian method to budgeting, saving and getting out of debt. I highly recommend you check it out.
Part of the system is using cash for you normal expenses (groceries, activities, clothing etc). We tried to use our debit/credit card and simply record receipts, but someone (ahem, me) was not very diligent in reporting and saving receipts. So we are going back to the cash.
Very simple system. Once you have figured out your budget (literally right down every necessary expense (mortgage, utilities, medical, insurance and then set a limit for other items like grocery, date night, clothes, eating out, entertainment, etc per month). We use the Numbers program on our MacBookPro, which my husband can utilize much better than I. In our family my husband handles bills. He just does. He likes numbers, like excited to do taxes, likes numbers. Probably makes sense that he left his career in engineering to teach math. We have an estimate about how much we utilize each month for each category. But our family has grown by two since the last time we utilized this system well, so right now it is a fluid estimate that may change in the months to follow.
That being said we are just not sure what we need to set aside for groceries for our family of 6. So in an effort to understand realistic pricing and what not I have done 2 things.
- Price Comparisons– I spent a kid-free Saturday traveling all over creation with a notebook and a list of items we regularly purchase. I compared prices for Walmart, Aldi, Kroger and Meijer (our local stores- or rather the ones in the next town over). Then I figured out where was best place to buy various items and compiled it into a list. Then the next month I promptly lost said list. I followed in my mother’s footsteps and placed it in a “safe” place and am now unsure where that is, and nearly certain it got tossed during one of my great paper purges. Now to redo this, ugh!
- Meal Plan– Now we regularly meal plan, but really struggle with consistency in expenses and purchases. So we made a “Poor Mans Meal Plan” and decided for one month we would eat whatever was left in the house and only purchase a few new items to stick to our cheapskate plan. This is not because we can’t have more or afford more, but we want a baseline to start our budget and meal plans in the future. The theory is if it costs x amount of money to purchase the “poor man meals”then we need to budget [x + $50 to $100] for future months in order to buy more fresh produce and meat. We just want to be realistic in our estimate. Also we have almost no room to store things, so we cannot buy much in bulk otherwise we would.
When I asked my husband what his cheapest meal ideas were he said rice and beans and pasta (not necessarily all together.) So we decided on 4 main dinners each week.
Meatless Spaghetti, Rice & Bean Tacos, Meat/Potato dinner, Soup.
We decided PB&J would be cheapest lunches, and I proved to my husband how eggs and toast are cheaper than cereal when eaten by 5 of us. Now if you throw in meat or fruit then cereal is comparable, but we were going for cheapest. Also, oatmeal. But my husband is not a fan of oatmeal or anything with similar texture, so we needed an alternative too.
As I have mentioned before I have to plan snacks and trips too, or we are just not prepared. So included are some cheap snacks. I also include a vegetable and fruit for most meals. For dinners the vegetables will all be canned this month as that is cheapest. Fruit will be fresh for first part of month (bananas, watermelon, pineapple) and will be canned the last few weeks. I’m not going to lie the will not be our “healthiest” month or the “real food” I want it to be, but we will lean towards healthy as we can. Also, we are working on portion control. Which should work itself out as we get bored with the meals.
So are ready for the super simple plan? Here it is
Now if you’re wanting the actual recipes for certain meals. I’ll do my best to help out.
- sauté onions, celery and carrot (if on hand), add Tbsp of minced garlic (I buy the jar of minced garlic as it lasts a long time and is surprisingly economical for heavy garlic users)
- add sautéed veg, large can of tomato sauce, small can of tomato paste, 14.5oz can diced tomato. Cook in large pot for 15-30 minutes. Season with your favorite herbs. This summer we are using our fresh oregano and basil, then add kosher salt and coarse ground pepper.
- cook noodles in preferred method.
- Serve with parmesan cheese (if on hand and desired)
Bean & Rice Tacos
- cook rice to package directions (tried baked rice last night and did not work out so well, need to try again)
- we drain and rinse a can of black beans and a can of corn then add 1-2 Tbsp water, cook in small pot on the stove till warmed (or microwave if you prefer)
- shred some cheese, dice some tomatoes, tear some lettuce and whatever else that you have on hand or prefer on tacos
- we top ours with a variety of salsas depending on the day, this week the Herdez Guacamole Salsa was on sale. It is a favorite ever since a student bought some for my husband last year. It’s got some kick to it and is delicious!
- If I have any peppers or onions on hand I might sauté them too.
- Then serve with tortillas (Aldi has some decent flour ones for cheap) or eat it in a bowl with chips or extra lettuce (my preferred method.
Meat & Potato Nights
- baked/fried/grilled chicken, baked/mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, pineapple
- baked salmon (we buy frozen), roasted potatoes & garlic, green beans, pears
- meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn, applesauce
- baked/fried/grilled porkchops, baked/mashed/roasted potatoes, green beans or peas, pears
(will share recipes another time)
- Beef Veggie Soup, Baked Potato, Soup
- Chili, Baked Potato, Cornbread
- Poor Mans Soup, Baked Potato, Bread
- Worlds Best Soup, Bread, Salad (if lettuce in garden has rejuvenated)
- Also a great but we had at end of June, is the pictured above Three Bean Taco Soup, tortilla chips and guacamole
We are almost through the first week and it is working out well. But we have leftovers from the past week, and a church pitch-in (which I forgot about) Sunday.
Will add a copy of receipts next week and an update on how we are doing.
How do you save money? Do you have any budgeting tips? What are your best ideas for frugally feeding a large family?