02 January 2015

2015 Meal Planning Challenge

I've done meal planning in the past and it works out really well. I tend to stick with crock pot dinners for a few reasons: I work from home and don't like to take lunches because that time will need to be made up, the hubs (while well intentioned) isn't the best w/recipes (it can take him 10-15 minutes to chop up an onion), and I can prep most of them way in advance.

This year I'm going to try and do two things: 1. let the hubs do more in the kitchen and 2. stick to a $30/wk grocery budget. There are only two of us and there really isn't a reason to not try and keep the grocery bill low. I tend to stock up on staples when they are on super sale and there are only a couple things that I just buy as we need them. The benefits, of course, are having more money and also not stressing about what the meal for the day is going to be.

I spent quite a bit of time last night looking through the recipes on Budget Bytes to add to things we already love to eat. I added quite a few recipes and did my grocery shopping today. There were a couple things that did put me over and I didn't freak out. I don't drink a ton of milk but when I do it needs to be organic and I prefer Organic Valley, which for loads of reasons is pricey right now (about 4.50/.5 gal). Normal milk just doesn't work for me or with my body. Also bulgur is also kinda pricey at 4.89 but I know it will last me a while. Ground beef was on sale this week and it made more sense to buy the bigger pack and split it up for the rest of the meals for January. I also needed to purchase more Active Dry Yeast, which usually lasts me about 4-6 months but costs 3.99. Even knowing these things I was a little bummed. I came home and put away my groceries then looked at my calendar and realized something awesome. I have meals planned out through Jan 17 with only a couple things left to buy for that last week (sour cream, elbow pasta, northern beans and maybe a loaf of french bread). I'm jazzed. You're talking about maybe $5 in groceries. I could stock up on more staples like flour and make my own french bread and I made need some olive oil by that point but overall it's looking very nice.

Here is a recap of the rest of my purchases today and the meals I have planned through Jan 17.

Purchases: I bought a cheap rice cooker at Wal-Mart for $15.71 after finding a bag of craft stuff from Hobby Lobby I didn't need and had previously forgotten to return. I got back 13.40. I remembered I had a Target store credit (10 something) and also needed some TP. I checked the Cartwheel app and saw they had some deals for dry beans. Along with lentils and jasmine rice, I got my TP and 2 calendars for the year in the dollar section. I ended up spending about $3 out of pocket.

Meals: I do want to say that most of the meals listed below come from Budget Bytes or are ones I found on Pinterest. There are a couple that I added because I knew I had stuff to make in my freezer already. Also, I will eat leftovers or oatmeal for breakfast/lunch on most days but I do currently have some turkey and cheddar for sandwiches. The hubs is a bit pickier but he has agreed to try out the whole leftovers thing again so that I can focus on just buying food for breakfasts and dinners.

Jan 2 - Jan 3

  • Pan Pizza (BTW this was delicious but I did use a different recipe for the dough, which made enough to have for next Friday's pizza)
  • Bulgur & Chickpea salad; Hamburgers & Fries - buns were on sale and so were frozen fries at one dollar a piece. Too good to pass up.

Jan 4 - Jan 10

Jan 11 - Jan 17

  • Herb & Citrus Roasted Chicken - I've only got legs and oranges but it should work.
  • White Chicken Chili - the chicken will be from the leftovers
  • Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce
  • Black Bean Soup with Rice
  • Chorizo con Huevos - I love chorizo and have it in my freezer often. I may even had a potato to bulk up this dinner.
  • Fried Shrimp (Oven) & Red Potatoes - I bought some frozen shrimp a week ago and the hubs picked out some weird over potatoes at the same time.
  • Jalapeno Popper Mac & Cheese - I'm excited about this one but if I see chicken nuggets on sale ... it's on!!
Depending on the sales ad on Sunday, I may decide to buy a few more veggies to supplement lighter meals during the third week or add a protein like chicken on a couple days. So far this is the plan and I'm quite happy about it. There are 14 other days left in January and I already have 3 meals planned on those with 11 more to pick. Once the fridge and freezer thin out, I'll have to see what is left and what I will need to buy and stock up on again.

Last couple of tips... while I was doing all my searching last night, the brains over at Budget Bytes mentioned just prepping all your veggies at once instead of as you need them and then freezing them. I already did this with onions because it's quick and frozen onions don't stink up the fridge. IDK why it didn't dawn on me to do this with celery or carrots. So while my pizza dough was rising, I chopped up my whole package of celery and carrots along with a green pepper, red onion and vidalia onion. I made little pizza packs with enough toppings in each for a pan pizza, packets of celery and carrots for soup and then 1 cup packets of onions to save me time later on. I put them all in snack bags then tossed all the snack bags into 1 gallon freezer bag. Typing all this out makes me even more tired. bleh. 

Time for hot cocoa and some games.

January 2015

Eww. It's been awhile.

Let's recap 2014. I kinda failed on the remembering to transfer money to my savings account each week for the 52 week challenge. BUT I did have that Ally account set up and managed to save quite a bit of money. Between direct deposit and NOT adding it to my money/bill paying rhythm, I was able to forget about it for most of the year. I did take money out twice - once for an unexpected bill and once yesterday to pay off a credit card. The best part ... still have money in that account.

There isn't any reason to STOP putting money from my check since I haven't really missed it and I've been earning interest so that pay will keep going.

I did successfully complete my Goodreads challenge and I read 20 books in 2014. Here is the link if you want to join me for the 2015 challenge. I decided to up the ante and go for 30 books.

On the laundry front, the homemade detergent from July is just about gone. I've used up almost all the ingredients I purchased so this week I went to Wally world and stocked up again. I was able to save myself $5 this time since I already had the scoop and container. I did have to make more about 3 months in and realized that it would nice to just do the whole batch in one go. We get our dishwasher tablets from Costco and I kept the fancy plastic tub they come in. I think between the two containers I will have enough storage. We'll find out tomorrow. :D

Stay tuned ... I have another post coming soon about my meal planning challenge for January.