Friday, February 22, 2013

Meal Planning Part I

A lot has happened in the past few months. We are now a family of 4 (kitty included!). Our son was born January 4. He is seven weeks old today. You can read more about him here. These have been the BEST seven weeks of my life! We've been blessed that I have been able to stay home and be a mommy. It was (and still is) a step of faith. In order to make it work, we've made drastic changes to our budget and have cut back a lot. I haven't missed a thing.
One thing that has really helped us stay on budget is planning our meals. I used to do this before the pregnancy cravings kicked in! However, we didn't always stick to it. Now we have to stick to it and I can't believe how much money we've saved. It also takes the stress of trying to figure out what to make each night.
How to plan meals:
1. Get organized. I use a calendar on the computer and just input what we're having each night. I'm a huge fan of cooking ONCE and eating TWICE, so I plan a meal for every other night. I make enough for the next night too. It's awesome and I'm so glad to have a hubby that loves leftovers. I hang the calendar on the refrigerator so it's there when I need it.
2. Limit shopping. I plan meals for the whole month and shop only twice a month. This is also a big money saver. I ONLY go to the store twice a month, no exceptions. All of those little trips were really adding up for us. And since I really hate grocery shopping, this was actually welcomed by me. I was inspired by a friend who shops for the whole month at once. I may try this one day, but it involves lots of freezing (for milk, cheese, sandwich meat, etc. or else they will go bad). I'm not quite there yet! You don't have to freeze anything if you shop every two weeks.
3. Have a theme. Plan meals that use the same proteins and ingredients so you can buy in bulk or family size to save money.
4. Don't forget your breakfast, lunch, and snack needs. I don't plan these meals. We normally eat the same things for breakfast and lunch everyday: some sort of eggs and an english muffin for breakfast and some sort of sandwich and raw veggie for lunch. I just make sure to buy plenty of these things so that we have them.
5. Plan for special nights. Having a baby in the middle of flu season has been quite scary for me. I have been a little over protective of him, not wanting to take him out in fear that he'll get sick. Now that he's 7 weeks old and I'm breast feeding (YAY for immunity!), I have eased up a bit and we've been venturing out some. For this month I planned home date nights, which were usually a special meal and included some sort of dessert. Part of the budget cuts we made were some date nights, so I'm planning more special nights for home. Things to consider for out-of-the-ordinary nights: home date nights, family or friends coming over, if you'll be taking a dish to a party, special weekend breakfasts, birthdays, etc. Think of EVERYTHING so you don't have to go back to the store.
Over the next few posts I am going to share with you some example weeks from our calendar. For February, since I am still getting acclamated to being a mom, I made sure that all of our meals were super easy and fast or for the slow cooker. Check back in a few days for a week's worth of planned meals and recipes!

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