I have never really been great at budgeting. Recently however, my family of four depends on one sole income. So budgeting has become a “must”. Now that I actually learned to budget I ask myself why I didn’t try this sooner. To think of all the money that I could have saved is unbelievable. I feel bad knowing that I spent up to $200 per week on groceries for a then family of 3. A lot of the food that I purchased would spoil or expire before I even used it. I tried to teach my daughter the importance of being grateful for the food on our table because there are so many families who can’t even afford it, yet there I was guilty of wasting so much food.
That’s why I vowed to myself I would learn to budget and by that I begin to learn how to meal plan. I knew I for sure had to stick to this especially with my husband giving me a set amount to spend on groceries. I almost thought it would be impossible to buy one week’s worth of groceries under $100 until I actually tried it for the first time. It’s crazy because since I started budgeting and meal planning we started eating a lot healthier as well. Of course we slip up here and there but I feel that’s ok especially with having kids that are really picky eaters. The thing is now I buy what is necessary and not just want I want or crave. Again here and there I do buy something that the kids or my husband and I are craving but 98% of the time I stick to what is on my list and if I know I have a few dollars left over then I will grab a box of ice cream or some type of dessert for the kids.
Now there is also about once every couple of months that I will go over budget but that is when it is time to buy those cleaning supplies or other miscellaneous items such as trash bags, tissue, paper towels, etc (those I buy in bulk at Costco because they last a lot longer). So here is how I start off meal planning. I chose to grocery shop on Fridays so on Thursday evening I will make a list of what meals I will cook from that Friday until Thursday of next week. Choosing out what meals to cook or prepare during the week usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Then once I have chosen the meals I go online to check prices for all the ingredients that make up the meals. I try to portion the meals so that they will be large enough to feed all 4 of us for dinner as well as having enough left over for my husband to take for lunch the next day. So the dinner meal prep is the most extensive which is why I choose to do that first. I realized that buying chicken is a lot cheaper then buying other types of meats. Second I meal plan breakfast which is a lot more simple. For breakfast I use eggs almost every day of the week. I will make breakfast casseroles which last about 3 days. I also make a lot of egg white omelets with diced fruit. Another fun and healthy breakfast idea that I found on Pinterest is freezing greek yogurt in a cupcake liner and tray and adding fresh fruit on top (the kids love this). I always have a box of cereal as well since the kids and I both love cereal. Or I make pancakes. There are several ideas for any type of meal and I usually just go on Pinterest. For lunch I will makes turkey breast sandwiches or PB&J sandwiches or I will use left over chicken from dinner and make chicken salad sandwiches or chicken noodle soup.
After I complete the meal planning for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I will write all the extra stuff that we normally use on an every day basis. Things such as waters, iced coffee, other fruits, and snacks. Sometimes if I go over the $100 budget I go back through my list and find stuff that the meal can totally go without. I always round up therefore when I check out the total price comes out under $100 including tax. The total process takes me about 30 minutes to an hour. I know some people might think, really I don’t have time for that. Believe me you will make time for that once you start saving $300 to $400 per month by just meal planning and budgeting. I usually shop at Walmart because it is the closest grocery store to me and also because I use their savings catcher app which is amazing. So how the savings catcher works is every time I shop at Walmart I scan the receipt and they compare prices from stores all over the area and if there is an item with a cheaper price at a different store they will refund me the difference. I usually let this build until I have around $20 or $30. I believe there are different stores that now offer this, not sure which others though. After all imagine what all you could do with the extra money. You can use it for entertainment and fun with the kids or for a date night. Or you might just want to start putting that aside in savings!!