Planning Ahead = Saving Money

Planning ahead is a way to always save money. If I know that I have a plan, I am less likely to decide and make random choices. I am definitely planning ahead for the Spring. I can not begin to explain how much I am looking forward to warm days.  First, it gets me so much closer to the end of the school year and my summer off with lots of fun filled activities.  Next, I am also looking forward to my week of Spring Break at the end of March. Let’s talk about what my plans are starting to look like.

Both Kendall and Zach will be in school during my Spring break which means I should have some extra time to doing not only shopping for food but also some extra time for meal preparation as well. We are currently eating out of the pantry and freezer in order to make more room for prepared meals. I will be make a huge trip to Costco during my week off to purchase items to make at least 30 meals to place in the freezer. This should provide us with enough “prepared” meal to make the months of April and May pass smoothly even with all the end of year activities, baseball and chorus. My current plans include:
·         2 baked ziti- One for an evening meal and one for the freezer.
·         5lbs of taco meat in the crockpot for our Mexican meals
·         A pot of sloppy joes. We have been enjoying at least one meal of sloppy joes a month.
·         2 chicken pies and 2 chicken pot pies
·         3 meals of chicken enchiladas- one for an evening meal and the other two for the freezers. ·         6 bags of chicken breast ready to grill.
·         I am also hoping to try out some more of the freezer meals I have been finding online.

A more long range goal is to plan and prepare ahead at least 60 meals during the summer to use for the school year!

Moving to the garden. I am so excited to have the extra time to devote to the garden this year. Last year was a bust overall but I am wondering if most of the issue is the amount of time and energy that was put in the garden.  To reduce the overall expense of the garden, I am planning to use gift cards earned through Swagbucks to pay for most of improvements in addition to all of the plants that I want to use.  My goal is to have at least $100 to spend on the purchase of plants during the first week of May. I have purchased both cucumber and squash seeds and will be starting these during my Spring break.  I will need to purchase one additional bag of dirt to use for starting these plants. I have already purchased one bag of organic fertilizer and will be purchasing at least 5 more to spread in the garden.  Between the dirt and fertilizer I am hoping to spend less than $50. My overall goal is to also fund as much of these purchases with gift cards as well.  I will also need to spend several hours if no more in the garden spreading the fertilizer and replacing some of the strings that separate all the squares as well. Prior to moving forward with these plans I also need to make a master plan for planting for the year.

My other goals/ plans during Spring break include an appointment to get my hair colored and a trip to the nail salon for a pedicure and manicure. 

Monday Menu Planning 2/25/2019

Heading toward the end of the month, I want to focus on a couple of things. First, I have spent less than $100 on groceries during the month of February! This balances out for $800 I spent in January. I have a week of break at the end of March and I will be doing lots of re-stocking which means probably a fair amount of expense. My goal over the next 4 weeks is to only buy “needs” For example, today I am stopping by Aldi to grab some cucumbers and tomato for salad and taco Tuesday and some cabbage to make a slaw.   Second we are increasing our schedule with baseball practice 2 days a week until games start and then it will be one or two games a week with practice on Saturdays.  Finally after eating out for several meals this weekend we NEED to clean out some left-overs. 

Breakfast- Saturday– Bacon and egg salad sandwhiches Sunday-Sausage cresent rolls (frozen mix) and orange rolls  Monday- Kids and Matt had left-over cinnamon rolls  from IKEA and I had pesto eggs. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday– Choice of  left-over baked oatmeal, eggs, oatmeal, grits, cereal,or toast. 

Lunch–Saturday-Egg Rolls   Sunday-Wednesday   Monday– Left-overs for everyone  Tuesday– Chicken salad wrap for me  Kendall and Zach have chicken nuggets , Wednesday-Thursday and Friday- uncrustables for the kids. I have a salad for one day and left-overs.

Dinner – Saturday-Ladies Banquet and pizza for the boys.  Sunday–Chinese  Monday-Shepherd pie (we had oyster stew on Friday) . Tuesday– Soft tacos   Wednesday–Left-overs including choice of meat and veggies to clean out fridge.  Thursday– KFC bowls  Friday- Shrimp fettuccine alfredo

Saving on Saturday 2/23/2019

The last couple of weeks, we have been doing things to improve the flow and function of our kitchen.  My plan is to show all the changes at one time. But in order to complete these updates as inexpensively as possible, I am using “free money”, gift cards that are earned via swagbucks or other apps.  I am also trying to use as many things as possible that we already have.  For example, while cleaning and organizing the laundry/ extra food storage, I found a dish rack that was no longer being used. I had Matt hang this on it’s side to hold lunch boxes. 

This cleaned off the dryer and even looks better.

Matt was able to put new brakes on the red car, saving all the labor cost!

The final big event was our church’s annual Ladies Banquet.  I have been asked to decorate a table the last several years.  This year with a little bit of planning ahead, I purchased all the items except for the center vase at the Dollar Tree. I borrowed the vase from my mother.  The total cost for the table was $25.  I am very happy with the results!,, What do you think?

Clothing

Beside groceries, you could easily suspect that clothing is one of our bigger expenses. Especially given the fact that prior to last fall, I wore scrubs four days a week. I probably spent less than $100 total on work clothing in those 12 years. Matt also has transitioned from wearing jeans and t-shirts to a more traditional work outfit. However, we have definitely been blessed over the years in the areas and we continue to receive blessing.

The girls often, at least once every 3 or 4 month have received bags of hand me down clothes over the years. Zach, since starting school has been gifted with clothing over and above any wants he could have. During the past several weeks, I began to notice that Kendall’s jeans were getting shorter and shorter and then ankle short. Lily has also been complaining about not have any “public” long sleeve shirts or sweaters to wear. Last Sunday, in fact, she ended up borrowing a sweater to wear to church from Kendall.  Matt and I decided that we really needed a trip to Goodwill and that we also need to take a good inventory of what clothing we had and what we needed.

At Goodwill, Kendall was able to locate a pair of jeans and a pair of capris that she really liked and Lily found 2 sweaters that she could use for layering.  The total spent was $14. We were also blessed by one of Lily’s  friend who after hearing Lily says she borrowed a shirt decided to clean out her closet and passed two huge bags of clothes down for the girls. I have been working on cleaning out my closet over the past several weeks and am actually at the point were most if not all the clothes that are left are unstained and something I have worn in the last year.  The kids all spent last Sunday afternoon and some time this week, going through and cleaning up their closets. I am so happy to report that each of the kids  has enough clothes not only for the rest of winter and spring but also the summer. Kendall “found” 3 additional swim suits in her closet that were the perfect size for Lily to finish out our needs list.

Matt and I have also been slowly, replacing some of our more worn out clothes, and updating some clothes as well. He needs mainly pants as his shirt collection is huge and I need more “professional” clothing as t-shirts are only allowed on Fridays. I receive lots of advertisements from multiple clothing stores on a daily basis. Today, I noticed that Old Navy was running a sale on dresses and jeans. I have been saving my Verizon rewards for the past couple of months and had two $5 gift cards from them.   I even remember to shop via Swagbucks. I am super pleased with the outcome. I purchased a pair of jeans for Matt, a pair of Khakis for Matt, 3 simple long sleeve dresses for me and a pair of bike shorts for either Lily or Kendall. I added the shorts for $2.08 in order to receive free shipping. I used $10 gift cards and spent a total of $45. I did receive $20 in super cash and another $5.69 from Swagbucks!

Monday Menu Planning 2/18/2019

You will notice lots of easy and quick meals on the menu this week. I still want to busy week we have scheduled I am saving most of the experiments for the weekend. I did make some changes to this weeks plan because we ended up eating left-overs on Friday night and I will be in a meeting until late on Tuesday night. I am planning to grind up a shoulder roast to use as the meat in the shepherds pie. I will also probably make extra mashed potatoes for the freezer and to use in the shephards pie on Friday.
Breakfast- Saturday– Biscuits- Sunday-Bacon omlet Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday– Choice of any available left-overs, oatmeal, grits, cereal, toast or eggos waffles. Wednesday- baked oatmeal either peanut butter/chocolate chip or strawberries and cream to use up the heavy cream at the house.
Lunch–Saturday-Crock pot mac and cheese Sunday-Mexician Monday– Potato soup for kids and chicken stew for me. Tuesday– hummus and dip for me , Kendall and Zach had egg salad sandwiches , Wednesday-Thursday and Friday- uncrustables for the kids. I have a salad for one day and left-overs.
Dinner – Saturday-Arby’s Sunday–Left-overs Monday-Rice Kieblsa . Tuesday– Cheese quesidila and mexican rice Wednesday–Chicken pie Thursday– sloppy joes and FF. Friday- Shephard pie

Menu Planning Monday

We were VERY successful eating up the junk food Sunday left-overs this past week. I did not post a menu plan but did talk about some of them over here.   The focus of this week is to try out some new recipes. I found a bunch of new to me crockpot recipes that include a shopping list. After looking at most of it, I realized that I would only have to buy the meat for most of these. I did want to do a taste test before stocking the freezer with these items. I also realized that some are just as easy to prepare the morning of or the night before. So far all three have been good but I will most likely only repeat two, the Mexican chill and Honey Sesame Chicken.

Breakfast- Saturday– Pancakes- with leftovers for several additional mornings this week. Sunday-I made an egg frittata with lots of veggies for me and biscuits for the kids and Matt. . Monday- Left-over egg frittata (the kids tasted mine on Sunday and wanted to finish it on Monday). Tuesday, Thursday, Friday– Choice of any available left-overs, oatmeal, grits, cereal, toast or eggos waffles.  Wednesday- baked oatmeal of some form.

Lunch–Saturday-Olive Garden (special treat) Sunday-Cranberry Roast with mixed veggies.  Monday– Potato soup for kids and a can of soup for me.  Tuesday– hummus and dip for me , Kendall and Zach had egg salad sandwiches , Wednesday-Thursday and Friday- uncrustables for the kids. I have a salad for one day and left-overs.

Dinner – Saturday-Mexican Chill with cornbread topping. Sunday–Oddles of noodles soup (yeap it was that good of a day) Monday-Honey Sesame chicken with egg rolls and rice. Tuesday– Taco pasta   Wednesday– Baked Ziti Thursday– Hamburgers and FF. Friday – left-overs or rice kielbasa depending on what the fridge looks like.

 

Do you have a favorite crockpot recipe for me to try?

Saving on Saturday 2/9/2019

I have often said in the past that saving money and living on less is a lifestyle choice.  I will also be the first to admit, it is not a fun or easy choice. I wanted to highlight some of the better choices that I made this week.

Gardening– The weather earlier this week was beautiful, highs in the 70’s for several days in a row.  We took one afternoon and spent about 2 hours trimming the rose bushes and removing weeds from the garden and flower beds.  I am really excited to have extra time this summer to spend working and caring for the garden.  After some thought, Matt and I have agreed to use our Swagbucks for both plants and supplies that we need to eliminate the initial cost. I estimate that prior to planting, first of May, we should have around $150 in gift cards to use for this project. I am hopeful that this will cover not only the cost of the plants but also some fertilizer and additional dirt.  I did purchase 2 packs of seeds at Walmart this weekend. We found for fifty cent each. I used Shopkicks  ($2 card earned in the store) to cover this purchase. No upfront expenses make any and all food we manage to raise FREE!

Groceries–  This is probably my greatest struggle.  This week we have focused on eating up and not letting any of the leftovers from junk food Sunday  go to waste.  One evening this week was a left-over meal. Additional, we have been using these items for lunches.  I enjoyed one day of a huge salad that included broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and tomatoes from the veggie tray. We added taco dip to our dinner of chicken enchiladas and spinach dip (creamed spinach) to our Salisbury steak meal.  I made egg salad with the remaining devil eggs which both Zach and Kendall took for lunch.

I also have found some new crock pot recipes that I want to try over the next couple of week to add to our list of quick and good meals. This particular website even provides a grocery list but I want to try each recipe using what we already have before spending additional money.  If these turn out to be repeats, they will be a summer project to stock the freezer while I am out of work during the summer.

I purchased a grinder attachment for the Kitchen Aid on sale for 60% off today. Our family does not particular enjoy roast, we purchased a whole cow last year with probably 20 different roast. My plan is to use the new attachment to turn the roast into hamburger which we used on a regular basis.

CVS- I have slowly been stock up on a variety of items from the weekly sales. I have managed to make a weekly trip the last several weeks. My saving percentages have been around 75% for each week. I have needed to restock on toothpaste, shampoo and body wash up front before moving on to laundry detergent and paper products. I am limiting myself to spending $10 or less per week at CVS.