have a plan until two days ago. Well, other than knowing the previous plan of buying whatever food, whenever, had to change. But here it is, in all it's glory. Let's all cross our fingers that it actually works for my family! I will be sure to report back in four weeks and let you know! Or else I'll be lamenting this dumb system and asking for help. Either way, I'll be back. (Not a threat.)
First of all, there are hundreds of ways to do food prep and budgeting and I don't claim any expertise at all, here. So we're clear on that. (I mean obviously right? If I was an expert, I'd have been doing something different all along, and I wouldn't be writing this post. Ya know?) This plan worked for Adrain and I before, ages ago, when my babies were little, but I adapted it a bit for this stage of life.
identifying my challenges.
1) Obviously, the fact that we have been spending double what our budget called for was the main issue. We are gluten free and that can be pricey. We don't buy all the "gluten free" items in stores because they are crazy expensive... however, eating clean is gluten free, that's what we do for the most part, and THAT is expensive. Also, I haven't really been paying attention and keeping track. It wasn't on purpose... it just kind of happened. I bet a lot of life mistakes are made, previous to those exact words.
2) I knew that this month in particular, was going to be challenging due to a few birthdays, St Patrick's day, and Easter. But I've never been one to back down from a challenge.
3) Two tween-agers that are beginning to eat all. the. time.
Defining our problem: (which may or may not be relateable, depending on your situation.)
1) I found that we were most often overspending due to the quick dash into a store for things like apples. $50 later, an exit from the store found us packing a bit more than apples. (Note to self, do not bring husbands or children into the store with me. ha!)
2) Busy evenings + tired Mommy= a few unplanned take out meals. We don't do it often, but I'd guess we average three to four times a month and we can definitely eat IN for a lot less.
3) The "fun-food-is-all-gone" syndrome. I can tell you for sure, this one is the culprit of the apples-turned-$50-shop spree problem. "But Mom... can't we please get this for our lunches? All we have left are boring foods!"
My solutions (I hope. Ask me in four weeks, mkay?)
1) Before I began my shopping flurry, I prayed over the whole thing. I literally needed a few things that I knew would be pricey but I prayed and scored several of them for big time deals. I don't believe that was coincidence.
2) Cash only- as in the green, papery stuff. Y'all know it works.
3) Monthly menu planned out, and all non-perishables purchased and divided up. I actually organized by plopping everything into bowls with their recipes, then spent time chopping veggies, then put everything into the freezer that could freeze, and the other things into a pantry box, separated from our other foods to avoid confusion. Years ago, I would have done a big "meal prep" day, creating all the recipes. This isn't that stage of life. I just got it off to a good start and trust me that's what I needed. I spent two full hours making a huge mess. Now I can pull out the freezer prepped bag, pull out the coordinating pantry bag, and whip up dinner.
4) RATIONING. Seriously. Snack-y items FOR THE MONTH purchased, and divided up by weeks. We also created a snack bin in the fridge so there are ready-to-go options at our fingertips.
5) Going meatless more often. It worked in WWII.
6) This one was hard, but I decided it wasn't the hill I was personally going to die on. Allowing inexpensive "filler foods" such as popcorn and cereal for starving kiddos after school. They are eating us out of house and home at 3:30, every single day. For every day life (not special occasions where I make cupcakes etc) I am a non-chemicals seeker, organic supporting, whole food promoting, kind of mama. But... that costs a lot of money and it's expensive enough to be a gluten free family on top of that. You do what you've got to do. (Bring on the Costco sized box of microwave popcorn.) They get lots of healthy options the rest of the day so I don't feel too bad about this choice.
7) Coupons. I don't fully buy into the couponing craze for myself. I know a lot of people who swear by it and I adore those people. It's simply not my thing and that's okay. My style is more of the "find what I need right now, and get the best price regardless of coupon deals. However, I did pay attention to my coupons and actually BROUGHT them (I am notorious for forgetting them when I actually WOULD have used them) and used a few. I think I saved about $15.00. I'll take that.
This will either go down as one of the most boring posts I've ever composed.... or it will be of some use to those of us slashing our food budgets. Just in case you yawned your way though it, I promise to bring you a recipe that will knock you on your rear, it's so good. Stay tuned for it, next week!
Happy Weekend friends!