Friday, January 8, 2016

Meal Planning and Budgeting Update

You know that meal planning and budgeting stuff we were talking about recently? Well, today I have an update for you.

After discussing it with husband, we decided to switch to a weekly budget for our groceries. We also decided that all household items should be grouped in with groceries. I might not need conditioner every month, but it would be good to be able to use that money for more vegetables when I don't. It's also important to point out that any eating out/fast food comes from this money too, so if there's nothing left after buying groceries, we don't get Chickfila! Unless we've worked that meal into the plan, of course.

Weekly budgeting and meal planning makes things a lot easier to manage for me. I feel like I'm much less likely to run out of food or cash at the end of the month. It's a lot harder to over or under estimate the amount of food you need for a week than it is for a month. If I have food for a meal that I didn't end up using for the week, I can easily use it the next week without it throwing everything off because I haven't yet shopped for that week, like I would have if I was shopping for the whole month at once. This also means there are actually less trips to the store for random items. I have everything I know I need for the week. With meal planning for a month it's harder to know how much, let's say EVOO I'll need. If I'm shopping for the week though and I know I have two meals that call for EVOO and my bottle is half full, I'll be fine. If the bottle is half full and I need it for 7 meals out of the month, it's much harder to judge if I need to buy some or not.

Yesterday was my second time shopping on the new plan. The first time was last Wednesday, when Will was still out of school for winter break. I didn't want to try to take three kids with me on a grocery trip where I really needed to focus on prices and ingredients and sticking to a list, so I was glad my inlaws were able to keep them for a while. I had made my shopping list the night before; after looking through the foods I already had on hand, I added a couple things that could go with those to make up meals. For the other meals I would need I used one of the "3 Meals, 1 Bag" pages from Rachael Ray's Week in a Day book. I actually ended up messing up my list for this first trip. I had originally made a list with everything we were low on also and a few things I just wanted to get. This was before we decided on the weekly budget, so I ended up taking those things off and leaving it with just what we needed for the week. I accidentally took off chicken breasts I needed for one of our meals. It still worked out though, we ended up not using that meal since we ate with family a couple of days. This week Publix had chicken breasts BOGO, and I froze one pack so I can roll that meal over to use whenever.

Like a nerd I went through the grocery store with my phone on the calculator and added everything up I was getting. I even weighed my produce. I never see people do that anymore. Except my kids cause they like playing with the scale. After I had everything I needed for our meal plan and was below budget, I was able to go back through the store and pick up some snack foods for the kids.

At the end of the week we were doing good, husband had made one extra trip to get yogurt and bananas, and I was able to make it one extra day before my grocery trip and we were left with $5 (I won't say how much our budget is, but it's much less than you would expect for a family of 5. Maybe I'll have husband write a guest post on budget someday [don't get too excited husband, I said maybe]). I should point out though that one meal we had with family was fried chicken that we bought, we used a gift card for that, otherwise we wouldn't have done it.

I think it went really well for the first week. This week has started off well also, though I'm a little nervous because I did spend more at the grocery store than I did at first last week, so I hope no surprises pop up. I'm definitely going to run out of bananas. Runner probs, am I right? I should hide them from the kids. Next week I'll give another update on how week 2 goes.

Have you tried meal planning?

Do you shop on a budget?

If you think it's too much work, you could give eMeals a try. They even have a free trial. Everything is planned out for you, complete with recipes and a shopping list. Plus, they have plans that can accommodate many different diets or food restrictions.

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