I've been on Pinterest a lot lately. It gives me something to do while being a good way to zone out at the end of a long day. Along with tons of fun ideas for crafts and Halloween decor
that I will never be able to do that are super cute,
there are tons of pins of CrockPot meals and budget meal planning. So I click
on them, read through it, and then close it out. To me, they read the same: stock
up on meat when it gets unbelievable cheap, spend not-a-lot of money, then come
home, spread everything out on your expansive counters and spend hours prepping
and cooking and bagging and then putting it in your expansive freezer and
refrigerator. Hay, this sounds fabulous. I think the moms that are able to do
this are wonderful and fabulous!
But for me, around where I live, I don't have the stores that they shop at and I can never find meat deals like they do and I'm not going to spend my days clipping coupons. Then the problem with coupon clipping is that it doesn’t take into account fresh produce and everyday essentials like milk, eggs, creamer, etc. I like buying fresh produce instead of a ton of freezer foods and canned foods. And by prepping a month’s worth of dinners at once, the creative in-the-moment element is lost. I thrive on that part, it’s what keeps making dinners fun instead of a chore. And then there is the whole space issue. I live in an apartment. Space is a big issue.
So here is another budget meal planning blog. But this is an ordinary soccer mom with a 1st grader, a preschooler, a husband, and a dog all living in a small apartment on a tight budget. I don’t scour the sale flyers or hunt out mind-blowing deals or clip coupons. But I do cook my family dinner every night (even on nights with soccer practice) after sitting with my 1st grader to do her homework together and we read before bed every night.
I plan out, on average, two and a half weeks’ worth of meals at a time and do as much shopping for that menu as I can every payday – which is twice a month. I plan on sharing my meal plans with you, as well as how much I spend at the grocery.
Before I give the dinner menus and grocery bills and such, I also want to add that I make a lunch for my family every morning to send with them. Nate gets a container of carrot sticks (that I cut up from whole carrots), a container of cut up apples, a baggie of pretzels, a baggie of another snack (i.e., Cheez-Its), a fiber bar, and a Greek yogurt. Kyleigh gets a water bottle, a sandwich (or pasta), a fruit or veggie, and either a granola bar or a string cheese for lunch and something for an additional snack (a banana, dried edamame, grapes, cut up apples, or a crunchy granola bar). Abby gets a juice box (because she doesn’t have a water bottle for her lunchbox that doesn’t leak), a sandwich, a granola bar, a baggie of pretzels, and a couple carrot sticks when she goes to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Oh! Kyleigh is allowed to buy lunch on Fridays when she also gets extra money to buy a special treat of her choice.
September 14th – September 30th
Butternut Squash Soup & Sandwiches
Homemade Mac & Cheese
Broccoli & Cheese Soup w/ Sandwiches
First, I know you are going to notice things repeating and the reason is simple. We have days that are the same every week and the girls have really come to look forward to these days. For instance, every Monday night is Mexican Night; except for the 17th because Kyleigh has soccer practice that night. We switch it up between tortillas, nachos, and taco. When I am making out the menus, I let them decide which we will do.
Second, every Friday night is Pizza & a Movie Night. There isn’t a whole lot of tv watching that goes on in our house during the week (not because I forbid it, but because we simply don’t have time for it) so Kyleigh gets stoked about movie night. I think it is safe to say that this is the girls’ favorite night of the week because if something comes up that keeps us from having our homemade pizza and eating it in the living room while watching a movie (eating in the living room is a HUGE treat), they actually get very upset. Even if we are eating with Gramma and Grampa, they still get upset about missing Pizza & a Movie – this is a big deal. J
Thirdly, football season for Nate and me means chili every Sunday. Nate makes this late in the morning and it cooks in the CrockPot all day and is absolutely wonderful. I think it’s my favorite part of football season. J The girls, I’m sad to say, don’t get nearly as excited about this and their treat so far this year is mac & cheese from the box. The leftovers of which get sent with Kyleigh one or two days during the week for lunch.
Lastly, I try to do a Breakfast for Dinner night once a week. The girls really enjoy this too since our breakfasts are cereal and a banana or oatmeal. We have a nice variety of breakfasts we switch it up with: Banana muffins, a variety of pancakes, a variety of waffles, crepes, and French toast.
My shopping for this menu took me to three places.
The first of which was the Farmer’s Market. There I bought 4 onions, 3 bell peppers (one red, one yellow, one purple), 2 cubanelle peppers, 1 butternut squash, 1 acorn squash, 1 bunch of cilantro, and 7 or 8 apples. Abby was beside herself with excitement when she saw the stalls of pumpkins (most of which were bigger than her) that we splurged and bought 2 school-time pumpkins, too. I spent $14.70.
The second place I went shopping was Kroger. (There are a couple things that are sold here that aren’t available at WalMart, which is going to be the third place I shop.)
Quilted Northern (12 double rolls) 5.99
Peanut Butter Cheerios 1.99
Chocolate Cheerios 2.69
Block Cheddar Cheese 2.19
Block Mozzarella Cheese 2.19
Sliced Havarti Cheese 2.29
Sliced Aged White Cheddar Cheese 2.29
Snack Square Cheeses (x4) 1.34
Philly Low-Fat Cream Cheese 1.29
Laughing Cow Cheese 1.99
Daisy Small Curd Cottage Cheese 1.38
Dannon Coffee Yogurt 4pack 1.00
Tub Greek Yogurt 3.29
Capri Sun Pack 1.49
Juicy Juice juice boxes 2.59
Nutella (x2) 2.99 ea
Dried Cilantro 1.59
Dried Basil .79
Onion Powder 1.00
Peanut Butter (x2) 2.50 ea
Small Pitted Black Olives, can (x2) 1.39 ea
Frozen Strawberries 3.09
Fat-Free Half & Half 1.79
Quaker Old Fashioned Oats 3.00
Thomas Bagel Thins 2.49
Paper Towel Roll 1.00
3-pack Active Dry Yeast 1.19
2-lb bag Carrots 1.57
Total -- $68.50
Total savings from in-store sales -- $21.14
Since Kroger is having their “Mega Sale” where you buy 10 participating items and save an additional $5 after getting a sale price on top of it, I bought a few things I wouldn’t normally buy – all the name-brand stuff. Haha Otherwise I buy all store-brand items. I went ahead and bought some Capri Sun for Kyleigh since Abby got Juicy Juice for her lunch (it was on sale after all) and her school collects the empty Capri Sun pouches as a fundraiser. So why not support the school while I’m at it?
My next, and last, stop is WalMart. I would prefer to do all my shopping at one store, but WalMart sells things that I can’t find at Kroger…and Kroger sells things that aren’t available at WalMart.
Potato Chips 1.98
Bite-Size Tortilla Chips, really big bag 2.98
Bakery Bread, Italian Loaf 1.68
Flour Tortillas, large 1.18
Flour Tortillas, small 1.28
Brown Rice .78
White Rice .78
Cheez Its 2.88
Store Brand Velveeta 4.58
Elbow noodles 1.08
Chocolate Chip chewy granola bars 2.00
Oats n’ Honey Crunchy granola bars 2.00
Fiber Bars (x2) 2.00 ea
Canned tomato sauce (x3) .68 ea
Fat Free Cream of Chicken soup (x2) 1.25 ea
Chili Beans (x4) .68 ea
Canned black beans (x2) .68 ea
Canned mushrooms .72
Juicy Juice Orange Tangerine (bottle) 2.98
Leek Dry soup mix 1.42
Tomato paste (x3) .44 ea
Frozen cut broccoli .98
Frozen blueberries 3.23
Frozen peach slices 2.48
Kraft Light Sour Cream (x2) 1.48
Ben & Jerry’s 3.48
TCBY Frozen Yogurt 3.98
Dannon Greek Yogurts (x6) 1.00
Fig Bars .98
1 lb ground beef 80/20 (x2) 2.98 ea
Tyson Whole Fryer Chicken 5.32
Paper Towel 2-pk 2.97
Fels Naptha (x2 bars) .97
Crest Kids Toothpaste 2.50
Suave Conditioner 1.46
Mr Bubble bubble bath 3.72
Suave Kids Shampoo 1.88
Total -- $ 105.56
We buy frozen fruit and bottled Juicy Juice (sometimes SunnyD) for fruit smoothies that we have as a snack when Kyleigh gets home. I also splurge on Ben & Jerry’s every now and again…hey, a girl’s gotta have her own pint of really delicious ice cream just for her. And also, I buy the Fels Naptha bars because I make my own dry laundry detergent. Lastly, while I buy everything all at once (food, toilet paper, etc), it comes out of different areas of my budget.
I almost forgot. Thursday night I had to make an emergency trip to Kroger for diapers…and ended up buying other essentials (and some not-so-essential things) that we were out of.
Ruffles chips 2.99
Wavy potato chips 1.97
Granola cereal 2.29
Gevalia coffee 7.49
Muller Yogurts (x3) 1.00 ea
Dannon Yogurt 1.00
Black grapes 3.20
Golden delicious apples 1.20
Red grapes 4.05
Total -- $39.61
The total spent is $228.37. My grocery budget plus household/hygiene (for paper products, shampoos, cleaners, etc) and diapers all combined gives me $ 240.
Wow, I think this post is long enough. Next post I'll go into the individual meals and ingredients. Thanks for sticking through to read this whole thing! :)