Showing posts with label Budgeting. Show all posts

Meal Planning is the Worst, No?

Let’s start with an apology.  I feel like I’ve been neglecting my blog a tad and if I have any readers left, I’m sorry!  It’s not because I don’t want to blog because I do and believe me, if I had the time, I’d have words everyday and not just once a week.  It’s really because I’ve been keeping busy seeing friends and housekeeping and the big one, TODDLERS.  Suffice it to say that I really miss cranking out projects and sharing tutorials with you here on the blog so, now that summer is kinda winding down, I’m going to start being better about that.  I have the usual laundry list of things I want to get done around here including a pile of clothes about two feet tall in my closet waiting to be refashioned.  There definitely isn’t a lack of motivation so hopefully I’ll have a new wardrobe along with a fully decorated house A to the sap and all the details to share.

And speaking of projects, I’ve been working on a really cool one for the past three weeks.  The last piece of it just came in the mail today and so the plan is to finish it after the kids are sawing logs tonight and have it on display tomorrow!  Toes crossed.  Until then, here’s a peek:

IMG_0884                                                      [heavily filtered so you don’t figure out too much ;)  ]

SO ANYWAY, I didn’t pop in today to just be a complete sulk.  I’m writing to tell you how my life has changed in the past three months thanks to eMeals.  But first, let me just disclaim that this is NOT a sponsored post nor did eMeals ask me to write a single word.  We are paying customers of eMeals and we LOVE the company.  However, after falling in love, I did sign up to be an affiliate which means that if you choose to use their meal planning service through me (through the links in this post and the affiliate ad in the sidebar), I will make a small commission.  Get them through me or get them elsewhere but I’m telling you, you should become good friends with that company if you’re anything like me which is…

NOT a meal planner.  Cooking?  Eh.  I’ll do it but only since I have four other mouths to feed.  There are just so many other fun things I’d rather do than stress out at five ‘o clock because my kids are hungry and shoot, I haven’t even thought about what to make for dinner.  Are you with me?  Or maybe you’re one of those peeps that’s ultra-organized and has the entire week planned food-wise in which case, you have a big admirer ova heeya.  :)

So, three months ago, I hopped over to eMeals website because I had spied them on Pinterest and I saw the “14 Day Free Trial” offer they have and signed up right that instance knowing that I had two weeks to give them a go and if I didn’t like it, it was no sweat off my back and I’d cancel. 

Well after the first week of being on a meal plan, we were hooked.  Anthony was elated to come home to a home cooked meal every night, I only had to put myself through one grocery store trip that week, and the kids were all like “whoa, mom’s doing something crazy at the stove”.  I seriously felt like I had just mastered being “domestic”.  It was awesome.  After our free trial, we signed up for a year of eMeals ($60) and right now, we’re three months in.

We’ve been eating things like…

Nacho Taco Salads

Warm Turkey and Cranberry Sandwich Bake with Oriental Slaw

Mexican Pie and Corn
…and so, so, so many other good meals.  They’ve all been so flavorful and seriously good.  Honestly, I can count on one hand the number of meals we weren’t fans of.  Good thing too because 90% of the time we have leftovers so dinner usually becomes lunch the next day!


How does it work?  Well, every week eMeals sends you an email containing seven dinner recipes (there are lunch, breakfast, and dessert plans too) and a grocery list with everything you’ll need to pick up to make those seven recipes.  And, that amazing grocery list is separated into grocery departments (frozen, produce, meats, etc…), making the one grocery trip you’ll have to make almost mindless and dare I say it, enjoyable?  Nope, too far.  Also, they’re in tune with several grocery stores (ALDI, Costco, Kroger, Publix, Safeway, Target, Walmart, and Whole Foods), keeping an eye on their sales and planning meals around them so that you can get the best bang meal for your buck (store-based plans).  There are over 50 meal plans you can choose from (Paleo, Gluten-Free, Kid-Friendly, etc…) and we’re currently on the Budget-Friendly plan.  Since starting emails, we’ve cut an average of $80 off our monthly grocery bill.  Our swelling food budget was actually the acute reason we decided to try eMeals.  The month before we signed up for the free trial, we had spent a little over $500 on groceries; a number bigger than we’d like.  We also found that we had a lot of grocery items we’d buy for one meal that would sit untouched for weeks.  So eMeals has also helped us to buy and use only what we need. 

The budget-friendly plan lists individual food prices on the grocery list so I know about what I should be paying for certain things as I stroll the aisles.  But, to get that number even lower, we buy most of our items at Walmart but then head to Sam’s to buy meat in bulk and to Publix for their BOGO deals.

Anyway, I’ll quit typing your eyes off about food and groceries but I just want to reiterate that I wasn’t asked or compensated to write this post.  I just wanted to share something that we truly love that you might too.  Check it out!  You get two free weeks!  And after that, if you love it, you’ll happily spend the $5 a month for someone else to zip over the meal plan for your week while you sip Iced Teas on the porch, knowing that dinner tonight is covered.  :)      

How Our Pennies Add Up

Well, since it's a new year and all...and because projects are stalled in this house...I thought I'd write about saving money - the way we do it.  Whether you're sporting a really strict budget or are lucky to be a little more loose with your spending, we think having a guideline to follow every month is smart.  Spending without discipline can be really destructive, regardless of how much cash you have on hand.  Besides, a little dosage of self-control and some patience has never hurt anyone, right?  You can build character while budgeting.  :)

Anyway, on to the meat and potatoes of this post.  Here are some of the ways we save money:
  • We rarely (and I mean RARELY) buy anything for full price.  Everything goes on sale at some point.  Whether it's a new washer and dryer or a new suit for Anthony, we see it, keep an eye on it, and snatch it up at the first sign of a sale (or a really good coupon).  Of course this isn't the easy way to do things and requires a little bit of research and patience but in the end we have more money to spend on something else.
  • Eating out is a we-have-a-gift-card experience or limited to a once-per-week-or-two luxury...and unless it's the gift card route, it's only fast food.  That means that, usually, whatever we eat for dinner one night is Anthony's brown bag lunch the next day.
  • Which brings us to lunches.  I always eat lunch at home but Anthony doesn't have that luxury...yet.  Eating out for lunch everyday could eat a chunk out of our balance so he either brings leftovers to work or eats at the cafeteria ($3/meal).  I know it takes a little more effort to prepare a to-go lunch from home but we think of it this way...if Anthony ate lunch out everyday - spending $5 per meal - we'd be spending $100 a month.  Suddenly to us, pb&j sandwiches and brown bag lunches sound gourmet!  :)
  • Starbucks and coffee drinks not made in our trusty 'ole pot is very rare...sad but true.  :(  (Caramel frappacino's, I have a solely platonic love for you but we just can't see eachother that often...sorry.) 
  • I am the hairstylist in the fam...meaning I cut Anthony's hair and my own (unless I'm visiting my sister in which case she cuts mine).  My mom was my family's stylist growing up and I've learned how to trim, layer, cut bangs, you name it.  It's a great skill to have...professional degree or not.  :)
  • We're not big coupon users (even though we promote them 100% and really should start using them) but we do use price-matching a lot so we get the good sales without having to go to 5 stores to stock up.
  • We have the BEST credit card in the whole world (US Bank's FlexPerks) that we use on EVERYTHING, pay off at the end of each month, and by doing so, get at least one free airline ticket each year.
  • As regards utilities, we're really conscious about turning lights off in rooms we're not using, unplugging things that aren't being used (Anthony's pet peave), and not blasting our heating or air conditioning - turning them down or up during a day neither of us is home or if we're on vacation.  It might sound like a hassle but really only takes a couple of seconds and can save you a hundred or more dollars a year.
  • Thrift stores are incredible places to find unique furniture, decor, fabric, and more for CHEAP...enough said.
  • This doesn't work for everyone, but if you don't watch a ton of t.v. like us, don't pay for full cable.  We pay $13 for 15 channels and are as happy as chipmunks in a pile of acorns.  :)  (Plus, tons of shows are available to watch online too.)
  • We've had super-fast internet (when we first moved here) and we've had 'basic' internet (presently).  The only difference...besides the $30 a few more seconds of wait-time for a picture to upload.  We can still watch online show episodes, youtube videos, and everything else exactly how we did when we had 'lighting speed'.  (a.k.a. Comcast's highest-speed internet is seriously overrated).
  • As regards decorating, we do it in stages.  For example, I really, really, really want a pair of matching chairs to dress up our living room but it's pretty low on the priority list right now.  Besides, if you're going to put money into your house, we think it's smarter to put it into things that will raise it's value, like tiling a bathroom, updating kitchen appliances, or getting new windows.  Then, if you have a little extra money one day you can go for those curtains you're dying to have or that comforter that's calling your name...when they're on sale of course.  :)
  • We don't carry credit card balances.  The only interest we have to choice but to pay is that from student loans and our mortgage.  Watch out for those 'pay no interest until 2014' gimmicks too.  Most of the time, if you don't pay them off by the interest deadline, you start paying interest every month on top of all the interest they tack on for the past 3 years you've haven't had to make payments.  Lovely... 
  • We pay all of our bills online, cutting out the need for stamps.  We pay about 8 monthly bills so we're saving (8 bills x .44 stamps x 12 months) a little under $43 a year.
  • Anthony changes the oil and oil filter in our car himself.  Sure he gets a little dirty but he saves us at least $90 a year.  :)
  • Last summer we tried our hand at planting our own tomatoes and a few herbs - basil, oregano, chives (the only ones still living), and cilantro.  We eat tomatoes like it's our job so not having to buy them in the store all summer saved us tons.  The herbs turned out great too so having them fresh to cook with was great and helped us pinch pennies. 
  • The only phones we have are our cell phones.  Until we have teenagers, a landline won't be much use to us.  One phone bill is much better than two in our book (and we don't have to worry about those pesky telemarketers.)
We know that the way we cut back wouldn't work for everyone, nor is there a 'right way' to do it, but it's still fun to give ideas.  :)  After all, we are two beans in love, on a budget, and most importantly, just trying to get to heaven, and it's why we started this blog in the first place.  Some day, when we're debt free, sipping lemonades on the front porch of our paid-for house, student loans a distant memory, and our grandkids running through the yard...we'll probably still be budgeting.  :) 

Anyone else have ideas on how to save?  We're all ears keyboards...