Over the next couple of posts I will be sharing the secret to how I manage to save our family thousands of dollars a year and how you can do it too. I wanted to break this down into smaller more manageable posts because there is a lot of information to share with you and I want you to be able to implement all of it, so to not overwhelm you (or me lol) I have broken it down into a series of posts. So let’s get started!
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We first became a single income family about three and a half years ago and it was a hard adjustment for me. I went from working three jobs to becoming a stay at home mom. While I knew that this was the best decision for my family and I in the long run, I still struggled with staying home. I wanted to be there to raise my kids and see all of their firsts and I would have literally been working to pay for daycare.
Deep down inside I needed to feel as though I was contributing financially for my family. I didn’t like the entire burden of bills and food and clothes to be solely on my husband’s shoulders but we were at a place that left us no choice. I have dabbled in so many work from home gigs that I drove my husband crazy….I may write a post on this later. As none of them seemed to pan out I made it my mission to save more money than I would be bringing home in a paycheck. I have managed to do quite well with this. Maybe to well? As my husband and I have discussed me going back to work and it always ends up as ” you save us more money by you not working”.
So you may be wondering what this all has to do with you and how my sad story may somehow provide your family with help. If you are feeling how I was or maybe you just need to find more ways to cut expenses I am here to share our biggest money saver to date.
Now when I say meal planning I am not just talking about planning your meals out for the day, week or even the month. What really catapulted our savings is meal planning for the year. Before you run away screaming just hear me out. I know that planning weekly meals may seem daunting and to plan a month you may be calling me crazy, but a year! Yeah I know,insane right? BUT…. if you follow along with my posts I promise you I will show you how to go about meal planning for a year without pulling out all of your hair. Do you trust me?
WHY YOU SHOULD BE MEAL PLANNING FOR A YEAR
Our overall goal here is to save money right? Here are several ways meal planning for the year can save you tons of money.
Eat Out Less
According to Forbes the average American eats out 2 times a week. 2.4% of people eat out EVERY DAY spending about $10 a meal. For my family that would cost us about $50. Do you know how many meals I can make for $50? We may go out to eat once a month now (maybe).
Utilize What You Buy
By planning meals well in advance I have a good idea of what we will need in the future so if there is a killer sale going on I can pick up a few extra items saving me money down the road. My favorite sales being case lot sales (that’s usually when I get my chicken). If you haven’t read my post on how to save on meat be sure to swing over and check that one out. I also try to plan meals with corresponding ingredients close together so that we don’t have to repurchase the same ingredients and it cuts down on food waste. For example, I will plan to make homemade chicken noodle soup and a pot roast in the same week because I know that I need carrots and celery for both meals but I don’t use all of it in one.
Eat Your Leftovers
We plan leftover night about once a week. This may not be everyones favorite thing but every time I throw food in the trash I hear that cash register…cha-ching…cha-ching. My husband takes leftovers to work for lunch and the kids and I eat leftovers for lunch as well so if it comes to a leftover dinner night and we don’t have any I plan a back up meal (usually something quick and easy) for that night. Or if you have enough for an entire meal, bag it, label it and throw it in the freezer. Look you can take a night off from cooking! You can bet your bottom that we are eating what we have made. You work hard for your money, don’t throw it in the trash!
Using Your Leftovers
Rather than just having the same meal with our leftovers sometimes I will be able to transform them into something completly new (the kids and husband don’t even know). Everyone is pleased! I don’t have to trash food and they can eat “new” food. Need an example of what I am talking about? Ok have you ever made tator tots with your dinner or lunch and had some left over? I chop those up and use them in breakfast burritos in the morning. This week we had meatball subs and I saved the leftover marinara sauce to use on our homemade pizzas the next night. Sneaky, sneaky but if you have picky eaters like I do you have to get creative sometimes.
Spend Less Money At The Store
I said it already but I’ll say it again SALES! If you know what you have coming up in the next month or so you can save money in the long run. You can now buy in bulk too. You can buy a block of cheese rather than the little bag you need for one or two meals. Bulk is not always cheaper however so be sure to look at the price per unit (we’ll talk more about that in a later post).
Know What Your Family is Eating for Dinner
There is no more need to try and decide what is for dinner on your way home from work or while you run to the grocery store. Going to the grocery store without a planned menu is just as bad as shopping while hungry.
So you maybe sitting there saying….”Amber, I can do all this with a weekly or monthly menu, why would I ever want to plan a year”. Yes, you can, BUT …you can’t plan for meals in advance (buy in bulk or sales) if you don’t plan ahead. Here is the kicker! If you have been meal planning already GREAT, if you are going to start now, GREAT. Now take your meal plans and wait for it ….drum roll please…………SAVE THEM! Put them in a folder or binder and reuse your menu plans.
The YEAR Menu plan!!!!
Sorry, I get so excited about this. It’s quite sad really. But no seriously it’s that easy! You are already doing all the work week after week or month after month WHY not take one more thing off your plate and save yourself some trouble. I may be the last person to the show here and you may have been doing this already but I am hoping that there is at least one person out there like me that is now thinking “now why didn’t I think of that sooner”? It wasn’t until about three years into married life that I finally realized this and it has saved me so much trouble and time. My meals are planned out, my shopping is planned out, we save sooo much more money and I don’t have to answer the “what’s for dinner question” (except to my three year old who can’t read yet).
Well folks that’s it for now. In my next post I will share how to come up with months worth of meals in 4 easy steps so be sure to come back next Wednesday. I’ll see you all then.
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Until next time