Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Meal Plan for March

So I have been doing my meal plan for 2 weeks at a time, so for every pay check. Which worked great, but I decided that I wanted to try for a month! Without repeating a dinner! That was the hard part! I have a picky eater, who doesn't like anything with tomatoes, except ketchup. Yeah, it is hard. But I don't cater to her, she has learned, along with everyone else, that you eat 2 taster bites, then you can eat the other things you like, I try to have sides that she likes for the meals she doesn't.
I am still working on putting all my recipes and shopping list per meal together in a binder like I found on Pinterest here:

My goal is to have more than 30. And since my life has kind of calmed down a little, I have a little more time to try new recipes. And my food budget isn't so tight, so I can afford to buy a few new things we don't normally have on hand for these new recipes. Some are a hit, others not so much. But I have learned that if I make it once and it is just ok, to make it again with a few changes, that my culinary husband suggests would be good with it. ((Yes he is a better cook than me! He is not afraid to try new things and change recipes, me I am a little more hesitant. It doesn't hurt that he has master taste and smell buds that can eat something somewhere, say what was in it, and recreate it at home, often better than the restaurants!))
Anyway... I am working on finding a calendar that works for me, until then I have my trusty notebook and pencil :)

I know, it is hard to read, sorry! Basically this is it:

Left column
Fri. 27th Oatmeal
Breaded Chicken
Sat. 28th cereal
Frozen Pizzas
Sun 1st crepes
Mon 2nd eggs
Cheese, pep, crackers

You get the idea. Breakfast, lunch (mainly for my picky daughter who takes lunch), and dinner. 
I need to be better about planning lunches for us at home and sides for dinner, plus snacks. Getting there, baby steps! I also mark the pay days so I know when I will be going to the stores and can plan my grocery list accordingly. 
I made a master list on Excel the other day, done by isle for the grocery stores, by memory. It was ok, and nice to have it by isle, but I am still working on the perfect list!

Here is a link to free printable lists I found on Pinterest. This is my Meal Plan board. Lots of different styles. Find what works for you. Or just write it out!

Then I look and see what I need and mark it on my list, only getting what is needed for my menu, Plus snack things we normally always have, like yogurt, nutella...

Stay tuned for recipes! And a master list of my 30+ meals!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


So, a few things have changed in the last 2 years! Imagine that! LOL So I am re- stating, with some edits my Kick-off post! ((My changes, moving to a new country, adding a child, bills and budget has changed... just to name a few! LOL)) Changes are Italicized

When you decide to start trying to save money, I recommend first taking a good look at your budget.
-Decide what your REALLY spend on everything! (I was surprised at all the 'little' spending we did that added up to a 'BIG' amount!) Break it down, writing it all out helps a lot! And know when the money leaves your account, or when you send the bills. (So you can plan better.) To do this I like to hand write it all out. I have a notebook where I have a page for each paycheck, in one column I start with my paycheck amount, under it I start listing and subtracting bills, starting with the important ones that can not, or will not change (ie. mortgage payment amount, auto loans, insurance...). Then I do the other bills that come our of that paycheck. LAST on the list is my food/gas amount and savings- hopefully ;) These can change so I like to keep them flexible at the bottom. Right now we are trying to get out of debt, so I put extra to those bills at the bottom. Try to leave a little 'cushion' so if you happen to go over somewhere you are okay. (I pretend that my cushion is not there, so hopefully it will add up- fingers crossed!) So this time when I re-wrote it all out I did it on the computer in Excel. But did the same basic thing. I listed all our bills and expenses, amounts, due dates, and if they were set on auto pay or not. Then I did 2 columns for our 2 paychecks every month. Ours our not the same amount on the 1st and 15th, and since we are overseas where we get COLA (cost of living allowance) since it is so expensive to live here, but because the Euro is hanging daily that changes every month! NOT helpful when planning out like I like to do!  So having it on Excel where I can change the same amounts and not have to re-write it all out is nice, even for someone like me who likes to write it out! 
The next page is the next paycheck... (We get paid twice a month so I only need two pages per month, but we have more than one account, so I list them on the same pages...)

-See if there is anything extra you can cut out: cable, subscriptions to extra channels or to magazines or newspapers, club memberships... You need to be willing to cut where you can. Even an extra $20 a month adds up! (Sadly we are under contract so I couldn't cut off my cable like I wanted to, but I did ask about what I could do to lower my monthly bill, and they gave me a total of $35 off per month! Bonus! So don't be afraid to ask! We have no other subscriptions or memberships, and nothing else I could get rid of, but I tried HARD to find something!) So since we have moved we have cut some things! Yay! We have decided not to do cable and just do internet and Netflix, hulu, amazon prime... But to do them overseas we had to sign up for unblockus service. Still and extra $4.99 a month to use what we where already paying for is great, instead of $75 for tv we rarely watched! We also don't have a home phone.Somethings to look at are getting rid of home phone, if you have one you don't really use. (We did this a while ago.) Cutting or changing your cell phones around, if possible, to save money. Seeing about lowering your auto insurance. We have limited options for cell phones, but found a great family plan. And auto insurance is a whole other ball game here! LOL 

-After you have cut and know exactly what you have for food, gas, extra expenses, then the fun begins!!!

Right now we spend, on 6  7 people, (Remember I have a solider and a growing 12  14 year old boy! Plus 3  4 growing active girls and I am pregnant... so we eat a LOT!!!) about $800 $900 a month on food! CRAZY!!! Now, this changes in my home for different reasons, ie. kids go back to school so they aren't home snacking so much, hubby deploys or is TDY (work trip)... so that is a rough estimate. But that is what we are going to change!!!

I already try to shop sales and coupons too! So I will start by what I have been doing, and then together we will build, transform and adjust to hopefully bring that WAY down! (I have a super frugal friend who decided to spend about $200 a month, yes a month! on her groceries- feeding a family of 6!!! I asked how, and they cut way down on what they eat. Which is awesome for her, but that wouldn't altogether work for me. Plus her 4 kids are all younger and eat less. I think she said once that my 18 month old ate more than her 6 year old! So be sure to be realistic for YOUR family! What works for one, may not work for another.) ANYWAY... back to what I have been doing:
-I shop sales: now I only go to one store, I don't have time or really find it that helpful to shop multiple stores. I have tried in the past, when I had less kids and more time, but only for special sales.
Here is a link to a
- I coupon: First- know your stores rules on coupons! Even within the same chain, they can vary.
 I was getting the Sunday newspaper, the only one with coupons, but my subscription ran out (I got special starting rate), so now I only print my coupons. (I haven't been lately tho, so this is on my list to kick things off and get saving!) Or put them on my store card. Let me explain that last one. My fav store to shop at is Safeway, they have a club card that gets you savings, but you can also register it online, and put digital store coupons on it, so you don't need the Sunday add to clip coupons from. Now the reason this is my favorite store is because not only do they have the club card with digital coupons, and I have an app, so I can see my 'list' of deals and make sure I have added the coupons, but I get points for every dollar I spend, to save money on gas!!! If I am going to be buying food anyway, I might as well be saving money for it somewhere! AND they double coupons everyday! Only up to a dollar, but still! I can either buy twice as much as my coupon says, or save twice as much on whatever I am getting. (By double up to a dollar I mean they will double a .25 coupon to .50, a .50 to $1.00, or a .75 to $1.00.) (I also really like the customer service and people at my local Safeway, they make my shopping trip more pleasant, and know and are ready for my shopping trips!) Safeway also will let you use their store coupons WITH manufacturer coupons! Double savings! So check around at your stores and see which ones will give you more bang for your buck!
*Now there is a trick to using coupons and saving money! I have a whole power point from a class I taught I will upload soon, but for now the MAIN things to remember are:
1- Read your coupon! Know what rules and dates are on it! (Must buy xx to save $$...)
2- Using coupons are great, but if it isn't used in COMBINATION with a sale, you really aren't saving much if anything!
3- Some stores and coupons will let you use multiple coupons with the correct number of items. Example: For cereal lets say you have 2 coupons that are the same, each for $1.00 of 3 boxes, you then can use them both, if you get 6 boxes. Some won't, so read them baby!
Man, I wish I could still shop like that above! Before we moved I was and saved a ton! And we even had extras that I got for next to nothing for the kids. NOW is another story! Living overseas I am limited in my options! The commissary is the on base grocery store, they have all the american foods that you can get in the states, they ship them over. Which is nice, and not... It is nice to be able to get certain ingredients needed for your favorite dishes, that the Germans don't eat. But it costs a LOT more, and they only have name brands, no store brands or options. (ie. a loaf of Home Pride bread costs $3.30 here :(  The other option is to shop at a local german store. My fav! Don't be afraid to go out and try local things when you move somewhere new! Not only an I get a loaf of 'square' bread (the only kind my picky kid will eat) for only .55 euros- roughly .64 cents! I can get a fresh loaf from the bakery for only 1.30 euros, about $1.48!!! AND it is SOOOOO gut! (Good!) Plus anything fresh, fruits, veggies, yogurt... is way better! Doesn't go bad as fast and tastes amazingly fresh!
So my shopping has changed! I list everything I can get at the local store, and try to get as much there as I can! Then I get what is left at the commissary... So I do save on some stuff, but it is off set by what I have to spend at the commissary. And they do do coupons, but I haven't found any for what I buy... working on that one! 

- I Meal Plan- I have only been doing dinners, but am going to start doing all our meals and snacks! There are lots of fun ideas for decorative meal planning boards and lists ect. on Pinterest! (Yes, I LOVE pinterest and look for things often on there!) Here are a few links:

And here is the link to MY pinterest Board: Meal Planning- with all of the above in one place!

And that is what I have been doing to try and save money. But I know there is a lot more I can do, and I can do better at doing what I am doing... so here we go!
Join my journey and maybe we can all learn a little something and save big!

I still LOVE pinterest and go there a LOT for all kinds of ideas! And I have been meal planning for all 3 meals! I haven't been doing snacks tho... So I am still a work in progress! 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


I really hate to sit and look at all the bills, and at all the money I DON"T have after I pay the long list! I really do not like money! To bad the world resolves around it! 

Since this is my journey to SAVE & Simplify...

Here is my being honest, about a scary thing, so please don't judge...

Let me tell a little about me. I have been 'budgeting' for years. But not really MAKING the numbers match! I look at what is coming in, pay the bills... and then I kinda don't think about it. 
NOT a good thing! I do keep a mental note, but not a good way to do it! 

We have been working hard to get out of debt. And it seems like every step forward, turns into 2 steps backward! VERY frustrating!!! 

So as I re-start my journey, change it up and really find out what works for me, hopefully I will find something that will work! And I hope that you to can find something that works for you! If you already found it, share! 

I have poured over ideas, tips, websites... for hours trying to find something that will work for me.
I am cheap and hate to pay money for downloads and all that, when I can just write it myself, or make my own worksheet if I really want to... I found a few sites with free downloads and a lot of sites with info and tips on budgeting and saving. All of the ones I thought had something of interest, that might help me or you, I put on my Pinterest board: Budget ideas and tips

So go look check it out, see lots of info, get ideas, tips and so on... 
A lot of them say the same basic things, so basic I looked and thought, 'yeah, I know that already', or 'I am already doing that', and some that 'That won't work for me'. 

Here is what I pulled from them, what I think I can use and add to my life, and what I am going to be trying. 

1-I am going to keep working on my FULL Menu plan, with all 3 meals, only buying what I need for us, so I can get & keep my grocery budget down.
My goal is $100 a week/ $200 a paycheck, for grocery items. This past 2 week period, I didn't do as well as I would like. I was about $300, which is over what I wanted, but still down from before I started it. So I will be working on cutting it even more! 

2- I am going to write my budget out, and check it often, making sure I STICK to it! 
I am good about bills, they are monthly and planned, but we always seem to spend more at random than we should! I think I have done better the last 2 weeks tho, so I will keep at it. 
I know one very popular way to do this is to use cash for everything. I am half good with this. LOL
Both my hubby and I hate having to go in a pre-pay for gas, so that doesn't work so much for us. When I do my one BIG shopping trip for groceries for the 2 week meal plan, I would rather not have to pay cash for it. Last time it was $160, so than for me it is easier to than get cash for the remainder, and for any 'extra' spending, like fun things ect. So for me the cash/envelope system is only going to half work. I will just be really keeping track of things. I did find one website that does the envelopes, but instead of using cash, writes everything on the outside, and puts the receipt on the inside, still using their debt card. That is one I might be trying...
Oh, here is her site: 

3- I am going to try and cut what I can out of my budget. 
Very basic, list all expenses, and see what can go! A lot of times you can call your utilities like cable and telephone and they will help you lower your bill, its worth a try! I got my cable bill down $30 a month just by asking!!!

4- I am going to be really working on getting OUT of DEBT!!! 
Hopefully I can save more doing the above, and put more on our debt to get it GONE!!!

5- I am going to be building my savings! 
And I am hoping to do this at the same time!!! I found this one great idea:

Basically, you put so much in a jar each week, and it adds up!!! Each week you double what goes in! I am going to take it right out of my grocery and extra expenses! 
Plus we can put in any extra change found around! 

What are you doing to cut your budget and get out of debt or save!?