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Getting challenge ready

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Creating a Master Menu

In my household, it is very easy to jump into the day and get caught up in all the things that need to be done. Homeschooling, laundry, cleaning, chickens and then there is meal time, by the time I get a chance to breathe it is 4:00 and I have no idea what’s for dinner. I need a plan. It’s one of many ways I keep my life organized and our budget on track.

This summer I took my meal planning to a whole new level. I went through my cookbooks (believe me there is a lot!) and made monthly menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner of all of my families favorites. I have enough menus for 5 months worth of dinners. We only have 1 or 2 months for breakfast and lunch, but are trying to expand on those also. We will begin using these menus in September. I love trying new recipes so the weekends are left opened for those. I also only use these during the school year. Summer is all about finding new favorites.

 

Creating a Monthly Grocery List

Another thing I am starting to do is a beginning of the month huge shopping. I make a grocery listing everything I need and then go through and cross off what I already have. From there, I go through and add things that I am getting low on that I know are necessities and we will need before the month runs out.

Now I break down the produce items by the week. Obviously, buying fresh produce for a whole month and expecting it to stay fresh until the end of the month is unrealistic. So I do a quick produce and milk shopping every week.

Why I do a monthly shopping
I live out in a rural area and it is not economical for me to be driving to the store multiple times. Not only that but I have a big family. So I choose to take one weekend to do my huge shopping. One day I drive North to BJ’s and stop at a Publix. And then a few days later, when I go to my mother in laws, I stop at Costco, Fresh Market and a Meat market if need be. These are all close to her house. I am technically not making an extra trip because I have to go pick up which ever kids are at her house anyways. Plus this just works for me. If I lived in the city or closer to these places, I probably wouldn’t shop monthly.

 

Where I Shop

I usually shop at BJ Wholesale, Publix and Walmart. In doing my research of the variety of products, I have decided to drop Walmart stores. The stores are very limited on in store organic or natural products, but online they have an amazing selection with some items cheaper than Amazon. Plus by shopping online and using the mypoints.com website you will earn points towards gift cards for Amazon, Walmart or Visa. I honestly cannot tell you how much I love this site. But that is another post.

 I also just recently purchased a Costco membership after reading many blog post about the amount of organic items and doing a walk-through of the store. I also did this through an email deal from MyPoints and earned extra points. So September will be my first month shopping there.
Near Costco, there is a meat market that sells grass-fed beef for the same price as regular beef at Publix. I am driving by so of course I am going to stop there and get my beef and anything else that looks good. Again I haven’t been there yet. This is based off of my research.
But I have been to the new Fresh Market by my Mother in Law’s house. AMAZING! It was a real food culinary dream. I will definitely be stopping there when I need fresh seafood. Very little meat is prepackaged, it all gets wrapped by the butcher when you order it. Plus they have an amazing bulk section.
I will post updates on my Facebook, instagram and of course here as to how this worked for me.
Throwing out all the junk
Now is the time to begin. Go through the house and throw out all the junk and buy all organic and natural items. NO!
The frugal side of me cannot suggest or even fathom doing this. I hate waste! It drives me crazy! Use what you got until it gone and then switch to the healthier version. This summer, we had already made the switch to organic milk because I was buying a half gallon for me, but realized it would be cheaper to just switch out our gallons for organic. My eggs are 90% farm fresh because my neighbors have been letting me buy their extras for next to nothing. Once in a while I buy eggs at the store and get the vegetarian eggs.
I am finally getting low on some items and I will be switching them over in September. I knew how awful vegetable oil is but I didn’t toss out what I had, I used it up and now can switch to coconut oil. My sugar is almost gone so I am switching to organic. And I am finishing up the meat in the freezer, but am hoping to buy 90% all natural, grass fed or wild for what I need to buy.
If you have some stuff that is unopened and really want to make the switch, then maybe donating to a local food bank is a great option for you. Remember no waste!
Don’t be too hard on yourself
Remember, nobody is perfect 100% of the time. There will be times when the kids are starving or your out running errands and you just NEED to have that Pumpkin Spice Latte to get you through. I know for a fact that this coming month is going to be hard for us because our Disney passes are back and we will be going almost every weekend. But we are going to try our hardest and not fret over the times we can’t. My goal is 80/20. If I am at home, I want to make a meal instead of loading everyone up and going out and then feeling yucky afterwards. I want to feel better not be strict. I want to know I am feeding healthy options to my family, instead of crap that does nothing to for the mind and body. But am I overly crazy about it? NO, just doing the best I can do. One day, week, month and food choice at a time.

Being Frugal and still have fun!

Last month, my family went and bought Season passes to Walt Disney World.

WHOA! What! Wait a minute! I know I have been posting on being frugal and then I just went and dropped a ton of money on Disney passes! How can that be? Well let me tell ya!

Back in the good ol’ days I could swipe a credit card and buy our passes and not even blink about. No biggie right? I’ll just pay it later or should I say Hubby would. Well then the economy apocalypse came and I didn’t have credit cards to rely on. All I had was cash. I knew our Disney days were numbered. I had been a passholder religiously since I was 13 years old. What was I going to do?

I ran across this website called Couponing to Disney  and I started reading about her ways of saving for Disney vacations. I thought I can do this. So the year my son was born I started a Disney fund. I would put all of the change we got when we would pay for something in a container. I also would have yard sales and sell items on craigslist. When those items sold, it went into the Disney fund. It took me a year to save up for passes and a weekend getaway. As soon as I cashed in a bought the passes we would start our next fund. Now the following year we got lucky, one of hubby’s distributors real screwed up an order of cabinet doors. Hubby sold the customer on them anyway but complained to the manufacturer. The manufacturer then issued us a refund and it was just enough to cover Disney passes.

This pass year I started adding more ways to save. When I would get gift cards, instead of going on a shopping spree for more things I didn’t need I put them toward groceries and put cash to equal the same amount into the fund. I also started using paid email websites to earn a little here and there. Any mail in rebates went in along with any random cash settlement checks from a lawsuit here and there. You know $2-$3 will add up over time. By the time Christmas and my birthday came around, I was only $300 short so hubby said take the cash as you present.

We also went out on a limb and planned a 5 day vacation. The kids and I pulled all of our gift cards together and have saved about $900 towards it. That is just from Christmas, birthdays and an awesome site called Mypoints.

This website gives you points per dollar you spend at well know retailers when you shop online. I did most of my Christmas shopping online this year and was able to rake up 15,000 points. Enough for about a $100 Walmart gift card.

These are just a few ways to be frugal but still have fun.

Our vacation is coming up in a week and 2 days (but who’s counting?). If you want to follow our trip, you can follow me on twitter  or instagram.