Saving Money on Groceries With Meal Planning and Once a Week Shopping

When I looked at our budget recently, I noticed that over the past few months, our family’s food spending kept creeping higher and higher.

Right away, I saw that we were making several trips (usually 2 or 3 or sometimes more) to the grocery store each week. In addition, there were usually a couple of trips to the corner store on the way home from work.

Usually, the trips were for one or two things – often milk or bread. Though that was the intention, what inevitably happened is that we ended up buying a near cart-full of extras. Sometimes I tossed things in because I was hungry – I typically stopped mid-afternoon, when everything looks especially tasty – or, more often than not, because something was “such a good deal.”

These extra trips were adding big $$ to our weekly grocery spending.

I decided to try to reduce the number of trips needed by planning all of our meals – breakfasts, lunches and suppers – for the entire week and shopping for those needs. One grocery trip per week – the prospect was a bit scary.

Once a week meal planning to save on groceries!

Here are some things that I have done to make one trip last:

List, list, list

I have a list app on my phone that I use now, but before that, I was a pen and paper devotee. Whatever your method, lists will keep you organized. I plan our meals first, based on what we had on hand, what was on sale in the weekly flyers,  and our family’s preferences.

Once I know what we are going to be eating for the week, I sit down with the flyers and my phone and make the lists. I have separate lists on my phone for each store if I need to make more than one stop.

When we run out of something during the week, I put it in my phone right then. Otherwise, I will forget.

Know Your Family’s Eating Habits

Planning meals and shopping for weekly meals for the family means know what your family eats, and making sure it is on hand. Once you take care of the basics, the rest is easy.

For example, we are simple breakfast folks at my house – it is fruit and cereal for the boys and toast for David and me. I make sure we are stocked on those items for the week and BOOM! Breakfasts done.

For lunches, we tend to rotate the same few lunches that the boys prefer: sandwiches, bagels and pizza. I make sure we are stocked on the extras (granola bars, fruit and cheese) to round out their mid-day meals.

Then I plan our suppers.

And don’t forget the snacks!

If we don’t have it, we don’t eat it. 

I am bad for deciding that “I feel like tacos tonight.” I get cravings and decide that nothing else will do. If I don’t have the necessary ingredients, a quick trip to the store and voila! Craving quenched. Now, if I start thinking about a meal, I put it on the meal plan for the next week. Then I have a start on a menu and something to look forward to next week.

So, after 4 weeks, how are we doing?

I have made 1 extra trip in that time – when I needed a quick meal and had forgotten to take something out of the freezer. Oops! I still mess up. (I have started to set up reminders on my phone to take things out the day before.)

Other than that, we have made our one weekend grocery trip and that is it.

No more scrambling through the grocery store midweek, with hungry children in tow. No more wondering what we will eat for supper and thinking it would be easier to just pick something up.

Eliminating the extra trips is giving us predictability in our grocery spending. Even though the planning takes time, I think that one stop saves time over the course of the week.  And we are eating what we have, so we are wasting less food.

Do you meal plan? What are some of your time and money saving strategies?  

Kim writes at Co-Pilot Mom, about her adventures with her husband and two boys. You can find her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

Easy Beef and Black Bean Quesadillas

Jennifer Williams shared this recipe over on her blog, and I wanted to share it with you all so you can add it to your meal plan for next week…trust me, you’ll want to. (Recipe reposted with permission)

And if you don’t meal plan, we’ll be sharing the money-saving benefits of it soon!

Easy beef and black bean quesadilla recipe

Anyway, they’re delicious and super easy. Here’s the recipe from Jennifer:

Ingredients:
– 1 pound of lean ground beef
– 1 can of black beans
– 1 taco seasoning pack
– Large flour tortillas (not the huge ones, but not the little ones)
– Sliced Colby/Jack cheese

Instructions:

1. Brown your ground meat and add the taco seasoning with 2/3 cup of water.
2. Rinse and drain the black beans while the meat is browning.
3. Add the black beans to the seasoned ground meat and stir. Turn to low.
4. Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray and put on medium heat. Lay a tortilla in the pan. Fold a piece of cheese in half, tear, and place both halves on one side of the tortilla. Spoon about a 1/2 cup of your seasoned beef and black bean mixture. Add another halved piece of cheese on top of the meat.
5. Fold the tortilla over and cook until the cheese is melty and the tortilla is lightly browned. Flip and do the same with it on the other side.
6. Remove to a plate and slice down the middle. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, and/or hot sauce.

Beef-and-Black-Bean-Quesadillas-Instructions

Jennifer also has a post chock full of easy ground beef recipes over on her blog!

 

Use Your Mom Skills to Fill Your Empty Nest with a Rewarding Career

The kids are getting older, and it’s time to start thinking about what to do with your new free time. However, you’re not ready to grab the knitting needles and settle into a rocking chair. Luckily, you don’t have to. Instead, you can leverage your mom skills to launch a new career.

new career for an empty nester

The Mom Calendar

For nearly two decades, you have been balancing a mom calendar full of multiple daily events and sticky notes with reminders about who and what to bring where. Take those planning and organizational skills and turn them into your own party or wedding planning business. Instead of stalking your kids’ social networking accounts to see what they are up to at college, jump online to market your company. All you need is one client to let you plan their wedding. Once their friends and your contacts see how successful that event was, they will be knocking on your door for your planning services.

The Art of Persuasion

You survived toddlers and their constant questioning of why, why, why, and you survived teens who always think they know best. Through both stages, you learned how to hold your ground and explain your opinions thoughtfully to get what you want. Take those persuasive communication skills and turn them into a career as a debt collector. Most collectors earn a base wage plus commission, and the more persuasive you are, the higher your commissions will be. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average debt collector earns $32,000 per year, while some of the most effective collectors earn salaries more than $48,000.

Animal Savior

You nursed the baby bird your kids found in the bushes back to health, you trained the dog that the kids promised to raise, and you even gave the hamster a lifesaving shot at one time. Your career as a mom has been a lot like running a veterinary clinic without the pay, but now that the kids are gone, you can turn those skills into a paying gig. Although becoming a vet requires college plus four years of graduate study, you can jump into a career as a vet tech easily and quickly. According to PennFoster.edu, becoming a vet tech only requires an associates degree, and by 2022, the industry is expected to grow by 30%, meaning that it should be easy to snag a job.

Yummy, Yummy

If you were always the mom who had freshly baked cookies ready when the kids arrived home from school, it’s time to launch your own baking career. All you need are a few great recipes to get started. Because many states have cottage baking laws, you might not even need a commercial kitchen. According to the Michigan state government, cottage baking laws allow you to use your home kitchen to create saleable treats. If there are no cottage baking laws in your state, rent a church kitchen or bake at night in a restaurant’s kitchen. When it’s time to peddle your wares, you can deliver baked goods to your customers, or you can set up shop at a farmer’s market.

Learning a Lesson

As a mom, you impart a lot of knowledge to your little ones. If you have a teaching degree, becoming a teacher is a great option for your empty nest years. However, you don’t necessarily need a teaching degree to work in a classroom. Many schools hire teacher’s aids without a degree, and if you just want part-time work, you can put your name on the substitute rooster. According to the Huffington Post, you can make about $400 a week as a substitute.

New careers for an empty nester

What do you plan to do when your kids “leave the nest”?

Making Successful Life Changes and Reaching Your Goals

How’s it going with your New Year’s Resolutions? Did you attempt to lose those last 20 pounds, quit smoking or get organized? The Top Ten list of New Year’s Resolutions does not seem to change much over the years, which means that many people keep trying over and over again. Setting goals and following through is hard any time of the year, right?

Within a few weeks of making a change – definitely for good this time! – four out of five people get so stressed out about sticking to their plan that giving up seems to be the best option.

balance rocks

The model of Positive Stress Management by Dr. N. Peseschkian, an Iranian psychiatrist, offers some insight into the problems and solutions to this dilemma. His approach shows that an individual’s well-being is dependent on the four pillars of his/her life being in balance. Dr. Peseschkian defines those four pillars as Personal, Social, Success and Intuition. The personal pillar describes how we see ourselves and others, the social pillar refers to the relationships we have with others and how we interact with the world around us; the success pillar is what drives us – ambition, diligence and work habits. Finally, the intuition pillar contains our dreams and wishes, goals and beliefs.

According to Dr. Peseschkian, the four pillars – or areas – of our lives need to be in balance, otherwise we experience stress. Therefore, if a change we want to implement means a radical change in our habits and behavior, the areas are not in balance anymore and our bodies and minds will work towards restoring it. That’s why giving up seems like such a good idea after a few weeks…

Does this mean that all attempts at changing your lifestyle are futile? Not at all! The key to success is considering the balance in your life when setting your goals.

Here is one example – and the principle applies to any goal you might want to set: If you love to go out for dinner with your friends but want to lose weight, don’t punish yourself by not going out anymore. Instead, find a way to incorporate more exercise into your life and eat healthier on the days you eat at home. This way you will still have balance in your social life, while working on a goal that can be incorporated into your lifestyle.

Check how your goals will affect the different parts of your life, and then adjust your strategy. You’ll get it right this time!

Kerstin Auer runs a freelance writing business at auerfreelance.com.

Tips On How To Keep Your House Clean

I like things to be neat and tidy. Working full-time makes keeping my home in that state a challenge. I would love to hire a housekeeper, but until I get a significant increase in pay or win the lottery, that isn’t possible. In an effort to maintain my sanity I’ve come up with four tips on how to keep your house clean.

Tips on how to keep your house clean

1. Assign tasks to each family member.  Each member of the family is assigned a task that is age appropriate. For example, my daughter (9) can dust the living room and put toys away, while my son (5) gathers up trash and dirty laundry. David runs the vacuum and supervises while I work in a different room.

2. Everyone takes a room and works for thirty minutes. Similar to number one, but this time set a timer for 30 minutes and assign each person a room or specific activity. For example, I will give David the living room, my daughter will gather laundry from all over the house, I will take the kitchen, and my son will float between me and David. This is my favorite because I get a solid hour of adult work and thirty minutes of kid work. David and the kids like it because of the set time limit. They know when the timer goes off that we are finished. Consistency is the key to making this method work.

3. Hire a teenager to help you. Sometimes you need reinforcements. Call in a high school student to come over for a few hours of work. I recommend that you have a list of things you want the helper to work on before he or she arrives. The time she spends doing smaller chores, like folding laundry, dusting and vacuuming, frees you up to work on other, bigger projects.

4. Pay them. I know there are different arguments about paying children to do work around the house, but every family is different and this may work for you. Assign a value to each of the chore for the kids and have them select the items they would like to complete. The more chores completed; the more money earned.  Cash can be a great motivator.

As a working mom with limited time, I know that my house will never be spotless, but these are some tips that I’ve used to help control the beast.

What are some tips you use to keep your house clean?

Jennifer Williams blogs at Jennifer P. Williams. You can find her on Facebook (where she has a free downloadable cookie ebook), Twitter, and Pinterest.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Who else will be serving cupcakes and corralling sticky faces and fingers today?

 

valentine's day

Healthy Lunch Ideas For Busy, Working Moms

As a mom, one who works at home and that has to make sure she eats throughout the day (or my sugar drops drastically), I have to try and make a healthy breakfast and lunch that sustains me. We all know how easy it is to grab some chips, drink your lunch or skip it all together. With that being said, do not forget that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but skipping lunch is just as bad.

Besides your hunger being satisfied, eating a healthy, balanced lunch will keep you focused, alert, energized, in a better mood and will assist you in your healthy weight goals, while keeping money in your pocket.

Sandwich

The first thing to remember is never skip lunch, no matter how busy you are. Studies show hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can slow the speed at which people process information and shorten their attention span which will effect daily activities at work, plus slow your metabolism and send you running for the candy at 3 pm.

Salads are great options, but remember these tips:

· Top your salad with lean protein like wild salmon, grilled chicken or calamari, beans, or tofu. This will ensure your body is building healthy muscle that will help you burn more fat and keep you feeling full longer.

· Limit your salad dressing or use a good balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Try to “dip” your greens vs. pouring on the dressing.

· Skip the croutons and processed cheeses – instead add veggies, the more colorful the better.

Sandwiches can help you get in your veggies and lean protein. Here are some options:

· Greek sandwich (lettuce, tomato, olives, feta cheese, oil & vinegar- leftover grilled chicken)

· Turkey breast, lean ham and roast beef on a tortilla with roasted veggies

· If you are a seafood lover, mussels, grilled calamari or fresh seafood salad on some whole grain bread

· Find a whole grain bread that has fiber and protein in it. Add some grilled leftover veggies from the night before, tuna in water, canned wild salmon, some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Last night’s dinner:

· Don’t be afraid to prep some the night before – It doesn’t take a lot of time to chop extra vegetables, wash and dry extra lettuce, and reserve a portion of the evening’s lean protein while you are preparing dinner.

· Such items can be stored in individual containers in the fridge. When lunch rolls around the next day the ingredients are already prepped and just need to be assembled.

· Quesadillas and Tacos are great because you can put almost anything between tortillas and call it a Quesadilla or Taco without needing a recipe. Just take a look at what vegetable, meat or bean, and cheese options are available in your refrigerator and get creating!

· Pasta is easy to make extra…add some olive oil to it and then stir in some veggies and lean protein the next day.

Don’t forget, breakfast can be served anytime of the day! Scramble some eggs with salsa, cheese and serve on an English muffin. Add some Canadian bacon, grass fed bacon or tofu and make an omelet or scramble.

Try to avoid ordering out; pizza, Chinese, burgers, fries and drive-thrus are all going to go straight to your butt and you will regret it at 3 pm when that slump hits.

Water, lots of water – drink it all day long. Flavor it with fruit, lemon, cucumber or mint.

Avoid living on caffeine – when you do that you are asking to crash and burn. Instead take some time and take a walk around the house, stretch your legs, do a few burpees, sit-ups, push-up or whatever it takes to get your blood circulating through your body. Try and get those 10,000 steps in/day. Just because we work at home, doesn’t mean we can’t move it!

Here are some links to my favorite Pinterest boards and websites with recipes, in home workouts and suggestions for your lunches.

Pinterest – Quick & Easy Lunches

Pinterest – Paleo Lunches

Pinterest – Breakfast for Lunch

Pinterest – Jody Morgan

Pinterest – Food Babe

Pinterest – Wellness & Workouts

Honeybear Lane

The Kitchn

7 Minute Workout

The 7 Minute Workout Challenge

High Intensity 7 Minute Challenge

I hope that as moms who work from home we can help each other and share ideas and suggestions to help keep us all healthy! Feel free to contact me or connect to me via social media so we can swap ideas.

Jody Morgan is a SAHM/WAHM in Columbus, OH. She runs Gemini Health & Nutrition as a Holistic Health Practitioner. In her free time she enjoys cooking, baking, crafts, photography, nature, fitness and entertaining. She blogs over at Now There Are Five where she talks about her journey to become a successful blended family and all things fun.

Seven Tips For Working At Home (With Kids)

When I tell people that I work from home, I can see the thoughts flashing through their minds:
“She gets to wear yoga pants all day.”
“I’ll bet she can just sit and watch TV while she’s working.”
“Her job can’t be that hard if she does it from home.”

Many people don’t realize that with two small boys, a nine year old daughter, and a job that demands much of my time (I teach high school English online with students who can contact me at any time during the day but need me to help them RIGHT. NOW.) that I don’t get much “me” time. In one day, I must do eight hours worth of work in about two or three hours. After the kids go to sleep, I try to squeeze in another thirty minutes to an hour so that I can be one step ahead for the next day. And at some point, I attempt to look my husband in the face, in the silence that is our post-bedtime-for-the-kids time, for at least an hour before we collapse into the bed.

Are you wondering how I manage to fit that much work into such a short amount of time? Let me share with you the tricks I use to get it done (and bear in mind that I’m still usually buried in work):

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  1. Make lists. I have a to-do list. It is scribbled on and rewritten and changed almost daily, but it gives me focus. There’s a very satisfying feeling to mark things off as I complete them.
  2. Turn off social media. This is hard to do, so I turn my phone upside down and close any tabs that aren’t work. Doing so helps me really focus for the hour or two that I have.
  3. Do the most pressing things first. If something is due next week, it can wait longer than something due tonight. I try to deal with the biggest and most important items first.
  4. But think about those long-term deadlines. It helps me to make notes about the items coming up later so that when I get to the task, I have already planned. I may make notes in my list book, or I may jot it down on a sticky on my computer.
  5. Learn to say, “No.” This is the hardest thing for me to do. I love being involved, and I love staying busy (as much as I’d like a nap). When I’m approached and asked to take on more tasks, I really have to stop and think about this task’s value and whether or not I can really do it.
  6. Set your “start” and “end” times for the day. I try to finish by 8 pm each night unless there is a planned meeting. That gives me about an hour after the kids are in bed to work furiously. Most of my work is squished into nap time, so the after-bed work is dedicated to getting ahead or tying up loose ends.
  7. Take some time for you. Yes, there are deadlines. Yes, your job is your job, so you must complete the work. But ask yourself this question: if you worked outside of the home, would you bring your work into your living room? As a high school teacher, there were several times that I brought essays home to grade. That was every now and again. With my current online job, I could work all day long because all of the work is on the computer. When I worked for a bank, I walked out at 5 pm and didn’t think about the work again until 9 am the next morning. Find a way to set limits, and do your best to stick to them.

Working from home has been a blessing for me and my family. Knowing I’m here if the school calls to tell me my daughter needs something or not worrying about missing a day of work because one of the kids is sick is an awesome trade-off for the stress that comes with having my office surrounded by toddlers, toys, and crumbs.

What suggestions do you have to offer to parents who work from home with children as their co-workers?

todolistrichmond
Lydia Richmond is a high school English teacher and wife to Aaron, a high school math teacher. Together, they are raising three kids, two dogs, and one old cat. When she’s not knee deep in grading or blogging on ClutteredGenius.com, Lydia can be found sneaking cookies from the cookie jar. Connect with Lydia on Twitter (@lydsrich) or Facebook.

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