Posts Tagged ‘budget’

Meal Planning 101

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

meal planning 101We all plan meals, whether monthly or mere minutes before they hit the table. Purposeful meal planning is all the rage in circles of moms trying to find the time to get it all done while on a budget.

At first, planning meals may feel burdensome, like one more thing to do in your already busy day. The fact is you are already planning meals, but doing so in advance can save you money and time, as well as help you to be more thoughtful about what you want your family to consume overall.

First, take note of what you are already eating. It’s happening whether the meals are planned or not. Try to recall the meals of the last week (or write down your meals for several weeks to get an idea). Assess what you like about your dinners and what changes you’d like to see over time. Perhaps you’d like to add more veggies, eat less take-out, eat fewer fried foods, or just add more variety.

Next, consider what you already have on hand. Planning meals requires buying ahead of time the particular ingredients of each meal, but you also need the basics always in stock at home. This can vary for each family but sugar, flour, basic spices, olive oil, vinegar, beans, tomatoes, pasta, rice, and so on based on your inclinations. You can also prepare your kitchen by having a no-buy week, weeks, or month. This is great incentive to save a few bucks to stock your kitchen with basics for the future.

With all of these things in mind grab a pen. On a calendar (whether fancy or just a sheet of paper with days jotted down) write out a meal plan for one or two weeks. You can also plan breakfasts and lunches. I don’t write these down in advance but rather have about 10 go-to meals that I keep fairly in stock, based on sales.

When I don’t plan meals I can feel frazzled by 5 PM. In reality the dinner hurdle is not as bad as I think. I plan about five meals knowing that we will have one or two leftover nights and possibly a pizza take-out night (or something similar). We also have a night where we eat dinner at the church. Suddenly my week only needs 4 meals to make it through. I also now include a night or two per month where I take random things in my pantry and make magic happen. This helps to keep my pantry and fridge tidy.

Running short on ideas? Pinterest and Google are your best friends. If there is a brand you like (of a condiment or other staple, like Annie’s Organic), roam their boards. Gather ideas and brainstorm. You can also search recipes by main ingredients (vegetable casserole) or ethnic variety (Italian). If you use a crockpot or pressure cooker you can find a treasure trove of appliance-specific meals. Some moms do freezer meals and fix everything at once so they only have to cook one weekend a month!

Ask friends for their favorite recipes and, most important, ask your family for some of their favorites or requests! To keep track create your own Pinterest board with links to recipes, bookmark recipes, write them down, or print them out into a binder. No matter how keep your recipes, if you use Pinterest for specific types of meals regularly, it will start finding them for you—even easier!

If budget matters to you plan your meals by what’s on sale. You may be able to look online at your local grocer’s website or by circulars/mailers that arrive to your home or that can be picked up at the front of the store. Incorporate coupons as you see fit. When you have space, buy sale products for more than just the one meal (in other words in bulk, based on how much space you have at home). Also plan meals that use similar ingredients. Perhaps you only need one cup of mushrooms for Monday night but you can save money by buying the large pack, so plan a meal that uses them again by Wednesday.

Plan for the week and make a list of the ingredients you’ll need to make that happen. By going to the store only one or two times a week I don’t fight traffic or dwell the aisles of the store as often, saving significant time and money (because all time and money is significant these days!). In the beginning you may find planning rather intensive. Take small steps. Don’t try to overhaul everything from the beginning. Start with what is comfortable and incorporate any changes slowly.

At the end of each week, assess what worked well and what didn’t. Keep a list of favorites so you can incorporate them into your rotation. Make a list of any pantry staples you need to replenish so you can purchase them during the next week’s shopping trip.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 6 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Nursing Friendly Clothes on a Budget

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

nursing friendly clothes on a budgetWhen my daughter was born, I was woefully unprepared for the requirements of a nursing wardrobe. Somehow, I hadn’t thought about it much during my pregnancy and once nursing was a reality, I was shocked at the prices of clothing specifically marketed as “nursing wear.” I couldn’t afford them, so instead I went with whatever I had on hand that worked. Needless to say, I spent most of the next 16 months in a rather bland, limited, repetitive wardrobe.

Should I have the chance to do it again, I now know a whole bunch of tricks for rocking some stylish nursing clothes without breaking the budget. The key is all in what you buy and where you buy it.

First, let’s start with the “what”:

  • Inexpensive camisoles. Nursing tank tops are great, and can sometimes be found at decent prices. Another option, though, are basic, inexpensive camisoles. I absolutely love the two packs that you can get at Costco for about $12. Layer the cami under any other shirt. When nursing, outer shirt goes up, cami neckline goes down, baby goes on. If they’re worn out by the time your nursing journey ends, you won’t feel guilt over their price tag when you toss them.
  • Button-down tops. Sometimes, you want a garment that gives you a bit more shape or visual interest than your basic t-shirt. A few button down tops are great for this. They open for nursing access and then button right back up!
  • Wrap-style tops or dresses. Wrap dresses, or those with the overlapping V neckline, are great for nursing! The neckline adjusts however you need without really stretching out of shape. Drapey necklines work just as well. A plus, wrap dresses are generally thought to flatter pretty much any body type!

Now that we’ve talked about what types of clothes to look for, let’s talk about where to get them.

  • Thrift Stores. Secondhand or consignment shops are excellent places to look for a nursing wardrobe. My personal favorites are Goodwill and Just Between Friends Sales. Not only do these stores often have a specific maternity/nursing wear section, you can also pick up all of the “what” items of clothing off of the normal racks for far less than retail. Don’t forget to look at baby resale shops, as they also often have a mom section. Along with being more affordable, you again don’t have to feel so bad should a top become stretched out, stained, or otherwise ruined during your time nursing.
  • Zulilly. Now, zulilly has the drawback of being a no-returns discount site, but if you choose your purchases wisely, you can pick up a great nursing wardrobe for less. They often offer stylish clothing that is specifically designed for nursing, so you’ll have those options in addition to what you’ve managed out of normal clothes. Tip: Many items you see on Zulilly are on sale on Amazon at the same time, so check both sites for the better deal.
  • Big-Box Stores. Sometimes you may have to shop online only, but large brand names like Gap often have a few nursing items available at reasonable prices. Even better are the sales racks at stores like Target. Between the specifically nursing/maternity items and the normal sales racks, you’ve got a lot to choose from.

So, you are now armed with the information I really wish I’d had when my daughter was born. Let’s get out there and show the world that a nursing mom can be a stylish mom too (without breaking the bank)!

Kate Cunha is a Pacific NW mom of a nearly 3 year old little girl. She can’t quite manage to be the better clothed one in their relationship!