When it comes to our kids, we know that a bedtime routine is a must. While it may seem tedious at first, having a night time schedule really gives them the space to wind down, get ready, and (hopefully) get to sleep quickly.
So here’s my question…
WHY DON’T MORE OF US HAVE ONE FOR OURSELVES??
Now before I go too deep into this blog post, I do want to mention that this post is being sponsored by Tenzo Tea. Their compensation in no way impacts my opinion of their company (like seriously, don’t be surprised if you see glamour shots show up on my Instagram of me and the water bottle they sent me. I’m truly in love…)
Okay, now if you’re not too weirded out by my profession of love for a water bottle, let’s get back to it…
Night Time Routines for Parents
It can be hard to slow down at the end of a long day, yeah? And I don’t mean a fiery crash-n-burn come 9pm when the kids have finally all gone to bed. I mean, it’s dinner time, it’s family time, and instead of enjoying the moment you’re thinking about the lunches you have to make, the food that still needs to be put away, the laundry that’s been sitting in the dryer for four days…sound familiar?
So when it comes to finding that space to just take a breath, I truly believe it starts with making smarter choices during the day.
When Tenzo Tea approached me about working together, I had heard of the company before, mostly through internet buzz and word-of-mouth, but I don’t often do reviews like this on my site without first knowing I love ’em enough to share with you, my wonderful readers.
So Tenzo sent me one of their matcha kits and omgoodness, ya’ll, I was THRILLED.
The kit had a pouch of 30 grams of premium organic green tea powder, a bamboo whisk, a porcelain holder for said whisk, and a bamboo scoop. Also included was THE BEST water bottle I’ve ever had! Heh have I mentioned that yet?
Ok, well to be honest, it’s actually a shaker bottle with a little spherical wire whisk inside to make matcha on the go, but it’s really, really wonderful in general.
As for the matcha, I was floored at the taste difference between the Tenzo powder and the brand I had been drinking for the last few months. The color is so vibrant and the smell immediately brings about thoughts of spring – I can’t help but go to my happy place while I make it…even if said happy place is only a 30-second visit before my 3 year old starts trying to color on the walls.
The taste is what really got me, though – it’s light and grassy, as I would expect, but you can taste the life in it. I’ve been drinking it daily since I received the box and it’s slowly edging out my morning coffee for role of “caffeine delivery system of choice” in my life. No more peak and then crash! Or worse, peak-peak-peak-CRASH at 9pm but too wound to actually sleep. Ick.
I also really enjoyed using the bamboo whisk and scoop. I know it might seem silly but it adds to the entirety of the ritual, elevating it to really immerse me in the moments of creation and enjoyment of my matcha, and while I can experience that with a regular whisk, it’s somehow both more authentic and pleasurable to do it with the little bamboo fella they sent.
What does matcha have to do with a night time routine?
Going back to the original point of this post (finding peace at night!) I’ve truly found that by swapping out my usual coffee intake for matcha, it’s so much easy to remain steady and more focused during the day, so again come evening, I’m not swamped and thinking of the 1,000 things still on my to-do list. And as I mention above, with matcha there’s no peak and then crash. It’s all natural and a great way to find that energy you need to run an efficient household without losing your mind.
Along those lines, by eliminating that chaos at night – or at least cutting back on it – you can then enjoy another cup of tea (perhaps a sweet hot cup of Tulsi tea, my personal favorite!) and actually take that breath you so desperately need.
I know, I know, almost sounds like a fantasy, right? To have the energy to relax at night? Whaaa?
But if you find ways to focus more during the day and ban multitasking, you’ll certainly find yourself accomplishing more and you’ll have that moment at night to just let it all go.
My night time routine typically involves some work – though luckily I love my job – but then I usually grab a cup of tea, pick up my gratitude journal, and simply give myself ten minutes to just reflect and give thanks for another day…even if it was a rough one.
While I will always advocate for the consumption of matcha in general, just because personally it tastes great and makes me feel amazing throughout the day, I would specifically give my seal of approval to Tenzo. The value for the price is pretty terrific, particularly considering the quality of the matcha powder; the accessories just add to the fun.
I do plan on getting more, in the end. In addition, I think that some people in my life will be getting these bundles as gifts. I really enjoyed everything about the box they sent, and I have been talking about this shaker bottle to my husband for days!
Isn’t it beautiful?
Do you have a night time routine for your kids?
What about for yourself – how do you usually spend your evenings?
CBD oils are quickly becoming “all the rage” and while I’ve written before on using CBD oil for self care, I want to dive just a bit deeper and talk about how you mamas can use CBD oil specifically for your beauty routine.
CBD Oil for Mom’s Beauty Routine
Now I’m not a seller of CBD oils, but when my mom mentioned she’d been taking it for her fibromyalgia, I decided to look further into what this craze is all about – and that’s when I discovered all the options to use CBD oil for your skin!
Before we go too deep into this, though, it’s important to note that I am in NO way a doctor nor should any of this be construed as medical advice; always talk to your doctor about any health questions or issues.
What is CBD Oil?
For those who are completely unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, CBD stands for cannabidiol, which is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant.
I already know what you’re thinking and no – it won’t get you high (that’s THC, not CBD). It can however come with certain legality issues, given that while CBD derived from hemp is always legal, CBD derived from the marijuana plant is illegal except in states that have recreational or medicinal marijuana programs.
That said, there is hard evidence that CBD can reduce inflammation and pain when applied topically, which is benefit #1 –
Skin Calming Effects
Due to the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids, CBD products are great at warding off the irritation that comes with inflammation (hence my mom taking it for her fibro!)
I’ve read many studies on the effectiveness of cannabinoids against skin irritation and thus far they’ve all confirmed the role of CBD, especially topical CBD oil, in helping sooth skin inflammation.
Not only is CBD great at soothing inflamed skin, but it’s also known to reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is when the body has too many free radicals and can’t keep up with neutralizing them using antioxidants. Luckily CBD oil can act as an antioxidant. Beyond that it also has neuroprotective qualities, which lend themselves to reducing neurological damage caused by those free radicals.
CBD oil contains omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which are a must when looking to improve your overall skin health. Many CBD products also contain something called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is a form of omega-6 fatty acid and again great for moisturization!
While CBD oil reduces inflammation, which in and of itself promotes healthier skin, it also goes beyond that to reduce acne and the like. Supposedly CBD oil often encourages abnormal cell death, which can help with certain skin conditions, like eczema or acne; it’s also great at regulating oil production (so no – using CBD oil will not make your face greasier!)
Now when it comes to CBD oil specifically for my own beauty routine as a busy mom, I think my favorite benefit is that it has anti-aging benefits. I’ll gladly rock my silver streaks as they come in, but I’d really like to keep my forehead from looking like a canyon for at least a few more decades.
Much like we’ve discussed above, CBD works well in the human body because of the body’s ability to produce endocannabinoids. The fascinating thing about the endocannabinoid system is that it acts as an amazing balancing system. So while it can regulate excesses, it can also help if you’re lacking something like antioxidants.
Antioxidants not only minimize the appearance of wrinkles, but they’re a must in keeping your skin from becoming thin and dried out; by ingesting or applying a cannabinoid (like CBD), you’ll get those antioxidants that’ll supply your skin with the boost it needs.
Bonus Offer for ThriftyGuardian Readers: If you visit the online shop DiamondCBD, you can use coupon code DIAMOND50 to get 50% off your entire order!!!
So what do you think – will you be adding CBD oil to your beauty routine?
Do you consider yourself a smooth talker? Or do you stumble over your words, your brain moving faster than your mouth?
Either way – what if I told you that you could talk your way into a healthier, wealthier, overall happier life? Sounds like crazy voodoo or maybe just hippy hullabaloo right? Fortunately I have science on my side as I tell you – affirmations DO work.
What is an affirmation?
An affirmation is simply a statement or declaration that something is valid and true.
Let’s say that when you pass by the hallway mirror on your way to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, you notice out loud, “My hair is a mess!”
Or perhaps when you are loading up the family car with groceries, you might mutter, “I spend a small fortune every week feeding these kids!”
You may not know it, but those are affirmations, albeit negative ones. An example of a positive affirmation is something like “I deserve to be happy!”
How do affirmations work?
It starts by becoming more mindful of your words, thoughts, and actions. When you catch yourself thinking or saying something negative, stop yourself. Find a way to put a positive spin on it, even when you don’t want to.
As you train your brain to be positive through your affirmations, it will become natural, and it will influence your life in all areas, including your thoughts. You will begin to manifest in your life what you envision to be true in your life, and you give affirmation to what you believe to be true.
Developing your own affirmations may feel uncomfortable at first, but as soon as you get used to the idea of speaking out positive truth, it will be a natural part of your daily routine.
When you catch a glimpse of that unruly hair, quickly exclaim, “I have such beautiful, healthy hair.”
And as you stock your kitchen, “I am so blessed to be able to provide so well for my family!”
Depending on what you hope to accomplish through positive affirmations, you will be able to tailor the phrases to benefit you individually. Identifying where you have weakness in thought patterns is a great place to start. If you are hard on yourself in a particular area, or if you are struggling with something specific, combat the tendency to be critical of yourself by immediately telling yourself what you would like to see, as though it has already happened that way.
You are amazing!
A big part of using positive affirmations is choosing to believe you are significant and you are valuable. You will be amazed at how dramatically this alone will change your life. If you are reminding yourself all day how valuable you are, your decisions will be made through a different lens, your reactions to negative circumstance will not be made out of fear, and you will develop a deeper sense of security in your emotional and physical well-being.
You may have read it, but a couple years ago I wrote a post on how I lived to blog, but I was scared it wouldn’t amount to anything. Regardless of that fear, I kept telling myself I was going to make it happen – I would find my freedom, quit my job, and be the work-at-home mom I’d always wanted to be.
So when doing your own affirmations, think of it as a narrator in your life, reading the script as you live it out. If the script says that you are successful and happy, you act out the narrative believing that it is true, before it happens. You tell yourself what to believe, so that it will happen.
If you still need more convincing, take eight minutes to watch this video (I PROMISE you, it’s worth it):
Tips on positivity
There are a few helpful things to keep in mind as you start on your journey towards a positive, healthy lifestyle full of new words, phrases and initially awkward declarations.
First, be grateful for who you are and what you can accomplish.
Second, don’t ever compare yourself to others.
Finally, don’t judge yourself or others.
As you implement these simple guidelines, you will be successfully affirming yourself with positivity in no time. You can begin using your positive affirmations to influence outcomes in all kinds of situations.
You listen to yourself more than you think! (And so do your kids!)
Usually what comes out of your mouth is a good indicator of what you believe. And guess what? If you’re saying it, your kids are hearing it. So even if you’re only directing negative self-talk at yourself, you’re still teaching your children that it’s okay to disrespect yourself and your surroundings in such a way.
If you believe you are not good enough, you will voice that in a number of ways, and in turn, you’ll produce less than stellar results. You can use positive affirmation to turn the tables, change your mind about what you believe and get positive results. After practicing positive affirmations regularly, your thought patterns will change and you will discover that your beliefs now have changed. The affirmations that are released from your mouth will now appropriately indicate your beliefs, and will be manifested in your life.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Usually what comes out of your mouth is a good indicator of what you believe. #affirmations #positivethinking” quote=”Usually what comes out of your mouth is a good indicator of what you believe.”]
Remember that positive affirmations are a tool to re-train your mind into believing what you are telling it to believe. When you are speaking, pay attention to the words. Convince yourself that what you are saying is true. Believe that you are who you say you are through your affirmations.
Don’t have time for affirmations?
That was always my excuse – “ugh! It’s just so hard to remember!” or “There’s no time in the mornings!”
Yeah, thought so. That’s why I made it a habit to do affirmations WITH my children. If you struggle to believe in the power of affirmations, make it a point to include your children and watch as positive thinking becomes a family habit. There’s little better you can teach your children than to think positive.
[clickToTweet tweet=”There’s little better you can teach your children than to think positive.” quote=”There’s little better you can teach your children than to think positive.”]
Here are a few examples of positive affirmations to influence your day:
I trust myself to make great choices
I am unique and significant
I am totally capable of providing well for my family
I was made to experience life abundantly
I was created to be healthy and whole
I am a source of great comfort, peace and joy for my family
I am creative and resourceful
I attract interesting people and amazing opportunities, because I am interesting and amazing
I am calm and relaxed when I interact with others
I study and comprehend what I read easily
I am surrounded by love
I have the means to experience life as I choose
My body is healthy and functioning as it should
As you habitually remind yourself of all that you are through positive affirmations, you will achieve far greater success in your life — physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and financially.
You will thrive in your abundantly blessed life, and everyone around you will want to know your secret.
Do you have any experience with positive affirmations? I’d love to hear about your successes!
Overwhelmed by health insurance options? For Americans, few things conjure the financial dread of an unexpected hospital or doctor’s visit because let’s be real – even with insurance it can be painfully expensive.
Getting your financial life in order does not mean that you should ignore your health, something that could be far more costly in the long run. That said, with the future of healthcare and insurance so up in the air right now, the fear regarding this facet of American life has probably never been more heightened, but don’t fret!
This list, while only a mere starting point, can help you identify some of your options when it comes to healthcare and ideally keep you from over/underpaying to keep yourself (and your family) protected.
Medicaid, CHIP, Medicare – What’s the difference?
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. If you don’t earn much money, you can qualify for one or more of these programs. They’re designed to assist the most vulnerable members of our society; Medicaid and CHIP for lower income families and families with children respectively, and Medicare for seniors.
Medicaid is a state-run program and the rules that govern the program can vary a bit state-to-state. The criteria for qualification is established by your state legislature, so you can check your state government website to find out more about income criteria. For most, it’s being under ~115% of the poverty level.
Here in Illinois that’s about $1,337 a month, but the Affordable Care Act expanded those mandates – people ages 19-64 who have income less than 138% of the federal poverty level are eligible. Again, that’s about $1,350 as an individual or $1,845 as a couple.
The coverage also differs, with various co-insurances, copays, deductibles, and premiums based on your income level, but it prevents you from going bankrupt from medical expenses. Many people won’t pay much of anything, so it’s a very good option when you’re getting back on your feet, financially.
CHIP is the same as Medicaid in terms of criteria being based on income, but it expands coverage significantly for people with children (Children’s Health Insurance Program).
Medicare is a program open to Americans aged 65 years or older, people with certain disabilities under the age of 65, and everyone who has end-stage renal failure or ALS. Like Medicaid, this program covers certain things more or less, depending on the level of coverage you want. Premiums and deductibles also change.
The enrollment for all of these programs has been simplified (to an extent) with the introduction of www.healthcare.gov, following the introduction of the ACA. You can go to that site and look up your specific state, determining if you qualify for any of the above programs. They’re not completely on-par with many private insurers, but can be better in some cases, depending on your income level.
Free Clinics & Teaching Hospitals
Many cities – particularly larger ones – have teaching hospitals with free clinics. These are a great place to get checked out without spending much or any money. Most don’t even check income levels – you simply sign in and wait to be seen.
The problems that arise from these clinics is that they are often understaffed or inundated with patients. If you yourself have the patience to wait, however, you can be seen essentially for free, but you may not be seen as thoroughly as you need to be. So be mindful that a free clinic may seem great, but it’s not necessarily a great choice unless it’s the only choice.
Thought not exactly medical, some cities also have teaching clinics for dentistry, where you can get very low cost cleanings, fillings, etc done. Again, it’s a waiting game, but it may be better than paying all your savings for a cavity, or worse, not getting the care you need.
Many hospitals – particularly religiously affiliated ones – offer a program called “Charity Care” or something similar. Essentially, you need to prove financial burden or sufficiently low income, and they will pay off some or all of your bills.
Quick story here – When my husband and I first started dating (like maybe four dates in), he sent me a text at 3am saying “You probably won’t want to date me anymore…”
Yeah, anyone else thinking he cheated? Because I did. And I lost it. Like what the hey, we JUST started dating and you’re already cheating??!
Oh. But no…
He had a blood pressure issue and passed out at a friend’s house, concussing himself on the way down. Unfortunately, his insurance had lapsed, because he’d just graduated college two days prior. The ER bill total was around $3,500 – a bill that was pretty insurmountable for a guy working at a sandwich shop with no insurance. He spoke to the financial services department and got the bill reduced substantially, and fortunately was able to pay the rest of it off with no problems.
Along the lines of #3, many hospitals are very willing to work with you on your bills, provided you contact them as soon as possible after the services. Solutions include bill reduction, payment plans (some will take anything over $10/month, no matter the size of the bill), or temporary forbearance of the bill for a period of time. Failing everything else, this is almost always going to work in some way to alleviate the burden of a huge bill all at once, so don’t hesitate out of fear. The longer you put off talking to them, the harder it’ll be to reach a deal that benefits you both.
This goes back to #1, because the same website – www.healthcare.gov – that you use to qualify for Medicaid will also bring you to the exchanges if you make over the Medicaid limit. The exchanges are set up to offer a premium discount on the insurance you end up buying.
The amount is, once again, dependent on your income. The issue here, however, is the exchanges appear to have a rather sizeable blind spot; for a single person without children, income amounts between around $18,000/year and $29,000 a year don’t get any assistance. Under that amount, and you probably qualify for Medicaid. Over it, you get the premium assistance. It’s frustrating at times, but it’s another tool to ensure that you’re insured, and the premium assistance is actually pretty significant – typically at least half.
Because of the ACA, most colleges – particularly state colleges – have started mandating that their students are covered by some level of insurance. Because of this, those same colleges usually offer student insurance at a significantly reduced rate.
For instance, a local University’s plan looks like this:
Blue Cross Blue Shield
~ $110/month premium
They pay 80% after your deductible is met and they only require copay on prescriptions
This is incredible coverage, even if the price were doubled. The only caveat is you need to be taking at least 1 credit hour of on-campus classes, but one credit + the cost of insurance would still only be about $210/month.
Enrollment is automatic, and even with class fees and tuition, you’re still possibly looking at less total cost than healthcare on the exchanges, depending on your situation. In addition, if you’re already going to college, it’s totally worth it in most cases to be enrolled in the student insurance (unless you’re still under your parent’s plan).
Along the lines of charity cares specific to a hospital, local charities often help pay difficult medical bills for families in need. Check with local churches, and often food banks or crisis/domestic violence care centers will have contact information. Again, this is more of an “emergency” sort of situation, but it’s worth asking if you need the help.
Health shares are newer programs that are typically structured around faith communities. In it, people share the cost of medical procedures across a very large group. This creates a scenario where someone will be covered for anything because everyone pays into the pool, and everyone benefits. These are typically tied to Christian communities, but if you’ve got the option, they may be great for you.
Living frugal means living healthy!
Medicine is about helping people, not bankrupting them. Without going into a broader, more convoluted conversation, let me just say that health insurance shouldn’t be as intimidating as it is. We all deserve the opportunity to make healthy choices and see a doctor when needed. And as I said, I know this list is just a small dip into the world of health insurance, but hopefully it’ll help you get started on making better choices today.
Do you find making health insurance choices overwhelming?
Sound off in the comments below and let me know what you think!
Creating a healthy meal plan on a budget can be tricky. We so often have the best of intentions: we develop a meal plan(ish), buy our groceries, fist pump when we’re $16 under budget, and then suddenly your two year old is screaming, the baby has a rash, and making that Pinterest-worthy quiche for dinner is the last thing on your mind because McDonalds here we come!!
The guilt of feeding your toddler a Go-Gurt and cheeseburger for dinner doesn’t weigh as heavy as your eyelids from not having slept all week, so you brush it off and pray you get to bed before midnight tonight. You tell yourself you’ll do better next week. You’ll create a better meal plan that is healthy but that allows for some flexibility. This week was just a rough week. Next week will be better…hopefully…
But then next week comes and your budget is all out of whack because you went over your food allowance thanks to one too many “happy” meals and the produce you bought last week is now squirrel food and and AND….
Take a breath. I’ve been there.
Creating (and sticking to) a healthy meal plan can be tough when we’re constantly pulled in a thousand different directions and there’s only so many minutes in the evening to get things done. Fortunately I can help.
A few simple steps can be the key to keeping your family fed and healthy, and your wallet fat and happy.
(Please note this article contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission should you click through. This in no way impacts my recommendation of any products/services.)
How to Meal Plan on a Budget
Take Your Time Meal Planning
“Step 1: My TIME? Did you miss the memo about my lack of time??! Thanks, Amber…”
Stick with me, dear reader. If you’re creating a meal plan just before you go grocery shopping, you’re going to create a panicked, rushed menu that might be short-sighted or be missing key ingredients; suddenly it’s Wednesday, you’re supposed to have lasagna, and you don’t have marinara sauce or noodles.
One of the best ways to start your meal plan is to flip through your local grocery ads. This way you can craft your menu around the great deals being offered on produce or meat that week.
You should also take the time to consider what your kids will actually eat, what’s in season, and what day of the week your grocer creates sale prices. Often you can find meat or produce drastically marked down on a specific day of the week because it’s nearing the end of its shelf-life. This doesn’t mean it’s bad, but just that it’s nearing the time in which it can still be sold.
It’s especially important to keep an eye out for great deals on meat, because that can be frozen and used at a later date, and still picked up for half the cost of what it was just one day before.
Cook Once, Eat Twice
Cooking enough for your family is a given, but if you take five minutes to cook extra of the base ingredients, you can save yourself thirty minutes in the long run.
If you’re cooking a grain like rice or quinoa, or a big pot of pasta, it takes hardly any extra effort at all to toss some extra in and store it individually for a future meal. In fact, to get the most mileage out of the time spent cooking, you’re shortchanging yourself if you’re not getting at least dinner and a lunch out of your efforts.
In addition, cooking a large batch of a grain or pasta on a Sunday will leave you with a base from which to work later in the week for the meals on your plan. This cuts down significantly on the prep work for the weeknights, time far better spent relaxing with your family.
Put Your Leftovers to Work
Beyond simply increasing your portions for future meals, a good meal plan flows together as the week goes on.
Cooking a protein on Monday can mean that Tuesday’s dinner is already prepped. For instance, you can roast a chicken on Monday night then shred the leftovers, toss in some seasonings, and have chicken tacos on Tuesday!
This is a great way to make the most of the leftovers you have, even if reheating leftovers isn’t necessarily your thing.
A dinner meal plan that flows might look like this:
You also want to take into consideration what produce you can cut up ahead of time for multiple meals. For example, we make a vegan bolognese that incorporates a lot of the same veggies that go into korma so I often try to make those meals close together.
Cut once, cook twice!
Shop Locally, Shop Seasonally
I went looking for eggplant the other day and when I finally found it at the local HyVee, it was exceptionally expensive. I swear I just bought one for like $1 the other da….oh, nope, that was three months ago. Heh. Oops.
When I last bought eggplant, it was from the Farmer’s Market when they were at their peak and everyone had dozens of them for sale. When fruits and vegetables are in season, there’s an abundance, and what’s more you can get them from local farmers that are concerned about how they manage their produce. Normally you can count on food that’s not doused in pesticide, or eggs that are free range and fed normal feed instead of industrialized garbage.
Learning to find out what produce is in season is a great way to train your body to enjoying a wealth of different foods, not to mention how much better they taste than the tiny, off-season offerings we have at the stores now. If you’ve shopped for zucchini in the last few months, you know what I’m talking about – they’re tiny! I’ll wait until summer when they’re the size of small dogs and bursting with flavor, not to mention cheaper.
How Big is Your Chest?
Being able to freeze leftovers, extra meat you purchased on sale, or in-season produce can make all the difference when it comes to eating healthy on a budget. Not having enough freezer space can be quite costly, so consider investing in a chest freezer.
If you have the time, canning is considerable work with a wonderful payout, but again, there’s that catch – if you have the time. If you don’t, freezing can be a viable substitute for in-season fruits and vegetables that are plentiful and cheap. Buying in bulk, divvying up into containers or baggies, and then freezing produce is a great way to stretch those dollars.
Similarly, you can buy a lot of meat in bulk from local farmers (we’re talking a quarter of a cow!) for a great price and then freeze it all, using as you need it.
If you’re patient, you can usually find someone on Craigslist or a Facebook resale page selling an old deep freeze for cheap. It doesn’t need bells and whistles; it just needs to get and stay cold.
As I often recommend for many of those who have a harder time sticking to a budget, use cash. Figure out how much you’re going to spend on groceries per week and get to the ATM.
This allows for two things:
1. You can see exactly where your money is going in a way that using a debit or credit card doesn’t allow for.
2. It discourages impulse spending.
Keep a tally as you shop so you know whether or not you can actually afford that sweet treat or a six-pack (no, sadly, I do not count that as an essential!)
Know Where to Cut Back
We used to have a pretty insane food budget per week – $200 for our family of three (at the time). And we’d go over it sometimes! That’s pretty much the definition of insane idiocy!
Knowing we had to cut back (and quick!) we started first by developing a meal plan and tracking where our biggest expenditures were coming from.
Once we had a good grasp on how much we were spending and where we were spending it, we began by cutting it down a bit each week, and as of the time of publishing, we’ve cut it in half.
$75 for (now four) of us is much more palatable. There are still days we go over a bit, because having two little ones is nothing if not busy. That’s ok, though! At least the days of going over $200/week are done and gone.
Here’s how we cut back:
– We started off only cutting $20/week and saw how we had to adjust and what we were comfortable with/without.
– We changed the stores where we bought most of our food. Schnucks became Aldi and believe me when I say we’ve never looked back.
– We improved the quality of the food we eat, and by that I mean we cut out a great deal of the processed foods and replaced them with whole, natural produce, meat, eggs, and dairy that actually left us sated.
– We cut out impulse buys significantly by only using cash to make our purchases. Aldi is a two-fold boon here, because they only take cash or debit cards. It helps with this strategy.
As I mentioned above, we often buy a lot of our dry goods online, such as pasta, flour, and sugar. While your grocer probably has a lot of what you’re looking for, chances are it’s going to be more expensive than you need to pay.
An example of this would be quinoa – we use a lot in our household because it’s incredibly healthy, very versatile, and can be used in a huge variety of applications from savory to sweet, breakfast to dinner. Local stores, if they even have it, usually charge $5/lb+, but on Amazon, I recently bought a 10lb bulk bag for a little over $2.50/lb, and that includes shipping.
Of course you want to see your meat and veggies up close and it’s unlikely you could get those things online at a good price anyway, but buying bulk pantry items from Amazon.com is a fantastic way to stock up without burning a hole in your wallet. Plus they deliver straight to your door! Oh, how I love online shopping…(Don’t forget to use Rakuten and Ibotta to save even more!!)
Trying to cook elaborate meals when you have an infant and a toddler is like trying to catch a bunch of flies when you’re surrounded by bullfrogs; it doesn’t make sense. Your kids likely don’t care what they’re eating, if they’re eating at all, and your spouse is too busy going from odd stain to odd stain, deciphering if they’re spills or spit-ups, to care if your dinner looked amazing on Pinterest.
If you need to make a meal of jarred alfredo and rigatoni, with some frozen broccoli tossed in, then do it. It would only cost about $4 and would easily feed a family of four!
Sometimes you simply want a big salad for dinner, and you know what, that’s great! Salad comes together in minutes, can be full of healthy proteins, fats, and veggies, and can be incredibly cost effective.
My point is that homemade dinners don’t need to be elaborate or expensive. Like ever. Don’t stress about it.
Starting a new week with five new meal ideas, even if they’re simple, is a recipe (haha) for disaster. I’m not suggesting you never branch out to try new foods, but you should always have a good amount of solid, well-liked recipes in your repertoire so that you can pull an old standby out in a pinch. Remember how your older relatives always had actual physical recipe boxes? Use those!!
This also helps you easily gauge what you’ll need for leftovers or a flowing meal plan since you’re already exceptionally familiar with the ingredients and cooking involved.
Visualize Your Plan
Buy a magnetic white board, some wet erase markers, and stick it to your fridge where you’ll see it daily. From there, write down your meal plan so that everyone can see it, you are constantly aware of it, and there’s no surprises.
An added benefit to having it on a white board is being able to erase and adjust as needed. Just like having cash at hand when you go to buy groceries, awareness helps inform every decision you make, from purchase to plate.
This will go a long way to creating savings and efficiency in later meal plans.
Now go meal plan
This post isn’t exhaustive by any means, but it’s a great place to start if you want to cut your expenses and still eat healthy food.
If you focus on eating the majority of your meals at home, meals comprised of whole foods and minimal waste, you can improve your health and the health of your finances.
Remember, we’re not just trying to save money, we’re trying to save time so we can improve the quality of our lives.