Mother Daughter Date Ideas for the Winter

Mother Daughter Date Ideas for the Winter

Looking for free mommy/daughter date ideas? You’ve come to the right place! And fortunately many of these ideas will also work for Father/Daughter dates, Mommy/Son dates, or for whole family fun!

As another year draws to close and winter fully sets in, it can be hard to want to get up and go. Trust me, I get that — it’s due to be -16 °F as I write this!! Rather than setting your kids in front of the TV while you hide under blankets and cry over your holiday budget gone awry, though, why not make use of this quieter time of year and plan out a few Mommy/Daughter dates?

When it comes to planning out Mommy/Daughter dates, the best ones are both free and easy. While it can be tough to find things to do during the winter, these are a few experiences I’ve used to ensure we don’t go stir-crazy during the cold months. They’re not always completely free, but they are done with frugality in mind. Also, please note that this post is sponsored by C’est Ça New York, a company that makes absolutely gorgeous tulle and lace garments (the Mommy & Me skirts being a favorite of mine!)

Along those lines, links below may be affiliate links, which means I receive compensation should you click through to purchase (this comes at no additional cost to you).

Mommy/Daughter Picnic

Just because it’s cold outside, doesn’t mean you can’t picnic! My husband and I received an absolutely AMAZING picnic set for our wedding and while it’s certainly a lot of fun to use during the summer months, I occasionally allow for it to be used for a fun indoor picnic. My daughter and I will pack it up from our snack cart and fruit drawer then we’ll march around the house, singing “Teddy Bear Picnic” while searching for the perfect spot to lay out our blanket. It seems silly, but it always ends it full tummies and giggles (*psst* don’t tell her, but it’s also a way I “trick” her into eating more fruit!)

Read a Book at the Library

I’m sure library visits are probably already on your list of rainy day ideas, but how often do you actually sit and read at the library? Find a cozy spot in the children’s section and take half an hour to read whatever books your child brings your way. With few distractions, it’s a great way to spend some quality time together while also enjoying a bit of peace and quiet.

brown hair toddler reading book stuffed animals

Hot Cocoa Party

Tea parties are so old hat, a hot cocoa party is where it’s at! Serve up a mini-buffet of candy canes, whipped cream, chocolate chips, and anything else your little one might like to top her cocoa with and then let her at it. Just don’t forget to set a place for the teddy bears and dollies, too!

Salon

When was the last time you let your child pick out your clothes or do your hair? Probably never, right? But I bet they’d love it! Let your child be a “salon owner” and give you a full head-to-toe makeover – clothes, makeup, you can even let them brush your hair! Little makes my daughter happier than when I hand her a brush to brush my hair…and honestly, she’s gotten pretty good at it, so it’s actually a nice relaxing time for me, too!

Fun Photo Shoot

And after the makeover, why not do a fun photo shoot?? Better yet, why not dress in matching outfits and set it up so you can both be in front of the camera.

I’ll admit, before I had kids, I thought Mommy/Daughter outfits were a bit weird, but then I had my daughter and oh.my.goodness – she’s a mini-me and I love it!! When we got our matching tulle skirts from C’est Ça New York I couldn’t believe how gorgeous they were. We opted for the champagne color so we had more options in terms of leggings worn underneath and it is most definitely true to the pictures shown.

Little makes me happier in terms of fashion than a tulle skirt and these are phenomenally made (while also making ME look and feel great!) And of course my daughter was in heaven, running about the room squealing about being a princess. In fact, she was running around so fast, it was hard to grab a picture, but we’ll be posting some soon on my Instagram so don’t forget to follow us!

Wiggles Workout

Okay so now that we’ve had some food, hot chocolate, and a makeover, why not burn off any remaining energy with a little workout fun? Maybe you’re not quite as big of a fan as I am when it comes to The Wiggles, but there are many other kids shows that have dancing about in them – pick one and get up and dance! I opt for The Wiggles because they’re always so high energy, but still easy to follow along. Seriously, this is a great way to not only get your child burning off some excess sillies, but if you struggle to get a workout in during the day, this is a great way to bond with your child AND live a healthier life.

Mommy/Daughter Date Time

Regardless of how you spend time with your child (volunteering with your child is also a great way to go!), the fact that you’re taking time out to just spend some 1:1 time with your kid will do wonders for the both of you. Your children don’t care about how much money you’re making and they certainly can’t wrap their little minds around the every day stress we battle as parents, but giving them an hour or two of JUST you and your attention? That’s truly priceless to them.

So why not make it a goal in 2018 to schedule out at least a couple hours each month to do nothing but enjoy the light you brought into this world? Goodness knows they won’t stay little forever…

What sort of activities do you plan when you’re having 1:1 time with one of your kids?

Comment below, I’d love to hear about it!

Sorting Out The Basics: Insurance and Health Care Tips

Sorting Out The Basics: Insurance and Health Care Tips

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.

Charity Care

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.

Negotiation

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.

Healthcare Exchanges

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.

Student Insurance

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
$400 deductible
~ $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).

Charities

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

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!

Is Civic Withdrawal Now the Norm?

Is Civic Withdrawal Now the Norm?

As a frugal living blogger, you’ve seen me post from time-to-time about how I firmly believe living a “frugal life” requires not just letting go, but also giving back. Meaning, not only do you have to consciously let go of the “stuff” (and live a more minimalist lifestyle), but you have to be WILLING to give that which you may very well need – such as money.

Now I’m by no means encouraging you to put yourself in debt in order to better someone else’s life – that’s just silly – but rather to simply recognize that giving may very well be a part of the path you must travel in order to find the freedom you’re looking for.

When was the last time you helped a stranger in need? Or are you too busy? Too lost in your own chaos? Or, like many of us, are you too overwhelmed by constant access to information that sometimes you’re just blinded to it all?

Despite the motivational memes and inspirational pins flashing otherwise, we are often discouraged when it comes to shaping the world we’ll pass on to our children. We instead leave the tough choices to corrupt political leaders, money-hungry corporate directors, or social activists whose lifestyles seem alien and jarring. It is both sad and ironic that in a country born from a revolution, few of us do more beyond “signing” yet another online petition.

For many, civic withdrawal is now the norm.

Is it any wonder, though? You can’t log into Facebook or open your e-mail without being bombarded by sad stories of families in need, babies dying, or homes burning. It’s easier to ignore it, turn a blind eye and go on your merry way.

Those who don’t, those who choose to feel, are often thought to be crazy. Deemed “zealots” or “drama queens” by their peers.

When our individual autonomy is brought into question, by ourselves or others, our instinct is to bristle and call the others obsessed or ignorant. You can’t get onto any public thread these days without hate raging from all sides, name-calling like school yard bullies.

Perhaps it’s because we need this cynical submission to numb the pain of our own unrealized hopes…?

Imagine, though, if we applied that cynicism to all areas of our life. Rather than encouraging little Billy to try to hit the ball just one more time, we tell him to lay down the bat and go home, he’ll never go pro!

Or when our toddler runs up to us after a day away, rather than swoop her up in a hug, we jerk away and look at her with suspecting eyes, assuming she wants more from us than simply our love.

We have to take chances on people, to believe in them and motivate them, lest we crumble as an entire society. If we continue to turn in and look only at our screens, the physical world WILL gray and decompose.

Being an adult is brutal, especially if you’re an adult born of the “Millennial” generation.

You’re caught between those who recall life before “the Facebook” and those who think you’re old because you’re not sure just how SnapChat works, but you’re pretty sure you want to avoid any risk of d*** pics.

It’s exhausting trying to balance it all, to keep all those balls in the air while remembering to breathe.

We have to, though.

We must carry on and set a better example for our children.

We must be involved, not just from our computer screens, but actually, physically, involved.

March in a protest. Attend a political rally. Volunteer one weekend a month with your children.

While I by no means think everyone should constantly worry about everyone else, nothing will ever get better in this world if we all remain on autopilot, hiding behind our screens. Break free from your routine and become an active member of your community. ANYTHING that gets you out that door and physically involved in molding our world.

Change your world by changing someone else’s.

As Howard Thurman once said: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

What makes YOU come alive, my dear reader? I’d love to know in the comments below.

My Top 6 Gift Ideas for a WAHM

My Top 6 Gift Ideas for a WAHM

As a work-at-home mom, I don’t ask for much — just quiet children, a clutter-free work space, a muse that never shuts up…ya know, simple things.

That said, I’ve been blessed with two VERY vocal children, a folding table shoved in the corner of our guest room, and a brain that thinks about sleep more than writing. So rather than dwell on that which I’ll never have, I want to share with you what’s on the top of my gift wish list as a work-at-home mom and why I love them so. I’ve picked out these gift ideas specifically for work-at-home moms, but I’d be willing to bet ANY mom would love them!

Please know that some of these links may be affiliate links, which just means you’ll help fund my coffee habit should you choose to click through and make a purchase.

Unique Gift Ideas for a Work-At-Home Mom

Noise Cancelling Headphones – $30

Oh please, oh please, Santa, bring me a pair of these! It’s so hard to focus on writing a blog post when I can hear my children downstairs begging for attention. Note: Their dad is with them, but they’re like that guy you were into Freshman year of college who only started liking you back after he found out you now have a boyfriend.

Fun Twisty Tripod – $15

I have a regular ol’ boring tripod and it functions fine, but this one looks SO fun!! Not to mention it would make my life oh-so-much easier when I’m trying to do a livestream on my “desk” and I have to put the keyboard on the floor in order to make space.

Ring Light – $10

Remember when I mentioned the whole “sleep vs work” issue? This ring light could fix all of that! Well okay maybe not ALL of that, but hey, it’d at least make the bags under my eyes look a little less frightening for young children. 

Inspirational Mug – $10

I am a mug addict. There. I said it. But you know what? I’m also a coffee addict, sooo…

Oh and if you’re going to pick up a mug, you may as well grab a mug warmer, too. Heh because if you give a mouse a cookie… 😉

Bulletin Board Paper – $10

This one seems weird, I know, but stick with me – I use bulletin board paper ALL the time to map out work plans, goals, blog posts, etc. I can tape it up high enough to keep away from the kids and won’t run the risk of misplacing it. Plus it’s big enough that once you’re done, you can take a picture of it and then toss it to the wolves children to shred. Errr or maybe don’t do that, unless they’re also willing to sweep it up later, which in that case, send them to my house next.

Another great one is dry erase paper – did you even know that was a thing?! It is. And it’s amazing. Find it here.

A Warm Meal – $17

I am such a huge fan of Blue Apron, especially during the holiday season. Not only do they save you time (no meal planning, no grocery shopping, no worries) but they offer such DELICIOUS options, often times things you can’t get in your area. I’ll never forget one of our first meals from them, it was a breakfast tostada with watermelon radish and oh. my. goodness. It was heavenly and immediately ensured I’d be a repeat customer. Yum.

I could continue on down the list of things you should buy for the work-at-home mom in your life, but I’m confident this will at least give you a decent head start on what to buy. Oh and if you want to buy something for your favorite blogger (that’s me, right?) send it to: PO BOX 694 Springfield, IL 62705 (I’m only like half joking…)

I would love it, though, if you’d comment below and tell me one thing YOU’RE hoping Santa brings you this year!

 

 

How to Create an Easy, Healthy Meal Plan on a Budget

How to Create an Easy, Healthy Meal Plan on a Budget

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

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.

cheese on a chopping block

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:

Monday –Crockpot Chicken and Veggies
Tuesday – Chicken Tacos
Wednesday – Bolognese and Quinoa
Thursday – Mostaccioli
Friday – Tilapia
Saturday – Thai Lemongrass Tilapia Curry Soup
Sunday – Sirloin steaks
Monday – Steak stirfry

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.

ebates referral

Use Cash

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 buy most of our dry goods online and in bulk. 10lbs of quinoa for $25? Hello!

– 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.

Shop Online

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!!)

Simplify

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.

Get Familiar

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.

Happy planning! 🙂

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