2.26.2014

Eat in Feb: Don't let Freezer Meals Break the Bank!

If you are chugging along with the final challenge of Eat in Feb pat your shelf on the back! (Hey do a dance if you want to!) The Eat in Feb Challenge was intended to be tough but it is also going to show you how it IS possible to eat at home even on busy tired nights.

One of the trending food prep systems is Freezer Meals. It is so convenient to have a meal ready to just thaw, heat, and eat! Plus, you have the added nutritional benefit of no added preservatives and compete control of the ingredients. BUT, yes there is a but, the actual cost and prep time of making the meals is a BUDGET BUSTER! With most of the popular freezer meal plans you are making about 2 weeks worth of freezer meals, some are more along the lines of a month of dinners or even 50 meals! So here are my issues:

1. All of the ingredients you need to prep these meals will cost generally speaking about 50-75% of your monthly budget. I know this sounds like a good deal because you have a ton of ready to go meals and still have money left over. However, in a real household you are going to need to buy other things like fresh fruits and breakfast foods, milk, diapers, and toiletries. It just doesn't always seem budget friendly to spend over half your monthly budget on dinners.

2. So mom's when was the last day you had time to spend ALL waking hours of your day in the kitchen. Think hard...maybe...nope I didn't think so! It hasn't happened for me since way before kids! Honestly when you commit to making a months worth of freezer meals that is what you will be doing. Between rewashing dishes and cutting and pre-cooking veggies and meat it makes for a LONG day.  


You are probably agreeing with most of what I am saying if you have read this far. You are also probably wondering if I am going to come up with an alternative. Well yes I am.

Introducing:
 Two Meals in One Night 
My budget friendly answer to monthly freezer meals!

The invention:
Two months before our littlest guy was born I was in panic mode! It was our second baby and our oldest was 6! We basically started all over again except for the fact that with the 2nd child most people do not knock down your door with yummy dinners and desserts. You have had one bundle of joy so you are trained for little sleep and lots of work.

We on the other hand were almost 6 years over sleepless nights and running ragged. So I decided to be proactive (in case we didn't get a large amount of meals) and try some freezer meals. 
Well that was my first glimpse at how expensive it was to buy all the ingredients AND all the bags and containers! Our budget was already changing to accommodate for diapers, wipes, ect. I just couldn't find room to buy over $150.00 worth of products.

Not getting discouraged I did the next best thing, I doubled my regularly planned meals! It was the perfect compromise, our meals are something that everyone lists already and are budget savvy. Doubling it cost me maybe $2.00 extra and it didn't create more dishes. Why didn't I think of this before?!

Here is the assembly line for Chicken, Broccoli, and cheese casserole. I use glass when I freeze meals because I am a cheapo and do not my meals to freezer-burn. We were gifted this Pyrex set but I love it because it comes with lids! 
Tip: When you are making meals and are short on an ingredient look for a substitute! This recipe called for Italian  breadcrumbs and guess who was out? This girl! So I used some Ritz crackers and done!


Remember to always label your freezer items! Date and name of the meal is just fine.
Doesn't this look yummy?

Your turn! How do you survive busy nights and still eat in?





2.20.2014

Spend Less, Save More

Spend less, Save More!

It is a simple concept. It is what everyone WANTS to do. But life is busy. It is easier to pay extra for professional photographers, eat out, hire a repair man for yearly maintain. Budgeting is overwhelming and talking about finances can get "hairy" when spouses are involved. But you really do want to save and pay off debt, you want to put your child through college or at least offer some assistance,  you have a dream of retiring!  Well you NEED to take action now. You have to get an ATTITUDE and say NO. No to spending, and Yes to finding ways to make do, find things cheaper, barging,  planning,  and saving!!

I don't mean THIS kind of attitude 



It is time to register for Get a L.I.F.E and learn how to get your Attitude!

You know you want to!

2.18.2014

Saving Money while Running Errands!

Here is your scenario:

It is Tuesday morning, your oldest child needs dropped off at Pre- school, you have your youngest in tow while trying to grocery shop, get the dog food and run to the bank. Your "errands" began at 9am and as you are pulling out from dropping your oldest off, you realize you didn't eat breakfast yourself and are starving! What do you do??!! Keep in mind you are taking part in TNTL eat in February Challenge!!

Most people answer this question with a simple, "Go to McDonalds or Chick Fila." But after your 5th time running errands in a week we end up spending an unnecessary amount on fast food. The average American spends $232 a month on meals prepared outside the home (pizzas, fast food, Sheetz, ect.) that is over $2500 a year?!? Whoa! As a family who travels often to visit family and friends I can see us spending that much, unfortunately. But as frugal living families what can we do to help save this money? Here are some tips on eating on the go, basically ways to save that trip to McDonalds or the like when our bellies start rumbling!


2.13.2014

Free Samples with Pinch me!

We interrupt Eat in February with Pinch Me...no I am not going to pinch you (please don't pinch me). That is the name of the company that is offering a very neat opportunity!

In December I had a reader and friend send me a Facebook message asking if I had heard about Pinch Me. To my shock and horror, I had to say no!!

She went on to explain that it was a site that offered free full-size samples at no cost. NOT EVEN SHIPPING!

I had to see what this was all about. So in January I signed up and ordered my first box. I wanted to post my review by video!

Here you have if Folks My first PINCH ME box:


I made a little mistake in the video You do HAVE to complete the surveys. Sorry!! I just did it and it took 2 minutes. Not bad at all! They are super simple questions too.

So what do you think?


All of the Products in for January!


Savings this for after the workshop so I can take a day and relax;)

This is not greasy which I love and it smells great!


***I was not in any way compensated to talk about this company. I just really wanted you to know about it!

XX,




2.11.2014

Eat In February Challenge: Understanding your Families Eating Habits Challenge #2 (Family Staples List)

""Mom! We are out of milk.", " There's no P.B. left!!", " "Dear, I don't like peppers and onions in my food."

Does this sound like your house?  Well it used to be my house too! We were always out of some important staple, I was always cooking fancy meals that no one liked, and we could never keep milk in the house (for real).

At that time I was working part time and going to school full time and had two terribly picky eaters (my oldest son and husband!)

I HAD to figure something out because we were eating out all the time so everyone could get something they liked.  I was also paying full price for staples we were out of at a local grocery store that was WAY to expensive. Yes folks I was always frugal, just not always smart :)

One night I wrote a list of all the things that I knew my family would eat everyday no matter what (it wasn't very long and it wasn't very healthy). After looking at it and seeing how small it was I went to them and asked them what they liked and absolutely wouldn't eat. They were short on the good end and long on the bad end!

After that I started only buying what was on that list. It would change from time to time. My oldest's list actually got shorter and my husbands got longer. But it helped me to focus on what I needed.

When I started couponing I created the ultimate guide "The Ward's Family Staples".  It is just a simple list of what my family loves and hates dislikes very much:

There is nothing fancy about it. I just use this ALL the time in planning my meals, grocery lists, and even when grandparents ask what to make.

Here is the FREE printable for your family!



Week 2 of Eat in Feb:
  • The Challenge: Create a family staples list
  • Weigh in Wednesday : Share your completed inventory lists with #eatinfeb you can do this on any social media platform or by email! 
  • Blog Posts : Week two is really going to help you create an easy system for planning meals and buying the ingredients at the lowest price point.
  • Rules : This week you are allowed to eat out on Valentines day AND one other day. NO SNACK STOPS! Complete your family staples list and meal plan for the eat in challenge!
You can check out all the details of the challenge here!

I hope you are enjoying the months challenges and are starting to fully understand why food planning and prep are so important.

Tomorrow is Weigh In Wednesday! Share your completed inventory lists for your chance to win a free Get a L.I.F.E. Ticket!

Until next time!

2.08.2014

Eat in February: Meal Planning 101

Monthly Meal Planning


Everyone has a solution to meal planning. There are programs you can buy to meal plan, there are classes you can attend to learn to meal plan (HEY I teach one if you are interested). I think there is information overload in this area of personal finance. BUT I do think there is validity in meal planning to lower your grocery bill and save time. I also think there are certain foundations that I like to teach that no matter HOW you choose to actually plan you can use them.

2.05.2014

Let's Talk:Weigh in Wednesday

Source

As part of our new monthly challenges Wednesday will be a day to let your voice be heard! You are invited to share your thoughts, progress, fears, hit points, low points, or just say hi! You can do this on any social media platform, by email, or leave a comment below! If you are using Fb, Twitter, or Instagram use #eatinfeb so you can be entered to win a Get a L.I.F.E. Ticket.

This Wednesday I want to hear what your thoughts about this challenge are, what the hardest part might be, if you use a food inventory system and anything thing else you want to talk about!
There is a post on both FB and Twitter where you can leave your thought now!


***I love to hear from you. It is really an inspiration to me to keep blogging AND it helps me know what everyone needs help in. SO get to typing and join in on the conversation!






2.04.2014

Eat in Challenge: How and Why to take Food Inventory, Challenge #1

Today is the first official day of the Eat in Challenge! I am very excited to be kicking off the week with a post that will help us plan for the end of the challenge which is 14 days of only eating in! For more details review this post. Remember there's a sweet prize for those that do!


Week #1 Challenge is to Create a Pantry and Freezer inventory system plus NO SNACK STOPS!

Create a Pantry and Freezer Inventory System

Why? There is a very basic answer to this question and a very complex answer. Let's look at both.

Creating inventory systems in your home helps you know: 
  • What you have on hand
  • When your getting close to running out
  • When your out and need to restock
Knowing what you have on hand lets you meal plan more efficiently and helps you save money by making meals around what you already have paid for. Another great benefit to inventory lists is that you should rotate fairly quickly through items, so, no expiring and if your not using something you will notice and can incorporate that into your meals before it expires! We don't waste food at TNTL!

When you use an item you need to mark it off the list in some way, shape, or form. When you get down to one or two items DING! a little siren goes off and it is time to start thinking did our family like this? Is this an item I want to buy again? if the answer to this is yes then you need to add it to your needs list and start looking for sales and coupons.

The overall goal for inventory systems is to know what you have, use it, and learn your family eating and buying cycles for 3-6 months (more on this Thursday).

I want us all to succeed at this! I already use an inventory system in our home so I am going to make this available to you all with two FREE printables! I am also going to show you how I use them in home.

Freezer Inventory Printable

To Print click on image and print from computer settings
Pantry Inventory Printable


How I use this Food inventory system:

This system seems fairly simple and straight forward to me. It is easy to update when I shop and track items as I use them.

Pantry list 

  • Take inventory of what you have. It's fun finding that frozen pizza you didn't know you had! I do this by writing the item and then using a tally for the quantity. items that you like to have many on hand write that number so you can quickly reference if you need more. 
  • Keep the pantry list in or near your pantry for ease when marking items off! (work smarter not harder!)
  • IF there is something you are not sure where to put it make your own category or write it in the extra space. (like the jello)
  • When you are near low or out of an item remember to ask if you want to buy more and if so circle it or highlight it and add the item to your shopping list.
Sorry folks, I didn't it up before the photo



 Freezer List
  • Take inventory of what you have. I do this by writing the item and then using a tally for the quantity. items that you like to have many on hand write that number so you can quickly reference if you need more. 
Keep the pantry list in or near your pantry for ease when marking items off! (work smarter not harder!)
My Freezer list is beside my chest freezer downstairs. Most of our items that is frozen go there. 

 We have three freezers total 1 upstairs that has ice, homemade frozen waffles and muffins, cold packs, and ice cream (when we have it). The Second freezer is downstairs and is our old fridge/freezer combo. We keep all our bread in that freezer. Finally we have a small chest freezer that houses all our meats, veggies, anything freezable.
  •  If you do not have a chest freezer you should still keep an inventory of what is in your refrigerator freezer. Even if it is a lb of meat and cheese. I think things tend to get lose in all freezers so it just helps to keep things organized. 
Tracking your Items:
You need to track items that go out and come in. I use tallies. When an item is us used I scratch off a tally if I add and item I add a tally to the front. When we are out of an item completely I circle the item. After I have about 5 items circled I get a new sheet. (i don't like lots of clutter on my list)  Pretty simple, Right!

Okay so lets recap:
The challenge this week is to create your pantry and freezer inventory systems and no snack stops all week!
You can print our forms to help you with this or get create your own!
Tomorrow we will be sharing our thought, fear, and anything else Via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! Remember use #eatinfeb and you will entered to win a Get a L.I.F.E ticket OR all the information from the day if you are not able to attend!

You got this!

Until tomorrow!

2.01.2014

Eat in Feb: It's a Challenge!

Friends it is February 1st and you know that means? CRAZY STUFF is going to be happening to your meal time! You are going to be planning meals, whipping up lunches, grabbing breakfast to go from HOME and pushing the timer button on the coffee maker BEFORE you go to bed! Did I mention the best part? You are also going to start seeing little green dollar men on paper magically appear in your wallet for all your effort. So what am I talking about specially?

Can you tell that's a refrigerator?
If you remember this post you know that TNTL is turning over a new leaf! We will be focusing on one area each month learning new ways to save in that area. The whole month will be broken down into smaller weekly challenges with in-depth and informative posts to help you reach those goals! I will be providing a FREE printable Calender each month for you so it is easier to follow along!

Lets talk Eat in Feb!
To print click on the image and print from your menu settings
 Week 1: 
  • The Challenge: Create a Pantry and Freezer Inventory (one will be provided for you on Feb 4th) but if your chomping at the bit ( aren't you?!) feel free to create your own!
  • Weigh in Wednesday: I really love you all and love sharing with you. I also get lonely and want to hear from you so on Wednesday's I am giving you the opportunity to share with me! You can do this by any form of Social Media (here are the links FB,Twitter,Instagram) emailing, and if you're my neighbor hop on over and tell me! I am even going to be hosting a LIVE Q&A via youtube/google hangout more on that later! SO share your thoughts and fears during week one!
  • Blog posts: The posts on Tuesday and Thursday are going to be directly related to the monthly challenge. So you are going to want to pay close attention to them. They are going to help you and motivate you to complete this challenge! Week one's posts are on inventory and meal planning (everyone say UGH!)
  • Rules: This week you are allowed to eat out, man I am nice! HOWEVER,  replace one meal by eating in and NO SNACK STOPS! (hmm...Maybe I am not so nice, huh) Complete your inventory list.  
Week 2:
  • The Challenge: Create a family staples list (I will provide an example of mine and a blank printable on Feb 11)
  • Weigh in Wednesday : Share your completed inventory lists with #eatinfeb you can do this on any social media platform or by email! 
  • Blog Posts : Week two is really going to help you create an easy system for planning meals and buying the ingredients at the lowest price point.
  • Rules : This week you are allowed to eat out on Valentines day AND one other day. NO SNACK STOPS! Complete your family staples list and meal plan for the eat in challenge!
Week 3:
  • The Challenge: No eating out. None, zilch, zero, nada, nothing from any restaurants, gas stations, coffee shops, drive-thrus, or any place else that you would have to pay for food you did not make! 
  • Weigh in Wednesday: We are going share our favorite homemade meals! You can post a picture or link from pinterest or just the recipe on any social media platform (use #eatinfeb), in the comments below, or by email.
  • Blog Posts: This week you are going to need resources on how to eat on the go. We are all busy people and it is a time saver to stop and pick up lunch and a snack but it is a huge MONEY WASTER! We are going to talk about eating on the go and look at the financial world of eating in.
  • Rules: NO EATING OUT at all this week. No buying coffee in the morning, no ice cream sundae to celebrate a birthday. Only eat/drink what you have bought at the grocery store and prepared at home. 
Week 4: 
  • The Challenge: No eating out. None, zilch, zero, nada, nothing from any restaurants, gas stations, coffee shops, drive-thrus, or any place else that you would have to pay for food you did not make!
  • Weigh in Wednesday: Live Q&A! I will be answering all your questions about food (well all of those that deal with money!) I will be posting the directions for how to join me on Feb 24!!
  • Blog Posts: We are going to talk about how to cook when your busy. 
  • Rules: NO EATING OUT at all this week. No buying coffee in the morning, no ice cream sundae to celebrate a birthday. Only eat/drink what you have bought at the grocery store and prepared at home. 
 Did you notice that the title had the word challenge in it? You did! Good, because this is not going to be an easy task for anyone! Me included. You are going to have to step outside your comfort bubble and gussy up!

I would like to go over a few rules for the "Eat in" portion of the challenge:
  1. Gift cards should only be used if you don't have to pay tip. IE spending money eat!
  2. If you have a business function that requires you to eat out and pay you may do so. If it is an informal dinner please use a coupon or try to find a way to eat cheaper. 
  3. If you have a family function that requires you to eat out you should choose to extend the challenge another day. (PS remember this is a challenge sometimes you have to say no) example- every month my and my two best friends go out to eat. Last month I told them I was cooking for them this month so I could stay true to the challenge!
  4. Husbands (why do they need a separate category?) I know that my primary audience is female so you are probably bringing this idea to the table. If your hubby works like mine eating lunch away from work is more of a breath of fresh air then about the money. SO you need to decided what works best for your family. We have a Jen and Jeff allowance and that covers eating out individually. He will still be getting his, I will not (because I am not eating out!). However, he is going to take a lunch twice a week during the challenge so he can test the waters so-to-speak. IF you like to eat away from the office for this reason do so but PACK a LUNCH!
  5. Emergencies. We all have them. If you are broken down or have to spend a long night in the ER please feed yourself and don't extend the challenge unless you see fit!
  6. Grocery Shopping: The idea is to save money. You do not want to increase your grocery budget to compencate for not eating out. You want to learn to plan meals and learn sales cycles. If you eat out everyday add up how much you spend and only increase your grocery budget by 25% of that number Eample:
Lunch out everyday $7.00 x 5 days = $35.00
Add 25% of $35.00 to your weekly grocery budget
 That is $8.75 Or a lb of lunch meat and a bag of carrots!
Purpose: Everything has a purpose. Eat in Feb. purpose is to focus on ways to save on the #1 expense after your mortgage!

Reward: Well the intrinsic reward will be the satisfaction of knowing that you can plan meal and cook at home amiss your busy life!  The extrinsic reward will be a FREE ticket to Get a L.I.F.E. (if your local) or a FREE take home binder shipped to you and a 2 hour session with me Via phone/Skype (if your not local) when you participate using #eatinfeb!

Well friends are your ready?
Did you know I was a HUGE HIMYM fan..so sad it's almost over!