Coming to the last 2 days of the month(and the last of the groceries) make it necessary to think ahead to meal planning and budget shopping for the upcoming month.
Yesterday (Friday) we made pizza as planned—and it turned out great! I absolutely love the crust recipe I've been using.
But today, Saturday, is the end of the month, and this morning my cupboards were so bare that Joely came up to me and asked, "Can I have cereal?" and I said, "Sorry, honey, we're out of milk."
And then she asked, "Can I have a waffle?" And I said, "Sorry, honey, we're out of syrup."
And then she asked, "Can I have cinnamon toast?" And I said, "Sorry, honey, we're out of bread."
As the guilt compounded, I realized that I had better get dressed and hoof it to the grocery store—ASAP!
But then, to my horror, I realized I hadn't finished my menu plan for June! Ack! I couldn't go shopping without my menu-plan-specific shopping list! I mean, I'm completely addicted to menu planning now, and if I went to Wal-Mart without a plan, I just might get overwhelmed by the abundant selection of products and faint dead away, and then my husband would call 911 and they'd have to Life-Flight me to the nearest hospital, I'd be hospitalized for weeks, and my hospital bills would be so high that we wouldn't be able to afford food at all anymore, and our house would go into foreclosure, and we'd end up living on the streets, and…
And so I figured I'd better take a few minutes and finish my menu plan for June and make up a shopping list. I sure wouldn't want to end up living on the streets just because I didn't menu plan!
Thankfully, I've been working on compiling a master menu plan list all month, so all I had to do was print it out, grab my blank monthly menu planning sheet and master grocery list, and curl up on my comfy couch for a few minutes to plan.
And really, it only took a few minutes for the meal planning and for marking my master grocery list so I could do budget shopping instead of impulse shopping.
I'm a creature of habit, and I like structure and routine. Not in every area of my life, but in menu planning, ooooh, yes! So to make my menu planning easier—specifically my dinner menu planning—I came up with meal themes for each day of the week.
- Crock Pot Sundays—Instead of dinner, our big meal for the day follows morning church, so crock pot meals work perfectly for Sundays.
- Anything Goes Mondays—Because of my piano teaching schedule, this is also the best day for me to try new recipes. Mondays won't really have a food-specific theme; instead they'll be open for any kind of meal, but likely something with chicken.
- Meatless Tuesdays—Potatoes, beans, vegetable stir fry, grilled cheese, breakfast. As long as it doesn't have meat, any kind of recipe can go here.
- Yo-Yo Wednesdays—Because there's hardly any time between my piano lessons and when we leave for church, Yo-Yo meals (You're On Your Own meals) are perfect.
- Mexican Thursdays—Jeff loves Mexican food, so he's really excited about a weekly Mexican meal. This will probably be when we eat most of our ground beef.
- Pizza Fridays—Can I just say that my kids are totally excited about having pizza every week?
- Big Breakfast Saturdays—On Saturdays, breakfast is generally our big meal of the day, so Saturday meals are just some kind of big breakfast like biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, waffles, etc. We may also re-institute the kids' cooking Saturdays again, so the kids would choose Saturday evening meals if they're going to be cooking.
Now before I actually started writing meals onto my menu planning sheet, I crossed off all the spaces on the sheet that were meals I knew I wouldn't have to plan for. That meant I crossed off 4 dinners during VBS week (we'll be eating dinner at the church on those nights), as well as the Saturday morning before VBS (we have a prayer breakfast at church the day before VBS begins). Once those were marked off, I counted how many dinners on each day I had to plan for. I counted five Sundays; three Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays; and four Fridays and Saturdays.
Then I picked up my master menu plan, which lists all the meals (at least all the meal I could think of at the time I made up the list) that I usually make—or at least want to make. Starting with Sunday, I circled five meals that I could cook in the crock pot. I transferred those meals onto my planning sheet, added a couple side dishes, and then turned my attention back to the sheet to look for meals for the rest of the week.
I continued in the same manner, circling meals on the list and transferring them to my meal planning sheet. I finished choosing all my dinner meals first, and then I filled in breakfasts and lunches, also using the menu plan as a guide. After all the meals on my menu planning sheet were filled in, I got out my master grocery list and wrote down what I needed to buy for all the meals I had planned.
Then I gathered up Jeff and my three kidlets, and we headed out the door to grocery shop.
Being a bookaholic, our first stop was the library, where we checked out 31 books. Then we headed to the bread store, where I picked up eight loaves of Mrs. Bairds sandwich bread and two loaves of honey berry wheat bread for a total of $9.15.
Then we were off for the really big haul—the notorious (or should I say infamous) Wally-World.
I brought Jeff along since I was going to be shopping for the whole month and I knew I wouldn't be able to make do with just one cart. Sure enough, we filled two carts completely full—top and bottom. And $347.11 later, we pushed and pulled our food-laden "buggies" to our small sedan…out small sedan that doesn't have a very large trunk.
Well, to make a long story short, we ended up riding home with bags of bread on our laps because the trunk wasn't big enough to hold everything.
After we got home, I ran—well, I actually drove over to our local grocery store to pick up some milk because their prices on milk this week ($3 a gallon) were just as good as Wal-Mart's—and of course we had no room for milk in the car after out shopping trip.
So in all we spent $365.25 of our $450 June grocery budget. The food that remains to be purchased for June is nine gallons of milk, 18 two-liters of soda, lettuce, bananas, and maybe a few more loaves of bread. All in all, I was very pleased with how much we spent today. At the beginning of May when I shopped, I added up all the food as we put it in the cart; but this time I just grabbed stuff off the shelves and put it in the cart without worrying about how much it was.
Not that I didn't care how much it was going to cost.
I just knew that since I was only going to be buying the items on my list, and the list correlated with my menu plan, the likelihood that I was going to exceed my budget was slim to none—based on last month's experience anyway. And thankfully, I was right. We have $85 left to spend on groceries for the month, which is more than enough for what we expect to purchase before the end of June.
I've really enjoyed participating in the "3 Moms, 3 Kitchens, 31 Days" adventure with Toni and Kate. I think I can safely say that my kitchen has changed the most of all three of us over the course of this month. And I mean "changed" in a good way. I'm making meals—and making most from scratch—and I'm actually enjoying it! I never before thought that I'd be able to enjoy cooking, but I'm happy to say that now I do. I really like cooking and preparing meals for my family. And that's a good thing. (Oh no, I'm channeling Martha!)
Saying that the "3 Moms" series has "changed my life" would be cliche. But I will say that I don't think I'll ever be the same again when it comes to cooking, meal planning and budget shopping—because I'm totally sold.
I'm so thankful to both Toni and Kate for their friendship and their caring support, even though we've never met in person. I'm truly blessed to have met them and gotten to know them over the last month. And I'm sad to see 3 Moms end.
I'm almost sad…