I'd have to agree that having a plan is essential, especially if you're on a budget. And then actually sticking to that plan is very important. It would be okay to swap out what you'd planned for Saturday, to Tuesday for example. But to reject all the choices on your plan because "nothing sounds good"-- well you're just looking for an *out* to ditch the plan. You either get serious about the plan (self discipline) or budget extra money to cover ditching the plan.
I actually plan a month at a time, but years ago I started with just a week at a time. Then one time at the grocery store, it struck me while I was tossing a can of beans in the cart-- every week I bought a can of beans, and if I bought 4 cans of beans I'd be done for a month and could skip getting the beans every week (and save time). Same thing with spaghetti sauce, pasta, rice etc. Everything that's shelf-stable or freeze-able. Leaves only the fresh stuff to shop for, on the 3 in-between weeks. It's not a plan that's workable for everyone, but it does work for me. I post the meal plan on the fridge and check it, to see what I need to take out of the freezer to defrost-- this morning I took the filet out so it'll be ready to grill on Saturday for DH's birthday. Tonight I'm making lentil soup and it makes a bucket full, so I'll have some to put in the freezer for another night, when I just don't feel like cooking.
And I'm like Becky, on the new recipes. Anything new I want to try, goes on my next plan; I do NOT make a special trip to the store for ingredients I do not already have on hand. I live in the country and it's not convenient to go to the store; I do not pass any stores on the way to and from work, everything's in the opposite direction. And I am loathe to overspend-- if I spend too much on food, I need to then find something else in the budget to trim down accordingly.
Ruth in Cookeville, TN Central Time Zone
Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think - Christopher Robin to Pooh
I agree with the others who suggest shopping weekly. This way your fruits and veggies are fresh and get eaten. I would also suggest doing some batch cooking. Make a pot of chili and freeze some for another week. This way you don't get tired of eating the same thing. Another good thing to make is a big pot of pasta sauce; also very good to freeze. I also agree with having dried beans and lentils on hand. They are great for soups and chili.
I agree that you just have to take a firm hand with yourself and eat what you have. We all have an inner 4-year-old making demands all the time. You have to be a good parent to that 4-year-old, which means saying, "I know that salad looks yummy, but we have chicken breast for tonight. Today's not a grocery store day. Print out the salad recipe and we can have it next week."
Paying cash can help, *especially* if you make a deal with yourself that any money you save from your budgeted amount goes into a special tin or jar and gets saved up for a special reward like a new music player or a manicure or a small vacation-- something you've been wanting but wouldn't buy yourself because it's too frivolous. Any leftover money from your budget goes in there, but any unplanned purchases come out of that fund.
Or you could just pretend that there is no grocery store. That's my situation-- I live 46 miles (each way) from the nearest mini-grocery and 110 miles from the nearest small supermarket. My truck gets 20mi/gal and gas is $4.10 here. When it costs $45 to go to the supermarket, you learn all sorts of ways to make groceries last!
current weight: 132.0
Fitness Minutes: (19,684)
9/12/13 12:29 A
Consider keeping dried lentils and beans on hand for a few meals. I cook a batch and add them to soups, as a side dish, or mix with frozen kale or spinach and some diced tomatoes for a quick meal. I also use egg whites as a protein which costs less than other proteins. I would try to keep some frozen fruits on hand so they'll last as well as frozen veggies. You may need to reconsider if you're actually buying enough to last you 2 weeks. I also try to shop for 2 weeks at a time, and it's not always easy, but it's the most cost effective way for me to shop.
I have a very similar problem. I find that I run out of fresh fruits to snack on and I get bored with my meals. A few things that help:
1. For the fruits - I buy frozen strawberries and 14 fresh bananas. I use as many bananas as I can (about 4-5 days) before they get too ripe. Whatever is leftover I cut up and freeze. I mix these with the strawberries, milk or juice, and yogurt for a snack or breakfast. I also buy a bag of apples because they keep in the fridge forever. Then I 'treat' myself to one different fruit for snacking. Usually pears..
2. I think of two meals that I can make large batches of. These are usually a soup and a pasta based casserole. I cook one then portion it out and that is my lunch or dinner for the next week. Whichever meal is not leftovers I usually have a sandwich and/or a salad. When I get bored with that I make the second meal. Then I have two batch-cooked meals to rotate with fresh salads or sandwiches for lunches and dinners.
3. I have a very tight budget but I try very hard to leave $10-20 in my budget every other week for eating out if what I bought truly doesn't sound good, something spoils, or I forget to thaw something out.
4. I also try to treat myself to a new recipe at least once per month, sometimes twice. I do not have the money to try a bunch of recipes that require a bunch of ingredients I do not have. It sounds like you are on a tight budget so I would recommend trying a new spice each time you go to the store. It's amazing what you can do to chicken breasts with a ton of different spices.
current weight: 278.0
Fitness Minutes: (23,826)
729 9/11/13 8:47 P
I couldn't plan for 2 weeks at a time! I look at the calendar & the weather for the coming week (especially in the summer & winter months). If we have something going on early evening/later afternoon, or I know I need to stay at work later then I know that I need to either plan for a quick meal or a crock pot meal.
If something happens and we don't eat a particular meal, it gets pushed to the next week.
I have also found that if I take a few minutes the night before, to make sure the meat is thawing in the fridge, then I'm much more likely to want whatever is planned. I hate coming home, especially if I end up coming home late and the meat isn't ready to cook!
We have a Friday night Pizza night and Saturday nights are usually a what do we want to do for dinner night. But week nights, I try very hard not to stray from our plan.
I think going to the grocery store once per week will help you with your budgeting. Most fruits/veggies only keep a week in any event.
We have just started using CASH for things we have a hard time keeping on budget for. (For us, it's dining out and daily coffee, shopping etc.). We made a budget of X for dining for the month and Y for 'entertainment' (coffee, shopping, whatever) per month. On payday I went to the ATM and took all that cash OUT. Then I put them into piles and secured them with paper clips. I gave my husband his share and told him not to use the credit card/ATM purchases for anything, except gas (can't really budget that, and using cash at the gas station is crazy). For dining out in particular this works great. Guess what, you have no $? We are not eating out.
For groceries we do $100/week and I just use the honor system. But that's easier for me since I only go to the grocery store once per week. There is a level of self-control that goes along. However, I always make a meal or two super easy and frozen (i.e. frozen fish and veggies). That way if we get lazy and order out (only if the dining pile has $!) it can get carried over into the next week. This works well for us since we are both super busy. But everyone has their own style!
Well, I think you may be having both budgeting issues as well as problems with meal planning. Here's my take on things:
1. "Day before pay day. Sit down plot out all my meals for the following 2 weeks." I would plan out meals one week at a time. This will allow your produce to stay fresher (if it doesn't have to last 2 weeks) and will allow you flexibility to make a new recipe you'd like to try sooner vs maybe having to wait almost 2 weeks.
2. "Day of Payday. Trip to the grocery store. Fill up my cart with all the good stuff. Tons of fruits and veggies, almond milk, feta cheese. All my healthy favorites." Again, I'd budget so that you could go every 2 weeks. You may need to work on finding lower priced alternatives to some of your very favorite things if they are too expensive to allow you to buy enough food on the amount of money you make.
3. "5 days into payday. Doing great! Following the menu. Feeling good." Good Job!
4. "Day 6 of 14 day pay week. Mmmm that salad I pinned on Pinterest looks so amazing! and its so good for me. Go to the store buy myself all the missing ingredients." You are now buying extra food you haven't budgeted for. Planning out your meals weekly and shopping weekly might allow you to make that salad sooner rather than later and also make it without making an extra trip to the store that will cost money you hadn't planned on spending.
5. "Day 9 of pay week. Hmm..none of my healthy favorite foods sound good. Find amazing lunch and snacks on sparkpeople recipes. Go buy all the ingredients. Leave $6 in my account." Same as number 4... Sometimes, you have to just get tough with yourself and eat what you've bought. You know what I mean..."life is tough and you gotta do what you gotta do even though it may not be all that fun at the moment."
6. "Day 10. ahhh crap I'm outta almost all fruits and veggies....only $6 left. Grrrr" Why are you out of fruits and veggies? Did they go bad or did you eat them? If they went bad, shopping once weekly will help this not to happen. If you ate them and they are gone, you aren't buying enough food. You may need to consider lower priced alternatives to some of your favorites. Frozen fruits and veggies are often less expensive than their fresh counterparts, will last longer and you can take out just what you will eat out of the package (reducing waste).
7. "Day 11. Must eat healthy. Must find something not horrible." Where did all your food go? I think you may need to be buying more food if you are running out. Or, maybe you need to work on reducing waste. Do you mean that only the healthy options you have bought have disappeared and you are now left with junk food (if so, you need to reduce the junk food purchases and buy more healthy options).
8. "Day 12. Why did all the stuff for my planned out meals go???? There is nothing in the fridge! I'll wait to eat. 12p, 2p, 3p....Ahhhh I am starving. Throws together healthiest meal I can find." Where did it go is an excellent question especially since you've made extra trips to the store to buy ingredients for new recipes to try, etc. Did you eat it or throw it away? If you ate it, you aren't getting enough food to last you. If you threw it away, that's money down the drain, so to speak.
9. "Day 13. Only one more day, only one more day!!!! Lets plan out my meals..." This does sound like a vicious, unpleasant, cycle! Hope my suggestions have helped!
Overall, I think you may not be buying enough healthy foods or foods in general to last you two weeks. I'd start by planning meals once weekly and shopping once weekly, if possible. Take the "life is hard" approach if you want to deviate from your planned meals, meaning no extra trips to the store to buy ingredients for unplanned meals because the ones you planned don't sound fun at the time. Sorry, sounds harsh I know, but it's something you'll get used to over time. I used this strategy to lose a bunch of weight--I'd plan my meals out each week and that was that (no changing stuff, eating extra stuff, etc.). It was hard for me, at first, but, then I got to like it because it became the routine, it was easy and I didn't have to think or wonder about what I was going to eat next. Finally, I think you may need to rethink what you are buying and buy less expensive items/choices so that you can buy more healthy food. What foods are you buying, exactly? If you let us know, we may be able to suggest less expensive, healthy, options.
For example, oatmeal is a lot less expensive than breakfast cereal. Peanut butter, yogurt in large containers instead of small containers, dried beans, frozen fruits and veggies, store brands (e.g. store brand whole wheat bread instead of, for example, Ezekiel bread) are some things that can be budget-friendly and healthy choices. Making more things at home is also less expensive (e.g. making casseroles and leftovers for lunch instead of buying frozen meals) and it doesn't take too much time to do if you batch cook on a specific day of the week (or every other week).
it sounds like you just actually need to budget. in other words you need to take the amount of money you have for two weeks and divide it out. so if you had 100 in your budget, you'd need to eat on 7.14 a day. if you had 50 in your budget it would be 3.57 a day. then you need to plan out your two weeks of meals. after you have the menus, price them out. and yes, i mean if your can of beans cost 1.00 and you get four servings from it, that means putting a .25 next to every time you see that item. then you can look at where your cost should be [that total budget/14 number] and the cost of your actual meal plan. if they don't meet, you need to start finding lower cost items so that they will meet. and you should be doing this before you set foot in a grocery store. if you don't have any idea what something costs offhand, guess and if it's higher, don't buy it and go for something that fits your budget. you might find you need to have applesauce at .11 a serving rather than apples at .25 to meet your budget. you might not be able to work in lobster this time and have to settle for lentils. this will also let you see your pricepoints for each meal. when you find a low one that you like, try and rotate that one in more often to save money for other things. then as you go through your two weeks make a note where you diverge from what you planned. so if you had two servings of lentils or three apples instead of one, make a note. when you go to plan the next two weeks, look at where you strayed from your plan. is there something that you're eating that just isn't filling you up? do you always just happen to overeat a certain item? you may find that you need to skip certain items or just plan on buying double to accommodate it. for me, beans and rice aren't the most exciting meal, but the last time i bought beans they were 8 cents a serving [ i buy dry, bulk cook, then freeze in portions]. last time i bought rice is was ten cents a serving. the last time i bought frozen veggies they were .32 a serving. the last time i bought a jarred sauce it was .15 a serving. add them all up and i get quite a bit of food for sixty five cents. it's not the most interesting meal that ever lived but my budget loves it. and it's eating things like this that mean i can fit in things like lobster and scallops, especially when they are on sale. and speaking of sales, shop them. a protein is a protein is a protein and a veggie is a veggie is a veggie. which means if you pin a lovely scallop recipe this week but clams are on sale, buy and use the clams instead. you'll have to tweak the cooking time a little bit and do slightly different prep, but you might save $4 a pound, which means $1 on a 4oz serving. same for the veggies, if that side dish calls for asparagus that's $5 a pound, buy the zucchini that's $1 a pound and swap it in. if you really want to maintain the integrity of the recipes and not swap in all willy nilly, start with the sale flyer, find an ingredient on sale, then look around for a recipe you wanted to try that features it.
Edited by: NIRERIN at: 9/11/2013 (17:08)
-google first. ask questions later.
Fitness Minutes: (13,023)
651 9/11/13 4:35 P
I also try to make only one trip to the grocery store per week, but I'm a terrible planner. What I find works for me between grocery trips is shopping at the farmers market (in season) and/or my oriental market just for produce. It's cheaper than the grocery store and I end up buying just produce, not all the other tempting stuff. This does mean, though, that I might not get the exact ingredients that a new recipe calls for. I'm not much of a recipe follower anyways though. I just throw stuff together and season to taste. It works for me.
This is my suggestion and also what I do. No new recipe can be tried until the following week after they have been worked into the weekly menu cycle and ingredients have been purchased during the weekly grocery shopping. (only 1 trip to store a week).
If you get into this habit, you will: --still be trying new recipes weekly --searching for new recipes and trying them on the following week. --keeping to your plan, food supplies, budget in tact!
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