I mentioned briefly that we've been following the Dave Ramsey plan to pay off debt and get in control of our finances. One of the main focuses (foci?) for us has been setting an actual budget and sticking to it. One of the ways we are able to stick to the budget is because we basically went through our spending and tracked what we had been spending in each category and that was the budget. Ha!
Basically, we saw that we spend about $400* a month on groceries and set the grocery budget to $400. Smart, no? The main way I'm able to stay within budget for food is by meal planning. I always, always, always go over if I don't make a meal plan. In fact, I just randomly buy things because I have not been gifted with the ability to know what ingredients are included in the meals we eat.
Another way I go over budget is when I take the husband to the grocery store with me. Its not that he grabs stuff and puts it in the cart, he doesn't. I just feel rushed. I get overwhelmed and don't take the extra 2 seconds to look at the prices and end up spending more. Also, he tends to think that if something is on the list we should purchase the largest available size, regardless of how much we actually need.
But that problem is neither here nor there. Moving along.
On a semi-regular basis I sit down and decide what meals we will have based on our calendar. I plan it this way so that I don't accidentally schedule us to have a full Thanksgiving dinner on a night when I have a 6 pm meeting or D is going out to eat with co-workers. Our household basically runs from my MacBook/iPhone/iPad calendar, so it works. Whenever D has something for work he either gives me the dates or plugs it in himself and makes sure to sync it with the Cloud. Yay Apple!
I also go through any new cooking magazines and pick out any recipes that we want to try and I add those to the mental list of meals we will make. This is where using the calendar to plan meals comes in super handy, mostly because I have zero ability to remember the foods we typically make and enjoy (partially due to pregnancy brain, but also because I just have a terrible memory as it is). I can easily go back more than a year if I want to and see what we had for dinner the week of October 12, 2011. Its fabulous. I can't tell you the number of times I've looked back and seen something that we loved and completely forgot to ever make again. Its fun to pull random stuff out and surprise the hubs!
Skirt Steak with Parmesan Polenta*, Salad (I don't like gorgonzola, so we'll use Parm)
Flounder with Spicy Remoulade* and Broccoli
Steak Fajitas with Guacamole** and Tortilla Chips
Pasta e Fagioli Soup** with Salad and Bread (freezer meal)
Spaghetti with Sausage** and Garlic Bread (partial freezer meal)
Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers*, Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
Mozzarella Chicken Sandwiches** (Hub's all time fave)
Spicy Tofu and Veggie Curry** over Rice
We also have simple meals like pork tenderloin or chicken breasts fairly often. Those are usually accompanied by a veggie, rice, and salad or some other easy side dish that we have on hand. I have a canister of Greek seasoning that makes plain grilled chicken breasts taste gourmet and hubs likes to use a dry BBQ rub on the pork before he grills it up. When we have these nights I usually make more meat than we need so we can use the leftovers on salads for lunch.
All of the above recipes are either ones that we are excited to try (*) or tried and true family favorites (**). If there is a recipe available online, I've linked it up for you, so go ahead and click away and start trying some of the stuff we eat and let me know what you think!