Feeding my Herd

Grocery shopping and preparing meals is just one of those things that has to happen in every home to get through each and every day, week and month. It is something that I use to completely dread and now that I’ve figured out some easy tricks and simple recipes I can quickly make a grocery list, drive to and from 2 different stores and buy everything plus get back home within a 2 hour period of time, which is nice that I’m not gone half a day just buying food for the herd. In the past I’ve been so discouraged reading how some people can feed a family of 5 for $50 a week and wonder where I’m going wrong, but I’ve came to the conclusion that A) those articles aren’t up to date for prices that I see on a regular basis and B) my herd eats a lot more then 1 piece of toast for breakfast, half a sandwich for lunch and a small serving of meat and a potato for supper. We are a family of 5 plus I have 10 daycare kids for breakfast, lunch and snack…yes, you read that correctly and I am crazy but I sure do love those littles so its all worth it. I’m not able to ever walk out of the store with only $50 of food to feed my herd for a week but I am able to walk out with plenty of healthy foods plus some fun things they enjoy for treats every now and then along with all of our cleaning and personal care items for $150-$200 every week…which I’m pleased with since this also includes all the daycare items. 

When meal planning for the week I like to use a form like this 


You can make your own or print this  Menu planning sheet. Just search for the free printable meal planner. To start  I will look in the freezer and pantry and see what wasn’t used up last week and start meal planning with those items and then will fill in with family favorites or new recipes I want to try from Pinterest, Facebook or cookbooks I already have. I also don’t add side dishes to my actual menu plan sheet because part of me really likes to wing things ? for the daycare breakfast they also get fresh fruit and for their lunch it will include fresh fruit, veggie and some type of grain per the guidelines I have to follow. I just stock up on a ton of these items and pull out whatever sounds good that day. I’ve found that buying fresh is usually the cheapest except frozen veggies are usually the same price or a little cheaper so I will also buy some frozen bags of veggies to keep on hand. 

After I get my menu plan all figured out I’ll start making my list. I always start at Aldi and then head to SAMs club, if needed I’ll finish buying items at Walmart and I buy all of our beef at our locally owned grocery store because I like it the best. Making AND following my list is key in staying in budget…bad things happen when I buy items not on this list! Like we end up with a jumbo tub of cheese balls that no one will finish before they go bad and all of a sudden I’m walking in the door with $300 worth of items and half of them weren’t needed. 


Using a clipboard works best for me because my list won’t get burried in the bottom of my purse and I can easily check the items off as I put them in the cart. I can also easily see what items Aldi or SAMs didn’t have that I need to add to my Walmart list.

Once I’m home from shopping I will prepare meals for the following week to help my evenings out or make lunch time go smoother…the majority of all your recipes can be frozen which makes meal prep easy and quick! Just don’t thaw meat and refreeze without cooking it first…I don’t exactly know what will happen to you but I’m terrified of stomach sickness so I’ve always followed this kitchen rule ?. I can usually get all the meals prepped within an hour or so!


Here are my freezer meals I have ready right now! All I have to do is remember to pull them out the day before or bake them about double the time if they are still frozen. 

I want to feed my family healthy meals but I also don’t stress over it. We currently have Hot Pockets and Uncrustables in the freezer. I’ve been known to throw pop tarts at my children as they walk out the door in the mornings and we have boxed snacks on the pantry shelf all the time and a large assortment of cereals to pick from. If I got up early each morning to make a healthy breakfast for them I would be a grouchy momma bear and not someone they would want to see. So I don’t stress over it but do the best I can on the budget that works for my family. 

Some of our favorite meals include:

-sloppy joes

-tater tot casserole

-grilled hotdogs 

-chili and cinnamon rolls

-grilled cheese and tomato soup

-taco bar

-spaghetti 

-meatloaf 

-grilled hamburgers 

-baked potato bar

-BBQ pulled pork (I’ll make a large pork roast and use for sandwiches, nachos and pizza)

-homemade pizza night

-salad and sandwich night

-baked chicken with Olive Garden dressing

-Swedish meatballs

-BBQ meatballs

These are just some of our all time favorites that are easy and cheap to make. Pinterest is a fabulous place to find so many recipes but just don’t stress out if yours don’t come out looking Pinterest perfect! My herd will eat just about anything no matter what it looks like! If you struggle with spending to much at the grocery store or not knowing what to feed your herd hopefully these ideas will help you out some! 

What are some of your favorite recipes? Or how do you save money at the grocery store? I would love to hear from you and if you haven’t already would love to have you join us over on Facebook and Instagram where I share more about saving money, recipes and whatever adventure is going on at the time! 

Much Love,

Amy

Money Saving Tips for the Ball Park

Hey Friends~This time of year is busy for us and I’m sure your home is similar! We have plenty of end of school events, the weather is getting nicer which brings more yard work and we are at the ball park several times a week watching AJ play baseball. Sometimes being this busy overwhelms me but I’ve learned to prepare ahead of time and I’ve found a few things I can do to help save us money while we are hanging out at the ball park so many nights a week, and who doesn’t like saving money!

The first game of the weekend!
The first game of the weekend!

Tip #1~ Stock your car with extra blankets, a jacket or hoodie, hats and gloves. If you are like us the ball field is in another town and going home for these items isn’t an option. AJ’s first season taught us an important lesson in being prepared for any weather! I was shocked at how cold it can get and I made several Target runs for warmer gear for either him or us! I now keep extras in the van. You can use a Rubbermaid, a thirty-one type of bag or just have a pile in your trunk! Deodorant and sunscreen might also be something you want to keep in your car 🙂

Tip #2~ Bring your own snacks, meals and drinks! This saves us a FORTUNE!!! Being a family of 5 means even a cheap meal at McDonald’s is going to cost us close to $30. We pack up sandwiches, cut fruit and veggies, chips, cookies, and whatever snack food looks good for that day into our cooler and then grab a reusable water bottle that we can fill up in the bathrooms during the day. You’d be surprised how good a picnic lunch in the grass in between games can taste! It’s so nice not having to race someplace in the hour or so we have,  it takes us less then 20 minutes to prepare and pack the food in the morning and we can pocket the money we saved for a project we have planned or to put it towards our debt. Not only will your checkbook thank you, but the picnic food is most likely healthier then fast food so your waist will also be thanking you!

Picnic Time
Picnic Time

Tip #3~ If you truly don’t have time to pack a picnic or picnic’s aren’t your thing (hey, I’ve been there!) Head to Costco or Sam’s Club and you can eat for CHEAP at their snack area! We’ve done this several times and our family of 5 can not only eat a meal but not be hungry for under $15.

Most of the tournaments we attend on the weekends cost money at the gate~this is something that you truthfully can’t get around not paying for. The last 2 weeks would cost us $20 each day for all 5 of us to attend. If we have games Friday-Sunday there goes $60 just like that! We don’t make the girls go, while we encourage them to be supportive we have plenty of free games they can attend during the week. I also usually don’t go to the Friday evening games since I need to get groceries for the following week. This helps cut out some of that expense. We also don’t buy the tournament tee-shirts or anything else they might be selling. This is a huge thing for me since I like to shop! But being debt free is more important then having multiple tournament shirts in the closet that if we are honest will probably never be worn more then once or twice. For us, being prepared helps us save money which allows us to not only pay off our debt but allows our kids to be involved in sports.

Leave a comment below letting me know what your favorite picnic foods are and if you do anything else to save money at the ball parks!

Much Love,

Amy

 

Crazy Dreams

Do you ever have your Facebook memories pop up and make you stop to think about how different your life was back then? Sometimes I’m saddened by the memories and then other times they put a smile on my face. That’s what happened today when this picture popped up and I could see how far Adam and I have come~

Our almost new Toyota Sienna
Our almost new Toyota Sienna

Four years ago today we traded in our paid for 2004 Chrysler Town and Country for this 2011 Toyota Sienna. Our van was needing some work done to it and while we are blessed that Adam can do 99% of the work we still didn’t have the money that all the parts would have cost to make it reliable for our upcoming road trip to Florida in a little over 3 weeks. So instead of doing the responsible adult thing and postponing or changing our plans we went out and bought this beauty and took out a loan for $18,000. We had little to no money in savings and at the time I thought that things would get better once we took this fabulous vacation and could then focus on putting money each month into savings.

We had a fabulous time and it is still one of our favorite vacations but of course once we got back I didn’t focus on getting our money in order like I had planned. Fast forward 6 months and we both got serious with wanting to become 100% debt free. Has it been easy? Oh heck no!!! At times we’ve cried, yelled, all but given up and here we are 4 years later on a better track then we ever have been on before.

Part of what’s helped us get on a better track is lots of hard work, going without things that we all have wanted and selling items that we no longer need…including that van. 18 months ago we sold the van to CarMax and with the $1200 profit we were able to buy this van of my dreams!

Meet Odie~the Odyssey
Meet Odie~the Odyssey

This is our 2001 Honda Odyssey that has taught me a lot about life, budgeting and that happiness doesn’t come in a new car. If you would have told me 4 years ago that I would sell my Toyota and get a van 10 years older I would have laughed at you. If you would have told me 4 years ago that I would be completely in love with my old van I would have laughed even more at you and if you would have told me 4 years ago that we would have this completely crazy dream to be 100% debt free including our home by 2020 I really would have laughed at you and said not in a million years will that happen!

At times I think we are crazy or that we shouldn’t be working so hard on this dream when the kids are still young or this little voice will tell me that the kids will all be gone by the time we turn 41 so then we can focus on paying everything off. I then have to remind myself that while we are working hard for this dream and that the kids are still home we are teaching them that hard work pays off and we are hopefully setting them up for a different life pattern of debt free living then we had in our early years of marriage. In the summers when we aren’t flying all over or heading to the beach every year I remind myself that we are still creating amazing family memories on a budget and that our kids are not going without their NEEDS being met and that they are so blessed beyond their needs.

Who knows what Adam and I will do once the debt is all paid off and our kids have set sail from our home but whatever it is we will thrive because of what we have learned during these years of trials, joys, failures and successes.

I want to encourage you that you are never to old and it is never to late to reach for your dreams. I realize that not everyone has this crazy dream of living completely debt free but we do all have some sort of crazy dream inside of us that with hard work you all can reach!

What is your crazy dream? I would love for you to leave a comment below letting me know!

Much Love,

Amy

5 Ways to Go Green and Save Some Green

Hi Friends~Since today is Earth Day I thought I would share some of what we do to go green but also things that will help you save some green! And who doesn’t want to save some green??? I’ve at least never met anyone who didn’t want to do that!

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To help save energy and some dollars off our utility bill we open the blinds during the day instead of using the lights all day. I love the natural sunlight and it puts everyone in a better mood, plus for the majority of the day we don’t have to turn the light switch on which helps us save some each month on that lovely utility bill! Since we started doing this our bill has dropped about $30 a we haven’t changed anything else.

Instead of buying disposable water bottles or going to Sonic EVERYTIME we are out we have slowly invested in reusable water bottles. The kids take one to school and I use one here at home during the day or in the van. It not only saves us the cost of drinks when we are out but it also cuts back on us grabbing a new cup every hour or so and filling up the sink with cups to wash at the end of our day. To help store them I bought a $5 shoe holder that clips over the pantry door. One water bottle fits perfectly in each shoe pocket!

Best $5 ever spent on organizing something!
Best $5 ever spent on organizing something!

We take our own reusable grocery bags with us to Aldi and Sam’s Club. While this doesn’t save a fortune compared to buying paper bags at Aldi we aren’t having to throw away plastic bags each week or hoarding them “just because” we might need them one day…as if we won’t be able to ever find them again! We do 90% of our weekly and monthly shopping at these 2 stores which saves us almost half compared to only shopping at Walmart. The few items we do need each week from Walmart gives us the perfect amount of plastic bags for bathroom trash cans or sending clothes home with my daycare kiddos.

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When packing up leftovers or lunches we try and use mason jars or reusable containers instead of zip bags. This way we aren’t throwing multiple bags away each day but we are able to purchase 12 mason jars for around $5 and use them for years. For baked goods or large amounts of leftovers I have some of the larger plastic bowls with lids or the knockoff Tupperware containers with lids. These can be purchased at Walmart for about $3 for a pack of 2. They stack well and can be frozen.

1/2 pint jars are perfect for lunches!
1/2 pint jars are perfect for lunches!

We very rarely buy paper plates and disposable utensils. I was spending about $25 a month on these items for my daycare kiddos and I ended up at Target one day and found these perfect plates for their lunches. They were on sale for 60 cents each so I bought enough of them plus bowls and cups for the same cost as one month of disposable products. In the 2 years I’ve had these we have saved roughly $600, using 1 trash bag a day instead of 2 and I haven’t had to run my dishwasher anymore then I was before.

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Utensils shown are from IKEA

Hope you guys have had a fantastic Friday and can find something to do today to help our Mother Earth out for a better tomorrow plus put some extra green into your wallet!

Much Love,

Amy