Category Archives: Couponing/Money Saving

How to Plan Meals for Three Months in Three Hours: Hour Two

All right, now that you’ve finished hour one, I’m sure you’re ready for hour two of your meal planning adventure! By the way, I never do all three hours at once, since that would lead to total burnout. I usually break it up over the three weeks before the season I want to start using the menu plan, but even spacing it out over a few days would help.

Hour Two: Making the Plan

This is where you get down to the nuts and bolts of making your meal plan. Narrow your brainstorming ideas down to the final 15 (or 21 with no pizza night or leftovers night) and start slotting them into your calendar. Here’s a blank copy of my seasonal menu plan to get you started. Tips on how to organize the meals into a plan below.

blank menu plan

Blank Seasonal Menu Plan

  1. Shopping Day – You’ll notice my weeks begin with Friday rather than Monday or Sunday. That’s because Friday is my shopping day. This way, I can see the whole week’s worth of meals I need to shop for at a glance. Feel free to rotate the days so that it’s organized by your shopping habits.
  2. Groups of 3 – I like to organize my meals into groups of three that are similar by some theme (again–ethnicity, meat, grain, cooking method, type of meal, etc.). If you used themed grids to come up with your meal ideas, this will be easy! Then you can simply pick a day for each group: Monday is Mexican day, Tuesday is salad day, Wednesday we grill.
  3. Keep your schedule in mind – When you’ve got a particularly busy night weeknight, make sure you slot in something simple that night, or you’ll end up at Subway again. If you’ve grouped your meals by type, put the crockpot or 15 minute meals on this night! And conversely, don’t put something that needs time to rise or marinate on a day when you have a busy morning.
  4. Check for variety – To keep things from feeling boring or routine, you need to make sure each week has a good variety of meals in it. After I’ve initially placed all my meals, I go through the list checking for meals that are too similar next to each other. I avoid having the same meat or grain two nights in a row–one can only take so much rice. I make an exception for chicken, but three times in a row is still my absolute limit. Juggle things around until you’ve achieved a good balance between weeks.
  5. Side dishes – Evaluate each meal for balance. If your main dish doesn’t include enough vegetables, note in the side dish column that you need to prepare a veggie with it. You can either pick something that goes well, or just leave it as “veggie” so you can take advantage of what’s on sale or in your CSA box. You should also note if you need to prep rice, rolls, or other side dishes.

And your plan is finished! Doesn’t it feel good to know you won’t have to think about dinner all season long?

We’ll be dealing with the “shopping list” column during hour 3, next Wednesday!

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Filed under Cooking & Meal Prep, Couponing/Money Saving, Feeding, Spreadsheet Wednesday, Uncategorized

Spreadsheet Wednesday: Baby/Toddler Clothing Inventory

To me, one of the biggest shocks about having a baby around was the shear amount of clothing they went through.  At first, with all the various leakages newborns are prone to, it felt like Monkey was wearing a new outfit every two hours.  After that, he started growing like a weed, burning through the 4-5 sizes of clothes made to fit an infant’s first year of life.  (Can you imagine changing sizes that frequently?) I couldn’t even find time to go shopping for clothing, much less hold out for good deals, before he would grow out of it.

With Sailor, I have all of Monkey’s old hand-me-downs.  It’s nice not to be under so much pressure to shop for clothing constantly, but hand-me-downs have their own hazards.  Like returning from Old Navy with my favorite white Oxford church shirt that I knew Sailor would need soon . . . except that I already had two in that size and none in the size below it.  It is literally impossible to keep track of that many sets of clothing in your head.

Clothign Inventory

Click to download a copy

Which is why I invented this lovely clothing inventory spreadsheet.  It’s made to be printed double-sided, then folded in half to make a booklet you can fit inside your purse.  Just go through your stash of the next few sizes of clothing up, and mark what you have on the sheet.  I even make things too complicated and have separate marks for “clothing I have which is ugly and I want to replace, but which I can live with if I don’t find a good deal.”

Anyway, I keep my inventory in my purse at all times–it’s got plenty of water stains from leaky water bottles, but it’s still legible.  You could keep it on a smartphone or note program like Evernote, but I find check boxes and a pen are easier to keep up to date.  Having this information at your fingertips can be a real money saver.  Not only do you not end up with duplicate clothing, but you also have the advantage of being able to shop end-of-season sales for 1-2 sizes ahead.  You can buy high-quality, brand name clothing for much cheaper if you plan ahead. This piece of paper has been a huge sanity saver for me as well.  Hope it helps you too!

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Couponing/Money Saving, Infant (0 - 9 mos), Preschooler (3 yrs - 5 yrs), Spreadsheet Wednesday, Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Saturday Links – Tips for Broadening Play and Button Snakes

Theory Links

But My Child Doesn’t Like to Play _______ – I totally have experience with this. In order to get Monkey to play anything new, I have to incorporate the alphabet.  Driving cars in letter shapes, building letters out of Legos, making food into letters . . .  I appreciated the additional ideas for broadening my son’s play.

Modeling Healthy Technology Use – If you have a smartphone, this is for you.

21 Reasons to Travel Around the World with Kids . . . From Those Who Have Done It – These reasons are part of why I’m looking into travel hacking (a natural extension of couponing :D).

Activity Links

Button Snakes – Simple, yet effective.  I will be building some of these soon.

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Filed under Couponing/Money Saving, Parental Motivators, Preschooler (3 yrs - 5 yrs), Saturday Five, Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs), Travel

Spreadsheet Wednesday: Coupon Lists

Click to view and download a copy

I’ve decided this month is food spreadsheet month (since I’ve already shared my Summer Menu and Pantry List), and although this one doesn’t have to do with cooking, it certainly has everything to do with my grocery shopping.  So this is my coupon planning spreadsheet. I know, it doesn’t look like much, but it saves me a lot of money and keeps my head on straight when shopping.  And once printed out, it’s much more portable than my massive coupon binder. :) Continue reading

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Filed under Cooking & Meal Prep, Couponing/Money Saving, Spreadsheet Wednesday