Meal Planning

30 March 2008
Along my frugal journey I've found that there are several schools of thought on this.

Some folks say the most frugal way to handle food costs is to plan a full month's worth of meals in advance and do all your cooking from scratch. This is how my household did things for quite a while. I will say that cooking only from scratch, buying in bulk, and buying generic brands did slash our grocery costs.I pretty much knew what we would spend on each week's meal plan, so it made budgeting easy. This method also taught me that I am a pretty good cook. But this practice had drawbacks. I noticed that baking my own bread was indeed cheaper, but not good for us at all, as the family seems to inhale fresh from the oven loaves. We were eating a lot more sweets; cheap baked goods were filling holes in our meals. And I found that planning this far ahead didn't allow for grabbing great deals during weekly sales. I never consulted sales ads, our meals were based on the absolute cheapest things my family would eat.

Then I found couponing and long term meal planning flew out the window. With double and triple coupons I was suddenly picking up all sorts of good stuff for next to nothing! For the first time in a long time I could get the kids treats they asked for without breaking the bank. Now, I've heard the argument that couponers must have horrible diets because most coupons are for processed foods. But, I found the opposite to be true for us. We ate more produce, frozen/canned fruits and veggies, and good quality dairy products than ever before. No more powdered milk, I grabbed a gallon at CVS with ECBs every week. But again, this had problems. Living from paycheck to paycheck left us in the position of not being able to build an ample stockpile. Also, there are some weeks that nothing is really a good deal. If you are planning your meals from week to week, a bad sales ad can really put a kink in things. I will say that this type of shopping made a huge difference in our monthly food costs.

So, I am still trying to figure out what works best for us. I have learned that for me, couponing and buying name brand products saves me a lot more than just buying generics ever did. So, I just pick up whatever good deals I come across on a weekly basis. I try to buy lots of different meats when they are at a stock up price. Doing this gets us past weeks when no meat is son sale. I do a lot of cooking from scratch still. I just pay less with coupons for my ingredients. We have more money in our grocery budget now that we pay zero for HBA, which really helps. I am trying really hard to build a good pantry and freezer stockpile. Some weeks I have more money to use for this purpose than others. But, meal planning is still a struggle. I think folks with great stockpiles have an easier time with this. At the moment, I am trying to plan things one week at a time.

I think making a meal plan for a family is always challenging. You have different people with different tastes, everyone has varying budgets, and eating a well balanced diet is important. I am finding that to follow the food pyramid can be quite costly. But, I feel my children's' nutrition is very important, so I keep researching and working at it. I also really love to cook and sometimes have to resist going out and buying everything to try the new recipe I found. I know I'll finally figure out the best way to do this.

I'd love to hear how the rest of you plan your meals. Also, how do you fit the rising cost of healthy foods into your budgets? I'm eager to hear what works for ya'll, so please comment away!


Abby said...

You are doing such a great job! Meal planning is something that i am having to learn becuase I never did growing up. Dan was bragging on you when you were here at Christmas and Chris said to me that I "need to get with Vanessa to figure out how to do this thing!" In fact yestarday we researched where to find something we needed on sale and found the best deal at CVS so as we kicked it to the store I was like "Vanessa would be proud of us" and Chris was like "no, SHE would have gotten CVS to pay US for it!" LOL!

Nessa said...

You are so sweet Abby! I appreciate all your kind words. When I was so sick, I think I had CVS withdrawal, lol. And Dan was doing all the shopping, wondering why our grocery budget was so much higher than normal. It killed me that he was paying full price for stuff! CVS is lots of fun once you get the hang of it.

Carolyn said...

This is a really good post. I still don't know enough about this myself. I'm at the point you used to be where I plan way ahead and try to make everything from scratch. Although I can't quite do a month at a time yet. What I need to learn is more about coupons. I'll have to keep looking at your blog to find out how you do it.

Anonymous said...

Don’t believe one optimistic word from any public figure about the economy or humanity in general. They are all part of the problem. Its like a game of Monopoly. In America, the richest 1% now hold 1/2 OF ALL UNITED STATES WEALTH. Unlike ‘lesser’ estimates, this includes all stocks, bonds, cash, and material assets held by America’s richest 1%. Even that filthy pig Oprah acknowledged that it was at about 50% in 2006. Naturally, she put her own ‘humanitarian’ spin on it. Calling attention to her own ‘good will’. WHAT A DISGUSTING HYPOCRITE SLOB. THE RICHEST 1% HAVE LITERALLY MADE WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. Don’t fall for any of their ‘humanitarian’ CRAP. ITS A SHAM. THESE PEOPLE ARE CAUSING THE SAME PROBLEMS THEY PRETEND TO CARE ABOUT. Ask any professor of economics. Money does not grow on trees. The government can’t just print up more on a whim. At any given time, there is a relative limit to the wealth within ANY economy of ANY size. So when too much wealth accumulates at the top, the middle class slip further into debt and the lower class further into poverty. A similar rule applies worldwide. The world’s richest 1% now own over 40% of ALL WORLD WEALTH. This is EVEN AFTER you account for all of this ‘good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS from celebrities and executives. ITS A SHAM. As they get richer and richer, less wealth is left circulating beneath them. This is the single greatest underlying cause for the current US recession. The middle class can no longer afford to sustain their share of the economy. Their wealth has been gradually transfered to the richest 1%. One way or another, we suffer because of their incredible greed. We are talking about TRILLIONS of dollars which have been transfered FROM US TO THEM. All over a period of about 27 years. Thats Reaganomics for you. The wealth does not ‘trickle down’ as we were told it would. It just accumulates at the top. Shrinking the middle class and expanding the lower class. Causing a domino effect of socio-economic problems. But the rich will never stop. They just keep getting richer. Leaving even less of the pie for the other 99% of us to share. At the same time, they throw back a few tax deductible crumbs and call themselves ‘humanitarians’. Cashing in on the PR and getting even richer the following year. IT CAN’T WORK THIS WAY. Their bogus efforts to make the world a better place can not possibly succeed. Any 'humanitarian' progress made in one area will be lost in another. EVERY SINGLE TIME. IT ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT WORK THIS WAY. This is going to end just like a game of Monopoly. The current US recession will drag on for years and lead into the worst US depression of all time. The richest 1% will live like royalty while the rest of us fight over jobs, food, and gasoline. So don’t fall for any of this PR CRAP from Hollywood, Pro Sports, and Wall Street PIGS. ITS A SHAM. Remember: They are filthy rich EVEN AFTER their tax deductible contributions. Greedy pigs. Now, we are headed for the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time. Crime, poverty, and suicide will skyrocket. SEND A “THANK YOU” NOTE TO YOUR FAVORITE MILLIONAIRE. ITS THEIR FAULT. I’m not discounting other factors like China, sub-prime, or gas prices. But all of those factors combined still pale in comparison to that HUGE transfer of wealth to the rich. Anyway, those other factors are all related and further aggrivated because of GREED. If it weren’t for the OBSCENE distribution of wealth within our country, there never would have been such a market for sub-prime to begin with. Which by the way, was another trick whipped up by greedy bankers and executives. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. The credit industry has been ENDORSED by people like Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGenerous, Dr Phil, and many other celebrities. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. Now, there are commercial ties between nearly every industry and every public figure. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for their ‘good will’ BS. ITS A LIE. If you fall for it, then you’re a fool. If you see any real difference between the moral character of a celebrity, politician, attorney, or executive, then you’re a fool. No offense fellow citizens. But we have been mislead by nearly every public figure. WAKE UP PEOPLE. THEIR GOAL IS TO WIN THE GAME. The 1% club will always say or do whatever it takes to get as rich as possible. Without the slightest regard for anything or anyone but themselves. Reaganomics. Their idea. Loans from China. Their idea. NAFTA. Their idea. Outsourcing. Their idea. Sub-prime. Their idea. High energy prices. Their idea. Obscene health care charges. Their idea. The commercial lobbyist. Their idea. The multi-million dollar lawsuit. Their idea. The multi-million dollar endorsement deal. Their idea. $200 cell phone bills. Their idea. $200 basketball shoes. Their idea. $30 late fees. Their idea. $30 NSF fees. Their idea. $20 DVDs. Their idea. Subliminal advertising. Their idea. Brainwash plots on TV. Their idea. Vioxx, and Celebrex. Their idea. The MASSIVE campaign to turn every American into a brainwashed, credit card, pharmaceutical, love-sick, celebrity junkie. Their idea. All of the above shrink the middle class, concentrate the world’s wealth and resources, create a dominoe effect of socio-economic problems, and wreak havok on society. All of which have been CREATED AND ENDORSED by celebrities, athletes, executives, entrepreneurs, attorneys, and politicians. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for any of their ‘good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS. ITS A SHAM. NOTHING BUT TAX DEDUCTIBLE PR CRAP. In many cases, the 'charitable' contribution is almost entirely offset. Not to mention the opportunity to plug their name, image, product, and 'good will' all at once. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. These filthy pigs even have the nerve to throw a fit and spin up a misleading defense with regard to 'federal tax revenue'. ITS A SHAM. THEY SCREWED UP THE EQUATION TO BEGIN WITH. If the middle and lower classes had a greater share of the pie, they could easily cover a greater share of the federal tax revenue. They are held down in many ways because of greed. Wages remain stagnant for millions because the executives, celebrities, athletes, attorneys, and entrepreneurs, are paid millions. They over-sell, over-charge, under-pay, outsource, cut jobs, and benefits to increase their bottom line. As their profits rise, so do the stock values. Which are owned primarily by the richest 5%. As more United States wealth rises to the top, the middle and lower classes inevitably suffer. This reduces the potential tax reveue drawn from those brackets. At the same time, it wreaks havok on middle and lower class communities and increases the need for financial aid. Not to mention the spike in crime because of it. There is a dominoe effect to consider. IT CAN'T WORK THIS WAY. But our leaders refuse to acknowledge this. Instead they come up with one trick after another to milk the system and screw the majority. These decisions are heavily influensed by the 1% club. Every year, billions of federal tax dollars are diverted behind the scenes back to the rich and their respective industries. Loans from China have been necessary to compensate in part, for the red ink and multi-trillion dollar transfer of wealth to the rich. At the same time, the feds have been pushing more financial burden onto the states who push them lower onto the cities. Again, the hardship is felt more by the majority and less by the 1% club. The rich prefer to live in exclusive areas or upper class communities. They get the best of everything. Reliable city services, new schools, freshly paved roads, upscale parks, ect. The middle and lower class communities get little or nothing without a local tax increase. Which, they usually can't afford. So the red ink flows followed by service cuts and lay-offs. All because of the OBSCENE distribution of bottom line wealth in this country. So when people forgive the rich for their incredible greed and then praise them for paying a greater share of the FEDERAL income taxes, its like nails on a chalk board. I can not accept any theory that our economy would suffer in any way with a more reasonable distribution of wealth. Afterall, it was more reasonable 30 years ago. Before Reaganomics came along. Before GREED became such an epidemic. Before we had an army of over-paid executives, bankers, celebrities, athletes, attorneys, doctors, investors, entrepreneurs, developers, and sold-out politicians to kiss their asses. As a nation, we were in much better shape. Strong middle class, free and clear assets, lower crime rate, more widespread prosperity, stable job market, lower deficit, ect. Our economy as a whole was much more stable and prosperous for the majority. WITHOUT LOANS FROM CHINA. Now, we have a more obscene distribution of bottom line wealth than ever before. We have a sold-out government, crumbling infrastructure, energy crisis, home forclosure epidemic, 13 figure national deficit, and 12 figure annual shortfall. The cost of living is higher than ever before. Most people can't even afford basic health care. ALL BECAUSE OF GREED. I really don't blame the 2nd -5th percentiles in general. No economy could ever function without some reasonable scale of personal wealth and income. But it can't be allowed to run wild like a mad dog. ALBERT EINSTEIN TRIED TO MAKE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND. UNBRIDLED CAPITALISM ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT WORK. TOP HEAVY ECONOMIES ALWAYS COLLAPSE. Bottom line: The richest 1% will soon tank the largest economy in the world. It will be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. The American dream will be shattered. and thats just the beginning. Greed will eventually tank every major economy in the world. Causing millions to suffer and die. Oprah, Angelina, Brad, Bono, and Bill are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A MULTI-MILLIONAIRE HUMANITARIAN. EXTREME WEALTH MAKES WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. WITHOUT WORLD PROSPERITY, THERE WILL NEVER BE WORLD PEACE OR ANYTHING EVEN CLOSE. GREED KILLS. IT WILL BE OUR DOWNFALL. Of course, the rich will throw a fit and call me a madman.. Of course, they will jump to small minded conclusions about 'jealousy', 'envy', or 'socialism'. Of course, their ignorant fans will do the same. You have to expect that. But I speak the truth. If you don’t believe me, then copy this entry and run it by any professor of economics or socio-economics. Then tell a friend. Call the local radio station. Re-post this entry or put it in your own words. Be one of the first to predict the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time and explain its cause. WE ARE IN BIG TROUBLE.