The Day I Got Mad at Groceries, Part 2 (Is Balance Possible?)

Read Part 1 – The Day I Got Mad at Groceries and Food in General here.

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groceries 411

After processing with you some of my frustrations with being able to achieve balance when striving to…

  • Save money on groceries
  • Fill us with nourishment
  • Satisfy my teenage sons’ huge appetites
  • Not spend hours in the kitchen
  • Keep up with life during a busy season

…I headed to the grocery store.

I had my list ready to go. I also had our full calendar in mind, knowing all too well what the next two weeks held for my family. Which was bigger – my grocery list or my to-do list? Oh, now that’s a tough one.

So I prayed for a balanced approach to my shopping. God is not above me asking for help in selecting food for my family. God cares about every detail. He knows my desire to be a good steward and also my need to not over-burden myself in the kitchen. He knows what’s on my calendar. He knows how much my boys eat. He knows we need a new vehicle. He knows.

groceries june 17

At the store, I filled my cart with a wonderful variety of fresh produce from strawberries to peaches to zucchini to peppers to apples to asparagus to watermelon to avocados. I got all the produce at wonderful prices thanks to price-matching.

Then I compromised and bought a few loaves of bread, even though I know how to make it myself. I bought pre-made frozen hashbrowns, even though I know how to make them myself. (By the way, the only ingredient in the Mr. Dells brand frozen hashbrowns is potatoes. The lack of fillers made me add three bags to my cart!) I bought several packages of nitrite-free, uncured beef hotdogs for fast and fun lunches on the grill. I bought bottled BBQ Sauce, even though I know how to make it myself.

Truth: Everything I bought was still real food. (Yes, I realize I’m pushing it when talking about hotdogs. Work with me here. They’re trying. Really they are.)

I got good deals. I was careful about everything that went into my cart. But doggonit, when I want to make Grilled Chicken this week, I’m gonna open up a bottle of pre-made BBQ Sauce, dump it on, and go about my day.

I think we all have to:

  • make decisions about what works for our family and what doesn’t.
  • realize that just because something had been working for our family, sometimes a change is in order.
  • ask God for clarity, peace, and help in all areas in our lives.

My conclusions about groceries…today

Actually, I have no conclusions. I conclude that what I conclude today may be different from what I conclude next week. Right? Often if it’s best if we just think about today. I trust God to make it all clear to each of us when it comes to saving money, eating well, and saving time.

Today’s conclusions are:

  • I will continue to follow Simple Meals plans because without them, I’m lost and frustrated at dinner time. The recipes and every aspect of these plans are so easy I barely have to work and I rarely have to think. This is how I’ll continue to do dinner.
  • With that, when a recipe calls for BBQ sauce, spaghetti sauce, salsa, or beans – it’s coming out of a jar, bottle, or can because it is still real food, the price is still reasonable, and I don’t have time to make every single ingredient from scratch right now.
  • Lunches and Breakfasts might need to be some of the same choices over and over for a while. This will cut down on my need to think so hard, and make it easier for the boys to help themselves.
  • As long as I always have plenty of fresh or frozen fruits and veggies to fill the table, I can relax about the occasional hotdogs or pizza.

Balancing Nourishment, Time, and Cost When Grocery Shopping

What have you found helps you most when trying to find balance in saving money, eating well, and saving time in the kitchen?

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Top 10 Money Saving Recipes

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The Day I Got Mad at Groceries and Food in General

A few weeks ago I talked about how our family is having to tighten our budgeting belt right now as we build up our savings again after needing to replace our van right after investing in a new business venture for Matt (radon mitigation).

groceries feb178

Naturally, I challenged myself to see how I could cut back on our enormous grocery budget, even though a few weeks before that I’d shared that there was no way I could cut back because…

We eat a lot of food.

I felt all kinds of blah about this, because cutting back didn’t seem possible and also I am trying very hard during this season in life not to…

Go crazy.

This time of life filled with a houseful of teenagers with all their friends and comings and goings and activities and growing experiences is very much like (except very different from) my years of raising a houseful of babies. Those were lean and busy years too, also a time in which I was trying to avoid going crazy (while the Blue’s Clues theme song played on repeat in my subconscious). All of life cost less then, seeing as we didn’t have a slew of teenage boys included on our car insurance policy and their shoes and appetites were much smaller.

But the busyness. And the needs. They were/are so great! (“Great” shall be used twofold in this context as the needs are great and the needs are also great. How great that they need me! How great are their needs! This is all so great.)

Through the busy seasons…

These are the years we might need to compromise a little on making all food from scratch and settle for the occasional pre-made tortillas and take-and-bake pizzas. I felt it in the baby-raising-years, had a bit of a reprieve as my kids got old enough to buckle and wipe themselves, but am back to feeling the pinch of time, money, and energy as I am in a season of “hold on for dear life” with my teenage and adult kids.

Add to that the fact that one by one my boys insist on graduating high school and moving out of my nest and I feel the need to use every minute with them for a greater purpose. As I watch these years with kids at home vanish before my eyes, I refuse to use any of this precious time with my back turned to them while I spend time on a task like making Mozzarella Cheese.

All this was going through my head one day recently as I made a grocery list.

“Save as much money as possible!” thought I.
“Nourish us well; this is so very important!” came my next thought.
“Take time to enjoy the family; save your energy; save yourself; buy the pizza!” – and with that I got angry.

Is it even possible to do all of this at the same time? To save money, to eat good food, and to not spend hours in the kitchen while making it all happen?

The Day I Got Mad at Groceries

Yes, I know about the thing called “balance.” I’ve written about it, danced with it, poked and prodded at it, and as of today, I came to the conclusion that while balance is a great word and a great goal for which to strive, today I’m going to have to settle for…

Fine. Good enough. Okay, I guess.

The key word here is “today.” I believe in the long run everything actually will balance out because I truly am intentional about saving money, filling us with nourishment, and not spending all my time in the kitchen. Balance wins out in the long run. But that will no longer be my focus. Right now my focus has to be…

Today.

I can’t look beyond today. Today I might feed us all salads and veggies and grass fed meat and beautiful bowls of fresh berries. I might even do it while saving a bundle of money through price-matching and gardening and being resourceful and cooking from scratch. If that is what today looks like, then yay for today!! But tomorrow? Tomorrow…

I might buy pizza.

And sure, I’ll serve it with a salad and slices of pineapple, but I won’t have saved money and I will have filled us with some empty carbs.

This has to be okay, because okay is the best I can do.

The best I can do is actually something to be celebrated. The best I can do truly is the best. Whether it’s a frugal meal that only cost $1.00/plate or a super nourishing meal filled with fresh greens and veggies, or a corndog on a stick that came out of a box.

The best I can do is what offers my family the best of me.

And with that, I’m no longer angry with food and will head to the grocery store.

To be continued…

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Real Food Grocery Savings Freebies for you!

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Top 10 Money Saving Recipes

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Also for Savings Club Members…

30 Real Food Money Saving Tips

This eBooklet is full of 30 Real Food Money Saving Tips. This resource is super practical and easy to read through. I bet you’ll find some ideas you hadn’t thought of before, some that you can work toward now, and some that might benefit you in a different season.

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Six More Ways I’m Going to Try to Save on My Grocery Budget (Plus a Quick $25 Giveaway!)

groceries2271

Matt and I have exactly one more year until we have two kids in college. At that point, assuming all of our kids choose to go to college after high school, we will have two in college until 2024. Thinking of the financial hit we will take because of this…

I pass out cold.

The good news is that having more than one kid in college offers additional grants for students. The other good news is that our kids have been working hard for years and saving money to help pay their own way through college. More good news is that my kids have worked hard to receive and maintain good scholarships to make their college bill lower.

I start to pick myself up off the floor…

But the bad news is that even a “lower priced” college costs around $25,000/year. I can pretty quickly do the math on that, because four kids times four years equals $400,000. And with that…

I fall down dead.

Praise God for scholarships and hard working kids that make that total much lower, but still. Matt and I have made plans to help each son with a specific dollar amount each year. To state the obvious, when we have two in college at one time, we will be forking out twice that dollar amount every year.

Someone please throw a glass of cold water on my face.

One would think my grocery bill would go down as the kids fly the coop, but so far, that hasn’t been the case. As our personal savings account has dwindled recently because of a business investment for my husband (allow me to introduce to you our town’s newest Radon Mitigation Specialist), and then our family van died suddenly, I have felt challenged to reconsider what I wrote a few weeks ago about my huge grocery budget.

In that post I said:

  • There are no other ways I can cut our grocery bill.
  • My teenagers eat an enormous amount of food.
  • I give up.

Or something like that.

It is true that my teens eat huge portions. This isn’t because they are excessive. It is because they are hungry. (A mom of one tiny baby recently suggested I simply cut them off and don’t let them eat as much. That is only a good idea on opposite day.)

But I am challenging myself to think even more frugally about groceries as we move toward our near future with buying a new vehicle and sending boy #2 to college in a year. (I shan’t skimp on Kleenex. The tears have already started about next year’s graduation. I can’t help it.)

Ways I already save on real food

  1. I make a lot of our food from scratch.
  2. I keep our meals simple, not elaborate.
  3. I price-match to get good deals on produce in my small town.
  4. I preserve food from our garden if there happens to be any excess.
  5. We only eat out when traveling, and then often we pack our food to take with us.
  6. I avoid expensive produce that is not “in season.”
  7. I buy our meat in bulk and our eggs and milk from local farmers, all for reasonable prices.
  8. I watch for mark-downs on any of our favorites at the grocery store.
  9. I stock up on anything we use often whenever it is on sale.
  10. I stock up at Aldi on staples whenever I make a trip to the city.
  11. I stopped buying everything organic even though it makes me cringe a little bit.

6 More Ways I'm Going to Try to Save on My Real Food Grocery Budget

Ways I think I can do better as we try to rebuild our savings

  1. Go to the store about every week and a half instead of every week. (Sounds like a good experiment, huh?)
  2. Don’t buy pre-packaged snacks for the boys to eat at games, even if they are “healthier” and even if they are a good deal.
  3. Serve more eggs and meatless meals. (I might have a revolt. To be continued…)
  4. Stop buying cereal. (I rarely buy this anyway, but what if I stopped altogether?)
  5. Eat some of the “random stuff” hanging out in the back of the pantry and freezer whether it’s exciting or not.
  6. Cut back on cheese, or let cheese replace meat sometimes. (Like in this recipe.)

30 Real Food Money Saving Tips

I plan to peruse this book again to trigger more ideas (get yours here – it’s free!). Knowing my family situation (four teenage sons, big eaters, focus on eating nourishing foods instead of fillers), do you have any more suggestions to share?

I’ll share an update in a few weeks once I see how some of these experiments go!

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One of the Hardest Grocery Budget Questions I’m Ever Asked

A few months ago I shared about my family’s current grocery budget. Some of you felt a mighty relief that you weren’t the only one spending so much each month to feed your family . But others of you fell over with shock. (Sorry ’bout that.)

Before I get too far in to today’s post, allow me to catch you up on some grocery budget posts that will help you understand where I’m coming from here:

Long story short, we are a family of 6. We have four sons ages 19, 17, 15, and 12. Our oldest lives in the college dorm, but comes over from time to time (sometimes with friends). We almost never eat out, we don’t have cable, and we drive old vehicles. Our health care/insurance costs are amazingly low (praise the Lord!). But…we spend a boat load of money every month on groceries. Eeeeek!

groceries Lincoln

Almost every month, we fork out somewhere between $800-$1,100 dollars for food to feed our family. Yep, sounds a little scary to some of you. We used to get away with much less back when all four of our boys could share one apple for a snack and be fine until they ate their tiny little dinner.

Now it’s just not possible. Our four boys are teenagers now. They are tall. They are extremely active. We care about wholesome nutrition. Our grocery bill reflects all of this.

groceries725

One of the most difficult questions I’m asked by people is this one:

If you had to cut back on your grocery budget, what would you cut?

I open my mouth in an effort to answer, and nothing comes out. Of all our groceries, what would I not buy? What do I buy that’s a splurge that I could give up? How could I cut back?

Honestly, I’m not sure I have a good answer. I buy food. My family eats it. We waste almost nothing.

Okay, here’s one. Sometimes I splurge and buy juice. This is fun, but not a necessity. We could give that up, which would save, what? About $8 a month? I buy La Croix sparkling water, and this is a total splurge. It’s a fun drink that I could give up. Again, this offers a savings of just a few dollars every month.

Could I (tearfully) give up on buying a grass fed cow every year? Maybe. But even with that, would I really be saving money? Buying our meat in bulk like this really cuts the cost down.

And speaking of cows, I really can’t skimp on the meat at our house, as far as quantity. I feed my boys plenty of rice, potatoes, and pasta to help fill them. But they never feel satisfied without substantial protein.

groceries 411

How about produce? The thought of cutting back on fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables makes me feel sick inside. Our bodies need nourishment from these, and I would hate to cut back. Fruits and veggies are a big part of our meals, and I believe the variety of nutrients they provide helps to keep my boys feeling satisfied, especially when compared to cheap crackers or whatever else I’d offer to fill in the gaps.

Also? I’ve already stopped buying “only organic.” I gave that up several years ago when I realized the cost was keeping us from eating enough fruits and vegetables. I buy organic when the price is reasonable, but otherwise, I trust that God is bigger and we just wash and eat the nourishing conventional produce. (I save a lot of money price-matching our produce, so I’m so thankful our Wal-mart still offers this!)

We already skip the milk. We buy one gallon each week (to use for cooking) from a local farmer, so it is organic and grass fed. But one gallon. For $5.00. It’s more expensive than store-bought, but the $20 I spend on milk each month doesn’t make or break my budget.

So I guess that brings me back to:

My family eats a lot of food.

That, and we feed extra people quite frequently.

Our grocery budget allows for including extras around our table regularly, and for that, I’m extremely thankful. I wouldn’t want to ever give that up, and God continues to provide so I don’t have to.

But truly, if I had to cut back on my grocery budget, I think my kids would be hungry.

Either that or I think they might get sick more frequently. There’s no way to know that for sure, I guess, but after so many years of filling them with nourishing foods, including a lot of fruits and vegetables, I really think their bodies are thriving on the nutrients. To cut back and substitute them with “filler foods” could potentially hurt them and make our doctor bills increase. Worth it? Absolutely not.

This is where I land for my family right now. If our income decreased and we would need to cut budget in order to make it, food would be one of the last things I would/could adjust. And I know, without a doubt, that God would provide for my family’s needs. He is God and we never need to doubt him.

If I had to cut back on my grocery budget

What are your thoughts on this topic? If you had to cut back on grocery spending, what would you/could you cut out?

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30 Real Food Money Saving Tips
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What are your best ways of saving money on real food?

Back to School Breakfast: How to Set Up a Yogurt Parfait Bar

You know I like setting up different varieties of “Build Your Own” bars. This cuts down on my work and let’s everyone build their dish to their liking. Other ideas I’ve shared here:

Today’s idea is quite simple, and great for a busy school morning. In fact, this would even work as a “breakfast on the go” option by simply building your yogurt parfait in a plastic cup or glass jar and eating it on the way out the door.

How to Set Up a Yogurt Parfait Bar

Great options to set out for a Build Your Own Yogurt Parfait Bar

Want to save even more time? Make this 5-Minute Stop-Top Granola!

Your options are only limited by your imagination. And the ways to save money are great. For instance:

  • Typically it is less expensive to purchase larger tubs of yogurt instead of individual cups.
  • If you buy whole milk plain yogurt, you can add any sweetener you like and make it for your sweetness preference.
  • You can make Homemade Yogurt.
  • Offer berries and other fruit that is in season and thus less expensive.
  • Make your own granola as a stir-in option using one of the recipes above. (Pre-made, boxed granola can be very expensive!)

Did you see all 60 of these great Make-Ahead Breakfast ideas? We will survive busy school mornings, we will!

How to Freeze Apple Pie Filling – Easy!

When it comes to making and preserving Apple Pie Filling, you have a few choices. You can can it (can can, can you do the can can, can you…). You can freeze it, which I will describe here today. Or (and this is by far the most novel idea of them all) you can put the filling directly into a pie crust and bake it immediately.

apples

It all comes down to how much freezer space you have, how much pantry space you have, if you love canning produce, if you have plenty of jars, or if you really just want to eat an apple pie after dinner on this very day.

But really most of it comes down to apples. You can’t do any of this if you don’t have apples.

So…do you have apples? I have apples. This year I decided that the easiest way for me to preserve Apple Pie Filling is to freeze it.

If you want to can apple pie filling so that you can store it in your pantry, you can learn how to do that here. You should know that I break out in a sweat every single time I type the word p-a-n-t-r-y. I re-read it four hundred and eighty times to make sure I didn’t leave out the “r” because that would bring a whole new unintended meaning to my sentence.

apple_pie_filling_5

Here’s how to freeze apple pie filling:

1. Wash, core, and slice apples into a large bowl. I leave the peeling on. (Once again I sweat and make sure I added the “l” to p-e-e-l-i-n-g.)
2. Stir in 1/4 cup sucanat or brown sugar plus 1 teaspoon cinnamon per every 5-6 apples.
3. Transfer mixture to quart-sized freezer bags, 3-4 cups of apple pie filling per bag.
4. Label the bag and freeze it for up to a year.

How to Freeze Apple Pie Filling

When you’re ready to make an apple pie, simply thaw and dump the contents into an unbaked pie crust, then proceed as you normally would to make an apple pie. Here’s my Whole Wheat Pie Crust recipe. Even easier, use the filling to make an Apple Crisp or a Salted Caramel Apple Crisp.

It’s wonderful having prepared apple pie filling in your freezer, and yes, even in your pantrrrrrrry.

How’s your apple supply? Have you been able to get your hands on plenty of good apples this year? 

What is Price Matching and How Does it Work?

What is Price-Matching and How Does it Work

I’ve recently learned the art of “price matching.”  Where has this been all my life?  (Right under my nose.  I just never looked into it before.)  This new practice has been saving me $10-$40 per week.  That’s $40-$160 per month.  That’s big savings for my family of big eaters!

What is Price Matching?

Wal-Mart offers an Ad-Matching Guarantee.  This means that if another store within 50 miles is offering a specific food at a lower price (shown in their weekly ad), Wal-mart will honor that price.  Read all the detailed information about their policy here.

It is important that you pay attention to the details of the grocery store ads.  Price matching is only valid on items “pound for pound,” “ounce for ounce,” etc.  I try to be very diligent about making sure I don’t accidentally pick up the wrong size item.

How Does Price Matching Work?

Sound complicated?  It really isn’t.  It took me exactly one shopping trip to work out all the kinks and learn how easy this practice is.

Before going shopping each week, I spend a few minutes looking at all relevant grocery store ads online.  We have very few stores in my town, so I am thankful I can price match with the stores in our nearby cities which have 6-7 stores to price match with.  I find the lowest prices from each store (mainly focusing on the produce), and make my list.

This week, my list looked something like this:

Aldi

~ Strawberries, 16 ounces, $1.29
~ Onions, 3 pound bag, 99¢
~ Red Potatoes, 5 pound bag, 99¢

Alert

~ Carrots, 2 pound bag, $1.19

Super Saver

~ Grape Tomatoes, 1 pint, 96¢
~ Blueberries, 18 ounces, $3.48 (our Walmart didn’t have this size, so I scratched that off my list)
~ Gala or Yellow Delicious Apples, 3 pound bags, $2.50 each

Wal-mart employees have been trained to quickly adjust the price of the items you are price matching.  You simply tell them the price you found that was cheaper, and they ring it up at that price.  Easy!  I try to separate my price-match items from my other items to make it easier on the cashier.

Here is a sample conversation between the cashier and me…

Cashier:  You have such beautiful hair.
Just kidding.  For some reason, the cashier never says that.  Here’s the real conversation:
Me: These are my price-match items.

Cashier:  Great, we’ll start with the pears.  How much?
Me:  99¢ per pound.
{Cashier rings up my pears at 99¢ per pound}  

Cashier:  Okay, now how about these onions?
Me:  99¢ for each bag

And so it goes until we work our way through all of my price match items.  :)

How Much Can You Save?

Here’s an example of everything I bought and how much I saved through price-matching last week.

price matching

  • 2 bags of Yellow Onions priced at $2.98 for a 3 pound bag – I got for 99¢ each (saved 3.98)
  • 3 bags of Red Potatoes priced at $3.47 for a 5 pound bag – I got for 99¢ each (saved 7.44)
  • 1 pound containers of Strawberries priced at $1.99 – I got for $1.29 each (saved 5.60)
  • D’Anjou Pears priced at $1.67/pound – I got for 99¢/pound (saved 3.69)
  • 2 bags of Halo Clementines priced at $4.97 for a 3 pound bag – I got for $3.99 each (saved 1.96)
  • 2 bags of Carrots priced at $1.48 for a 2 pound bag – I got for $1.19 each (saved .58)
  • 2 bags of Gala Apples priced at $3.47 for a 3 pound bag – I got for $2.50 each (saved 1.94)
  • 2 bags of Golden Delicious Apples priced at $3.47 for a 3 pound bag – I got for $2.50 each (saved 1.94)
  • 2 pints of Grape Tomatoes priced at $2.98 per pint – I got for 96¢ each  (saved 4.04)

Price matching saved me $31.17 this week.  It took me about 10 minutes to sit at the computer and find the prices I wanted to match and make a list.  Saving over thirty bucks in 10 minutes to feed my family real food?  Yes, I think that’s very worth my time!

Watch that you don’t fall into the trap of snatching up good deals on processed foods.  Those are out there too, so of course, I had to remind us all that those are just not worth the “price” we pay later.  You’ll be surprised though at the great deals you can get on fruits and vegetables, meats and cheeses, often organics too!

One last note:

I try not to price-match from my hometown grocery stores.  My town is small, so it doesn’t take much extra time to run into our local grocery stores to pick up the food I need.  I like to support our local stores.  Where price-matching really works well for me is offering me big city sale prices from bigger stores that would cost me an hour’s drive and a half tank of gas.  :)

Share with us!  Do you take advantage of Wal-mart’s price matching policy?  How does it work for you?  Have any other great tips to share about this?

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Want a recipe eBooklet full of my Top 10 Money Saving Recipes? Join our Heavenly Homemakers Savings Club, and we’ll send it to you for FREE! (Joining means we’ll also keep you informed of all the latest money saving groceries and homemaking items we come across. A win-win!)

Top 10 Money Saving Recipes

Sign up to join our Heavenly Homemakers Savings Club here.

My Favorite Menu Planning Resources – and How I Feed All These Teenagers Without Going Broke

As the old saying goes:  Where there is no plan, there is no casserole.

I think that’s in the Bible somewhere.  Or maybe I just made it up twelve seconds ago.  How about this one:  A frozen chicken will remain frozen if left in a frozen environment.  I definitely made that one up.

All this proverbial insight to say:  Menu plans are really nice.  They help you save money.  They help you eat healthier.  You should make meal plans.

For all of you (and I know there are some) who find that meal planning hurts instead of helps you – I say keep doing what you’re doing to put healthy meals on the table.  No need to fix what isn’t broken.

For everyone else, I’m determined to do all I can to encourage whatever it takes for you to prepare simple, healthy meals that don’t break the bank.  Menu planning can be a big help, but it can also be overwhelming if you haven’t found your menu planning comfort zone.

Before I say more though, first let me share this:  You should read the post Cooking Healthy Meals When the Menu Plan Fails.  Even with the best of intentions, there are times my frozen chicken is still frozen at dinner time.  It happens.  No need to freak out, feel like a failure, or call for take-out.  These ideas have saved me many times when my plans didn’t fall into place perfectly.  (Hello, Life. You sure are busy.)

I want to help set us up for menu planning success as best I can.  I don’t actually like the word success because we seem to think that the opposite of success is fail – and that isn’t true (see paragraph above, in which I use the word fail, but wish I didn’t and there’s nothing I can do about it now).  So let’s go with menu planning empowerment, how does that sound?

By the way, what I’m about to share will not only give you insight into how I prepare healthy meals for my family every day, it will also help you understand how it is possible for me to feed a houseful of teenage boys (and often their friends) without having to sell my furniture as a way to afford it.  Planning ahead saves us hundreds of dollars every year.  I can’t not plan.  I can’t fall back on take-out.  Keeping food costs down is very important when there’s already a comma in the grocery budget dollar amount.  (They eat so much foooooooood.  But love them, they’re worth it, and all that.)

Empowering You to Plan Healthy Menus

1. One of my favorite ways to be inspired and gain ideas is to look at recipes.  I look at cookbooks and on Pinterest, but mostly, I scroll through my dropdown menu of the hundreds (maybe thousands?) of recipes right here on my website.  They are categorized, alphabetized, and even though I’m the one that put them there, I still come across recipes I forgot existed.  It’s fun!

Doing this offers variety to our menu and gets my food planning creativity flowing.  I typically pick seven recipes in each meal category and plug them into my menu for the week.  There is flexibility, of course.  There is always flexibility.  My menu plan doesn’t own me, it simply acts as a guide.

Below is a screen shot of the dropdown menu on my website when I’m holding my cursor over the word RECIPES in my header.  Do that, then click on any page you need.  You’ll see lovely lists of real food recipes to pick from.  Let your family help choose recipes to try if you like!

recipe dropdown

2.  I’ve written and shared hundreds (maybe thousands?) of menu plans here through the years.  They are all in my archives, found at this Menu Planning Archives link.  These are fun to look through for inspiration because they are complete menu plans, full of ideas for ways to pair side dishes with main dishes.

3.  Our Heavenly Homemaker’s Recipes – Search by Ingredients feature is a really fun way to plan meals based on the ingredients you have in your home.  If I’m at a lost as to what to plan, I simply type in a few key ingredients I want to use (such as beef, cheese, tomatoes), then scroll through the recipes that pop up for me.  You’ll see this special search box at the top right of my side bar.  Use it!  It’s fun and helpful!search by ingredients

4.  I’ve put together three very thorough menu planning resources through the years:  40 Real Food Menu Plans; 1-2-3 Meal Planning; and Build Your Menu Planning Notebook.  The first two share all my best tips and strategies for planning meals, plus they include tons of meal plan ideas.  The thinking is already done for you!

notebook 2

The Notebook?  Oh my goodness.  That’s how I put it all together.  Not only is it mega helpful, it’s cute and fun and made to order.  Yours probably won’t look like mine because your menu planning needs and design preferences are likely different from mine.  That’s the beauty.  You print and put yours together the way it will work best for you.  :)

To bless your menu planning efforts this New Year, we’ve packaged up our three menu planning resources and knocked them down to half price.  Now’s the time to get into a good menu planning routine!  Save yourself some time and money, letting these resources guide you.

Menu Planning Collection

Menu Planning Collection
Menu planning can save you money, time, and help you eat healthier too. Let these downloadable guides and planners make the job even easier!
Price: $9.95
Quantity:  

What Are Your Best Real Food Money Saving Tips?

Money Saving Monday Banner

Our family has been driving, and driving, and driving some more. Today we’re on the home stretch! After four days in the car driving home from California, we will be home tonight. Can’t wait!

I’m excited to get back into the routine of posting Money Saving Monday tips around here. Today, since I haven’t been able to write a tip, I thought it would be great to hear from all of you instead!

We all have different ways of saving money along our healthy eating journey. Leave a comment to share what works for you!

I’d like to put together a free downloadable resource filled with all your great ideas. This will bless so many who are striving to feed their families well.

Thanks in advance! Can’t wait to hear all the great tips you have to share!

How to Freeze Pineapple for Smoothies

You probably already know how simple this is, but just in case, I’m writing an entire post about how to put chopped pineapple into a freezer bag.  But first join me for some boring talk about being boring, which is really quite exciting depending on who you are and what you are interested in.

How to Freeze Pineapple for Smoothies

You know how pre-teens can talk and laugh about a fictional character for hours, how teenagers can talk about shoes, how computer geeks can talk about wires, and how athletes can discuss the score of a game from 2004 – and whichever category of people you don’t fit into, you think that subject is the most ridiculous and boring topic on the face of the earth?

Yeah, well women are just as exciting.  Here’s what I talk about with glee to my friends while my kids fall off their chairs in the background:  “I got 4 pineapples for just $1.29 each!  I know! eeeheeeheee!”

Really, I remember my mom and Kristina’s mom (my childhood friend) having a very long conversation about the price of lettuce (which had most certainly gone up to 79¢ – can you believe it?) – when I was a teenager back in 1985.  Kristina and I just rolled our eyes and giggled about the fact that our mothers could possibly think that information about the price of lettuce would be interesting in the least.  While our mothers continued their dry discussion, Kristina and I turned back to talking about much more exciting and meaningful topics such as which shirt to wear to school tomorrow and how the cover of my notebook had torn on the way to band class.

As it would appear, I am now my mother, and you are my friend’s mother because I’m here to tell you that I seriously got 4 big fresh pineapples for just $1.29 each!  Is that not awesome?  Especially since the cheapest I typically find them is between $3.00 and $4.00.  That’s why I bought four.  You’ve got to get four when you get them for that great of a price.  And see, here I am, going on and on and having a very long conversation (with myself, sort of) about my wonderful deal on pineapple.

I, for one, am enjoying this conversation very much.

Those of you who choose to instead talk about your rock collection or printer ink for hours are going to have to find someone else to share it with – because I just got four pineapple for $1.29 each!  Do you know how great this is?

How did I get such a great price on four such lovely pineapples?  Now that there is an Aldi 50 miles from my town, I can price match at my local Walmart.  Aldi was running a special, so I went to Walmart and price matched that deal.  (They were just $1.29 each!!  Did I tell you that part yet?)

Our family loves pineapple, but our palates might not appreciate eating so much pineapple in a matter of a few days.  Instead, we chopped one and ate it, then chopped the rest and froze the chunks in baggies to be used later in our very favorite Pineapple Mango Smoothies.

No way will I ever find bagged, frozen pineapple at the store for $1.29/bag. Oh, but if I do, you can bet I will have a lively conversation with you about it, filled with lots of exclamation marks. (!!!!!)

Pineapple Mango Smoothie Recipe

As you can see from the picture tutorial early in this post, freezing pineapple is as easy as cutting away the outside of the fruit, then cutting the inside into chunks. We found that one large pineapple filled a quart-sized freezer bag.

Now you tell me:  What’s the greatest deal you’ve gotten lately? You know I want to hear all about it. Be sure to use exclamation marks. (!!!!!)