Today's the first day of our no-spend week. I did what I could this weekend to plan and prepare, so we'll see how it all goes!
But first... We went to a parade Saturday! Miss M has been begging to see a parade (and, in fact, "seeing" them in the most unlikely places), so when I heard there was to be a parade at the Parkville Days celebration, we decided we just had to go. There were two marching bands, clowns, a carnival, pony rides, and one very happy toddler! You couldn't have asked for a more gorgeous day.
We got hungry, but opted to buy a small snack rather than spend an arm and a leg for carnival food that most likely would have been less than satisfactory portion-wise. That saw us through the rest of our errands and we ate at home.
I made my meal menu that night. I doubt anyone plans meals quite like I do, but who knows, maybe my way could be helpful to someone else at some point. Instead of planning specifically what I'll cook on each night of the week, I plan out a week's worth of meals, but then I decide exactly which one of those meals to cook sometime during the day. Here's this week for an example:
I got this nifty menu planner paper for $1 somewhere. It has a magnet on the back to stick right on my fridge...so handy! (I have another one like it, but for making a shopping list; I jot down things I use up during the week so I can replenish my supply next shopping trip.)
Just because Wednesday says "Chicken Fajitas" doesn't mean I'm actually planning to cook fajitas on Wednesday...in fact, that's what we had for supper last night since my tomato was ripe and I needed to use it right away. For me, the point is to have enough meals planned (i.e. enough ingredients on hand) to last till hubby gets paid again. That's another thing...he only gets paid once every two weeks, but I only have 7 meals planned, how does that work? Well, for some reason or another it just does! Whether we eat leftovers or get invited to eat with family or opt for "popcorn supper" on a hot summer night, I find that planning 7 meals gets me through two weeks quite well. There are only three of us, after all, and Miss M eats like a bird.
It really helps me, once I decide on a meal, to write out the ingredients needed for that meal right on the menu plan. I'll use that to make my grocery list. So "Arm Roast and Rice" (hubby's going to love me for this one!) lists the following necessary ingredients: roast, rice, onion, onion soup mix, red wine, garlic, salad. The roast is already in my freezer from a different week; I have onion from the garden; there's still some red cooking wine in the fridge; I have garlic a-plenty; so all that had to go on the grocery list for this meal is onion soup mix and a "bag-o-salad" (they were advertised in the store flyer for a good price this week).
I usually write out the whole menu first, along with the ingredients, and then when I'm done I go right down the menu and make up my grocery list. Once that's done I think of other things not on the menu that we need to buy -- supplies for hubby's lunch, breakfast food, baking basics, paper goods, personal hygiene products, toddler food, and this time I added in bedtime snacks. Hubby doesn't like much variation in his daily lunch, so that's pretty easy. Breakfast is about the same...unless I've baked some sort of pastry, hubby and Miss M will usually eat cold cereal and milk. I usually opt for tea and toast.
Our fortnightly grocery budget is $125 for the three of us. That includes paper products and personal hygiene products, etc. We usually do well staying in-budget, but we never before intentionally included bedtime snacks and since that's a euphemism for preservative-filled junk food, they're expensive and add up quickly. So I was totally stoked when we got out of the grocery store yesterday with $10 to spare! Of course, I did forget to buy hotdog buns (it somehow didn't make the jump from my menu to my grocery list), so we'll probably be having pigs-in-blankets instead of hotdogs, but that would have only added less than a dollar. (Or I may attempt to make hotdog buns...hmmm...)
We got home mid-afternoon, took a nap, and I threw ingredients for the week's bread in the bread machine. I use it to mix the dough for me, but I usually take it out and bake it in loaf pans in the oven so it's a more convenient shape/size for making sandwiches. Et voila! We're all set to embark on a week of no spending.
Hubby is home now, so day 1 is basically done -- no reason for us to go back out this evening -- so we'll call Day 1 a success! It looks like Eilleen, Eco-chic Mummy, and Voice of Many Colours are off to a good start too!