Meal Planning Made Easy
"She is like merchant ships: she brings her food from afar....and gives food to her household....she looks well to the ways of her household."
"Christ is the head of this house. The unseen Guest at every meal."

I have a confession~ I'm obsessed with food. Seriously obsessed. I love food. Apparently my boys got my obsession, too. So, now I am obsessed with trying to feed them with out running out of food or money! Having a detailed list, such as those above, has helped me tremendously! These are printed out and taped to the inside pantry door. No more "What's for dinner?", "What can I snack on?", "What will I make for dinner that no one is tired of eating?". My boys eat a lot, but we cannot afford the amount of food they can consume. I am also determined to fed them healthy foods 90% of the time.
My motto for feeding boys~ FEED them before it gets ugly! Just get them FED!
Boys need to eat. They need nutrition to help their bodies grow. If not, testosterone takes over and it is not a pretty thing. I try to have my pantry stocked with tuna for a quick meal, and my freezer full of muffins, granola bars, pancakes, pancake bites, and breads. Check out the links above for a detailed look at what the boys like to eat. There is no sense in making foods that they do not like. Childhood is too short for that. I do, however, introduce new foods to the menu every once and awhile to spice it up a bit.
As for me, I learned the proper way our body needs nutrition. It's called clean eating, or just plain eating like our grandparents used to call it. Today, we have fake foods, preservative laden foods, and convenience foods that are killing us. Literally! Check out my Clean Eating page to learn more about it.
Meal time is very important in our house. This is our family time together to talk about the days events and to be thankful to God and each other. No matter what, we sit down at the table to eat together. Sometimes it's early , sometimes it's late. I plan snacks according to the late days.
I love big Sunday dinners. So, I plan big Sunday dinners, then use the leftovers to make a meal or two for that week. Also, every week I like to make a pasta, chicken, fish, meat, veggie, and quick,simple meal.  I write down on a calendar 4 different big Sunday dinners for that month(sometimes 5). Then I fill in the rest of the days according to leftovers and variety.
Sunday: Roast, mashed potatoes, carrots, salad, cornbread, chocolate cake
Monday: BBQ chicken,  baked beans, corn, biscuits
Tuesday: Spaghetti with meat sauce, salad, garlic bread
Wednesday: (leave for church early-so it's a quick and easy meal)- Shepherds Pie , made from left over roast, mixed veggies, beef gravy, leftover mashed potatoes.
Thursday:  Pecan crusted Salmon, rice, carrots, crescents drizzled with honey, salad
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Leftovers, Gramma's house, or out to eat/sandwiches
**left over roast was also used for lunch- roast beef sandwiches.

I also had to learn how to plan breakfast. I quickly learned that I was running out of milk for the babies before the week was over. Or I was out of eggs or oatmeal before the next grocery shopping day. I planned breakfast to save money, time, stress, and to lessen arguments.
Click on this link to see a detailed list:

* I don't make big breakfast in the morning b/c hubby and a few kids don't eat a lot in the mornings. I make big breakfasts for dinner many times a month. The kids and hubby love it for dinner! Example of what I make for "Breakfast for Dinner": Eggs, sausage, bacon, rice w/ butter and sugar, pancakes, biscuits and toast and fruit.


I am not a big grocery/pantry list keeper. I have to be very frugal with our money. Grocery is an easy area to go overboard. Many things can get wasted or even spoil just because we want to "stock" the pantry, fridge and freezer. My suggestion, if you are trying to save money, is to not overstock. 
1. Plan your meals for the next week around what you already have in the pantry. Use  , type in what ingredient you have , and scale down by rating( I only use 4 stars or higher), pick a simple recipe to use! Very simple!
2. Make a list of what your need to buy, according to your recipe.
3. If you plan ahead good enough, you will be able to shop for good deals at the store.
Great stores to shop frugally is Aldi, Save-a-Lot, and Wal-mart(they honor competitors prices, take your ads!)

If you are serious about saving money like I am consider these options: 
1. Do not buy processed  foods. Homemade is healthy, cheap, and easy to make. It's great quality time with the kids to make cookies, instead of them sitting in front of the TV!
2. Don't buy cereal and a lot of milk. A great deal of money goes to cereal and milk, if you think about it. Make muffins, breakfast loaves, pancakes, waffles, smoothies, egg dishes,etc...instead.(Also, another great way to spend quality time with the kids, helping you, and you are teaching them something in the process!) You can also get your calcium from other sources. 
3.When gallon of milk is half empty, mix powdered milk according to directions, fill the milk container back to the top!  I promise your kids will never know the difference!  
4. Determine not to bring chips, cookies, snack crackers, candy, etc...into the house. Only for a special treat. Eat fruit, nuts, and veggies in it's place. It's healthier and easier on the budget.
5. Make your own bread or shop at a discount bakery.
6. Drink water at meals. I make tea and lemonade for the week, or they usually just drink water. Squeeze lemon in the water and garnish the edge to make it more appealing to those less than eager to drink water.
7. Buy generics! If you just have to have a certain brand, only buy it when it's on sale and you have a coupon for it!
8. Serve a meatless meal at least once or twice a week.
9.. If a recipe calls for an egg, substitute with heaping tablespoon of soy flour and 1 tablespoon of water.
10. Have a pet? Make homemade doggie treats. Look in the recipe section under:  misc 
11. Make almost everything home made! I have recipes for teeth whitener, laundry soap, linen spray, mouthwash, facial exfoliator, fabric softener, shaving cream at my misc page.
Grocery/Pantry List:(the basics)  

1.When you finish putting the groceries away, cut up veggies and fruit., prepare salads, make hamburger patties,etc..
2.Write down 15 each of family favorites :chicken, meat, fish, veggie,pasta, breakfast ideas. put in separate sections in organizational binder.(great for quick meal ideas)
3.Serve a "rainbow" for dinner. a variety of colors of food.
4. Try a new food/meal only every other week.
5. Keep meals simple for little kids.
6. Never use food as a punishment or a reward.
7. Let picky eaters help with menu planning
8. Stock of one favorite meal items
9. Make table a nice place to eat. pretty centerpiece, matching napkins, plates,cups, and candles
10. Teach table manners at dinnertime, but do not let it ruin your family time or meal.

 Coupons and More....
When I first started grocery shopping I used coupons like my Mom did. Then it seemed like only the too expensive items had coupons and it never evened out. So I would buy store brand. But now I figured out a system that works with coupons, store brand, and specialty stores.  I used to cut out coupons from that Sundays paper of what I needed for the next week or two. Then I noticed that those items in the coupon ad from 2 weeks ago was on sale now, but if I had only kept the coupons! First, I bought a binder with clear sheet protectors. Every Sunday, I would save the whole coupon circular. There is Red Plum and  Smart Source, occasionally Proctor and Gamble.  When the store ads came out I would compare and plan meals. Also, Wal-mart will honor the competitors prices if you show them the product and the ad.  As a note, I only shop at Wal-mart during early morning hours. When kids get on the bus, I leave. Its less crowded and less stressful! My regular shopping stores are Wal-mart and Aldi. Aldi was not my favorite at first, but I kept going back because many items and prices are just too good to pass up. Aldi doesn't sack their groceries. But, for me, that's okay. I used "green" reusable grocery bags anyway and love it. My first and favorite kind are from Walgreens for only $.99. And they are the sturdiest. I pack mine full!  Then Aldi sells very large bags that I put my boxed, lighter weight items in. They are easy to carry in the house, because I put a few over my shoulder like a purse. An it takes less trips back and forth from the van.  

A useful tip:  at Wal-mart, organize items in your cart as if thinking about where you will put them on the checkout belt. Don't just throw things in the cart. At checkout, put the items on the belt thinking about the best way to sack them together. I keep the little things for last because I can put those on the top of  the not-so-full-to-the-top bags.  

* I am NOT an extreme couponer! I feel like we don't need to stock up on junk, or overstock on things others might need. If you have an overstock, please consider donating it to a food pantry for the needy. I do stock up on what we need, just a few items, but I will not try to buy all the item in stock. I am also very careful with the time i spend on searching for coupons so it will not get in the way of  my time with God and family.


Plan, Plan, Plan!!
1. Make a list of meals for the next week using only what you have in your pantry. You may be surprised at how many meals you can find to make!  If you do it this way then when you go shopping , you only have to worry about buying sale items and good deals.
2. Only buy what you need for the next week. Just because you are out of something doesn't mean you have to buy it that week!  Write it down on a running list to know that you are out of that item and buy when it is needed for a recipe.
3. Plan a large meal and use the leftovers to make one or two other meals. I have examples on my Routines and Planning page, under meal planning made easy. 
4. Scroll down under that section to see even more ways to cut grocery costs.
 **Make homemade, whenever possible!! This saves more money than you would think!

If money is very tight then please consider organizations like Angel Food Ministries or your local food bank. 

 Freezer cooking:

1.Plan and prepare two meals every once and awhile. Freeze one for later. Or you can plan ahead and have a Big Baking day like I am doing soon. I am slowly adding a few items to my grocery list to prepare for that day. See my Plan in earlier blog posts.
2. Go to a local farm and buy a "cow" or "half a cow". I know that seems weird. But I got this idea because my parents raise beef cattle and we are able to get most of our meat from them. I have found that there are farms all over the US that will let you buy their meat. Google will be your best friend!
3. Go to a butcher to buy meat in bulk. We have a town nearby that will sell a meat package for a $100.00 and it will last for a long time, I promise!! Well, unless your teenage son has friends over and decides to grill 20 steaks! (And yes, they would eat them all!) 
My Freezer Meal Menu

List making: when you are used to you favorite grocery stores layout, write your grocery list according to aisles and departments. I put all my coupons in an envelope. Then I write my list on an index card. One side is non-grocery items in order of aisle. The other side is grocery items(written very small) by aisle. I tape this to the envelope. I started this because by the time I was at the check out after shopping with five boys, I forgot about the coupons and I was ready for my donut and Starbucks.(I sometimes treated myself to an eclair and a Decaf Venti Nonfat Mocha from Starbucks! After shopping with five boys, I thought I deserved it! )

Kids and Shopping:   *If you are able to send your children to a mothers day out or a sitter while you shop, I highly suggest this so you will not have distractions.  I take my kids everywhere with me. But I don't send my children to Mother's Day Out programs. People can't believe I want to take them everywhere with me! But I LOVE my boys. This is just my personal opinion about how I am raising my children, but I feel like if I wanted to have many children then I should want to take care of them and take them everywhere. And teach them life lessons as we go.  The Bible says to teach them wherever you go. My boys are not perfect at all at the grocery store and they have melt downs. But, hey, us adults do too sometimes! This is where the Lord really tests my patience. Sadly, patience is very hard for me,though.  I started a few things to keep the kids occupied.  If I go to Wal-mart I use a Sams Club shopping cart(it's next door). The two little guys sit in the cart and the others help. For the Little Guys I made their own shopping lists.  I bought small(hand size) spiral index cards in a holder, cut or printed out my usual grocery items, pasted them on a card, wrote the word and highlighted the first letter. If you paste in order of aisle, then they can find the item faster. Or you could paste alphabetically. I have both.  They have something to use to follow along and color in. For the older kids, have them copy the grocery list on a card for themsleves. They can follow along to help find the item. Or you could make up a game to find the next item. To be quite honest, I go through the store so fast so I can get out of there quickly, that the older ones don't play many games. They just see who can find the item before Mom!  Another ideas: give each child 50 cents, in dimes and nickels. If they disobey in the store, have them give you a nickel or a dime. Whatever money they have leftover they are able to use in the gum or trinket machines before leaving the store.

Or if all else fails, call a babysitter!
"She is like merchant ships:she brings her food from afar....and gives food to her household....she looks well to the ways of her household."