Monday, January 6, 2014

No-Spend January: Meal Planning

How is your January going so far?  We are only 6 days into it but I feel inspired and motivated to reach my goals! As you know I have set a goal to set up a budget and stick to it this year.  I am happy to report that I have the budget pretty much set up, although I am sure it will need some tweaking from time to time.  I would love to use an online budgeting software such as Mint or Mvelopes and I have messed around with both of them but still haven't determined if I like using them or not.  For right now I am using a basic 6 column accounting ledger book.  I want whatever system I use to be simple and easy to maintain or I won't stick with it. 

After our shopping craze through the holidays with gift-buying and budget-blowing, I always like to declare this month No-Spend January.  A month where you get back on track with your spending and stay within budget by not buying any unnecessary things.  For me that means making a meal plan for the week and using that plan to make a grocery shopping list.  This also means I go through my pantry BEFORE shopping and see what ingredients I have on hand so I don't spend money on things I already have (which I am notorious for doing!). 

This also means that I plan my meals around those items I already have too.  For example, I would love to make a yummy chicken dish, but my freezer is full of beef and pork...so I eat beef and pork instead of buying chicken right now...unless of course the chicken is on sale.  I am also keeping an eye on the store ads to look for those deals that are rock-bottom prices that I should stock up on.  For example, if peanut butter is $1.99 a jar and that is the lowest price I have seen it at, I will stock up on them and buy as many as I think we will use until it's on sale again. (I think most stores rotate sales every 13 weeks, but not entirely sure).  By doing this, you are always using peanut butter that is a rock-bottom price instead of buying one or two jars, running out, and then having to buy the remaining 8 jars you will need at a much higher price.  Sure, it takes a bit out of your budget to stock up on items like these but it eventually evens itself out a bit as you build a bit of a stockpile.  If you find deals like these, you will then adjust your shopping list and meal plan accordingly.  If you are like me, you have tons of meals in your freezer and pantry already...you just have to look for them.  Do you have a couple cans of soup?  Then mark a meal off your list that requires that you buy items for and make soup instead.  It will simplify your meals and free up a bit of money so that you can stock up on the deals at the store without going over budget. 

I did this just last week.  I buy coconut oil from a local Amish family who sells grains, and natural items out of their basement as a make-shift store.  This family had informed me that they were moving out of state in the spring and were closing down their business on December 31st.  So I paid her a visit on Dec 31st (nothing like waiting until the last possible minute!) and bought over $100 of coconut oil and a few other items.  Her prices are cheaper than I have found anywhere and were actually much lower than normal due to the wholesale price dropping.  I bought a 50 lb bucket of coconut oil that is normally over $100 in her store for $78.00!  And honestly, it will probably last me all year...or close to it.  I use coconut oil for all of my oil needs with the exception of olive oil once in a while, so this is something that I know I will use....and it won't go back or expire sitting in my pantry.  There is another local Amish store who is going to start selling it, however I know their price will be much higher than what I paid.  So I stocked up on oil and just adjusted my meals and shopping list to allow for the oil purchase.  And guess what?!  I have stayed on budget! 

The last time I did No-Spend January, our water well pump died and had to be replaced...for $2200!  I hope and pray we don't have any big things like that happen and I am able to stick to it!

If you are interested in doing No-Spend January in your home, check out THIS BLOG.  She is doing what she calls a January Money Diet and gives you practical ideas of how to stay on track each day!

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