So your pantry is full…

But you have no idea what to do with any of it. Seems to make that whole grocery trip useless, doesn’t it?

The main focus behind this series is to be prepared. Chaos will [eventually] ensue, so you must plan ahead and be smarter than the nonsense that will happen during the day. I have finally put my process into a few steps.

Meal Planning

1. Browse the ads 

In my area, our main go-to places include: Publix, Winn-Dixie, Target and Walmart. I choose to shop at Walmart because overall, their prices are much cheaper than Publix, Winn-Dixie and Target. Walmart also MATCHES ADS. I’ve had some bad experience with this.. they don’t seem to train all of their cashiers on their policies and sometimes it’s a fight. But they do match competitor ads, we’re talking the BOGOs and the 10 for $10 ads. Some Walmarts have posted new signs lately about their ad match policies, but not all. For more details about Walmart’s coupon policies, click here. More details to come about coupon policies later in the series.

I tend to browse the ads to see what’s on sale before I make my list. If you’re trying to maintain a budget, look for those items that you would normally buy that might be on sale. Don’t go buy anything special just because it’s on sale, you’ll end up spending more.. defeating the purpose.

2. Browse your own cookbook

When you’re picking your brain for dinner ideas, refer to your own cook book for tried & true favorites. If you don’t have your own or a collection of favorite recipes, check out my blog post on creating your own recipe book here.

3. Browse Pinterest and check your own boards

I’m guilty of overpinning on Pinterest. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I need some sort of schedule in order to keep finding new things, but actually get around to trying some of what I’ve pinned also.

Using Pinterest to meal plan is a way to spice up your menus, but this little schedule keeps your organized & gives you a chance to have time to make some of the things you’ve pinned.

By giving yourself a meal planning schedule, your give yourself the opportunity to be organized and not pressured to do everything in one evening. Been there, done that – 3 hours of searching the ads, browsing Pinterest for meal ideas, and searching for corresponding coupons.. can make you see stars. This is what works for me, I have a couple days to go crazy on Pinterest and decided to reel myself in the rest of the time so that I can actually make some of the things that I’ve planned (same concept for DIY crafts too).

4. Make a list of meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and [yes] snacks

Another issue with trying to fill your pantry to fill your belly and not eat out is that meddlesome urge to open the fridge and stare into it and that nonsense phrase: “there’s nothing to eat.” If there are quick options or something already prepped, that phrase is never uttered. While I make my grocery list of items to put in my cart, I make a separate list of meals that I can make with things that are already in my pantry and the items I’ll put in my cart. I try to leave no option unwritten. When it’s busy or it’s a messy day, you don’t want to have to figure it out anyway, it’s easier if you can grab & go.

5. Take inventory

Evaluate what you already have vs. what you need. Add what you need to complete your chosen meals from your previous meal planning session to your list to eliminate extra trips back to the store for forgotten items, wasting gas and time & luring you into impulse purchase territory.

 

What does your process look like?

 

Part 3 to come soon! 

 

 

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Everybody has those days…

Those days where no matter how desperately hard you try to get it together; you’ve overslept, you’re fumbling and dropping things as you try to hurry and make up for lost time only to open your fridge and remember DANG IT! I didn’t prep anything last night – so now I have to buy lunch today just to get out the door.

I’ve been working some time to master the art of being prepared for the chaos. For right now, our household of four includes: me, Josh, and our 2 pups. Don’t underestimate those dogs.. they act like toddlers more than not, but for the time being, I’ll be discussing the concept based on a household of 2 – Josh and I can get ourselves into enough of a bind without the added fun of kids in the house.

We all know that those days, despite our efforts to not have them, happen. That being said, I’d like to introduce a four-part series:

In this series, I’ll discuss (simple) concepts of preparation and organization so that when these days sneak up on you, you’ll have a few tricks up your sleeve.

One of my focuses the last several months, has been to cut costs. I’ve been trying to pay off some credit card debt and in strategizing how to do so, I came to the conclusion that there is no reason for us to be spending as much as we do. Slowly, I’ve progressed from brainstorming a couple of dinner ideas and hitting the grocery store to making a list before I go, then on to developing a couponing system to go with my grocery list, and finally to installing a database to make the whole process COMPLETELY organized and fail proof. I’ll discuss some of these details later in the series.

Part 1 of Be Prepared for the Chaoss: Freezer Meal Options

We’ll buy Lean Cuisine and Stouffer’s meals at the grocery store 4 and 5 at a time, no problem because they’ll go with our busy schedules. But when we’re talking about cutting costs, those are breaking your budget. Instead, make atleast 3 of your grocery list items things that you can double, or just make more than your household will eat. Our house holds 2, but one of us eats for 2.. so we’ll say we’re feeding 3. 🙂

Some of my favorite options:
BEANS! – A whole bag of beans is $1.50 at the store (I shop at Walmart.. it’s not always pretty, but it’s definitely cheaper!) Google a recipe or browse Pinterest for a great recipe, throw that whole bag of beans in the crock pot and BAM – you’ve got stuff to freeze that’ll last the next few weeks for those days when you’re in a bind. One of our favorite bean recipes is black beans and can be found  at It’s a Crazy Beautiful Life Blog. If you’re not just a beans and rice person, put those black beans in a hearty black bean quesadilla found on another of my favorite blogs, Budget Bytes. I wasn’t sure about them because there’s no meat in them, but they’re jam packed with veggies and SO flavorful. Plus the freeze really well for another freezer option you can grab in a flash!

TACOS! – Tacos are an easy, cheap meal pretty much any day. You have to go out of your way to make them expensive. But, courtesy of Pinterest, I found some crock pot tacos (can you tell I idolize my crock pots?) that you can make at night when you’re asleep (which is my method) or during the 9-5 when you’re at work. I sliced two chicken breasts in half, poured half a jar of salsa (we buy generic to save money and it tasted awesome in this recipe), and added 2 generous heaping tablespoons of homemade taco seasoning and turned the crock pot on. In the morning, I shredded the chicken with a fork and portioned all of the contents of my crock pot.

Add some painters tape and label the contents with the “good til” date, so you know what you have in your freezer

Our freezer

I personally love those little Gladware containers that you get at the Dollar Store, 4 for $1. They’re perfect for portioning our individual servings. They have all different sizes that you can get, but I like to portion them out individually so we can each grab something to take for lunch and it’s the perfect amount. These containers are dishwasher safe and if you ruin them somehow, they were only 25 cents.. so no worries!

When you’re ready to consume something from the freezer, a few notes. With all of the recent studies discussing warnings about BPA and toxic emissions from plastic containers in the microwave, I would caution you against fully microwaving your freezer meal in those Gladware containers. I pop them in the microwave for about 30-45 seconds, enough to loosen it.

Then you throw it in a glass bowl and continue to warm the dish. After, get out all the fixins and you’ve got yourself a homemade meal, for pennies instead of several dollars and just as conveniently as one of those box meals you can get in the freezer section of your favorite grocery store.

The next part in the series will discuss the art of meal planning. If you’re curious about a few of the favorites in our house, you can browse my Pinterest page.