31 Days: Meal Planning + Printables {Day 4}

I have to tell you, taking the pantry and freezer inventory yesterday was the best use of my time in ages. Seriously, I had NO idea how much food we already have on hand. I was able to plan 2 weeks worth of breakfast, lunch and dinner meals mostly from what we already have.

Speaking of planning, I mentioned yesterday that I’ve been able to cut our grocery budget by 40% because of meal planning. This consistently makes a difference in my grocery spending.  When I don’t plan – I spend more than I need to.

Honestly, meal planning can sound a lot more daunting and professional than it needs to. I take the easiest road I can. Here’s how I do it:

Get Into a Routine

My husband gets paid every other Friday and that is how we manage our budget. I take the following steps on Wednesday or Thursday so I’m prepared to shop on Friday mornings. This also coincides with having one child in school so I only need to take one along with me.

Pantry and Freezer Inventory

We covered this yesterday. Read, print the pretties, inventory.

Put Together Breakfast and Lunch Meals

I know a lot of moms put together a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu but  I find it easier to have a list of breakfasts and lunches that will be available after I grocery shop and then we pick what we want to make each day.

So my “meal planning” for breakfast and lunch might look like this – we also throw in fruits and veggies to each meal – whatever is on hand.

Put Together Dinner Meals

Dinner is where I really *plan*.  I grab the following resources and a pen:

1.  I go through the pantry and freezer inventory and try to put together meals that only require purchasing one or two items and I write down meals on the Meal Plan, where appropriate.  Notice, I don’t plan specific meals on specific days. I like the freedom to choose based on our schedule.

2.  I go through our Favorite Meals list to see what I haven’t made in awhile and add those meals to the Meal Plan.

3.  I go through my recipe binder and my Pinterest board to find new meals I’d like to make. I usually try to make at least one a week.

4.  Once the Meal Plan is all filled out, I go through it and write down on our All Out Of pad what we need from the grocery store.

That’s it! It might sound very time consuming but I promise once you do it a few times, it will take you about 15-30 minutes. I do this about twice a month and spending no more than 1 hour per month has been worth every minute for the hundreds of dollars I’m saving each month.  I often do it while watching a favorite TV show (or Presidential Debate).

I am no meal planning guru, this is just what has worked for me and saved us a lot of money along the way. If you want a step-by-step, with lots of printables, I recommend Plan It, Don’t Panic. It’s a great meal planning eBook by Stephanie Langford from Keeper of the Home.

Come back tomorrow, I’ll be writing about how I grocery shop and where to save money, particularly on natural and organic foods.

Note: I know this was *barely* actually posted on Day 4 but I promise I will be here writing all 31 days – it might just be at 11:59 pm!


31 Days: Eating From Our Pantry + Printables {Day 3}

Welcome to 31 Days:The No Spend Month. If you are  just joining me for the first time, you may want to start on Day 1.

Two years ago, I cut our grocery budget by 40% per month with just one changes: meal planning. I know that seems too simple but I talk to moms all the time that are spending $600-800 per month in groceries because they don’t meal plan.

My routine is this: Hubby gets paid every other Friday. So I plan our meals for 2 weeks at a time and then grocery shop on pay day. Again, too simple, right?  It’s the one method that consistently has kept our grocery budget down for 2 years.

With our busy life over the summer and my sheer laziness (ahem), I didn’t meal plan much. And our budget paid the hefty price.

Pay day is this Friday so I’m working on our meal plan now in preparation. Because I’m cutting over $100 off our regularly grocery budget for No Spend Month, I want to eat as much food from our pantry and freezer as possible.

If you’re like me, you might not know what’s hiding in your pantry and you really don’t know what’s in the freezer – particularly that one in the garage.

I had to do a little pantry reorganization and most importantly – an inventory of what I already have.  This will help me finish my meal planning (tomorrow’s topic).

If  you’re up to the task, print off a pantry and freezer inventory list and get started. You might just be surprised at how much food you already have on hand!

So what’s hiding in that pantry or freezer of yours that you didn’t know you had?


31 Days: Our Budget {Day 2}

Welcome to 31 Days:The No Spend Month. If you are  just joining me for the first time, you may want to start on Day 1

Our budget for our ‘No Spend Month’ is a modified version of our regular monthly budget. A few of our expenses are fixed and cannot be easily changed for just one month such as rent, insurance, cell phone bill.

However, most of our expenses are directly controlled by our actions and that is where we plan to cut.


Our grocery budget has ballooned due to illness, travel and frankly, laziness on my part.  Our grocery budget for October is $300, a 25% decrease from our normal monthly budget. We regularly eat an organic diet and I plan to continue this, even on a reduced budget. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be talking about how I plan to accomplish this.


We recently bought a second car after being a one-car family for some time.  The new (to us) car is far more gas-efficient than our older car but it has allowed us to come and go more often than we need to.  Our gas budget for October is $300, a 35% decrease from our monthly spending this summer.  We have an out-of-town trip planned this month so this is going to be tight.

Eating Out

Eating out became a crutch for me this summer with illness and busy summer days. Because we have 3 obligatory events to attend in October, we need an eating out budget but have set a goal to only use it for these events.

Personal Care

Our personal care budget includes items such as toothpaste, deodorant, razors or makeup. It’s only $5 this month. Fortunately I have a great stock up on most of these items from shopping with coupons over the past year. Later this month, I’ll let you know how I stock up, inexpensively.


You might assume, initially, that utilities are not a variable budget item. I might argue that your actions directly control your utility bills.

We’ve made it our goal to reduce our utility bills by 25%. To be honest, we have only lived in our current house for a few months so we are not comparing this year’s bills to last year’s bills (although I would do exactly that, if I could).  We are comparing October’s bills to the average bill during the time we’ve lived here – in our case, 5 months.


Our budget for clothing is 0. That’s right, nada. We need exactly nothing in this department.  This may be my hardest budget item to make.


Some of the kid related expenses such as diapers and school cannot be adjusted this month and we’ve already prepaid their sports programs so the only manageable expenses are entertainment, toys and childcare.

The entertainment and toy budget is $0.  We are having the most beautiful fall weather and the kids play outside every day. Our childcare budget is $25. Remember those 3 obligatory events? Fortunately we have family to watch the kids for 2 of those evenings and will only be paying for childcare for one night this month.


Honestly, there are SO many non-essentials in our budgets, aren’t there?  Entertainment, Starbucks, haircuts, crafts. Things that seem essential for living but aren’t essential for life.

When you only budget for the essentials, you start to find out where your money is really going. (Mine is going to Target.)

So there you have it, our goals for our No Spend Month. The rest of the month I’m going to be writing about ways to save in every budget item, even the non-essentials.

I’m also going to be doing some cleaning, organizing and purging because sometimes we spend money on things we already have – but didn’t know it.

Did anyone else overspend this summer? Are you joining me in a No Spend Month or just watching from the sidelines?


31 Days: The No Spend Month {Day 1}

2 years ago, I sorely needed a break from any commitments beyond my family.  So I stopped writing on Mommy Goes Green, although I did not stop writing entirely.

This summer, I started toying with the idea of writing here again.  But I wanted to change things up because I, as a person and a green mom, have changed in the last 2 years.

So while I may not be a regular, I will be back more regularly.

To kick off my reentry, I’m joining a project over at The Nester, encouraging 31 days of writing on a specific topic.

Mine? How to have a ‘No Spend Month’. I did not come up with the idea of a No Spend Month myself, I’m brilliant at times but not that brilliant. I got the idea from Rachel at Small Notebook.

We’ve been tackling our spending for two years, trying to whittle down our budget, line item by line item. And once in awhile, we just blow the budget.

We moved this summer and it’s been down hill since then: both cars needed new tires, we ate out a lot, groceries are more expensive in our new place and the list goes on.

So to stop our spending in its tracks, and save a few dollars for the Christmas gift coffer, we are paring our budget down to the essentials for the month of October.  Cutting back wherever we can:

  • groceries
  • household needs
  • eating out and entertainment
  • gas
  • utilities
  • gifts
  • clothing
  • kids

Stick with me for the next 31 days to see where we end up. My hope is that it will inspire you to spend less and save more in areas you might have never thought of.  And I hope to pick up ideas to save money from readers, too.

Below are the links to all the days (so far) in The No Spend Month, I hope you’ll follow along!

Day 2: Our Budget

Day 3: Eating From Our Pantry + Printables

Day 4: Meal Planning + Printables

Day 5: Saving $ on Groceries – Part 1

Day 6: Saving $ on Groceries – Part 2

Day 7: Week 1 Update

Day 8: 5 Ways to Eat Out for Free

Day 9: How to Spend $15/Month (or Less) on Personal Care

Day 10: Keeping Our Gas Costs Down

Day 11: A Halloween Party on the Cheap

Day 12: 20 Date Night Questions + Printable

Day 13: 10 Cheap Date Night Ideas

Day 14: Week 2 Update

Day 15: 5 Tips To Cut Laundry Expenses

Day 16: How I Score Books and Magazines for Free

Day 17: 25 Ways to Stay Busy During A No Spend Weekend