Rearranging, Menu Planning, and Squeezing the Budget

Hello everyone!

It's been a MUCH better week around this chaotic home. I worked and worked the budget and planned when we'd pay what and how much. Like I had a budget of $103 for groceries and I hit it right on the nose. Yay for menu planning, making a good list and cell phones with calculators!  Also, I knew we'd have overdraft fees, but I made sure we controlled what went to overdraft by when we paid things so the least number hit it. The limit the bank allows is $-300 and I planned it to get right to $-298 and it did!  I know that a stupid thing to get excited about, but nothing bounced and THAT's very good! I've also contacted my employer and gotten them to drop my 401k contribution from 7% to 1% which basically gives me another ~$60 in each check which is going to make a huge difference. And I still feel good I have at least *something* in my 401k though it's under $1000 heh. I'll get back to that when we get on our feet again.

I am paid up current on the Explorer YAY!  I still have a side note of $100 on it I need to pay for the repo guy.  Did I mention before that they actually did tow it in and the car lot guy got all upset at the repo guy cause two of them called him and told him not to tow it and he did anyway. We got it back the next day.  I ought to have told them to tow it back, but I didn't want to rock the boat.

We're starting to entertain again and have people over every other week for games and food. We agreed the layout of the living room worked for a while, but it just wasn't working with that many people.  So, I thought maybe it was time to bring the big table back to the living room, and was inspired to move the couch to a new place we'd never put it before.  I know we move the furniture in the living room a lot, but it's such an awkward space with the peninsula and entry to kitchen area, the front door, hallway entrance and two windows. Plus we have to use it as a dining room as well since we need the WHOLE kitchen as a kitchen and  people are walking and running through it too much to stick a table in the middle of it.

My camera has been found and recharged so I can get pics of the new layout tonight.  It's a mess anyway since no one will pick up after themselves. So I'll straighten it up again and get pics.  The camera had been in a bag my 15 yr old lost, but someone found it in the chorus room yay!

So, as I sat down a few days ago to make yet another menu plan and grocery list I figured there had to be an easier way.  We're living paycheck to paycheck (if we're lucky we can make it that long), so we have to shop when we get paid and lately that's been weekly, but starting in December, my checks will be the same week as Hubby's so we'll be going 2 weeks between checks.   The issue wasn't just getting the stuff for the meals I wanted to make, it was that the meals and the ingredients had to be budget friendly. So, the next paycheck has $50 budgeted for groceries.  That's for 4 days of breakfasts, lunches and dinners as well as extra stuff we need around the house.  Not much money.  And having to keep redoing the menu and grocery list was getting old.  So, I had an idea!

I made a Word document of all the meals we eat (usually) with the ingredients I usually have to buy for them and how much each item is, then a grand total for each meal.  So now I can take my grocery budget and plug in meals that fit in it as long as I leave room for things like detergent, milk, toilet paper etc.

Here's a few of the meals listed, just to give an idea...

Enchiladas with turkey and spinach
1 lb ground turkey                          1.79
1 box frozen chopped spinach        1.29
1 box cream cheese                       1.00
Shredded cheese                           3.00
1 can diced tomatoes                     0.79
1 jar salsa                                      3.00
10-12 large flour tortillas                4.00
Total:                                           14.87       
Potato Soup
8 cups cubed,  potatoes                 3.00
1 box cream cheese                       1.00
Chicken stock packs or cubes       2.00
Total:                                            6.00

Mushroom Noodle Casserole
1 lb ground turkey                           1.79
1 bag egg noodles                           1.29
1 can cream o mushroom soup        0.79
1 bag California veggies                  1.00
1 can pieces of mushroom               0.59
Milk (usually on hand)
Total:                                              5.46

Chicken and Dumplings (in crock pot)
½ bag of chicken breasts               6.00 (for whole bag)
2 cans biscuits                               1.00
2 cans cream of chicken soup        1.29
Pack of chicken stock mix             1.00 (from a box of them)
Total:                                            9.29

Zippy Chicken Stirfry
½ bag frozen chicken breasts          3.00  (6.00 for whole bag)
2 bags stirfry veggies                       3.00
Miracle Whip                                  2.00
Soy sauce                                       2.00 (if not on hand)
Minute Rice                                    3.00
Total:                                             13 (11 if we have soy sauce)

There's plenty others I've done, but as you can see there's some cheap meals and some that cost over $10 to make.  Now this feeds my family of 5and there'y usually just enough left over to pack my husband the leftovers for lunch the next day.  Sometimes I do have to pack it up first to make sure there is enough left. My family really likes to eat.

So, I can look at the budget and determine how many $10+ meals and how many under $10 meals I can afford and then pick and choose from the list. It's going to make menu planning and grocery list making SO much easier. 

Ok, got to post this or I never will... I'll post again when I get pics of the living room!  


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