As many of you know, Jim and I are now faithful followers of Dave Ramsey and have completely revolutionized the way we make, save, give and spend money. We dedicate time to writing out a complete monthly budget and have adopted the envelope system for saving and spending money. We have successfully worked this system for two months, and in that time we have paid off a credit card and saved money for upcoming car repairs, Christmas, and a vacation.
Another benefit of managing our money better is that it allows me to channel my obsessive-compulsive organizing skills into a new hobby - meal planning! Every week I sit down and write out a menu for the entire week based on our nightly activities and plans. I examine the contents of my refrigerator and pantry each week to determine what items I have on hand and what items need to be used up before they go bad. I then make out my shopping list, organizing it by where I can find the best deals and the aisles in the store.
Okay yes, I am a complete nerd, but through spending thirty minutes a week doing this, I have made my grocery shopping more efficient, enjoy healthy home-cooked meals everyday, and cut my grocery budget in half. I never wonder anymore what to make for dinner, and we no longer make expensive food decisions on impulse (such as eating out or last minute trips to the grocery store). By incorporating what I have on hand into my weekly menus, I was able to squeeze extra money out of our food budget to pay for a fundraising banquet last month that otherwise Jim and I would never have been able to afford.
If taking control of your budget and the food you eat sounds like a good idea, but way too much work, I found this great website that sells weekly meal plans online. For $5 a month, www.e-mealz.com will provide you with a weekly meal plan including seven complete meals and a shopping list of items needed each week. E-mealz.com offers meal plans for two people or a whole family that are tailored for shopping at a particular store or a specific dietary need. For example, meal plans tailored to Wal-Mart will give you a shopping list of items to purchase at Wal-Mart with actual prices. They have meals plans that are low-fat, low-sodium, and even meal plans based on the Weight Watchers points system. My particular favorite: the coupon meal plan, which offers meals based on what coupons are available that week. The best part is that the meal plans for two average $35 per week, and the family-sized meal plans average $75 per week. What a great way to save money, eat healthier, and bring your family together for dinner each night!
One of the best gifts I received for my wedding was 12 meals from Entrees Made Easy. Being a full-time nursing student and working 12-hour shifts on the weekend meant that I had no time to shop or cook. It was so nice to be able to pull a meal out of the freezer before going to bed, knowing the next night Jim and I would be able to enjoy a delicious meal. Unfortunately, expensive Entrees Made Easy did not fit into our tight budget, and when our meals were gone, we once again resorted to fast food and ineffective grocery shopping. I wish I had known about E-mealz.com during nursing school. It would have saved Jim and I money, time and many poor food decisions during that stressful time in my life.
The moral of this story is taking control of our menu, like our money, has paid off immensely for Jim and I, and we highly encourage others to do the same.
Dave Ramsey would be so proud!