Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Meal Planning and Saving Money

As part of my goal to cut down on expenses, I have signed up with emeals.com. This is a business created by two ladies who put together weekly dinner plans based on diet, cooking, and store preferences.

This is a program that is endorsed by Dave Ramsey of Financial Peace University. If you don't know who he is, well just hover over either of these two links and it will take you straight to his link. Dave teaches you how to get yourself out of debt and learn to develop a new way of living based on what you have rather than what you wish you had. Ahem, living within your means. There are links on his website that can direct you to a class near you. Many, many churches offer this class and he even has homeschool curriculum for the teen and younger crowd. Best of all he is hilarious and very wise - through experience. If you are tired of living from paycheck to paycheck and want to get out of debt or find a way to save and plan for the future, find a class here. We will be attending a class beginning May 3rd.

Okay, back to emeals. I thought I would give this a try because as much as I wanted to plan my meals, I just didn't seem to have the time to actually sit down and do it due to all the schlepping I do of my teenage son. I go hear, there and yonder and over hill and dale almost everyday for one reason or another.
My husband and I thought we'd give it a try for six months.

I didn't know which meal plan to choose given the needs of each of us. Low carb, low fat, or portion control for my husband and me? Natural and organic or gluten free for my daughter who has chronic digestive problems. And then to choose the store - I'm telling you they have so many meal plans to choose from!

Well, I wanted inexpensive so I chose low-fat at any store. I knew that I'd be able to change the plan in a month, so I made my choice, paid and got my menu for the week.

I studied it hard and noticed that it had some boxed and packaged items as well as canned. Uh-oh...I don't normally use those things. I usually make most of my things from scratch. I would need to make some changes or improvise. I went about the kitchen checking my pantry and cupboards for all the items listed. I had a great deal of staples so only needed the main ingredients. The following day I headed to the store with great excitement and anticipation. I bought everything I needed and I have to tell you that I was a little shocked at the total dollar amount. However, I thought it was better than eating out.

The first dish had me a little perplexed. The main dish was a Italian sausage ragu with grits. Okay...what?
This is supposed to be a side dish or be served on top of it? I didn't get it. However, I pressed on and made all the dishes following the recipe exactly. I looked at it again...and thought, "Hmmmmm." I had better taste this. I did. OMG! Nope, this isn't going to fly with anyone in this house! I quickly fixed some Penne to remedy the problem and threw the grits out. Disappointed...money wasted. But they ended up liking the Ragu on top of the Penne.

As I went through the week, I realized that I had to make adjustments to all the recipes but they weren't so major that food went to waste...except the grits. I loved that there was always a green side dish or fruit with the main dish. I loved that I didn't have to ask myself or my husband, "What should I make?" Here is one of the items that I fixed. It was originally supposed to be a Stromboli rolled in a jelly roll style. However, I chose to fold it into a calzone and the kids loved it!  Neither my husband nor my daughter were home to eat it and that happens frequently because of my husband's job and my daughter's college schedule. And from that I learned another thing. I could stretch this menu plan to possibly two weeks!

After the first month I did give the ladies at emeals feedback and they were very gracious. I learned this first month that this meal plan is not for us. I love to cook. I may not always feel like cooking, but I do love it! I do not use packaged meals, sides, or ready-to-eat anything. The cans I buy are for tomato sauce, paste, and stewed tomatoes. On occasion I will buy black beans or spaghetti sauce for those crazy nights. With that in mind, I knew I had to change the plan as soon as I could.

Today I woke up and quickly logged on to change my plan when I discovered that they added Clean Eating on their menu plans! One of my friends has been using these Clean Eating Magazine recipes for over a month and she and her husband feel great and their young children are loving it all! I looked at their sample menus and got excited all over again.

If you find yourself eating out a lot because you don't know what to fix and find your funds dwindling because of this, give emeals a try! The have a three month trial for $21.00. You have nothing to loose and could end up saving yourself some $$ and a few headaches.

Money saving tips I've learned:
If you have left-overs, pull them out at the end of the week and have left-over smorgasbord. If your family  is not a fan of left-overs get the freezer bags out and put it away for another month. If you use Food Saver bags, you can go for months before it having to pull it out again. By that time, it will be well received as if you had prepared it that night. For little bits of vegetable left-overs get a quart size tupperware and pop those green beans, corn, broccoli, and carrots in there. When it's filled make vegetable soup!!

Enjoy your meals and your savings!

Forever in His debt,



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