Together on the Path

About a month ago, I really stepped up my game of removing the excess from our life.  I’m talking the Stuff in our house as well as the mental clutter that comes from too much going on in our minds and in our home.

However, let us note, that I do not live in a bubble.  I live in a large house with my husband and two children as well as our pets, and we often open our home to our friends and family.  In fact, the BHE’s family lives very close to us.  This is why he definitely had to be in on what I was doing with my days while he was at work.

Thoughtfully informing so it was lovingly embraced…

The BHE was on board with what I was doing for a handful of reasons.  He, too, recognizes the need for less Stuff, for owning only what you truly need or truly love.  The rest of it is just Junk.  He agrees that less Things means less work:  less cleaning and moving and decorating and baby-proofing and so on.

Since deciding that we would like to sell our house and move into a smaller home, we can easily see it is time to remove lots of the Stuff.  Do it now and every day rather than have to box it all up to move it and again go through all the Things we’ve acquired, whether we want it or not.

It is the right thing to do.

He also sees, as I do, how unchristian it is to have all this Stuff.

Never did Jesus say we needed to accumulate loads of Crap just because we are able.  That’s actually quite ungrateful of us, to seize every blessing we can, to excess.  It is also unchristian to not share, to not provide for the needy, to not give and be generous.

When we were buying all this Stuff, we weren’t thinking how it would help those less fortunate than us; we weren’t thinking how all these possessions would better us or the world.  We were just getting Things because they fit in our house or were on sale or looked nice or could possibly fill that blank spot on the wall, in the living room, by the back door, or in our minds.

Yeah, no, it doesn’t work that way.

It was in Ruth Soukup’s Unstuffed that I was reminded that what we have isn’t truly ours but rather God’s.  These Things are His and we were chosen to be His stewards.  So what are we doing with His money!?  Does He really want that Thing, that one more piece of Junk, which fits the theme of that one room in our house?  Or would He rather I spend those fifteen bucks on dry goods I can drop off at the food pantry?

For real, people.

Ask yourself that question the next time you are at a store looking at a Thing that some part of you thinks you want:

What else could I do with that money?

Ask yourself this one, too:

What else could I do with the time it will take me to care for this Thing?

After all, it will need transported home, cleaned, placed, cleaned again, and will eventually end up blending with the scenery or becoming just another Thing in all the Stuff weighing you down.

Do you really need more to weigh you down?  Does your family want to be more weighed down?  Don’t we all want to be a little bit lighter in our hearts and minds?

DIY Easy-Peasy Nursing Pillow Cover (Yes-Sew, No-Zipper)

DIY Easy-Peasy Nursing Pillow Cover

DIY Easy-Peasy Nursing Pillow Cover

I’m really proud of this project. This has been my most popular post EVER so I’ve touched it up and am posting it again.

I didn’t care for the prices of nursing pillow covers, especially since I wasn’t a huge fan of the prints that were available.  So I made my own!
Just an Afternoon

I made this cover by hand during one of Angel Baby’s naps, doing the finishing touches while she watched “Fish Movie” that afternoon.  That does not include the time it took me to drive to town, pick out the patterned flannel at JoAnn’s, drive home, then wash, dry, and iron the fabric.  That was all done before I started taking these pictures for this lovely tutorial for you.

But seriously, with my lack of sewing machine, I managed to make this Boppy* cover in less than three hours.  Woot!

Start with What You Know

Or, if you don’t know, go to Pinterest.  That’s how I found this no-zipper, no-snap, no-fastener cover “pattern” by Between 3 Sisters. It is a very simple idea, using overlapping pieces of fabric to hold the pillow in place.  I think we’ve all seen this style of pillow cover before, but I hadn’t seen it used on a nursing pillow.

I did have a couple Boppy covers to go on the pillows I own, so I used one of them as my template.  Between 3 Sisters drew out a pattern on paper first, but I skipped that step.  If you’ve read my other DIY posts and any of my recipes, you know I’m a big fan of winging it and just HATE to follow directions.

One-and-a-quarter yards of super soft fleece from JoAnn's was bought on sale and with a coupon, from the nursery fabrics section.

One-and-a-quarter yards of super soft fleece from JoAnn’s was bought on sale and with a coupon, from the nursery fabrics section.

What I Did

First

I took my 1-and-1/4 yard of fabric and laid it out, reverse side up, on my dining room table.  Then I put the commercial  Boppy cover, inside out, on the flannel and pinned it in place.  Using a pen (because my pencil wasn’t marking on the flannel), I traced the cover on my fabric.  I went beyond the Boppy cover by about ½” all the way around to give myself some room for error.  This is how I got the solid side (as opposed to the gapped side I’m about to tell you how to make).

Here's the commercially-acquired Boppy cover being used as my template.

Here’s the commercially-acquired Boppy cover being used as my template.

Next, I chose to cut it out at this point, to make sure I didn’t accidentally trace the other side or cut into it in any way.

Second

I folded the cover in half and laid it on the reverse side of the fabric then pinned it.  I guesstimated about 3” extra from the center point and drew a straight line to mark where I would cut.  The extra 3” for each side will make the overlapping gap through which I’ll be stuffing the pillow.

No, I did not measure the excess for the gap side; I used my fingers as a guesstimate of 3

No, I did not measure the excess for the gap side; I used my fingers as a guesstimate of 3″.

Then I drew around the cover with the extra ½” like I mentioned above.  I unpinned the cover, cut out along my lines, flipped it over, maneuvering it to get the best fit, and repeated the pinning and drawing.

I used the first cut piece of the gap side as the template for the second piece.

I used the first cut piece of the gap side as the template for the second piece.

Third

Pinning the seams of the gap.

Pinning the seams of the gap.

Once all the pieces were cut out, I took the two halves of the “back” side and pinned the excess to make thick, sturdy flaps**.  This is where I’ll be stuffing my pillow so I want these to not only look nice when they overlap but not pull or tear when I take the cover on and off.  I sewed these seams by hand.

The nursing pillow cover pieces, all three, with the gap seams sewn.

The nursing pillow cover pieces, all three, with the gap seams sewn.

Fourth

I placed the fronts of the fabric together, lined up the pieces, and pinned them into place.  Now it looks like an inside-out Boppy cover.  I sewed around the edges, giving roughly ½” margin.  I know, I know, this will make it a little bigger than the commercial cover I was copying, but I want that… I’m not a professional and I’m doing this by hand so a margin for error is kind of a necessity.

Pinning the three pieces together and making sure the seams overlap one another properly.

Pinning the three pieces together and making sure the seams overlap one another properly.

The completed nursing pillow cover, still inside out.

The completed nursing pillow cover, still inside out.

Last

Yes, I took a photo of the process of turning the cover inside-out before putting it on the pillow.

Yes, I took a photo of the process of turning the cover inside-out before putting it on the pillow.

Then, I turned the whole thing right-side out.  Voila!  A Boppy cover!  I stuffed my pillow through the gap I made.  This illustrated to me a handful of things.

  1. Thank God I gave myself the excess, the margin of error, because this wound up the perfect tightness on my pillow. Not too much extra to make it sloppy and baggy (because that could be a hazard with small babies), just enough to easily get the cover on and off and still fit the pillow.
  2. The gap needed slightly reinforced along the inside curve. It wasn’t tearing but I could see how the tension could create issues down the road.

    I reinforced the seams where the fabric overlaps Just In Case!

    I reinforced the seams where the fabric overlaps Just In Case!

  3. I really am awesome and can do just about any little project I decide I want to do. In fact, I whipped out this bad boy in record time AND for a fraction of the price.  Get your coupons before you go to the store, go when the store has a sale on its “nursery fabrics”, and you end up spending under $10 for a Boppy cover that is the fabric and print of your choice.
Here's the end result!

Here’s another picture of the end result!  Just one afternoon!

Your Turn!  Tell me how you did…

*The nursing pillows I own are actually Boppy brand.  In this tutorial, I use the term “Boppy” as the generic name as well, kinda like how I call tissues “Kleenax” and cotton swabs “Q tips”.

**I really hope my photos make sense because I don’t think my words do at this point.  Then again, I’m typing this a couple weeks after doing the project and am now rocking the brain and belly of 35 weeks.  Woot woot!

Jettison

There has been this growing need in me to rid our home of the excess Stuff.

As you know, I did a 40-Day Challenge last year, where I created a list of 40 places around my home that needed cleaned out.  Like, serious tackling and organizing and folding and trashing and moving and cleaning.  I actually enjoyed the process, and I promised myself I would do a similar challenge once a year.  We have a large house and it is just full of Stuff, so I need to stay on top of organizing and cleaning it.

Except… I don’t like cleaning!  

I’d rather spend my time doing other things.  Like reading and writing and playing with my kids.  But I have all this Stuff that I need to clean.  Or do I?

What on Earth are we doing with all this Stuff?

We don’t NEED it.  We are inundated with the Things that have accumulated in our lifetimes, from what we had when we met to what we are buying every day.  Let’s not even get started on the attic full of Stuff from the BHE’s father’s house.* Then there are the things we’ve acquired since having children.  Y’know, the furniture, clothes, books, toys, gifts, random colorful things that appear… I hear it gets worse when they start school. *freak out*

So, yeah, overload.  I am a stay-at-home mom that overthinks and was starting to feel like I was drowning in Stuff, and I decided it was time to jettison what we weren’t using.  Not clean it up, organize it, label it, pack it away, display it neatly, or whatever.

It is time to just get rid of it.

The first question I asked myself was what did I hate the most about my “job” as a SAHM.  Simple.  Laundry.  Well, I guess I wouldn’t have as much laundry to do if there weren’t as many clothes, towels, sheets, et cetera around here.  Seeing as I would need to convince my overly sentimental husband that it was time to start shedding the excess, I figured starting with my own Stuff would be best.

I did read Marie Kondo’s work on “tidying up” and decided to follow the guideline of taking everything out of my drawers and closet, tossing or donating what I hadn’t worn or didn’t fit or didn’t like, and then trying on every last Thing I had put in the “keep” pile.  Let me tell ya:  that pile shrank considerably.**

I worked my way around the house, doing a major sweep of the obvious Stuff.  I loaded up boxes and bags of books I’ll never reread from our library, knick knacks that were gifts I never cared for sitting on the mantel, jewelry I don’t wear, blankets we don’t use, toys that haven’t been touched since they were unwrapped back at Christmas or birthday or the previous Christmas.  Gone gone GONE because I’m done done DONE*** with all the Stuff and Things overloading our home and therefore our minds and hearts.

We are not materialistic people, so why on Earth do we have so many Things?!

In this round of the purging of Stuff, it did become apparent there were things we had to buy.  The BHE cleaned out his clothing, too:  he had many more drawers and an extra closet than I do.  Seriously.  He discovered that there were a few base items he truly needed or had to replace.  So I decided to set a rule:  for every one Thing you purchase, you must take out seven items. 

If you need three new undershirts, you better be ready to toss or donate 21 other articles of clothing.  If you buy a cutesy coffee mug, there are seven other cutesy, knick-knacky Things that MUST GO.

The number 7 wasn’t arbitrarily chosen, either.  It is a number that is quite significant in the Bible.  I’ve been trying to incorporate it more into our lifestyle and these changes.  I feel that saying “five more minutes” or “ten Things” or “30 until dinner is ready” has reduced certain numbers to meaninglessness.  You can say something  will take you five minutes, like that’s how long you have until you walk out the door, but that time allotment has lost some meaning from overuse and could be a span from three minutes to 15.

Seven takes some thought.

Seven seems just so exact.  You obviously aren’t rounding or suggesting a number in the ballpark of…but you mean precisely seven.  Or a multiple of seven.

How many Things have you taken out of your life (and out of your way) today?

What is your goal of how much Stuff to get rid of this weekend?

 

*Ok, I’ll briefly get into it.  My father-in-law (FIL) is a hoarder, plain and simple.  Years ago, in an effort to help his father and work on his father’s house, the BHE went through a couple of the rooms that were just full of boxes of Stuff.  What seemed to have any value was boxed up, moved into a storage unit, moved to a different storage unit, and eventually moved into our attic.  I don’t want to stop to calculate how much money (and time!!) we’ve spent on all this Stuff that we don’t even want.  Truly, the point in not throwing it straight into a dumpster or burn pile was to sell it.  I can say without any hesitation or calculations that whatever money we may make off of selling all this Stuff would not equal what we’ve already paid for it.

**No matter how much weight you gain and lose or how you may weigh the exact same 10 months post-partum that you did before you were pregnant, your body isn’t shaped the same.  It will never be the same, not after creating and sustaining another life.  Sure, I can fit those Tommy Hilfiger jeans I bought when I was 19, but that doesn’t mean they look quite right nor feel in any way comfortable when I try to sit down.  Key word here is “try”.

***Anyone else have a Modest Mouse song stuck in their head now?

Why Minimalism

It doesn’t feel like a bandwagon.

I don’t recall hearing about this and thinking, “I should be the next to do that.”

This was natural.  This was the next step.  This was organic.

This was in me.

My path in life was headed in this direction already.  I just happened to fall in step with so many others.

I feel like more people need to be on this path, though.  More of you need to be paying attention, need to hear what I have to say about this lifestyle.  This movement.  This bandwagon.

Get on it.

I’m calling it Minimalism for the sake of simplicity.  I’m going to use the words of those who have gone before me on this bumpy, soul-searching, enlightening road.

The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, have a fantastic blog as well as a couple books on the subject.  What they call their “Elevator Pitch” is this:

Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.

Now, each person endeavoring to discover what is most important to him or her will approach this differently.  Each of us will define our happiness and our visions of the future different, so our versions of a minimalist lifestyle will be diverse.  What I do in my home with my family will vary greatly, but we will all be on the same path, this path to making room for what is truly important.

I don’t feel like I had some rude awakening or even experienced a moment where the clouds parted.  I truly believe that I came upon this course naturally, as if each step I’ve taken on my thoughtfully sought path these past few years was getting me to this point.  This wasn’t something the BHE and I were going to just jump in and DO.  It had to be something our minds and hearts built up for; we had to be prepared.

Maybe you did have an awakening.  Maybe the clouds parted and angels sang.  Maybe you’re on this path for much different reasons, but at least you’re here.

Light reading lead to heavy thinking.

Let me share a few resources with you:

The Minimalists
Becoming Minimalist
Unstuffed
You Can Buy Happiness
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I feel we are on this path because we are ready to shed the excess that is weighing us down.  What began as a simple “fix” to our diet has grown into a daily conscious lifestyle choice that embraces change and insists on becoming better:  eat better, be better friends, make better decisions, have better attitudes.

Define “better”…and make it happen.

We all say we want to do or be better.  It takes a lot of effort to follow through with that.  So what began with saying goodbye to wheat and then genetically modified foods, what grew with the birth of our daughter and what world we wanted to create for our children to grow and learn in, has morphed into this way of living that places meaning and value before all else.

If it doesn’t matter in the long run, if it isn’t going to add value to your life, if you aren’t going to feel better or be better, why are you doing it?  Why are you eating this or buying that or going there or working here?

Please, just ask yourself WHY.

Trying to Unstuff

Dear Readership and Social Media World,

In. Un. Dated.  Inundated.  There is no better word.  There’s just been so much STUFF going on.  And coming in.  And going out.  Just stuff, Stuff, STUFF.

Sometimes, when it rains, it pours, and it is all one can do to stay afloat in the rushing river of life.

Today I write to you to just remind you that I am here and constantly thinking of what to share with you next.  I have two recipes with photos just waiting to be posted (after editing, of course), another BzzAgent bzz campaign, my efforts towards debt consolidation and pay off, and our embracing of the idea of Minimalism with an unstructured attempt at the challenge of shedding all the extra Stuff.

Stay tuned to Thoughtfully Sought as I write and photograph and share with you the stumbles and sprints I’m making down my path through life.  I feel that the latest flood is starting to slow to a trickle and I’ll have more dry times ahead to spend blogging.

Until then, enjoy some recipes and try out knitting.

Yours truly and thankfully,

Sarah

Personal Review of ClickList

In effort to cut back on money and time spent on food’n’stuff, I decided to give Kroger’s ClickList option a try.

I am not receiving anything to tell you about my experience:  nothing free, no money or credit, nada.  But that’s okay, because on my Thoughtfully Sought path through life, I’m hoping to share what I’ve learned with others for the sake of sharing and possibly learning something new.

To make a full disclaimer, I do have family members and friends who work for the Kroger Company.  No, they aren’t getting anything from this blog post, either.  Sorry, guys!

ClickList

Before I go any further, I would like to state that I think this is a stupid name.  The Kroger Company probably spent a big ol’ chunk of money on a team of well-educated individuals to come up with that name, so I apologize to all who put effort into it.  But I could toss out about 15 better names in 40 seconds if you asked me to.

Anyway


Where I live, I shop at the Pay-Less stores of the Kroger family.  I was on my Android phone looking at my weekly sales ads and going through my digital coupons when I saw the “shop online” option.  After recently reading an advice book suggesting one creates more time with her family (or for her other priorities) by shopping for groceries online, I decided to give it a whirl.

I poked around on the site for a bit, saw how they save my previous purchases, looked into payment options and the cost, and decided to take it a step further and get out the laptop.

Once I logged into my Pay-Less account, I got a full screen with all my shopping options.  I used my list from these free printables to “shop” for what I needed.  Thankfully, the webpage shows what items cost and if they are on sale.  Then I looked through the digital coupons offered and added a couple more things to my “cart”.

ClickList does give a total amount of what is in your “cart” but it does not factor in the digital coupons.  It also doesn’t take into account any paper coupons you might have.  Note that Kroger/Pay-Less still accepts the coupons, though.  When you call to say you’re ready and in their parking lot, they will ask about your paper coupons while the computer will automatically access the digital ones you’ve loaded to your card/account.

So, let’s see, where was I?  Right.  I loaded up my “cart” and went to “check out” where it let me review what I was ordering and select a date and time frame to pick up my groceries.  Shortly after choosing my options, I received a confirmation email.


I was expecting another email or text or call or something once my order was ready, but I didn’t.  They only send you that first confirmation, pull your order before your time slot, and eagerly await your arrival.

Ok, maybe they aren’t eager.  I don’t know, I couldn’t see them from the parking lot.

I arrived at the store near the end of the time frame I chose, pulled into one of the designated spots, and called the number on the sign.  The friendly individual who answered asked which spot number I was in, talked with someone near him, then informed me it would be just a moment before a clerk came out to my car.

Since I could see said clerk helping another ClickList patron, I was cool with just sitting for a few in my air conditioned vehicle with two slumbering babes in the back seat.

Soon, the nicest guy I’ve ever met at a grocery store came out with another man and a rolling cart with some black plastic tubs full of white Kroger grocery sacks.  The friendly guy asked where I would like my groceries and if my doors were unlocked.  While the one man loaded the rear of my SUV with the bags (even putting the frozen and refrigerated goods in the cooler I had back there for that very reason), Mr. Super-Friendly-Nice talked with me about my experience, coupons, who I talked to when I called the number, et cetera while he ran my debit card on his tablet.

For whatever reason, the tablet didn’t like my card, and Mr. Super-Friendly-Nice ran back into the store for another one.  Meanwhile, the other dude was still loading my 60+ items.

Finally, I was loaded and paid for (that sounds inappropriate) and rolling out of the lot within less than 10 minutes of pulling in (yep, really inappropriate).

Extra Benefits

  • I don’t know if it was promotional or what but there was no fee associated with getting my groceries this way.  After telling a girlfriend who lives in another city about my experience, she said it cost her $4.95 to use the ClickList service.  For me, it was free and super easy, plus I didn’t have to drag my littles through a grocery store.
  • Ok, so not having to take the kids through the store was a huge plus.  That hour that we didn’t spend in the store?  I made a point to go to a free city park with them.  How’s that for awesome!
  • Also, I didn’t have any impulse buys.  I saved money by not setting foot inside and being lured by sights, smells, and sale signs.  I got precisely what was on my list, or on sale, or what I had a coupon for, because I was able to directly search for those things.  It was great!
  • I only had the one store to go to!  Normally, I would run to a handful of different stores on grocery shopping day.  This time, I decided the convenience of ClickList was worth the extra 10 cents on the marinara and the 40 on the salad dressing that I wouldn’t have paid having gone to Aldi’s for those things.

Unknowns

  • I chose not to get produce or meat during this experiment.  I am, as many others are, particular about my meats and fruits (heh heh, inappropriate again).  We get our meats at a local meat market, so that wasn’t a concern, but I do like to get quite a bit of my produce at Kroger.  However, I just don’t know if I can trust a clerk to pick precisely what I want.  And what if he or she accidentally drops my bananas?  What if there was a bigger melon? How do I know the best peach, tomato, avocado, etc was selected?  I don’t, so I didn’t get produce that day.
  • I also don’t know how refrigerated and frozen items were handled.  I should have asked.  I would think if you ordered ice cream, frozen peas, a gallon of milk, and some eggs that the staff would somehow ensure those items stayed the temperature they needed to.  For instance, I selected the time slot of 3-4, and Mr. Super-Friendly-Nice informed me that my order had been ready since about 2:55.  But I didn’t get there until almost 4.  I didn’t order ice cream, but I’m hoping if I had, they would’ve somehow noted that some of my items needed to stay frozen.  I don’t know.  But I hope.
  • Since I didn’t have paper coupons to use this time, I am not entirely sure how that process works.  They say they take them, but I don’t know what that means.  I’m assuming a clerk comes out, gets your coupons, goes in to scan them, and comes back out to take your payment.  I don’t know, sorry.

Arriving Home

I drove straight home, and the BHE helped me unload sleepy kids and all the groceries.  My cold things were cold in my cooler, and everything else was set on our kitchen table.  Since they gave us both a receipt and print of my order on a 8.5×11 piece of paper, I had no issues checking off the items as I put them away.

Yes, everything was there.  Every last thing I requested online was in my kitchen.  How awesome is that!

I decided I must write a blog post about my experience with ClickList because it was easy, free/cheap, and accurate.  I did my grocery shopping one night while my family slept and I sat in my pjs in my bed with a glass of moscato.  I didn’t have to get out of my car and, more importantly, I didn’t have to get my kids out of the car, into a cart, around a store, through the check-out line, and back into the car to drive all the way home and unload the whole mess.  I saved money and time (and a headache).

If this service stays free, I’ll keep using it.  If they begin to charge, like maybe $4.95 each trip, I may have to rethink how often I buy certain items.  Because, really, five bucks to save money and the hassle, I think it is worth it.

Your Thoughts

Does your preferred store have this option?  Have you tried it?  What did you like?  What didn’t you like?  Or why haven’t you tried it?

I’d like to know.  Maybe my other preferred stores do this, too.  It was a fun experiment.

How do you like shopping for your groceries and goods?

 

How to Meal Plan to Save Time and Money

(More Free Printables!)

This is my current project:  simplifying our lives by removing the stress of deciding what is for dinner each night as well as working on our biggest budget-buster by making grocery shopping less costly and time-consuming.

I have read so much about saving money on groceries, so many blogs and books about how to spend less at the store, so much that I feel I’ve read all that can be said about meal planning and couponing.

Now I’ve got my own way of doing things.  Here’s how you can simplify and save, too.

What You Eat

First, decide what dietary requirements you and your family have.  For instance, we prefer few processed foods, organic foods, low wheat and low dairy meals, and to use meats sparingly.

Next, decide which meals you really enjoy eating as well as making.  I made a list of about 8 meals that every one of us enjoys to eat that takes me no more than an hour of active cook time.  I asked the BHE what he likes, too.  Given the way some meals can be varied by switching up the sauce used or selecting chicken instead of beef, we ended up with a list of 14 meals.

Also, determine how often you want to cook.  WE LOVE LEFTOVERS!  We save so much money by making enough food each time we cook dinner to utilize the same stuff as lunch the next day.  I wanted to take this a step further:  I want to go a full day without cooking!  My time should be spent WITH my family instead of rushing to make dinner in the other room FOR my family.  I want to be a part of the action, not on the side as a cook or maid.  The less often you cook, the less dishes you have to do, too.  Win-win!

I decided each time I make a meal, I need to make at least 9 servings if not 12. One “meal” should provide:  2 adult and 1 toddler servings for dinner, lunch the next day, dinner that evening, and possibly lunch the following day, at least for the BHE at work.  So, 12 servings.

This is just a snapshot of what I came up with! I typically print these to write on them, but I’m sparing you my terrible handwriting. 

The next step for me was to write out the chart of meals on the printable I made (and will share with you for free).  I wrote out the few variations we want for breakfasts 6 days a week, the plan for Sunday brunches, that lunches will either be leftovers(LO) or something easily toddler-friendly, and then the meals on every other day of the week.  The days in between are marked LO since we’ll just be heating up what is already cooked.  When all was said and done, I had SIX WEEKS’ WORTH of meals planned out.

Menu Printable

Print the free Meal Chart, talk it over with your household, and start to fill in the blanks.  Challenge yourself and print 4 pages so you can take care of a whole month at once!

What You Buy

Now that your Meal Charts are filled out, you need determine what groceries are necessary to make these meals happen.  Consider how often you’ll need to buy the things on your list.  The organic canned beans go on sale for $1 each at Kroger/Payless roughly every 6 weeks, so I’d like to buy those in bulk.  But bananas can’t last that long!  Produce goes on my “weekly” list.  Open the free Planned Pantry printable and fill that in as you review your Meal Charts.

Here’s a sample of what I’ll need and how often I should be buying groceries. The real list is a little longer and includes “incidentals” like candy, chips, ice cream, and alcohol. Oh, yes, alcohol. 

I reviewed my list of meals and wrote down the necessary ingredients for each, including side items, and made hash marks next to each meat, veggie, spice, etc., keeping portion sizes in mind.  That is how I determined what I would need for 6 weeks.

But I go to the store more often than that!  Sure, I would save so much money if I only stepped into a store once every six weeks (less likely to buy impulse items and stuff we don’t need/use/want).  But I like fresh produce, I get a kick out of finding marked down goodies, and I really need to get out of the house more than that.  That is why I must have specific lists and know how much I need of what so I can make these trips successful, saving time, money, and sanity as I drag my littles around town.

Planned Pantry Printable

A big part of saving money with meal planning is buying what you need, and want, ahead of time.  And preferably in bulk. No extra trips to the store, no using the ingredients needed for another meal because you didn’t buy enough for the one you’re making, no staring at bare pantry shelves with a blank mind.

Don’t forget to review your weekly sale ads and check on your coupons before you head to the store, either.  Look over THIS post and use that free printable to keep your shopping streamlined and as cheap as possible.

What You Do

Now that you’ve filled in your free printable lists, you’ve got a good idea of what you need to do next:  put it on the calendar!  Go ahead and mark on the calendar you’ve got hanging in your kitchen*, the small planner in your bag, the desk set at work, and anywhere else you regularly look to see what you’ve got going on in life.

Not only do you want to write in what meals are on what days (and which days you have off from cooking thanks to LeftOvers!), you’ll want to write down which days you’re going to go buy the items you need from the stores you wrote down.

Take note which days the sale ads switch over, too.  I’ve learned that my preferred Kroger puts out their sale ads on Thursdays, but they mark down their produce on Fridays.  I have also learned that the meat market has a fantastic special on ground chuck the week starting the second Tuesday of each month.  Knowing these factoids can go a long way to saving you time and money.

Once you have your printables filled out and your calendar filled in, take a deep breath.  The first time you do this may take a good 30-40 minutes.  Now that’s a small chunk of time for a month or more of planning and an even smaller price to pay for a load of stress off your mind.  But it also won’t take that long the next time you need to do it, as you’ll be a pro at handling the groceries and meals.

How Did It Go?

Come on back to comment and let me know how it worked out for you. By then, I ought to have my post and free printable for bill-paying and creating a personal spending plan**.  Stay tuned!

Here they are again, in case you wanted to finish reading before opening the PDFs:

Menu Printable 

Planned Pantry Printable
* You don’t have a calendar in your kitchen?!  I don’t understand.  Go get one and hang it up. You’re welcome.

 ** Because no one likes the word “budget.”