Monday, June 12, 2017

3 Meal Planning Options for the Busy Working Mom (Divided by Budget)

A few weeks ago, I was looking at my Mint account.  And, er, it wasn’t looking good.  We were close to our budget categories except groceries.  That ever-present thorn in my side.  I look in the pantry and I see a ton of food, but nothing to eat.  I look at my bank and every other transaction is Jewel, Aldi, Dunkin Donuts.  I could visualize my money flying out my car window on the way to Dunkin Donuts for a yummy iced coffee because I just didn’t have time to press the coffee button.  While money was one side of the issue, the other side was that we never felt we had actual meals from all of the shopping we did, so, as a result we went to Jewel, Aldi, etc, etc.  On top of the first two issues, my husband and I both work, the kids are in daycare, dinnertime is chaos.  It was frustrating.  But, there was a solution.  In fact, there were three.

1) Meal Delivery Services (Top Tier Budget)

Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, Plated, and more (yes, there’s MORE.  I found the top meal delivery services over here at Forbes) have made it easier for working parents to come home and cook a fresh, home cooked meal without too much fuss.  All of the ingredients are measured out for you.  They are proportioned (hello, built-in portion control!).  

How do you make meal delivery services into an entire meal planning + grocery option?  Easy.  Choose the 5 day dinner meal delivery.  Hello Fresh is nice because the meals are faster to make and they have a family option (for picky kids).  Next, make a list of lunches and breakfasts with the ingredients.  Last, order your list on Peapod, Amazon Pantry, or any other favorite online grocery delivery option.  Minimal effort.  Maximum food options.  


2)  E-meals + Online Grocery Order (Mid-Tier Budget)

E-meals is an option I heard from Dave Ramsey.  This is very cool.  Instead of scrolling through Pinterest looking for recipes, you can go to e-meals and choose your option.  Do you want budget friendly?  They have a meal plan for that.  Are you Paleo?  They have a meal plan for that.  In fact, they have meal plans for clean eating, quick and healthy, low calorie, low carb, paleo, budget friendly, 30 minute meals, slow cooker, kid friendly, classic, gluten free, vegetarian, heart healthy, diabetic, and mediterranean.  It’s $5-10 a month (depending on if you go month to month or annual) with a 14-day trial.

From there, you can order your ingredients online.  You know you are getting exactly what you need.  Nothing more, nothing less.

3)  Meal Prep + Clicker Method (Bottom-Tier Budget)

This plan will save you dollars every time.  I actually started using it when I learned about it in a minimalism group I’m in and I saved money instantly.  Here’s what you do.

  • Create a meal plan for the week.  You can do this via Pinterest, recipe books, or even combine options and use e-meals.  Make sure to include lunches and breakfasts.
  • Download a clicker app on your phone.  
  • Go to the grocery store and as you add in your groceries, round-up to the nearest dollar and click for every dollar the item costs.  
  • When you go to the check out, you know how much you will be spending, and can put items back if you need to in order to stay on budget.
  • NEXT, you batch prep your meals for the week and freeze them.
  • LAST, you toss them in a one-pot or crock pot system for dinner.

These systems aren’t ending here.  Nope.  I am going to test each system for one week each.  I’ll give you my feedback, how much it cost, and how much time it took.

What meal prep + grocery hacks do you use?  Share in the comments.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Mastering the Art of Simplicity in 2016

How to simplify your life in four steps | Sarah Smirks:  The Marketing Mama Blog

My husband and I have been working for quite some time toward finding ways to simplify our lives.  Simplicity is the name of the game.  We have very complicated lives.  We have two rental units, soon to be two kids, two careers, and the drive to maintain a social life while providing balance to not only our lives, but the lives of our children.  That last one is how this blog was born - my drive to find balance in a life that takes a lot of work to balance.  We have been forming a plan for months to find ways to simplify every aspect of our lives.  Whenever a decision comes up,  we ask each other three questions:   Does this simplify our lives?  Does this make financial sense?  Does this improve the quality of our lives?  We first started with finances.

A big goal for 2016 is to pay off a credit card we used for overages on our home renovation (credit cards are the devil).  We have a payment plan in place which we (mostly) have stuck to, but, with our goal being to pay it off before baby #2 is born, I am really praying my bonus comes through (fingers crossed!) to knock it out completely.

Next was wardrobe/shopping, something new I tried in November (when I started to not fit in my normal clothes anymore) is building a capsule wardrobe.  It's the concept of a 37 piece wardrobe (that includes shoes!) that is all mix and match.  Since I implemented the capsule, I have not had one outfit repeat and my maternity outfits have been on point!  Plus, it's cheaper.  I don't go shopping for unnecessary things anymore.  I work with what's in my capsule and make it work.  You can learn more about capsule collections at   I loved the capsule so much that I decided to start a french capsule as soon as I'm back in pre-baby condition.  That's the concept of having 10-15 basics that go with everything and adding 5 seasonal, trendy items each new season.  It seems even easier than the standard capsule.  Hello, simplicity!

Another goal is to stop being landlords.  It adds just one extra job to our already full plates.  One of our units is worth loads of money, but that also happens to be a unit connected to our house - so that's staying.  The other unit is in a building across town and isn't quite worth what we need it to be worth selling yet.  Our goal is to sell it within the next three years when we can make a bigger profit.  Our goal for most things is 3-4 years out because we won't be spending unGodly amounts of money on childcare.

Last item to simplify is the way we eat!  I (we) overindulged quite a bit over the holidays and decided to do a food detox in January.  So far, so good!  I am almost 6 months pregnant, so I thought the way to be the healthiest for my baby is to do the Whole 30.  There are no calorie restrictions and the nutrients I'm missing out on for the 30 days by not eating dairy or wheat can easily be found in other, healthier foods.  So far, Whole 30 has been pretty easy and delicious.  I never feel hungry and I have more fun cooking now.  My breakfasts and lunches were already (mostly) Whole 30 compliant pre-detox, so that was easy.  However, dinners have brought on a fun challenge for me.  I now have to pre-plan and think outside the box.  So far, my outside the box meals have been delicious.  Last night I made flax meal and unsweetened coconut crusted salmon with baked, sliced potatoes for a take on fish and chips.  It was so, so good.  Tonight, I'll be making chicken and veggie fried "rice" with riced cauliflower.  Any sauce suggestions for that one?

What are you doing to improve yourself in 2016?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

5 Favorite Websites for FREE Stock Photos

5 Best of the Best FREE Stock Photo Sites | Sarah Smirks:  The Marketing Mama Blog

When I first started blogging, one thing I struggled with was high quality graphics and photos.  At first, because my blog was more of a journal than anything else, I used my own, personal photos - which looked like shit.  No one wants to see my blurry cell phone pictures of my insane life except my sister in law.  When I narrowed my focus, I decided that the simplest solution to my photo problem was stock photos.  Over the years, free stock photos have been popping up left and right and it is helping bloggers and marketers make their sites look WAY more polished.  So, why not take advantage?  Here are my five favorite free stock photo sites

1)  Pexels - has so many high quality photos that you probably don't need to go anywhere else.  I find 99% of my photos right here.

2)  Kaboompics - Kaboompics has hundreds of royalty free photos to choose from.  They are high quality and come in a variety of subjects.

3)  - Stocka is relatively new, but has a decent number of stock photos to choose from.  They are professional, by professional photographers, and royalty free.

4)  Gratisography - These photos are all taken by the same photography and are beautiful.  They're perfect if you're looking for a cohesive look for your site.

5)  Start-up Stock Photos - This site is great for business bloggers or small businesses.  All of the pictures are work related - chick on a computer, a Macbook, coffee on a desk, the kind of photography you see on this site.

What are your favorite stock photo sites?

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