Thursday, February 28, 2013

How Being Organized Saves Me Money

For the first time since I quit my job, we are not dipping into savings to pay our bills this month. That's right - we are UNDER BUDGET!  To mark this unprecedented occasion, I thought I would share the ways my family has saved money lately.

Refinanced Our Home

We refi'ed the balance due on our home from a 30-year, 4.something% mortgage to a 15-year, 3.something % mortgage, cutting our payments by YEARS, our overall payments by a lot, and our monthly payment from right at $1,000 to right under $600.  (Can you tell my husband is the budget person?  He is actually a budget analyst by trade, so while I work hard at saving money, he mostly tracks it and does the finances.  Of course, I have access to everything and he gives me regular reports.)

Approximate Savings: $300/month

Got Rid of Cable and Netflix DVDS

We bought an antenna and do subscribe to Netflix downloads.  For now, we really haven't missed cable.  I *thought* I would, but apparently PBS has it's own little Food Network knockoff.  I also check out DVDs and books on CD for the boys from the library.  I write library due dates in my planner so I never pay late fees.  I check out e-books from myself and magazines from the library, too.

Approximate Savings: $88/month

Cheaper Phone Plan

When my old contract ran out, we cut the budget by going with a pre-pay cell service.  I do have a smart phone (last generation galaxy), but pay only $50 a month for unlimited everything.

Approximate Savings: $25/month

Cheaper Gas

Instead of running out of gas unexpectedly (and therefore praying to make it to the newest gas station and filling up at $0.15 to $0.20 more a gallon - you KNOW you've done that!), I now fill up twice a week (so I never run out) on my way to carpool at the cheapest station in town.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that my chemical engineering friends are all PANIC! FREAK OUT! YOUR CAR WILL EXPLODE!  I think the are overreacting.  I'm still alive and so is my car.

So far. ;)

Approximate Savings: $30-40/month

Substitute Teaching

I am driving to school to drop the kids off anyway, so I substitute teach at the school a few days each month.  It's not consistent money (mostly because I am not always available to teach), but it helps.
Approximate Earnings: $50/month (when you average over the course of a year)

Buying Gifts on Clearance in Advance

Used to be that when the kids got a party invitation (at least once a month), I ran out and bought a gift.  And at Christmas?  I bought gifts for the nieces and nephews on the fly.  But I now watch the clearance and end caps at Target, year round, and pick up gifts that go on clearance.  I only buy stuff that my own kids would like, but I find it easy find a $15 or $20 gift for $5 or less.  I have a special place where I put the gifts and when an invitation comes up, I shop there for gifts.  I also reuse gift bags and buy wrapping paper and tissue paper after holidays on clearance.  I have a special place for those items, too.  And no more birthday cards.  I write To:, From:, and Happy Birthday directly on the package.  (Classy, right?)
Approximate Savings: $20/month

Freezer Cooking

Whenever I make a dish that can be frozen, I double or triple it and freeze much of it in individual or family sized servings.  Of course, the price of the dish doubles or triples, but it has saved us from eating out at least once a week.  When I am pressed for time, I just grab something from the freezer.  Instant meal!  I keep an inventory of what is in the freezer at all times, so it's just like looking at a menu (especially as it is divided between prepared meals and raw foods).

Approximate Savings: $80/month (assuming a $10 price for the freezer meal, which is probably a high estimate, and a $30 weekly meal out, which is probably a low estimate)

Weekly Menu

I plan a weekly menu.  I don't always follow it, but it ensures that I don't overbuy or under buy food for the week.  

First, I cross out days when we won't be eating at home.  

Then, I check on which meats, fruits, and veggies will need to be used immediately.  Sour cream about to expire?  Probably eating Mexican this week!  A half pound of carrots?  Roasted veggies.  Potatoes about to grow eyes?  Mashed potatoes.  

I also look at the sale papers for my grocery store.  If ground meat or chicken is on sale this week, I will probably stock up, but I will generally go ahead and make a chili or chinese crockpot chicken, too.  

On days when I won't have time to cook, we plan to defrost freezer meals.  Some weeks, there are few sales and that is a good time to defrost meats that are in the freezer and cook them.

If I run out of ideas, I look through old menus or recipes that I've pinned or bookmarked.
Approximate Savings: $100/month (at least)


I keep my couponing simple.  Four sites get checked for printed coupons one a week and on the first of each month (when they reset).  I only print coupons for items that I actually buy.  I have a coupon folder (see my last post!) and match coupons to my list before I go to the store.  Things that get regular coupons (toothpaste, toilet paper, cereal) ONLY get bought when there is a sale and a coupon, or when a really high value coupon is about to expire.

Approximate Savings: $40/month (at least)

Sign Up for Rewards

In my case, I signed up for Target's Pharmacy Rewards.  I get a 5% off one day of shopping gift card for every 5 prescriptions filled.
Approximate Savings: $15/month (at least)

Stockpile Sale Items

I don't stockpile more than can fit in my freezer or my pantry, but if ground beef goes on sale, you can bet I am buying double or triple what I need.  When broth/stock goes on sale, I buy a few month's worth because it is an expensive item that we use all the time.  (Frankly, make your own broth.  It's cheaper and tastier.  My husband and I just have a thing about bones.  A thing, I tell you!  Shush.)

Approximate Savings: $50/month (maybe higher?)

Make a Grocery List

My list starts during the week, when we list any basics that we are running low on.  I add those as we come close to running out and have trained the family that if they don't do the same, they will live without milk all week.  I am serious.  You. will. not. drink. milk.  Period.  (The aforementioned broth-because-we-have-a-problem-no-thanks-therapy-won't-help is an example of a basic.  :/ )  I add any items with an expiring high value coupon.  (Remember, I only clip coupons for things we use.  But I do throw away some, if it's a low value coupon and the item never went on sale.)  I add any items on sale (and usually include them in the menu) and make sure that I attach any coupons that I have for them.  That's about it.

Approximate Savings: $40/month (probably way higher, but already included some of this stuff above)

Meat on Clearance

I do deviate from the menu and grocery list if I find an excellent deal.  In fact, I find at least on meat package marked $3 off each week.  This is how we get variety and not just cheap hamburgers and chicken.  In the past few weeks, I've found shrimp and pork chops, and I buy almost all our stew and fajita meat this way.  I'm not sure it saves, exactly, as we generally would have settled for a cheaper meat, but it keeps us from eating out for variety.

Tracking Budget

Finally, we track our spending based on last year's expenditures.  Again, I can't quantify the savings, but it makes us stick to our plans, because we know exactly how much is left to spend.  I like to track on paper (just personal preference), so I round up to the nearest round number.

If you've been doing the math, this is about an 800 savings per month, minimum (or almost 10,000 per year) just by taking some simple, organized steps.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Target Score - Coupons, Clearance, and Candy

My friend Elle is a Target shopper, and I was telling her some of the tricks I use to save at Target.  I figured I would share them here.  

For the first time ever, I saved more than I spent at Target. I spent $161.29 (and got a $5 gift card for next time), which includes my normal groceries for the week (usually about $130 for my family), extra groceries because of a house guest this week, about 1/2 of my Easter shopping (for my two kids, a niece and nephew, and three godchildren), a birthday gift for my niece, a birthday gift for three schoolmates, and supplies for my kid's 7th birthday party.  

One thing I do is bring my own reusable bags. I just keep them in my trunk.  Target gives me a $0.05 discount for each bag. This week, I had 14 reusable bags for a discount total of $0.70.  Plus, bonus, I save the planet.

Some people use a Target debit or credit card for a 5% discount. I get that in cash back on my regular credit card, so I don't have a Target card.  However, I do have a Pharmacy rewards card.  I have all my (many, many, many...sigh) prescriptions set up at Target, so I get a 5% off everything one day card about once or twice a month.

In addition, I print Target coupons and matching manufacturer's coupons on-line once a week.  (It takes about 15 minutes on the Target website and on the popular couponing websites, like  Target accepts both on the same item.  I keep them in a Thirty-One Gifts fold-n-go organizer, binder clipped in expiration order in groupings similar to the store layout (like freezer section or cleaning products).  The coupons on the left are the ones I plan to use this trip, but I bring all of my coupons with me.

Each week, I make my menu based on what items are on sale (the weekly flyer is on Target's website) or already in my freezer or pantry.  Regular pantry items go on the list in the middle of my organizer when we run out (mostly milk, bread, and sugar type stuff, since I plan meals based on sale meats and fruits/veggies and since I stock up on anything else when it goes on sale).

Finally, I follow Totally Target on Facebook so I can find out about discounts.

Here are the highlights of my haul this week, minus a few coupons (Q) that I used on items that we needed but were not on a huge sale (like my husband's very specific brand of shampoo and mouthwash, both rarely on sale but purchased with coupons):

Peppers, $0.48 -  5% = $0.46

These beautiful peppers were on sale for $1.00/lb (they get cheaper in season) and I will use them with some cheap cream cheese that is about to expire and some bacon in my freezer to make poppers this week. Not really a huge deal, except that I get to use the cheese that I would otherwise throw out and they weren't marked at a $1 near the regular veggies, but by the front entrance of the store.

Eggs (6), $0.79 - $0.50 Q - 5% = $0.27

The coupon was a catalina that printed a while back when I shopped at Target. I used it on the smallest package of eggs because that gave me the cheapest per egg price ($0.27/6 = $0.05 per egg).

Shrimp (2lbs.), $17.98 - $6.00 (on package discount) - 5% = $11.38

This is still a very steep price for me to pay for meat.  However, on Friday's during Lent, we don't eat meat.  I'm not willing, time wise, to shop at multiple stores.  So most weeks during Lent, I buy the $9 shrimp.  Instead, I just bought 2 weeks worth of $6 shrimp and popped them in the freezer.  Target only puts this stickered package discount on things about to expire, but in this case, the expiration date was still three days away.

Beef Stew Meat (2.5lbs), $9.17 (bulk price)- 5% = $8.71

Bonus: I get to use the 3 pounds of carrots lingering from last week in a stew.

Beef Chuck Steak (1 1/4 lbs), $7.28
 - $3 (on package discount) - 5% = $4.07

Paid more than I'd like, but with company coming over, we needed extra meat and this was cheaper than chicken or ground beef this week.

Jimmy Dean Sausage (1 lb.), $2.54 - $0.55 (sale price) - $0.50 (on package discount) - 5% = $1.42

This will go well with the Velveeta and Rotel that I got on sale last week for a party dip. This had to go in the freezer today, as it expires tomorrow.

GM Cereal (5), $12.50 ($2.50 sale price, slightly less than regular price) - $2.00 (coupon) -5% - $5.00 (on package discount) = $4.98 (or less than $1.00 PER BOX!!!)

Less than $1 per box.  Did you catch that?

Ore Ida Fries/Tator Tots (3), $8.07 ($2.69 each) - $2.69 (B2G1) - $2.00 (Q) - 5% = $3.21 (or about $1.07 per bag).

Frozen potatoes are an item that I will not buy unless they are on sale.  

Chef Boyardee (6), $5.34 ($0.89 each sale price, slightly lower than regular price) - $0.89 (B5G1) - $1.00 (Q) - 5% = $3.28 (or about $0.55 per can).

This is an item that I will not buy unless it is on sale, but my 4 year old loves them.

Granola Bars (2 boxes), $4.00 ($2.00 each sale price, slightly lower than regular price) - $1.00 (Q) - 5% = $2.85 (or about $1.43 per box).

This is an item that I will not buy unless it is on sale.  I pack breakfast for the boys everyday.  Usually, we do dry cereal, peanut butter or yogurt, and a fruit.   This will substitute for the cereal and peanut butter on rushed days.

These items were on Valentine's clearance:

Highlights BEFORE counting the 5% off (for gifts that are a constant need since my kids are so young and go to about one birthday party per month or more, upcoming slumber party for my 6 year old, and Easter Baskets):

Snickers Hearts 6-packs (6), normally $5.34, today $0.89
Star Wars Pez (2) and Disney Pez Dispenser (1), normally $1.99, today $0.59
Sesame Street Elmo and The Count, normally $5.99, today $1.79

Hockey Air Boards (2), normally $19.99, today $5.98 (These will be great for birthdays for my boys' classmates!)
Valentine's Nonchoc Wonka Candies, normally $4.99, today $1.49 (Best deal for me, as my boys don't LOVE CHOCOLATE the way ONE SHOULD.  The Nerds said "Valentines", so they got pulled to use for the slumber party, while Laffy Taffy and Bottlecaps will go in Easter Baskets.)
NordicWare Cake Pops Pan, normally $16.99, today $1.69 (It's headed into a special gift for a special someone.)
Hershey's Kisses 28 Snack Size, normally $4.99, today $1.49

Hershey's with Caramel Kisses 10 oz. (4), normally $3.19, today $0.95
Nestle Crunch Hearts 10 oz., normally $3.19, today $0.95
Hershey's Miniatures 10 oz., normally $3.19, today $0.95 (The Krispies said "Valentines", so those went in the slumber party candy bowl, while everything else went for Easter baskets.)
Hershey's Hearts 10 oz. (6), normally $3.19, today $0.95 (Half are wrapped in red and going into the slumber party candies, but the other half are silver, so those go in Easter baskets so that the baskets aren't so obviously in Valentine's colors.)
M&Ms Peanut/Peanut Butter 12.6 oz. (4), normally $3.19 - $1.50 (Q on 2), today $0.57
My Little Pony (complete with brush, accessory, pony, and 20 minute cartoon DVD) (4), normally $5.04, today $1.51 (A couple of these make a great girl's birthday gift.)
Red wrapping paper (2), normally $1.99, today $0.19 (Have subtle hearts, but perfect for Valentine's, Christmas, anniversary, girl's birthday, wedding/engagement/shower/bacholerette when delivered to bride instead of at wedding itself.)
Sprinkles 6.7 oz., normally $4.99, today $1.49 (With lots of red and some multicolored selections as well, this will get me through Christmas for sure.  I will use some for the upcoming birthday party.)
Valentine's Funfetti Frosting (vanilla) (2), normally $1.69, today $0.50 (Appears to be either white or light pink.  If it's pink, I will add a couple of drops of red to dye it for the birthday party.)
Cupcake Liners, normally $1.99, today $0.19 (Mostly, we just use these for cupcakes or corn bread muffins at home, but these are useful anywhere, as they say Valentine's only on the BOTTOM and are decorated in red with black, blue, purple, and pink hearts.)
Vinyl tablecloth (2), normally $4.99, today $0.49 (Perfect for parties, in a bright red with a pattern that includes hearts, but subtly.  Most likely, I will use these to line the floor for messy art projects, though.)
Dipped Cookies, 10.4 oz., normally $2.99, today $0.89  (Let's be real.  I was going to buy these at full price.  I do every holiday.  They are yummy yummy sugar cookies dipped in chocolate and my family can eat them in 5.2 seconds flat.)

Total savings for that Valentine's haul (assuming my math is correct, but no way I'm double checking):
Total Original Price >  $209.46
Minus Total Spent > $50.18 - 5% = $47.67
Equals Total Savings of $161.79

The best part is that I really was going to buy stuff for the party, these gifts, and Easter anyway.

Happy shopping.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Organizing Errands

I wrote this last Wednesday and forgot to post.  For the record, I got all the errands done.  Eventually.  :)

Now, for the post:

If I am really, really lucky, I will accomplish a ton of stuff tomorrow. If I am truly blessed, I will do it without crying or having a breakdown. It's Errand Day (usually on Tuesdays, but today was Mardi Gras here in Louisiana).  By doing all my errands at once, I free up the rest of the week and spend less money on gas.

Here's my list of errands:  

1. Carpool - A 45 minute drive into the city (and another to drive out, but that won't happen until later in the day), during which my children eat breakfast in the car so that they can sleep a little bit later.  I need to remember the 
Valentine box and a Mummy Tomb, along with Valentine's, sweatshirts, and water bottles.

2. Possibly Mass - It's Ash Wednesday, which is not a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics, but I will be dropping off the kids 100 yards from 8 a.m. Mass about 10 minutes before Mass, so Catholic guilt might prove motivating. 

3. Post office - I have to mail a package that must be weighed first, along with some other stuff. 

4. Bank - I have a deposit, a withdrawal, and an unscheduled meeting with the person in charge of CDs to move some of our savings into one.

5. Target - I need to do the weekly grocery shopping and buy Valentine's for the next day for one of my kids.

I piled all the stuff (except the elusive Tomb and Valentine's box) that I need for my errands in one place on the island in my kitchen.  Behold the reason I drive an SUV:

The key to remembering everything I need, of course, is my planner.  I mark errands with an E in my planner.  Tomorrow's entry has been growing all week, as errands came up.  I knew I'd be doing the errands on Wednesday, so when my GPS died, I marked an errand to mail it at the Post Office with an E.  You can see, on the 13th, how I mark any errands with a small E first.  (I do the same for things that must be done at home (H), on the computer (C), or on the phone (P).)(Aside for those of you addicted to planner porn - note that I use three columns of input on each weekly entry in my planner: DUE, my task list for the day, and Reminders/FYI.  Actual timed events or all day events go on my monthly calendar in a different part of the planner.)

Along with my planner's errand list, I clip together items for the day's errands.  It's difficult to see in this picture, but I have binder clips for the days of the week (used for this week, so tomorrow's errands are in Wednesday clips), months of the year (so March, next month, has directions to a wedding out-of-town), and things like "To Do", "File", and "Misc." (which I use for stuff waiting on someone or something else).  I bought the labeled binder clips at Office Depot for $1 per pack of twelve, but you can use regular binder clips and either label with a sticker or nail polish, shiny marker, or liquid paper.  (Extra tip: when I taught middle school, I labeled binder clips for each class to hold graded and ungraded papers.)

You can keep your stuff together in a folder, binder, or a dedicated tote bag.  I found this Bible cover, with pockets for pens, binder clips, and paper clips.  My planner goes in the top pocket, and everything else - my Moleskine, clipped papers for errands, and stamps, envelopes, and address stickers - goes on the inside of the zipped up pouch.

What is looks like on the inside:

Next, I put all my stuff together in a tote bag (the black plaid bag, in this case).  I put my purse and lunches together there, too.

The kids' lunches don't have the cold stuff in them, but there are empty containers to remind me to pack them in the morning and the cold stuff is altogether in one place in the fridge.

I even put my coffee mug and water bottle out, so I don't forget the coffee.  If I forget the coffee, I might as well stay in bed!

Even after doing all this, it still took two days to get all these errands done.  But my system makes it almost impossible to forget anything.


Friday, February 8, 2013

A Craft Party, AKA How I Got Every Piece of Paper in My House into the Filing Cabinet

A few weeks ago, my friend Kelly invited me to a craft party.  I've been getting in touch with my more feminine skills lately, cooking dinners from scratch and learning natural ways to care for my home.  And I adore Kelly.  I knew it would be fun.  I knew I would say yes.

I knew I would humiliate myself.

I don't craft.  I am awful at any sewing at all.  I can't seem to make a button stick to a lapel. Hems unthread immediately after the last stitch goes into the cotton.  I have no patience for cross stitch or crochet.  Some of the lovely people at Kelly's party were making decorative (and beautiful, I might add) cards, light switch covers, and scrapbook pages.  I can't do any of that well enough to be worth the time and money commitment.  I've tried - and failed - many times.  Know thy weaknesses, right?

So I turned to what I am good at - organizing.  Who says organizing is not a craft?  (Shut up.  It's totally a craft.)  I looked around for a project that was portable.  And there it was.  Staring.  Glaring.  Looking at me like it was a vampire and I was a bowl of bloody soup.

The file pile.

That crappy pile had been growing forever.  It was literally starting to tip over.  Fortunately, it was corralled, mostly, in a red file container.  But at least four times in the past two months, I've had to dig through that pile for a copy of a birth certificate, a shot record, or my engagement ring warranty.  It was time to deal with it.

Note that the photo of my overstuffed filing box is EMPTY.  That's because all that is left from the MASSIVE PILE OF FILING DOOM is the blissfully empty container.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I am a fan of touching the paper once, filing it away, and forgetting about it.  But the reality is that most paper comes into my house at exactly the wrong second for actually dealing with.  The paper arrives in the house when we do, after school, along with backpacks full of more papers and homework and dinner prep.  I have a system for things going back to school.  I deal with those things during homework.  Things that are trash go in the trash.  Art work that the kids want to keep go in the baskets on their individual shelves.  And things that require action go with my planner.

But filing stuff gets shafted.  I have no time to deal with it.  So it goes in this red box.  And over the top of the box.  And on the floor next to it.  Then, it creeps into the kitchen...

So I put all the stuff in a huge tote bag and off I went to the craft party, armed with a list of the files I currently have, a sharpie, blank files, and sticky notes.

Over the past year, I've been weeding out my files, one or two a day.  So I really only keep about 25 categories of files.  Also, when I file something new, I always check to see if there is something I can get rid of.

I keep that handy list of files in my planner.  It serves the purpose of making sure I don't have three files for writing samples: writing, writing samples, and the how-in-the-word-did-I-use-that-stupid-category samples of writing.  You can see why I need a file list.  In advance of the party, I slipped my Moleskine notebook complete with that list into my tote bag.

At the party, I put a sticky note on papers that needed to go into files on my list.  I used the name of the file on the sticky note and returned those papers into the tote in ABC order. For things that needed a new file, like Taxes - 2012, I made a new file with a sharpie.  No fancy labeling for me, or I'd never get it done.  I alphabetized the files and returned them to my tote.

I also ate lots of fondue, laughed, talked, and didn't even feel like I did any work.

When I arrived home, I put the files and the papers, sticky notes still attached and already conveniently in ABC order, in the file cabinet.  Yes, I store it in my four year old's closet.  Shrug.  We have extra space there.  The file cabinet is not exactly a frequently used item, so it does not need to be wasting valuable space.

Get yours files together, call some girlfriends, and have a filing party!  It will be painless, I promise.  Well, almost painless.  But add some chocolate fondue and a glass of wine, and then - painless!  :)


This post dedicated to Maura Brady, who was kind enough to mention that she enjoys my blog.  :)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Dinner Menu: Meal Planning in Action

My Meal Planning System

I reserve the bottom line of each daily square in my monthly calendar for meal planning.  (Sometimes, I actually copy the meal plan on a board, so my family can see what's for dinner.  You know, on ambitious days!)

Note a list in the little hand drawn cloud of the raw meats currently in the freezer and quick meals currently in the freezer.  That's the sum total of my written inventory process.  :)

In order to meal plan, I look at my monthly calendar and mark any days we are eating out for any reason, whether it's date night, Mother's Night Out, or a day when we are just so time crunched with carpool, baseball practice, and  errands to run in between.

Usually, I plan about 4 meals per week:

*one crockpot meal, like red beans (leftovers go in freezer for future quick meals or lunches), 
*one fresh cooked large meal with next day leftovers, like casseroles or hamburger steaks (so 2 days covered), and 
*2 one-time meals, like stir-fries or hamburgers (any leftovers go for lunch).

At least one of those meals usually includes a meat from the sales flyer at Target or from the Target clearance meats.  If something we love is on clearance (for example, roast beef), then I bump one of the other meals to the next week.

The other 3 days are covered as follows:
*one night we eat leftovers (all other leftovers are eaten for lunches or frozen for another day),
*another something from the freezer or whatever will go bad if we don't eat it (that is often salad night), and
*usually we do eating out for some reason or other a night or two.

My meal plan goes from Tuesday until the next Monday, usually, because I grocery shop on Tuesdays.  
I always check for items about to go bad in our fridge to plan the Tuesday and Wednesday night meals, so we don't waste food.  

Honestly, this has cut our grocery bill tremendously and means that we hardly waste any food, ever.  Plus, we are a lot less likely to eat out and a lot more likely to eat healthy.  (My meals don't sound very healthy, but take hamburger steaks for example.  I use the leanest ground beef that I can find, lots of onions and garlic, some broth with just a tiny bit of browned flour for the roux, and throw in carrots to cook in the gravy.  I will usually serve with a salad with balsamic vinegar - lettuce, tomato, maybe cucumbers if they are in season - and mashed potatoes made with skim milk.)

Flaws in the System

Meal planning this week is extra challenging.  

Instead of shopping on Tuesday like normal, I am shopping on Wednesday next week because of a conflict on Tuesday, so it's an 8 day plan.  Also, the boys are home from school on Thursday of this week (Parent-Teacher conferences) and on Monday and Tuesday of next (Mardi Gras).  Usually we have at least one event out planned, too, but not this time because of Valentine's being the next week (when we will buy an expensive restaurant meals, most likely).  So that means 8 FULL meals to plan and all leftovers will likely be eaten during the day for lunch (whereas my husband and I can usually split leftovers since the boys eat at school).  There are no advertised meat sales  at Target this week, either.  I am buying eggs (have a coupon, so omelets one night) and chicken thighs to try a new sesame chicken recipe, so the cheapest proteins I can get are on the grocery list.  Because there is no meat sale, likely the reduced meats (that I always shop for Wednesday night's supper) will already be bought out when I get to the store.  I'm having to dig in the freezer to round out the menu without overspending.

Doubling the meals while working with the normal budget and unusual schedule means that planning, which usually takes all of fifteen minutes, took an hour.  :(

The Plan

My plan, FYI, starting from today:
Su - Tacos (kids and husband), Enchilada Casserole (me, because the prep is the same and I'm the only one who eats enchiladas)
M - Ham (from freezer), Red Beans with Sausage (from freezer), Rice (rice cooker, saving leftovers for later in the week)
T - Breakfast (omelets and pancakes)
W - Whatever meat is on sale OR hamburger steaks (meat in freezer), oven roasted fries
Th - Honey Sesame Chicken (crockpot), Refried Rice (leftover from Monday)
F - Leftovers (or, if none left, which is possible given our schedules, Roast from freezer and Starch from Pantry)
S - Mac and Cheese (homemade), Ham (from freezer)
Su - Spaghetti (sauce from freezer)
M - fajitas (chicken and steak in freezer, uncooked, and tortillas in freezer)
T - Rotel and Velveeta with chips