In January we attempted to do meal planning for the entire month and complete a pantry cleanout and eat through items in our freezer. Whew. It was a lot to keep track of and I am pretty proud of our progress. I was planning on […]
We made it to the end of January with our meal planning and although we didn’t follow the plan exactly, we did do a great job of eating through items in the pantry. Some of the highlights from this week were roasted potatoes, oatmeal and […]
For Meal Planning this week I pulled a bunch of forgotten items out of the pantry once again. We have a lot in there and honestly I could probably do this clean out for another month or two with only some grocery shopping for fresh items. I am pretty proud of that since I have been working the last year to build up our food storage. We were very short on basics when Covid hit the country in 2020 and it was pretty difficult to navigate the shortages with our dietary needs and a child that is very particular about what they eat. The downside of having a stocked pantry is that it is easy to forget what you have in the back and smaller items get lost. Doing a pantry clean out a few times a year really helps keep down the odds and ends. This week I discovered we have lots of open crackers…like way more than pictured but this was what I thought we could get through this week. We will be eating lots of crackers and cheese this week for sure!
Do you see my wall of soup? That, my friends, is the shelf I am afraid to look at. The bins are conveniently covered by the wall of canned soup I slowly collected over the past six months so they are out of sight out of mind at the moment. Gluten-free soup is very expensive, around $4.00 a can normally, so I wait until it goes on super sale for under $2.00 a can to buy it. I consider this fully stocked on soup since I really don’t eat it very often any more. I will eat a can or two a month for lunch if I don’t have any homemade soup in the freezer but luckily I have been making it often enough I always have some I can heat up. We use the oil all the time but to the right of the oil is a large container of teas that have probably been there since we moved in six years ago. I have not gone through it in a long time and the tea we actually drink is over next to the coffee machine so I should probably clean it out as well but tea is something I have a hard time convincing my husband to throw away because it is “still good”. The lower shelf is the one I have been mostly working through the past few weeks. I know it doesn’t look very empty but that is because I filled it again with items that were just sitting on the counter since we had no room in the pantry such as the case of Double Noodle soup I bought for my particular eater and the beans my husband got me for Christmas. We will continue to work through the lower shelf this week. My goal is clean counters and only items we actually eat in the pantry.
We did pretty well last week with our meal plan and ate up a bunch of items we needed to. i am going to try filming the cabbage soup making and upload it as my first video on the Oscoey YouTube channel which I am pretty excited about! Look for it later this week! We did however get much better about eating up the leftovers this week. We spent the first part of the week eating the food my mother-in-law sent home and the “Broccoli Beef” my husband made with pork and the last purple cauliflower (it was delicious by the way). Unfortunately half way through the week I was very disappointed to discover our 5 pound bag of carrots had a couple of moldy ones in it. I am not sure why, they usually last way longer than a few weeks in the fridge but we pulled them all out, tossed the moldy ones, washed the rest and are trying to eat through them as fast as we can. My daughter loves them steamed so she had them in her lunches this week and I added the steamed ones to pretty much everything I heated up for lunch. We still have about four or five carrots left in the bag but they should be eaten in the next few days.
On Sunday night we had nachos which was definitely planned on. When we did our large grocery shop at the start of the month we bought tortilla chips specifically for nachos. We make two separate trays with half for each person and it works out perfectly. We could probably combine them but our particular eater will not eat from the tray with peppers on it so we have to separate them. It is an easy fix and makes dinner go much smoother. We make our own cheese sauce, add refried beans, cheese, olives, sour cream and tomatoes and it is divine! We will probably have them again in another week or two to use up the tortilla chips. Nachos are also a great way to eat up leftover meat or vegetables you have lying around. In the summer time we slice up fresh radishes and green onions from the garden and add them after cooking them for a little kick.
One thing we had a lot of leftovers for from my mother-in-law’s house was steak and mashed potatoes. We had enough steak for a few days of meals. My daughter ate the mashed potatoes for breakfast and lunch so those went very fast but the rest of us got a little bit for dinner one night along with one of the cauliflowers steamed with butter. Yum!
Since we had a lot of steamed vegetables to eat and leftover steak I made another batch of my gluten-free ramen for lunch one of the days last week. This was probably one of the best bowls of ramen I have eaten for a long time. It was delicious! I will definitely do this combination again the next time we have leftover steak. This was also a great way to eat through the cauliflower and carrots.
For breakfast this week I mostly had toast and some sort of fruit. When you buy gluten-free bread it goes bad pretty quickly so it needs to be eaten the week you buy it or frozen and pulled out a few at a time. I love peanut butter toast for breakfast so I loved it this week. I am also still on my peaches kick but I am down to one last jar so I am not sure if I should open it or wait until closer to when we do another big Costco run. My daughter also wants to eat them so we will probably end up eating the last jar this week.
Wow. I apologize for the out of focus picture but dinners this week were pretty hectic and I probably was in a hurry. Don’t let the blurriness fool you, this was one of the best meals I have eaten in a long time. My husband made Broccoli Beef only we were low on broccoli and had pork to use up from the sausage making so we substituted cauliflower and pork. It was so good! This will definitely be on regular rotation in our meal planning in the future. We had enough leftovers for two family meals plus several lunches. My daughter has ice skating at dinner time on Thursdays and we were able to put some this heated up in a thermos for her to eat on the way home and it worked really well.
I ended up using the whole box of pancake mix this week because the puppy got on the counter and ate most of what I made for breakfast on Friday morning. Luckily the kids had already eaten theirs but I missed out on pancakes that morning. We ended up making them again this morning for Sunday breakfast and I got to eat them finally! We will probably make a different kind next week so the kids don’t get tired of them but these are a great easy meal. We still have about eight boxes left of the mix I got on super sale at Grocery Outlet a couple of months ago. I bought about 15 total so we have used about half of them so far. I figured they would last six months or so which is pretty good.
On Saturday night we had a meal planning and pantry cleanout fail. My husband asked me if I wanted sushi and I figured we would use what we have to make it but it turns out we were out of a lot of the ingredients such as cucumber, fish eggs, wasabi and I am sure others I don’t know about. I found out after he came home from the store so it was too late. The sushi was very good and I did not get a picture of my sushi bowl but I did take a picture of some of the ingredients we used. We buy the salmon frozen from Costco and my husband makes the eggs. It is pretty good although I always put way too much wasabi in my gluten-free soy sauce and am steaming all night. I love it though!
Let’s take a look at what we used up in the past week. Above is the photo I took of what I was hoping to use and honestly we did pretty good this week. Another item we ate up that I didn’t even put on the list was some ice cream I bought last summer. We tend to eat ice cream very slowly and don’t always eat it before it goes bad. We still have half a container of Mermaid ice cream left that I will give the kids a serving of once or twice a week until it is gone. We also made pudding out of some milk since we have so much milk right now. Instant pudding is a quick way to make dessert and use up any extra milk that you have lying around. I always keep a couple of boxes in the pantry for just this purpose. Pudding is one my my particular eater’s foods they are working on eating since the texture is one they don’t like and by getting them involved in making it the chances of them eating it are much higher. Pudding is also a great way to get milk into kids that won’t drink it.
Items left from January week 3:
- Fresh produce: rainbow carrots, potatoes, tomatoes (my husband bought more gah!)
- Snack items: One bars
- Meal type items: oatmeal (not gf)
- Dried Fruit: strawberries, raspberries, apple chips
- Junk: Halloween candy – still
- Fridge/freezer items: fancy chocolate, Baked Alaska, cookie dough
The focus on this week is crackers, oatmeal and more crackers. I took this photo yesterday and we have already eaten the rest of the pancake mix, one pack of oatmeal, the fruit cup, and some crackers. I ended up throwing up the unsalted sunflower seeds which are hard to see but they expired in 2018 so I felt very comfortable tossing them. They were in no way sealed all the way and it just didn’t feel safe to eat them. We will probably have oatmeal again tomorrow morning along with some peanuts or sunflower seeds. We also ate up one of the boxes of Maple One bars and this is the last one I pulled from the pantry. One of my kids gets half of one a day as part of their morning routine. I know they aren’t the best but they also have a bunch of vitamins that we are somewhat lacking in. We need to eat the squash and will find a way to cook the riceberry rice. My mom gave us some for Christmas and I realized we still had a pack from last year. I am not really sure how to cook it but I am sure we will find something.
Items to use up January Week 4:
- Fresh produce: rainbow carrots, squash, potatoes, brussels sprouts, tomatoes (my husband bought more gah!)
- Snack items: One bars, crackers, more crackers, peanuts, sunflower seeds, fruit cup
- Meal type items: oatmeal (not gf), pancake mix, cheese sauce, rice
- Dried Fruit: strawberries, raspberries, apple chips
- Junk: Halloween candy – still
- Fridge/freezer items: fancy chocolate, Baked Alaska, cookie dough, mermaid ice cream
Meal planning this week was mostly about eating leftovers and using fresh produce that needed to be eaten. We did our last major grocery run on 1/02/22 so after a couple of weeks some of our produce was looking like it would go bad. I […]
Whew. Another week of meal planning under our belt. We used up a lot of things this week from our pantry, fridge and freezer. We still have so many leftovers that we won’t really need to cook for the next few days but we are […]
This past year I realized we have fallen down a hole of eating not so healthy foods more often then we should. We totally fell off the bandwagon of both eating well and keeping our grocery costs down. The pandemic has really split our routine into many different parts. We now have to base our budget on whether or not the store has our food in stock, if the kids are home from school for a bit and whether our oldest daughter will be at our house. Since the oldest has moved out this has become less of an issue and she fully embraces scrounging for food whenever she stops by, and “shopping” our pantry but honestly now that she is on her own we don’t really worry about food costs for her any more.
We have also in the last couple of years had to adjust how we eat. We now have a nut allergies, gluten-free, vegetarian, and sensory preferences to account for and honestly we now have so many different foods for everyone that we have to keep on hand that we would be fine for at least a few weeks if we had some sort of emergency situation where we couldn’t go to the store as long as we have the right foods on hand. Our biggest issue is with our kid with food preferences since the rest of us are more flexible and will be ok with alternates. I am always worried the store will be out of one of their preferred foods and we will have to figure out a work around, which is not fun on a bad day. We did run into this over the summer when the correct dried fruit leather was nowhere to be found or beyond overpriced. Luckily fruit was in season so I was able to make some fruit leather on my own and that was an acceptable alternate. Phew…
A few years ago I wrote the below Meal Planning post in my first attempt at meal planning. Let’s just say, attempting to change our eating ways right before starting a new job was not one of my best ideas but it did make me think about how we can do better. Over the past six months or so I have been obsessively been watchin grocery haul, extreme grocery budget, freezer meal making and meal planning videos on YouTube and I have gotten tons of ideas. I especially love the videos where they make meals for a week from the a dollar store since there are so many people living in food deserts where Dollar Tree is the only grocery store around. I will link some of my favorites down below.
I thought we would take a stab at meal planning again this fall in an attempt to keep our costs down and create some organization to the chaos of our lives. As you can see, there are a lot of holes in my meal planner for November/December. The kids helped me with some of it and we instituted chicken nugget night for our selective eater so that with pizza night as well, they had at least two nights of the week that were predictable and dinner was something they liked. Most of the time the grownups eat chicken nuggets as well on Tuesdays but if there are extra leftovers I usually eat those instead since gluten-free chicken nuggets are really expensive and I am not a huge fan of fried food. We did run out of chicken nuggets a few weeks ago and it was predictably a disaster. Fish sticks were not an acceptable alternative and dinner was skipped that night. We now have chicken nuggets back in the freezer so hopefully we will not forget to get more next time we are low.
Our first month was definitely an adjustment and overall it went pretty well. I made a lot of dishes from my childhood such as steamed potatoes, cabbage and Kielbasa, tuna casserole and tater tot casserole (a huge hit with my daughters). There were a couple of nights where something else was made by my husband but we just adjusted and I pushed out the next night of cooking. I am hoping to be better about following the plan in the future though since it threw off our groceries and when we were using up things in the fridge.
We are mostly vegetarian and I am gluten-free so most family meals need to follow along those lines for us. One of the ways we did some light meal prepping was to hard boil about eight eggs and then eat them over the course of a few days for extra protein. We all love lentils so when we make them we usually eat them for dinner the first night and the kids have them for breakfast the next day. I bought some gigantic Spanish Queen olives from Costco last month. I am trying to eat fermented foods or olives every day and a great way for me to do that is to eat an olive with one or two meals a day. I love kimchi as well but we are currently out of it. We should probably make some more!
One way I have been trying to eat healthier is to eat vegetable soup a few times a week. Usually I put in greens from the garden, carrots, tomatoes, beans and whatever else I need to use up in the fridge. In September and November I made a bunch of veggie broth and put it in the freezer along with blanched greens from the garden. I have been using that to make soup every couple of weeks. I did however make a batch from the turkey broth we made from Thanksgiving which made the soup seem really rich to me after months of straight vegetable soup. Usually I serve it for dinner and freeze half the batch into portions for later. When I heat it up I add in an egg or leftover meat for protein. Both my daughter and I love soup so usually when I make it she will eat some as well.
Another item we have been eating a lot of are pancakes with a hard boiled egg on the side. They are easy to make, keep for a couple of days and I got an excellent deal on some gluten-free pancake mix at Grocery Outlet so we have tons of it, like literally I probably have 10 of 15 boxes left at this point. Since these are confetti pancakes we usually serve them with jam and then make Nutella sandwiches with them for lunch the next day for the kids. My selective eater loves Nutella sandwiches (who doesn’t?) so on that day usually their lunch comes back pretty empty which is a major win for us. This is a great way to cook once and have meals for a couple of days. I usually make half the box at a time and honestly I am not above snagging one later on for snack time with a hard boiled egg. You could totally make the whole box and freeze some for later in the week as well if you are short on time.
One of my favorite YouTube recipes I have found is this Oatmeal Bake from Acre Homestead on Scratchpantry.com. I absolutely love it because it contains almost a dozen eggs and it is great to make and freeze half of it for later. It is super healthy, full of protein and in a first, keeps me full until lunchtime. Usually with oatmeal I get super hungry an hour or so after I eat it but with the eggs and fruit in there this one keeps me going until lunch which is fabulous. Only two of us like to eat this for breakfast so usually I slice and freeze half to thaw out the second week. That way I am only making two a month which really saves on time. We are also currently without a microwave so I have found a great way to heat it up is to mostly thaw it, slice it and then cook the slices in butter for a crunch edge. It is delicious!
We love roasted vegetables in our house and can eat an embarrassingly large amount of them for dinner. Our favorite is roasted cauliflower and honestly when my oldest is home we can eat a whole Costco bag in one meal. It is that delicious! We have been trying roasted broccoli since the bag is much larger and cheaper. So far we love the broccoli as well. We have made it several times and there are usually no leftovers either. Roasted veggies are something that are quick to put together and you can make ahead. They freeze well if you are putting them into containers and can be heated up on the stove or in the microwave. They also add some fabulous flavor to soups if you need to use some up.
All in all our meal planning is going better than I expected. We are going to keep it up for January along with an attempt at eating through our pantry. We did go to the store for a major grocery haul today which I was not planning on but we were low on a few key items and with the new Covid variant spreading like wildfire I wanted to get groceries now and then not go for as long as possible. I am pretty sure we can make it to the end of January with a couple of exceptions like eggs, seaweed (we forgot it) and salad greens.
How do you incorporate meal planning in your house?
My favorite YouTube channels:
I love how Becky tries to eat everything from her garden and she has some fabulous freezer meal recipes.
Christine does a great job of showing how to make cheap and healthy meals on a super restrictive budget. She is also a fan of bargain grocery shopping like me and I love sharing the thrill of a good deal when she finds them.
Lisa is a fabulous person trying to spread the word of how to buy groceries if you have a limited budget. She has my same love of beans and is an excellent cook. Lisa is probably my favorite because she is so kind and I love how much she tries to help people find ways to get around food insecurity.
Jamerrill is a mom of a large family who has a no frills way of showing how she feeds her family. Honestly when Jamerrill first showed up in my feed I was skeptical because so many large families try to capitalize on their kids but Jamerrill’s respect for her kids’ privacy and honest videos when things go wrong are so refreshing that I fell in love with her.
We are about 10 months into dealing with Covid and things don’t seem to be letting up any time soon. I was looking back over pictures from the year today and I was struck by how sudden everything was last Feb/March when everything shut down. […]
Oscoey’s three year anniversary passed in March and as much as I wanted to write a post about it we were dealing with Covid-19 and still adjusting to working from home, teaching our kids and being home together all the time. Oscoey was something I […]
I really love the idea of small changes over time adding up to huge improvements later on in life. When we first started our journey towards better financial health way back during the 2008 financial crisis we made many small changes that reduced our spending, raised our income and increased our savings rate. Over the last 10+ years many of the small habits we started are so ingrained in us that we don’t even think about it any more. We have added a couple of kids since then and now we have one in college and our expenses have dramatically increased so small changes are much more important for our overall financial health. I find that when we don’t keep track of the smaller things the larger ones get lost as well. One of our biggest costs every month is child care and keeping those costs low is a priority for us right now as we head into another school year where we could potentially be paying way more than we budgeted for if we are not careful.
As ridiculous as it seems, “sleeping in” until 5:30 am every day costs us around $300 a month. How you might ask? When I sleep in I start work an hour later and we end up paying for an extra hour of child care after school. At $15 an hour for two kids times 5 days a week is $75 a week extra in child care. Multiply that times 4 and you are at $300 a month which of course would be higher in a 5 week month. It is kind of ridiculous to think of that extra hour of snooze time as costing us so much money a month and $3900 a year if we do it all 52 weeks!
Small changes over time add up to huge improvements later on in life.
We are super lucky to have flexible schedules and childcare that charges us by the hour for after care instead of a blanket amount each month but it also leads to childcare costs not being steady and harder to budget. Starting this summer is our first time having to pay for after care for both kids. Prior to that our son was in a more traditional day care setting and had a flat monthly rate which was great for budgeting but it never went down when we missed days. Now that he is a preschooler his official school end time is at lunchtime and we pay for afternoon care by the hour. Our daughter gets out at 3:00 and we pay for care after that time.
One of the good things about this arrangement is that we are able to put our child care costs on a credit card and earn cash back for something we would be paying anyway. This only works though if you are paying off your credit card every month and not paying any interest. We find out about three weeks in advance how much our bill will be and prior to that I put a placeholder in my Quicken account for an estimated amount that is over what I think it will be and that helps us prepare for making a large payment on the next payday. I budget for childcare based on when they bill us. We get billed on a monthly basis from September through the first half of June and then we get a separate bill for care from the second half of June through the end of August. Last year all of the charges for the second half of June, and all of July and August went through in September so it was quite a large amount but I knew it was coming so I was able to set aside money and schedule my payments out in advance. This uneven way for charging us for child care is part of the reason why we have had a hard time budgeting over the past few years. Our expenses vary so much based on which month we are in that it is difficult to plan. Putting our expenses into Quicken months in advance and then looking at our lowest point over the next six months has really helped keep things in perspective.
We budget six to nine month in advance to get a bigger picture of where our finances are heading.
To reduce our child care costs Mr. Oscoey and I do a mini split-shift with work . I go in super early and pick the kids up as soon as I can and he drops them off when school opens so we are not paying for before care as well. We do this to save money and because our son can’t really be dropped off early enough to make a difference in paying for before care for our daughter. It does cause some issues, mainly because sometimes Mr. Oscoey has to go in earlier but so far we have been able to work it out where I work from home before dropping the kids off closer to 9:00 but honestly this is pretty exhausting for me. I usually end up having to work another hour at night and spreading my 8 hours out over the course of the day like that makes the work day seem soooo much longer. My commute is pretty bad and when I split my working hours up I end up spending the entire day working, driving, working, driving, eating dinner, and then working some more and that is not super fun. I need down time every day and when I work those crazy split shifts I don’t get enough.
Last year when we were only paying for after care for one kid some months Mr. Oscoey was able to get off early and pick the kids up by 3:00 nearly every day our bill was only $150 for an entire month which is super cheap. Based on our normal pick up time for this year with two kids in after care we will end up paying $262.50 a week if I sleep in until 5:30. This ends up being over $1000 a month which is a huge chunk of our budget. If I can leave in time to save an hour of after care every day that will lower our bill by $75 a week and $3900 a year! Unfortunately when Mr. Oscoey got off work early enough to pick up the kids and avoid after care he would have to work late at night and we would not get grown up time. For everything there is a trade off and finding balance while being a working parent is difficult.
Leaving an hour earlier will save us $3900 a year in child care costs!
If we wanted to save $3900 dollars a year and pick the kids up right after school I would have to get up at 4:30 every morning and unfortunately that is not an easy task for me. I need my sleep, like really need my eight solid hours a night and I would have to go to bed immediately after the kids if I wanted to get up at 4:30 in the morning every day. Leaving earlier would also be a guarantee that I would not see the kids in the morning, even for a little bit, nor would I get alone time with Mr. Oscoey at night. Being a working parent is all about balance and I love seeing my kids in the morning before I leave. We snuggle on the couch for a few minutes and we talk about our day for a bit. Sometimes if they get up early enough I am able to eat breakfast with them and maybe read a book. The days that I don’t see my son before I leave it is hit or miss whether or not he will cry for a long time because he didn’t see me before school and that is hard to hear about when it happens.
Alone time with your spouse is also key to a healthy marriage and difficult for any couple with small children. Mornings are spent packing lunches and getting ready for school/work and the evening is the only time Mr. Oscoey and I are able to catch up about work or talk about what our family plans are. I also spend some some of that time working on the blog and balancing our checkbook. Right now we are trying to watch “Game of Thrones” which is pretty inappropriate for kids so we are only able to watch when we are alone. Running the numbers on how much we would save if I leave earlier in the morning was pretty eye opening though and I think I will try to find a compromise where I can leave earlier some of the time and maybe have Mr. Oscoey pick up early when he can. I don’t want to lose too much of my morning time with the kids nor my evening time with Mr. Oscoey so we will have to find a way to reduce our costs without bringing too much stress into our lives.
Balance is key when you are a working parent.
What could we do with an extra $3900 a year? I can think of so many things but I would absolutely love to travel with part of it and invest the rest. If we saved $3900 for the remaining 6 years that we are paying for after care for both kids it would be a grand total of $23,400 plus interest! This small change would have a huge impact over time. It is definitely something I am going to work on and see if even leaving 30 minutes earlier will save us that hour of child care in the afternoon.
What small changes are you making that have a huge impact on your life?
Mr. Oscoey and I have always loved San Francisco. We went there once many years ago by ourselves for a whirlwind 18 hour trip and had always wanted to go back but never found the time or money. Last fall (while I was laid off […]