How often do you hear “what’s for dinner sweetie”? Over the last few months, we have begun meal planning. We were looking for a way to save on our grocery bill, as it seemed like were spending a lot on groceries and not really getting much bang for our buck. Not only do we always know “what’s for dinner,” we are saving lots of money.
The first thing we did was do an inventory of our freezer. Because I’m a bit of a nerd, I put it in a spreadsheet to keep better track. You don’t really need to go that far, just putting it on paper and marking out as you use it will work just fine. This will be your best friend for your meal planning. I am planning on inventorying the pantry next.
The first month we did this, we only spent about $100 for groceries for two people. Now, each Saturday we sit down and plan out our meals for the whole week. We incorporate any fresh food we have, as well as meat and other food already in our freezer. We really try to cook as much from scratch as possible. There are many things you can cook in under 30 minutes with good planning.
Because it is just the two of us, we end up with leftovers. For chili, soups and stew, we freeze leftovers into single-serving containers and one-meal sized containers. We can then pull these out of the freezer and pack in my lunch, or have a quick meal. Today for instance, Larry worked away from the house. At 5:00, we decided we would have chili and sandwiches. Because we had it in the freezer, dinner was ready in about 30 minutes with no mess.
We do buy fresh fruits and vegetables and incorporate them in our cooking. Depending on your area, and the types of fruits and vegetables you buy, going to grocery once a week is probably enough. When you go to the grocery, make sure you have a list and just enough cash for what you need so you don’t buy extra. We are trying to buy less “junk” food which is not only bad for you, but can be expensive.
Look forward to sharing some of our delicious meals soon.
Thank goodness it is finally Spring Break time. Many of you are leaving the awful weather of the north and going to warmer climates. Recently, we travelled to Florida from the mid-west. Although we wanted to have as much fun as possible, we really didn’t want to break the bank. We decided to be adventurous and see what would happen if we used Hotwire to book our hotels. To help keep costs down, we packed a cooler. In addition to packing food for the trip down, the cooler is also very helpful throughout the week if you don’t have refrigeration available. We did normally eat out one meal a day.
So let me tell you about our Hotwire experience. The first night, we stayed in the Macon, Georgia area. We ended up at a Holiday Inn Express for the base rate of $60 per night. In this area, $60 was 40% off the normal rate. The hotel was right off the Interstate with easy access back on. Since this was such a big success, we decided to try again the next night. We wanted to stay close to the beach, but not pay those high costs. We hit the jackpot. Again, we were able to get a room for $60 a night, but this hotel was right on the beach in North Daytona Beach. This was about 50% off their normal rates. When we got checked in, we loved the area so much, we wanted to stay an extra night. When I booked the second night, we asked about the rate and although they couldn’t match hotwire, they did give us a great deal.
View from the balcony at Daytona Beach
I do want to mention, this was just before most of the normal spring breakers were heading to Florida. For those of you who have not used Hotwire, you do need to be a little bit flexible about your location. It is also helpful if you are a bit aware of the hotels in the area, as you will be blindly bidding on a hotel. You will also want to check when booking about any surcharges the hotels or condos may have, in addition to what you pay to Hotwire. For us this was a huge success and we will use for future vacations.
The first day of Spring brings to mind many ways to save money and have lots of fun at the same time. It is also the beginning of working in the yard and creating the garden. One great way to save money is to plant your vegetables and flowers from seed. At first this can seem overwhelming; however, it really is easy. Because it is so cost effective, even if you do make a mistake your investment of actual dollars is not much. One way to save money on the planting is to recycle old pots and think of creative uses for other materials. Also, this time of year, you can find great sales at many of the home improvement stores. You should also be able to find sales on seeds and soil. This year, we are starting tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, herbs and flowers inside. There are many other seeds you can sow directly in the earth. As soon as we get a few warm days and the ground has thawed enough to run the tiller, we will be planting our early garden outside. We plant onions, lettuce and radishes near the end of March or early April, depending on how much the ground has warmed. This year has been particularly bitter cold in the mid-west and it looks like we are going to get a late start to Spring. Last year was my first real year wanting to garden. I found it is fun and has a great deal of satisfaction. Nothing tastes better than a tomato from your own garden.
We are on vacation in Florida (more on this later) and we hit the jackpot. On our way from Daytona to Tampa, we decided to stop in Plant City. Ohhhh myyyyyy. It is strawberry festival time. Fresh veggie vendors everywhere. We dined on a delicious lunch of fresh fruit with plenty left over for less than 6. Local grown, freshly picked strawberries were about $1 a quart. So sweet and delicious. If you have never been, I would highly recommend. It was a little bit of paradise at the end of winter.