Five reasons why you should be meal planning and prepping right now

If you are like me, maybe you have ran out of that giant box of Cheez-it’s and that Easter candy you were eating for breakfast, and now your stomach has voiced their concerns about your recent choices. If you’re getting lectured by your stomach, you are likely also getting some sideways glares from your budget.

I have a ton of other posts about meal prep for your reading pleasure, but I’ve also shared my top reasons below for why I want you all to join me right now and plan your food for the week ahead.

  1. Much like a budget tells your money where to go, meal planning and prepping does the same for your food, so it helps reduce waste and food boredom. It’s one thing to buy groceries and it’s a whole other thing to prepare and eat the groceries you buy. (Yes I’m talking about that old bag of greens that are going bad in your crisper drawer right now as you read this or that chicken that’s been thawing with no current plans to actually make it to the dinner table)
  2. It reduces the stress of “what are we eating and how will we eat it” and makes it one less thing to worry about. Don’t we all need that right now?
  3. I already mentioned the mental wellness above, but let’s not forget about financial wellness and physical wellness that comes with a healthy balanced diet that you just can’t find at the bottom of that Cheez-it’s box. (trust me on this..I looked)
  4. It reduces the amount of meals you have to think about. If you make a batch of food, just double or even triple the amount, and voila..now you have turned one meal into three. Do that a few times and your whole week of food has been figured out and all you have to do is warm it up and eat it.
  5. It’s grill season. Grill season is the BEST time to start or renew your love for food and prepping. We have so many different dietary restrictions in our house from two carnivores, a pescatarian and a vegetarian, but the grill is where we can all go and get fed from one meal without issue. It’s so easy to toss some cut up veggies in olive oil and seasoning and make a veggie foil pouch right next to some steak, chicken, fish, tofu or whatever you want to grill. I don’t know if it’s me, but food also just tastes better from the grill. Bonus..you can either enjoy family time outdoors while grilling or use the grill and prep as an escape from the family for a bit..depending on how your family is acting that day.

A few of my favorites right now include honey garlic salmon with a mixture of mushrooms/onions/cauliflower cooked in a foil pack and cauliflower in any seasoning with a salad. I’m also going to try a brussel sprouts/sweet potato/pepper combo next with lemon garlic tilapia and chicken for the boys.

What are some of your meal prep tips and favorite grill meals or make in bulk meals?

6 quick tips on budgeting

Man..it’s crazy to me that it’s 2020 and there are still folks running around rogue with their finances, thinking it’s not going to catch up with them. Several recent studies show that only about 40% of people are living that budget life. 😱

I have personally been living with a budget for over a decade, and I can promise you that this is one of, if not the biggest contributing factor to my current debt free and wealth building chapter of my life. I would definitely still be living beyond my means without a budget.

There is no better time then right now to put the money you make to work..and that money isn’t going to get to work without your help. So do me a favor, and if you are in the 60% of people who don’t currently budget, then make a pinky swear to yourself to start ASAP…after reading my quick tips of course. 😉

Tip 1-Live off of a zero budget. That’s a fancy way of saying that every single penny you have incoming should have a home for where it needs to go. The key to this is to assign your money jobs BEFORE you’re eyeballing that delivery menu on an empty stomach or you’re clicking on that BOGO sales ad that just landed in your inbox. So a few days before the month starts, you can sit down and map out your incoming vs outgoing. Mind that gap with some investing and savings. Which brings me to my next point.

Tip 2-Have a goal you are working towards. Whether it’s building your savings up, paying off debt, or investing in index funds to work towards financial freedom..you will be more successful minding the gap if you have short term and long term financial goals in place. Don’t let lack of planning cause you to live with a YOLO mentality..it’s true..you only live once..so get your shit together already. Nobody wants to keep hearing your “I’m broke and just barely getting by because they don’t pay me enough” talk, yet you’re driving a new car, eating out, constantly getting new clothes/AmazonPrime packages and texting your money problems on the latest IPhone. (sorry for being a little harsh..but seriously..someone had to say it)

Tip 3-Speaking of planning..plan for the unexpected. I’m talking about having enough in your savings to cover a bigger item, like a new transmission, your HVAC suddenly breaking down, your car insurance deductible from an accident, or taking your dog to the vet after they ate something crazy again. I don’t have time to get into details here on what’s considered unexpected, but if you have to ask if it’s an emergency..it’s not. Also, stuff that is recurring, like personal property taxes or Christmas gifts are NOT unexpected. You knew all damn year they were coming up..you should have separate money you’re putting back to plan for these annual recurring expenses.

Tip 4-Check for trends and opportunities. For example, if you are noticing a large chunk of your money is going towards gas, then it might be time to explore a more fuel efficient ride. If you are spending over $100 each time you hit up Target, then it might be time to keep your ass out the store. Luckily, there are other ways to shop now, including carryout or delivery, so that could possibly help keep you to the items you need vs want. Also, if you find yourself doing a great job, like going two weeks without eating out..then celebrate. Rewarding yourself (within reason) for good behavior is a great way to train yourself on new spending habits.

Tip 5-Give yourself a cash allowance. Let’s be honest..little things come up and having some cash on hand is a great way to take care of these little things. For example, if you slept like crap and really NEED a Starbucks latte..go get yourself one. Or the neighbor kid hits you up for buying some Girl Scout cookies, and nobody can say no to those Caramel Delights, nor should they say no. Much like crash diets, budgets don’t work if they are so strict that you feel deprived, week after week, month after month. This will make you more likely to fall off the budgeting bandwagon, so plan to allow a little flexibility sometimes.

Tip 6-Make it easy. Budgeting is a long term wealth building strategy..not a get rich quick scheme..remember that as you set things up. Keep it simple and keep evolving as you and your needs change. Setting up autopay on everything is about as easy as it gets for your fixed expenses. Also, for tracking, I used a paper check register up until last year..lol. BUT it was easy and worked for me. Now I have a word doc that lists out all my recurring expenses, along with an app called Spending that tracks all incoming/outgoing expenses. Don’t get so caught up in trying to figure out the details to a point where you don’t ever start. Any way you track is better than not tracking at all..so get to it already.

You know I am happy to share my tracker if interested and answer questions, so ask away.

My 2020 Vision

When you stop and reflect..only to realize you went through the all the previous decades you’ve been in existence without goals, you decide to make up for lost time by going BIG.  Not that I have ever really gone small at anything ever, but it’s different.  Something about this year reminds me that whatever I think, whatever I envision, and whatever I write down is mine.  I don’t have that “one day” or “maybe next year” or “I wish” or “must be nice” mentality any more.  I know who I am and what I am capable of and create the shit out of some positive energy.  I am not locked and loaded with excuses that “I don’t have time” or I can’t afford it” either.  I know that I have time for the things that I make time for and I am in control of my money and tell it where to go.

Last year was just a tiny taste, a sip of what my life can really be like and I’m back for more.  I have decided that this will be the BEST DECADE EVER!!  I came up with my goals back in December, but since I’m an ever-evolving person..lol..I wanted to give them a few weeks to simmer before I put them out into the world.  I am now ready to share, and I have decided that 20 goals for 2020 is only appropriate.  My list is below and you know the drill..ask me questions and would love to hear your 2020 goals!!

20 SMART GOALS FOR 2020

  1. Get tenants placed in Indy Beauty by 3/1 and cash out refi by 6/20
  2. Use Self Directed IRA to put 25% down on a multi-family by 9/1
  3. Take childless trips to both the beach and the mountains by 11/1 and let the kids plan spring break trip location and agenda
  4. Hike our first mountain
  5. Obtain my real estate license or shadow and do my first wholesale deal by 12/15
  6. Build-up/Maintain 6 months liquid reserves for all rentals owned by 12/1
  7. Set up LLC by 3/1
  8. Acquire next BRRRR deal by 6/1 to be ready to close by 6/21 (or earlier if the deal finds me..lol)
  9. Have private money lending capital self-funded at 10% of goal to be our own bank by 11/1
  10. Max out family HSA contributions by 12/15
  11. Read 25 books this year
  12. Once I hit 10k followers, give away $1,000 to help someone else towards their financial goals
  13. Coach 2-3 people to become debt free and/or get started in real estate by 7/1
  14. Start researching markets for out of state investments to start 2021 off with a bang
  15. Work towards dinner at the table Mon-Thur (on activity free nights) and at least 1 hour screen free family time Fri-Sun
  16. Expand my meditation practice from 15 minutes up to 1 hour
  17. Learn 3 new skills/hobbies, enough to be dangerous..lol
  18. Cashflow new carpet and exterior paint for primary residence
  19. Analyze food budget and meal prep to find areas to improve health and decrease costs
  20. No Spend Year again!!! (clothes, shoes, accessories, purses, makeup, haircuts/dye)

 

 

8 ways to eat out for less

Chipotle is my weakness and I love everything about it..except that it would cost my family around $750 a month if we ate it for dinner every night. 🤑

So we try to limit it to be a once a month treat, and try to find ways to make it even more affordable than it already is. Today, we got 6 servings of food for $16.72!! I also got enough napkins for both of our car glove boxes for the next few months..lol.

But while I was ordering today, I thought about some different ways that you can save money while eating out, no matter what you’re craving.

1. Don’t eat out at all..and if you’re like me and know that not eating out at all is a recipe for disaster, then limit it to once or twice a month and budget for it. (if I don’t eat out at all, then I will fall HARD off the wagon and go on a wildly expensive and unhealthy eating out binge)

2. Eat before hand. Yes you read that right..grab a snack first so you aren’t ordering more than you need or super sizing because you’re starving. Or if you’re eating out for dinner, make sure you had a good lunch that day.

3. Does everyone really need a meal or at minimum..their OWN meal? Likely not, so do like we do and make quesadillas at home for the kids and let them eat a little guacamole and chips as a side or you can share an order of food also.

4. Much like the previous tip, the portion sizes are ridiculous these days and WAY more than one person needs in one sitting. I ask for extra rice because it’s free, and I can make 3 meals out of one bowl.

5. Find some add ins or sides from home. We usually do chips from home and add some carrots and grapes for sides. Or if you’re ordering a pizza, skip the breadsticks and make a salad at home with it instead.

6. Look for promotions! Chipotle was doing BOGO for wearing a youth soccer jersey this weekend, so I dressed my soccer star in his and got a free bowl for it. I know Chick-Fil-A does similar dress like a cow promotions. This makes it fun also, because you can dress ridiculous and get some crazy second looks from people.

7. Join the rewards program. Don’t get me wrong..don’t use the rewards program as an excuse to eat out all the time, but if you can earn a free entree down the road for when you do plan to order, then take full advantage of that. If you’re like me and get excited and forget, Chipotle has a way to upload receipts afterwards. (as long as you do it within 30 days of ordering)

8. Do carry out. If you dine in, you are more likely to get pressured into adding on drinks, appetizers, and desserts that you don’t need. Also, you will need to add a minimum of a 20% tip, and tipping is also something you have to do for delivery. So avoid it and go grab your food and take it to the park or take it home to eat. Save the fancy sit down meals for extra special occasions, like an anniversary or birthday.

Those are some of my secrets to saving money while still getting your favorite fast food fix. What are some ways you save when eating out?!

Final Food Prep Post

Last one guys..I swear. I didn’t want to overwhelm you with a bazillion in one long post, so this will be my third and final on my food prep containers.

The kids tested these warming bad boys out and said their macaroni stayed warm for the four hours until lunch..once again Karen..move along if you don’t like what we’re eating over here. They even have an adorable built in spoon that we will enjoy exactly one more time before it gets lost. 😜


And my fave is this little personal salad buffet. I mean..you can put ALL THE TOPPINGS..and the DRESSING even. Refer back to my previous post about how all the food shouldn’t be touching until I’m ready for it to touch. It’s also a step further than my weird quirks, since it helps stuff stay fresh. I asked my husband for his review..a man of many words said “I liked it”. And there you have it folks. The best review he’s ever given. 🤷‍♀️🥗

Last but not least..the full lineup that is setting me up for years to come, including my reusable snack bags and salad dressing/dip containers-with links below. Let me know if you have any personal favorites for meal prep!!

Reusable snack bags: (not my exact ones because they no longer sell, but similar)
 

Salad dressing cups:

Where’s me lucky charms 🍀

Another of my go to food prep containers and I have a few more to bring your way in the next few weeks. This is another amazingly easy container for making breakfast for breakfast or breakfast for lunch. I know I know..cereal has sugar..and also I don’t care. Look Karen..If you don’t like what we’re eating over here, then don’t sit by us at the lunch table. 🤷‍♀️

I’m not telling anyone to eat cereal every day for a meal..so lighten up a little and think of it as a treat once in a while. This container would also be great for oatmeal/granola or yogurt/berries, or rice/beans, or soup/crackers..the possibilities are endless honestly. It even has built in ice pack and is microwave safe. Basically great for anything you want to be separated at one point in time, but then mixed together at a later time to form a delicious meal. 🥣

If you want to be like me and not be like Karen..then follow the link below..and go get you some cereal and milk in bulk at Costco. 😉

The Best Meal Prep Items

With back to school upon us, along with another year of back to work (after a weekend off..lol), I thought I would share some of the containers that I absolutely love!! If you are trying to stop eating out as much, whether it’s to save money, eat healthier, to simplify your life, or whatever your reason, the right containers can set you up for success! It took me under thirty minutes to prep lunches for myself and my five and ten year old for the upcoming week. With the amount of time it takes to run out and grab lunch, along with the cost, I expect to save over $2,600 dollars for me, $1,000 for kids and 7,000 hours of my time. (15 mins each way to grab a $10 lunch x 5 days a week and kids school lunch at $2.50 a lunch x two kids)

The first and absolute favorite is what I refer to as the “food tackle bait” containers. These bad boys are perfect for bento box snacky type lunches, since they have containers perfect for people like me who get weirded out by their food touching. 😂. Also for non-food touching weirdos..it’s still nice to keep things separated and fresh so you can prep in advance. You see modeled here in the back containers with hummus/crackers, guacamole/chips and strawberries, carrots and almonds. Perfectly balanced. 👌🏼 The front container is another awesome one for those of you who like sandwiches of any variety. 🥪 Seen modeled below in the front with an English muffin, peanut butter, celery, apple slices, and pretzel twists, all of which I’m fully prepared to dip in peanut butter. 😋

You guys..I’ve tried a LOT of meal prep containers, and these are hands down the best bang for your buck.  My old ones were cheaper, but they also were cheaper quality and cracked and broke in under two years.  These are heavy duty and also have more space for food.  I’m so excited and I don’t get excited over much, so if you are just as excited and ready to set yourself up for meal prep success, links below to each item.  Follow me for more upcoming posts on ways to simplify your life and save money and your health in the process!

Let me know what you think of these containers and what you plan to do with all that saved time and money!!

Food tackle box container (Please note this is a different but better option as mine are currently unavailable):

 

Sandwich container:

My biggest Food Prep Secret

I am imagining all of my readers frantically clicking the full blog post in hopes of getting access to my deepest darkest most complex food prepping tips. You are about to get this very detailed document that tells you step by step what ingredients you need and these fancy but easy recipes to use said ingredients.

I hate to disappoint, but please note my blog is titled “my semi basic life” and my tag line is in regards to my imperfect journey. That being said, I do still think what I’m about to tell you is going to change your life, or at least change how you think about food prep and meals.

It’s one basic word..and you are probably familiar with it..SNACKS. I literally make it rain with snacks at my house and at work. I keep both a dry snacks bowl and a “snack drawer” in my home and work fridge. I keep a list of healthyish snacks I like and try to rotate here and there. Sometimes I surprise my coworkers with a fruit smiley face on my desk.

I try and make sure on Monday that I bring enough snacks to get me through the week (along with lunches). A glimpse into a typical day of snack life includes usually a protein, a fruit, a veggie, and sometimes a crunchy afternoon “I’m still hungry don’t want to take it out on my family and can’t make it until dinner snack”.

If I don’t have snacks, I am 10x more likely to eat out for lunch or overeat, or potentially snap at my coworker Rodney for absolutely no reason. (Made up stat, but you get what I’m saying) So my snack game is strong and it makes life easier for us all. It’s also better for us to eat every few hours instead of 3 ginormous meals.

Also, stop getting so tied up in “meal prepping” and focus more on “snacks prepping”. Pro tip: Snacks can double as meals when combined in many random combinations. Pro Pro tip: Snacks often pair nicely with wine. Pro Pro Pro tip: The kids can help at pretty much any age with snack prepping.

Snacks got your back, and have saved my a$$ several times when everyone had somewhere to be and I didn’t want to end up in a drive thru window. One of my kids favorite dinners is literally random snacks thrown into an ice cube tray. Seriously..nobody cares about meals, or at least my kids don’t. 🤷‍♀️

So go get you some snacks..put them everywhere. Your home, car, work, purse (but don’t forget about purse snacks and end up with crumbled cereal bars, or a smashed kiwi or moldy string cheese like I’ve done). Build your own snack city that you are the president of the snack pack. Pack yo snacks.

Food Prep for the lazy

I wake up bright and early on Saturday, put on an apron and a smile on my face and get to cooking (just kidding..I don’t really cook unless my husband leaves me to keep myself and the children alive due to work or football, and even then the extent is scrambled eggs and toast). I also loathe people that enjoy spending their whole Saturday cooking 30 freezer crock pot meals (happy for you with your food prep game being that strong, but that is definitely NOT my idea of fun or easy).

I will be honest..wintertime is the lamest season ever, and I’m too tired and unmotivated to food prep. But apparently our bodies still require food. So..I continue to do it. I also do it for the sake of my moneys, and I guess our health is also up there as a major reason why I food prep.

I usually try to avoid prepackaged and processed items because of health and motha earth, but sometimes I just have to do what gets us by. It’s busy for us right now, with both of us working and both kids in activities that consume all of our waking hours. This will NOT work for us if there’s too much involved, and we will end up in line at Chipotle ready to shove our faces with 1,000 calorie bowls of goodness that cost us $9 a pop.

So stay with me from the beginning. I have been prepping for years now and just know now how much we go through, what makes my children literally throw up at the dinner table (RIP crab cakes), and what is going to die a slow, moldy death before even being consumed. I’ve also gotten pretty quick with weekend prepping now and usually even get a little help from the family. I do have to plan for meat eaters, a pescatarian and a vegetarian, which can get complicated at times, but we always figure it out.

As you may already know, I get my groceries online and spend about 30 minutes per week writing my list, filling in the dinner calendar, and sitting on the couch ordering. HyVee is great about saving all of my past purchases so I can quickly shop my frequent items. I spend $100ish dollars a week for my family of four, and have groceries delivered every Friday. I also spend roughly $40-$60 a month at Costco for our eggs, milk, almonds, etc. So a total of around $450 a month, and on good months, we will eat out maybe once and get ice cream another time, so that’s around $50ish additional. Remember my post about budgeting, where we used to spend around $400 a month just on eating out? We’ve come a LONG way from those days.

Here’s a glimpse into what we will be eating this week (this doesn’t include the dinner stuff). There will be more on the topic, but just wanted to share how much total I spend a month and a few of my winter busy prep ingredients. This may be a good way to ease yourself into food prep if you’ve been wanting to try it but not sure where to start. A lot of these items are just grab and go. I try not to waste my time with food that doesn’t have a lot to offer in the nutrition department, because these items usually don’t even fill you up, and have a higher price tag (I will ALWAYS love you Doritos and Oreos and such, we just can’t be together any longer).

Have you been keeping track of your receipts and how much you’re spending and on what? Curious how much others spend and any tips you have to share? I think the biggest tip I can give to get started..is literally that…JUST GET STARTED. Grab a paper and pen and come up with one meal a day, or one day a week or whatever you want, and come up with your plan. Don’t over complicate things by planning elaborate meals with a bazillion minutes needed to prep a ton of ingredients.

A sample day for me looks like this:

7 a.m. vegan protein shake mixed with almond milk

9 a.m. banana or apple

11 a.m. string cheese

1 p.m. cup of brown rice, 1/2 a smoked salmon packet and 1/2 a steamers bag of broccoli (I don’t even really like broccoli, but I eat it anyway 🥦)

3 p.m. quinoa crackers

6 p.m. tilapia, couscous and Caesar salad

8 p.m. wine or ice cream..or both

Your scale, overall health, and your wallet will thank you for getting started I promise!

(see below a sample super fancy grocery list and even fancier menu of dinners for the month)

Grocery Getter

As I’m sitting here in my living room prepping for my afternoon nap (some outgrow nap time, but I’m not one of them), I’m contemplating the gazillion inches of snow outside and wondering what the aisles of the grocery store are looking like right about now. 🤔

Since everyone suddenly realizes they need bread, eggs, and milk because the roads are snow covered for a day, I’m imagining empty shelves and I’m sure there were some super fun lines leading up to this snow storm. I won’t know because I won’t go..to the grocery store that is. Not because I’m some sort of grocery store snob or some homesteader who’s growing all my own food (I wish I was, but nothing living has survived my care longer than 3 days..besides the kids and dogs..and that’s touch and go at times).

You won’t catch me at the store because I found a different way. It has literally changed my life in so many ways. Apparently there’s people out there who LIKE to shop for groceries and will do it for you. After they navigate the aisles and aisles of peanut butter and produce, they even LIKE to bring it to you. And they like to do it may be a strong word, but they’re doing it, and best part..it’s FREE. What?! Sign me up for that s&@!!

I use HyVee aisles online and as long as I spend $100, you heard me right..it’s free for someone else to get my groceries and deliver them right into my kitchen. This saves me about 2 hours per week that I can spend with my family that I didn’t have before. This saves me money because I don’t get the opportunity for my YOLO attitude to pop in and convince me I NEED Doritos. This improves my health because see above about Doritos not being put in the cart, not stressed about getting groceries, allows time for me to exercise, increases my mood, etc. This saves my sanity so you don’t see me and/or my kids crying in the cereal aisle because grocery shopping is “so much fun”.

If you don’t have HyVee around you, check out your other options. I have some friends using Aldi for delivery and I know several others will shop/deliver, or at least shop and let you pick up. Obviously I will have lots more to say on finances and food, but as I’m enjoying my lazy Saturday after food prepping this morning, I thought I would share this quick and easy tip. 😎