Meal Plans

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When we don’t have a meal plan, food costs more.

Our regular plan is to build a menu for the week and go to the grocery store on Sunday.  This allows planning, instead of scrambling for a a meal after work each night.   It also give us a chance to plan for leftovers so we have something to eat for lunch at work.

We work until about 5 every weekday.   When we don’t have the meal planned, it’s usually chicken nuggets or hamburger helper for dinner.   Not only is that repetitive, but it’s not terribly healthy.  It is, however, convenient.   If we plan for it, we can get the ingredients ready the night before and know what we are doing when we get home, instead of trying to think about it after a long day of work.

If we don’t plan for leftovers, we tend to make the right amount of food for the family.   When this happens, there’s nothing to bring to work the next day, which means I’ll be hungry about lunchtime with nothing I can do about it except buy something. Buying lunch is never cheaper than making it.   I can get a sandwich at Subway for $5, but I could make a sandwich just as tasty and filling for less than half of that, using money that is meant to be used for food.   All during wrestling season, we make 30-inch sandwiches on meet nights for a cost of about $5, feeding ourselves and at least a couple of others who didn’t have time to make their dinner before the 5:30 meet.

No leftovers also means no Free Soup, which is a wonderful low-maintenance meal that leaves everybody full.  Nobody ever gets bored of Free Soup.  (Hint:  Don’t ever put a piece of fish in the Free Soup, or the flavor will take over the entire meal.)

Unhealthy, repetitive food for dinner.  Over-priced, low-to-middle-quality food for lunch.

OR

We plan our meals right and have inexpensive, healthy food that doesn’t get boring for every meal.

It seems to be a no-brainer.   Except, I don’t have lunch today because we didn’t plan our meals and used the last of the leftover hamburger helper for dinner last night.

Update:  This post has been included in the Carnival of Personal Finance.

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Effen Carpets, Effen Pets

We’ve got pets.  Lots of pets.

Chinese Food in Minutes

Chinese Food in Minutes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • 4 cats
  • 3 kids
  • 2 pythons
  • 1 dog
  • 1 hamster

And yours truly.

I count, I make a good mess.

Pets have hair.  Well, except for the python and the horrible abominations of mis-evolved Chinese food known as bald cats.

Pet hair gets every-damn-where.

A few weeks ago, we watched our friend’s dogs for a few days.

Those things pee.   Not in the backyard like good dogs, but on the girls’ bedroom carpet.

I hate pee.

Not my own, of course.

I really, really hate animal pee in my house.

So we got the carpets cleaned.   Linda told me it would be a bit more than normal, since we were going to get the air ducts cleaned at the same time.  I was fine with that.  Animal hair gets everywhere, and in the ducts, it makes the furnace and air conditioner work poorly.

Then, I got an email alert from Capital One.

Seven hundred freaking dollars!

That’s about $400 more than I was expecting.

Not flipping thrilled!  < —-Understatement.

Thankfully, we have money tucked aside for crap like this, but if stuff keeps coming up, we’re going to be hosed.

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Paying for Rat

I’m cheap.  I don’t even consider myself to be frugal.  I’m cheap.  A few days ago, I spent my entire year’s Halloween budget–on November 1st–so I could store my new treasures

Rats in a jar

Rats in a jar (Photo credit: liftarn)

for an entire year before using them, just to save $145.

However, there are some things that just aren’t worth going cheap.

When I first moved out on my own, a good friend walked me through the mistake of buying cheap cheese.   A slice of the generic oil-and-water that some stores pass off as cheese will not cure a sandwich made from Grade D bologna.

That advice got me through some less horrible meals when I was younger.

Now, I’ve expanded the crappy cheese rule to extend to any meal I pay someone else to prepare.   While I do occasionally hit a fast food restaurant when I’m traveling, I almost never do so any other time.    I enjoy sitting down for a nice meal in a nice atmosphere while friendly people cater to my every whim.   Well, almost every whim.

I’m not saying I go to $100 per plate steak houses every week, but I’m certainly not afraid to drop $20-$30 per meal.

My reasoning is simple:  anything I can buy at a fast food restaurant or a cheap restaurant, I can make better at home for less.   Why would I pay good money to sit at a sticky table and eat food that won’t let me forget it for 3 days?

If I’m going to spend the money, I’m going to eat something I either can’t make at home, or can’t make as well.  Chinese food is one example.  I can make it at home, but I don’t stock the ingredients, and I don’t enjoy the preparation, so I go out for it.   Cheap Chinese food tends to be worse than anything else I’ve eaten, so I spring for good food.   Cheap rat isn’t good rat.

How about you?  What are you willing to pay full price for?

 


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Resolutions That Don’t Suck

a beautiful macro shot of Crystal Methamphetam...

a beautiful macro shot of Crystal Methamphetamine in a black background (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions.  Generally speaking, if you don’t have the willpower to do something any other time of the year, you probably won’t grow that willpower just because the last number on the calendar changed.

Seriously, if you’ve got something worth changing, change it right away, don’t wait for a special day.

That said, this is the time of the year that many people choose to try to improve…something.   Some people try to lose weight, other people quit shooting meth into their eyeballs, yet others(the ones I’m going to talk about) decide it’s time to get out of debt.

Now most people are going to throw out some huge and worthless goals like:

  • I need to lose some weight.
  • I need to save more.
  • I need to be a better person.
  • I need to shoot less meth into my eyeball.

The problem with goals like that is the definitions.  What is “some”, “more”, “better”, or “less”?  How do you know when you’ve won.

It’s better to take on smaller goals that have real definitions.

Try these:

  • I’m going to lose 20 pounds.
  • I’m going to save $1200.
  • I need to stop locking my children in the closet when I go to the movies.
  • I am never ever going to shoot meth into my eyeball again.

But Jason, I hear you saying, where am I going to find $1000 to save?  Well, Dear Reader, I’m glad you asked.  Next time though, could you ask in a way that others can hear so my wife doesn’t feel the need to call the nice men in the white coats again?

Let’s break that goal down even further.

Instead of saving $1200, let’s call it $100 per month.  That’s a bite-sized goal.  Some people don’t even have that to spare, so what can they do?

Let’s make that resolution something like “I’m going to have frozen pizza instead of my regular weekly delivery.”  If your house is anything like mine, that brings a $60 pizza bill down to $15 for some good frozen pizza for a savings of $45.  If you order pizza once a week, that’s $180 saved each month, double your goal.  That’s a win with very little suffering.

Now, you can take that extra $80 that you hadn’t even planned for and throw it at your credit cards.   That’s a free payment every month.  Before you know it, you’ll have your cards paid off and a decent savings account.

Then you can thank me because I made it all possible.

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