The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

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Sunday, 27 August 2017

Pantries and Preparedness. Laines Menu Planning.

First of all thank you to everyone for praying for Kelsey in Texas.  Her husband is home, they are all safe and the house is without damage! She said thank you all so much so is so grateful and very tired!

This week I want to get started with a series on menu planning.  Laine got me going on this in an earlier post when she was talking about how she is learning from The Fundamental Home how to menu plan.
Now I have kind of menu planned most of my life.  I always know what we will be having for dinner and usually a few days ahead at least.  When I am organised I have a weeks plan written up.  And usually I have a back up plan.  But what Laine is talking about is far beyond that.  And it opens up a whole new world of savings!  We are kind of on this journey together as she is new to it too and ahead of me.  This is something that will potentially cut your costs, build your pantry and help you get ahead in many ways.



I began watching The Fundamental Home on you tube and reading as much as I can as well.
This is how Laine introduced the subject to me and it was in reply to asking what new things she might be doing since the days of the original Laine's Letters...


I am still practicing the same things and always trying to learn more. I am trying to implement Amanda at The Fundamental Home's food shopping and menu planning to cut my food bill in half...that is my goal. I am so new at menu planning so this is a new practice for me. Lucy got a big white board for her birthday like the one Amanda uses in her grocery hauls, so we are writing down our savings and menu plan on it like she does. Lucy watches her with me, so she loves that we are doing the same. I can't save as much as Amanda does because I buy mostly all organic vegetables and fruits, grass fed beef, wild caught fish, organic chicken and eggs, etc. But she has sure inspired me! This week I actually cut my grocery bill in half with a menu plan for the week. It was amazing. I went to three stores and the farmers market. My first meal last night for the meal plan was fish chowder which Lucy and Art loved. I am also implementing an entertainment fund like she does, and a budget for toiletries every two weeks like she does. I am so excited to try this. I am speaking in September at our church on growing kids healthy on a budget, so I hope to share what I learn in our town. If it works, I estimate that I can save $140 a month in groceries, have an entertainment fund which we never had before, so a total savings of $1680 a year! I have to get used to the menu planning, which I have never done my whole marriage, but I keep hearing you can save so much this way. I am trying it! It will take me quite a few weeks to learn if this will work for us, but I love saving money while producing healthy meals.

Each letter we have discussed this further... there are tips in here that I want to include....


I have never menu planned in my life, and I thought it wouldn't work for me. But I have nine meals planned ahead right now, and I must say it is pretty awesome. I like your idea of using things up in the fridge. For the past two weeks I have saved almost half on my grocery bill, $20 every two weeks for toiletries, added in an entertainment fund (like Amanda does), and I am still saving $80 a month! (Plus I am still eating organic and healthy. )  I did have to shop 6 stores to realize my savings both weeks, but I look at it as my "savings business" in my home. I had thought I could save more a month, and maybe I will as I get used to this new way, but for now this is where my savings are at. It's really exciting! I am trying to stay one week ahead in my meal planning.

And then here Laine wrote up her tips for us that she has gathered so far...



I have implemented Amanda's saving tactics on my food shopping for 4 weeks now, and I have cut my grocery in half! I am teaching Abbie how to do it as well, and she has gone with me the last two weeks and is saving too! She is pretty excited. My daughter in law called last night and wanted to learn as well. I love menu planning when you get home with your stock, it's so much fun. I also love being a week ahead as I know if I got sick, I have food for the following week. I go to 5 stores to realize this savings, but it is so worth it. I go early in the morning on Monday to get the mark downs on meat, and I am done in about 2 hours. So it doesn't take too much time, and the savings are so good. Here are some of my tips on managing this new system:

1- I keep a notebook with how much I spend at each store and my menu plan. It really makes me feel good to see my savings on paper. It's my little business. πŸ™‚ And I pray to get better and better at it.

2- Once I have four weeks notated in my notebook, I calculate how much each meal cost us per person. This is really exciting, and I feel like a chef/owner running a restaurant. There is no where we could eat this healthy for the price we are paying, and that motivates me even more! 

3- I also keep a running list of my expenditures on toiletries, paper products, and cleaning products in the same notebook. This is a separate budget like Amanda does at The Fundamental Home.

4- I check off the meals in my menu plan as I make them. It also helps me to know what we've eaten in the past few weeks so that I can switch things up a bit and add variety to our dining.

5- I try to have fish, turkey, chicken, and beef in one week's rotation. Sometimes lamb too. Last night we had beef stew, tonight we are having chicken oregano, and tomorrow a fish chowder. 

6- I shop one week in advance, so it helps me to look at my menu plan to know what meat to pull out of the freezer for that evening's meal, or for several meals ahead.

7- I shop early on Monday morning to look for savings on marked down meat, and I shop about 5 stores, pretty much all in a row. So all my food shopping is done in about 2 hours. If I do not have enough produce, I go to my Farmers Market, which is just down the street from me, on Thursday in my town.


I was just sharing with Abbie yesterday a few more things I have learned from Amanda. One is to always go shopping even though your pantry is full. You are consistently building your stock. Also if there is a good deal on meat, use some of your toiletries/paper/ cleaning supply budget. I keep watching her and learning. I am having so much fun with this new budget.  My husband is thrilled at my savings.



Something I note is that all our brains are wired differently!  Sometimes things have to click with us and suddenly we will SEE something we didn't see before.  This is how it has been for me.

These are the steps I have been through so far and some of the results....

First of all I made a list of all my meals in the freezer.  Some are ready to make and others are things I have all the components for. 
Then I made a list of all the meals I can make from the pantry with what I currently have.
I have not included emergency type meals... i.e. I could cook up pasta and dream up all kinds of emergency things to get us through.  I have just counted what I consider regular meals that I have on hand. 



Then I went through the fridge to see what meals I have plus what I need to use up. 

The first thing I noticed is that I did not need to buy anything for the week except for milk and some fresh veggies.  Nothing.  
Seeing my list of meals written up and posted on the fridge I can see what I have.  I really need nothing. Somehow I never realised before how much I have and that I really don't NEED anything.   So shopping is only to see what really good deals I can find and nothing else.  

With the help of catalogues or one of my across town shopping trips, Aldi and the various discount places I have found I just buy the most amazing deals.  I had to really change my shopping to find the deals.  I wasn't seeing them before.  Mostly the big deals I find are not in supermarkets.  I don't need anything else and I keep reminding myself of that.  Being ahead I can be really choosy about the deals I buy.



This for me means things are really different to six months ago.  Instead of heading off to the supermarket I am prepared to go to six or more places for the best deals.  I will do them in groups depending on where I am and what I am doing so I am not travelling around in circles.  I might only get one really good deal in any place, it might be their loss leader that is their one big special to get people through the door! 



At home with my buys I write up my current meals. I work out what I can make with the deals I have found plus what I already have on hand.   I aim to have at least seven meals for the week written up.  On the right hand side I have a list of all the spare meals I have that are in the freezer and pantry.  
The first meals on the list will be using things that need to be used up.  And the fresh things I do not want to freeze. 
Then the list will go to what I will make next. 
If I freeze something I add it to my list on the right. (my spare meals list)
And I have a tally of my meal count as I like to see that go up and currently it is 27. 
(The first weeks it was lower and it is gradually growing!)
It becomes kind of a game to find a way to add a meal to the list.  Sometimes it is by having left overs or finding a way to stretch a meal into two meals.   Some nights Andy has had one thing and I have had another as there is one serve of something left over. 
Each week I try to use at least one freezer meal to keep those rotating and I will do that on a busy night or when I am tired.



The biggest thing that clicked for me is that I now do not have to buy anything unless it is a major bargain.  I am free from having to buy anything just because I need to think of something and fast!   In reality I was already there but I just didn't realise until I saw it all on paper and then the penny dropped!

Last week I found beef, potatoes and tomatoes at great prices.  These are really the only things I bought except milk, carrots and broccoli.  
The beef added many meals to my list as well as became three meals on the immediate plan for the week.  Then from one of these meals  (Beef stew) I got three more meals in the form of beef and vegetable pies.  This gave me two more meals for my reserve list as they went into the freezer.  My list grew again!

I have another spot that I write down any key ingredients I have that are potential meals.  This is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle.  i.e. I had Haloumi.   So when I could I got a small amount of lamb and then I had a complete meal to write into my current meal plan.  Lamb, Haloumi, beetroot and salad was our meal.   Many times we only need one item or a couple of small things to complete the jigsaw and end up with another meal on our list.  I think SNAP! I have a meal! 
I move the Haloumi from potential meals into the weeks plan.   
It really inspires you to get creative! 




The next aspect is to consider your week and your plans when writing up your meal plan.  While I have a roast to have I will not plan that when I know I will be out most of the day.  My meal plan for those days will usually be something that goes into the crockpot in the morning or something super fast and easy.   You have to line up your meals with your life so it is realistic.  It is ok to swap meals on your list too if something comes up.  To be honest if the wheels fall off the day then a toasted cheese sandwich is ok! 

It was an effort to get started and know what I have and to get into the swing of it.  But now it takes only a few minutes a week.   
Being ahead with meals and only buying the best specials is the most amazing saving.  I can just say no to all the ridiculous prices I see and move on! What a better position to be in!

Of course each thing we can learn to make ourselves is another thing we can remove from the shopping list. So the shopping list goes down and down.    One of my latest things is making yoghurt. While the shopping list is reduced the list of new things I can make is increased i.e. tatziti, cheesecake, dips, dressings, toppings, deserts, smoothies...

Anything we have available to us can also further reduce the shopping list. I have parsley, lemons, rosemary, bay leaves, thyme, oregano and spinach... (currently) so I google a multitude of things I can possibly make with these and add them to my meal list.  Since I have been given so many lemons I have made lemon butter, lemon cake, lemon and yoghurt cake,  lemon with chicken and fish. 



As Laine said it is like a game and also like running a business.  Restaurants do not waste anything. If they did they would not make a profit!  So you are aways looking at what you have, what needs using up and thinking of what can you make from it?  Everything is used.  The days of finding "past it"  ingredients in the bottom of the fridge are truly over.  

I do not plan breakfasts and lunches but some people do. We always have the same breakfast and lunches are usually left overs of some kind.  So I only really need to plan dinners. 

This week is like Laine said... I don't really need anything.  I still shop as many big specials are weekly and my aim is to keep ahead so I still do not need to ever buy anything at full price.  Also this builds up the pantry really well.  I am just keeping ahead since I have twenty seven meals on my list now.   My time instead is spent finding a few amazing deals and ignoring the rest.

You might already do this and be far ahead than me.  Please share any of your tips on this!  Most of us are on the look out for ways to save on food, eat healthy and reduce waste.  Wherever we live food prices seem to have risen and this is an area of potential great savings that we really need. 
Once you are a couple of weeks ahead with meals you can really just laugh at normal food prices and just buy the amazing deals.  It is wonderful. And it is fun as you feel like you are winning rather than being forced to buy terrible prices!  

To get started list everything you have and try to get ahead one meal at a time. Once you are ahead by a couple of weeks you are set!  And if you are sick or something goes wrong with a pay or some other problem you can menu plan and eat from what you already have. What an advantage!  

I hope you have a good week! I know I have a big September ahead as our insurance money finally came and the floors will go ahead.  So September will be renovating, spring cleaning, re arranging the kitchen and lounge room and setting up my spice cupboard... and putting in my herb garden. And other stuff no doubt!  
Lets finish off August first! xxx




67 comments:

  1. Sorry about the different sizes of type etc. it is driving me crazy!

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  2. Yes! Exactly how I have done it for years and years. I really like that if I cannot get to the store we are still eating just like always. I saw people on the news in Texas tonight who are waiting in long lines at grocery stores hoping to be able to buy any kind of food. They were saying that they did not expect the hurricane to last so long! It could be weeks before they have food available in regular supply!

    Since my husband has been home all this year I have started making a lunch plan because it helps me to remember to prep things like sandwich fillings. It also allows me to see when I need to make bread since I make it one loaf at a time in the machine. When it was just me here in the daytime I would eat whatever I could find that needed to go. Now I use those things more creatively by thinking ahead. Even a few days helps.

    I do my menus on a wall calendar. I do at least two weeks at a time and sometimes the entire month. If I do not use a meal I circle it so that I can easily see them. The next time I make menus I just move those down to begin planning. I save last years' calendar when I start a new year and it is very valuable to be able to look back at the month I am planning from last year since so many meals are seasonal. It is our habit to check the menu every night after supper and get the next days foods into the refrigerator to thaw. Right now I am over run with cherry tomatoes from the garden so they are figuring into many meals. With Lidl coming to town grocery prices are down all over town and I am really benefiting by being able to well stock my pantry and freezers. This cannot last so I need to take advantage of it while I can.

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    1. Dear Lana, You have a wonderful system. And I am taking note of your circling of any unused meals. Also I love what you say... if you cannot shop for whatever reason the meals go on the same. I saw too the flooding in Texas. I would assume trucks and transport will not be getting to some areas for quite a while... which means empty shelves even if they are not flooded.
      And it is really good to strike while the prices are dropped due to this new store! With luck Lidl will also have some fantastic opening specials! Taking advantage of times like these is so good. The pantry benefits and so does your system.
      Today I went to the store as I usually do on a Monday. The post office is right next door and I had a bill to pay. I was not shopping from a list except for milk. So instead my time was spent just looking. Lo and behold I found bacon, salmon and pepperoni for 80% off. This is about the tightest percent off I have seen. For $2 I had a slab of salmon for Andy... and another... and three packets of bacon that went into the freezer. It was fantastic! Now I can meal plan around these! So it was really a good shop!
      Thank you for your tips, you will have to tell me what Lidl is like too when it opens! With love, Annabel.xxx

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    2. What wonderful finds! Lidl has opened here and I have found that prices other than those that are on sale are 20 to 30 cents more on everyday items that I would purchase. Those little bits really add up! Lidl has so many products that is was overwhelming to me. Their produce was more than Aldi and not near as fresh. Groceries come down a belt after they are checked out and you have to bag your own and quickly as they are coming at you on that belt. I need to go back and take another look because it was madness there the week they opened. My daughter likes things like curry sauces that they carry but to me that is a huge hit to the budget when I could season and make a sauce on my own.

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  3. Great post, thank you! I am going to get paper out tonight and start working on the plan.

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    1. Dear Hilogene,
      I hope you can come up with a good list of meals and also potential or almost meals! It doesnt take many to feel ahead enough to be able to shop for amazing deals only. I had so much luck today! So I am getting better at it and into the swing of things! With love, Annabel.xxx

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  4. Annabel, wonderful post. It is just my husband and I (married 23 years now) and I have menu planned for over 10 of those. I always have a two week menu prepared. One thing I do, is look at different ways to use up perishables. For example, cabbage. When I buy it on sale I look for the largest one. I cook cabbage and polish sausage together and serve with rice one night, a couple of nights later we have steamed cabbage with other vegetables for our veggie night, then with what is left over I make freezer slaw. That way none of it is wasted and we don't eat the same dish twice in two weeks (except for leftovers, which we love). Another would be flat tortilla's that I purchase at our Dollar Tree. I have five or six ways to use them up before they go bad. I am still learning and that is what I love your blog, Patsy's Working Pantry and others that are such a wealth of information. Thank You. Cindy from Alabama

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    1. Dear Cindy,
      I love your planning to use something up in several ways. Also that you select the largest cabbage. Many things here are sold as EACH rather than weight. And the sizes can vary quite a bit. Also usually there are scales you can weigh things on. I do the same and have a good look for the biggest and best one!
      Thank you for the kind compliment which it is to put my alongside Patsy! I think we all encourage each other. There is a lot to learn and its so much fun going along with someone else. With thanks, Annabel.xxx

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  5. Dear Annabelle, I found your blog late last hear and have read all the posts and comments and I am now up to date.
    I have been menu planning for a fair while now and I love it. I am today doing up September's menu, as I do a monthly menu. I know what is in my freezers, fridge and pantry and plan from there, My shopping list is mainly replacing what we have used up in the previous month and anything extra that I need for this month's menu.
    We are fortunate that we have worked hard and have our own beef, lamb, pork, chicken and eggs. My garden is very bare at the moment as we are having a lot of extremely heavy frosts, and nothing is growing. the frosts have been that bad were all ruined, so that has added some cost to my grocery spends. I probably shoo very differently to a lot of our readers, as we preserve, dry, freeze etc, and I mainly only buy dairy, nuts, flours, sugars etc.
    Love your blog and the friendly sharing community that you have created here. Looking forward to joining in, if I
    may.
    Cheers

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    1. Welcome Chookas mum , yes please join in . I look forward to seeing more of your comments. You sound very organised with menu planning , well done.
      Love Barb W.

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    2. Welcome Chookasmum so great to see you here :) . We too have been having a time with frosts as well so our garden isn't as productive as we would like either. I am glad I put up extra blanched and frozen vegetables in the freezer to get us through.

      Sewingcreations15

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    3. Thanks Barb W and Sewingcreations15 for the lovely welcome, it's great to finaly be here
      love Chookasmum

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    4. Dear Chookasmum,
      Thank you so much and welcome! You have done good job to read everything as between me and comments that is a big task! I am so glad you are up to the present and going along with us.
      Also thanks for your message which I just added below about Kelsey.
      It is just fantastic that you have meat and eggs. This sets you well ahead. And that you garden and preserve. We have a few ladies who do a lot of preserving such as Glenda, Teri, Patsy, Vickie and many others then we have some who do dehydrating, pickling, fermenting, bread making etc. so it works out well as there its someone to help with just about anything. Plus everyone seems ken to learn how to do the next thing. This year has been a big learning year for me so far as you probably have seen! The main thing is encouragement is good. I hope the frosts are soon finished and that your garden will take off then.
      You sound really well organised with your menu and food budget. This would be saving you such a lot! Thank you so much for posting! With love, Annabel.xxx

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    5. Dear Annabelle,
      thank you for your welcome. Our frosts have been huge this year, for the whole of winter we have only had about 5 frost free nights/mornings, this mornngswas another he one about -12c, it broke an elbow water pipe inside the pig shed.
      I know that we have lost our lemonade tree and probably the orange one as well.
      Husband made the comment that he could be cutting wood in the summer to light the stove and the wood heater, oh well we will see.
      love Cookasmum

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  6. Goodness me, Annabel...what a long post. It must have taken you ages to write up but it was worth the time and effort put into it I am sure as it will help a lot of people. Wouldn't it be wonderful if students, both make and female, were taught these principles at school? Thanks so much for the update on Kelsey and her hubby as I have been praying for God's protection on them.

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    1. Dear Nanna Chel,
      Laine wrote a lot of it so it wasnt too bad. It is a lot of information and I feel like I can type as fast as I can talk. (which is saying something!! lol)
      Many practical things would be good in schools. Life skills are so important. Budgeting, cooking, just the basics would be a start. Many people seem helpless and don't even know where food comes from!
      We can just keep learning! With love Annabel.xxx

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  7. First of all, so grateful to hear Kelsey and family are safe. Secondly, how wonderful to hear from Laine!! I was very excited to hear that Laine follows Amanda at the Fundamental home. I saw Tawra (Living on a dime) on her youtube channel with her the other day, and was so thrilled to see them together!! They have all been such inspirations to me over the years. Here is a link to the article I started with on Amanda's blog. Do follow her youtube channel. I look forward to her weekly bargain shops and other videos she puts up every week!
    http://www.thefundamentalhome.com/how-i-feed-my-family-of-5-for-under-100-every-month-part-1/

    One thing I have gotten into in the past year is menu planning and shopping monthly. I do fill in of fresh items and loss leader half priced restock specials in between, often weekly as mini shops also. Straight in and out though! Any lingering causes me to blow my budget! Cath and Wendy (Cheapskates club in Australia) have gotten me into these new habits by following their wonderful advice on it. (Thanks ladies πŸ˜ƒ)

    It is really interesting reading the methods others employ to reduce our shopping budgets. Thanks everyone! It all helps πŸ˜ƒ Xo

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    1. Dear Kaye, Thank you so much. I went and found the you tube clip with both Amanda and Tawra. Thanks for that! And also for the link. I wrote to Amanda too, to tell her about Laine and Laines Letters and how Laine now follows her!
      This will get a few more ladies watching The Fundamental Home and other clips as most of these are far better than most of what is on tv! With love, Annabel.xxx

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  8. i don't menu plan, am not much of a cook & stick to just a few meals i know will turn out lol atm i'm just eating stews in the slow cooker, they last for almost a week
    i live in the country & that sentence with the "go shopping every week to get the specials" just hit a nerve, that is something i don't do as i'd be wasting fuel, i shop when i need to atm i have friends that go in every week (centrelink) & they pick up things i need, it's never very much, bread is every week; but i do have enough to live on for about a month if i couldn't get any shopping done; we also have community gardens here with plenty of vegies growing too.
    a good post with lots of great tips
    thanx for sharing

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    1. Dear Selina,
      Stews make the most wonderful pie fillings and all you need is some puff pastry. These also freeze so well! When I lived in the country I used to drive an hour to an hour and a half to stock up but the savings were so great they covered the fuel many times over but you certainly have to work out the costs vs the benefits. The best thing is when you have to go someone for some reason that while you are already there you stock up on the good specials. This is a wonderful saving. The community garden sounds amazing the is really handy. Thanks so much! With love Annabel.xxx

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  9. Dear Annabel, well you know I love this topic. I go about things a slightly different way as we are in and out so much in our home just now. So I look at the schedule for the week, then I do a stocktake of fridge and pantry, then I plan the meals. I have a strategy of holding back one ingredient whenever I can in a meal. So if it were your Lamb, Haloumi, Beet salad, we'd have just the Haloumi (which we love) and save the lamb for a different meal...sorry that's just an example, and not a reflection on your utterly delicious sounding dinner...lol! Many recipes you find online call for the most ridiculous number of ingredients and quite often, a third or so, are only for colour or texture, and other things can be used. Also, being gluten free, means that a lot of the easy budget busting meals like pastas and your divine sourdough bread and scones, are off limits, so we lean towards eggs (even organic free range eggs are still cheaper than most meat), home made ricotta, and fresh home grown herbs. You'd be amazed (well YOU wouldn't, but many people would!) at what you can create with just those three ingredients. It's taken us some years to adjust, but we work well even on a tight budget these days. You and Laine, are always an inspiration on this topic. Thankyou! Mimi xxx

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    1. Mimi I'm always telling people eggs are a cheap form of protein but they'll argue with me that they need to use 8 or 10 for a meal - that's still cheaper than the cheapest kilo of mince around here at the moment. Large, organic, free range eggs are between 50c - 60c each here,so much cheaper than meat, especially from the supermarkets.

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    2. I was lucky last week - weight watchers mince was $5-99 a kilo so I decided to do the drive and restock the freezer. My husband would eat eggs at every meal if he had a choice so they are always on hand.

      Mimi I make your impossible pie, it works well using gluten free flour and I can use anything as part of the the recipe. A simple one is egg and bacon - I just dice up some bacon and add it to the mix. Tomorrow it will be spinach and mushroom, I usually have some in the freezer for a quick go to meal or lunch with salad.

      When our daughter was young she was quite ill and when it came to tea time she was usually in bed asleep. Rather than have her wake up at 2 in the morning because she was hungry I would make her an egg flip and the protein of the egg would keep her satisfied until morning. That was when she would have a 3 course meal for breakfast followed by morning tea, lunch and then if I was lucky afternoon tea would be left overs from the night before but often it was just the egg flip.

      Lynette
      XXXX

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    3. Dear Mimi,
      It is actually from you that I learned to think of reserving and ingredient and so often I think of it and do it.... especially with proteins as that is when I seem to get another meal this way. It is a great tip. Many times we can save something over. Or even sometimes just half it and get it into another meal.
      I agree on eggs. And love ricotta.... but back to eggs... there are so many things to make. Laine and her daughter are GF also so she has this same issue as it is sometimes harder to keep the costs down but it can be done. Thank you for your tips! With love Annabel.xxx

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  10. Sounds like an excellent old-time method.

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    1. You are right Laura, it would be pretty much how Nan shopped and topped up what she had in the garden and was given. Her shopping list was always just a few things! xxx

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  11. Annabel I am loving this topic so much, it's very close to my heart; we wouldn't survive without a meal plan to keep the grocery bill down. I do ours for the next year each December, so I'm starting to think about 2018 already. I realised a long, long time ago that we eat pretty much the same things with the occasional new dish, and that I was buying the same groceries each week (back then, before I switched to monthly then yearly shopping). This makes it really easy for me to meal plan ahead, and to write up a shopping list and build a stockpile. I stick to a basic rotating meal plan based on type of protein: Sunday is roast, Monday I alternate fish, vegetarian or leftover roast; Tuesday is always a pasta based dish; Wednesday is usually something spicy and alternates chicken/beef/vegetarian i.e. curry (because Hannah isn't home for dinner and she doesn't like spicy food); Thursday is always MOO pizza and they get their own; Friday alternates between burgers/tacos/stir-fry/haystacks (I do different versions of haystacks) and Saturday is either freezer meals or soup and sandwiches if there are no freezer meals. Breakfasts are either rolled oats, weetbix or ricies during the week, eggs on toast, spaghetti on toast or pancakes at the weekend. Lunches are sandwiches/crackers and soup/sausage rolls/mini quiche/leftovers and these are all made from the leftover ingredients of our main meals so they are virtually free as I have costed the ingredients in main meal cost. And, if a recipe says six serves and I only need five, one is always put into the freezer for a Saturday night. Remembering portion control when meal planning will really help to keep the bill down too. I do the same with fruit - we need 35 serves of fruit a week so I buy/pick 35 serves/pieces, I don't just fill the bag, pay for it and wonder why there is too much or not enough. I rarely buy deli meats but instead cook them myself, including smoked meats and chicken and this saves a fortune for lunches. And lastly, sorry for the long spiel, I plan for snacks, morning and afternoon tea and supper each day too because these can really throw a grocery budget out and cause expensive little shopping trips to pick them up if they're not planned (bought or homemade, doesn't matter, I still plan them). I'm so glad you're resharing Laine's letters, her advice helped me so much way back, I still get her letters out and reread them, and each time I learn something new or remember something I've forgotten :)

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    1. You are so organised Cath!

      Thank you for taking the time to write this out, it is very helpful, and something I can use as a guide :)

      xTania

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    2. Dear Cath, Thanks so much! Thank you for posting how you organise the year and your weekly plan. You plan makes sure there is a variety across the week really well.
      Also your tip to cook something and slice it up to make your own deli meats is really good. Deli meats are mostly really expensive. Cooking up a corned beef or a roast of something on special is much cheaper. Mostly this has been chickens here for us lately and some pork.
      There are some Laines letters that are missing from the payback machine but I have them so I am going to re publish those as she is happy for me to. One is 52 ways they aid off their home and it is the longest of all the letters. Then to have her writing new letters is amazing to me as she sounds just the same as ever but is still learning and still trying new things! It is really fun learning new things together and really not much is different between the US and Aust. (while prices vary most issues are the same!)
      Portion control is a good point. I have hear people say if they cook double with the idea to put a meal aside that it just gets eaten. I set it aside first and out of sight out of mind and then serve the rest. I want that meal or that stew to make a pie or what I planned so it is hidden! :) That is basically a portion control issue.
      Many thanks Cath! With love Annabel.xxx

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  12. As usual, another inspirational post Annabel!

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  13. Hello Annabel and beautiful bluebirds and thank you Annabel for the wonderful tips from Laine as well.

    We are probably similar to Cath in the fact that we buy meat only once a year in bulk and usually buy a hindquarter of beef, a whole lamb from a really cheap wholesale butcher close to home and more often whole chickens when they come on special too and sometimes will alternate with pork too.

    We also top up on specials on anything when we see it on our 6 weekly shopping trips or in between if there is a super special and we are going to town anyway for another errand. Only today I when straightening up our personal care cupboard a huge row of shampoo and conditioner I purchased in January for $1 a bottle on special. Shopping this way does save a fortune over the course of a year and as you say Annabel doesn't force you to pay ridiculous prices because you need something now.

    I did realise that we do meal plan but only a couple of days in advance as we are retired and have more time to do it that way. The beautiful thing about building up a good pantry, having full freezers and fridges and a good garden where we freeze our excess vegetables is that you can cook whatever you want when you want. Although I will say it has taken us some time to get to this stage on limited pension incomes. Another small problem is that our freezers are so full that we can't usually fit any extra meals in there, although now there is a bit of space we may indeed start doing that.

    Sewingcreations15

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    1. Dear Sewingcreations, You are already doing so well with this! The meat is fantastic. And I love your shampoo supply! That is the way to do it.
      One thing I am doing is using something from the freezer every week that will give me space should I find another really good buy. I have had the handy advantage that I can stash things in my Mums freezer if desperate. Yesterday I got packets of bacon for $2 so luckily I had room for these!
      Of course planning to use up and or preserve produce is a priority too so everything gets used. You are doing a lot of things that are saving a fortune! Well done! With lots of love Annabel.xxx

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    2. Hi Annabel and thank you for your encouragement :) . Wow what a super price for bacon and at that price I would have grabbed a few packets too and frozen them, what a good pick up.

      We will be doing likewise and keeping a perpetual eye out for meat on special too to start refilling some of the empty spaces in the meat freezer along with making a few extra meals to put in there.

      Sewingcreations15.

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  14. Dear Annabel,

    Thank you for this informative post.

    Over the years I have menu planned with great success, but lately I have not being doing it and it is driving me crazy. Possibly it could be because there is only two of us now and Phil is away a lot of the time so I am finding it pointless. I will actually try to work around his roster, that might be a better option. It changes all the time so that can be a pain.

    I know for sure that it is schnitzel night here on Mondays because that is when my grandson stays over for Scouts. He loves Snitty, so I give him a treat.

    I am loving hearing from Laine, she is such an inspiration, as you are :)

    Much love,

    Tania xoxo

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    1. Dear Tania, I think on nights I was alone I would have anything like an egg on toast! Otherwise I would run the plan although around a changing roster. Also you have a lot of produce to incorporate which must be wonderful for keeping your costs down.
      You Grandson must love Monday nights! That is lovely.
      Thanks so much Tania, I hope you are having a good week! With love Annabel.xxx

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  15. Thanks for sharing a great post. I periodically meal plan, but on the whole I prepare meals based on a food item usually meat from the freezer which has been bought on special or mark downs. I then combine this with what vegies I have in the garden, fridge and supplement with what is the cheapest at the market.I only keep staples and make everything from scratch. I freeze spare meals as my husband works some nights and this saves us so much.If I didnt freeze it he would eat it at the same meal, so yes portion control is essential. Since I have broken down the grocery bill into groceries, toiletries and pets I have a much clearer idea of food costs. But gosh, like you I am finding costs spiralling, (butter and meat especially) and getting fedup with supermarket giants so going back to shopping around at markets which do take a bit more time.

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    1. Dear Barb,
      Yes it is meat and butter that are the biggest increases here too. I am agreeing with you... since I got away from the big supermarkets I am doing much better. I still shop at them just many other places too. Sometimes the differences are ridiculous!
      Making things from scratch is another huge saver. We just get more for our dollars! Plus its likely to be healthier.
      Thanks so much Barb, with love Annabel.xxx

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  16. Dear Annabel, firstly thanks for letting us know Kelsey and family are well and safe and a warm welcome to Chookasmum :-)
    Over the years Ive tried all sorts of meal plans and use to shop at 4 places after scouring each shop's advertisement flyers.
    It is only a short ride to several main supermarkets and Im sure there are plenty of other smaller places selling meat etc.
    I recently changed my list of freezer contents , I use to keep one for each, we have two on the smaller side next to some as we are so handy to many places. I now keep a sheet of paper on the kitchen fridge freezer with both freezers contents under headings of Beef, Pork, Lamb, Chicken , Fruit & Veg , Soup and Stock, and Other. Then I write a list of meals a week ahead. At the moment Im am using everything up so I can start again and do it differently.
    Thankyou for your telling us how you are doing menu planning following Laine's ideas and learning from each other and inspiring us all along with others here . It's helped me make some foodie gifts for this week for Father's day and a friend Im visiting.
    I have a new notebook so Im going to try your plain and ideas and see how I go :-) With love, Maria xxx

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    1. Dear Maria, I really like your list on the fridge. I am trying to use at least one meal and one frozen piece of meat from the freezer each week to keep it rotating. And also to keep a space so if I find anything fantastic I do have room to freeze it!
      Yesterday I shopped only needing milk. this gave me time to explore and looking places I don't usually.... and I found salmon and bacon for 80% off! So some is in the freezer and Andy has two days of salmon for $4. He was very happy with it.
      I am doing foodie gifts for Fathers Day also! With love, Annabel.xxx Maria I hope your eye is much much better.xxx

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    2. Wow Annabel ! That salmon was a really good price , my hubby would love it too !
      My eye is heaps better thanks , can't believe it really how well it's healed in such a short time . The eye doctor at hospital was very pleased with me and also gob smacked at the force the bottle lid hit me. Love Maria xxx

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    3. Maria, thank you for the warm welcome I am looking forward to being part of this wonderful community
      love Chookasmum

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  17. So glad to hear that Kelsey and her family are fine. The news reports here are awful.

    I have been menu planning for years. It started out as a sanity saver, since I have 6 kids and trying to create 3 meals a day out of my head while doing everything else meant that meals were late, or repetitive and stressful. So menu planning saved my sanity, and while doing it, I realized the cost savings and fine tuned it until it works perfectly for our family. For two years I taught a budget cooking class for our community, and I could not stress menu planning enough, but people just didn't seem to get it. It sounded like too much work, which is kind of funny to me, because I think trying to figure out what to fix everyday is more work!
    I hope everyone has a great week and am looking forward to your next post.

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    1. Dear Sarah, You sound so well organised. And what you say... I have heard the same, yet this is well paid work. Yes it takes more time to shop around, menu plan etc but the savings are THOUSANDS a year. We are not talking a small amount. It is quite massive. I heard someone wanted a $5000 pay rise. I said take lunch everyday to work that will give it to you. But no, too much work. You are doing really well, thank you for sharing here, with love Annabel.xxx

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  18. This is the way I shop. It has helped to deepen my pantry so I don't feel compelled to go shopping every week. I am aiming toward once a month shopping. I think I have enough food stocked up to last us at least two months for which I am very grateful!

    Also grateful that Kelsey and her family are safe!

    Cath is right on when she says portion control is critical. The one bad thing about having an abundance of food is feeling like you can eat an abundance at each meal!

    My new 'game' is seeing how long I can make things last (without spoiling of course).

    Another trick, to piggyback off CindyCN (buying the largest cabbage) is to weigh the prepackaged produce and get the biggest. A 5 pound bag of potatoes or a 3 pound bag of onions may have as much as a half pound variation. Buy the heaviest! When my boys were still home, their job while we grocery shopped was to find the heaviest bag of whatever! They loved the challenge.

    Thank you again, Laine and Annabel for your wisdom and inspiration!

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    1. Dear Cheri,
      I didnt think to weigh the bagged up produce! I assumed they re all the same and now you mention it they are probably not at all! I am actually going to check this out next time I am in the store. If the variation is much then this is well worthwhile! Also kids would love doing that! Very educational too!
      You are well ahead and that is wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing these tips. You've given me another light globe moment! With love Annabel.xxx

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  19. What a wonderful post, Annabel and Laine :)

    Thank you, Lord, for keeping Kelsey and her family safe!

    I have been menu planning for a number of years. I have a large(ish) family (there are 7 of us), so it does help to know what I'm having. I menu plan weekly, usually on Thursday as I go shopping on Friday. I also usually have two-three meals as "back up". When I menu plan, I first look at what is going on that week. Are there days when I need something quick and easy? Is there a birthday? Ect. If there is anything that didn't get made the week before, it is added to the menu. I use the savings from this to stock up on good specials. Sometimes I will plan for leftovers. This usually happens when I make carnitas. We will have the carnitas one night and I know there will be enough left over to make pork fried rice or pork with gravy another night. Occasionally when I go to the store, I will find the prices on some meats too high for my menu. When that is the case, I just pick a different protein and keep the sides the same. Like Mimi, we are a gluten free house. While Aldi has the best prices on gf pasta, it can still be a little high when you have to buy so many bags. That being said, we will pasta once or twice a month.

    One of my best tips comes from Brandi at The Prudent Homemaker. She buys turkeys and ham when they go on sale at holiday time. Last year I bought 4 15-17 pound turkeys for around $7 each! I pressure cooked them, picked the meat off the bones, and then pressure canned the turkey meat. That was a huge savings! I did not find as good a deal on hams, even at Easter, so I did not purchase any. I'm hoping to do more turkey this year.

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    1. Dear Jenn,
      Pork is often a pretty good price here currently so I am going to have to try Carnitas as I have never made them but I jut googled how to!
      I think you have great system going! I have to tel you... I don't know if you have tried but I have one of those spiralizer gadgets and it turns zucchini into what looks exactly like pasta. And it tastes amazingly good! Which is of course GF and if the zucchini are cheap this could be an alternative sometimes.
      Several years in a row just after New Years Day I got amazing deals on Turkeys! It was fantastic and I love turkey. Last year I found none marked down but I will be trying again this year. I have had luck on hams like this also. I hope you also find turkey again! We don't have thanksgiving... so Christmas is my time to strike, just after and after New Years Day seems to be another time. Brandy is very good on these things I notice too.
      Thank you for sharing how you do this. With love, Annabel.xxx

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    2. One more thing that I forgot to mention and it's probably the most important if you menu plan weekly! If I don't feel like making what I have down for a particular day, I always, always have "a spare meal" to slide in! lol! Or I will switch it with something later in the week.

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    3. It's interesting that you guys didn't get turkey or ham, neither did I. I usually pick up 2/3 after Christmas or Easter for the following Christmas and Easter. I think the supermarkets are not putting as much out.

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  20. I'm bookmarking this to read even more closely a couple of times (or four or five or six). :)

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    1. Thank you Brenda! I know you have a beautiful pantry. The best thing ever is when we find wonderful deals and get a bit further ahead. I really like they way some of you say " a deep pantry" or "deepening" your pantry. Now I think of that! With love Annabel.xxx

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  21. Hi Annabel
    What great news that Kelsey and her family are all ok. The pictures on the news have been awful, what a frightening time for people.

    I just cleared out my pantry on Sunday, as well as doing a full stocktake of the fridge and freezer. So this post is perfect timing for me! I was really happy to only throw out one item, a gluten free gravy mix I'd bought for $2 that was more like brown sludge lol. I was ok parting with that!

    I've always found menu planning a bit backwards, I would find myself at the supermarket wondering what to replace my plan with as the ingredients were too expensive. So I think I will find this approach really useful. I will make up my list of meals I have on hand today. I also have some herbs and spices ready to make up some mixes. It's amazing how an organised pantry can motivate you!

    Thanks for a great post Annabel and Laine!

    Jen in NZ

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    1. Dear Jen, This is timely for you as you already know just what you have in the pantry! Hopefully if you can get up to over a weeks worth of meals on hand then it can become what to make with the very best deals.... even if we have some toasted sandwich nights, pizzas with left overs for toppings etc... they can get us another couple of meals ahead. I hope that cheese shop continues to supply you with some interesting cheeses... eggs and cheese can make some really good dinners! I also hope you are able to find more shops that sell surprises.... one of mine is a fruit and vegie store and it turns out to see cheese in bulk. If the dates get close they sell things like a whole bucket of soft cheese off so cheaply! So this is another odd place for me to look! And normally I don't buy salmon due to the price but yesterday I looked in every department anyway due to having nothing I actually needed. And I got there packets of salmon at 80% off and the exact same with three packets of bacon. I was amazed. Now my meal plan is to use the salmon immediately as the date is Thursday and I froze the bacon.... thinking pasta sauce, bacon burgers, pizza... fancy breakfast. I never expected to find these kind of deals but they gave me impressive meals so cheaply! It is kind of exciting! So I hope you have some good finds that help you get ahead. Well done on cleaning out the pantry! With lots of love, Annabel.xxx

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  22. Thanks again for your great posts, Annabel, and it was good to see Laine's and know she is still learning, after all of her great ideas.
    It is just my husband and I , and he is extremely picky, and I try to make things he likes. I would love to menu plan a month in advance for myself, but I just buy an entree, meat , pork, chicken fish, when it is marked down, and I freeze it. Since reading all of your posts and comments, I have enough in my freezer to last at least a month( and more things in my pantry). I just give my husband some choices of what to defrost a day or two before.

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    1. Dear Megs, Being ahead you are already only buying the great deals which is excellent. A month ahead is really good! Its great security but it means we can be picky with what we buy. It really is a good portion to be in! With love Annabel.xxx

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  23. Hi Annabel and Bluebirders,
    I don't do the cooking, Bluey does. I do the baking. Bluey doesn't menu plan and it would be useless to even try and get him to think about it. He is also the shopper. He does collect all the catalogues and checks out where the best specials can be found. He goes out on a Monday and a Wednesday and Friday. This sounds terrible but it actually falls in line with when specials come on and when the stores put out their markdowns. He only purchases things on special. I keep an eye on what has been used and what needs replacing. This goes on a blackboard in the kitchen. Bluey then gets the items when they are on special or as markdowns if he can.
    We are on a very limited income and this way of shopping and using what we have works for us. It may be that we could save more if there was a meal plan but this level of organisation would cause way too much angst between Bluey and I.
    I continue to be amazed at what I am reading and the level of home organisation that you ladies have. I am in awe.

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    1. It sounds like you get very good specials, deals on meat and use what is in the garden and what neighbours share as well which is really good! This must really keep costs way down. Also I am thinking when you have two people watching for specials etc that is very good, two sets of eyes are better than one! You just need a couple of chooks :) Also you Iive in a wonderful abundant area for the fruit and seafood even. All good. I am trying to make my bread as good as yours today Jane! Wish me luck! xxx

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  24. I am so happy that Kelsey and her family are safe and sound at home, sorry that I missed putting this in my original post
    xxlove Chooksamum

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  25. Hi Annabel,

    So pleased to hear Kelsey and family are safe. The photos coming out of Houston are unbelievable, and so many people have been affected.

    Welcome Chookasmum, everyone here is so helpful and willing to share their ideas.

    I have to admit I struggle with meal planning. Mostly I have a bit of an idea what I'll be making for dinner, but that's it.

    I'm better organised since having to lose weight for health reasons, but it's still on a daily basis. One thing that has been really important has been portion control - our serves have increased over the years, and it was quite a shock to see what I needed to be eating as opposed to what I was eating. Needless to say, the savings have been adding up.

    Just a quick question. When you get a great bulk bargain with say meat and it's ready for the freezer, do you label the packets of meat according to the recipe you'll be using? Hope this isn't a silly question.

    Have a great week,
    Janine

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    1. Dear Janine, You make a very good point! Even plates have grown... there are savings here and health benefits. Just downsizing the plates can be a neat trick as the plate will still look quite full yet overall be a lot less food!
      I portion out the meat or cut and portion... and I write on what it is rather than what I will do with it. This is because almost everything has several options of what it might end up as. I also double or triple wrap meat as then you don't get freezer damage. On my menu plan I will write up the meat and put in brackets next to it what I think it will become but keep in mind I could change that... especially if complimentary ingredients might be in the fridge etc. I hope that helps. Many options are good.
      With love Annabel.xxx

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  26. Great post, Annabell! You and Laine have been helping me more than you know! I was able to cut my grocery budget in half last month just by shopping sales at multiple stores! I'm so excited about this! I have 2 young boys at home and am making it my mission to get my grocery budget under control before the teenage years hit! I'm excited to try this type of meal plan to see if I can save even more! August was great budget wise, but I didn't have to buy any meat as I was already stocked up from the previous month. September I will need to restock my meat, so I'm hoping I can still stay at the $400 mark even with meat purchases. I work outside the home so it's not always easy to be shopping at multiple stores, but I've moved my workout times to early mornings so that I have my lunch hours free for shopping.
    I was also feeling a bit convicted reading through some of Laine's old posts about her early morning study time. I thought if I can make myself get up early to workout my body, I can surely get myself up even earlier to spend some time in the word before I start my day. I started a binder with a lot of her old letters on Proverbs 31, submission, and contentment. So much wisdom in those letters! And so amazing that they're still helping young moms like myself all these years later. I so appreciate learning from the both of you!
    Last week we had an unexpected houseguest for 4 days. The grocery money was already tight, as we're nearing the end of the month. I was able to shop my pantry and freezer and make a big pan of enchiladas using the enchilada sauce recipe on Laine's site. They were delicious! I got a big thumbs up from both my husband and our houseguest. Normally I would have felt the pressure to go out and buy some expensive meats and foods to cook for company, but I'm really learning to make due with what we have and get creative. You realize you have more than enough when you stop and look around!
    I also have started coloring my own hair at home (with my husband's help :) and I made up a batch of your sugar scrub for my face. My skin has never felt better! I've decided to make up batches of it for Christmas gifts this year! I found the perfect glass jars at the .99 cent store. They came filled with grape jelly, and since my kids eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day, we're getting a dual purpose out of each of those dollars I spent!
    Anyway, I got off topic here, but I just wanted to thank you and Laine both for the help you've offered me! I will be watching some of Amanda's videos today to learn more about this meal planning system!
    Have a great day!
    -Tarin

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    1. Dear Tarin, It was a joy to read this! Your enchiladas sound beautiful! Nothing you could buy could beat these!
      As you know I do my hair, beauty treatments etc. I am so glad you like the scrub. The description sounds mad and especially the electric toothbrush bit but truly it is amazing and just think this all would be $150 at a salon.
      When the boys are teenagers they will eat A LOT! A friend of mine had five teenage boys at once so think of that! She did such a good job! I should see if she would write an article on how she did it... mmm idea!
      Keep up the wonderful job you are doing! With love and thanks, Annabel.xxx

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  27. Thank you so much for this post. What an eye opener for me! I have the budget for food to the point that I thought there was no way I could take it lower. I read this post, took notes, and tried it step by step. It seems really possible to lower my food bill dramatically using this method. Thank you, Thank you! Expenses are still really high right now (numerous emergencies arose this year), but this gives me courage and hope that there is a path to make it through in tact. Thank you ever so much!

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    1. Dear Cristy, I am so glad. Each week this has grown for me. Last week I saved more again. I was actually amazed last week. As you find new stores and alternatives and as you get ahead it is possible you will have bigger savings than you think possible! There seems to be many spin offs and they really add up! So just keep going, I am so glad hearing your comment! With love Annabel.xxx

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  28. I'm so glad to hear that Kelsey and her family are well. The news photos are just mind boggling with all of the damage.

    Welcome, Chookasmum!

    I menu planned for years and it served us well, but I have gotten away from it as my children grew up and left home. Now that it is just hubby and I for the most part, I am going back to posting our meals on my whiteboard. This helps me to use up things in the refrigerator that are close to spoiling. We buy our beef by the side, so that lasts us a good long while. I only buy chicken, seafood, and some pork on the side, but I shop for the best deals on those. I have much to learn yet, I know, so I thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone's posts!

    Jeanette

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    1. Dear Jeanette, Sorry for such a slow reply! Everyones comments have been amazing! The way you are buying meat would be the best thing I think. I have been at the farm and back late yesterday so I am catching up! Have a lovely weekend! Love Annabel.xxx

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