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Take Control of Meal Times With A Meal Planner

Take Control of Meal Times With A Meal Planner

    When you decide to eat a meal out, is it because you are consciously choosing to do so? Or is it because you haven’t the time or ingredients to prepare something at home? If you are like most people, it is probably the latter. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. With a bit of planning, less than 15 minutes a week, you can cut back on your grocery bills, eat healthier, and feel better. All it takes is a meal planner.

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    Features Of A Meal Planner

    A meal planner is a just a collection of items that will allow you (or any other cooking person) to get a meal on the table with ingredients that are on hand. It will have the following items:

    • A menu plan. A menu plan is what you will eat for the meals in the coming week. It will list out all the dishes that will be prepared so you can check for nutritional balance, and also take into account family schedules.
    • Recipes. The recipes portion of the planner has two purposes: it allows you to assemble the instructions for making a meal in one place, as well as provide a basis for the next portion of the planner.
    • A shopping list. The shopping list is what allows you to have the ingredients on hand to make the meals you have planned. Nothing is worse than to start a recipe and find that you have forgotten to buy a key ingredient. By taking the ingredient list from the recipes, you can ensure you have everything on hand.
    • Reminders. These instructions would allow you to remember to start dishes on time, or pull things from the freezer. If you are planning a slow cooker dinner that takes 8 hours, you need to be reminded to get it started, or dinner won’t be done on time.

    Putting Together A Planner

    I like to keep everything together in one spot. I have assembled a meal planner using basic office supplies which allows me to keep everything in one place (the front of the refrigerator).

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    I fastened a sheet protector to the front of a poly folder. The sheet protector holds the menu plan for two weeks. For each day on the planning sheet I have a spot for any activities that are going on that might affect dinner (early evening meetings, for example); a box for the food plan, including side dishes; and a box with reminders for the next day (such as defrosting meat, or assembling the slow cooker meal for the fridge).

    Inside the folder I have sheet protectors into which I slip the recipes for each day. This makes it easy for me to find my recipes, or to hand everything over to my husband.

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    In the back pocket of the folder I keep the shopping list for the plan, and the shopping list for the next two week period. I add items as the week passes that will need to be purchased during the next shopping trip.

    I clip the entire folder to the front of the fridge using a heavy-duty magnet.

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    Using A Planner

    The first step is to fill out my planning sheet. I list out the days as well as meal-affected events such as meetings, travel and birthdays (for which we eat out). Then I look through my recipes and pick things that fit the schedule and the season. During summer we do a lot of grilling and salads, but I save the labor-intensive food for the weekends.

    At this point I have filled out the menu planner and have a pile of recipes. I record each recipe’s ingredients on a shopping list, then file it in the planner pocket for that day.

    The shopping list is then double-checked against the planner board in our kitchen for things we are out of, and also compared to our pantry ingredients to see if there is anything we already have on hand.

    With a menu planner, we are able to keep our food budget in a good place and only go out to eat when we wish to, rather than because we don’t have our acts together enough to cook. Do you have any tips for meal planning? Share below.

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    Last Updated on April 3, 2019

    How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

    How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

    Debt is never a fun thing to be in. But, there are many actions that you can take that will help you rid yourself of the burden of debt once and for all.

    By coming up with a set plan, eliminating your debt can feel much easier than constantly thinking about it.

    This post will provide some tips on how you can do this to help you nix your credit card debt in less than 3 years.

    Hint: there are ways that are easier than you think.

    1. Consider Consolidating Multiple Credit Cards If Possible

    This may not be applicable to you, but if you have multiple cards – it is something to consider. Keeping up with multiple bills is time consuming.

    It will depend on the balance you have on each. Consolidate ones you can but do not do it to the point that you get too close to the maximum limit. Also, it is ideal to pick the card with the lower interest rate.

    Consider if there are any fees or alternatively, rewards, with transferring a balance to another card. Watch out for fees. Note that some cards offer rewards for transferring a balance to them. This is extra cash that can help go towards paying off your debt.

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    Having one or two cards can make nixing your debt much simpler than keeping up with the balance of a bunch of cards. Keeping track of paying the minimum towards a bunch of cards is time consuming. Spend the time to consolidate instead to make the overall process simpler going forward.

    My tip: Have one main credit card. Have a second one that you use for necessities – such as groceries or gas – that offers rewards for those purchases (a lot of cards do) and set the second one on auto-pay. You should be able to pay off a smaller amount on auto-pay if it is a necessity. If you think you cannot, then you may need to cut down a lot on expenses.

    Why do I suggest doing this? Having one thing set to auto-pay is one less thing to think about. One less thing to waste time on. Same idea with consolidating to one main card. Tracking down too many is a hassle.

    2. Try to Pay the Full Balance You Spent Each Month at the Very Least

    You need to pay off the amount you are spending each month when that bill comes in. This is the amount you spent THAT month.

    Do not let the debt keep accruing while you work on paying any unpaid debt that has accrued. It will become a never-ending battle. Try as best as you can to be current on paying for each month’s expenses when that month’s bill comes out.

    If this is a strain, consider why. You may need to cut expenses. Or you may need to consider other cards. Or look at where this money is going.

    3. Pay Extra When You Can – Every Small Amount Counts

    This cannot be emphasized enough. If you are looking at a lot of credit card debt, it can look daunting, but each extra amount that you can put towards the debt will really add up – no matter how small it is.

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    It does not just reduce the principal amount that you have left to pay off, but it reduces the amount that is collecting interest. You will always save money with that reduced interest.

    4. Create a Plan on How to Pay Extra

    Back to the main point, having this plan is giving you one less thing to think about.

    This plan should be a plan that works for you. If it does not work for you, your spending habits, and your views on debt, then it will not be an effective plan.

    For instance, if a set plan of an extra $50 (or another amount that you know you can afford) works for you, then do that. Set that aside every month and pay that extra amount. Treat it like a bill. Choose an amount that works for you and pay it like clockwork as though it was a bill you had to pay each month.

    Little amounts will not nix it entirely, but they will help tackle it and having a set plan can make it less of a chore. Creating a new plan of how much to put towards it each month is an unnecessary added stress.

    5. Cut out Costs for Services You Do Not Use

    If you are signed up for subscriptions that you do not use because of some free trial or for some other reason, cut it out. Your overall financial position will look better.

    In turn, that will make cutting your credit card debt easier. Look at your statements to find these expenses. If you do not use them, you may forget you are paying some unnecessary amount each month. Cutting it out can really add up in savings that you can put towards other needed expenses.

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    6. Get Aggressive About It

    Consider these points:

    Depending on the interest and the level of debt, you may need to give up a few indulgences. For example, instead of ordering delivery or going out to eat, cook at home. Everything adds up.

    Other things may be more of a sacrifice. It may be a trip you wanted to go on, or a daily latte habit you’ve picked up. In these instances, consider how important it is to you and if it’s worth the sacrifice. And if it is a costly expense, think whether you can wait to indulge.

    Cutting an extravagant expense can really help make a dent in your overall debt. Try not to add to debt when you are trying to pay it off. It will be a never-ending battle. Make it less of a battle with these tips and it will feel easier.

    Bottom line: Do what you can to make this process easier for you. Implement steps that do this. It takes time now, but will help overall. Also, keep track of your spending and paying down of your debts. Which is the next point.

    7. Reevaluate Your Progress at Set Intervals

    Doing a regular check-in can help you see your efforts pay off or maybe indicate that you need to give this a bit more effort. If you check every 3-6 months, it will not feel so much like a chore or feel so daunting.

    By doing this, you will be able to better understand your progress and perhaps readjust your plan. Bonus: if you see it pay off, it will feel great to do this check-in. You will get there.

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    Finally (and most importantly)…

    8. Keep Trying

    Do not get discouraged. Pushing it off will make it worse. Just keep trying.

    Once your debt becomes lower, each monthly payment will reduce the balance more. Why? You are paying less towards interest. It will be a snowball effect eventually and it will become much easier to manage. Just get to that point. And know once you do, it will feel easier and motivating.

    Start Knocking out Your Debt Today

    The best way to eliminate debt is to get started right away. Begin by implementing the above steps and watch your debt just melt away. Try out some of the above strategies and see what works best for you. Soon you’ll be on your way to a debt free life.

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    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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