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Tag Archive: menu planning

P90X On a Budget: Phase One Downloadable Menu Plan

If you follow the Money Saving Mom® Facebook Page, you know that I recently started the P90X Extreme Home Fitness Workout Program.

I’ve been feeling like I really need to intensify my workout routine and, after some research, my husband and I felt like P90X would be a good program for me to do. And everyone I spoke to gave it rave reviews. So, with my husband’s encouragement, I decided to go for it.

How We’re Doing P90X on a Budget

When I’ve told people that I’m starting this program, often the first question I get is: Isn’t that going to cost an arm and a leg? Well, it could, but I don’t think it necessarily has to.

The program is a little on the pricey side, but I was able to save up my Swagbucks and purchase it with Amazon gift cards I’ve earned. (I’ve heard you can snag copies on Craigslist or even from your library, if you’re looking to get a copy inexpensively.) So far, I’ve been thoroughly impressed with it.

My biggest challenge, aside from figuring out when I was going to fit a longer workout routine into my day (!), was determining how to pull off the nutritional program without breaking the bank. I really want to give this program 100% — which means I need to eat the P90X diet — but I also didn’t want to triple our grocery budget to do so!

After reading through all the nutritional material and doing further research online, I came up with a menu plan for the first thirty days (Phase 1) which follows the nutritional plan to a tee, but which I believe we can pull off without spending any more than $60 per week at the grocery store. Continuing our usual shopping of loss leaders, using coupons, getting most of our household and hygiene products for pennies on the dollar and shopping at Aldi will help to facilitate this.

Download the Menu Plan

If you’re interested in seeing the menu plan I came up with, you can download it here. The children are eating a similar diet, but I’m throwing in extra fruits and veggies and carbs for them. And since the exercise plan is only six days per week, I planned the menu accordingly. I’m taking Sundays off and will eat similar to the plan, but give myself a little breathing room and not adhere to it so strictly.

The menu plan is very quick and easy — and I’m sure some of you might find it way too simple and boring. 🙂 But I knew that if I planned meals which required hours of work, though and effort, I’d be setting myself up for failure. My goal is to do all food prep for the entire day in less than one hour.

I also incorporated our weekly dinner out into the plan as well as a once-a-week treat of a Vivanno smoothie from Starbucks. If you wanted to follow a similar menu but reduce the costs, you could substitute these items for homemade foods.

We’re buying the protein powder and protein bars from Amazon using Swagbucks, so we’d probably have to tack on another $15 to $20 per week for those if we didn’t have the option of using Swagbucks. The protein powder and protein bars we’re using are comparable to the ones offered from P90X, but they are significantly less expensive. I’m drinking chocolate milk for the recovery drink right now, as that is also less expensive and is a good recovery drink, from the research I’ve done.

So, that’s the plan right now. I’m planning to sticking with this menu for the first thirty days and then will redo the menu when I move into Phase 2. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!

And stay tuned on Saturday for a full report of my grocery shopping this week and how much we ended up spending.

If you’ve done P90X before, I’d love to hear about your experiences and any tips or suggestions you have for me!


Q&A Tuesday: What do you think of eMeals?

As of today, we’re starting a new feature here called Q&A Tuesdays. I’ll choose one question each week from my inbox to answer. Today’s question comes from Teandra:

I know you’re a huge Dave Ramsey fan and my husband and I are currently in FPU. I heard Dave suggest eMeals on the radio last week so I went to check it out. It’s $1.25 per week and feeds a 7-day dinner meal plan for 4 to 6 people $75/week, or a 5-day dinner plan for 2 people $35/week. I’m wondering if you’ve heard of eMeals and what you think of it compared to what you already do with your family.

Teandra

I’ve heard of eMeals, but have never used the program before because I’ve been planning my own menus for so long that it’s hard to imagine paying someone else to plan them for me!

I did try out and review Stolen Moments Menu Planning service back in November and was thoroughly impressed with it. I’m assuming eMeals would be somewhat similar, though it’s less expensive and offers aisle-by-aisle grocery lists — which would be really helpful! However, it’s not as tailored for your family as Stolen Moments Menu Planning is and I also noticed they don’t offer that many different specific grocery store options.

Since I like to plan my menus based upon what I have on hand in addition to what’s on sale at the store, shop at more than one store, shop the marked-down section of stores and stock up when items are at rock-bottom prices, it’s hard to follow a pre-planned menu plan written by someone else. I also have been cooking the majority of our meals ahead on Freezer Cooking Day, so it seems like this would defeat the purpose of subscribing to a menu planning service right now.

That said, if menu-planning is overwhelming to you or you’re in a busy season of life and need to keep it simple when it comes to grocery shopping and cooking, I’d definitely give eMeals a try. It’s only $5 per month and you can cancel at anytime. You just might find that it’s a perfect fit for your family!

Have you used eMeals or another menu-planning service before? If so, tell us about your experiences — good or bad — in the comments. I’d love to hear.

PSST! If you’re considering signing up for an eMeals subscription to try it out, you can use coupon code savemoney to get $2 off a 3-month subscription, making it only $13 for 3 months — or around $4.33 per month.

Have a question you’d like me to answer for our Q&A Tuesdays feature? Email it to me and I’ll be glad to consider it for a future post.

Menu Planning Makes a Difference

Rhonda recently emailed me about her menu-planning success:

I GET IT! I always thought meal planning was a waste of time. As long as I had plenty of variety in my freezer and pantry and fresh produce and milk, why meal plan?

To be honest, I couldn’t understand why you and many others did this. Well now I get it. I started meal planning as a New Year’s Resolution. I thought I’d try it for a month and prove it made no difference and quit.

Was I ever so wrong!

On Sunday each week, my husband and I now plan our meals for the entire week. I then do an inventory of what we have available. Then I make my shopping list to get the items I need to complete the meals on our menu. Of course, I also pick up a few extra items if they are free or nearly-free to stockpile.

Our weekly menu is posted up on the refrigerator, so there’s no more “What do you want for dinner?” “I don’t know”-type conversations. The amount of time and money I save meal planning is unbelievable. Why didn’t I do this sooner? -Rhonda

I wholeheartedly concur that planning a menu (or even a basic sketched out plan) makes a world of difference in our grocery budget, how well we eat, and just in my overall sanity. If you’ve never planned menus before, I’d challenge you to consider doing what Rhonda did. Commit to doing it for a month and see how it works for you. You just might be surprised!

Speaking of which, here’s this week’s menu plan:

Breakfasts

Oatmeal, fresh carrot/apple/orange juice
Cereal
Whole-Wheat Blueberry Pancakes
Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls, fresh orange juice
Our Favorite Banana Bread, fresh orange/carrot juice

Lunches
Open-Faced Tuna Sandwiches, carrot sticks
Whole-Wheat Pasta sprinkled with cheese, oranges
Peanut Butter & Honey sandwiches, carrot sticks
Beans and brown rice with cheese, avocados, oranges
Baked Potatoes, cheese, broccoli
Leftovers x 2

Dinners
Homemade Pizza, cantaloupe
Barbecued Beef, Homemade Buns**, peas, oranges
Italian Chicken over rice, steamed broccoli, grapefruit,
Chicken Stuffing Casserole, Bread Machine Buttery Rolls, mixed green salad, peas, fruit salad
Broccoli Ham and Cheese Casserole, fruit, Whole-Wheat Blueberry Muffins
Dinner at Friend’s House
Dinner Out

**I’m looking for a really good Homemade Hamburger Bun recipe which can be made in the bread machine for tomorrow night’s dinner. Does anyone have a link for an excellent recipe to share?

Photo credit: Jen_Maiser

Lessons I’ve Learned from The Pantry Challenge (Guest Post)

Guest Post by Jennifer from Saving and Giving

Our family decided to take The Pantry Challenge in January and this has been quite an experience for us!  Not only have we cleared out some of the older items that were lurking in our pantry, but we’ve learned many unexpected non-cooking lessons along the way:

1) We’ve slashed our grocery budget by another 30%.

Before I started my own frugal shopping adventure, our weekly grocery spending was hovering around $100 per week.  That was for a family of three, and our daughter was under three at the time.  Once I learned the ropes and began hunting bargains, I got our weekly grocery spending down to about $70 per week.  I was even creating a nice little stockpile as I did our weekly shopping.

I used to wonder how Crystal was able to feed her family (which is slightly larger yet similar in age to mine) for $40 per week. I couldn’t seem to get out of my $70 rut!  This month, I had my ah-hah!  moment.

It all came down to the menu plan.  Since joining the frugal shopping ranks, I have been menu planning using what we had on-hand as a starting point.  This month has shown me that, while that’s a good start, I was making one fatal mistake.  I was using my pantry as a starting point AND purchasing several additional ingredients for each meal.

If I had a can of diced tomatoes, I would decide to make chili.  So I would buy ground beef, tomato sauce, kidney beans, and chili beans.  I saved $0.99 by not having to buy the diced tomatoes, but I was spending another $6 to $8 on the other ingredients.  Somehow that just wasn’t saving me money!

I wholeheartedly jumped into the Pantry Challenge.  I wanted to give it my all!  So I planned meals that truly used what was in the pantry.  If I found a can of diced tomatoes, I paired it with several other ingredients I had on-hand to create a meal.  I had to buy a few extra ingredients to round out the month, but not many.

Since we have truly been eating from our pantry, I have been able to use a smaller amount of grocery money (less than $50 each week) to purchase a few fresh produce/dairy items and whatever was on sale at rock-bottom prices.  I’ve found myself adding things to the back of the pantry for use when the challenge is complete.  Once the challenge month is over, I will menu plan from the new items I’ve added to the pantry.  Then I can continue the cycle of cooking with what we have and purchasing only the very best sale items each week.

I am so thankful that the Pantry Challenge has helped me break the $70 per week grocery cycle.  This challenge has been exactly what I needed to kick-start a new way of menu planning!

2) I’ve learned that my meals don’t need to be extravagant.

As I searched my pantry, I found several cans of Progresso Tomato Basil soup.  At first I thought they might be good for lunches, but then I realized that my husband loves grilled cheese with tomato soup.  That’s not even close to what I usually make for dinner since our dinners are usually the meat-potato-vegetable variety.

But in the spirit of the Pantry Challenge, I served grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner one night.  It didn’t seem like much of a dinner to me, but it was a hit!  Preparation was quick, our meal was enjoyable, and clean-up was a breeze.  It was a very healthy meal, and we were all quite satisfied.

I realized that maybe I’ve been making things too hard–and too expensive at the same time!

3) The Pantry Challenge has encouraged me to stop making excuses.

Though I always menu plan, I don’t usually stick to my plan.  I might be tired, feel lazy, or just not want to make my planned meal.  I always find some reason to either eat out or make something other than what’s on my plan.  Normally, I skip a planned meal or two and then forget that I’d bought the ingredients to make those meals.  My habits are what lead to so many orphan ingredients being in my pantry!  (Though I must admit that the dry black beans I found turned into some fabulous Crock Pot Black Bean Soup during the Pantry Challenge!)

This month, I’ve stuck to my meal plan.  I have had to make a couple of changes due to being treated to a meal out and forgetting to defrost some meat.  But I’ve adjusted the plan and am really and truly using up the ingredients this time!

4) I’ve been reminded how very blessed we are.

I knew that I had a reasonable amount of food on-hand.  If we had a snowstorm or other issue that kept us from the grocery store for a week or two, I knew that we would be just fine.  However, I had no idea exactly how much we had.

Cleaning out my pantry, freezer, and cupboard area as part of the Pantry Challenge was an eye-opening experience.  I was saddened by what I had to throw away, knowing there are many people in our area who could have used that food.  I was surprised at how little meat I had to buy for this month’s plan.  I was thrilled to know that, with very few additions from the grocery store, we would be able to eat for a whole month without our cupboards being bare.

God has blessed us with more than we need.  In fact, I’ve even taken some bags to the food pantry collection area at our church over the past two weeks. In reality, this challenge hasn’t been a challenge to stretch what we have.  It’s been a challenge to be better stewards of what we have, and to share more with people who aren’t as fortunate.

Jennifer Bruce is wife to Jason and mom to five-year-old Emma.  She blogs at Saving and Giving where she encourages people to save money and be generous.  Jennifer hosts a weekly meme called A Time to Give where she invites others to share simple (and often free!) ways to give.  When Jennifer is not blogging, she can be found playing Candy Land with Emma, spending time with Jason, reading, or making stationery and invitations for her clients.

photo credit: Br3nda; jkelber