A big part of saving time and money goes into planning your meals. The world likes to show us the convenience of grabbing on the go, but look what that has done to our waistlines and our wallets! Yikes! The best plan is to plan, prepare and work in your meals during a less busy time of the week.
I’ve said before that I like to do my meal prep on Sunday afternoons. I do work outside of the home during the week so I understand when there is the argument of time. However, packing lunches does not need to be a time hog.
The benefits of packing lunches greatly outweighs the time argument. Whether you are packing for yourself, your spouse and/or your children, the benefits are all the same.
- You control the portions. Everything from fast food to sit down is all greatly increased in the area of portions.
- You control the contents. When you make, pack and measure, you know exactly what is going into your body. If you or a family member have allergies, you no longer have to worry about ingesting something bad for them.
- The cost is greatly less. The cost of putting together a lunch is greatly less then buying on the go. Journal it and you will see it for yourself.
- Less waste. This is a huge item, you aren’t added to the garbage issue and if you pack wisely, you will cut down on your own disposables!
What you will need:
- A Lunch Box. I know the picture shows a brown paper bag. But I really do not advise using one for many reasons. You will want a stable lunch bag/box that can hold some time of cooling pack, easy to carry or put into a backpack (good idea for kids and adults alike), but big enough to carry what you need for the day.
- A Reusable Cooling Pack. These are very inexpensive and can be used over and over again. I have one that is very thin and does a great job of cooling my lunch bag very well. Just put it in the freezer every day when you get home and it will be ready for the next day!
- Reusable item containers. You can pick these up at the dollar store. Make sure you get microwaveable safe ones if you are planning to need to reheat items. A Soup Thermos is also a great item to have so you don’t have to use a microwave! I am not in favor of using disposable wrappings and bags, trash is trash, whether it comes from home or from somewhere else.
- Reusable Coffee/drink mug. Avoid buying bottled water or coffee. Make and bring your own and refill for free during the day.
- Reusable utensils. Have a specific set for your lunch box(es). Again, avoid disposable.
But what do I pack?
This is where it gets fun. You are only limited by your imagination! For kid lunches those are just super fun! You can make your own “lunchables” of crackers, bread cut out using cookie cutters, meats, cheeses… but we will get to that. Here are some ideas, adults enjoy the fun stuff too, sometimes even a little more!
- Sandwiches do not need to be boring! Use a large shaped cookie cutter to cut bread, meat, cheese and stack together.
- Afraid your sandwich will get soggy? Pack the bread in one container and the items in another as and use a small condiment container for your ketchup, mayo or mustard.
- Subs. Hot and cold subs are so simple to prepare at home with what you have on hand when you plan ahead!
- Hot Dogs. Yes, you read that correctly. Hot dogs. My kids would love it when we would have “Hot Dog” week. I would grill up hot dogs ahead of time and each day they would get a different type. Monday, Pizza dog; Tuesday, Chicago Style Dog; Wednesday, Taco Dog (Chili dog with taco seasoning) and so on.
- Do not fear the dinner left overs! When I make casseroles, I will make enough to put aside for some lunches for myself. Especially in the winter to have a nice hot lunch.
- Soup and Salad. How often to you pay $12+ for soup and salad at a fast food place? So inexpensive and easy to do at home and pack! I will make a pot of soup during the week and set aside portions for my lunch (and even freeze some like chicken noodle). Salads, easy peasey. Toss in some mixed lettuce, tomato and cucumber and whatever else you like and use a condiment container to carry our dressing.
- Chicken nuggets. Chicken nuggets are so easy to make at home. Do not buy the frozen ones. Pre-make a batch by taking chicken thighs and or breasts and cutting into bite sized cubes. sprinkle with fine bread crumbs if you like and cook in a skillet. They freeze up perfect and you have a much better nugget.
- Sweet Tooth. There is nothing like a sweet treat in the middle of the day. The best thing is to bake and portion out a cookie a day. Make a healthy sweet treat, or better yet, add in some fresh in season fruit! My children when they were young liked something called “dirt pudding” which was simply chocolate pudding with crushed a crumbled cookie on top and I would put in a gummy worm or a gummy flower in each little cup for them.
- Homemade Lunchables. These things are expensive in the store. Make your own. Using small cookie cutters, cut shapes out of cheeses and meats and add to a decorative container. Add in grapes, pretzel sticks and other finger foods as a side. Avoid the bad preservative packed snacks!
- Pizza. I’m not talking about left over take out. If you don’t make your own pizza and save some for lunch, make mini pizzas by using biscuit dough (I make my own), and putting on toppings and bake. You can store these for the week and even freeze them after baking for later.
- Burritos. My husband is responsible for getting me to love burritos for breakfast and lunch. The possibilities for fillings are endless. My favorite is a breakfast burrito with chorizo, eggs, potatoes and green chilies. I enjoy it for breakfast and lunch.
- Egg Bites. These are great for breakfast and for lunch! Here is how you make them. Breakfast Egg Bites
Here is a hint. If you see it “prepackaged” in the store with cute enticing packaging, you can make it at home cheaper, with less preservatives and much better for you! Another thing to remember that buying individually wrapped is much more expensive then buying a larger size and parsing out on your own. Apple slices are just as easy to slice yourself, and a boiled egg is just as easy to do yourself instead of buying it boiled, and honestly, probably safer.
With all the food health warnings coming out in regards to fast food chains, take the time and responsibility over your own food. Buy in season, enjoy variety and enjoy the health and saving benefits!
Until Next Time,
Mrs. Kay Lynn Rice
I bet you expected this to be about gardening, didn’t you? Well, in a way it is. We are growing a garden that will feed us for the rest of our lives if we are wise, or we are creating a barren plot that will cause us to fall. I know, that isn’t a very positive way to start an article is it? Truth be told, today’s world has us creating a barren plot. How can we avoid falling into the trap of World View?
Think of pennies as seeds. Every penny placed wisely grows, pennies cast to the side are lost. I remember overhearing a conversation that pennies are useless in today’s society and should be “discarded”. Now even a child knows that when you put a penny in a jar each day by the end of the year you have $3.65. When you start finding pennies in the couch cushion, in the car, on the sidewalk, and you pick it up and add it to the jar, well, you just increased your income. Seeds that grow into a crop. One seed gives birth to a crop of fruit.
As with seeds and a garden, the soil must be primed, there is maintenance and care and daily pruning involved. A seed will not grow on rock.
How to prime your soil:
- Budget. I talk about this all the time. A budget should be a living thing, not something you do once and shove in the drawer of a desk. It is constantly changing, growing, shrinking. Working with your budget weekly will allow you to see upcoming storms, droughts and be able to prepare accordingly. During good times that your ‘crops’ are doing above expectation, work on saving and giving.
- Revisit your wants vs. needs. Another subject I talk about all the time. This is a subject that should have lots of communication around with your family, especially your spouse. Exactly what do we need as a family? What do we want? Is our want justified? Just a clue here, just because the neighbors are going on a one month cruise does not mean you have to do the same thing.
- Making your home work for you. No, I am NOT talking about a refinance loan. I’m talking about utilizing the spaces. Instead of just flowers, plant herbs and vegetables. This will help with your grocery bill and your health. If you have land, put in a full garden and learn to preserve by canning, freezing and dehydrating. Berries and fruit are also a great addition for visual as well as food. Do you live where you can have poultry? Chickens are a wonderful source of protein in both eggs and meat, but be prepared for lots of work. Meat Rabbits are also a great way to supplement your meat intake. You will need a to understand that meat rabbits are food, not pets. With bringing on livestock you will need to look into your homeowner’s insurance, community rules, etc.
- Family Rules. Seeds are best planted early. With children its the same way. Teach your children well in the areas of money and work. Give them chores, teach them young to keep track of their earnings. Encourage work at the proper ages and teach them responsibility of their earnings. Every adult & young adult who is healthy and living under the roof need to have responsibilities both in work and finance. Do not permit anyone to slide. You are responsible for raising the next generation. Here is also the difficult conversation section, do not be afraid to confront misuse of finances, even if it is with a spouse. Do not attack, do not fight, find common ground and discuss to avoid the storm in the future. Everyone is in this together.
- Find your leaks and areas of waste. This is not only in the area of actually spending money, but in how you are spending time. If you are “too busy” to cook at home, look at why? Are you spending time in front of the television instead of meal prepping? Have you overbooked your kid’s activities so much that no one has time to rest and focus on each other? Time and Money both are things that we can control how they are used.
- Invest. I’m not talking necessarily about the stock market. I’m talking about investing in your home, future and self. Use your money and time wisely to build not to break down. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a cable bill, cut the cord, and spend the time outside with your family building and doing instead of spending time in front of the television or all on different devices in different rooms. Spend pennies on preparing a garden and watch your grocery bill go down. Take the money you normally would spend on a daily coffee shop coffee and put it in a penny jar, you’ll be surprised how much money you have at the end of the month. But don’t go out and reward yourself with it, pay off some bills instead, put it back into the crop to grow more.
- Pay off and get rid of the plastic. I talk about this one often as well. In today’s world, yes unfortunately, we do need a credit line. But watch how you utilize it. Ask yourself, do I really need <item, service> right now? Can I save for it? How much will this cost me in interest? Can I buy it used for less and still save money on maintenance of this item/service? Can I make it myself? If you do run up a card. Pay off your smallest debt first, then take the money you would be spending on it and add it to the next in the list of debt, doubling that payment amount, leaving the larger ones at their minimum payment until you move up the ladder. This is called the Snowball effect, Dave Ramsey teaches this. I am a huge follower of his and his Financial Peace University. I love his budget tool at everydollar.com .
- Keep a small amount of cash on you at all times. I will keep $5.00 on me in cash and if I am out and about and need something like water, I can use the cash and not a card, it also makes me more aware of how I’m spending things. Keep track of your cash use as well.
- Utilities and Insurance. It is wise to review your utilities and insurance at least quarterly or after a big life change. I know you are thinking why utilities. Here is the thing, if your electric bill jumped spiked the previous month/quarter you should ask yourself why. Was it an overly hot or cold month? If it was, do you really need the air conditioner set cold enough to support penguins? Do you need the heater going like a dragon on overload. There is a difference between comfort and access. learn to acclimate a little better with alternative methods. Dress appropriately for the weather inside and outside. Adjust the thermostat when you will not be at home. It’s all about adjusting behaviors and expectations. Your insurance should be looked at periodically to make sure you are being covered for what you really need to be covered for. There is no reason to be insurance poor. You can also save up in an emergency fund to offset costs here as well.
I will continue to discuss these items throughout the blog. I hope you enjoy them and that they help you think of ways to be more efficient and cost sensitive in your life so that you can grow a most productive crop.
“She goes to inspect a field and buys it with her earnings she plants a vineyard. She is energetic and strong, a hard worker.” Proverbs 31: 16-17
Until Next Time,
Mrs. Kay Lynn Rice
More than often I get questions and comments from friends and colleagues such as: “How do you find time to do everything you do?” or my favorite “Do you ever sleep?”
My morning and evening devotions have found their way to focus on this subject here lately. As a result, I’ve felt the urge to write about it.
Finding time, makes it sound like time is this object that is fleeting and always out of our reach, but in fact, its right there, in our hands at all times. Time isn’t fleeting, its the choices that we make to cause it to fly away or be used productively. Time, as well as money, are two things that in reality we have a choice on how to use them. We can use them wisely, or we can waste them. A wise person, saves and uses wisely a fool wastes them on fleeting things.
There is also a very big difference in resting and being lazy. Resting is a refueling, lazy is a waste of resources. Resting comes as a result of hard work and productivity and finding calm. Being lazy, is relying on others and outside sources to provide for us. Do you remember the old story of the Ant and the Grasshopper? The grasshopper mocked the ant for working so hard in the hot summer months, he insisted on singing, playing and being “lazy”. The Ant worked diligently to fill its home with food so it could survive the harsh winter to come. The story has a harsh lesson in the end. The Grasshopper starved, the ant survived.
Here are some of the ways that allow me to focus on what is truly important, I hope they will help you on your journey.
- Wake up early and be consistent throughout the week.
- Morning is very important; how you start it will be the direction of your day. Because of this, I will slowly wake up. Laying in bed until my brain isn’t fuzzy anymore and then start moving to get ready.
- Make your bed. Yes, you read that correctly. Making your bed each morning gives you a sense of accomplishment from the very beginning.
- Daily Devotions and prayer. I start my day with a simple devotion time and prayer to ask for guidance and wisdom in the upcoming day. I also give thanks for having another day and for my husband.
- Keep your clothes simple. Plan the night before what you will be wearing the next day and know what you have to wear. In short, don’t have a department store in your closet or most of it in the laundry basket.
- For those of us who must work outside of the home as well as at home, remember this always. We work to live, not live to work. Your worth is not measured by your job and career. I make sure that my job (as a programmer in the Tech World) has specific hours. I work 40 to 50 (if uncontrolled deadlines are needed) a week. When I am at work, I am at work. I also allow myself a lunch break, which normally I write or take a walk during good weather. Breaks are very important for keeping the mind clear. I also spend the first 10 minutes of every morning, organizing my day with the tasks for that day and moving them along as need be, utilizing an Agile methodology.
- For both home and work I have outlined in a journal of what my goals are for the day, nothing lofty, just what needs to be done. Keep It Short & Simple.
- I keep track of what I spend or earn. This helps me with my budgeting and keeps at the front of my mind to not waste funds.
- At home, I keep a strict rule that home is for home and family. This includes preparing the pantry for winter from our garden and supplementing with items from local farmers. This is how I am able to can fruits and vegetables in season and bake homemade breads and rolls.
- I do not stay “tied” to my phone or computer. I have found that keeping a written bullet journal handy to keep track of my to-do-lists, ‘shopping’ lists, moods, favorite scriptures and other things is better than being “plugged in”. This way I’m not distracted to waste time on other “apps”. I also have found that “helpful” apps are really not helpful at all, in fact they waste time more than anything as you grow to having an obligation to them.
- Shopping: Okay this is a touchy subject. I know that that the grocery apps are becoming a huge thing now days. But convenience creates its own demons. Plan your grocery needs, take the time to go and get only, what is on your list. You will save money and be more prepared. Keep a rule that if you don’t have an item in between runs, you will agree to go without, period. If it is a necessity, say yogurt, make sure you have it on your list to pick up on the grocery run. Keep your runs to once every other week, maybe longer if you can. The time and money saved continues to grow. Also, non grocery shopping apps suck you into spending more money and time then what you really need, they speak to your impulse voice. Its amazing how much you can spend in this way. UNPLUG.
- TV is not a priority. In fact, for us, it’s rarely on with the exception of some news and maybe an old TV show now and then, even then if my husband and I are enjoying the television, I’m knitting, crocheting or sewing while watching. We have also cut the cable cord. This saves us over $100 a month, another frugal tip. Getting rid of TV will save you a ton of time and a ton of stress.
- Understanding your needs versus your wants. Being plugged into the world tends to make it very confusing on exactly what a want and a need really is. Especially when the new car, vacation, food, clothing, personal ads are constantly talking to you, even if you say you don’t pay attention to them, they become that little voice saying you need this, you need this to be popular, to be better, to be wanted. Turn them off. You don’t NEED any of it. By not cluttering your life and not spending more and more money on things (wants) the stress will start to melt away.
- We eat at home with basic ingredients. I have heard the argument that it takes too much time to fix good meals at home. Hogwash! The time and money you spend driving, waiting, eating and driving home, not to mention the health effects on your body, you could have had a much better meal and not spend half the money and the time. If you have a tight work schedule, then meal-prep on the weekends. Plan ahead for the week with a schedule. This will also help you save money. Oh, and make your morning coffee at home don’t hit the drive-through. The money you spend on a good coffee maker and a travel mug, is pennies compared to the monthly cost of that daily/multiple coffee shop run.
- Enjoy the moment. Instead of worrying about what you need to do tomorrow. Schedule your week so you can sit back and enjoy the moment with the ones you love. Now, when I say schedule your week, this DOES NOT MEAN DOWN TO THE SECOND! Keep your load light, make room to enjoy life as life comes to you. Do NOT over schedule. Especially, if you have children. Do not schedule an event every night. Set limits for you and for them. Take in a board game, enjoy conversation, a walk, and do chores together.
- This one goes with not over scheduling your time. If you can’t give it at home, then don’t give it away somewhere else. What does this mean? If you are too busy to cook for your family, don’t volunteer to bake for the bake-sale. If you don’t have enough money to buy your kid’s school supplies, don’t go out with friends to dinner and or a bar.
- Pack your lunch and prepare your breakfast the night before. This way there is no rush and no temptation to hit the fast food place on the way to where you are going.
- Tidy up before bed. Make sure the dishes are done, items are put away. When you take care of things as they arise, the job is not near as daunting.
- Now here is the big one: REST. Yes, REST. Take some time to unwind, read a calming book or an evening devotion. UNPLUG, do not pick up that phone or tablet before bed, it stimulates the brain.
- Go to bed “early”. We try to be in bed between 9 and 9:30 pm each night, this means we easily obtain 7-8 hours of good sleep before we start all over again. A good night’s sleep is important for your body to refuel and repair. It’s directly tied into your mood, weight, stress levels and energy. Get some good rest.
I know this really sounds like a lot, but it all falls into place easily. I’ll be writing more about bullet journals in the future, but keeping these are a wonderful way to stay organized. It also helps me to remember what I did several days back.
Enjoy, and until next time.
Mrs. Kay Lynn Rice