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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Forgive me if someone already posted something similar, I didn't know what to search for. I have this problem with meal plans. I've been doing them for at least 2 years now and it seems like no matter how I do it, we always end up with not much to eat and/or we run out before payday! (and when I say run out, I mean no meat of any kind, no milk, no bread, you get the idea)

I'm really fed up with it and will take to heart anyone's advice because I have to figure this out. So what have I been doing:

Ok I started doing plans for 2 weeks, because we would go grocery shopping every 2 weeks (payday). I'd do 10 meals with the other days being leftover days (planned into the week). Leftover days would be right after I'd make a BIG dinner...or at least what I planned to be a big dinner. (sometimes there's no leftovers for leftover days)

Oh and I should say the 1st year was just my husband and I, then our child began eating regular food (the 2nd year). We are now going into the 3rd year, so my child will be eating more I'm assuming by the end of this year.

I saw the 10 meal plan wasn't working so I changed it. I thought that because we'd get this surplus of food all at once, we'd eat a lot (esp. the yummy quick foods), and end up with nothing by the middle of the 2nd week. So we began doing weekly grocery shopping (and yes we went up on the budget in hopes of having enough through the week). It worked fine at first (and every blue moon we'd be ok up to the day to go shopping again). I was doing a weekly meal plan. Then again the bottom fell out and for most weeks by THURSDAY food would be low and we'd struggle or eat out until Saturday shopping.

I changed it again. Now, we still do a weekly grocery shopping but I have a monthly meal plan. I make up a list of about 12 meals. For the grocery store I would list out ingredients for 3 or 4 of the meals from the list and I would just choose I just choose what I want to make on a daily basis (there is no concrete meal per day, which makes it less stressful for me having a newborn in the house). I thought it would be easier that way if we run out of an ingredient or two (or half the meal) I don't have to re-plan what to make for that particular day. Yes not a lot of variety in the meals but it's easier on my brain for now.

Btw, when I say I have a menu plan, I do plan out breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. Like I said, my current monthly plan just has a list of snacks, lunch ideas, dinner ideas, etc. and on the day of I look at the list and choose one. But I've always had a plan for each meal when I wasn't doing the monthly plan.

And yet again, we run out of food before payday AND/OR run out of ingredients to complete the meals (run out of snacks, whatever). Running out of ingredients doesn't happen as much since I've done this current general outline type of plan - but it still happens. (No cheese for tacos, I'll use the last can of tuna for lunch since there isn't anymore lunch meat, but I was going to use that for tuna casserole, etc.).

I keep thinking this happens to us because we don't have much of a stockpile, or we use our stockpile up regularly ('oh I thought that would be enough kidney beans, well we have one more can in the pantry'). This is such a frustrating topic. Snacks are gone sometimes before Tuesday! I guess we don't buy enough? But if we did, we'd be spending over a hundred dollars a week just for TWO people... my son eats, but honestly how much can a two year old eat? What will we do once both our sons are 5? This can't be the only solution...HELP!
 

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Instead of deciding in advance what you'll be eating, shop the specials and plan your meals around them.

Switch snacks to fruit (on sale) and drinks to water.

Use beans to extend hamburgers, casseroles, etc.

Serve casseroles over rice.

Soda, if any, with meals only.

Bake brownies or cookies from sale items or bake your own. A special treat only.

Use any coupons you can find but not for prepared foods.

Pasta with sauce is great. So is "breakfast for dinner" pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon on sale, oatmeal with fresh fruit.

Keep us posted and good luck ♥
 

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I see one of three things happening, probably a combination of all three.

1. you are not buying enough food for your plan. There are not enough portions for planned leftovers, for example, or there is no cheese left for tacos come Friday.

2. you are eating larger portions than you are planning for. Is someone having a 2nd portion, or putting more cold cuts on the sandwich than you expected? Where is the food going?

3. someone is snacking on food you need for meals. Or being a pig ("Snacks are gone by Tuesday")

I think you need to pinpoint specific problems like the running out of cheese (buy a bigger package) or not having leftovers (buy more portions of meat). And you need to examine your recipes for ingredient amounts. Do you just assume that "yeah there's some cheese left" or do you buy the 8oz the recipe calls for? When you buy a box of snacks do you count the number of pieces vs how many you need for the week? Why do you run out of snacks? They aren't vanishing in the night.
 
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With a newborn in the house, I can imagine there is more snacking and "fending for yourself" than there are proper meals. At least that's how it was at our house when my second son was born!

I made up a huge pot of chicken taco filling, bought a large pack of tortillas and a bag of cheese and my husband could feed himself "dinner" (or lunch) whenever he was hungry.

Soups work well for this type of eating and are also filling and relatively cheap to make.

Can you give us a list of the types of foods you make/run out of/snack on and we can try to give you ideas to stretch it out further?
 
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I don't know if this is something you would like to try but before serving the meal I box up the "leftovers". If I need that food for another meal it goes into a container immediately. Otherwise I see that extra and decide I'm still hungry (not really still hungry but still want the flavor.) Lots of food sitting in front of a person is tempting, look at how much people eat during a Thanksgiving Spread.

I'm not saying you have to divvy up your husband's plate, just divvy BACK what you need for the next day's lunch before you set the entire meal out in front of him.
 

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The portion control ended up being my biggest grocery budget buster, so you might look to that as yours. I feed some "Paul Bunyans" at my house and they literally can eat two to three times the listed serving size. Snacks are gone REALLY fast, too, because I really do have them disappearing into the night (night-time pantry raiding!). What I did was start doing as others suggested here, filling those hungry boys up with rice, beans, bread, pasta, etc., WITH meals. I also put the leftovers up FIRST (like from the roast, soup, chili, extra chicken breast, extra meat). I mean I served the storage container FIRST, and hid in the fridge before the crew even missed it! I also started measuring nuts and chips out in individual bags (amazing how small a "serving" of chips really is!), and I'd hide half the week's goodies and put the measured bags in the snack place. Mid-week, I replenish the snack bowl with the extra bags of snacks. That slowed down consumption. Then, I "trained" the family that when it was out, it was out. Want more snacks to last until end of week? Great, that comes out of YOUR spending money and I'll drive you to the store (and wait in the car so I am not tempted to go off my grocery budget!). I've had a horrible time paring down my grocery budget but these tactics have helped tremendously. I'm still picking up tips here, but these are ones I've used successfully.
 
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Here is what I do:

* I make a list of meals that I want to have the ingrediants for but don't make it set for a specific night

* Keep some items on hand for quick meals (quesadillas, eggs, etc...)

* Keep some ready made items in the freezer you can just pull out

* Keep it simple
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
wow all of the responses have been great! I REALLY appreciate it and it's a true eye-opener. I've never been one to pay attention to serving sizes (fast metabolism in our household). But definitely we are in need to narrow down the problem.

Oowl I'll definitely do everything you said. Btw, congrads on being debt free!!! That's awesome and what we are shooting for. 2 debts to go!
 

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One thing I do is this. After making my menu plan for the week, I write out my grocery list STANDING UP- in other words, walking around the kitchen and pantry to MAKE SURE I have the items I think I have. In other words, if I need two cans of tomato paste this week, I have to make visual contact with two cans of tomato paste or otherwise it goes on the list.
The other thing I did was to buy some sticker-type dots in red. (Red meaning STOP) If an item in the cabinets is to be used for a planned meal this week, it gets a STOP dot on it- warning everyone not to consume said item. Green sticker dots are for items OK to snack on. I buy snacks for the week, when they are gone, there is no more snacking unless the kids purchase their own. End of story.
 

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I have a white board on the fridge. The leftovers that are available for lunches or snacks are put on there.

I also have a snack shelf out in the pantry. They are welcome to eat anything off that shelf any time they want. Well, DH can. The boys have to ask first to make sure they aren't getting into it before a meal.

My guys are required to make two batches of muffin bars a week (double batch of muffins baked in a 9x13 pan). They eat them for breakfast and snack on them.

As for meal portions, I make about double what I think we need for a meal. I have three teenage boys. This accommodates for when they are eating like they have two empty legs and an empty arm. DH takes his lunch to work out of the leftovers.
 

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Another thought I had is that I always have "back up" meals. A meal I can throw together pretty much anytime I open the pantry. One good one is a can of chili beans over rice ~ you can add kielbasa if you have some (sometimes I find it marked down when it's about to expired, I buy a bunch and throw them in the freezer). This is a good filling meal and 99% of the time I have everything I need.
Breakfast for dinner is another one (we're having that this week because my grocery budget got tight!)
Spaghetti ~ with or without meat.
Every year after Christmas I take the ham bone and make a HUGE batch of split pea soup in my big electric roaster. I end up with about 12 quarts. I put that in the freezer and they are always easy to grab when we run out of food.
Often times when I make chili, I double the beans and cut the meat. This makes it spread out over more meals and cuts the price of the whole thing.
 

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at the risk of sounding obvious, it sounds like you aren't buying enough food.

once a year i spend 500 - 1000 and stock up my pantry.

having a pantry (i don't like the word stockpile) helps. i can go into the pantry and make a meal out of anything. i don't coupon or do the stockpiling thing. i just keep a years worth of food on hand. (it's a mormon thing) STORE WHAT YOU EAT, EAT WHAT YOU STORE.

i buy a large sack of rice and seal it into containers to keep the bugs out. flour, sugar.

dried beans

canned everything. 12 of everything
12 of each for the veg and fruit i try to buy only del monte because i have bad luck with the store brands bulging and leaking.

canned meats, beans, macaroni
canned convenience foods, like beef stew.
dried milk, evap milk, condensed milk
preservs, jams jellie
pickles, olives, jalapenos
pace picante sauce
spahetti sauce ( i buy the kind in cans not jars. it keeps better.)
several dozen canned tomatoes, paste, stewed

and my boss fills my freezer with deer meat every year. her husband likes to go hunting.

the only snack i have the pantry is unpopped popcorn.

at the end of every year, i make an "eat me" pile of the older cans.

on top of this, then i meal plan and go shopping every two weeks. snacks are included here.

see, you have no buffer.

i also have a list of "throwdown meals", that i can throw down in 10 minutes or less. like chick pea anything.
 

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I take the foods I intend for another meal, and put them back in the fridge - BEFORE I serve dinner. Out of sight, out of mind!

Plan your meals around the sales, and what you have on hand.

When I had 2 teen boys in the house, plus their friends - snacks were generally popcorn. I'd buy a huge bag of popcorn kernels for a $1 and we'd pop it ourselves on the stove top. You can add all sorts of flavorings to jazz it up a bit.

I stocked up on peanut butter when it was on sale, and they'd eat PB sandwiches for a quick meal or snack.

Milk, juice, soda were all limited strictly, as were meat portions. Veggies and starches were pretty much unlimited for them to fill up with.

Meat is used as a condiment, rather than the main dish -- fried rice, stir fry, soups, etc.
 

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another thing to consider is are you paid every 2 weeks or bimonthly, because sometimes for us 1st and 15th folks, there are more than 14 days in that stretch. especialy for those that shop on saturdays, so it might be the 18th before i can get to the store.
actually take the calendar out and count the days between shopping days. several times a year there are three week paychecks.
 

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Hi MRoseB, congratulations on your new baby! I'm a new mom myself and breastfeeding. Honestly, I feel like I could eat all day. Plus, if you are home by yourself with two little people, exhausted and not sleeping, your could be mindlessly munching (i certainly was!)

My suggestions are definitely keep unpopped popcorn on hand (and a popper, a stovetop model like we have is about 10 and pays for itself very quickly. Popcorn is a semi healthy filling mindless food. I put mrs. Dash or shake cheese on it sometimes and its very good.

Another helpful thing someone else mentioned is breaking down portions when you buy your food. If we make a meatloaf, we are going to eat it for sure. So, I make up meatloaf muffins and freeze them, only taking out a portion at a time. I also keep cookie dough in the freezer and break or slice just enough to fill my craving.

Lastly, I know its a hard time of the year, but get out of the house and away from the food. I found two mothers support groups near my house, one was for breastfeeding and one just babies 3 and under. These got me out of the house for 2 or 3 hours a day sometimes, and most of the time people brought snacks to share (bonus).

I feel like I'm saying you are the one eating all the snacks. I'm not, I'm saying I ate all the snacks when I was at home with a newborn! HTH!
 

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I plan for some *bonus* meals and snacks.
i.e. I always keep a jar of salsa and a bag of tortilla chips in the pantry. I always keep extra cans of beans. And I always have extra jars of spaghetti sauce and pasta. These are things that aren't planned for and just sit unused unless we need them for back up.

Keep a box of pancake mix too. Excellent for a cheap meal when all else fails, or even a midnight snack.

As for your things like bread , milk and eggs. I'd say someone is eating more then you calculate for. You either need to buy more of it or have a chat about what a serving size is. Assign a cup that's the right portion size for drinking milk. And or learn what substitutions might work for family.
Out of eggs for baking? Try using banana instead or corn starch or ground flax. Substituting is the key to staying on budget.
 

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I plan for some *bonus* meals and snacks.
i.e. I always keep a jar of salsa and a bag of tortilla chips in the pantry. I always keep extra cans of beans. And I always have extra jars of spaghetti sauce and pasta. These are things that aren't planned for and just sit unused unless we need them for back up.

Keep a box of pancake mix too. Excellent for a cheap meal when all else fails, or even a midnight snack.

As for your things like bread , milk and eggs. I'd say someone is eating more then you calculate for. You either need to buy more of it or have a chat about what a serving size is. Assign a cup that's the right portion size for drinking milk. And or learn what substitutions might work for family.
Out of eggs for baking? Try using banana instead or corn starch or ground flax. Substituting is the key to staying on budget.
I just saved a recipe for chocolate pudding and one of the ingredients is 1/4 cup of cornstarch. Can I substitute 1/4 cup of a mashed banana? We'd like the flavor if it does the same job.
 
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