Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Why and How to Meal Planning

When Trevon and I got married I was not the planner in the relationship. I liked to do things more on a whim and Trevon always wanted to have a plan and a schedule. That didn't change completely after getting married, but I learned quickly that it's best to have a plan when it came to meals and a list for grocery shopping. Meal planning became part of our regular routine.

When we first got married, we would both get home from work and try to find something for dinner and we would always end up frustrated because we were hungry and didn't have what we needed to make a meal. Trevon started telling me that I should write down a list of things I need at the store to make dinners so I wouldn't forget things (sometimes I still forget things even though I make a list now). And then we quickly realized that in order to make a good grocery list, I needed to have an idea of what we wanted for dinners that week. It surprised me that he was the one that was a little bugged by this because he had mentioned that his family rarely ate dinner together, while my family had dinner together every night.

Being newlyweds, we decided that we wanted to be able to cut back on spending somewhere and decided that groceries were a good place to start. We tried the extreme couponing thing and at first, we decided it was a really great idea. Build up food storage and save some money while we were at it. It required some work though, and eventually, we decided to quit doing that because it wasn't working like we hoped. We ended up buying so much junk food that never filled us up instead of healthier, good food. We were spending a lot of money on things we wouldn't normally buy too, like pop tarts, just because it was a good deal. So we quit doing that.

After a few years of living with family, we moved into our own place and when we did that, we really needed to save extra money! Then one area that we could see easy potential in saving was, again, groceries. So we really got down to business on what we needed to buy instead of what was a good deal. The best way for us to do this was to plan our dinners for the week, and write a grocery list that was easy to stick to.

So, every Sunday, we sit down and meal plan by making a list of things that we want to have for dinners that week. We ask the kids what they want, and we go through the schedule and see if we have any plans that would cut out any of the dinners (like if we had plans to go out with friends, or a family dinner party). And we look at the grocery store ad to see what is on sale that we actually use and need to stock up on.

Once the dinner list is done, we start on the grocery list. We go through and see what we need to buy for those dinners.  From there we add things that we will need for all of our lunches to the list. We see what we are out of in the fridge and in the pantry and put that on the list, and then produce, and snacks.

Then I put the dinner menu and the grocery list on my phone in the order I would get them at the store. This makes shopping incredibly easy. I only go down the aisles that I need to go down. We avoid the candy/snack aisle and the pop isles always (unless there's a treat we need to take for school or for a holiday) so it's really easy not to impulse by treats that we don't really need. I can honestly get the grocery shopping, from the time I get in the car to the time I get back home (kids and all), done in 30-45 minutes if I put my list in order. It's become a really easy routine.

Meal planning and making a grocery list has saved us so much money! We are a family of 5, and we are spending around $130 a week at two stores (on a week where we have a lot to buy) We don't use coupons, I do use the Ibotta app, though, which is a rebate app for groceries.  We just stick to the list of stuff we know we need to get. We very rarely impulse buy this way and most of our food is produce. I remember hearing some of my married friends talk about how much money they spend on groceries a week and I never understood how a couple without kids could spend $300- $500 a week!?

Meal planning also makes making dinner really easy. I just look at the list and see what we have left on there and pick what we feel the most like that night. This helps us to get dinner on the table by 6:00 and stops us from spending a lot of money on takeout. There are days that I don't feel like cooking or that we don't want anything on the list. And on those days we have "find it yourself night" which means the girls have chicken nuggets and Trev and I normally have a bowl of cereal or leftovers.

So, now that I've been doing this meal planning thing every week for almost 6 years, I guess that kind of makes me a planner.  It doesn't have to be fancy. It doesn't need to be a menu board or scheduled out day by day. If that's what works for your family, great! But it can be as simple as writing it down on a piece of paper like we do. I still like to be spontaneous or a little more relaxed with other things, but making dinner and grocery shopping has been so much easier since we started to meal plan.

Do you have a grocery list every time you go to the store?

What is your most used dinner recipe?

Monday, March 19, 2018

10 No Fail Ways to Boost Your Mood

We all have those days that we just feel grumpy or gloomy.  No one is exempt from them and most people can't just snap out of it without changing something that's going on in their days, whether that's something inside their heads that they are dealing with (that little voice in your head can sometimes be your worst enemy) or something that is happening to them in the workplace or with family life or anything else that is stressful or frustrating. Sometimes everyone could use a little mood booster.

No one likes to feel down or upset. Sometimes it happens for good reason and we need to accept it (like with grief), but when there is a way to change it, who doesn't want to make themselves feel better and be happier?  There are things you can do every day to help your day go better, but It can be hard to come up with things that will help you feel better when you're in the thick of it so here are some ways to be sure to boost your mood.

Do something productive.  Deep clean one room in your house. Get one job marked off your list at work.  Get a project you've been working on finished. It doesn't really matter how small the thing you choose is. There have been studies that show that marking off something from your to-do list increases dopamine, which is a hormone that helps you feel happy, to your brain. And once you start marking things off your list, chances are you'll have a lot more motivation to mark other things off and your happiness levels will just keep rising.

Get out of the house. This is tricky for me when the weather is cold (thank heaven it seems to be warming up around here.) but getting fresh air and sunshine -- even on a cloudy day-- helps you feel refreshed and helps clear your brain. Plus, vitamin D does a ton of good things for your mood.

Turning on some music. Find that one song that you just can't help but smile when you hear it. Turn it up loud (or not if you work in a quiet environment) and let it repeat until you feel better. Or make a whole playlist of songs that make you feel good. You know the ones that I'm talking about, you hear them on the radio and you can't help but turn it up. You'll get even more endorphins if you make a dance party out of it.

Speaking of endorphins, go get some exercise. Most people think of exercise as something that will help with long-term happiness, and it will, but exercise helps you almost immediately. There is no way to measure the number of times that I have left for a run in a terrible mood and come back a completely different person. Not only do the endorphins get moving when you get moving, but working out often gives you a way to process emotions and other things going on in your head. And your brain functions much better during and after exercise. So you can sort a whole lot of stuff out during a 20-minute (longer if you have the time) run or workout session. Get moving.

Make a list of everything that has gone right this week.  This can be a hard one, especially if you feel like you're taking hits left and right when it comes to life lately.  But there is always something that you can be happy about. There's always at least one blessing that you can find in your life to be thankful for.

Talk.  If you're down and feeling lonely a phone call, or even a text conversation, can help you not feel so alone.  Have someone who knows that some days just suck and sometimes you just need to talk and give them a call.  For me, this is my mom and my sister. I know that if I'm really just struggling and down that, I can call or text them a huge list of complaints and they will always help me look for the good and find something to smile about. And, seriously, if you can't find someone to talk to, please email me! I've been there a lot. I know what sad and depressed is like and I'll do my very best to help.

Treat yourself to an indulgent snack or with some me time, or both.  When I can't get myself out of a funk, I find some chocolate and watch a chick flick or a sappy tv show (This is Us anyone?) and I just let myself relax and not think about the things in my life that are stressing me out.

Do something for someone else. Just about every person has experienced the joy they feel when they see someone else happy because of something they did.  Serving each other helps us think of all the good things in our lives. It boosts empathy for others. It strengthens our relationship and love for others.

Write down the good things from your day.  I did really good for a while to write in a journal every night and highlight the best things from the day. Doing this really helps you see that most days are mostly good with a few hard or bad things in there. But on the days that really just are horrible, you can look back at your other good days and find hope.

Go to sleep. At the end of the day, if none of that has worked, go to bed early so that you can start your day off better tomorrow.  Sometimes days are just hard and long and sad. Sometimes you hit a bad streak and your days feel hard and you feel down or frustrated and nothing seems to be going right. But remember that for every bad day that you have, there are always good days to come.

What do you do to boost your mood on a bad day?

What song is on your happy playlist?

What is your favorite tv show or movie to watch?