5 Simple Steps to Easy Meal Planning! 

5 Simple Steps to Easy Meal Planning? Really? Yes I know what you’re thinking, ‘Meal Planning‘ and ‘Easy‘ don’t belong in the same sentence. But guess what? It does now. Meal planning is definitely something that takes a little bit of time and a bit of dedication, but after doing it for a couple of weeks, you honestly won’t even know how you ever made it through the week without it. This is also one of the easiest ways to save money. All of a sudden you’re not going to and from the shops 4 times a week, you have cupboards full of food that is ready to be made into a meal and wasting food because it went out of date tends to not happen, like ever. 

Food is one of those things that everybody needs, and you’re always going to have to spend money on it. So why not take control of that, otherwise you could be wasting hundreds every year on wasted food and take outs. Not only that but without a properly planned diet bad eating habits become your worst enemy. Alas, not all is lost, I’ve given you 5 Simple Steps to get you Meal Planning like a Pro

  1. Make a list of all the meals you love and other recipes you’d like to try. Gather as many ideas as you can so you have a great go-to list of dinner ideas. Scour through recipe books and if you’re cooking for a family then get the family together and share ideas. Including your family in the process can help make meal planning a breeze and placing your meal plan somewhere for everyone to see in the home is a must! My husband and I leave our weekly meal plan on the fridge so at a glance we can see what we’re going to be eating that night, which makes meal times something to really look forward to, instead of dreading the thought of trying to come up with something to eat.
  2. List the ingredients for each meal. This part is optional, but for those who want to be super organised and often forget ingredients whilst shopping this can really help. Maybe write down all the ingredients you need for each meal on flash cards, on your phone or anywhere that is convinient for you. This will help when it comes to creating your shopping list because you already know all the ingredients you need for each meal, hence forgeting something whilst shopping will be a thing of the past!
  3. Work out how far ahead you want your meal plan to be. Are you planning a week at a time? 2 weeks? 5 days? Whatever your time scale, work it out. I like to work week by week, simply because fresh food doesn’t last that long, but if you’re into monthly shopping and like to prepare in bulk and freeze a lot of your meals then that’s fine too! Everyone is different and so it may take a couple of go’s before you get it figured out, which is completely fine! 
  4. Now pick the same number of meals to match the number of days you’re shopping for. And remember if you don’t want to, you don’t necessarily have to assign a meal for a specific day. I like to pick 7meals for 7days and then be able to pick freely which meal I’m in the mood for or go in the order of which ingredients go out of date first, that way I’m cutting back on the amount of food I’d be wasting through the week too! Sometimes after  I shop and I know the use by dates of the veggies and meat etc I will assign a meal to a night then. 
  5. Now create your shopping list! The first few times I was doing grocery shopping I found myself going up and down the aisles multiple times because I kept forgetting things on the list that where in the same area as each other . Now I try to keep dairy food together on my list, canned food listed together and meat listed together and so on and so on. Don’t forget to take into consideration enough food for the week for lunches or breakfast too (Of course if you want to make a plan for breakfast lunch and dinner then go ahead! The more planning the better!)

And there you have it! That’s how easy meal planning is. And if you’re like me then obviously you have to have a stack of great stationary to help out with all your organisation. Personally I use a range of stationary from Kikki.K.

Amazing Dinner Planner and handy perforated ‘to buy’ section:   

Meal Planner for Pros:
 Shopping List for the Super Organiser: 

I know, cute stationary right? Anyways back to the main point, don’t be afraid of meal planning. Once you start you’ll never go back, and once you get the hang of it, planning your meals out becomes an ease. Let me know how you plan your meals out in the comments! 🙂 

How to stop living Paycheck to Paycheck! 

how to stop living paycheck to paycheck

Budgets….bluergh!

Who needs one of those?….Wellll if we’re honest we all do actually, in some form at least. We live in a world where money seems to be ‘the be all and end all‘, but wouldn’t it be great if it didn’t have to be?

One way you can stop worrying about money so much is by having a Budget. It takes the stress out of bills/debts or savings because you know you already have everything accounted for and so you can spend time on the more important things.

I’m going to share with you how my husband and I personally manage all of our expenses and how you can too! (Bear in mind this is super easy to do! the hard part is STICKING TO IT!)

So here’s a step by step guide to help you start your budgeting adventure:

1. Work out your Monthly Expenses

That’s right, go grab a pen and paper, and sit down with your spouse (if applicable) and together work out every bill that needs to be paid in a month e.g. Rent, Car Insurance, Pet Insurance, Electricity, Mobile Phones, Internet, TV etc.

2. Other Miscellaneous Payments

Now include in your Monthly Expenses anything else you need to spend money on during the month that aren’t necessarily ‘Bills’ but still something you must spend money on, such as Groceries, Petrol, Clothes.

3. Add up all the Monthly Expenses

Okay so here’s the scary part, total up all of the amounts you’ve written down and minus it from how much you earn in a month. Hopefully, you’ll find that you have some extra money left over. If not, then changes need to be made.

Start by cutting back on unnecessary expenses. Clothing is something I’ve tried to work on dramatically, after feeling the urge to purge my wardrobes I decided to invest in a book. That doesn’t sound too amazing until I tell you I purchased ‘The life-changing magic of tidying up’ by Marie Kondo. No, I didn’t need a book to tell me how to purge my wardrobes but I did need a system and I had heard good reviews about this book. It’s safe to say that it got me motivated. I’ve dramatically cut down the number of clothing items I own. It’s still not perfect but it’s 100% better. If you want to save money, in the case of clothes and material possessions I definitely suggest first clearing and sorting through what you already own. This process lends itself to appreciation and it quantifies in your mind just how much stuff you already have. Now when I purchase an item I try to remember what I already own and where this purchase would live in my house. I’m a big believer in trying to buy second hand first. Not only do you give items a second lease of life but in the case of clothing, you also reduce your impact in the fast fashion industry. Save money, save your time, save the planet…okay that last one is a stretch but every little helps.

Transport can be another area where money goes to die. Between petrol, insurance, tax, road safety tests, breakdowns, car washes, and those little green pine trees you hang from the rearview mirror, they cost a lot. Yes, you can walk more and use public transport, but if you already own a car you’re going to have to pay for a car anyway and also pay for bus tickets etc. You can at least focus on keeping your car well maintained and hopefully cut down on unexpected breakdowns.

Food is another area where you can cut expenses. For example, I used to buy a lot more food than I needed every time I’d go grocery shopping for me and my husband. A lot of it went to waste. So to make changes I cut back and started meal planning, so now I know what and how much to buy. I even make extra portions some nights so I can freeze it and reheat it next week.

What can also make a big difference is doing one big shop a week instead of loads of smaller trips- saves money on food and petrol, so it’s a win-win. Some might call this lazy but I’ve started to do my grocery shopping online. I didn’t think it would make a big difference but it really has. Some months during the year I go meat-free, I’ve been trying to make more conscious decisions regarding my consumption of meat. Buying my shop online has made me very aware of the food I’m buying, it feels less impulsive and more purposeful and planned. I don’t get tempted by cheap meat offers, I just search for organic or free range and that’s all I allow myself to see and buy. Choosing meat-free alternatives saves you a lot of money and you get to experiment with some new recipes. If you are anything like me I tend to eat the same meals over and over again so sometimes change is very welcome.

You might even want to consider getting a side job or turning your hobby into a small business. A little bit of money on the side can be very helpful to get your savings started, or if you have to save for something in a shorter period of time. I’ve enjoyed working part-time from home as a virtual assistant, let me know if you want to know more about running your own virtual assistant business below and I can write a post or we can chat.

4. Save, Save, Save!

So once you have your monthly expenses equal less than your total income then you’re on the right track! All you have to do now is work out a system that makes you save as much as that extra cash as you can! This will help you stop living paycheck to paycheck and build up a healthy amount of savings for those unexpected bills.

What sort of a System should I use?

You need to find a system that works for YOU. My biggest piece of advice is to set yourself a very attainable goal at first, you’ll fall in love with the feeling of accomplishment and hopefully, stick to your saving routine.

Here’s how we stopped living Paycheck to Paycheck!

My system is actually very simple, I’m not a big fan of categorizing absolutely everything but Monzo has been a very big help. (Monzo is an online back that both my husband and I use. There are probably very similar bank accounts but that’s just what we use.) Monzo lets you make loads of different money pots, we have one for rent, food, petrol, emergency fund etc. As soon as we get paid, we move whatever money needs to go into each category, the rest we leave in our main account pot.

The game for the rest of the month is too see how much we can save, instead of racing to spend our money. Since we have separated out the money we need for the month, including our savings, the money left in our current account is quite low, but just enough so we don’t feel like we’re completely broke.

In effect, we pretend as if we are living paycheck to paycheck although, in reality, we are building up a separate savings account without really even realizing it!

This is what works for us because some weeks we need to spend more and others less which of course is normal! A budget shouldn’t feel restraining, and if it does, then you may have to go over your expenses again and work out if they are a ‘need‘ or a ‘want‘.

A budget should give you peace of mind that you have all the money you need to cover your bills and should help you get on track to build up some healthy savings.

But remember money isn’t everything

It’s true! Money isn’t everything! This should simply help you take debts and bills off your mind so you can go enjoy life a little less stress-free! Rethinking your view on possessions can really help you if you’re struggling to stop spending. Even if you have all the latest gadgets or the most fashion-forward clothes, that won’t result in happiness but understanding that money is just money can make you focus on the more important things. Budgeting can help you learn to live within your means and help you understand the real worth of money and help it go a lot further even when you’re living on less.

What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to saving? Share in the comments below!