Thursday, October 31, 2013

31 Days Recap

We did it!!  31 days of talking about money!!  I'm exhausted -ha!!  I hope that you were encouraged :) Thank you for all the positive feedback I received from readers all around.  I know people don't really want to talk about money they just want to have it.  But, in my experience, if you want to have it, you have to talk about it :).  

So, hopefully by now you have a better idea of how to talk about money, where the money is going, and where the money should be going.  Also, you should have found some 'extra' money that is allowing you to dig yourself out of debt and save up for a rainy day.  And, lastly build that nest egg, dream about the future, and don't be afraid to dream big because we serve a BIG God that wants great things for you!!

You have probably noticed me mentioned Dave a lot throughout this series.  Honestly, everything I learned about money I learned from my financial peace class written by Dave.  (don't you love how I'm on a first-name-basis with him;))  He has a blog, a website, a facebook page, and even a pinterest page.  I would suggest following along on one or all for great tips and suggestions from Dave.

I feel like I should share with you how things are going on my home front, it has been a bumpy month financially for us, and my hubby and I have been left shaking our heads at the things the enemy has been throwing at us.  I'm beginning to think that the devil was none too happy I was sharing with you guys about money!!  HA!!  So, through it all this experience of faithfully writing for 31 days about money has caused me to keep my head up and keep pressing on through the trial.  So, my beloved, you do the same.  Keep your head up!!  You can do this!!  

Now, I'm gonna take a couple of days off!!!  I hope that's okay :).  We have a busy weekend ahead around here!  I will be back soon because I have lots of projects to share with you!!  For those of you that joined me for this series, please stick around, I don't always blog about money, we do fun things around here too, and I'm sure there will be some money-saving tips thrown in here are there!!

Blessings friends!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Investing In Your Future

I mentioned that this is one of my weakest areas when it comes to finances because I try to live by this biblical principle 

"So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own." - Matthew 6:34

But, I know that we can't stick our head in the sand forever, and that's not what God wants us to do.  He wants us to prepare for the future and take good care with the money that He has blessed us with.  There is a story in the Bible in Matthew where a master gave money to three different slaves, and they all chose to handle it differently, and two were blessed because they made money from the money they were given, but the one who buried the money (aka coffee can), the master took the money back and gave it to the other two and fired him.  (very loose paraphrase :) - click on the link to read the story yourself - you'll have to click to get off that first screen maybe where you can't see it all, not sure what that's about).  

I want God to be pleased with how I took care of my loan, so we do our best to 'plan' for the future.  

Maybe you've heard the expression "don't put all your eggs in one basket".  Well, this makes a lot of sense when it comes to investing in your future.  You don't want to count on one source of income for retirement, or on one source of funding for your child's college tuition.  A lot of us are blessed with retirement packages through our jobs.  Make sure that you are aware of how that works, and consider if that is enough to get by. Or maybe, you need to add to that.  Some companies allow you to contribute over the amount that they are contributing - do that as you are able.  The more money in the nest egg, the more money it makes.  Consider investing on the side through an investment company for another source.  

College funding is a whole separate stress for most of us parents.  Let me first just give this disclaimer.  If you are unable to save for your son or daughter's college education, do not think less of yourself as a parent.  My hubby and I, and I'm sure many of you, paid our way through college ourselves, with the assistance of aid, loans, and work.  It can be done, it's not the end of the world, and they will probably be better for it.  

However, if you are able to bless your children with a free college education (that being free for them), then by all means, do it.  Again, there are several different avenues for this.  My suggestion here too, would be to find a financial adviser with an investment company that you trust to guide you in the best ways to do that. You can go to Dave's sight here for some of his recommendations for people in your area.  

Blessings friends!!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Saving For a Rainy Day

My grandma always had a coffee can on top of the fridge with cash in it - saving for a rainy day.  :)  My hubby's grandma used to stuff her extra cash in socks. We have a couple of jars around the house to collect spare change and a couple of dollars now and then. Everyone likes the idea of having a couple of bucks stashed away.

Dave suggests that the first thing you do, even before budgeting or paying off debt, is to build an emergency fund of $1,000 as quickly as possible.  Now, if you have ever been through any of the situations I used as examples yesterday, you know that most likely won't cover it all, but just think how much easier it would be to have that (that will cover most deductibles). 

Then, after you have been working your budget and you have successfully paid off all debt (except the mortgage), it's a good idea to add to that emergency fund.  Dave suggests enough to cover 3-6 months of living expenses.  This would be huge help in facing any financial trial. Can you feel the freedom in that?!?

Remember when you use money from these emergency funds, they must be replenished.  There is no point in doing all that work in the beginning, if you are not going to keep up with it.  Here are some great suggestions for how to come up with that first $1,000 FAST.  :)

Build An Emergency Fund Fast
So, where do you put the money that you save??  We use a simple savings account, which is great because it's easily accessible.  As you grow a larger emergency fund you may want to look into something with a higher yielding interest rate like a money market account. Always consider how accessible you need the money to be, and find an account that suits those needs.  The more your money can make money the better!!  

Blessings and Happy savings!!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Saving and Investing

Okay, so if you've hung around this long, you should have an idea of where all your money is going.  You should have a basic idea of a budget, and in these two processes you have probably discovered some "extra" money.  The next couple of days we are going to talk about what to do with that "extra" money.  

I say extra with "" because I truly believe God gives you exactly what He wants you to have, you just have to figure out how He wants you to use what He has given you.

We talked in the beginning about how most things that we might consider 'emergencies' aren't actually an emergency.  For example, if you are a home owner - leaks happen, if you own a car - they break down, and so on and these things should be planned for in your budget.  However, there are things that happen that we may never be prepared for - unplanned medical expenses, unfortunate accidents (either in the home, at work, or in your car), loss of a loved one, loss of a job.

These things can hit our finances hard, so hard that it makes it virtually impossible to recover from them. This is where the savings comes in.  

Then, it is time to look toward the future.  This is my weakest area, because honestly I prefer to live in the present and let the Lord take care of tomorrow.  But, I also know I don't want my hubby to have to work until the grave, and I want to be able to hop on a plane to see my grand kids whenever I want when that time comes. So we should all plan for retirement.  Also, none of us want our kids to be saddled with student loans in order to get a college degree, so we should consider how we will assist them in that.  

We will explore all of these areas a little deeper over the next couple of days!!  

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I Hope To Be A Good Steward

As I have shared with you this month about money, and all the things that we should keep in mind as we do our best to use the money we have wisely, I never want to forget that everything we have, we have because the Lord God has given it to us.  Everything is merely on loan to us. 

The earth is the Lord's, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.  -Psalms 24:1

God provides for our needs and the only request is that we take care of {be a good steward of} what He gives us.  

Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds.  -Proverbs 27:23

Seeking riches will only end in heartache.

If riches increase, do not set your hear on them.  -Psalm 62:10

Possessing a cheerful and giving heart will bring you joy.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so.  Do not say to your neighbor, 'Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,' when you have it with you.  -Proverbs 3:27-28

Blessings Friends :)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

What Do Kids Need to Know About Money Before College

Since I have a senior in high school, this topic has been in the front of my mind as of late, so I sat down and made my own list of things I want to make sure we cover before he spreads his wings. Here is our list.

*How to make and maintain a budget
*How to pay a bill
*How to use a debit/ATM card
*How to balance and reconcile a checkbook
*Understanding bank statements
*How to write a check
*How to cash a check
*How to deposit/withdraw money from the bank
*How to open a checking account
*How to save
*Understanding the basics of investing/retirement saving
*Understanding the basics of loan/mortgages
*How to avoid the credit trap

Some of these things are very basic, things you think are second nature, but to an 18yr. old, not so much.  I remember the first time I had my son (then almost 16) pump gas - he had no idea what he was doing, and at that moment I felt like I had failed!!  He was weeks away from getting his driver's license and he didn't even know how to get his own gas!!

So, I don't want to be the same way with finances.  Yes, we have worked some basic principles along the way, but there are definitely grown-up things he hasn't had to do yet, that he will have to do very soon.  So, I want to make sure he's as prepared as possible.  :)

Is there anything that you would add to the list?? Maybe some of you with grown kids??  What is something that you realized they didn't know after they left the house??

Blessings to you friends!!

Friday, October 25, 2013

What Kids Need to Understand About Debt

When I was growing up, my parents only operated on cash.  I really always thought that was lame. After all swiping that credit card is so cool!!  So, as soon as someone offered me a credit card in college I say "yes!! where do I sign?!?".  And that was the beginning of the end.  

I was paying my own way through college and was blessed to have plenty of financial aid, work study, and scholarships to not have to have student loans, but I had very little extra money, so I got credit, and more credit, and more credit to buy things.

As I told you in the beginning, I was so gracious to gift this debt to my marriage.  Awesome, I know.

If you think about it cards are all most kids know, I mean who uses cash anymore?  Everyone has a debit card right??  Do your kids know the difference between that card and a credit card?  Do they understand that when you use a credit card you are spending someone else's money.  I mean good grief, even monopoly has a debit card version!!  I have had my kids say to me - in response to me saying I didn't have the money - "just use your card".  ARGH!!

So, although we are still not perfect with the credit cards, we do try to be open to our kids with the reality of debt.    

If you have teenagers like we do that are months away from college life, tell them to "just say no". Maybe you remember - those people are vultures.  "Have a free t-shirt, and sign-up for a free credit card while you're at it."  FREE - right - if you don't ever use it!!

The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.  -Proverbs 22:7

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.  -Proverbs 22:6

Parenting requires training friends.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Teaching Kids About Budgeting and Saving

I know that kids and money seem like they don't go together.  I mean, really, why do kids need money - they have us right??  Well, think about it, everything you know about money - when, and from whom did you learn it from.  For me I learned some from my parents, but most I learned on my own.  My hubby and I have made plenty of mistakes with money, and we have done our best to learn from them.  But, we have said over and over that we wish we would have come into adulthood with better habits.  

So, we have been intentional on teaching our kids about money, little by little.  As I said yesterday, the work they do around the house doesn't always get connected to the money that they receive, but we do when we can. During our financial peace class we learned about having kids split their money into three categories - giving, saving, and spending.  We loved this because we felt it would give them a foundation in giving back, saving and limiting their spending.  

Everyone has a different money personality.  My oldest will spend money on things here and there but doesn't really waste it.  Thankfully he has learned to live within the budget we allow him. (yay!!)  My daughter nickel and dimes her money away - sonic, vending machines, ya know things like that.  My younger two are pretty good savers, cuz again - what are they gonna spend their money on when they have us??  (Although we do make them use their own money for some things - like when they ask to go get a pop at 7-11.)  My youngest is my best giver :).

After being introduced to this, I found several cute money "systems" on pinterest, like this one.


We went with a very simple version and got the boys involved (my youngest was going through a pink phase at the time:)).  

The older ones didn't really need this they were already carrying wallets and such.  Remember I said yesterday that they get a larger amount each month that they are responsible for managing.  My oldest handles this by not carrying it all at once.  He knows he will most likely need gas money before he gets "paid" again so he keeps some at home.

They each have their own savings account, and when they have $100 in their savings tub we take it to the bank.  We pretty much let them decide how to split up their money.  Surprisingly they were fairly wise about it even at this age (far better than I ever would have been).  I am thankful for the heart my kids have where money is concerned - we are blessed.  

I have a friend who gives her teenage daughters a clothing allowance each month.  Nothing too extravagant, but they buy all their clothes with that money (except for the occasions when mom is feeling nice).  So, if they want to spend it all on a pair of designer jeans - go ahead, just know you won't be able to buy anything else until next month.  Fabulous!! Thinking of implementing this with my girlie :).

Teaching kids about money is a chore, but we believe it is necessary.  This generation is filled with a sense of entitlement that is ridiculously out of control, and the only answer is for us as parents to stop giving out sooo much.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How Do Kids Get Their Own Money {Commission vs. Allowance}

A lot of us want to teach our kids about money, and there is a raging debate over whether kids should get an allowance, or whether they should earn money.  The line seems to split on how you pay your kids.  Do you pay them the same amount every time, or do you pay them based on the work they have actually done.

I have to admit that we pay our kids the same amount every time.  You guys surely have caught on by now how much I love Dave Ramsey and his principles on money management, and his ideas for kids are fabulous as well.  {Check them out here in detail.}  He recommends a 'commission' for kids rather than an 'allowance'.  Meaning the kids are assigned jobs, and they are only paid each week for the jobs that were don't.  The concept is the same in the real world - work and you get paid, don't work and you don't get paid. Kids are learning the value of work, time and money.  

I could come up with all kinds of great excuses as to why we don't do it this way, but to be honest it's mostly because I'm lazy.  Yes, I said it.  Our kids have responsibilities at home, and they are expected to help out with other things when they are asked without whining and arguing.

We have tried many, many, many different types of chore charts for the kids, and they worked great as long as I was maintaining them.  So, after the many, many, many different tries - I gave up.  


I would still recommend the commission method, there are times when I withhold allowance if I feel they have not kept up with their responsibilities, but it would be better to have the proof on the paper so to speak.  I have many wonderful ideas on my pinterest board!!


You've most likely heard a parent of a teenager say, "I'm not a parent, I'm just an ATM."  Sometimes it really seems like the only reason the kids come to us is when they want something, or they need money for something.  We got really tired of this really quick, so we put our big kids on a spending allowance.  They receive a set amount every two weeks, and they are to use this money for any and all expenses that occur outside of our home.  If they want to have lunch with friends, a coke, go see a movie, etc they use their money.  When that money is gone, they are not to come for us (or anyone else for that matter) for more money.  

This has been such a blessing for us as parents - no more ATM syndrome.  :)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Get The Kids on Board

If you decide to make a financial change in your family, it's going to take everyone to make it work.  

Obviously, if you have younger kids you may not hear too many complaints as you might if you have older kids.  

My kids definitely had mixed emotions when I announced that I was quitting my job last spring. But, the two older ones understood the financial impact and the younger ones did not.  

It has definitely been an adjustment for us all.  We tried our best to not budget with my income included, but we definitely used it for any unexpected expense, or splurge.  

Now, there really can't be splurges and unexpected expenses really throw a wrench in things.  

There are many ways to include your kids in the money managing of your home.  One thing we have done to include the kids is the have them help with saving for big things, like fun family vacations. Loose change is always fun to collect and you would be surprised how much you can accumulate.  

Thrift shopping can be fun for the kids.  Make it into a scavenger hunt of sorts - who can find the best deal. We have a couple of really neat resale shops in the area that my older kids like.  A little more pricey than the thrift store, but still a good deal.  Hand me downs are another way we survive the clothing nightmare that could be. Clothing four children can add up to big $$$'s.  We have been blessed for years by hand me downs for our children and we pay the blessing back by handing down our kids' clothing to friends.    

Clipping coupons and shopping sale ads can be fun for kids too.  

Including them in finding the best deal not only helps make the adjustment a little easier, but it also helps teach them the value of things.  Why pay $20 for something here, when you can get virtually the same thing for $15 here.  

Blessings Friends!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Kids and Money

This week we are going to look at how to get the kids involved in the money business. Unfortunately, our local schools don't teach much about money management or finances.  I never learned any of that in school either.  What little I did know, I learned from my parents, the rest I had to learn on my own.  

I want my kids to be prepared.  I want them to know what to avoid when handling money.  I want them to understand how it works, and it's purpose and place.

I want them to have a biblical, and heart understanding of money as well as some practical knowledge.  I will share a few things that we try to do to help, and some things we are working on. Simply doing what we can to start them in a better place then maybe we did.

Blessings friends!!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Giving Back to God

I have already shared a little bit about where my husband and I were financially when we were first married.  We knew very little, had a lot of debt, and were starting out on a teacher's salary. So, when we found a church to join, my hubby started writing checks to the church.  Wait, what?? You see, I was not raised in church, and maybe you weren't either, so this concept was completely ludicrous to me.  We had a stack of bills that felt like a mile high and he wanted me to make a charitable donation??  

He sweetly and preciously began explaining to me the doctrine of the "tithe"(meaning a tenth), sharing scripture with me, and sharing his heart with me.  He truly believed that if we gave back to God a portion of what God had given us, it would be a blessing to The Lord, but also a blessing for us.  

So, I decided to give a try.  

Let me just say that God has knocked our socks off with provision and blessing over and over and over again through the years.  My favorite is when mysterious checks - those we had no idea were coming - show up in the mail.  They are almost always very oddly close to the amount that we need for a bill that we would otherwise not be able to pay.  I am not kidding peeps, it has happened.  God is amazing.

Here are some scriptures that you should look up for yourself if you are curious.  

Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's; it is holy to the Lord.  Leviticus 27:30

You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. Deuteronomy 14:22

And this one might be the most important one:

Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2Corinthians 9:7

We did not always give 10%.  In the beginning that felt like more than we could feasibly do.  We did what we could and worked toward that.  Honestly there have been times when we were giving 10% that we had to cut back for a while.  There have also been times when we have been able to give more.  Which, in all honesty, is the reason we want to get our finances in order.  We know that God gives in order that we can give.  We also know that there are many hundreds of thousand people in this world in need.  What an awesome thing to be able to lend a hand.  

So please, if you are considering giving out of obligation - pray.  Pray that God will give you the heart to give, and show you how and where you can give.  Give because you want to and give what you can. Ultimately, give what you think God is calling you to give.  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Keeping Up With Who?

So #5 on my list of budget busters is a tough one - keeping up with the Jones'.  I'm sure we all know we try to do it, but we don't want to admit it, and most times we don't want to stop.  Maybe you don't see why it's a problem.  I know I didn't use to.  But then, as usual, God got a hold of me. You see in His Word He says "Thou shalt not covet...anything that belongs to your neighbor" (paraphrase of Deuteronomy 5:21).

Covet?  What does that mean?  It means to want things that other people have.  I have plenty of wonderful sweet friends who have been blessed beyond measure with things that I don't have, but would love to have.  Herein lies my problem.  I don't need these things, but I want them.  The problem gets bigger when I link these things with my happiness.  Maybe if I have a bigger, newer house...this kind of car...that kind of kitchen counter top....I could go on...surely then I would be content.  But, I know in my heart of hearts, there would always be something more that I would want.  

My dream home - someday if God wills I will live on the beach :)

What God is telling us is that He is the only thing that can fill that void in our soul.  That hole that we get caught up trying to fill up with bigger and better and more stuff.  So, I began to pray that verse over and over again with myself, and to thank God for all the things that I do have. Because, I am blessed beyond measure. Way more than I ever thought possible, and definitely way more than I deserve.  

There will always be someone who has more, or bigger, or better, or newer.  We MUST learn to be content with God has given US.  

There is this phrase that I heard lately, often on twitter or instagram (hence the hashtag) - #firstworldproblem. There are so many people who are simply concerned with whether or not they will have clean water for their children, food for their next meal, or even live another day.  People who live in one room 'houses' with dirt floors and cardboard roofs.  

Who am I to whine about this or that thing that I feel I need.  Now, hear me friends - I love pretty things.  I love making my house a home, decorating and beautifying it in my own way.  I'm not saying that having things is bad.  It is the focus of our heart that makes it bad.  It's about contentment and being happy where you.  Sometimes I need to take a step outside myself and remember how wonderful things already are.  :)  When I can balance my wants and my needs, my budget is much happier, and so am I.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Benefit of Organization

Maybe you were surprised to see "lack of organization" on my list of budget busters, and maybe not.  Many times for us, excess spending has resulted from an unorganized life.  

Some examples:

*unorganized pantry = buying three more cans of tomato sauce because you couldn't find the five cans in your pantry.

*unorganized garage = buying another cable cord for the new TV because you had no idea you had ten in the garage.

*unorganized meal planning = eating out because you have "nothing for dinner".

*unorganized bathroom = buying more toothpaste even though there are 3 tubes hiding somewhere in the bathroom.

*unorganized budget = missing paying a bill, or the worst - bouncing a check or two because you forgot to record something.

We have all been there, I'm sure.  You decided to FINALLY clean out and 'organize' a space in your house and you're AMAZED at the amount of things you find that had been 'missing' forever, or the amount of stuff you have to throw away because it's expired.  

Who would know what craft supplies I had?? - good grief!!

So, now maybe you can see why a little bit or organization can go a long way in saving you money. Remember though, organization has to function for your whole family.  Labels help sooo much with this - I talked to you about that here.  {once I forgot to label the new container that I got for the powdered sugar and my daughter mistook it for flour??? can we say chocolate cookie soup :)}  I have a large organization board on pinterest and follow two really great organizing blogs here and here, if you need some inspiration.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Blow Money

Number three on my list of budget busters is impulse spending.  For us, it is always a couple of dollars here, ten dollars there.  Not a big deal when you look at it piece by piece, but when you add it all up - budget busted.  Our solution (again per Dave's suggestion) - our own "blow money".  

We budget what is basically an allowance for the grown-ups.  You are working hard for your money, you should be able to have a little - right?  This really helps to take the heavy burden of "THE BUDGET" off our shoulders.  We each have a little play money that we can do with whatever we please and we don't have to answer to each other about it.  

Now, I do say a little because it is.  As you are tracking your spending - take note of how much of this impulse spending you are doing - most likely too much.  I found this article about what we waste money on very interesting.  


If you are trying to save money, you are most likely going to have to get your coffee at home, and maybe only make one or two stops for a coke.  We each have $20 a week for our blow money - cash of course, so that when it's gone it's gone.  Ya, it's not a lot, but it's enough for lunch out with friends, and maybe a coke or two. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Destroying Your Debt

I think deep down inside, most of us know that credit is not the ideal way to purchase things.  However, we revert back to children sometimes, and we want things NOW, and so we use credit.  Many financial experts will agree - the only way to financial peace is to alleviate all credit from our lives.  What?!? (in my best minion voice;)).  It is possible folks, not easy, but possible.  I know there are those who tell you that in order to make big purchases, like a car or home, you have to have established credit.  Well Dave Ramsey tells us there are ways around that - you can check out his explanation on that because he is way smarter than I am!!

So, how do we "destroy" debt?  The first step - stop creating debt.  Get rid of the cards in your wallet.  Not very many people have the kind of will-power it takes to not use them if they are there.  If you are brave, and seriously ready for a change in your financial story - cut them up.  If that terrifies you - freeze them in a LARGE block of ice.  Whichever you choose - DO. NOT. CARRY. THEM.

The second step is intentionally working to pay off the debt.  Everyone knows that "minimum payments" are just there to keep us hooked in.  If we only make minimum payments, we could be paying on this debt forever, and in the end paying hundreds or thousands of dollars more than what we actually spent. 

Dave's method is called a debt snowball and it looks something like this.

Debt Payment
Debt Amount
Month 1
Month 2
Month 3
Add 150 payment to Debt #2
Month 4
Add extra 50 to Debt #3
Month 5
Add $200 payment to Debt #3
Month 6
Add $250 payment to Debt #4
Month 7
Month 8

Many of us would probably try to tackle the debt with the highest interest rate.  Which, would make sense. But, Dave appeals to our need of instant gratification and satisfaction by suggesting we start with the smallest debt and work our way up to the largest one.  This way we are able to actually see, and feel, the progress.  The snowball effect happens when we take the amount we were paying on the original debt (after it is paid off) and adding it to the amount of the next debt payment.  

As we work through this process, we chose to pay the minimum on everything except debt A, and then paying as much as our budget would allow on debt A, to make paying that off easier.  Also, during this process you can dump whatever "extra" money you might have left over at the end of the month because of your mad budgeting skills - into debt A to help pay it off quicker.

Remember - we are working to DESTROY the debt.  

The third  step should be common sense, but I must admit we fell victim.  Once you destroy the debt - don't get more debt.  In order for all of this to work, you must change your habits along with your bottom line.  

This is a tough one for most - so extra blessings to you!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Meal Planning Basics

Okay, so my biggest reason for eating out has always been - "oh my goodness, it's almost dinner time and I have no idea what to make". Sound familiar?  So then I text my hubby and say, ever-so-sweetly, "can you pick up something for dinner on your way home?"  To which he says, ever-so-sweetly, "I'll take care of it."  :)

Well after 19 years of marriage I think I finally figured out that the key to knowing the answer to "what's for dinner?" is meal planning.  My mom taught me to cook, and I had a variety of meal options under my belt when I got married, however, my mom never really seemed to have a plan.  It was more of opening up the freezer that morning and pulling some meat out and thing figuring out what to do with it later, and she was really good at making something great from nothing.  But, for me not so much.  However, being new to this whole homemaker thing, this is how I attempted to operate for years.  The flaw in this plan is that I barely like to eat breakfast in the morning, let alone think about dinner. So, I would not even get to the pulling the meat out of the freezer part.  A few hours before dinner would arrive, and I would realize, not only did I not have a clue what I wanted for dinner, but all the meat was frozen, so I had nothing to cook for dinner.  For a while my hubby would pull meat out for me, and I would go from there, but then I got bored with what I was cooking.

In comes pinterest (again), and more recipes at my fingertips than I ever knew what to do with, and still don't by the way.

The Ultimate Menu Board
Source:  The Creative Mama

Also, I noticed all these really cute menu boards (like this one), and printables, for meal-planning and grocery lists.  I even pinned a few several. But, that's as far as it went.  For the past year, I have slowly found a process that works for me.  This is what it looks like when I start.

I pull out a couple of binders that have all of our family's go-to recipes - family recipes, and some new ones I have tried which we now love.  I also have my grocery list and a piece of paper to make my menu on, and our family calendar.  The calendar allows me to know what nights we might have activities on, what nights we might be having dinner elsewhere or out for a special occasion.  I meal plan for two weeks at a time because my hubby gets paid every two weeks. Maybe you want to tackle one week at a time at first. Some people plan for a month at a time.  It really it whatever works for your family.

I inventory the meat we have in the freezer and I get started. We eat a lot of ground beef and chicken, because it's cheaper than most meats.  So, I try to spread those meats out over the two weeks, and fill in with some other type of meat variety.

Then I start pulling recipes.  Pulling the recipes now, allows me to add the necessary ingredients to my grocery list.  I don't really enjoy going to the grocery store as it is, so I definitely don't want to have to go often to fill in ingredients.

I use a simple page protector to slide my menu and all the recipes in.  And, I have a book ring in the top corner that allows me to hang it in my kitchen.  It's not as pretty as some of the other menu boards I have pinned, but it's functional for me.  I love having all the recipes right there, and being in plastic is a bonus too, cuz if I make a mess, I'm not ruining the recipe page. (I have no idea what the blue stuff is at the bottom of that recipe???)

Having a plan means I don't really have to think about what I want for dinner in the morning.  I just look at my menu and pull out the corresponding meat for that day. This also allows me to choose meals that will work depending on the time I have on any particular day.  On the days that I attend Bible Study, or other activities, I might choose a crock-pot meal so I don't have to worry about it. On those days when we are all eating dinner at different times, I will choose something simple, that can be heated up easily.  

This has almost completely cut out our eating out.  We still do on occasion, but it's not out of desperation anymore.  

Blessings friends!!