Teacher budget x 2 in the house!

Since Marshall and I are both teachers, we do our best to stick to a solid budget and be really intentional on how we spend our money.  (OK - truth - kinda intentional.  It's my fantasy life to actually SAVE money for big things. Actually, it's a big dream to just need an accountant - but I digress...  I have it all in my head for now. Baby steps.)

By not hitting Caribou or Starbucks every day and bringing our lunch from home - we are able to spend the money on more significant experiences. But that still doesn't mean I want to spend tons of flexible income on our groceries.  I mean, let's face it. Groceries can be boring.  I just don't get excited to buy another bag of frozen chicken like I do a new pair of boots. So I try to figure out how  my family can eat REALLY well but not break the bank.

I'm not saying that we should eat on a college student budget. Endless Totino's party pizzas, 10 cent ramen, and good old kraft mac and cheese are not necessary (though if you can handle the sodium bomb - there is a special place in my heart for all three of these things...)

OK - Real talk here too. We spend SO much money on health insurance and saving for retirement. Why is it OK to "save money" at the grocery store by buying packaged food instead of splurging on the Honeycrisp apples or a solid steak? Eating those packaged foods do NOTHING for our health and nutrition. I mean - I'd like to ensure that I can enjoy the vacations I take in retirement pain-free. Investing in our day to day food and fitness is even more important in my opinion and eating well is something we ALL can do right now to feel strong and vibrant.

So in the last 3 years, I have learned so much through my own practice and coaching others to do this - I thought I'd share my top money saving tips for you today!

1. Plan.

I talk about this in my "Meal Prep is Not a Monster" Post. It doesn't need to be a big plan, but purchasing only things you don't have or avoiding waste in ingredients is a money saving must!

Planning also helps you eat out less. You aren't as tempted to stop for expensive non-nutritious fast food if you have a pound of chicken waiting to go in the oven! A lot of time, the problem with grabbing something quick isn't from not having anything to cook - it's not knowing what you are going to make when you get home.

2. Be honest

Really think about what you will and won't actually eat. Buying 3 bags of bagged salad for lunch is a great idea! Unless you only eat salad once or you don't eat the whole bag. Then you are just wasting great produce and tossing dollar bills down the drain. Portioning my food really helped me gauge how much I really need. So for example - 1 bagged salad is 3 lunches for me! And for goodness sake don't buy a whole cart of fruit either (unless you have teenagers) You can't eat it all before it goes bad! Trust me on this!

3. Use the sales - but not in excess.

I like to buy the one or 2 fruits that are on sale that week (see #2) and try to plan some meat choices around the sale prices as well. (Meat is often the most expensive item, so it's a good strategy to start with.)  It totally pays to grab a few extra containers of fresh meat when it's on clearance because you can put it in the freezer! Then in future weeks, you have it on hand to plan  out with.Watch for buying too much, though.  Things get lost in the freezer and pantry.  And just because a boxed product is on sale - if it wasn't on your plan - you don't need it!

4. Shop online -

Shopping online keeps me away from the physical bags of cookies and licorice.  I have a lot of willpower in my jammies drinking coffee in my chair after I've eaten a full breakfast.  Those little photos of treats are much easier to ignore than the crinkly bags on the endcap!

*And let's not even mention if you do your grocery shopping at Target! Sweaters and home goods and books, Oh MY! #targetrun*

You also can look at what you have on hand in the moment. Do I have enough bread for the week? I can look instead of buying another loaf "just in case"

Another thing I will do, is set my budget for the week for about $100. Then when I've put all of my things in the cart - I look to see if there is anything I actually don't need and delete.  Like the extra box of saltines when soup isn't on the list that week!

5. Invest in the really good stuff - 

You don't need organic expensive everything, but there are some things to keep in mind when making choices.  Check out the "Clean 15" and "Dirty Dozen" produce lists. Google them as they are often changing.  The FDA does a list based on farming practices and testing. This will tell you which items you might want to consider organic and which you can get the regular.

Frozen veggies rock! Frozen vegetables are often picked at peak and frozen so they actually are better than fresh during some seasons.  Save the money and the mold by picking up frozen bags! I like broccoli and cauliflower florets the best! So easy!

Supplements and vitamins are not all equal.  You might love an inexpensive protein shake or multivitamin, but do you know and trust that it's really full of ingredients you can be proud to put in your body? Are the vitamins going to be absorbed properly? Where were the ingredients sourced and are there hidden sugars? (Gummy vitamins anyone?) I personally invest a little extra to get my vitamin and protein all in one - but end up saving when I'm not purchasing all of the suppliments separately.  I also appreciate that I'm not taking more pills because I hate swallowing them! Unfortunately, our food just doesn't contain all the nutrition we really need so some form of supplementation is what most who understand their body does. Make sure it's not just the cheap generic without doing some research!

Friends, sometimes you gotta buy the good steak or portobello mushrooms if meat isn't your thing. Try to get it on sale, but when we say we want to lose weight happily - REALLY good ingredients make a happier food experience.

I hope this helped you figure out a way to save a few dollars this week! If you haven't downloaded my free Win the Week Guide - it has my favorite meal plan included to try right away!  If you HAVE downloaded it, are you in the Stronger with Joy Facebook Community? I posted another one in there this week that's perfect for fall! There is also a post for money saving tips from the group!

Win the Week Guide with my Favorite Meal Plan

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