Gas is going up.Â Milk is going up.Â Everything seems to be increasing - at least a little at a time - except for incomes.Â Cost of living increases will need to 10% just to catch up (although I'm not holding my breath).Â It's really tough for the self-employed.Â Giving ourselves cost of living increases just isn't feasible.
As one of the self-employed (with three boys to boot), I have to stay organized to stay on the budget.Â That means that I not only plan the meals â€“ but when and how they will be served.Â For example:Â Mondays is choir practice over an hour from our home â€“ right about supper time.Â Either I have to stop and buy something at a fast food place or else I have to plan a portable meal.Â These are the days I LOVE my sandwich maker.Â It seals all the goodness right up.
There are a few things you have to do to make this work:
1.Â Â Â Â Â Make a calendar of ALL the activities you and your family members have going on.Â Sometimes it helps to color coordinate (have a different color for each member).Â It is extremely important that you include times for the events (from start to finish).Â You will need to know where you are going to be and for how long.
2.Â Â Â Â Â Make a list of all your favorite meals (and get the family involved).Â Ideally you will need at least 21 ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
3.Â Â Â Â Â Fit the meals into your schedule.Â If there is a day that you will be gone most of the afternoon, but home for dinner time then you will need a crock pot meal or some other quick and easy meal.Â If you will be gone in the evening, then fix a picnic for you and your clan (it can be sandwiches, or hotdogs, or leftovers).
4.Â Â Â Â Â Use the outline to make a meal calendar.Â Plan what you will cook, but also any prep work for upcoming days (like thawing meat).
5.Â Â Â Â Â Check the pantry for ingredients and then make a shopping list.Â Cut coupons or print coupons from online services to go along with your shopping list.
6.Â Â Â Â Â Plan a day to do your shopping AND precook any ingredients that you can (brown meats, chop ingredients, boil eggs, etc).Â If you want, take it to the next level and prepare casseroles and other one pan meals that can be stored in the freezer.
7.Â Â Â Â Â One last tip.Â Get some canned foods or packaged foods that will last in the pantry for those days when everything goes wrong.Â (Sunday, I had nothing ready for lunch.Â I opened two cans of â€œlasagna,â€ added shredded cheese, and topped it with pepperonis and black olives â€“ presto, pizza lasagna.
Just because the entire consumer world is going nuts doesnâ€™t mean that you have to follow in line.Â By taking some time to get organized and putting some thought into your day, you will be able to save money (even without a cost of living increase).