Menu’s, shopping, and sanity Oh My!!

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Who here (besides me of course) has fallen into the “I have no idea what to make for dinner tonight?” or the “man I have to go back to the store” dilemma? I’ve done it WAY too many times to count. Took me almost 10 years of marriage and 2 kids to figure out that I needed to

A: create a menu plan situation and

B: I also needed a VERY detailed shopping list.

Keep reading to find out what works for me and hopefully it inspires you to find your own way of making shopping easier and saving yourself some money. We could all use some of that.

Before I get started let me just say welcome to anyone who’s new here. I’m Amber and if you’d like to know a little more about me, check here. I’ve been married to my husband for 13 years. In those 13 years my cooking and grocery shopping journey has come quite a long way. If I’m being completely honest (which I usually am) I didn’t do much, if any cooking before I got married. Even when I lived on my own. My extent of grocery shopping for food consisted of frozen meals, Sunchips, a block of sharp cheddar cheese, and red grapes. Oh and most likely something to drink. But for the most part I either ate at someone’s house or went to get fast food.

Ahhhhh the life of a single 19-20 year old woman.

My mom, Lord love her, is a workaholic. Always has been, and likely always will be. When I was younger and living with her, she did cook but it wasn’t always super often. When she did I didn’t spend too much time trying to watch or take notes. Not really sure why but it never interested me. Even then, it wasn’t always a huge variety of things, we could pretty much count on the same few things when she did cook. Don’t get me wrong they were DELICIOUS repetitions and if I have a cheat day I might recreate them but, they were basically the same.


Mom, if you’re reading this please don’t take offense, you showed me a strong work ethic (among other things) and that’s just as important (if not more so now-a-days) than learning how to cook. Plus you’re making up for it now by being the ultimate foodie!!! I love you!


Anywho, so when I got married at the ripe old age of 22 I was a novice in the kitchen. When I went grocery shopping for my husband and I, I would get easy box meals or frozen dinners or make something super easy like spaghetti and meat sauce. You can’t really mess that up, unless you have a really terrible sauce. I’ve found some really great ones at the store if you haven’t gotten up the courage to make your own just yet. It wasn’t until after our first son was born, and Food Network became a staple channel in our house, that I started to experiment some in the kitchen. I discovered that its ok to mess up, and its ok to get some feedback from the people eating your food so you can make some tweaks and make it better. Turns out my hubby enjoys my cooking (even now that we are vegan-ish) and has even told me on at least 1 occasion that something I made was better than a restaurant. (Insert big surprised eyes here) This was a very proud moment for me. Along the way I met some amazing friends whose cooking skills are off the charts and they inspired me to get better. They also introduced me to Pinterest, which was a HUGE mistake. Haha

It is now my go to for basically everything lately and I’m not even ashamed. Pinterest isn’t for everyone and its not just for crafting. I say check it out and if its not you’re thing, so be it!

So after about 10 years of marriage, and being newly out of the military, I was thrust into the world of making sure our money stretched as far as it could go. In the military you get certain allowances for housing and food so I found it a bit easier to manage what we had available to us. Its not that way for everyone but it was for me. Now we were out of the military and there wasn’t a housing allowance in the 1st CivDiv or a food allowance. I had to start figuring out where to put each penny. And while we basically could afford to go out to eat most nights, I didn’t want to do that every night because it gets super pricey. So I had to figure out the best way to make sure I avoided the above mentioned dilemma’s as best as possible. Here is where I discovered the “Notes” app on my iPhone. That thing is GENIUS!!! I have all kinds of lists on there. One for Christmas gifts, one for books I want to read, songs I need to download, things I’d like for myself or our house. But the most used lists are for sure the “Menu” and the “Store” list. My menu list has 2 weeks listed on there and I only “plan” dinners. You might find it easier for you to plan each meal and if so, go on y’all, you do you. For us, we are pretty simple when it comes to breakfast and lunch, its usually fend for yourself.

Here’s what we’ve all been waiting for.

Now below you’ll see a few days that say “Leftover/Fend for yourself”. These are fairly self-explanatory for leftovers but the other is a free for all and you get whatever you want to eat for yourself. It usually ends up being cereal for the boys and whatever the adults can scrounge together. These are sanity savers if you ask me, but also money savers. Meaning you don’t have to plan for and cook 7 days worth of meals which then means you don’t have to buy for 7 days worth of meals. The fact that I don’t even have to think about it, just saves my sanity. I’m not a super busy mom by any means but I do have 2 boys (7 and 11) and they aren’t known for their calm, cool demeanor, if you know what I mean. So I need all the sanity help I can get, short of going to a shrink every week. Haha For some it’s a glass of wine, for me its not making 2 meals each week. You do you. Plus Sunday is a day of rest right? So no cooking here, y’all, the Bible says so. Lol  Now you’ll also see on there that I do have 1 night this week that we’ll be eating meat. {{GASP}} We’ve found that this is actually helpful for us, not necessarily because we “need the meat” but mostly because it actually helps us discover that its not really all that great tasting in most cases. Most importantly though, our bodies respond differently than they do the rest of the week and we remember that later. We call this our cheat meal. We do our very best to stick to vegan-ish during the week but we definitely could do better. We try not to stress too much but this one night is something we look forward to. (and in my case dread since I know how my body reacts)

Like I said before the second most used list I have is our “Store” list. Once I’ve made our menu for 2 weeks (yes 2 weeks) I start to compile a list of groceries I need based on 1 week of the menu. Since we’re “vegan-ish” (ok we’ve heard it enough already, sheesh) its mostly produce on our list. Some things just stay on the list, like avocado’s, lemons, limes; stuff like that. But as we all know these need to be fresh to be at their best so buying for next week won’t do you any good. Yes, yes go ahead and make fun of my “OCD” of having each section of the store on my list…. I’ll wait. Okay, are we done? Great!! So I go into each recipe I’m making and put each ingredient on my list. Then I will check it against what I already have in the kitchen and adjust it from there. I’ll ask my hubby if he needs anything, and check around the house to see if household items are running low and add those items so there aren’t those “honey, could you get me some shampoo, I just ran out” moments. We all know you aren’t just getting shampoo on that trip to the store, lets be honest. Then the sanity saver of all sanity savers, I go shopping without kids as much as I can. I love them but I can’t even…. I’d rather be a person in those Saw movies I’ve heard about. (I can’t do scary movies y’all, not anymore)

Well, that’s about it y’all, I hope this inspired some of you to start creating your own menu’s and shopping lists.

I’ve got to end by saying our budget has seen the biggest positive impact from this. Sometimes I’m spot on, sometimes I’m a little over but those are usually my not so well planned weeks. Just by sticking to the menu and shopping list I can confidently say I usually spend between 20-35% less than I did before doing this.


Could you use an extra 20-35% of your hard earned money? I bet you could. Just try it for a month and if it doesn’t help you out, then don’t do it BUT if it does, you’ll never want to go back.


I keep thinking about doing a budgeting post, if this is something you’d like to see let me know in the comments.


As always don’t forget to follow me on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.

Have an amazing day y’all, see ya next time!!

Ruth 1:16 ~ But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.
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