How to Stop Spending Money You Don’t Have

The post How to Stop Spending Money You Don’t Have appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

So, you want to stop spending money.  That might be easier said than done.  When it comes to managing your money, there are things you need to do.  You know you need to budget, try to get out of debt and control your spending.

stop spending money

 

The issue is not necessarily that you are spending money on things you don’t have; you just aren’t spending it in the right way.  The issue is not that you don’t make enough money, it is just not having a plan on how to use it once you get it.

That’s what happened to me.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a plan for my money.  That lead me down a path I did not like.

After years of working without a plan, I found myself on the steps of a courthouse declaring bankruptcy. And, because I did not learn how to make the right changes in managing my money, my husband and I found ourselves in debt a few years later.

The difference with the second time I had debt was that I took responsibility for it.  I owned what happened, and he and I worked together to make changes to not only pay off our debt but never go down that same road again.

If you find yourself in the same situation, you need to make big changes.  To start, you have to stop spending money you don’t have.  Plain and simple.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE OVERSPENDING?

You’ve maxed out your credit cards

When there is no room to charge anything on your cards, you might have a problem.  In most cases, maxed credit cards signals you are living beyond your means.  If you have to continue to charge because you don’t have money, then you are spending too much.

 

You can’t find a home for your latest purchase

Your temptation might be electronics or handbags. No matter what you love to buy, you might notice you are running out of room to store things.  When the stuff takes over your home and is causing clutter, it is time to take a long hard look at how you spend money.

 

Your budget never works

There may be months when you don’t have enough money in your budget to cover your mortgage or food.  When you continually spend money on the wrong things, your budget will not work.

That means if you have just $50 for entertainment, do not spend $75.  That other $25 has to come from another budget line.

 

You spend more than you earn

Take a look at your credit card balances. You might be paying only the minimum balance because you can’t pay it in full. When you spend more than you make and continue to add more debt, take a look at what you are buying.  It might be time to pull back and stay out of the stores.

 

HOW TO STOP SPENDING SO MUCH MONEY

Use a budget 

When many people hear the word budget, what they hear is “you don’t get to spend any money.”  That is the opposite of what a budget does.  Your budget is a roadmap.  It shows you where your money should go – including the fun money you want to spend!

Your budget helps you know what you need to do with your money when you get paid.  Look at every penny as an employee of yours.  You get to tell it where it needs to go.  Some of them will go to rent, others to your car payment and still others will go to the into your savings account.

The best part of a budget is that you can allow for fun.  Learn how to budget to have fun and even how to budget if your paychecks are never the same amount.

Related: How to Figure Out How Much to Budget for Groceries

 

Write down your financial goals

Successful people start planning by having the end in mind.  It may mean taking a backward approach to your finances.

Think about what you want.  Do you want to get that credit card paid off or maybe take that dream vacation?  No matter your goal, figure out what it will take to get there, and that will help you set your goal.

It may mean fewer dinners out or putting in some overtime at work.  Whatever your goal, make sure it is clearly defined and you keep it front and center.  Put it on your refrigerator.  Keep a photo of it in your wallet.  Make sure you see that budget staring you back in the face every time you even think about spending money.  That will usually stop you right in your tracks.

Related:  The Secret Trick I Use to Stick to My Budget

 

Cash is a Must so that you never overspend

If you are someone who is always saying “I can’t stop spending money,” then you need to use cash.  I’m sure you’ve heard it time and time again. Using cash is one of the simplest tricks to help you stop spending money you don’t have.

It works because it gives you defined money.  If you have $100 to spend at the grocery store, there is no way you can even spend $101.  You don’t have it.  You are forced to spend wisely and think more about every purchase you make.

I know some of you are reading this saying “but if I have cash I just spend it so fast.”  That is because you are not tracking it and taking responsibility for your spending.

You need to use the cash envelope method.

If you have an envelope for groceries with $50 left in it, sure, you can dip into that and grab $20 to spend on lunch.  But, what happens when you need food for your family?  That means you’ve just $30 to buy food – which may not get you much.

Cash forces you to think about every purchase you make.

Related:  How You Can Become Accountable With Your Money

 

Stop paying for convenience

There is a quick fix for nearly everything.  You can find dinners in boxes, small pre-packaged snacks, etc.  Rather than purchase convenience items, buy the larger size snacks and then re-package yourself into smaller baggies.  You will not only get more out of a box, but you can even control how much you put into each baggie.

There are other ways we pay for convenience.  We pay for someone to iron our shirts, wash our cars and even mow our lawns.  By doing these things ourselves, we can keep much more money and easily stop overspending.

Read more:  How You are Killing Your Grocery Budget

 

Put away the credit cards to halt spending money

One of the simplest ways to stop spending money is to get out the scissors and cut up those credit cards!!  Or, if you aren’t ready to cut them up, put them on ice.  Literally.  Freeze your credit card in a block of ice.

If you keep spending, you have to cut off the source at its knees.  While I don’t think credit cards are a good fit for everyone, I know they work for some.

If you must use credit cards, never charge more than you have in the bank to pay it off.  That means you can’t charge the amount you believe you will get on your paycheck.  There is never a guarantee that your check will arrive.  Spend only the amount you have, not what you will receive.

Related:  How to Pay off Your Credit Card Debt

Pay your bills on time

We all have bills.  We know when they are due.  When you miss the payment due date, you get assessed a late charge.   Pay them on time, so you don’t pay more than you need to.

In addition to late fees, not paying your bills on time can have an adverse effect on your credit score. Learn how to organize your bills, so you never pay them late again.

 

Do not live above your means

Few of us would not love new clothes or a new car. We all would like to make more money or get the hottest new device.  The thing is, can you afford it?  Is it a want or is it a need?

If you are using credit or loans to get items that you can not afford, then you are living beyond your means and spending money you don’t have.  Scale back and make sure that you can honestly afford the house or the car and that it doesn’t ruin your budget and cost you too much.

Read more: Defining Your Wants vs. Your Needs

 

Don’t fall for impulse buys

Stores are sneaky about making us spend money.  They use signs, layout and even scents to lure you into wanting to buy more.  The thing is, if you purchase something you did not intend to, then you are already blowing your budget and probably overspending.

Another way that you are spending too much is when you plan dinner but then decide at the last minute to go out to dinner instead.  Why do that when you have food waiting for you at home (which you’ve already paid for)?

The final reason you may impulse buy is that of emotion.  If you feel a rush because of that new item, you may purchase out of impulse and emotion instead of need.

Read more:  Stopping Impulse Shopping

Plan your meals

One of the most significant changes we made was to menu plan.  It took me some time to put it all together, but now, I can plan our meals in no time at all.  I use the simple menu planning system that I’ve taken time to build over the years.

While this works for me, I remember when I was learning how to menu plan.  It was quite a process, and I relied upon the help of some experts in the field.   One of them I have used is Erin Chases’s $5 Meal Plan.  I loved how simple it was to create our meals each week.

Even the best menu plan won’t work if you aren’t eating what you buy.  Make sure you are not making mistakes with your grocery budget and eat what you buy.  After all, throwing food away is just money in the trash.

Related:  Money Saving Secrets Stores Won’t Tell You

 

Challenge yourself to spend less 

There is something fun about trying to beat yourself at your own game.  By this I mean, if you have $150 to spend on groceries for the week, try to spend only $130.  That gives you $20 more to spend on something else — or put towards your goal.

Related:  The Yearly Savings Challenge for Kids and Adults

 

Stay out of the stores so you don’t shop

If you can’t control your spending and continue spending money you don’t have, you have to remove the temptation.  Even something that seems harmless can result in spending money.

Related:  Fun and Frugal Date Night Ideas

 

Track the money you are spending

Keep track of your spending by adding up the amounts on your phone.  That way, you’ll have no surprises when you get to the checkout lane. You can try Shopping Calculator for Android or Total-Plus Shopping Calculator on iTunes.

When you start to see that total creep up, you realize how much you are spending. That may help you think twice about that extra box of treats you are tempted to toss into the shopping cart.

 

Use the three-day rule before you spend a dime

The three-day rule is pretty simple.  If you see something you want, wait for three days before you buy it.  Once the third day is up, ask yourself if you still feel it is something you need.

If it is, look at your budget to ensure it works with this month’s spending.  Then, double check the cash to make sure you have enough to pay for it.  If both of these work, you can consider buying it.

The funny thing is that most purchases are impulse buys and the three day waiting period helps you realize you don’t need it.  And had you purchased it, you may even have buyer’s remorse at the three-day mark.

Related:  The Trick To Make Sure You Never Overspend

 

Don’t use coupons and skip the sales

Sales are very tempting.  They lure you in and often result in making purchases you would not do otherwise.  That is why you nee your list. Stick to it and don’t fall for the sales.

You also need to put away the coupons.  Well, you can use them, but responsibly.  If you would not purchase an item at full price, you should never buy it only because there is a coupon.  A coupon is not a golden ticket to shop.

In addition to this, avoid the clearance aisles and end caps.  These are money spending traps!  You walk by, and your eye is drawn the end cap with the big SALE sign in front of it.  If you don’t need that item, don’t grab it.  Also, don’t walk by the clearance section.  It is very easy to pick up items you don’t really need.  That makes you again spend money you had not planned on.

Instead, shop the sections you need.  If you need detergent, go to that section and grab your item and then go to the next on your list.  Don’t wander through the store as you will be more likely to do “cart tossing.”   This is when you put items in your cart without noticing what you are spending.

I’m not saying not to buy anything on sale.  Just get the things you need that are on sale this week, or that you will need in the next weeks.  You probably need spaghetti noodles, but you don’t need a new pair of shoes.

Related: The Money Traps You Will Fall For

 

Never shop without a list

Never shop without a grocery list. Ever. Then, force yourself to stick to it.

Some simple ideas include using a timer to limit how long you can be in the store.  If you have only 20 minutes to shop, you will be less likely to grab the items you don’t need and stick with those that are on your list.

Another is to challenge yourself to see how fast you can finish your shopping.  If you have the list and stick to it, you’ll find you spend less time shopping and more time enjoying the things you love.

The best reason to use a list is that you don’t have to worry about forgetting that “one item” you know you need.  When you force yourself to make a shopping list and stick to it, you’ll always have everything you need on hand for dinner.

 

Keep emotion out of shopping

One tip is never to shop hungry.  When you do, your stomach controls what you buy.  The added benefit is buying the healthy foods you need.

If I am feeling bad about myself, buying something I have been wanting may end up making its way home with me. Spending money to make myself feel better never works.

There are many emotions attached to spending.  You have to identify which one(s) apply to you and find a way to fulfill that need through another method – other than spending money.

 

Define Needs vs. Wants

There are items we need.  You need food, but do you need the extra box of cookies?  Yes, the sweater is really cute but is it something you need or just something you want.  Ask yourself  “is this a need or a want” with each item you buy.  You’ll soon be on your way to less overspending.

 

Clean and declutter

When you declutter, you find all of those items you’ve spent money on and no longer need.  It makes you realize where you are spending.  You will also recall how clean your closet now is. Do you really want to fill it back up with more stuff?

The added benefit of decluttering is that it keeps your house clean and organized!  You can find what you need more easily and don’t have so much “stuff” cluttering the house.

 

Save first, spend later

It is important always to pay yourself first.  Remember that the amount you have to spend is what is left over after you pay your bills and pay yourself.

You should always tell your money where to go instead of it deciding for you.  So many do that the opposite and save after they spend.  If you still save a little, you will quickly build a nice emergency fund and can have less guilt about your spending.

 

Learn from your mistakes

The most important thing you must do is figure out where you’ve gone wrong in the past.  Your mistakes will be different from everyone else’s.  You may shop out of emotion while someone else does out of boredom.

You also need to keep in mind that you will make mistakes.  There will be months when you fall off the wagon.  Don’t beat yourself up over it.  Use it is a chance to learn from them and do what you can to not repeat them again.

Related:  The Mistakes You Will Make When Getting Out of Debt

Gaining control of your spending is possible.  You just need to have the desire – and the tools – to make it happen.

 

stop spending

 

The post How to Stop Spending Money You Don’t Have appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

Why It’s Harder to Get Credit When You’re Self-Employed

Around 6.1% of employed Americans worked for themselves in 2019, yet the ranks of the self-employed might increase among certain professions more than others. By 2026, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that self-employment will rise by nearly 8%. 

Some self-employed professionals experience high pay in addition to increased flexibility. Dentists, for example, are commonly self-employed, yet they earned a median annual wage of $159,200 in 2019. Conversely, appraisers and assessors of real estate, another career where self-employment is common, earned a median annual wage of $57,010 in 2019.

Despite high pay and job security in some industries, there’s one area where self-employed workers can struggle — qualifying for credit. When you work for yourself, you might have to jump through additional hoops and provide a longer work history to get approved for a mortgage, take out a car loan, or qualify for another line of credit you need.

Why Being Self-Employed Matters to Creditors

Here’s the good news: Being self-employed doesn’t directly affect your credit score. Some lenders, however, might be leery about extending credit to self-employed applicants, particularly if you’ve been self-employed for a short time. 

When applying for a mortgage or another type of loan, lenders consider the following criteria:

  • Your income
  • Debt-to-income ratio
  • Credit score
  • Assets
  • Employment status

Generally speaking, lenders will confirm your income by looking at pay stubs and tax returns you submit. They can check your credit score with the credit bureaus by placing a hard inquiry on your credit report, and can confirm your debt-to-income ratio by comparing your income to the debt you currently owe. Lenders can also check to see what assets you have, either by receiving copies of your bank statements or other proof of assets. 

The final factor — your employment status — can be more difficult for lenders to gauge if you’re self-employed, and managing multiple clients or jobs. After all, bringing in unpredictable streams of income from multiple sources is considerably different than earning a single paycheck from one employer who pays you a salary or a set hourly rate. If your income fluctuates or your self-employment income is seasonal, this might be considered less stable and slightly risky for lenders.

That said, being honest about your employment and other information when you apply for a loan will work out better for you overall. Most lenders will ask the status of your employment in your loan application; however, your self-employed status could already be listed with the credit bureaus. Either way, being dishonest on a credit application is a surefire way to make sure you’re denied.

Extra Steps to Get Approved for Self-Employed Workers

When you apply for a mortgage and you’re self-employed, you typically have to provide more proof of a reliable income source than the average person. Lenders are looking for proof of income stability, the location and nature of your work, the strength of your business, and the long-term viability of your business. 

To prove your self-employed status won’t hurt your ability to repay your loan, you’ll have to supply the following additional information: 

  • Two years of personal tax returns
  • Two years of business tax returns
  • Documentation of your self-employed status, including a client list if asked
  • Documentation of your business status, including business insurance or a business license

Applying for another line of credit, like a credit card or a car loan, is considerably less intensive than applying for a mortgage — this is true whether you’re self-employed or not. 

Most other types of credit require you to fill out a loan application that includes your personal information, your Social Security number, information on other debt you have like a housing payment, and details on your employment status. If your credit score and income is high enough, you might get approved for other types of credit without jumping through any additional hoops.

10 Ways the Self-Employed Can Get Credit

If you work for yourself and want to make sure you qualify for the credit you need, there are plenty of steps you can take to set yourself up for success. Consider making the following moves right away.

1. Know Where Your Credit Stands

You can’t work on your credit if you don’t even know where you stand. To start the process, you should absolutely check your credit score to see whether it needs work. Fortunately, there are a few ways to check your FICO credit score online and for free

2. Apply With a Cosigner

If your credit score or income are insufficient to qualify for credit on your own, you can also apply for a loan with a cosigner. With a cosigner, you get the benefit of relying on their strong credit score and positive credit history to boost your chances of approval. If you choose this option, however, keep in mind that your cosigner is jointly responsible for repaying the loan, if you default. 

3. Go Straight to Your Local Bank or Credit Union

If you have a long-standing relationship with a credit union or a local bank, it already has a general understanding of how you manage money. With this trust established, it might be willing to extend you a line of credit when other lenders won’t. 

This is especially true if you’ve had a deposit account relationship with the institution for several years at minimum. Either way, it’s always a good idea to check with your existing bank or credit union when applying for a mortgage, a car loan, or another line of credit. 

4. Lower Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is an important factor lenders consider when you apply for a mortgage or another type of loan. This factor represents the amount of debt you have compared to your income, and it’s represented as a percentage.

If you have a gross income of $6,000 per month and you have fixed expenses of $3,000 per month, for example, then your DTI ratio is 50%.

A DTI ratio that’s too high might make it difficult to qualify for a mortgage or another line of credit when you’re self-employed. For mortgage qualifications, most lenders prefer to loan money to consumers with a DTI ratio of 43% or lower. 

5. Check Your Credit Report for Errors

To keep your credit in the best shape possible, check your credit reports, regularly. You can request your credit reports from all three credit bureaus once every 12 months, for free, at AnnualCreditReport.com

If you find errors on your credit report, take steps to dispute them right away. Correcting errors on your report can give your score the noticeable boost it needs. 

6. Wait Until You’ve Built Self-Employed Income

You typically need two years of tax returns as a self-employed person to qualify for a mortgage, and you might not be able to qualify at all until you reach this threshold. For other types of credit, it can definitely help to wait until you’ve earned self-employment income for at least six months before you apply. 

7. Separate Business and Personal Funds

Keeping personal and business funds separate is helpful when filing your taxes, but it can also help you lessen your liability for certain debt. 

For example, let’s say that you have a large amount of personal debt. If your business is structured as a corporation or LLC and you need a business loan, separating your business funds from your personal funds might make your loan application look more favorable to lenders.

As a separate issue, start building your business credit score, which is separate from your personal credit score, early on. Setting up business bank accounts and signing up for a business credit card can help you manage both buckets of your money, separately. 

8. Grow Your Savings Fund

Having more liquid assets is a good sign from a lender’s perspective, so strive to build up your savings account and your investments. For example, open a high-yield savings account and save three to six months of expenses as an emergency fund. 

You can also open a brokerage account and start investing on a regular basis. Either strategy will help you build up your assets, which shows lenders you have a better chance of repaying your loan despite an irregular income. 

9. Provide a Larger Down Payment

Some lenders have tightened up mortgage qualification requirements, and some are even requiring a 20% down payment for home loans. You’ll also have a better chance to secure an auto loan with the best rates and terms with more money down, especially for new cars that depreciate rapidly.

Aim for 20% down on a home or a car that you’re buying. As a bonus, having a 20% down payment for your home purchase helps you avoid paying private mortgage insurance.

10. Get a Secured Loan or Credit Card

Don’t forget the steps you can take to build credit now, if your credit profile is thin or you’ve made mistakes in the past. One way to do this is applying for a secured credit card or a secured loan, both of which require collateral for you to get started.

The point of a secured credit card or loan is getting the chance to build your credit score and prove your creditworthiness as a self-employed worker, when you can’t get approved for unsecured credit. After making sufficient on-time payments toward the secured card or loan, your credit score will increase, you can upgrade to an unsecured alternative and get your deposit or collateral back.

The Bottom Line

If you’re self-employed and worried that your work status will hurt your chances at qualifying for credit, you shouldn’t be. Instead, focus your time and energy on creating a reliable self-employment income stream and building your credit score.

Once your business is established and you’ve been self-employed for several years, your work status won’t matter as heavily. Keep your income high, your DTI low, and a positive credit record, you’ll have a better chance of getting approved for credit. 

The post Why It’s Harder to Get Credit When You’re Self-Employed appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Meal Prep 101: How to make 20 meals for $25

This guest post is written by Richmond Howard for Good Financial Cents. Richmond runs the blog MealPrepify.

Four years ago my wife and I were almost broke. It was our first year of marriage and I had been out of a job for almost five months.

I wasn’t making money and I was about to start going to grad school. It’s hard to pay for grad school when you’re broke so I was applying for scholarships.

One of the scholarships required you to input a monthly budget of how much you were spending. Makes sense — they want to make sure you’re being a good steward of your resources and that you actually need the financial help.

The problem was I had no idea what we were actually spending. We were just kinda going by feel and trying to be frugal. We created an account with Mint and synced all of our accounts.

I still remember when my wife and I were sitting there watching the screen–waiting for all of the data to get sorted out to see the breakdown of our monthly spending.

It all looked normal at first. Our rent was $725. Car insurance was $200. Wifi was $30. Phone bill was around $100. Gym $40. Everything was checking out except one category.

Food / Restaurants: $825

Neither of us believed it, but it was our anniversary month so we chalked it up to the fancy dinner we went to. Surely, that’s what it was… We went back another month and saw $760. Then $730. Then back to $800.

The realization hit us hard.

For the last six months while I was unemployed and we were struggling to make ends meet — watching our bank accounts start to dip — we were spending more on food than rent for just our little family of two.

Like most people, we ate out too often for fun and for convenience.

Like most people, we were throwing away too much food that never got cooked.

Our food bill was out of control. We knew we had to find a way to save money on food, but we didn’t know how. We already felt like we were frugal when it came to food and we didn’t want to go back to the college diet of ramen and the chicken that’s marked down because it’s about to expire.

We wanted to eat real food that was good for us and good for our wallet.

We made a few major changes:

  • We completely stopped eating out for about two months.
  • We planned out our meals and didn’t let anything go to waste.

That worked for a while! We were eating all of our meals at home and our food spending dropped from $750+ to around $350.

It was exhausting though. We were cooking and cleaning multiple meals a day. It felt like we lived in the kitchen.

Then we started meal prepping.

We’d wake up early on Sundays to pick a few recipes and map out what we were going to eat that week. After church, we’d head straight to the grocery store and spent our afternoons making a week’s worth of food.

It took some time to get the hang of it, but meal prepping was a total game-changer for us. We started saving money and we weren’t spending 15 hours a week in the kitchen.

Here I am three years later and I now run a blog called MealPrepify where I help people learn how to meal prep and find great recipes so they can save time, money, and eat healthy doing it.

Today I want to give you my best tips and tricks to help you start saving money by meal prepping! I’ve also shared our favorite meal plan that we’ve used almost every single month to save money on food.

Meal Prep 101: 9 Tips to Start Meal Prepping

  • When I first started meal prepping, I was totally overwhelmed.
  • How do I pick recipes?
  • How much should I make?
  • How long will the food last?
  • Do I need to meal plan or just cook stuff and hope it goes together?

When I started looking for resources on meal prepping, most of it wasn’t helpful. The recipes they recommended were elaborate or unhealthy. The meal plans didn’t fit what I liked, and I usually ended up spending more time and money than I was saving.

Here are some helpful meal prep tips to get you started the right way:

1. Restaurant spending freeze

If you want to start meal prepping, the first thing you’ve got to do is stop eating out. If you’re anything like me, this is the hardest part. My wife and I are foodies and we love to try new places all over Houston, especially BBQ.

But there’s no way around it. If you want to save money on food and make meal prepping a habit, you have to force yourself to do it.

Your restaurant spending freeze doesn’t have to be forever, but commit for one month and see what happens. You’ll be amazed at how much money you save when you stop eating out.

2. Start small

The biggest mistake people make is trying to meal prep too much the first time. Start small. Pick 1-2 recipes you know you love and double the ingredients. The last thing you want to do is make a bunch of food that’ll go to waste.

3. Look in the freezer and pantry

The best place to start meal prepping is with stuff you’ve already got. Go make a list of all the meat you’ve got sitting in your freezer and find a way to meal prep with it. You’ll save money, reduce waste, and clear out space.

4. Create a list of super cheap meals

The key to saving money with meal prepping is to find cheap meals that you can make over and over again. My wife and I have a rotation of 7-10 meals that we absolutely love. They also keep our grocery budget in line and allow us to splurge in other places.

5. Find ingredient overlaps

The best meal prep hack is finding ingredients that work for multiple recipes. The fewer ingredients I have to buy at the grocery store, prep, chop, and cook, the better!

Grilled chicken is one of these for me. I’ll eat grilled chicken with a side of roasted vegetables, on a salad, or in a sweet potato. When I’m in a big hurry, I’ll grab a baggie of grilled chicken for a high-protein snack.

Bell peppers are another one. You can use bell peppers for fajitas, asian stir fries, or by themselves as a healthy snack.

6. Create a set time for meal prepping

If you want to meal prep consistently, then pick a set time to meal prep every week. My wife and I cook a week’s worth of lunches every Saturday afternoon and then we’ll double the amount for whatever we cook for dinner on Monday.

7. Get good storage containers

After you’ve finished all your meal prepping, you need to a way to store and save it all. We used to use regular plastic tupperware containers, but after a while we decided to upgrade to these glassware containers, which are better for heating, storing in the freezer, and cleaning in the dishwasher.

8. Map out your week

Meal prepping takes meal planning. Every Saturday morning, my wife and I wake up and we map out our entire week of meals. 

We actually put our meal plan into a google spreadsheet so we can see exactly what we’ll be eating. Then we put together a grocery list of everything we need to buy that week. We usually try to stock up on some healthy snacks as well.

The best part about keeping track of your meal plans is that you have your own bank of meal plans to pull from. Whenever we’re in a hurry we just pick a meal plan we’ve done before and head to the store!

9. Use the crockpot

There’s no question that using a crock pot is the easiest way to meal prep. All you have to do is dump in your ingredients, press a button, and wait 6-8 hours.

Turn it on before you go to bed and wake up with lunch and dinner already prepared. Here are some of our favorite cheap crockpot meals you can make for less than $3 a serving!

Sample Meal Plan: How we made 20 meals for $25 in one hour

People make meal planning way more complicated than it needs to be. I always pick three recipes that I want to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ideally they are cheap, healthy, and have some overlap in ingredients.

This is one of my go-to meal plans. It takes me about an hour of work to make 20 meals for $25.

Breakfast: Overnight oats

Meal prepping for breakfast is tough. Leftover eggs are rubbery and gross.

About a year ago I started making overnight oats and it was a game changer. Easy to make and incredibly cheap.

Overnight oats don’t require any cooking. Put them in a mason jar the night before with milk or water and they’re ready to go in the morning. The ratio is typically two parts liquid to one part oats. I typically do 1 cup of oatmeal, 1 cup water, and 1 cup milk.

You can add anything you want to the oats to fix them up! My favorites are strawberries, blueberries, bananas, peanut butter, and chocolate chips.

The oats need at least four hours to soak, but will last for 3-4 days. I usually add liquid to half my jars and then on Wednesday I’ll add milk and water to the second batch.

Every morning, grab a mason jar from the fridge and you’re ready to eat. Overnight oats are good cold or warmed up.

Est. price: $0.50/ serving

Lunch: Sheet pan chicken fajitas

My wife and I love using sheet pan recipes because they save time on clean-up and we can meal prep a week’s worth of lunch in one batch.

You can make these chicken fajitas in a few easy steps.

  1. Put 2lbs of chicken breast/thighs into a ziploc bag or bowl and cover it with your marinade of choice. I use a store bought marinade to save time and make it as easy as possible. Marinade for 30 minutes to a couple of hours.
  2. Slice 1 green bell pepper, red bell pepper, and onion.
  3. Cover the sheet pan with foil and dump the bell peppers & chicken on it.
  4. Cook for 20 minutes at 350 or so and check to make sure it’s done.
  5. Once the fajitas are made, you can eat them however you want! Stuff some tortillas or eat them with rice and beans. Eat the fajitas with some mixed greens and avocado for a healthy salad.

Est. price: $1.50/serving

Dinner: Quick coconut chicken curry

This coconut chicken curry recipe is one of our weeknight go-to meals! It’s cheap, healthy, and here’s how you make it:

  1. Put 2lbs chicken breast or thighs into a ziploc or bowl. Rub 4 tbsp curry paste all over them.
  2. Add 2 tbsp oil to a cooking pan and get hot. Add red onion and saute with 2 more tbsp curry paste. Cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add chicken to the pan and sear both sides (2 minutes a side).
  4. Add coconut milk and put in oven for 12 minutes @ 400 degrees.
  5. When it’s done, you can eat the chicken curry with pita bread, rice, or by itself!

Est. price: $2.50/serving

Grocery List

If you want to give this meal plan a try, here’s a grocery list you can print off and take with you to the store.

  • Oatmeal
  • Milk
  • Optional oatmeal toppings you want: fruit, berries, nuts
  • 2lbs Chicken breast
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 1 onions
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 cup rice
  • Fajita marinade
  • 2lbs chicken thighs
  • 1.5 cup coconut milk
  • 4-6 teaspoons red curry paste
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion

Take Your Next Step in Meal Prepping

I don’t know where you’re at in life, but I truly believe that meal prepping can help everyone.

It can help the entrepreneur eat healthy and save money to reinvest in their business. It can help the young professional save money to put towards retirement. Meal prepping can save the stay at home parent hours of time every week in planning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning.

Take your first step today!

The post Meal Prep 101: How to make 20 meals for $25 appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

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