Freedom from Money: Part 2 – Meal Planning & Grocery Shopping

I. AM. SO. EXCITED. Guys, I realize it is the bane of many people’s existence, but I stinkin’ love grocery shopping! The aisles full of choices…the unexpected sale items…the new products…the Costco samples. I love it all!

In my post several weeks ago, we talked about developing and living on a budget. The reality is that food takes up a pretty good chunk of our living expenses, and, if you are on a tighter budget, you are most likely eating at home more than not. Even with eating at home the majority of the time, groceries are still going to cost a small fortune. However, there are a few simple strategies that we can put into place to help save some dough.

Before we begin, let me just say that I am not a pro at this! There are people out there who are extreme sale seekers and coupon clippers – I am happy for them, but I don’t have the time or desire to invest myself in those endeavors. Consider this the barebones guide to saving money on groceries, and feel free to expand upon it as you see fit!

  1. Identify which stores consistently have the lowest prices on quality food, particularly meat and produce. This doesn’t need to be a huge research project – no need to apply for a grant or take a sabbatical from work! Just peruse a couple flyers each week, or keep your eyes open when you’re shopping, and you’ll become familiar with where the best deals can usually be found. In our area, I have found that Aldi and Costco are my best sources.
  2. Create a file of consistently used recipes. This might look like a binder of printed recipes, a Pinterest board, or a good ol’ recipe box! I find Pinterest to be wonderfully helpful for both finding and organizing recipes. Looking for some great recipe sources? Check out a few of my favorite blogs:
  3. Plan your meals. I like to sit down for an hour or two and plan a month’s worth of meals. Admittedly, that can be a little overwhelming at times! Planning a week or two at a time works great, too – whatever works for your schedule. To keep things simple for planning, I follow a rotation, which gives me a loose structure with room for variety:
    • Mondays: Pasta
    • Tuesdays: Tacos/Mexican
    • Wednesdays: Soup or Salad
    • Thursdays: New Recipe Night or Leftovers
    • Fridays: Homemade Pizza or Eat Out
    • Saturdays: Brunch
    • Sundays: Slow Cooker (lunch), popcorn for dinner
  4. Make your list. Once I have my meal plan in place, I take a look through the recipes to see what I need for ingredients. A paper list works just dandy for this, or you can use an app like Out of Milk, which is my preference. When you shop from a list, you know what you need and what you don’t, which can add up to significant savings!
  5. Go the extra mile…plan for leftovers! Another way to save a chunk of change is to bring your own lunch to work, which is much easier when you have leftovers on hand. Make a double batch of one meal and enjoy the leftovers for lunch throughout the week!

This can be a lot to take in, so don’t try to do it all at once! Start by observing prices at the places you shop – or maybe check out a few stores you don’t normally shop at. Slowly put together a collection of recipes. Then maybe try planning a week’s worth of meals, making your list, and shopping for those items. With time, it will become second nature, saving you both time and money in the long run!

Hitting the Pause Button…

Earlier this week, I was reminded of an important truth through my own current situation, and I feel the need the hit the “pause” button to share it before moving forward with this Freedom series.

I recently had an appointment with my wellness provider to discuss doing a “system reset” for my body. I walked out of the appointment with some great supplements, a list of “approved” foods (low carbs and no sugar), and the assignment of meeting with a personal trainer to set up a strength-training regimen. Oh, and don’t forget to do yoga, too. And I need to reduce my stress. Oh, and you should get this all done before we meet again in three weeks.

Needless to say, about a week into these assignments, I found myself completely frustrated and reaching for the M&Ms even more than before. I poured out my frustration to my husband one evening, wondering why I had zero motivation to work out, eating healthy was overwhelming, and I was more stressed out than ever.

My husband, in his wisdom, had the answer:

Their solutions and expectations don’t fit your current life situation.

He was absolutely right. From their point of view and in their current life situations, the things they were asking me to do were completely doable. However, I am in the thick of raising and homeschooling two tweens, running them to their activities, working, blogging, and everything else that comes with running a household. My cup runneth over, proverbially speaking, without adding in a complete lifestyle change.

I have been mulling over that truth all week, and as I continue writing this series on freedom, please know that I understand that it is not a “one size fits all” solution. We all have unique life situations, and what works great for me is not going to necessarily be the best solution for you.

However, moving forward, my hope is that you can glean a helpful bit here and there that you can apply to your own life, or adapt an idea to incorporate it into your life situation. After all, the goal is FREEDOM, and how can we be free if we are stuck in the bondage of systems that aren’t practical for us? So, ignore what doesn’t work for you, and adapt upon what does.

I will be doing the same with my health assignments. They are all great goals, but tackling them all at once is an insurmountable task, combined with daily life. So, I am going to tackle them bit by bit, doing what is feasible, and giving myself permission to cast aside what is impractical in my life right now. My first goal? Get more sleep. Right now, I can completely handle that challenge. 🙂

Letting Go…

Tight shoulders. Seeing floaters. Sugar cravings. Sleepless nights. Headaches. The symptoms crept up, one on top of the other, until my body couldn’t take it anymore and I wound up useless and cranky, completely and utterly depleted.

Stress had, once again, taken over.

Recognizing my symptoms, I suggested my husband and I hop in the car and run an errand or two to talk it out. (Really, we have our best talks in the car. One of my most favorite part about road trips is the conversations that happen on the open road.)

“So, what’s the source of your stress?” he asked. After a pause, I responded, “You know, I think am just. So. Angry.” A situation beyond my control for the past few years has resulted in continual emotional roller coasters, empty promises, and broken relationships.

Years and years of this have left me angry, bitter, stressed out, and exhausted. There are no easy answers to the situation, and despite our pleas and prayers, God has remained silent. No relief. No rescue.

Later that day, this popped up in my Instagram from Lysa TerKeust:


Pray. Trust. Release. Find peace.

I was doing none of those.

I had given up on praying, having deemed the situation beyond God’s notice and caring.

I hadn’t trusted that He has a plan in the midst of roller coasters and a downward spiral of chaos.

I hadn’t released it to Him; rather, I was bearing a burden that wasn’t mine.

As a result, peace has eluded me for a very, very long time.

Moving forward, I pray that I make this a daily exercise, to trust His plan enough to release the burdens to Him that are not even mine to carry, and find peace in the waiting.




Freedom from Money: Part 1 – Budgeting


My husband and I sat in his car, both silently absorbing the phone call from the doctor’s office. “Your pregnancy test came back positive!” crowed the nurse, happy to be the bearer of such news. “Congratulations!”

We sat there, completely stunned. Normally couples would rejoice at this news, but not us. This wasn’t the plan. I was working full-time, intent on building a career in the non-profit world. My husband was a full-time student, working part time. We were planning to buy my grandparents’ lovely home in the country, build a collection of classic cars, and travel. Raising a family was not a part of our plan.

But there we were, pregnant, completely unprepared emotionally and financially for such an event. Being suddenly responsible for another human being, albeit one the size of a pea, we knew change needed to happen…fast. Within the next seven months, we relinquished our dreams of a home in the country, my husband quit school for a full-time job, we purchased a run-down fixer upper, welcomed a new baby girl, and I began working part-time from home. Phew.

Not only did our lives get turned upside down in those seven months, but our finances went topsy-turvy in the process, too. We needed help. We needed a budget.

Perhaps you can relate to our story – life has thrown you a curveball, or you’re feeling overwhelmed by financial stresses, or you’re just ready to set up a solid financial plan for your life situation. Where in the world do you start?

  1. HOW do you develop a budget? We were blessed to attend a church that offered Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  It was truly a game-changer for us. He gave us the tools to develop sound strategies to not only conquer the stress of daily expenses, but also help us develop a plan for the future financial security. Now, in complete disclosure, we have deviated from his plan a bit here and there to better fit our life situation, but overall, it has worked really well for us. Learn more about Financial Peace University here.
  2. How do you keep track of your budget and your expenses? There are some really great apps out there for tracking your expenses, developing a budget, and recording your expenses. Because we took the class before apps were part of our daily lives, I set up our budget on a simple spreadsheet, and that still works best for me. However, one app that I can’t live without is Goodbudget, which is a virtual envelope system. (What the heck is an envelope system? Find out here.) Other apps that rate well and have a wide scope of budgeting capabilities include:
  3. Doesn’t using a budget cramp your style? Not really! In fact, it has done exactly the opposite. It is freeing to know exactly how much money you have available to spend in any certain category and, even more, that you are living within your means.

Fast forward a dozen years, and life looks a lot different – we are in the thick of raising two vivacious tween girls, our house is not an eyesore anymore, and we are teaching our girls how to budget for themselves. Do we live on a budget perfectly after twelve years? Absolutely not. Life happens, and I am human and prone to wander toward clearance racks full of cute clothes. Does having a budget give me peace of mind? Absolutely.

Next time…we will tackle meal planning and grocery shopping! Wheee! This is one of my most favorite topics – truly! I can’t wait!





His View: Both Above and Below

Recently, my girls and I braved the cold to do some adventuring on our local park trail. Due to the lack of snow and abundance of cold we have experienced this year, we were treated to the sight of some unusual ice formations. One formation in particular captivated my attention – the surface of the creek had frozen, and yet it was completely dry underneath, so  we could get a rare glimpse at the creek bed itself.


Later that night, while reviewing the pictures I had taken that afternoon, it struck me how unusual it was to be able to clearly see what happens both above and below the water’s surface. And it made me wonder…is this what God’s view of the world is like?

We are like the living things trapped under the ice’s surface – rushed along by forces beyond our control (in this case, water), we spend our days surrounded by a beautiful but decaying world, trying to fight our way upstream and find shelter and safety from the dangers that surround us. If we try to look up, the ice obscures the image above us, allowing us to see some light, at best.

However, if we could just see beyond the ice, we would be treated to the view of a spectacular, sparkling world, with the sun reflecting off of the snow in a dazzling display of light, and living, growing things as far as the eye can see. Beauty beyond comprehension, in comparison to life under the ice.

And God, in his infinite power, can take in both worlds in one sweeping glance. He can not only see us in our daily struggles under the ice, but also the beauty that awaits us once the ice melts and we can finally get a clear view of that majesty.

That day is coming, my friends. Someday that layer of ice that separates us from the glories of heaven will finally melt, and we will be able to leave behind our weary, watery world for the beauty that awaits. Not only will we be surrounded by a beauty like we have never experienced before, but we will be with the Maker of that beauty.

In the meantime, we can rest in the knowledge that He sees both above and below the surface of the ice. Nothing that happens above or below escapes His notice – He has ordained each molecule of water, each whisper of the wind, and knitted them all together as part of His story…a story that includes you and me.

My Word for 2018: Freedom

It was a moment I will never forget: standing around the counter at work, listening to a co-worker share about her debilitating anxiety and panic attacks. I took a deep breath, steeled myself for ridicule and condemnation, and said in a quiet voice, “I understand. I deal with anxiety and panic attacks, too.” But rather than condemnation and ridicule, I received empathy and connection. Even more, in that moment, like exhaling after holding my breath underwater for far too long, I experienced freedom. Freedom from the secret, the shame, and the loneliness of my burden.

That was a life-changing moment for me: that moment where I chose to be vulnerable and open my heart, and experience the incredible sense of freedom that comes from sharing my burden with others and discovering I am not alone.

Friends, in 2018, I want to experience that freedom more fully. 2017 left me feeling a bit banged up and worse for the wear, and I am ready to shed those burdens, be honest and vulnerable, and be freed from the chains that bind in different areas of my life. And so, for 2018, my word is freedom. Each month I want to tackle a different area of life where we get bound up, experience shame, and feel alone in our circumstances. Areas like money, shame, clutter, comparison, busyness…all kinds of stuff both internal and external. My hope is that we can connect, exhale, joyfully shed those chains, and exchange them for the sweet freedom that comes from not only sharing burdens but also the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus. I’m excited and looking forward to the journey!