monthly meal planning & budgeting

dave ramsey, budgeting, & meal planning!

budgeting has always been tough for us. now that we are a family of 3, we had a heart to heart about spending, saving, and most importantly, budgeting and sticking to the budget. in comes, the infamous, dave ramsey. it’s hard…real hard. but, like motherhood, very rewarding. i am an extremist at heart so naturally cutting our current $800 average we were spending per month on food to $300 was where we started. i love a good challenge. how did we do it? you’re about to find out!

*we stopped eating out. the majority of us eat out because we don’t know what to make for dinner or we are missing ingredients. the truth is, it started to take more effort to pack this family up and eat out than it did on just cooking at home.

*plan ahead, a whole MONTH ahead.

*use cash and add up your groceries as you shop. i literally write down every price next to the item on my list, then tally it up as we go through the store.

*start your monthly meals by looking through your pantry, fridge, and freezer and using the ingredients you have. do this each month and then fill in meals and make your shopping list from what you need with the added meals. this helps with wasting food, buying things you already have, and forces you to get creative with what you have to save money. if we have noodles, you better believe i am making 5 different meals with them (stuffed shells, spaghetti, fettucine alfredo, chicken parmesan, baked mac n cheese, ect).

*make little cards with meals listed on each one. this saves you time on thinking about what you are going to make for a month. i have 60 pre thought out meals along with the recipes saved as bookmarks in my phone. i simply choose meals with ingredients we have and then continue adding in from my pile of pre thought out meals. check the recipes, add things i need to the grocery list, and bada-bing, i am ready to go to the store.

calendar

we do a costco and publix run twice per month. this saves time, stress, and over spending. most of our meals are based on things we can use in several ways. like english muffins. they are our hamburger buns, our muffins for sausage, egg & cheese sandwiches, and also for quick english muffin pizzas. we save on buying hamburger buns and pizza dough. when we do homemade pizzas on the grill, i make the dough with my bulk flour from costco. it costs us maybe $2 a person for amazing homemade pizza.  another cheap dinner is having breakfast for dinner (BFD). we make french toast with turkey sausage, english muffins with turkey sausage, egg, and cheese, and homemake pancakes. i use this recipe for homemade pancakes.

for breakfast, we eat eggs (organic and bulk from costco), cereal, oatmeal, fruit, or english muffins with butter and jam. we also get bulk coffee k cups at costco along with hormone and antibiotic free creamer. we totaled up our costs for a morning coffee and an english muffin with 2 eggs and it is $1.41. amazing. costco is the best and when you plan ahead, buying in bulk saves you a TON.

for lunch, we do leftovers, kosher hotdogs or all natural ones, sandwiches, english muffin pizzas, perdue chicken strips (they are as close to organic as you can get), hamburgers, or grilled cheese. occasionally, we do salads when we make a bunch of chicken and can spice it up a bit.

grocery list receipts
i use this grocery list for the store. i can fill in at the top some of the meals i am shopping for in case there is a good sale and i want to flip one out. i like to put groceries in the middle and household/personal care items in the bottom check boxes. you can download this grocery list and another helpful list from design sponge.
meal cards

every month i make a HUGE batch of homemade spaghetti sauce with the organic bulk sauces from costco and their organic ground beef. it is easy, cheap, and SO good. you can find one of my pasta sauce recipes here. i buy 6lbs of organic noodles at costco for $8, this will last way more than a month, same with the sauces. i get months and months worth out of the sauces, often close to 8 months. the big boxes of canned sauces are $8 or less. i also make a batch of homemade pizza sauce for homemade pizzas and english muffin pizzas. again, costco sauces and some seasoning and in an hour, you’ll have amazing sauce! we jar up the pasta sauce and pizza sauce and freeze it.

noodles

sauce

my favorite meals that can be doubled for leftovers or that just make A LOT at once are chili, pasta sauce, hamburgers (freeze the others), meatballs for sauce or meatball subs, breaded chicken, lasagna, baked ziti, and beef stew. the options are endless.

we try to pick one fresh vegetable a week on top of the organic frozen broccoli we get in bulk at costco (it lasts a long time and is SO good). often times we do asparagus and i put it with chicken and a side of rice or in a cream sauce, fettucini alfredo is always yummy with it. we choose two fruits normally, one bulk at costco and one at publix. normally a huge box of oranges at costco or apples will last us a month or more. publix has smaller quantities since we often waste the fresh stuff if we have too much.

our monthly breakdown:

so this month (april 1 to may 1) we have spent:

publix: $54.26

costco: $202.73

restaurants: $24.31 (this includes $5 pizza when i was sick, $4 for coffee that everett treated a friend with, $13 for a lunch date, and one fountain coke for a beach trip). we will spend less at restaurants from now on.

TOTAL: $281.30 !

if you have to feed small children, the costs does not increase that much because they don’t eat large portions and they can have portions of what you make. chicken, broccoli, rice, frozen veggies in stir fry, and chili can all easily be given to children and you will probably still have leftovers. remember, portions should be appropriate, we often over eat in america. we use smaller plates and start with a small portion and almost all the time, we are full on way less than what we thought we needed.

here are some of my go to recipes:

pizza dough

pizza sauce

baked mac & cheese

fettuccine alfredo

we use hormone/antibiotic free cream for anything that calls for milk, we already have it in the house and milk is just expensive, not healthy, and not needed. if you have small children that you are giving milk to, switch to almond milk that you can easily make at home or buy at the store. cows milk causes hormone disruptions, early periods in young girls, and allergies. more on that later :)

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i am back to blogging!

what a world wind of events we have had! after announcing our pregnancy, we nearly lost our sweet boy but made it to week 37 by the grace of god! our miracle was born january 6, 2014. emerson crew bowes is healthy, SO very smiley, and has brightened up our lives! i am happy to be back to belles and bowes and i will recap our pregnancy, birth, and our first months as new parents over the next weeks and months!

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everett bowes + laurie bowes : a BIG announcement!

so… we have been a little MIA. this should explain a lot :)

everett bowes + laurie bowes : castegram custom photo iphone cover

so i found these awesome set of nightstands at a garage sale for $10 and was so excited. i sanded them down and painted them with low voc/non toxic paint (duh). they turned out amazing and i will be sharing them soon! you may be wondering what that has to do with custom iphone cases… well…during my nightstand renovation, i spilled an entire paint can and it covered my old iphone case. sad day, but, it saved my phone.

thus, i found myself on the hunt for a new iphone case and what i found was even better than i imagined! i found “couple” iphone covers that make a heart when they are together. i die.

so here they are… i put pictures of myself on everett’s side and some of him on my side. they are so cute. i ordered them on casetagram!

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everett bowes + laurie bowes : a weekend on the water! canoeing at riverbend park!

lately the hubbie and i have been enjoying the great outdoors! 2 weeks ago i planned a hubbie weekend for everett and we spent 3 days outdoors, fishing, boating, and enjoying many dates! we loved our canoe trip so much that we went back last weekend and rented a canoe for the day! we fished, picnicked, grilled up some bison, and made sure to pick up some oreo cheesecake on the way home for a late night treat. it was a perfect saturday!

coming soon… my post on wifey and husband weekends with tips for planning, executing, and enjoying your spouse! this is one of the ways we keep the spark in our marriage and we’ve had a blast planning special weekends for each other.

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everett bowes + laurie bowes : DIY spice jars with kraft label

a couple weeks ago i shared my upcoming DIY projects… if you missed it, you can find it here! first up are these adorable diy kraft label spice jars. i saw these on pinterest and was obsessed! i love how neat it makes my spice cabinet because all the jars are the same.

here is what you will need:

2oz-4oz jars (as many as you would like)

spices

a sheet kraft circle labels

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first off, i searched for a cute flower template online and found a bunch! this was actually from a wedding website and i photoshopped it the way i wanted it. depending on your photoshop skills, you may have to find an easier template. this website has some great graphics to use!

everett bowes-2using the circle sheet of labels, i found the template in Microsoft Word and dropped in my images that i made in photoshop. you can also just type directly into the word document with a pretty font :)

everett bowes-3i found jars that were the same diameter as the kraft circle labels so they fit perfectly! i believe mine were 2″.
everett bowes-4 everett bowes-5how much cuter are these than regular old spice jars? i love it!

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everett bowes + laurie bowes : DIY baby shower gift

my very sweet friend is about to have her first baby any day now. she is going to be the best mom and i just can’t wait to see her with her little boy. i wanted to make her something special for the baby’s arrival and since she is super natural like me, i knew homemade baby products were the way to go! so, if you are like us, or just want a more unique gift for a baby shower, here are some great ideas!
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1. homemade laundry soap (this is great for washing all the babies clothes before he or she arrives) you can find out how to make that here!

2. jojoba oil blend: a simple mixture of 1 part castor oil to 3 parts jojoba oil. this is great for shampoo, body wash, massages, moisturizers, and healing scratches and wounds.

3. coconut oil: the BEST and i think only cure for cradle cap, a natural vapor rub, diaper rash cream, cuts, eczema, or as a moisturizer.

I use jars of all sizes for the gifts and because the jojoba and coconut oil go a VERY long way, you don’t need that much. this small size will last forever! attaching a little tag with what the usage is for each gift is a great idea and can teach a new mom how to naturally care for her baby.

p.s. i got the fabulous hand made stickers at cute tape! they have the best products!

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everett bowes + laurie bowes : weekly wardrobe!

oh how i love colored pants. and these ones? these are my new favorites! here is my weekly wardrobe outfit:

everett bowes_obviously i am into the peplum thing… and peplum with lace? even better!

lace peplum top: lola chiq boutique located in downtown at the gardens

pink pants: lola chiq boutique for the win! they have these in so many colors and they by far the BEST colored pants i have ever found. and they’re $60. you can’t beat that. they maintain their fit well and don’t stretch too much. i love this because i don’t have to wash them after wearing them once!

and of course, i wear everything with my tory burch flats from my favorite bestie <3
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everett bowes + laurie bowes : DIY homemade fabric softener

yesterday i shared how to make homemade laundry detergent… i love a simple way to be frugal and healthy so after mastering the homemade detergent, i moved onto fabric softener. this one is even easier! first surprise is that no matter how much vinegar you put in your washing machine, your clothes will not smell like vinegar. it is awesome.

so here is some easy, inexpensive, and chemical-free fabric softener!

YOU WILL NEED:

1. lavender essential oil. available at whole foods for $10 for a huge amount, at any health food store, or online. obviously, amazon also has it :)

2. vinegar

3. a large jar. i just save one and use that or find one at a thrift store that has a good sealing lid.

DIRECTIONS:

you’re going to love this.

1. fill the jar nearly to the top with vinegar. you will want to leave about an inch of room.

2. add in 1-2 tablespoons of lavender. the amount is more about your preference. i add in 1 tablespoon, shake up the jar, and see if i want the lavender smell to be stronger.

3. you are done! i use 2 tablespoons per load and it works great! for towels, sheets, or blankets, i would use 3 tablespoons if needed.

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everett bowes + laurie bowes : DIY homemade laundry detergent

this is one of my most favorite things to make at home… laundry detergent. it saves money (a lot of it!), works great, is much cuter than those big tide jugs, and keeps harmful chemicals off you and your loved ones. oh! and it takes less time to make than driving to target and getting your normal detergent.everett bowes-2

YOU WILL NEED:

1. borax

2. super washing soda

3. lavender essential oil OR the best option, dr. bronner’s lavender bar soap. it is under $4 at whole foods. the oil is best for fabric softener.

i find the borax and super washing soda at publix. since i don’t do regular shopping there, i stop by once in awhile and buy 4 boxes of each. they last forever.

p.s the white vinegar shown in the photo will be used for homemade fabric softener that i will share tomorrow!

DIRECTIONS:

1. using a cheese grater, shred your lavender soap down until it is gone. it smells amazing, you will love it. i had hubbie help since he is much stronger :)

p.s. use a small hole so the shreds are small curls

2. in a large bowl, mix together the shredded bar of soap with 2 cups of borax and 2 cups of super washing soda.

3. throw your hands in the air and hallelujah, you are done and ready to make laundry that smells divine.

if you’d like to make more at once, double the recipe. the ratio is always 1:1. so 5 cups borax, 5 cups super washing soda. for soap, i use 1 bar per 2 cups.

USAGE:

i use 2 tablespoons per load. i just keep a little tablespoon measuring cup in my laundry cabinet and viola, laundry is done. sometimes i add in a couple drops of lavender oil straight into the washer.

everett bowes-1 everett bowes-4i use a jar i got from a thrift store for my laundry detergent. it works awesome. and of course, label it with a cute tag!

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check back TOMORROW for DIY fabric softener. and it is even easier!!! laurie-signature