How to Save Hundreds with Meal Prep Sunday

Meal Plan Sunday can save you hundreds on your grocery bill. Click to learn how!

I’ve always loved to eat fresh, home-cooked meals, but I haven’t always loved the labor-intensive process some require. As I challenged myself to become a better cook, I also began to seek out ways to make things easier. Plus, I wanted to save money on my food costs. Enter Meal Prep Sunday.

Over the past few years, I’ve worked hard to improve my eating habits. This includes moving to a plant-based diet and paying more attention to what I’m eating. During this process, I’ve also fine-tuned my meal prep process. Doing so has allowed me to ensure I’m eating plenty of healthy foods, meeting various nutritional needs, and creating meals that actually taste good.

By incorporating a Meal Prep Sunday into my week, I’m also saving money!

If you’re looking to up your meal prep game, here are some tips for streamlining the process and saving money:

Meal Prep Sunday: Prepare to Prepare

When I first began meal prepping, I thought it would be boring and restrictive. How was I supposed to know on Sunday what I would want to eat on Tuesday? Would I be eating rice with every meal? What about spur of the moment schedule changes?

All of these concerns were mitigated when I realized how flexible meal planning can be. It’s a lot more than big pots of beans and cookie sheets of roasted veggies.

Used correctly, meal prep is more about ensuring I have healthy choices all week and less about food waste. Sounds like a win-win to me!

As you’re working to set your meal plan for the week, take a few moments to lay some sort of framework. Find some new recipes on Pinterest, let technology help you by utilizing meal prep apps, and make a grocery list before you head to the store.

Taking just 10 minutes to do these things will help you get on the path to saving hundreds of dollars on  your annual food bill.

Shop it Out

If food shopping just isn’t your thing, take comfort in knowing: There’s an App for that!

You can use apps to have your groceries delivered. Or you can shop online directly through your favorite grocery store. You can even use Amazon Prime to purchase pantry staples while in your pajamas.

I happen to be one of those weirdos who loves to grocery shop. In fact, my favorite kinds of shopping are: Grocery, Adventure Gear, and Travel. I’d happily trade a year of department store apparel shopping for grocery shopping. 🙂

Before I head to the store, I’ve created my meal plan for the week, and I’ve written a detailed list. My #1 rule that saves me money on grocery shopping is to stick to my list. I also make sure to check my pantry and freezer for any food I’ve forgotten about so I don’t duplicate what’s already at home.

Regardless of how you purchase your groceries, stick to the list! This trick alone can help stave off hundreds of dollars in impulse purchases.

When you’re shopping, maximize sales, coupons, and bulk foods. The trick with bulk is to be honest with yourself. If you will use the entire quantity before any food goes bad, by all means reap the savings buying in bulk has to offer. If you won’t eat that 10-pound bag of spinach before it goes bad, seek alternatives. Perhaps you can freeze the recipes, split the spinach with a friend or neighbor, or just forego the product all together.

Also, if you like to grocery shop like I do, don’t go to the store on an empty stomach. Your wallet (and waistline) will thank you.

Meal Prep Sunday: Automation is Your Friend

If you’re pressed for time but still want to make Meal Prep Sunday work for you, automate the process as much as possible.

Slow cookers, pressure cookers, rice cookers and more. These small appliances are your friend. They allow you to do double, if not triple, duty by prepping multiple things at once.

As you’re cooking, work to make multiple meals to be used throughout the week. I try to cook things that taste good re-heated; nobody wants mush day after day!

Make Your Own

If saving money is your main goal with utilizing Meal Prep Sunday, here are some easy DIY ways to trim to reduce food costs:

  • Eschew convenience: Go old-fashioned and cook with dried beans, rolled oats, and plain rice. Sure, it may take a bit more time for prep, but you’ll save a good amount of money by not purchasing convenience foods
  • Make your own: From meatballs to croutons, making your own versions of what you like will save tons!
  • Do the work: Pre-washed veggies are great, but they often come with a steep price tag. Save your dollars and prep the veggies yourself

Meal Prep Sunday: Make it Social

Worried that taking so many of your precious weekend hours for meal prep will cramp your social life? Invite friends to join you for Meal Prep Sunday! I trade off with various neighbors and friends each week with regards to hosting. We show up with our groceries, bust out the knives, and usually enjoy a glass of wine and great conversation as we prep for the week. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do!

If the idea of schlepping your food around doesn’t appeal to you, you can still make meal prep work for social activities. Instead of going out to eat, suggest an activity where you can bring your own food. Your wallet–and eventually your friends’ wallets–will thank you!

Do you meal prep? How do you save money doing so? Please share below!

 

Smart Home Updates that Save You Money

Smart Home Updates that Save You Money--Miter Saws and Mary Janes

When it comes to smart  home updates, there are plenty of cool gadgets on the market. But which actually save you money? In this guide, I highlight smart products I’ve installed in my home, rental properties, and/or flips. Here are the best products I’ve found to upgrade your home in a smart way AND save money:

Smart Home Updates: Low-Flow Plumbing Fixtures

Low-flow plumbing fixtures are a double whammy: They save water and save you money. According to Energy Star, installing low-flow fixtures can save you over $140 per year.

I personally like to retrofit old fixtures with low-flow aerators if they don’t need to be replaced. My favorite aerator is the Niagara Conservation N3610CH Tri-Max 3 Flow Rate Dual Thread Needle Spray Aerator (try saying that fast even one time!) which costs less than $6.

When buying a new showerhead, I opt for Waterpik, gravitating between the RSD-133 Rain Head and the ASR-733 Drench Head. Both have superior pressure and hold up well to the abuse my tenants put them through.

For kitchen and bathroom faucets, I tend to stick with Moen for my rentals and flips because they have great customer service and warranty coverage. For flips, it can also include Kohler since that’s a recognized brand that appeals to buyers. The Moen Commerical M-Bition Widespread Faucet is in over 10 of my rentals. I always opt for separate hot & cold water levers as the integrated faucets seem to have more issues with repairs.

Programmable Thermostats

Hands down, the best programmable thermostat I’ve ever found is The Nest. I don’t install these in my rentals because I don’t pay the utilities (and I’d hate to see one of them mysteriously walk off). But I do have these in my own home. We have 2 because we have 2 separate heating systems. I love that I can link the two systems so they “talk” to each other.

Plus, operating The Nest from my smartphone allows me to control the temp even when I’m not home. There have been countless times when we’ve left for a trip and I’m setting the thermostats to the ‘Away’ setting while boarding my plane–it’s so easy!

According to the Real Savings website, Nest users save, on average, 10-12% on heating and 15% on cooling. While annual savings of upwards of $150, the device pays for itself in less than 2 years. If you’re interested in purchasing The Nest, contact your utility company to see if they’re offering rebates. My company was, I bought the device during a Black Friday sale for $199, and I received a $100 rebate in less than a month.

Smart Home Updates: Smart Doorbells

If your safety and security is important, you may want to consider installing a smart doorbell. After I had a few packages stolen from my front porch over the holidays, I opted to install one with a camera. It allows me to see what’s happening, communicate with others, and monitor package deliveries without opening my door.

The best smart doorbell I’ve been able to find is The Ring. The standard, WiFi-capable version is less than $150 or you can upgrade to the pro model for about $100 more. While this device won’t provide energy savings, it can help with staving off porch thieves and provide an alternative to some security system add-ons.

Motion Sensors and Power Timers

Motion sensors simply make sense if you’re trying to cut your electricity bill. Why pay for lights to run when you’re not in the room? Installing a motion sensor switch is a quick DIY project most anyone can figure out.

The key to motion sensor switches is installing the correct version. For older homes that may not have neutral wires, you will have to spend a few more dollars to purchase a switch that doesn’t require the neutral. A great option I’ve installed in my flips is the Lutron Maestro. At less than $25, it will certainly pay for itself many times over. Plus, it’s a selling feature most buyers will notice. For homes with newer wiring or where a neutral is present, a cheaper alternative is the TopGreener line I’ve found on Amazon.

As far as power timers, consider installing these on larger appliances such as hot tubs and attic exhaust fans. You can set the timer to kick on during optimal times (contact your utility provider for specific time ranges). This will save you hundreds of dollars over the life of the appliance.

Smart Home Updates: Sprinkler Controllers

If you have an outdoor sprinkler system, you need to have a smart sprinkler controller installed. Not only will this device save you money, it may also be able to alert you of pricey leaks in the system. My rental properties are in the South, so every house has a smart sprinkler controller installed.

Tenants are responsible for their own water bills, so it’s in their best interest to utilize the system I’ve provided. In the event I sell one of the properties, the sprinkler system is always a hit with buyers.

Smart sprinkler controllers come in a variety of price ranges depending upon their functionality. The best yet most expensive option I’ve found is the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller at $200. A more budget-friendly option is the RainMachine Hd-12 Smart WiFi Irrigation Controller for less than $60.

Smart Ceiling Fans

I once flipped a house that had a neon, Pepto Bismal-colored ceiling fan in one of the bedrooms. It also had the same pukey, pink color on the window trim, baseboard, and closets but that’s for another post. 🙂

When shopping for Pepto’s replacement, I fell down the rabbit hole of smart ceiling fans. It’s amazing what’s available these days, including extra-large fans, fans that connect to your phone, and even ones that connect to Alexa, Apple Homekit, etc. My advice is to purchase the largest fan that will fit in the room without being a safety hazard.

Additionally, consider a WiFi-capable fan for mobile control. If you have an older fan, you can update it simply by installing a smart switch such as those made my Haiku Fans. Just make sure what you’re spending on the fan and switches will be recouped in lower bills (about $50/year is average).

 

Do you have any smart updates in your home? What has saved you the most money?

 

**This post contains affiliate links but, as always, I only showcase products that I’ve personally tried, have liked, and feel comfortable recommending!**

 

15 Ways to Save More Money

15 Ways to Save More Money--Miter Saws and Mary Janes

There’s a very simple formula when it comes to being rich: Save more money and spend less. No matter where you are on your financial journey, it is possible to save more money. You can turn your situation around by taking steps to increase your savings balances. While it isn’t always easy, once you take that first step, you can be on your way to saving more money than you ever have before.

Read on to see how the following 16 tips will help you save more money:

Save More Money: Institute a 24-hour Rule

If you’re working hard to save more money, consider instituting a 24-hour rule in which you hold off on all non-essential purchases for at least 24 hours. During that time, make an effort to carefully examine the purchase. Do you absolutely need whatever you’re considering purchasing? If you purchase said item/service, what impact will it have on your budget? How will your debt and/or savings be affected by the purchase?

Ask yourself the tough questions to get at the root of why you want to buy. Chances are, after 24 hours, you may not even want to spend your hard-earned money!

Calculate the Work Cost of an Item

If you are looking to purchase something, calculate the cost of the item based on how long you’d have to work to pay for it rather than the dollar figure associated with the purchase.

If that new shirt is $100 and you make $10 an hour, is it really worth working 10 hours?

Save More Money: Save Your Pennies

Seriously. Save your change. How many times have you cleaned under the couch cushions, in the cup holders of your car, or in random purse pockets and have found loose change lying around? Make a point to save those coins and your savings could be handsomely rewarded!

When I was working to pay off over $18,000 in credit card debt, I regularly made an effort to save my loose change. After wrapping and depositing my change in my bank account, it accounted for over $400 of debt payoff. $400! Imagine how you could save more money just by keeping track of those pennies lying around…

Be Loyal to Your Bank

No matter how you look at it, ATM fees = no bueno. Instead of opting for convenience the next time you’re out & about and needing cash, take the time to use an ATM authorized by your bank so you’re not shelling out unnecessary fees. Remember, that’s your hard-earned money–why should you throw it away on bank fees?!

Save More Money: Frequent the Library

If you’re like me and you love to read, those Amazon bills can quickly eat away your efforts to save more money. Instead of shelling out for each book you want to read, go to your local library instead. More and more libraries are now offering e-books, so you may not even have to leave the comfort of your home to read that latest edition.

Additionally, many libraries have free magazines and trade publications, offer free events, and even offer free use of things such as sewing machines, die-cut machines, and other expensive crafting tools. The membership is free and it’s a great way to support an often over-looked resource that greatly benefits children and seniors alike.

Get Your Volunteer On

Do you like to attend festivals, concerts, and theater events? Me, too! Except, I rarely ever pay for my tickets anymore. When I was working hard to crush my credit card debt, I had to give up a lot of the things I did for entertainment. Or so I thought.

While I initially cut everything out, I began to stumble upon opportunities to volunteer at some of the events I’d previously paid plenty of money to attend. Thanks to volunteering, I’ve snagged “free” tickets to the X Games, South by Southwest, countless concerts/plays/symphonies, and even the Sundance Film Festival. If you’re trying to save more money, look into volunteer options rather than spending on expensive event tickets. Just be sure to plan for the bigger events as volunteer spots are often filled months in advance.

Save More Money: Stop Buying Cheap Shit

This is one time where I’m going to advocate spending a bit more. However, I’m not advocating spending more on everything; I’m talking about spending where it counts most. Often, this is with our clothing and shoes. Instead of buying that cute T-shit for $5 that will fade, pill, and shrink on the first wash, invest in a nicer shirt that you’ll have for years.

When I buy clothing and shoes, I invest in quality, but I also calculate a cost-per-wear. Those $600 Jimmy Choo shoes that I love oh so much? On the surface, they seem ridiculous and way over the top. But if you dig deeper and learn that I wear them at least 2 times/week and I’ve had them for 4 years, you’ll quickly see that I’ve worn said shoes over four HUNDRED times. They still look gorgeous, are as comfortable as ever, and now cost me a mere 60 cents or so each time I wear them.

Remember that it doesn’t have to be a label or designer. It just has to be quality. Find what works for you and you’ll find you will spend less in the long run when you’re not constantly replacing the clothes you were most often.

Brown Bag It

Do you frequently go out to eat with your colleagues? Opt for a quick lunch break at your local cafe? Think you have “no time” to meal prep and therefore justify going out to eat? Well, I’m here to tell you that packing a lunch (or breakfast or dinner depending on what time of day you work) is an easy way to save more money. It also helps you stay slim by knowing what you’re eating (and opting for healthier choices). Lest you think a brown bag lunch chains you to a lifetime of boring leftovers, there are many ways to make great tasting, inexpensive lunches at home.

If you’re still not convinced, look at the math. Even if you spend a mere $5 on each lunch (which is difficult to do in many regions of the country), if that same lunch costs half by making it at home, you could be saving an additional $600+ dollars each year! Think about what you could do with an extra $600 in your savings account and make your lunch at home.

Save More Money: Think Prevention

When it comes to your health, there are plenty of easy things you can do to stay in shape, healthy, and happy: Drink more water. Get more exercise. Eat whole foods; you get the idea. In addition to making sound choices about eating and exercise, you should also be taking care of any types of preventative maintenance for your body. Much like you do with your car, you should do the same with your body.

This means getting regular dental cleanings, an annual physical, and any other blood or lab work you may need. The earlier you catch any issues, the more money you will save. Left unchecked, that small cavity in your molar could morph into a very expensive root canal. Save more money by keeping up with preventative medicine. You’ll most likely have a lot less physical pain, too!

Conduct an Audit

No, I’m not suggesting you self-audit your taxes. I am recommending an energy audit of your home. My energy company will do an audit of my home for $25, which is credited back to my next monthly bill. Check with your company as some do the audits completely free of charge (others may charge a nominal fee that isn’t reimbursed).

During the audit, pay attention to what you can do to decrease your energy costs. A lot of the suggestions are often easy DIY projects that you can do in your spare time. Seek out options that will enable you to return your monetary investment in less than 5 years and you could easily save hundreds of dollars each year on the heating and cooling of your home!

Save More Money: Shop Around

This is one of the oldest yet easiest ways to save more money. With the power of the Internet, it’s virtually impossible to not find a discount, deal or competing company to help you save more on everything from cars to hotel rooms. Increasingly, retailers are honoring Internet coupons in-store, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t be paying less. When I shop, I make a point to have coupons and discount codes saved in my phone before I enter the store. I pull up the items while I’m waiting to check-out, and I easily save at least 20% on most purchases.

Don’t limit yourself to only saving on retail items. Go a step further and shop around for insurance, car maintenance; even medical procedures. When my boyfriend recently had to have an MRI, he called a few places to see what would be the best option given his insurance. Since an MRI is the same no matter where you go, he focused on finding the facility with the lowest out of pocket expense. He was able to save over $700 by shopping around, and he still had the results sent to his regular doctor. Don’t be afraid to shop around; especially when it matters most!

Never Shop While Hungry

Speaking of shopping, make sure you’re running your errands on a full stomach. Even if you don’t feel terribly hungry when you begin your shopping trip, if you haven’t eaten in a while and are in the grocery store, those convenience & snack items quickly begin to look much more appealing. Before you know it, you may be tossing unnecessary items into your cart simply because you’re hungry. Make a point to at least eat a snack before venturing out. Your waistline and your wallet will thank you.

Save More Money: Kick the Cards to the Curb

Study after study has shown that we spend less when we are spending cash. Using cash forces you to make decisions as you pay. It also helps you keep track of everything you’re spending. Instead of mindlessly swiping a card, pull out some greenbacks to pay.

If you’re new to the cash game, an easy way to get started is to devise an envelope system. Label an envelope for each category of purchases (gas, groceries, entertainment, etc) and fill each with an allotted amount based on your budget. While shopping, use the money from each envelope and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Ditch the Latte and Fast Food

A $4 Starbucks here, a $5 Chipotle there. These small splurges add up big over time, and they can easily suck the wind out of your savings sails. No matter what your small indulgences are, they all wreak havoc on your budget–especially if you’re trying to save more money or eliminate debt.

To save more money, it’s sometimes as simple as making your coffee at home and brown bagging your lunch. Fast food only hurts your body (and wallet), so there’s no real rationalization for why you waste your money to buy those “value” meals. If you can’t shake your habit, consider the numbers: $4/day is roughly $30/week. $30/week is $120/month. $120/month is $1,440/year! Imagine having over $14,000 in your savings account simply because you opted to bring your own coffee on your morning commute. Sounds pretty damn good, eh?

Save More Money: Automate Your Efforts

Make technology work for you to save more money by automating your deposits. The best option I’ve found for saving serious amounts of money is to utilize direct deposit. Set an amount to be automatically deducted from each pay check and do. not. touch. the. money. Set your budget based only on the amount you’re actually bringing home and let those savings account balances add up without much effort on your part. Even better, take advantage of the many online banks that are fee-free when you make regular, automatic deductions.

 

What are you tricks for saving money? Please share below!