How to tame your food budget

Food is the most important thing you can buy with your money.

Well, that was dramatic, wasn’t it? But it’s true. Besides oxygen and water, food is the most basic survival need. Now, most of us are blessed in that we don’t wonder where our next meal is coming from or if we can afford it.

In fact, we may be a little too blessed if you know what I mean. Yes, as Americans we are the richest 1% of people in the HISTORY of the world. Yay!

SO WHY DO I ALWAYS FEEL BROKE?

Girl, I hear you. We’re feeling broke because money is flying out the window faster that we can make it. One of the best ways to get control of your money is the zero-based budget I teach in my coaching and online community Budget Bootcamp.

Once we get that going we can quickly start to make progress by taming the food budget. Your food budget is typically one of your largest expenses, and rightfully so. But! My my philosophy is that you should be:

Saving money & saving calories

You know fitness and nutrition are one of my top passions, so that is something I say nearly EVERY coaching session. Here are 5 ways that you can save money and save calories

1. STOP EATING OUT. (DUH)

Please don’t get me started. You know that fast food is no longer fast nor cheap. You know that it’s WAY overpriced and WAY over calories. Maybe you don’t know that family dinners are correlated with kiddos eating healthier–not only as a child but as when they leave home too. They’re less likely to be obese now and in the future. Maybe you don’t know that even a salad (dressing) is typically loaded with calories and preservatives that will stall any efforts you are making toward weight loss by PRESERVING water and fat in your body. So, if you can stop eating out you will save 1. time 2. money 3. calories 4. clothing costs. Here are some of my healthy eating staples.

2. MEAL PLAN

Okay, this one is pretty obvious too, right? Well, I’ve been preaching it so long that I feel like it is. But it may not be. What I mean here is plan EVERY MEAL that your family will eat. Then plan what items you’ll need to make those meals happen. Then make a list and ONLY buy that stuff. Likewise, figure out what household things you need each month and buy only those things. For example, we need 2 dishwasher soaps and 1 shaving cream a month. We need shampoo and laundry soap every 2 months. Once you’ve figured out what you need, take the time to see where the shopping is the cheapest. Pick your top 10 items and check each store for prices. Which store wins? Shop there!

3. NIX THE CRAP!

This one will be the most unpopular of all. Stop buying junk food. Completely and totally. Yep. You don’t need it and neither does your family. You don’t need it because it’s obviously bad for you but it’s also a HUGE grocery budget buster. If your family wants ice cream, budget to go out as a family once a month. If you want to have family pizza night, we can talk about that. But the overall chips, crackers, cookies, sodas and whatever else. GONE. The truth is no one is going to go without. There are parties and lunches and cookouts and football games. JUNK ABOUNDS. Therefore, you don’t need to bring it in your home. Again, this will save you time (less time in the store!), calories and money. WINNING. This is especially true because junk food doesn’t provide nutrition so you have to replace those calories anyway.

4. CLOSE THE KITCHEN!

This one isn’t going to be hard if you follow #3. Closing the kitchen means we don’t eat all day. We eat at meal times and maybe a snack here or there. Do you know what NOT having junk food does? It makes people suddenly less hungry, like this:

  • Kid: Mom, I’m hungry.
  • Mom: You can have carrots or almonds.
  • Kid: Nevermind.

You KNOW that’s not how the conversation goes if you or the kids have chips, ice cream or whatever else available. Closing the kitchen means you’re not always a human vending machine. It also means dishes can be done and the kitchen clean sometimes. It means digestive systems get a break and folks might actually eat their veggies at dinner because they were HUNGRY. Not wasting food / being a good steward of food is a great way to save money on your groceries.

5. USE CASH

Okay, I’m going to be totally honest with you. I buy my bulk of groceries on the 1st of the month and then pull out the remainder of my cash to put in a food envelope for the rest of the month. That usually amounts to $40 a week or so because we do eat quite a lot of fresh produce. When you go into a store with only a $20 bill you think differently, you think strategically. Not having the swipe back up forces you to be serious. Studies have show you also spend 12-18% more when you swipe instead of pull out cash.

6. SYSTEMIZE

How can you systemize? What can make your grocery life easier and stress-free? My entire food/household goods life comes and goes each month in 3 stages:

  1. My meat comes from a monthly co-op because I am fortunate to be able to afford that. Because of that I can 100% expect to have the meat I need each month without thinking. Before I’d get all of my meat on the first of the month shopping, looking for discounts and deals.
  2. At the first of the month I order everything we’re going to need at Walmart. I’ve tried finding folks that are cheaper but I can’t. And the convenience is 100% worth it for me. I have a set spreadsheet that shows me what I need to order each month as far as peanut butter and ketchup and laundry soap and hair gel. I order it, pick it up on the 1st and don’t look back. Check out this video for a walkthrough of exactly how I do it.
  3. Each week after church my husband drops me off at the front door of the grocery store and I take my $20 or $40 and grab fresh produce, dairy, eggs or whatever I need to supplement our food. It takes about 20 minutes.

That’s it! I don’t go to the store several times a week. I will say it takes a bit to get used to. But then it’s amazing because I always, ALWAYS have what I need because it was planned that way. So, what sort of system can you set up so that things are automated and the grocery store no longer rules your life?

7. BACK UP PLAN

Sometimes your best intentions and even your best plans may NOT happen. That’s where a back up plan comes in. A back up plan helps us when things get crazy. It helps us stick to our budget with food because we don’t have to rely on fast food. At any given time, I have items on hand to make our “back up meals.” You need to determine your back up meals and make sure you buy for them each month.

Here are 2 example back up plans in case dinner just escaped you:

  • No cook salad. Yes, it’s boring, but it’s doable! Part of your monthly shopping should ALWAYS include things like EVOO, dijon honey, olives, avocado/cheese, the best deli meat you can afford and fresh veggies like lettuce and tomatoes. So fast! (Here’s a from scratch salad dressing recipe) You can put it in a wrap to make it different. And, if you have some turkey bacon on hand, swap a slice or two of deli meat for it!
  • Breakfast for dinner. Again, you’ll have these ingredients on hand because you make it a priority to get ingredients for breakfast on your monthly shopping trip. And breakfast is usually pretty healthy. For example, if I’m really in a dinner bind, I throw a few eggs, spinach and tomatoes in the skillet. Tada! The kids might get the same with some pancakes added in! Fast & cheap & easy. Almost like fast food. 😉

So, what back up plans would work for you & your family?

8. GET BUY IN!

My kids decide what they want their lunches to be each week. They eat a healthy version of a lunchable so they get to write out their choice for fruit, veggie, protein, fat & carb. Because they PICK, they are really good at eating it all not complaining. Likewise, they have a few nights a week they pick dinner like Pizza movie night and pasta night. =D My husband also chooses some of the meals. Getting buy in means folks will actually eat the food you buy and make. THAT is what is going to save money. So, ask them for their input. Let them help you make a plan that way you’re all more likely to stick to it.

9. MEAL PREP

Each Sunday my kiddos make their lunches and my husband grills our dinner + the meat for his lunches (I have shake for lunch, even though I hate that it sounds like a Slimfast commercial–It’s just how I get my vitamins). I’m not going to belabor this point because as a certified personal trainer wit my nutrition specialization, I’ve been belaboring it for years. Here is a link for help. And another one. And another one. And one about the kids. See what I mean?

Okay, but honestly I don’t expect you to get all of this on your own. It’s hard. And like any new skill, you could use a coach to get better. I’m your huckleberry. Fill out the form together and let’s work together for a session, two or more.

Here’s to saving money and saving calories!

Saving cash & saving calories

I like to advise clients to save cash & save calories!
Pizza Movie Night is a long-standing tradition in many homes.
The best way to save money & save calories is to make your own pita pizza at home.

You can purchase ingredients that will last many Fridays for the price of one large pizza. And your pita pizza will be fewer calories than a slice of delivery. (Recipe at end of post)

If that’s just not good enough, might I suggest limiting the pizza to 2-3 slices per person in the home and picking it up yourself? If you’re like my son, you can eat an entire pizza to yourself. But, you know, that doesn’t mean you HAVE to. 😉 We pick our pizzas up to save delivery fees + tip, which is at least $6 most of the time.


That’s not a lot but it’s one habit that saves over $300 a year. And just 2 slices instead of 4 can save you 940 calories a week or almost 14 pounds of calories a year!!


Switch the soda out for water and savor each bite.
Happy National Pizza night! #savingcashandsavingcalories

Put Your Big Girl Panties On!

At last! I can say that Put Your Big Girl Panties On is published! Hooray!

What’s it all about?

PUT YOUR BIG GIRL PANTIES ON IS A SELF-DO BOOK FOR WOMEN WHO ARE READY TO BE THEIR BEST SELVES BUT HAVEN’T QUITE FIGURED OUT HOW YET. Does it seem like adulting as a woman should’ve come with a training manual? Well, now you’ve got one. In this down-to-earth and funny how-to guide, coach Shana will let you know you’re not alone, help you feel understood and give you some practical tips on how to move forward in the areas of life that are holding you back like:

  • Anxiety
  • Negative self-talk
  • Fitness
  • Nutrition
  • Time management
  • Home organization
  • Personal finance
  • Motherhood
  • Marriage
  • and much more!

Put Your Big Girl Panties on will give you applicable questions, exercises, and advice from someone just like you. It will feel like a conversation at a coffee shop, filled with knowing glances and giggles. It will give you a safe space to feel the things you’re feeling while also coaching you ever closer to a better version of you. You see, one thing is absolutely 100% true. No one else is going to come along and magically save you. You are the hero of your own story. You are the one that is going to make your best life possible. You are going to show up for yourself, you are going to solve your own problems. And you’re going to feel really confident and satisfied when you do. You’re going to save yourself. Let’s go.

Put your big girl panties on

Make it rain!

Did you know studies show that you spend about 12-18% less money when you use cash? When you use cash your brain emotionally registers the pain of saying goodbye to your money. One study at McDonald’s showed that folks spent 42% more! When you can use a card at a vending machine, it’s $178 more!

MIT, Stanford and Carnegie Mellon teamed up to do a bunch of MRIs and research on the issue. Brain imaging studies can see the pain centers of the brain being activated when you use cash. They are not activated when you use plastic.

So, use cash. Not just because I said too, but because science did too. It’s basically a guaranteed way to save money! That’s why I send my clients gifs like this almost everyday!

Make it rain.

Now, I also suggest you use an envelope system when budgeting. When you make your budget (or I help you), we will identify which categories will work best for envelopes.

When you pull that money out in envelopes, you know those categories are taken care of. That gives you peace of mind! If you’ve got money in your envelope for food until your next check or the next month, you’re going to rest easier. If you’ve got gas money or kid haircut money set aside, you don’t have to worry when that expense comes up. Moreover, you don’t have to worry that you’ll accidentally get spend it when it’s sitting in your bank account.

So, based on your budget, create envelopes for the items that would be well suited for cash. That would be really nice to know are covered each month. Then, pull that cash out each pay period as necessary and put it in the envelopes. You’ll have to plan your purchases so that you take cash with you. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it! The money in the envelopes is only for that category. If you have some leftover each month, great! You are an amazing budgeter. 😉 You can either change the amount next month, spend it on something nice for you & your goals, put it toward debt or leave it in and take out less the next pay period.

There are many negatives people come up with when it comes to the envelope system. Some of them may be valid-ish. However, we’re not trying to be “smart” here. We’re trying to form discipline, be really wise and make new habits. We’re trying to modify behavior. It’s like why we want you to stick to an exercise program when you’re trying to get in shape. We’re not going to be willy nilly, we have a plan for a reason!

So, you may not need envelopes forever but we’re going to use them, inconveniences and all, until we get a real hold on budgeting and make great progress toward goals.

If you need help creating a budget and implementing the envelope system, click the work with me button up top and let’s get started!

Fund the future

I’ve been coaching women for years but I just got certified as a financial coach last month. I’ve been working with two clients to implement budgets and eliminate debt since March.

$6655 is how much debt my two clients have paid off since March!! Isn’t that so cool? It’s their victory but I’m celebrating it like it’s mine! 

That’s because seeing those numbers is very motivating. My clients use this printable to keep it front and center in their homes so they stay motivated and focused. It tracks their total debt number as they pay it down. For my part, I’m tracking how much they pay off. As that number rises, I get more and more excited! As the number they’re tracking goes down, they get more and more excited.

Why?

Because the money you earn each month can either be funding your future or paying for the past. I think it’s more fun and definitely more freeing to fund the future! If you’ve got debt, you’re paying for the past. I don’t know about you, but don’t want to be working out of obligation of a debt owed. I would rather my money and my hard work be for something in my future, something I want for me or for my family. Not only does that keep the dreams alive, it puts a little pep in my work step.

Let me help you figure it out with a budget makeover & debt payoff plan!! Get started now.

It’s Monday Again

I bet you read that headline like Eeyore:

Yeah, it’s Monday. Again.

But I wrote it like

Yay! It’s Monday again!!!

You see, I love Mondays. They’re a chance to reset. They’re a chance to get it right!

The weekends can sometimes mean doing things that weren’t on the plan we have to become the person we want to be. Maybe that means relationally, maybe that means nutritionally or maybe that means laundryally. Whatever it means for you, Monday is your chance!

You see, all it takes to be “back on track” is ONE day. All it takes to be the kind of person you want to be is ONE day. Do you want to be a healthy person? Make healthy choices today. Boom. You’re a healthy person.  Do you want to be the kind of person who doesn’t battle the lingering laundry monster? Finish that laundry today. Boom, you’re the kind of person who has clean clothes put away.

Yes, it only takes one day but Monday is special. That’s because it sets the tone of the week. If you make some great choices today, you’re setting up some positive momentum for the week. There is something very human about a starting and stopping point. Humans respond better to tasks and actions when they have a clear starting point and a clear ending point. The work week, for most of us, is just that. If we don’t start making these great decisions today, we’re much less likely to start on Tuesday.

The other reason Monday works so well is because you probably are at least partly refreshed and ready to tackle some of these decisions thanks to the weekend. I mean that both emotionally and physically. I am recharged after relaxing so getting to work it easy! I am carb-loaded because of pizza so running is easier. 😉

Okay, so how can you be back on track today? Is it in your finances? Is it in your home organization? Is it fitness? Nutrition? Mindset? Parenting?

Determine two things you’ll do today that will get you “back on track.” I believe in you. I believe you’re the kind of person you want to be. Now act like it! 😉

Happy Monday!