Category: Menu Planning

Indian Menu Planning and Make Ahead Planning + Travel

weekly-indian-menu-planningThis weekend, I’m spending as much time as possible with my little fella before I leave for work travel tomorrow. It’s the first time I’m going to be away from him for a couple of days and my heart is already HEAVY :(. Wish me luck. I need to get through this without breaking into half.

That said, below is this week’s menu plan:

Breakfast:

  • Cereal
  • Frozen waffle
  • Oatmeal with fruits
  • Scrambled eggs with smoothie
  • Peanut butter oatmeal
  • Breakfast biscuit with jam {got frozen biscuits from Costco that I’ll be baking. Family loves it}

Lunch:

  • Rice and Sambar
  • Rice and Rasam
  • Rice, Yogurt gravy (mor kuzhambu), and lentil with vegetable (paruppu usili)
  • Lemon rice, coconut rice, and potato curry
  • Rice, sambar, and bitter guard curry
  • Out
  • Tomato rice with raita

Dinner:

  • Dosa with chutney
  • Baked Pasta
  • Egg Paratta
  • Pongal with Sambar
  • Idly with tomato gravy
  • Adai with Avial
  • Out

Snacks:

MAKE AHEAD PREP:

It’s going to be a busy day tomorrow spending time with the kiddo and preparing menu for the family before my trip. So, the make-ahead prep below is quite simple. I’ll share the pictures in Facebook and Instagram. Be sure to follow them if you’d like to see the pictures.

  • Baked Pasta
  • Sambar
  • Tamarind Gravy
  • Rasam
  • Onion chutney

How To Plan Your Monthly Grocery Budget {Part 3}

monthly-grocery-budgeting-centsible-indianHere are part 1 and part 2 of how to plan your monthly grocery budget if you’ve missed.

Now that you have both your budget and grocery list ready, let’s look at how to stick to the budget when we are in the store.

Limit Your Grocery Store Visits:
For those of you living in India, majority of the shops carry all the grocery items in one store. If so, try to shop all your items in one store. For NRIs, unfortunately multiple store visits are mostly required. For Indian groceries, Indian grocery stores; AND for other items, local grocery stores and bulk merchandise stores such as Costco.

Below is what I follow (This is just to give you an example. There are no hard rules here. Do what works for your family):

Indian grocery store visit – once every 2-3 weeks. I buy the vegetables in bulk, cut, and freeze them for later use

Local grocery store – once a week as we consume a fair amount of milk and fruits

  • Bulk merchandise store (Costco) – once every 3 weeks

The more stores you visit, the more you spend AND the more time you visits, the more you spend as well.

Things To Consider When Grocery Shopping:

  • Before going to the store, write down how much money is left in your grocery budget. I open my Mint.com budgeting app and check the $ left in grocery budget
  • Print out the grocery list or open your list in the phone before you start shopping
  • Strike the items in your list as soon as you put them in the cart
  • Make sure your grocery list is thorough such that you don’t have to buy anything outside of your grocery list
  • Always have wiggle room for 1-2 extra items in the budget. Sometimes we come across a product in clearance section that we would anyway need to buy in full price
  • Once you’re done with shopping and ready to bill the items, recheck the items in the cart and see if you have anything that’s not needed
  • When you have only 20% of the budget left at the end of the month, put an emergency break and buy ONLY the necessary items. For example, when I hit the last $50, I’ll go on HOLD mode. We will buy only the necessary items such as banana, milk until the end of the month and I alone go for all grocery shopping because I don’t believe that my Dude would come out of grocery store without picking an extra item 🙂

RELATED:

Never Take Your Kids to Shopping If You Want To Stick To The Budget

How To Save Money In Grocery Shopping Without Printing Coupons

  • Buy all the bulk foods such as rice bags, wheat flour etc at the starting of the month. That way if your budget get smaller at the end of the month, you don’t have to worry about bulk expenses.
  • Buying everything in bulk-merchandise stores such as Costco doesn’t always save money. I do this mistake more often than I should. For example, I bought 3 cantaloupe pack for ~$6 couple of weeks back and they started going bad in couple of days. I ended up throwing one that went bad.
  • Stick an notepad in the fridge and write down the cost of your wasted products. In my above Cantaloupe example, I wasted ~$2 by buying them in bulk. I noted that $2 in the notepad and keep noting down the $$ of items I wasted that month. This gives a picture of our total waste in that month and how much money we should have saved by avoiding the waste.
  • Last but not least, if you’re in US, make use of cash back apps to get some cash backs for your recent purchases. These are free apps that pay you money for everyday purchases. All you need to do it check if any of your purchased items are eligible for cash back, scan the item, scan the receipt and you’re good to go. It takes me hardly 5 minutes to do it.

IBOTTA (Use this link or my referral code gjheew to earn extra $10), Checkout 51, and BerryCart are some of the apps I use for cash backs.

 

How to plan your monthly grocery budget series:

Part 1

Part 2

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September Week 2 Indian Menu Planning AND Make-Ahead Plan

indian meal planning september 1st weekHope you are having a wonderful weekend. Our weekend started with Chuttu getting sick. He didn’t sleep all last night and was able to sleep only this morning. With his sleep schedule change, the whole day has been so long and we spent our entire day at home without going anywhere. Yikes!

With sick kid at home, tomorrow’s make ahead meal plan is going to be simple. I’ll update my Facebook and Instagram pages with pictures.

Below is what I have planned for tomorrow:

This Week’s Menu:

Breakfast:

I either serve the breakfast with fruits, smoothie, juice, or yogurt.

  • Cereal
  • Whole wheat flaxmeal pancake
  • Egg sandwich
  • Baked Oatmeal – going to try a new recipe
  • Peanut butter oatmeal
  • Whole wheat waffle – picked a bag from Costco
  • Banana bread and smoothie

Lunch:

  • Tomato rice with raita
  • Rice, sambar and potato curry
  • Rice, tamarind gravy, and beans lentil usili (I have some frozen cooked lentil left from last week. I prepared this cooked lentil as a part of make-ahead meal planning last week)
  • Roti with Chayote squash kootu
  • Rice, bottleguard gravy and spinach dry curry
  • Lemon rice, coconut rice, and curd rice with carrot curry

Dinner:

  • Idly with tomato gravy
  • Baked pasta
  • Adai with avial
  • Pongal with sambar
  • Dosa with chutney
  • Homemade pizza
  • Out

Snack:

  • Sauteed lentil
  • Puffed rice snack
  • Popcorn
  • Fruits
  • Chia seeds raw energy balls
  • Smoothie

Do you have your menu planned for the week? Let me know if you can join me in the make-ahead meal planning tomorrow.

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How To Plan Your Monthly Grocery Budget {Part 2}

monthly-grocery-budgeting-centsible-indianHere is the first part of how to plan your monthly grocery budget if you’ve missed.

Now that we have covered the basics in part 2, let’s dive right into budgeting basics. When it comes to budgeting, sticking to the budget is KEY more than anything else. Start slow and don’t burn yourself in the process.

How To Create Your Grocery Budget:

  • If you have access to last month’s bills, check out how much you spent on grocery. If not, track the expenses (you can manually track them using this budgeting excel file) for this month and review your grocery spending at the end of the month.
  • Take that exact total amount and use it as your budget for next month. Let’s say you spent $500 for groceries last month, without changing the number use it as your budget for next month
  • The reason we’re taking the last month bill as-it-is is, it takes couple of months to understand where you can cut costs. Until then, sticking to the budget is key. Once we are able to spend within the allotted budget for couple of months, we thrive for it in the coming months. Then we can take next step of finding the unnecessaries and cutting down the budget
  • The next step is to create your grocery list. I have tried a number of options before and finally sticking to excel file for grocery list. Talking about it in a separate section below.

RELATED: How to save money in grocery shopping without printing coupons

  • Once you have that magic grocery budget number, INFORM your family. It is important if you’re not the only one who does grocery shopping. In our family, even though I do majority of the grocery shopping, my husband grabs something on the way when he goes to the grocery store. Every time he goes to grocery shopping, I let him know how much is left in the budget. My guy hates it. But I also know it will stop him from buying anything unnecessary.

my-grocery-list-centsible-indianCreating Grocery List:

I created a spreadsheet file called “Grocery List” in Google Drive and shared it with the husband. That way he can also have access to the list anywhere anytime. Initially I used to write the list of groceries that I absolutely need and add/delete once the purchase is done. What works for me the best is, having the full list of groceries that I use for my cooking. I have more than 100 items in the file and I color code them according the the needs.

For example, I absolutely need to buy the GREEN items in the next trip. Either I no longer have them or they’re about to get over.

ORANGE items are half way through and I need to buy them in the next couple of trips. I have the option buy them in the next trip and freeze for later use if I have cushion in the budget.

You can download my current grocery list (including Indian groceries) that I’m using for my family. It might not be the absolute full list and add/delete according to your family needs.

TO BE CONTINUED…

How to plan your monthly grocery budget series:

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How To Plan Your Monthly Grocery Budget {Part 1} + Here Is Mine

monthly-grocery-budgeting-centsible-indianIt’s interesting how my grocery purchases and grocery spending changed over the years. From the time I started staying away from home for work some 10 years ago, I’ve been planning my monthly expenses.

When I was single and stayed in Hostel for work, I had limited things to buy. The hostel provided food and shelter and I only had to buy for my personal needs. Even then, I remember planning my budget and monthly purchases. At the starting of every month, I created my list of things to buy and buy the non-perishable items (such as shampoo, soap etc) from the same store every month. Since it’s a bulk purchase, I used to get some perks from the store. The rest of the perishable items, I used to buy them as-needed basis. I don’t remember how I got this habit. But this method worked for me at that time.

When we got married around 8 years ago, I was clueless on how to budget for the family. I had no experience in cooking and I didn’t know what to buy, how long to keep them and how to store them. I guess it took me a year or so to figure out the basics.

How Much To Spend On Grocery:

Well.. it depends.. There is no right amount that fits all of us. Grocery budget depends on the number of persons in the family, food habits, number of times you cook, where you live etc.

Grocery budgeting includes all the perishable, non-perishable food items, personal care and other items you buy for the family. It includes food, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, rice, cleaning products, laundry detergent etc. Grocery budget doesn’t include going out and eating in restaurants.

my-grocery-budget-week-1

My Grocery Budget AND This Week’s Spending:

We are a family of 3 (2 adults and a toddler) and we try to eat healthy at home. I also buy organic products as much as I can without breaking the bank. I remember paying just $150 a month for a whole month of grocery, years ago. But it’s no longer the case and our current grocery budget is $400 per month.

The above picture shows the list of items I bought this week. So far we spent $97.76 in September. I have $302.24 left for this month. One thing I’m trying hard to avoid is taking my toddler to grocery shopping. I realized, If I take him for shopping I’ll easily spend $5 on extra items.

I’d LOVE to hear from YOU. What are 1-2 grocery budgeting questions you have? Leave a comment and let me know so I can talk about those in this series.

TO BE CONTINUED….

How to plan your monthly grocery budget series:

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