Your College Student’s $20 per week Aldi Meal Plan

AldiCollegeMealPlan1

     My oldest ventured off to her freshman year of college a couple years ago. Lets call her O. O’s a responsible girl having never gotten herself into any serious trouble while in high school. Her worst crime was forgetting to check in with her father or me after arriving at a destination. O has been working after school and on weekends part time since she was fifteen. So, all and all, she’s a pretty good kid that has made responsible choices throughout her high school career.

     The college O is attending offers on-campus apartment housing in lieu of traditional dorms. A full kitchen is standard in these apartments as they would be in any off-campus apartment. This allows kids to cook for themselves, making meal plans optional. I did the math. The price per meal with the college-offered meal plan is $7. Call me crazy but that seems a little high. We decided it would be better for O to take advantage of her full kitchen and cook for herself.

     Because of O’s history, her father and I chose to give her an allowance. She would receive a deposit into her account bi-weekly during the first semester. She was under no pressure to find part time employment during this time. The money we deposited was to cover gas, groceries, and fun. She quickly learned she would like to have as much money as possible for fun and spend as little as possible for food. That’s when she asked me to create some super low cost meal plans for her.

     I quickly obliged her request. Some people knit or scrapbook as a hobby. I make meal plans with price goals in mind. You can add weirdo to the list of appropriate words to describe me.

     Here’s the first meal plan I sent her. It’s a two week meal plan that leaves one dinner out each week. We figured she would eat out at least once per week. We would soon learn she would be eating out for free more often. Many of the local churches offer bible study groups for college age students during the evening. Dinner is included. O enjoys bible studies so this was a win-win for her. The Baptist Student Union also provides free lunches accompanied with a Christian musical performance on Wednesdays.

     Of course, this is an Aldi meal plan because I have a love of Aldi. Prices vary by store and season.

Breakfast is either yogurt or an English muffin

Lunch is leftovers or ramen noodles

Dinners:

Grilled chicken and veg over rice with soy sauce x3

Grilled cheese and tomato soup x3

Spaghetti with ground turkey x3

Shredded chicken with taco seasoning and cheese quesadillas

Cheese and veg quesadillas

Ground turkey, veg, and rice with soy sauce

Ramen noodles $2

Bag of rice 1

Chicken breasts (3 lb bag-divide into 4 meals) 6

Bag of frozen veg (2 bags-divide into 5 meals ) 4

Soy sauce 1

American cheese slices .99

Loaf of bread .89

Tomato soup (3 cans x .59) 1.77

Yogurt 3.12 (8 yogurts @ .39) 3.12

English muffins .99

Jelly .89

Spaghetti noodles 2.97

Spaghetti sauce 2.97

Ground turkey (2 lbs. Use 1/2lb per meal) (1.89 x 2) 3.78

Taco seasoning packets (.35 x 2) .70

Cheddar cheese block 1.89

Tortillas 1.99

Bag of apples or other fruit for snacking 2

Microwave popcorn for snacking 1

Total $39.95

COMFORTABLE IN THE CHAOS

COMFORTABLE IN THE CHAOS

     I received one of the best compliments I have ever been given a few days ago. The gentleman didn’t even realize he was complimenting me when he said it. He said, “You’re comfortable in the chaos.” I know you’re thinking, “How is that a compliment?” Oh it IS in so many ways:

1) Being comfortable in the chaos means you realize you can’t control everything.

      It’s an understanding that you are not God. People, adults and children, will do things that defy your well tuned sensibilities. Random acts of nature will occur: tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, a two year old discovering a long lost Sharpie. At the end of the day life still goes on.

CHAOSBABYMESS

2) Being comfortable in the chaos means you understand kids need to play more than you need quiet.

      Children need to be able to be kids. They need to run, jump, squeal, and scream to their heart’s content. Preferable this is done outside but there are times when it rains every day for a week. Their boundless energy needs a place to go. So build a blanket fort in the dining room or bring the mini-bouncy house inside, they’re only children for such a short time. And that need for quiet you have, you gave that up when you had kids. You can take short reprieves with slow walks around Target sipping on Starbucks or you can just buy some earplugs. I suggest both.

3) Being comfortable in the chaos means you accept your house will never be spotless as long as there are little people in it.

      Those cute little blobs of cooing you bring home from the hospital quickly turn into mobile forces of destruction and stickiness. That’s just life. You can spend every moment at home cleaning up after them or settle into a cleaning routine that keeps the mess at a level that is acceptable to you. I choose the second option.

4) Being comfortable in the chaos means you know this chaos will end some day.

      You know how people say, “The days are long but the years are fast?” It is true. It is amazing how some days can feel like eternity but you wake up one morning and your baby is off to college. Trust me, it will sneak up on you when you’re looking.

      So yeah, I take being comfortable in the chaos as a compliment. It means I can see the big picture and I don’t sweat the small stuff. I think it might mean, after 40 years on this planet, I just may have some small part of life figured out.

7 Dinners 4 People Around $50 (2)

7DINNERS2

ABOUT MY MEAL PLANS

     I use Aldi for my meal plans. I have yet to find a more frugal option and my goal is to provide the most affordable meal plans I can.

     You will not find organic, paleo, or gluten free meal plans from me. My goal is to come up with meal plans that feed a family relatively healthy for cheap. Aldi does offer many organic and gluten free products. You are welcome to make substitutions if you so choose.

     My meal plans are designed to have little waste. The same ingredients may be used in multiple dinners.

     Below you will find a week of dinners for your family of four for around $50. Be aware prices change regularly without notice. Prices also vary by region.

Aldi Meal Plan (2)

This week our menu includes:

Grilled Cheese With Tomato Soup

Baked Penne with Salad

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings with Vegetable of Choice

Breakfast For Dinner: Waffles, Eggs, Bacon, and Fruit

BBQ Baked Chicken With Salad and Biscuits

Pizza and Salad

Loaded Baked Potatoes

Grocery List:

1 loaf 35 calorie bread 1.29

16 slices American cheese .99

2 cans condensed tomato soup .59 x2

1 box penned pasta .89

1 jar spaghetti sauce .99

1 block mozzarella cheese 1.89

1 lb frozen ground turkey 1.89

2 heads lettuce .99 x2

1 bag carrots .99

1 other veg of choice for salad 1.00

1 bottle of salad dressing 1.19

4lb skin/boneless chicken breasts 8.00 (1.99/lb)

1 box baking mix (Bisquick alt.) 3.29

1 canned vegetable of choice .65

1 dozen eggs 1.29

2 packages bacon 3.29 x2

Fruit – in season .99

1 jar BBQ sauce 1.29

1 Large Take and Bake Pizza 5.99

1 10 lb bag potatoes 2.99

1 block cheddar 1.89

sour cream 1.19

1lb butter 2.39

1 gallon milk 2.50

Total: $53.32

Grilled Cheese With Tomato Soup

Self explanatory.

Baked Penne with Salad

Cook half box of penne according to package directions minus 2 minutes. Drain penne. Brown ground turkey. Drain. In casserole dish mix penne, turkey, and pasta sauce. Top with grated mozzarella. Bake 20 minutes or until warmed through. Serve with salad: lettuce, carrots, other vegetable, and dressing.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings with Vegetable of Choice

Slice chicken breasts into quarters. Place chicken into slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper. Fill slow cooker with water 2/3 full. Cook on high for 4-5 hours. Do not remove chicken. Combine 1 cup baking mix with milk to a dough consistency. Drop dough by heaping tablespoon into slow cooker. Continue to cook 30 more minutes. Serve with vegetable of choice.

Breakfast For Dinner: Waffles, Eggs, Bacon, and Fruit

Prepare waffles according to directions on baking mix box. Serve with eggs, bacon, and in-season fruit.

BBQ Baked Chicken With Salad and Biscuits

Slice 2lbs skinless boneless chicken horizontally to make four servings. Place in casserole dish and cover with bbq sauce. Bake at 350* 30 minutes or until cooked through. Prepare biscuits according to directions on baking mix box. Serve with salad.

Pizza and Salad

Self explanatory.

Loaded Baked Potatoes

Bake potatoes at 400* for 50 minutes or until fork inserts easily to center. Top each opened potato with cooked bacon, cheese, butter, and sour cream.

See week 1 here.

Grandma’s Rules

Grandma’s Rules

      In many ways it feels like yesterday I was bringing my oldest child home from the hospital; in other ways it feels like a million years ago. Now a college student starting her junior year, I know it won’t be long before she marries and starts her family. I have five children so as the years progress I expect to have quite a few grandchildren.

     I hear over and over again from friends and acquaintances about how feelings were hurt in the parent/grandparent relationship. I, for one, have never had this problem. My parents and my husband’s father are deceased. My mother-in-law has never lived close-by so there have never been any expectations to be deflated. In light of what I have heard in complaints from friends that are parents and grandparents regarding conflicts in their relationships, I have decided it may be best to lay down my grandma laws before the issue arises. That way no expectations will be unmet causing hurt feelings.

Grandma Rules For My Children and Their Spouses

1) I am not at your beck and call for babysitting.

I have a life and things I want to do. Some days that may be to sit in front of Netflix and watch a whole season of House. I might want to garden, or meet up with my friends, or who-knows-what. It’s really not important what my reason or lack thereof is.

I have raised (or still may be raising – I have a wide range of age of children) my children. My purpose is not to raise my grandchildren, that’s your job.

I’m sorry it’s difficult for you to take your children grocery shopping with you. I know, I had to take a two week old, a two year old, and a three year old with me. You will survive, trust me. It might actually build your confidence as a parent. You want a date night? Hold on a second, let me find that list of really sweet girls from the church youth group.

2) I will not pay my grand-children’s private school tuition.

I know there is this growing belief that grandparents should pay their grand-children’s private school tuition. Your father and I are not on-board with that notion. We spent a ridiculous amount of money on our own children’s private schooling. We’ve paid a significant portion of your college tuition. We went without vacations. We made do with old vehicles sputtering around on their last leg. We stopped subscribing to Sunday Ticket on DirecTv. Do you understand what a sacrifice it was for us to miss the Washington Redskins games? We’ve made our sacrifices to give you the best chance of a successful career. Make lots of money, budget better, use public school, or homeschool. It’s your choice, but your father and I will not be paying for private school.

3) I will not give parenting advice unless I think you are totally off your rocker. You are obviously free to ignore me but I will give my advice if I think it is warranted. I won’t hound you about it. I will share my opinion once and then like Elsa I will let it go. Here is what I think would be signs you have lost your mind:

a) Not vaccinating.

I’m fine with delayed or alternative vaccine schedules. Heck, I followed an alternative schedule with my youngest three but not vaccinating at all is not something I will support unless there is an extenuating circumstance.

b) Amber bead necklaces.

I might have to write a whole blog posting on this subject. Here’s the bottom line: I question your judgement if you think putting beads on a baby is good idea and even more so if you think there are pain killing powers in amber beads.

c) Obvious child endangerment.

Not using a car seat, feeding a one week old a hamburger, and/or allowing older children to play catch using the baby are reasons why I might speak up tout suit.

4) Tell me what you want me to buy them.

You know what my grandchildren want and what they need. I’ll tell you how much I want to spend and you tell me what to get. Better yet, I’ll give you money and you just put my name on the card. Everybody is happy this way.

5) Don’t expect me to like all the grandchildren the same.

I will love all of them equally. I’m not talking about love. I’m talking about liking. My goodness, some of you were screamers. I suspect some of my grandchildren will be screamers. I’m over screamers. I will like my screaming grandchildren even more when they grow out of the screaming stage.

WHY I LOVE/LOATHE MY CHILDREN AT EACH AGE

      Every parent has moments where her love for her children is not the most apparent emotion at the time. We’ve all been there. That moment when you just want your child to stop doing that really annoying/frustrating/pain in the butt thing he’s doing. We still love our children we just don’t love action. Every age has it’s own unique…let’s call them challenges. Every age also has those special things that makes your heart melt. Here’s my top love and loathe moments for each age.

Newborn

Love

     Is there anything better than the smell of a newborn? Their gurgles and coos are so precious. They’re little balls of love that mothers are genetically programmed to think are the most wonderful little creatures ever to exist on the planet. They may look like the cross between a plucked chicken and a naked mole rat but moms don’t see it. They see perfection because they are. They are perfect little creatures.

Loathe

     Why is it they have to be fed so freaking often? Wouldn’t it have been nice if God had made newborn humans so they only need to be fed every six hours. And then there’s the diapers, the poop-up-the-back, sticky, muddy diapers that need to be changed two seconds. If you do not attend to those needs immediately they scream so loud you wonder how in the world a sound so insidious could possibly come from a child so small.

Infant

Love

      That tiny little helpless creature is now doing more. He’s crawling, expressing happiness, and developing food preferences. He babbles. Its just so darn cute.

Loathe

     Around three to four months is when I start to crack. The long term sleep deprivation coupled with this kid needing to be near me every freaking moment of every freaking day leads to a Mt Everest level explosion. Then I feel better.

Toddler

Love

     Now he’s super active and mobile. He entertains himself for longer stretches of time. His personality is really developing. He expresses himself so much better. He’s sleeping through the night, meaning I get to sleep through the night. That little baby isn’t so much a baby anymore.

Loathe

     They learn how to go boneless at this age. Really, you’re walking along holding his hand one second and the next second he’s transformed into a puddle of hissy-fit throwing, screaming tantrum.

Preschooler

Love

     He’s learning so much now. He loves singing the alphabet and “reading” books to you. Everything in the world is fascinating and new.

Loathe

     “I want. I want. I want. I want.” Need I say more?

Elementary School

Love

     They develop friends on their own. They have little social lives that no longer require you to be standing over them all the time. They’re busy little people, growing up.

Loathe

     There is just too much they want to put on their schedule. No, it’s not okay to do gymnastics, baseball, swimming, and chess club at the same time. What happened to just being a kid? Go outside and play – unstructured play.

Middle School

Love

     I love my children when they’re in middle school because a mother’s love is unconditional.

Loathe

     Middle school aged girls are walking explosives. You have no idea when that little bomb is going to blow but you know it will soon and repetitively. It will also be entirely your fault because you are ruining her life. How dare you not let her spend the night at a boy/girl sleepover party? Who cares you haven’t even met the friend’s parents? Who cares you think there will be some shenanigans inappropriate for a pre-teen going on there? You are ruining her social life for-ev-er.

High School

Love

     They’re almost grown. You can have intelligent conversations about history, politics, literature, religion, art, life, love, or just about anything. They have their own views of the world and can articulately defend them. The morals and values you have tried to embed in them have hopefully stuck and now you can see them begin to live out those values when challenged by their less moral peers. And they can can drive themselves places. It’s so nice to not have to drive them everywhere.

Loathe

     You have so much more to worry about with a high-schooler. You don’t know what they’re doing every moment of every day. You have to trust they are making the right choices. If you’ve successfully raised them they’re mistakes won’t be catastrophic. Outside of their own choices, there’s the fear of actions beyond their control. She’s driving now so she will be on the road with other drives-bad drivers. If she doesn’t answer her phone she must be in an overturned car in a ravine. The water is rising and she’s about drown. Or, she’s been kidnapped and is being held in the trunk of a car. There may be a slim chance her phone’s battery died or she forgot to turn the volume back up after church.

College

Love

     Your child is an adult now, heading out on his own to begin his life as an adult.

Loathe

     Your child is an adult now, heading out on his own to begin his life as an adult.

WHY I CHOSE TO HOMESCHOOL

WHYICHOSEHOMESCHOOL

Reasons I Chose To Homeschool

1) I will not put my children in the local public schools.

      We moved to our little town a decade ago because of how highly acclaimed the local public schools are. The lofty expectations I had formed were quickly deflated. Our oldest son was getting in trouble constantly. We had meeting after meeting starting with his teachers progressing all the way up to the school superintendent.

     Along this journey we chose to have our oldest son independently tested. The test showed he was gifted and most likely bored to death in class. Upon sharing this information verbally and with a printed report of his testing, one of his teachers looked me square in the eye and said, “As long as I am a teacher in this school he will not be tested for the gifted program.” That was not the straw that broke the camel’s back but it came pretty close. Shortly thereafter, following another you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me moment, we pulled him from public school.

     I homeschooled the last quarter of that school year. I was not very good at it then. I had no connection to a homeschool group nor had I spent much time looking into curriculum. I also had not thought of homeschooling as anything for us other than a short term measure to get us through till the next school year started. The following fall he and his older sister started in Catholic school 25 miles away.

2) I am over driving twenty five miles away for my children to go to school.

     For the better part of the last eight years I have been driving my children to school 25 miles away. For many of those years I have had different carpool partners that drive one way. Some years I did not have a carpool buddy and drove one hundred miles nearly every school day. I did have almost two years when my now college-aged oldest was driving. That was nice. I am now looking at my rising junior son driving himself for the next two years. The freedom of not having to make that drive makes me smile.

     Don’t get me wrong, the private school education my older children have received is worth every penny and every mile. They attended schools that not only educated them academically but reinforced the values we hold dear. That combination made it worthwhile and is why when my younger children are older they will most likely attend a Catholic high school.

3) I’m pretty good at it.

     Making a decision while under a time crunch is usually not a bright idea. So before my husband and I had to make a decision I decided to homeschool as a trial run. I started an all-in-one kindergarten curriculum in February with my then four year old. She completed kindergarten within three months. My four year old is a pretty good reader for her age as is my just turned three year old. They are also ahead of their benchmarks in math. So academically, I am not worried.

4) They will still have friends.

     One of my largest concerns was that of the dreaded word, socialization. There is this idea in the typical public school parent’s mind that homeschooled kids have no social life. I think that may have been true at one time but things have changed. The number of families choosing to homeschool has grown tremendously. Because of this, there are more options available for these kids. My kindergartener will be participating in our local homeschool co-op which meets weekly as well as homeschool science classes at our local botanical gardens. Though not specifically designed for homeschooled children, dance classes and library storytime also provide ample opportunity for socialization and budding friendships.

5) It is currently the best option for our family.

     Doing what is best for your family should be the reason behind every family’s decision on the education of their children. Period.

Seven Dinners For Four For Around $50 (1)

7DINNERTITLEPIC

ABOUT MY MEAL PLANS

     I use Aldi for my meal plans. I have yet to find a more frugal option and my goal is to provide the most affordable meal plans I can.

     You will not find organic, paleo, or gluten free meal plans from me. My goal is to come up with meal plans that feed a family relatively healthy for cheap. Aldi does offer many organic and gluten free products. You are welcome to make substitutions if you so choose.

     My meal plans are designed to have little waste. The same ingredients may be used in multiple dinners.

     Below you will find a week of dinners for your family of four for around $50. Be aware prices change regularly without notice. Prices also vary by region.

This week’s dinner plan includes:

Salmon with Brown Rice and Green Beans

Chicken Tacos

Spaghetti, Garlic Bread, and Salad

Hot Dogs, Fries, Salad

Ground Turkey Tacos

Slow Cooker Chicken Over Pasta With Salad

Breakfast For Dinner

Salmon, Brown Rice, Green Beans

Sprinkle salmon with lemon pepper seasoning. Broil for 15-20 minutes until cooked through. Serve with brown rice and green beans.

Chicken Tacos

Place one pound of skinless boneless chicken breast in slow cooker. Sprinkle chicken with one packet of taco seasoning. Pour ½ a jar of salsa on top. Cook 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low. Shred chicken. Serve on tortillas with lettuce, shredded cheddar, sour cream and optional jalapeños.

Spaghetti, Bread, Salad

Brown one pound ground turkey. Add one jar of spaghetti sauce and ½ jar of salsa. Top spaghetti noodles with meat sauce. Salad consists of lettuce, carrots, onion, dressing and optional jalapeños. Serve with toasted garlic bread.

Hot dogs, Fries, Salad

Boil, grill, or broil hot dogs. Toast hot dog buns. Follow oven directions for ½ bag of fries. Make salad same as spaghetti night.

Ground Turkey Tacos

Brown one pound ground turkey. Add one envelope taco seasoning following directions on package. Serve on tortillas with lettuce, shredded cheddar, sour cream and optional jalapeños.

Slow  Chicken over Pasta, Salad

Place two pounds of skinless boneless chicken breasts in slow cooker. Top with one Italian seasoning envelope, an 8 oz block of cream cheese, and two cans of cream of chicken soup. Cook for 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low. Slice chicken into bite size chunks. Serve over pasta with a salad on the side.

Breakfast for Dinner: Eggs, Bacon, Toast, Cantaloupe

Cook entire package of bacon in oven on broiler pan, flipping bacon halfway through. Fry 10 scrambled eggs. Serve with toast and cantaloupe or other fruit that is in season.

Shopping List:

Aisle One

$1.69 1 Jar of Salsa

1.19 1 Jar of Jalapeños

.70 2 Taco Seasoning Envelopes

1.69 Bag of 20 Tortillas

1.00 1 Bottle Salad Dressing of Choice

Aisle 2

1.00 Lemon Pepper Seasoning

.69 Italian Dressing Seasoning Packet

Aisle 3

1.98 2 Heads of Lettuce

.99 1 Bag of Baby Carrots

.99 1 Bag of 3 lb Bag of Onions

Back Wall Refrigerated Case

8.07 3 lbs Skinless Boneless Chicken Breasts

1.99 1 Block Cream Cheese

Aisle 4

.89 1 Package of 8 Hot Dog Rolls

1.50 Cantaloupe or other in season fruit

1.38 2 Cans Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup

Aisle 5 including Refrigerated and Freezer Case

3.38 2 lbs Frozen Ground Turkey

3.97 1 lb Salmon Fillets

.88 2 lb Frozen Green Beans

1.29 Sour Cream

1.99 Bag Shredded Cheddar

1.19 1 Jar Traditional Spaghetti Sauce

1.78 2 Boxes Whole Wheat Spaghetti Noodles

1.00 1 Loaf Frozen Garlic Bread

2.50 1 Package of 10 Beef Hotdogs

1.89 1 Bag Frozen French Fries

2.99 1 Package Bacon

1.39 Dozen Eggs

1.29 1 Loaf 35 calorie Fit & Active Wheat Bread

$51.29 Total for 7 Dinners

Check out another week’s meal plan here.