From Donna's Kitchen Meal Planning

Heavenly One-Pan Pasta

Heat in small skilled:

  • 2 T olive oil

Add and sautee:

  • 1 sm onion, chopped
  • ½ green pepper, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves chopped garlic


  • 1  10-¾ oz can Campbell’s Healthy Request Tomato soup
  • ½ soup can of tap water
  • ¼ c of Honey
  • 1/8 c brown sugar

Stir and simmer, and taste,  Add:

  • 1 pinch of each – oregano, basil, sage, turmeric & thyme


  • ½ of a 16-oz pkg of Pot-sized Angel Hair, snapping it in half

Continue to simmer and stir until spaghetti is done

Stirring to kee

p spaghetti from sticking together,

You can add a slice of cheese and stir until it melt in (optional)

Ready to serve. Add a beverage with roll and butter,

In the words of the late Julia Child, “Bon Appetit!”


Budgeting in Tough Times Meal Planning

How to Start A Grocery Pantry & Save

Let’s take a look at your expenses – one important expense you need to factor in is food for you and your family. Food is one of the major factors of life. We are entering a period of hardship I am afraid to think about or even admit, but that is the reality. We must start to take a second look at what we have and ration it out to determine how long it will last us.

1. Check Your Grocery & Household Budget

In looking at mine, I know I have been too loose with dining out and buying food and staple. I need to focus on cutting back that line to function over a period of 2-3 weeks and be maintained for a longer period. As a single person, my grocery & household budget has been about $300 a month – that is a lot I know. So I am going to start by cutting that line in half to $150.00 per month (or $37.50 per week).

2. Look at Your Dining (or Take-out) Budget

This is a big problem with today’s society as we have it is too convenient with both spouses working and come home tired and not excited about cooking meal at home for their family. Even singles, like myself, have grown to enjoy going out and having someone wait on me. This must change for a time. My dining (or take-out) budget is around $150-200 a month.

We can figure about $30 for two people per dining out is about average. Okay, I enjoy eating out so I am going to just cut the budget down to once a week with a friend or family member. One week you can treat, the next they can. This means you are allocating $30 every other week to this line to $60-75 per week.

3. Inventory What You Have on Hand

In my Free_PantryInventoryListing download here, it itemizes what you have in each area of the kitchen (or storage pantry) listing how much available and how much is used per week, from their it calculates how much I need to maintain for a long haul. Once you have this inventory and know what you have and how much, you are ready to start the next phase.

4. Meal Planning for the Week (or Month)

Get a monthly desk calendar to figure how many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners you need to prepare for next month. Knowing what you are doing, and having it written down, makes it easy to know what meals you need to plan for. If I plan on the days I am working at the restaurant, I can have dinner there for half price out of tips. Nothing is cast in stone, so you can make changes along the way, the calendar just serves as a handy guide. Here I am working on my April 2020 grocery and dining out budget planning for four times out (equivalent to $60) and $150 for preparing meals at home the rest of the time ($37.50 per week).

You can make a pot of soup and divide it into batches and freeze them. Be sure you mark and date each batch so you can use the oldest first. To save space, batch them in freezer bags and lay them flat in the freezer. Here you will see I batched some corn chowder and dated it, so I can tell what soups are older and eat those first.

I enjoy a small glass of orange juice throughout the day, instead of filling the glass to the top – fill it half-way and top it with water to stretch your purchase of 1/2gal a week to a gallon. You can do this for just about all your beverages, even milk.

Meal Planning Can Be Fun (and Yes, You Can Plan to Eat Out Too)

Using your inventory of what you have, plan out your meals for the next couple of weeks. Have fun trying new recipes and creating your own with just what you have on hand. The meals you enjoy repeat next month and use that as a guide to replenishing what you have used.

By all means don’t cut out your entire dining out budget, plan for a meal out once a week – whether a breakfast, lunch or dinner – and enjoy! Please comment on how you are planning to cut your grocery budget to share with others here. If you would like to receive my weekly meal planning newsletter in which I will share what I am making and how I am cutting back, just send your request with your name &  email address to   Use it as a guide to planning your meals, and creating some different and budget conscious meals for yourself and/or your family.

Managing Your Budget

It’s Your Life: Setting Financial Goals for the New Year

Sitting back after the Christmas festivities with family and friends, we need a day to just sit back, relax and do nothing. This will leave you in a better place for what’s coming up in a week – a BRAND NEW YEAR with renewed goals and new ones as well.

You need this time to just sit back and do nothing, and perhaps you may just decide to stay in your pajamas and watch television and chill – it is okay, as you have put a lot of miles on your daily routine to prepare for these holidays, now it is time to unwind.

Time to Review Your Finances

Now that you took a day or two to just chill, it is time to review your finances again. Within a few short days, a new year will be upon us and we will be packing up our old records from this year and filing that annual report with the government. Some of us will owe Uncle Sam and others will get back money from out dear Uncle.

Note Where You Have Been the Strongest

As you review your budget worksheets for each month of the current year and get them ready for tax season ahead by extracting necessary information and documents to support your facts, note what you have accomplished and done quite well this year. Give yourself a pat on the back – you deserved it!

I have to say I can see how I have got better at sticking with my commitment last year to stay on top the recording of payments and income to understand better where my $$$ are going. Before I just kept seeing income coming in the front door and escaping out the back faster than I could keep up with it.

Now What Was “Your Weakest Link”

Equally important as noting where you are strongest and growing, is discovering where your weakest link lies in your budgeting skills. Where can you do better? Our money tends to figure out fast where that weakest point is, and how it can gain control of your senses – doesn’t yours?

As I go over each month’s budget for this year, there are two areas that seem to be where a lot of money goes to hide. My money knows I like to eat and patronize the restaurants, so I see it tends to frequent those areas of my budget more heavily. This is the weakest link in my budget, and my goal is to be debt-free so someday I can eat and not worry about paying off debt.

As we get ready to define our purpose for budgeting, we must take out the weakest links and negotiate with them. Don’t totally eliminate something you love to do, but it seems to be your weakest link – just start giving it some direction in the new year. Since eating is my weakness, and necessary in moderation, I notice I lumped groceries and dining out together towards the end of this year – I am separating those categories and plan to give groceries a $30-50 a week budget. Dining out I will give $20-25 a budget and limit it to once a week.

Redefine Your Purpose

Now it is time to redefine your purpose – why have a budget? It is your life, and setting financial goals for the New Year should be challenging enough to keep you on a budget and highly involved in daily check-ups. This is and should be different for all of us, as we are all different and have different needs for fulfillment.

As I write this article I want to share my purpose for having a budget and keeping it, is that someday I want to see a time when all debts are paid in full and being able to free up the funds I set aside each and every month to keep the minimum debt payments satisfied. This is what I will put on the cover of my New Year Budget to remind me every day of that purpose I am committed to – what is yours?

Finalize Your New Financial Planner

Now you are ready to create and finalize your new financial planner for 2020. I have created an Excel workbook that is easy to manage. Just add all the immediate obligations you have every month that do not change under the first column, do the same for true expenses – other bills you pay but less frequently.

If you have a student loan or mortgage, though technically it is debt – include that under your immediate obligations, and list any loans or credit cards in the debt section smallest to largest. Once you have all your categories, tab to the end so you can see the category as you enter what you expect to pay and received income under the first Budget heading. Do not enter the Actual or Difference, these will automatically calculate as you enter in the daily figures.

OK, I would like to send “My 2020 Income-Expense Budget Planner Workbook – For You” (Beta Version) FREE OF CHARGE to get you started – just enter your information in the section to the right to request YOUR workbook TODAY!

Managing Your Budget

Taming the Impulse Spending Monster in All of Us

As I sit here in silence, voiceless from a cold in my larynx but feeling fine otherwise, I think how often do we speak or blurt out things without thinking? My mom used to say that is “mindless chatter” and we just like to hear ourselves talk in those times.

Well, same can be true without money and finances, we take a trip downtown and walk through a quaint little shop we know is not budgeted for and see something we like but really do not need, and then grab it for ourselves without credit card. This is what I call, “mindless buying” which many of us know as impulse buying.

So, how can we start taming the impulse spending monster in all of us to bring out its voiceless state to quell out impulse buying arena when it comes to your budget!

Putting Your Spending in a Voiceless State

Our grandparents and generations before them knew how to avoid impulsiveness, as they dealt with a cash world and had no room for impulse. These days, however, credit cards have made it way too convenient to interrupt our finances and put us into overdrive. They didn’t have the extra cash to throw away, they knew to put your spending in a voiceless state meant if you wanted something, you had to save up for it.

This gave them the chance to re-think that purchase once they had enough money. Sometimes just that extra time you need to save up for a big purchase gives us, like our forefathers, the chance to realize you don’t really need or want that think you were saving up for – but know you have the funds for that next time.

Next Time – How Do You Exercise your Voiceless State?

OK, you managed to escape one impulse buying obstacle simply because you needed to save up and learned in the process you really didn’t need or want whatever it was. Now, you have saved up the funds so next time the impulse bug bites you, how do you exercise your voiceless state as you have the money saved up?

Well, two things you can do to avoid buying on impulse are (1) leave your cards at home and (2) never carry more cash than you need for what you intended to purchase today. This allows for walk-away time. My mother would say, ‘If it is still there when you come back, it was meant for you – if not, let it go, it was never meant for you.

Giving Yourself Time to Walk Away

When you deliberately leave out cash and cards at home or in the bank, you are exercising your voiceless state and giving yourself time to think first. Chances are you will have second thoughts about buying, trust those thoughts. If you still want it, and the item(s) are there when you go back with cash – then they were truly meant for you.

Feeling Good About Your Buying Again!

Now that you understand how putting your impulsiveness into a voiceless state can benefit you financially and psychologically if you have the cash go back no less than a week or more to see if the item is still available. If it is, great it was truly meant to be yours. I have found a great video on impulse buying that will help restructure your the 5 Factors that trigger impulsive spending.

However, if it is sold out or no longer available – smile and realize it was not meant for you, and you were meant to spend that money you save more wisely in another area of your life.

So next time you see that item you simply have to have in your life, don’t buy it – give yourself time to exercise your mind into a voiceless state and walk away, give space to your buyer to really determine WHY you need it. Once you have given yourself sufficient time, go back with the cash if you still want it – if it is their super, but if not realize it was never meant for you

Time to Share!

Okay, let’s hear from you – tell about a time you just had to have something and if you waited or caved in to your impulsive side. Are you still paying for it or did you have the cash available from a former time when you were saving for something else?

Let your story below…

Managing Your Budget Personal Financial Advise

Personal Budgeting Made Simple | Free Personal Finance Tool

OK, you are tired of living paycheck-to-paycheck or worse, not even able to manage on what you have coming in, it is time to focus and work on your budgeting skills. Let me break it down into a few easy steps. I just finished paying off everything due this month except for a few items left and have set money aside for food and travel for the remainder of the month. By travel, I basically mean, gas money. So let’s begin…

Where Do You Begin Planning for Next Month?

Realizing that anything comes in now is for next month’s budget, I take my next folder and prepare it for the upcoming month. First things first, make sure you put your summary of debt inside on the front cover for easy reference later. Have your list of bills you are collecting for next month and arrange in four piles – 1-Fixed expenses, 2-Flexible expense,3-Non-essential but fun expenses, and 4-debt expenses. This can just be a list you have made up of all the expenses you paid last month.

Now step away, have a cup of coffee or take a walk. This gives you a chance to come back after remembering you have another bill due next month that you forgot to account for. Once you have the list and piles complete, you are ready to organize your worksheet accordingly.

Organizing Your Worksheet

Everyone’s situation is different. Some may just receive a pension, others get Social Security and still, there are some that get both. This is monthly income so you would have one or two lines at the top under income.  I have a free personal finance tool that will make organizing your worksheet easy to do every month.

You may still be working or be supplementing your monthly income with bi-weekly paid part-time work. In this case, you would have three lines beneath the monthly income lines.

Still, yet, you may also get income or money from different sources throughout the month – for those cases, you would have thirty-one (31) lines beneath bi-weekly for that purpose.

Following the income lines, goes your expense lines. This is where you start with your tithing and pay yourself first items; then follow with fixed expenses, flexible and ending with debt expenses. Any funds left over after these categories are paid are carried over to the other side of this simplified budget sheet and you can use that for the non-essentials, fun expenses.

Balancing the Budget

Okay, you notice we just put everything into categories and put a number that must be paid to stay current or make life easy for the month. Now let’s see how we balance – remember income and expenses should zero out at the very least or best, should show extra money available at the end. Extra funds mean you are living under your budget for the next month.

Starting at the top, you will notice we have added one total for all sources of income. All you need is one income total; however, we divided expenses so each carries there own total and did a grand expense total under the last category subtotal.

Now, we add up each of the expense subtotals for one grand total of expenditures. Now let’s put how we net out beneath the grand total for expenditures by subtracting total expenditures from total income expected for the upcoming month.

Hopefully, you got a number that is zero or greater. If it is higher, you can carry that to the backside of your budget sheet or increase any of

your lines above to create a zero balance. This is my personal suggestion! Either choice is okay, and up to you.

Ready to Start Paying When…

Congratulations! You are ready to start paying your bills next month as soon as your check hits your account. If you are still working, and always from retirement, you record your take-home pay as you get it and then pay whatever bills you can by there due date until there is no more funds available. When you get more money or your next check, you continue on and pay the remainder.

If you find you have more bills than money, you need to rethink what you are doing. Perhaps time to take on a second-job temporarily or get room and board from your child who is working and living with you, but if you must wait until the next month – call the company and tell them, and then schedule the minimum due this month with next months minimum FIRST.

If they are aware of your situation, they may be willing to forego any late fees or interest, but they don’t know if you don’t ask them nicely. Be polite and courteous! By doing your next month a week or two early, you give them time ahead to put the arrangement into there system.

Step Back & Reflect

Now that you have finished finagling the upcoming month a few weeks early, sit back and relax – you have earned it! If you are busy like most people, it may help to get a sheet that is all done for you that you just need to fill in – you can get a copy of my customizable monthly budget worksheet FREE by simply clicking the button below and leaving your name and email address. I will send you your free worksheet direct to your inbox. If you don’t see it, check your spam box for Donna’s Wise Budgeting Worksheet.

With my customizable monthly budget worksheet in your budget toolbox, you will be able to budget like a pro and see measurable results in the months ahead as your situation continues to improve every time you sit down to do the next month’s budget ahead. Just click the button below to get your FREE worksheet today and get started being a wise budgeteer by tonight!


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