I suppose not everyone could do it, and trust me, I'm surprised that I CAN do it myself!
It helps to have a fairly full pantry, freezers and such (remember, I did the crazy shop at Costco the last week in January?) ... and this makes it a LOT easier. I suppose if you didn't have a store full of food, it would be much more difficult. It also helps to be "determined" ... just saying. I will be honest that this week is starting to show a few spaces in the freezer and I had to re-evaluate a few ideas I had for dinner plans since Hubby did a mighty fine job of eating from the freezer while I was gone (I love that he loves how to cook and is not afraid to do so!)
IF YOU SET YOUR MIND TO IT, YOU CAN DO IT TOO
1. Browse the food you DO have and make a menu from there. It doesn't have to be solid, set in stone, but you do need to have some kind of idea what you have to choose from. Don't say you can't make something because you are missing one ingredient (for example: cream) ... 9 times out of 10, you can substitute with something else (half and half, which I have on hand 90% of the time, but not NOW). It helps to have a list of meals that you can make pretty consistently, easily. This is almost a game I do when I clean out the freezers and pantry ... Here are a few that I've done previously: Hard To Catch Up and A Running List. It's real helpful to PLAN leftovers if possible when doing this too!
2. Make a list, a REAL list, of what you NEED, not what you want. Milk, bread (if you are opposed to making your own), produce, etc. Mind you, I'd love to be buying a lot more produce but know that it will go to waste AND put me over the $20.
3. If you are consistently running short on time after a long day, then prepare some of the meal ahead of time. It does NOT have to be piping hot from the stove or oven that very moment of serving, and shame on whoever made us feel it did. I piecemeal meals all the time because I know I'm more likely to cook a GOOD dish if I do it that way as I don't want to spend an hour in the kitchen after I've been up since 5am, worked at the office AND THEN went to the gym. Premake the taco meat, pregrill the chicken (I almost always cut the chicken up after it's cooked, makes it easier to serve and to reheat ...) This keeps me motivated to stay on track and NOT deviate completely from the plan after a long, tiring day!
4. Give yourself a firm guide. $20.00 in the wallet. That's it. Take out the debit card and the credit cards. Do a quick calculation BEFORE you leave of what your list is going to cost. Stick with it as nothing is WORSE than putting something back AT checkout because it's over. Ugg. So hate that. Personally, I'd rather have a ten, five and five singles rather than ONE twenty. Just easier. AND I prefer NOT to use the envelope. Just easier for me to reach in the wallet. (It should be noted, I do use the envelopes for the MONTH, but the $20 goes in my wallet for the week). It's quite obvious that there is not any stockpiling going on right now (although IF a great deal comes up, I will go for it ... but I've not seen anything as of yet!)
5. Give yourself a HUGE pat on the back each week when you roll the money over to the new week. I've not spent the full $20 until the start of week 4 and then of course, the traveling week and family drama sort of ruined it for me those 2 weeks.
Coupons - Someone sent me an email asking if I was still using coupons. Well, no, not really. BUT if it's something that I always buy anyways, then YES, but for the most part, no. See, if I were to continue using coupons to snag all the 'good deals' out there, I would still be doing what I was doing in 2011, buying, spending and splurging, not saving AT ALL. So I've sort of set aside couponing for now (don't get me wrong, Kitty Kitty's favorite cat food coupons, yes, creamer, yes, bread, yes, deli and dairy coupons, yes). I posted over here a while ago my current thoughts on the usage of coupons. There is definitely a time and a place to be a coupon queen, I am not at that stage right now.
I think you also need to bring out the creative side of yourself :-) ... seriously. You may be set on having stir fry for dinner one night but only have frozen broccoli and canned green beans for the veggies, make do or do without ... once you've done it a few times, it all works out in the end! Take a look at some of my past menu plans and you will see that there are times where I say "if I have, otherwise" ... I am all about making revisions as needed. Being open to that is a huge game saver.
And that my friends, is how I've been doing it!