Meal Plan in Review 02/12-02/18

Last week on my Instagram account, I posted a glimpse of my meal plan for February 12-18th. I thought that it would be fun to take a look back and see if I stuck to my meal plan or if I deviated from it.

This week's meal plan featuring @papajohns & @plated

A post shared by Emily Rena Elliott (@emielli5) on

The purpose of planning out my dinners for the week was to eliminate some of the last minute indecisiveness that leads to poor food choices,  to better utilize what it already in my pantry/freezer and to narrow down what I actually purchase from the grocery store.

Overall, we did poorly at sticking to our plan this week. Robb and I both came down with a cold that lingered (and still lingers) for days, leaving us without energy and really without an appetite.

Sunday – We ordered Papa Johns pizza on Sunday. Papa Johns is sort of our monthly treat [Canadian bacon, pineapple, roma tomatoes, and sometimes mushrooms and olives on Robb’s half]

Monday – While I ended up doing country-fried steak this day instead of chicken-fried steak, I did stick mostly to my meal plan for this day, though Robb asked if I could hold off on making the pie until he would actually be able to taste it. It’s in the oven now and smells amazing!


Tuesday – We did end up having leftovers so this was a win!

Wednesday – Robb’s cold was kicking his butt on Wednesday. I ended up making the Plated: Mediterranean Burgers with Harissa Aioli and Carrots Fries for me but made him a simple bowl of chicken ramen with peas and carrots. [Plated is one of those meal delivery kits.]

Thursday – Wanting something warm and comforting, Robb made a stew of sorts with chicken, potatoes, onions, broth, corn, peas, and dumplings. It was the perfect thing to help combat the crud.

Friday – I didn’t use my other Plated meal. Instead we were bad. I didn’t feel like cooking, Robb didn’t feel like cooking, so we picked up sandwiches from a local restaurant, came home, and watched Netflix. It was a good night though and after dosing myself with Nyquil, I was asleep by 7:30.

Saturday – Robb had purchased Barbeque Chicken plates from a local fire department so we had those Saturday night. They were DELICIOUS! Well worth the $8 per plate and we enjoy supporting our community.


I have my meal plan for this current week ready to go but may or may not post it as 3 days this week will be leftovers/on-your-own due to our work schedules. My main goal now is to cook as much from the freezer as we can. Doing a quick evaluation today, we have a lot of frozen produce that needs to used before this growing season starts.

Do you try to plan out your meals each week? How do you stick to your plan?


Tips to building a minimalist cabin

Last week, I wrote about watching the Minimalist documentary. This week I bring you an article contributed by Adam Clark with tips on building a minimalist cabin. The idea of living simply, using what nature provides and living a evasive lifestyle appeals to me – though I must admit, I love my internet connection. I doubt that I will ever truly be off-the-grid or be able to live with a minimal amount of items, but at least I can make an effort to try to think about what I do.

My boyfriend actually helped a friend of his build a cabin back in the day. He said that it was a long process, but rewarding when you took a step back and realized that this is something you created with your own hands.

There are many affordable ways of constructing your own cabin. However, there’s always ways to make things even more budget-friendly. With that in mind, here are a few tips on how you can build a low-cost cabin.


Tree selection

Only use dead-standing trees and leave the living ones in the forest. Chopping down a tree means a lot of physical labor due to trees carrying a lot of water weight. Also, a tree that has been freshly chopped down will have a tendency to split when drying and during cold seasons, can form ice inside of a heated edifice.

If you use dead-standing trees, make sure to inspect them for rotting and insects as they make logs less durable. Also, while removing tree branches, watch out for those that can be used as dowel pins.

Use alternative energy

As part of your pre-building process, consider using solar energy. Solar panel installations are cheaper now compared to 5 years ago. They also yield more electricity now thanks to advancements in solar panel technology.

However, you really need to use traditional electricity for your plumbing, you can use the Incinolet electric incinerating toilet, which uses very little energy.

Keep your finishes consistent

Cutting corners to spend more on something unnecessary should be avoided at all costs. As a general rule of thumb, never compromise something as important as a window just so you can afford extra materials for something like making a fireplace. If you want to keep the costs low, use fewer windows but never compromise on the quality.

Reinforce openings smartly

Log cabins are extensions to your home so make sure to reinforce them properly. Use interlocking logs and safety glass for your windows for added strength and security. Screwfix shows among their extensive range of log cabins that there are two industry standard types of glass commonly used: horticultural and toughened glass for doors and windows. It’s also worth using draught seals for doors and windows, as well as a wind blocking system to waterproof openings. This is the easiest and smartest way to reinforce openings in a cost-effective manner.

Before building a cabin, be aware of what works for you and what doesn’t. The best thing about building a cabin is that you get to design and construct it the way you want but that shouldn’t mean you approach it in a unpractical manner. Remember that constructing one for the first time is a learning curve and you will ultimately learn from your mistakes. However, if you undertake enough research beforehand, the chances of your making any major mistakes will be minimal.

What would miss about your current lifestyle if you went off-grid?


Another Grocery Post…

Guys…. I have done it again! I think I beat my savings for last time! Okay, granted I did have a $20 off purchases of $20 or more coupon but it still counts, right? Initially I wanted to go to Wal-Mart. I had more coupons for Wal-Mart but knowing my Food Lion coupon expired in a few days, I decided I needed to use it before I forgot.

So I made my list, cross referencing my rebate websites, Food Lion’s MVP coupons and for something different – I searched out specific coupons. It took maybe 10 minutes only because my shopping list was short. I was just getting a few extra items for the week.

Granted – it isn’t exactly the healthiest grocery store adventure, but I bought the Pillsbury mini pies as a special treat and the Nestle Toll House Cookie Mix for the holidays.

Total Before Coupons: $43.34
Manufacturer Coupons Used: $3.18
Total After MVP Specials: $21.86
Ibotta Rebates: $6.50 (+ $1 for Completing November’s Bonus)
Checkout 51 Rebates: $4.30
Savings Star: $0*

Total for Groceries: $11.06

*Even though I didn’t earn any cash back from SavingStar, it went towards a cumulative goal.







My Lazy Approach to Grocery Savings

When I went grocery shopping a couple of Sundays ago, I didn’t know that this shopping trip would be different. Each time I go grocery shopping, I try to beat my previous shopping trip’s amount saved. I am proud to say that this was my biggest savings yet. I purchased $83 worth of groceries for only $58!

Total Before Coupons: $83.09
Manufacturer Coupons Used: $5.55
Total After MVP Specials: $69.60
Ibotta Rebates: $5.00
Checkout 51 Rebates: $5.75
Savings Star: $.44

Total for Groceries: $58.41

Now, that may not seem impressive to some of you, especially those of you who used to watch “Extreme Couponing” on TLC or who frequent couponing blogs. But for someone like me, someone who doesn’t put much effort into couponing – this is a big deal!


Here is all that I got for my $58. I don’t think it looks like all that much really, but what is important is that everything pictured is stuff that will be used. I’m not stockpiling for winter. I don’t want to put that much effort into clipping coupons.

This is how I do it. Please keep in mind that I go to Food Lion, which may not be available in your area, but maybe my routine is something you can use. Very rarely do I venture out to Wal-Mart, even though it’s only about 10-15 minutes away.

Ibotta has been my savings website of choice for quite a while now. I check out Ibotta, unlock any rebates that I may be interested in. I always unlock the ANY BRAND rebates – they are an easy way to make a little money back if you are getting the basics – usually onions, bread, milk are popular ones. Then I visit Food Lion’s website and log in to my MVP account (MVP is like their customer loyalty program). I don’t view the sale pages – instead I view my virtual wallet and see what coupons I can load electronically to my card. I hate carrying paper coupons.

Usually I’ll cross reference between Ibotta and Food Lion’s MVP Coupons to see what may be available. For example, if Fruit Loops is $1 off at Food Lion and $.25 back at Ibotta, I’ll get Fruit Loops if I need cereal.

I started using two new savings apps the weekend – Checkout 51 and SavingsStar. I am in love with Checkout 51 already. While Checkout 51 doesn’t have as many rebate options as Ibotta, the items up there were ones I needed so it will add up quickly. I’m still on the fence about SavingsStar but since I can cash out when I hit $5, I may keep that one for a while longer.

Once I get to the store, there is a kiosk I can scan my loyalty card at for additional coupons. Most are duds, but Sunday, I hit the jackpot. $1 off 3 avocados. Combine that with $.25 Ibotta rebate on avocados and $1.50 back on 3 avocados (+1 can Ro*Tel) from Cart 51 – that put me getting 3 avocados and a can of Ro*Tel for only $2.81  and I’ll tell you, that made some delicious guacamole for supper.




Another great thing that I want to mention is that because I spent $50 or more during my last 6 shopping trips, I earned a $20 coupon good for my next shopping trip totaling over $20. Considering my pantry is well stocked, I’ll probably end up spending that coupon on fresh produce or maybe something to throw on the grill.

Going back over my receipt, I noticed that Ibotta never credited me for one of my items. I may need to look in to that… :-/

What has been your greatest grocery store savings?