Budgeting


September is coming to a close. And so is my month of inexpensive meals. I’ve come to a few conclusions through the process. Here they are:

  • I’m a really inconsistent blogger. You probably noticed. Well, those of you that are still actually reading. I don’t really blame anyone for not keeping up, as I didn’t really keep up. Alas, life moves forward, often without time for blogging. It’s probably for the better anyway, as you probably would have gotten really bored reading everyday, “here’s what we had for breakfast… here’s what we had for lunch… here’s what we had for dinner…” Especially since a lot of it was repetitive. Especially breakfast. (Speaking of repetitive menus, check out this new blog I found. It’s frugality to the extreme, but I like a lot of her ideas. )
  • I need to get better at planning. There was a time I did a two-week rotation of meals, like the blogger I just mentioned, but it has not been happening lately. And the plan I have does not take any sort of frugality into account. I need to rework it in a way that works for our family.
  • Planning is sort of out the window when concurrently searching for a house to buy. Even on the days I did plan, I had to be really flexible if our realtor called wanting to show us a house, or (further into the process) the mortgage company needed some more documents ASAP. There was more than one occasion when I had a plan for dinner, but I ended up with no time to execute it because of various circumstances. This, more often than not, ended up with a restaurant meal or a trip through the drive-through. I think I really need to work on more crock-pot meals, because then, food would be ready when we were ready to eat, regardless of what else had been going on.

So after all that inconsistency and lack of planning, where am I as I approach the end of my 30 day challenge? I started the month with a plan to spend $400 or less on food this month. I really didn’t think there would be any room in that for eating out. Nevertheless we spent somewhere around $100 at restaurants throughout the month. I haven’t entered all our expenses in Quicken yet. I’ll have a more accurate number when that’s done, but that’s a good “quick glance” estimate.

And now for the grocery budget…. I started the month by drawing $200 cash for starters, expecting to draw another $200 mid-month. I never did get that second withdrawal made, and I still have $26.00 of the first $200. Can you say, “flabbergasted”???? I never thought that would be possible. Which leads me to my final conclusion:

  • The cash system really does help you spend less money.

Not in my wildest dreams would I have ever believed that I could spend so little on groceries for our family. I still have a pretty good stock in my freezer and pantry too. So I’m gonna keep going for another month and see how long I can keep this up.

Advertisements

I’m still here. And I’m still on the plan. I did have one McDonald’s trip due to poor planning which cut about $12.00 out of my budget. OUCH! 5 people were fed for that 12 bucks, but really, I could have definitely done better. And we’ve spent the last 2 days at the Great Wolf Lodge, compliments of our wonderful church family. We chose to eat out for a couple of meals there too, but that’s not coming out of my grocery budget πŸ™‚

So, we’ve had fairly good food otherwise, but nothing worth photographing and posting in a blog πŸ™‚ Oh, and I did make a grocery run to CostCo, and got mostly healthy stuff (veggies and such) for a grand total of somewhere around $45.00 (sorry I can’t be exact – the receipt is in my bedroom and Zach is peacefully slumbering… ahhhhh….)

So that puts us here:

Total Spent: $33.80 + $12 + $45 = $90.80

Remaining: $309.20 (20 days to go)

My big accomplishment for the week is an inventory list of what I have to work with. I really wish there was a better word for “inventory”. It seems so formal and constricting. Whatever…

If you’re interested, keep reading. I’d love any meal suggestions that use only ingredients listed below πŸ™‚

MEATS

Chicken

  • Had 4 breasts but used the last tonight 😦

Beef:

(We’re great on beef as I just recently got a beef order – all grass fed from Paidom Meats)

  • Ground – 19 lbs
  • Stew Meat – 4 lbs
  • Roasts – 1 rump, 4 pot roasts
  • Rib Eyes/NY Strip – 8 steaks
  • Sirloin – 2 steaks
  • Top Round – 2 pkg
  • Cube Steak – 2 pkg
  • Skirt Steak – 1 pkg

Venison:

  • Ground – 3 lbs
  • Backstraps

Fish:

  • Mahi Mahi (5 portions)

VEGETABLES and FRUIT

Frozen:

  • Broccoli – 6 lbs
  • Green Beans – 4 lbs
  • Corn – Β½ large bag
  • Strawberries – Lots
  • Blueberries – 2 cups
  • Blackberries – 2 cups
  • Bananas – 6-8

Fresh

  • Red Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Green Onions
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Spring Mix Lettuce
  • Beets
  • Onions
  • Red Pepper

STARCHES and DRY GOODS

  • Brown Rice – 5 cups
  • Potatoes – 4 small
  • Pasta – None, but I have a pasta maker
  • Lima Beans – 3 cups
  • Black-Eyed Peas – 3 Β½ cups
  • Red Lentils – 2 Β½ cups
  • White Navy Beans – 1 ΒΎ cups
  • Yellow Split Peas – 4 Β½ cups
  • Black Beans – 5 Cups
  • Pinto Beans – 5 cups
  • Chick Peas – Tons
  • Coconut Flakes – 5 cups
  • Cashews, Raw – 3 cups
  • Sunflower Seeds, Raw – 2 cups
  • Wheat Bran – 1 Β½ cups
  • Barley – ΒΎ cup
  • Gluten – 1 Β½ cups
  • Popcorn – Unbelievable Amounts
  • 7 Grain Cereal – 1 cup
  • Raw Pumpkin Seeds – 1 cup
  • Rolled Oats – 1 Β½ cups

BAKING GOODS

  • Sucanat – 4 cups
  • Cornstarch – 2 cups
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Baker’s Chocolate
  • Sugar
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Raisins
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Cornmeal
  • Crisco
  • All Natural Jello-ish desserts (orange/raspberry)
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Vanilla
  • Cream of Tartar
  • Molasses
  • Rye – Whole Grain
  • Almond Extract
  • Slivered Almonds
  • Karo Syrup
  • Certo

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Organic Tomato Paste
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • White Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Spaghetti Sauce (2 jars)
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Can of Salmon
  • Bread Crumbs
  • Can of Coconut Milk
  • Peanut Butter
  • Tahini
  • Mustard
  • Chipotles
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Sour Cream
  • Lemon Juice
  • Cream Cheese
  • Lime Juice
  • Yogurt
  • Whey
  • Braggs Liquid Aminos
  • Mayonnaise
  • Blue Cheese Crumbles
  • Butter
  • Yeast
  • Hot Fudge Sauce
  • Enough bones for a really good Beef Broth
  • Fillo Dough
  • JalapeΓ±os

If you got this far, congratulations, you’re probably the only one πŸ™‚

I look forward to any recipe suggestions you may have…

This morning for breakfast we enjoyed veggie pancakes from the vita-mix. Basically, I take the buttermilk pancake recipe (doubled, of course) and throw in a couple of carrots and a handful of spinach. And the kids devour them. And ask for more. And, yes, they know about the veggies.

We’re out of maple syrup…

(Side note: I’m a syrup snob – it has to be real maple syrup – I just can’t stand the thought of feeding my kids the high fructose corn syrup-laden pancake syrups)

…so I made a blackberry syrup in the vita-mix:

3 cups frozen blackberries

3/4 c. sugar

1 tsp lemon juice

Run on high for 3-4 minutes…yummy!

Pancakes with Blackberry Syrup

Was it a hit? You decide…

Ethan with Blackberry SyrupJudah with Blackberry Syrup

The rest of today will consist of leftover soup from Thursday (day3) for lunch, and whatever Brent cooks up for dinner for the kids… I’m going to a baby shower, and there is sure to be food there πŸ™‚

Breakfast on Day 4 was not one of my favorites, but it is something the kids love – Grit Casserole…
I ground the grits (i.e. popcorn) in my Nutrimill, threw them in the boiling water, added a few eggs and a dash of Parmesan cheese. I *usually* use cheddar, but we’re out, and I’m really trying to not buy things. And on top of that, we are cheese fiends around here, and I really think we could benefit in multiple ways from cutting down on it.

[Cheese bunny trail completed – back to grit casserole]

The heat of the grits cooks the eggs, and it’s decent. Definitely better with bacon. But what isn’t??

Now, for the highlight of our day……… LUNCH!

For lunch today, we enjoyed a buffet of multiple varieties of sausage, shrimp salad, biscuits, various cheeses and crackers, roasted garlic bread (warm from the oven) with a generous slathering of butter, and we finished it all off with a delicious apple strudel.

That’s right folks, we were treated to this scrumptious lunch, courtesy of….
.
.
.
.
.
COSTCO!!!!
(Gotta love those samples!!!)
(And I bought only a baby shower gift – no food – at CostCo – miracles never cease!)

Finally, for dinner, we enjoyed a wonderful salad of grilled chicken, organic spring mix, sliced red peppers and cucumber, sprinkled with feta cheese (I did say we were cutting back the cheese, didn’t I????) and lightly dressed in a red wine vinegar/sunflower oil dressing (homemade of course).

DSC00335

I had everything on hand… It was a good day πŸ™‚

Total Spent Today: $0.00
Remaining: $326.20

I am a procrastinator by nature, so although I wanted to start this blog on day 1, I didn’t. So now, I’m playing catch-up…

Tuesday, September 1
Breakfast was homemade granola with homemade yogurt, eaten in the van out of cups, on the run, while mama ran errands. They loved it.

Lunch consisted of tortillas soup made from the leftover meat/onions/peppers from fajitas the night before. The fajitas were quite likely the last expensive meal we’ll have for a while. The leftovers made a great soup when combined with water, a can of organic tomato paste, a handful of corn and a dash of taco seasoning. There was enough yummy caramelized stuff on the meat mixture to make a delicious broth. A sprinkling of crunched up tortilla chips and a bit of shredded cheese finished off the meal. Yummy!

Dinner was rice with stir-fried chicken and broccoli. To be more precise, 2 cups brown rice (yield 6 cups), 3 chicken breasts and 1 lb frozen organic broccoli. There were enough leftovers for lunch the next day.

Wednesday, September 2
I can’t remember what we ate for breakfast, but I know I didn’t buy anything. This is why I shouldn’t procrastinate.

Lunch was leftovers from dinner the night before.

I failed to plan for dinner. We were out running around looking at houses (changes are a-coming), and we were headed to our Wednesday night church meeting. So I ran into Tom Thumb and spent the first of my budget, $9.80:
1 Rotisserie Chicken – $4.99
1 lb Potato Salad – $4.81 (this was a splurge for Brent – there was blue cheese in the potato salad!)
2 loaves of French Bread – FREE!!! Yes, you read that right, FREE! Tom Thumb has this policy that if their french bread is not HOT at 5pm, it’s free. It took a couple of employees to figure out how to credit me for the free bread, but in the end, I got it FREE! I love FREE stuff! *grin* We ate 1 loaf for dinner, and saved the rest for…

Thursday, September 3
Breakfast! French Toast with FREE french bread, and eggs, milk and cinnamon that were on hand. Yummy! The kids snacked on the leftovers mid-morning, and I threw some potatoes, carrots, onions and parsley together with the leftover rotisserie chicken (and broth from the bones) to make soup for an early dinner. Oh, and biscuits made from scratch were polished off too πŸ™‚

In case you missed it, that’s *4* meals from $9.80. That averages out to $2.45/meal. I can handle that πŸ™‚

I did spend $24.00 on raw milk yesterday that will last the next 2 weeks.

Total Spent: $33.80
Remaining: $326.20

Okay, here’s the goal: Feed our family of 6 for the month of September with $360. Okay, to be fair, one of the six eats approximately one strawberry and/or one broccoli spear for the entire day. And to be even more honest, I actually have $400 in the grocery budget. But I have plans for that extra $40, which we’ll get to later…

There are some changes we’re gearing up for here in the Ward household, and we’re preparing for these changes by upping our efforts to save, save, save. In the last few months, I’ve been spending between $600 and $800 *gasp* a month on groceries, so we’re in for some changes. And I want to do it without sacrificing too many of the healthy choices we’ve been making (i.e. the raw milk is here to stay).

If I can make it spending $360 or less, that extra $40 will be used for a gallon of coconut oil. I’m out, and I love it. It seems a fitting reward.

Next post will be what I’ve done for the last few days (Sept 1-3) and after that, an inventory of what I’m working with. Because after all, the more I use of what I have, the more I can save.

I’m excited about the journey… Ready to get started?