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Posts tagged with: groceries

All about the Money – Tracking

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We got all settled this past weekend, and it is glorious!  Everything is unpacked, we have far more space then we’d anticipated and the kids are fully engaged in building a fort up in the trees and tending the animals.  The twins’ 15 year old brother (they have additional siblings who were fostered and adopted elsewhere) came to spend our first couple of days with us and they had a blast!

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My view from my kitchen.

Now it is Monday and I’ve been busy with work all morning.  Tomorrow I head out of town again for work, so I wanted to get this post done and ready for Wednesday.  Here’s what I’m thinking, a weekly recap of where my money (household operations account) is coming and going…

Here’s a small example of what I’m thinking, this is how my money has been spent since Moving Day, Friday, April 15th:

Week of 4/15-4/18
Category Amount Balance
Moving Day 339 339
Auto – Gas -55 284
Savings -100 184
Food – Eating Out -100 84
Birthday Present -20 64
Debt -40 24
Child Support 150 174

I started with the balance in my household operation bank account on Moving Day and went from there.

You will see my gas was high for just covering a weekend, but I filled my car and History Buff’s car up on account of the multiple trips we both made for the move. (I typically fill his tank up once a month and he covers the rest.)

We ate out three times due to the move. And I received $150 in child support from the little ones’ dad.

I also transferred my first 30ish% in savings. I know there is A LOT of controversy about the percentage post; however, one thing is certain, I MUST save.  This housing situation, as generous as it is, is only temporary, and getting to a good place savings wise is number one on my priority list right now.  I will write a full post on how that is going to look for the time being, but right now, first thing I do when I receive money – 30ish% to savings.  Balance as of today in what will be my primary savings account = $100.

Now what this doesn’t show is the $300 I spent on groceries when we moved in, I have been saving a little bit at a time for the past few months in anticipation of the day when 1) we moved and 2) we no longer received food stamps. The total in that savings account was just shy of $700 the day I went grocery shopping. So I anticipate being able to live off it until mid-May as far as groceries go. I am keeping it separate from my operational account so I don’t spend it, I just transfer it to the account at time of checkout.


Confessions of a Cheese-aholic

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When I shared my surprise grocery budget buster (CHEESE!) it seemed like a LOT of people could relate!

So in the spirit of my money saving tricks series, I wanted to give a little update on how we’ve been doing with cutting back our cheese consumption (not that these are “tricks,” but you get the point)….

First, I’ve made a big list of our family’s favorite go-to dinner ideas. I used to have a list I kept of meals, more for inspiration than anything else. But it got lost awhile back and I never made a new one. This was an important first step because of a couple reasons: (1) it still gives me inspiration when I need a quick dinner and it seems like there’s “nothing to eat” (even with a full fridge/freezer), and (2) I can reference it to find lots of meals our family loves that do not include cheese. This coincides nicely with this month because I happen to be trying to do a clean eating thing, so a lot of our normal meal rotations (enchiladas, lasagna, etc.) that are cheese-heavy aren’t being consumed anyway. We’ve been doing lots of grilled meat, steamed veggies, and a slice of homemade bread/toast. Simple, easy, and delicious (healthy, too!)

Second, I’ve tried to use cheese as more of a “garnish” than a main component of a meal. Instead of making homemade macaroni and cheese (emphasis on the cheeeeeese), I might make a homemade pasta salad with just a sprinkling of parmesan on top. It helps that its so hot out right now because we’ve been craving “lighter” foods anyway.

And last, when I do indulge in cheese (which I have tried to do more sparingly than in the past), I have actually measured it out. This was a tip I got from you guys (in comments on the first post) and it has really helped. It’s so easy to just “eyeball it” and round up on cheese portions! This has really kept me in check.

The other day I allowed myself a little snack of brie with crackers. Instead of taking half the block of brie (like I wanted), I sliced off just the tip (heh), wrapped back up the brie, and put it away. No cheating with extras!

IMG_3360Excuse the horrific photo! We all know photography is not my forte!

Of course, now that I’ve written this whole post about cheese…..I want some! Ha!

Overall, though, I think we’ve done well limiting our cheese consumption. I’ve gotta tell you – I think the girls have taken it harder than me! Allow me to share a little (true!) story….

One day I was in the kitchen trying to get dinner together. One of my daughters has really taken an interest in cooking and will often come into the kitchen with me, push her little toddler chair over, stand on top of it, and watch me prepare food on the counters (chopping, mixing, etc.). So, I thought nothing of it when, one evening, she pushed her chair over to see what was happening. I had left the cheese unattended on one counter while I was turned around (my back to her) chopping up veggies on the kitchen island. I scooped up the veggies and turned to go back to the rest of the dinner stuff. Imagine my surprise when I turn to find dear daughter had the entire 1 lb. block of cheese and was gnawing chewing on the corner of the block. I had to laugh at all the little teeth marks. When I took it away, she started shrieking “SHEESE!!! SHEESE!!!” (toddler translation:  cheese! cheese!) while reaching for more!

Since then I’ve had to carefully guard the cheese during any dinner prep!

Although we haven’t had a great deal of cheese in our meals lately, we really haven’t missed it too much. I think it has certainly helped our grocery budget, too. Of course, this month we seemed to run out of every personal hygiene item in the world (seriously – shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash, toothpaste, deodorant …ran out of everything at once!). I hate eating up our grocery budget with non-food items, but it only happens once every few months (and generally we don’t run out of everything at once!). Since my envelope mishap I’ve been guarding it closely so we’ll see how the rest of the month goes.

Here’s one last cheese-related trick/tip for you….

A long time ago I learned that you can substitute cottage cheese in place of ricotta for lasagna! Cottage cheese is much cheaper than ricotta and when its cooked, you seriously cannot tell the difference at all! I’d share credit, but I cannot even remember where I learned this (I’ve been doing it for years and no one is the wiser).

Share your tips with me! I just saw Jordan (from this blog) share a tip on Facebook about making homemade macaroni and cheese using sweet potato puree, which makes it healthier and also cuts down on the amount of cheese used.

What have you done to save money on groceries lately?

 


How I Save on Groceries

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So with the comments that I have gotten in my last post, I wanted to write about how I do some of my groceries, and in particular how I get some of my meat.

One of the biggest chunks of my food budget, is meat.  Unless you are a non-meat eater, I bet you’re in the same predicament.  Yes you can shop the sales and the mark downs, but one of the tested and proven ways is to simply buy in bulk.  In the past, I have split costs on buying cows and pigs with a few people.  Last year I wasn’t able to find anyone interested, that is where Zaycon Foods comes in.  Zaycon is my favorite/ goto company to buy bulk meat from.  They sell high quality meat at incredible prices.  

Downside of this, you are left with a huge amount of meat to process and prepare at once.  But I have gotten it down to a science and pretty much get down in about 2-4 hours depending on what the meat is.  Back in January I got 40 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $1.89.  I have also done this for ground beef.  Now I could easily do all this with my account at the restaurant my buddy owns, and sometimes I help co-operate.  But one thing that Zaycon has a referral program (all links that point to Zaycon) and a couple times I was able to get a case for free.  

Right now I easily have 20 lbs of ground beef by itself and the same amount of chicken.  I have over 60 different freezer meals that I have ready at my disposal as well.  When other meats go on sale at my local grocery store or even the butcher store I stock up on it.  I also stock up on other things, and like some of you pointed out in an earlier post… Some of these are items I don’t even need.  

Today, for instance, I bought 16 Scunci Hair Ties at $.49/piece.  There were part of a gas deal, where if I bought 4 of them at a time I would get $.30 off per gallon of gas, up to 30 gallons.  That makes it a $7 moneymaker.  I did this four times so I actually got $1.20 off, and made $28.  Plus I have Scunci’s for a while.  My wife and daughter lose their scrunci’s all the time.  I chalk that up as a win in my book.

So there is just a few ways I save some money.  Hit me up with what you all do to stretch out your dollars!

Oh by the way, if you are interested check if Zaycon is coming to your area in the near future.  Here is what they have on sale currently:

  • Boneless, Skinless Jumbo Chicken Thigh Fillets
  • Fresh Boneless Skinlees Chicken Breasts
  • Fresh Jumbo Chicken Wings
  • Fresh Premium Hickory Smoked Bacon
  • Fresh Strawberries
  • Natural Non-Homogenized Whole Milk
  • Orchard Peaches
  • Pork Sausage Links
  • Premium Choice Angus Sirloin Steaks
  • Raw Wildflower Honey
  • Rotisserie Seasoned Turkey Breast Roast
  • Smoked Pulled Pork

Real Food Passion

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I am going to start this Monday with a little pat on my own back.  With all of this divorce stuff since September 1, I am proud to report that the kids and I have stayed the real food course.  While we have certainly had slips, we are definitely not anywhere near where we were pre-real-food plan.  I’m even prouder of the fact that I continue to be able to feed us real food AND shave money off of our grocery budget.  Of course with only three of us and no big eaters in the group (DS will be 13 in December and we’ve already seen some major growth spurt food consumption but for now he’s eating normally), the food budget was bound to decrease.  But, by keeping it real and making so many things from scratch, the food goes a long way.  As of right now, I’m spending $75 on groceries each week.  $300 per month!!!  And on REALLY good stuff!  That’s just awesome!!!!

I read an article recently that might help me shave even more off the bottom line.  The article was about how much food we waste in this country.  Apparently there’s a documentary out there called “Dive!” that follows a group of friends as they “dumpster dive” for food discarded by grocery stores.  I haven’t seen the documentary but the statistics shared in the article are pretty alarming with some 40% of American food going uneaten each year!  The estimated cost of that food is $165 billion!  We’ve all bought too much and don’t have time to eat what we buy so we end of trashing it so I like the tips shared to help prevent waste.  I follow 3 of the 5 suggestions.  I do not shop hungry, I do not buy something just because it is there and I  make a meal plan.  The two suggestions I’m going to try to incorporate now are to “divide and conquer.”  That means to divide up packages of food into smaller servings so that you can freeze smaller portions and use when you need.  I used to be good about this but have fallen out of habit.  Then the idea of buying bulk with a friend.  Now that we are family of three, we don’t have a Costco membership.  I didn’t see the value in buying so much stuff when we won’t use it all in a reasonable amount of time.  Although things like household products can be saved forever, I’m not really in a position right now to spend a lot up front even if it is a better “per item” cost.  But if I find someone to split everything with then we might be in a much better position.  The article also suggests splitting the cost of the membership.  I like that idea! 

I’m STILL couponing but just for toothpaste, shampoo, cleaning products and the like.  That’s a huge area for savings though and I’m seeing the added benefit of taking the time to do that. 

The best part of all of this is when DS said to me last week “Thanks for still feeding us real food Mom.  I thought that when Steve left it would be too hard for you to do by yourself.”  🙂   That makes all of those Sundays in the kitchen worth it! 

Have a Magnificent Monday!


Two Week Anniversary of being Paper Towel Free!

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A few months back there was a discussion about the great reusable towels offered on flylady.net.  I went and checked them out after that discussion but then made myself a promise.  I would not buy the towels–in spite of their great reviews–until I could say with confidence that we could indeed survive without paper towels.  So after the last coupon purchased paper towels…I didn’t buy anymore.  That was two weeks ago today and I am here to report…we have adjusted!

The first few days were spent just undoing the habit of grabbing a paper towel.  I didn’t tell the kids of this experiment initially instead just letting them think we were out and I had not gotten around to restocking.  I heard a few comments but they were minimal since I placed towels to use in easy to find places.  I had a good stash of towels/rags that were suitable for kitchen duty and in no time at all, we all grew accustomed to using them!  Steve and I agree the only time we miss them at this point is when we are cooking but that too can be overcome and unlearned.  I’ve been attaching a towel to my apron when I do my major cooking and that is perfect.

While this sounds like a small step…I see it as so much more!  Had you asked us 6 months ago if we could do without papertowels…I would have defended our decision to use them!  Now here we are doing just fine without them.  SO EXCITING!!!  This gives me confidence that we can continue to make behavior adjustments and chip away at our basic living expenses to help with debt payoff!

And I’m not sure I really need those flylady towels b/c what we have now is doing the trick.  Maybe I’ll put those on the gift list!  🙂  If you people get me to rinse and reuse ziploc bags…that might make the evening news!


Grocery budget adjustment

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We are now half way through the second week of summer.  For the love of all that is holy, the two boys’ appetites have got to find a limit!

We have accepted that $125 a week in groceries was too conservative a number with the boys home for the majority of  the day.  They are both remaining very physically  active with sports camps (one free and one for $50)but with more time on their hands, the food is disappearing at alarming rates!  This is tough bc you never want to begrudge children food but we also have to set some limits.  On the upside, we are not eating out so we don’t have a fast food bleed on top of groceries.  They do not waste the food by any means so that’s good too.  They are  just bottomless pits.  I’ve talked to them about the tendency we all have to snack for the sake of snacking and they both understood.  We have increased food money to $200 per week.  I saved $50 in coupons this past week and that was just regular good old-fashioned couponing.  No stacking, no doubling…just buying what was offered so I’m very pleased with that!

A comment regarding utilities made a good point that our heightened awareness about all spending right now likely impacts our view.  While I know the boys have always eaten a lot, this summer will definitely be a marked increase.  They are growing and now at the age of true athletics.  Once again, we found a way to increase the grocery budget without changing the Dec 2013 payoff.   I’m proud of our planning and saving making that possible.

 

 

 

 

 


5 dollar dinners coupon class

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I’m looking forward to Friday night!  20 years ago that would have had an entirely different meaning…but THIS Friday night will be spent at a coupon class!  After a post on meal making and grocery shopping, A reader suggested the $5 Dinner Mom website and so I stopped by to check it out a few weeks ago.  I took it as a sign that right there on the welcome page there was a San Antonio offering!  The thought of couponing stresses me out BUT I really think I could get into it!  My fear–quite honestly–is that I will get TOO into it!  I tend to do things in extremes.  🙂  My friend from work who was doing great with her couponing but has fallen off a bit in recent weeks is joining me and you would think we were going to some crazy “girls’ night out” with the way we are talking about this thing!  I’m looking forward to learning a lot and then putting the new skills to work.  I’m already seeing major dents in my grocery spending just with the little bit of thought I’m putting into things.  I DO think that I’m going to have to become proficient at stockpiling laundry detergent bc the homemade brand is not getting rave reviews from the fam.  Actually, that’s not correct…I notice no problems with it, the kids haven’t said a word but the husband is saying a lot WITHOUT a lot of words.  Have I mentioned that he’s slow to accept change? 🙂  Love that guy!  I think I saw him sneak in a bottle of Tide the other day and he might be hiding it for his personal use only!

Here’s the link to what we are doing on Friday night.  If you live in the Atlanta, GA area there’s one there next week.  I’ll report back with details.

http://www.5dollardinners.com/2012/03/san-antonio-coupon-class.html


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