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Ashley’s April Budget

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It’s my first time in a long time to try to put together a budget for the blog. As I’ve mentioned, we’re still struggling in the budget department. And it’s still not at a place where I’d like it to be. But you’ve got to start somewhere, so I’m putting it all out there today.

Here’s how I’ve planned April’s budget:

PlaceAmount
Mortgage950
Electricity160
Water65
Cell Phones (2 lines)105
Cable/Internet137
Childcare600
Restaurants300
Dream Dinners250
Groceries450
Gasoline175
Student Loans550
CC Payments2000
IRS285
Total$6027

Categories of spending:

Fixed Expenses

Our “fixed” expenses (mortgage, electricity, water, phone, cable/internet, childcare, gasoline) will be tough to lower any significant amount. We can try to conserve here and there, but those are pretty good estimates of what we’ll be paying.

Food

Food has been a huge struggle for us ever since I went back to working full-time. We don’t eat a lot of meals out as a family, but I might pick up some takeout once a week, and I’m likely to grab lunch out at least once a week. I know this is something I can improve on, but $300 is a very realistic (actually on the low-end) estimate for our family. Has anyone heard of Dream Dinners? I first looked into it as a way to try to reduce our eating out/restaurant expenses, and I’ve had good success with it. It costs more than if I were to put together all the meals myself homemade. But often times I’ve fallen into the trap of “I don’t know what to eat” and/or I don’t have time to plan out meals, get to the store to buy the right ingredients, etc. Basically, you go to the store and prep a ton of meals (about 40-servings) and take everything home all ready-to-go, complete with recipe cards and cooking instructions, etc. The cost depends on the food you’ve selected, but my cost is typically between $220-$250ish/month. I could get rid of this in the future to try to save money, but I’ve already pre-scheduled and paid for my April session. And, finally, groceries rounds out the last of our food expenses. Combined, we’re budgeting to pay $1,000 on food in the month of April. I know that for many that sounds like a disgusting/insane amount of money. But for our family, it’s become quite the norm to spend in excess of $1,000/month on food. I know this is the #1 area where we need to cut back. HELP! Comment with your tips, tricks, or any resources you have to offer! We are struggling so hard with food!!!

Debts

And finally…..our debts. We are in a payment plan agreement with the IRS to pay $285/month. And we’re in Income-Based-Repayment with Navient, paying $550/month currently (though it’s re-reviewed in August, so that amount may change). Both of the amounts listed for IRS and Navient are minimums. The credit card payments include payments for all of our credit cards (including one that was actually a balance-transfer from a student loan). The credit card payment is what I’d LIKE to pay (not the minimum). The minimum payments would actually be about $1285. But we’ve got so much credit card debt, we’re not even going to be moving the needle unless we’re paying at least $2,000/month. I’d prefer to pay more!!!

Total Budgeted: $6027

Here’s the problem. On typical months, I only get 2 paychecks for $2550/each. That’s $5100 in the month timeframe. But our totally bare bones budget (not including a single penny for clothing, kids’ activities, family fun, etc.) exceeds our monthly income by $927. That’s a problem, folks.

We do have a little bit of a buffer for the month of April thanks to the extra paycheck I received in March. I’m also going to be receiving some extra money in my April paychecks for childcare (one of the benefits at my job is that I can submit my receipts for childcare quarterly and receive reimbursement of 50% of the care, up to $2,000/year maximum). So I’ll still earn enough money in April to cover this anticipated budget. But this is not an ideal situation and it’s really not where I want to be – shuffling funds around, relying on the random “extra” pay from my benefits, etc. We’ve GOT to figure out a way to get our planned budget down below $5100/month. The only “easy” place to trim from is the food category (but like I said, easier said than done). And we have to be realistic that there WILL be extra expenses pop up – a gift for a kids’ birthday party or something fun we want to do that costs money. We could have a no spend month, but an effective budget long-term needs to have at least a little wiggle-room built into it and we currently have NONE.

What are your thoughts?

I’d like to cancel our cable, but we’re currently under contract (not sure exactly when it ends, but I think it’s in Fall time-frame). Childcare will reduce in August, but there’s still several months to go until then! Any tips for reducing our food budget??

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45 Comments

  • Reply Louise |

    Food is just incredibly hard when you are working full time and have kids. It’s a labour intensive job to provide food, and it takes as much mental work as physical work, not to mention you need to plan ahead for it.

    Have you priced all the different meal delivery options? Vacuum packed meals (can be quite tasty), blue apron, etc etc. If one of them would help lower your budget by a bit and give you more time to spend on making other meals cheaper it might help. Eg getting the vacuum packed meals delivered for your lunches and half the adult dinners and then making the rest of the food for the week yourself very frugally using the energy you saved by not having to prepare every single meal. Just an idea.

  • Reply Andrea |

    Is your husband’s paycheck included in your monthly income, or is that just yours? I am reading this pre-coffee, so might have missed that part.

    Food is way too high, which you know. But, it is also super hard to balance with all your time constraints, which you also know. My only advice is pre-plan, lots of casseroles, freeze extras for those crazy days. Obvious and basic, but it works.

  • Reply Katie |

    Great job posting! I know it is hard when things aren’t going well to share, so that is huge!! I think you’re doing the best you can with food. With food the options are time, money, and effort. Every option is going to take one of those. Is there a possibility for some added income? Uber, Instacart, Shipt? Those all have amazingly flexible hours and could add some much needed cash flow in the margin of your days. My husband has been trying it for one hour in the morning and we made enough to pay off a medical debt!

  • Reply Lisa |

    I used to work at Supper Thyme – same concept as Dream Dinners. It’s a good option for busy/working families. You control the ingredients, salt, etc. I’d suggest dividing each large meal into two smaller pans, which will stretch your food. Add a fresh salad, slaw or veg to each meal, too, to stretch. You’re finding options, and that’s the right direction. Still, $1,000 for food is hard for me to wrap my mind around. Working full time is demanding. Patenting is demanding. Paying down debt is demanding. Life is demanding. One foot in front of the other will get you there. 🙂

  • Reply Laura |

    If Dream Dinners keeps you from eating out then keep it. $300 eating out sounds like a lot. I have a family of 3 and we budget $125/month eating out. There has got to be a way of bringing that down. It’s ok to eat sandwiches and salads for dinner some nights instead of take out and that would take less time to prepare then running to the restaurant for take out. Unless you find a stellar deal I don’t recommend the meal delivery services. Last time I looked Blue Apron was $10 a serving, which is more then some restaurant meals! Other then that, just try to go back to a rotation of cheap, quick to prepare meals. Tacos, pasta, breakfast for dinner, soups and roasts in the crockpot come to mind. Make a big casseorle or something for dinner on Sundays and use the leftovers for lunches during the week. Hams will be on sale for Easter, buy an extra one, cook it up and freeze the meat.
    Other thoughts- cancel the cable when you can. Is there a way to lower the cell phone bill? Look into cricket wireless or Ting. Is your husband bringing in any money from his personal training clients? I didn’t see that included in your income.

    • Reply Laura |

      Replying to myself – I’ve also seen sweet potatoes on sale for 33 cents/pound for Easter. I’ve mashed and froze these before with good results. Eggs aren’t on sale in my area but may be in yours. Take advantage of any holiday food sales this weekend since you’ve got a little extra with the third paycheck.

    • Reply Kate |

      Agree. Cheese quesadillas with apples and carrots (or whatever) cut up on the side … or we make a big pot of soup and freeze half to pull out with a sandwich in a pinch. Almost anything is cheaper vegetarian – can do black bean or refried beans in tacos for $2 rather than buying ground beef. Even if you could cut down $100 a month, which should be easy, it’d be a great start.

  • Reply SMS |

    Good for you for putting it all out there!
    I think you need a “miscellaneous” budget line, even if small. Things are going to happen (car repair, birthday gift…) and if there is no place for it, it will just increase your cc debt.
    But it looks like with the reduction of child care costs, cancelation of cable, slight reduction in food expenses and maybe slight reduction in cc payments you could just cover the budget shortfall starting in the fall. Until then – can your husband kick in some $? Maybe pay CC minimums until then.

  • Reply margann34 |

    As a full time working mother, I get it. It is hard to find time to cook. During the week, I usually make quick meals. Pasta, tacos, grilled chicken, hamburgers, chicken salad. I can get all of these on the table in about 45 min to an hour. I make sure to always have the ingredients on hand. Sometimes on weekends i will make more complicated meals. We usually have at least one leftover night each week. When shopping, I make sure to buy the cheapest version of what I need. There are some items that the cheapest version is just not good. So then I move up to the next cheapest until it is an acceptable quality. I rarely buy brand name products unless the are on sale. I shop once a week and try to get everything I need so I have to put a little thought into the next weeks meals but I don’t do a full menu planning. When you do eat out or get take out, try to make it cheap. Find a couple places where you can feed the whole family for about $15 or so. Make that your go to place every time. If your family gripes about it, just remind them that you are in a financial hole and that you can’t be spending a lot of money on food. Check out your grocery store deli. I can get fried chicken or rotisorie chicken and a couple sides for about $12. Also, can your husband help with food prep and shopping? That would take some of the pressure off. Food is absolutely the place where you can make a big cut. It may not be easy, but you HAVE to do it. And you CAN do it!

    • Reply margann34 |

      I thought of more tips to reduce spending when you do eat out:
      – don’t order drinks, get free water instead
      – try to share meals if you know portion sizes are big. This might work for your girls as they are still small. Also see if they can split an adult meal for cheaper than ordering 2 kids meals.
      – curb side pickup/carryout. This cuts out cost of drinks, tips and delivery charges which is easily $15/meal.
      -envelope method. withdraw your monthly restaurant budget in cash and when it’s gone, no more eating out!
      -look for deals like family night, kids eat free etc.
      – when you do get takeout, order smaller portions and supplement with food in your pantry. I make a salad at home when we pick up pizza. Or get the deli chicken and open a can of green beans. Buy subway foot long sandwiches and eat chips we have at home.

      Hope this helps!

    • Reply Kate |

      Agree with the deli. Ours sells things like a quiche for $6 or the chickens you mention. It may not be the cheapest option but $6 beats the cost of takeout.

  • Reply Sarah |

    The crockpot is your friend. Toss some frozen meat and some barbecue sauce or soup or whatever and it will be ready to go when you get home. Or some browned meat and spaghetti sauce. Add a couple of easy sides and you’re good to go. You can also fill the crockpot the night before and stick it in the fridge. Then all you have to do is turn it on in the morning. I get the whole it’s hard to want to cook after a day at work, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Make up a rotation of favorite family recipes. Then you don’t have to think about it. The list tells you what’s for dinner that night and takes the decision making out of it. I think you are going to have to work on this. It should not be difficult to trim from a $1,000 budget – especially with the ages of your girls. You can do it!!

  • Reply Cwaltz |

    Someone mentioned crockpots already. They’re great for busy people. Another option is visiting a site like once a month meals which uses freezer prep and gives you the option of getting shopping lists with the menus. If I were going to start somewhere I would start with eating out where you’ve budgeted $300 for a month a try cutting it to $200 or $50 a week. Tell yourself you will pack lunch and cut down takeout.

  • Reply Cwaltz |

    Someone mentioned crockpots already. They’re great for busy people. Another option is visiting a site like once a month meals which uses freezer prep and gives you the option of getting shopping lists with the menus. If I were going to start somewhere I would start with eating out where you’ve budgeted $300 for a month a try cutting it to $200 or $50 a week. Tell yourself you will pack lunch and cut down takeout. $100 may not completely resolve things but it is a start and you have to start somewhere.

  • Reply Jax |

    When we were renovating our kitchen and couldn’t afford to eat out the several months it took to complete and needed an easy and quick dinner we would get family meals from Sam’s Club (Costco has them too.) Meatloafs, roasts, soups, mashed potatoes, pastas, enchiladas, etc. Yes, it would be cheaper to make them on your own, but it was cheaper than going out to eat. They come in decent sizes so even with 2 adults and a teenaged boy there were still 1-2 servings of leftovers.

    A Sam’s Club membership also helped us save a ton on meat. It is far cheaper per pound than at the grocery store for almost every kind of meat, plus the sizes are large so I could go shopping there once and be set for 4-6 weeks. I hesitated to suggest this because it is super easy to way over spend at stores like Sam’s and Costco but if you go with a plan you can do alright.

    The other thing I would suggest is when you do cook try to double the recipe and freeze half right away so that you have a go to meal in the freezer for busy nights.

    Would it help if you had a go to list of all your favorite meals? That way one step towards dinner is already taken care of-what to eat.

  • Reply Sarah |

    Funny you mentioned Dream Dinners. I just did an introductory night ten days ago.

    One thing you can do to save a few dollars at Dream Dinners is if there is a meal that you know you like, buy it for six servings instead of three. You can then package it in three serving meals (at least my location lets you do that). It only saves a few dollars but at this point, a few dollars is good. Also, use the leftovers as a dinner supplement the next night or for lunch.

    I second the post about a quesadilla with apples and carrots. I actually did that for me the other night. Also, we love baked potato night.

    Blue Apron is good but it won’t save you time. We found the cutting, etc., to be very time consuming…if you want to try it, do it during a break when you have more time.

    Is your husband bringing in any income? If he is, he needs to contribute some of it to the family budget. Your current budget doesn’t include any one off payments like insurance, property taxes, etc.

  • Reply Laura |

    I think you also need to find a way to bring in more income, at least until your kids start school full time and you don’t have daycare. Right now over half of your take home pay is going to debt repayment. Even if you just do the minimum on the credit cards 40% will be going to debt repayment. That is a lot. Have you done taxes for this year yet so you have a better idea of what your withholding should be? I still think you may be having too much withheld. As someone else pointed out you also have a lot of irregular expenses that aren’t being budgeted for, like medical co-pays, car insurance, home and car repairs, etc

  • Reply Den |

    I think you’re going to have to pay minimums on your cc debt at least until things loosen up financially in the fall. There is no sense paying extra, but then having to use your credit when you are short. Sometimes, treading water is the best thing you can do…

    Good luck!

    • Reply Rose |

      I have to agree! For me the key was getting my spending under control and staying within budget. Once I went several months without having to put anything over budget on my credit card, then I started adding more to the CC payment category. You have no wiggle room here, so you are going to slip up and put things on your card. You need to give yourself some slack and set yourself up for success, because once you start using the card it’s a slippery slope to giving up, because you feel like you’re already failing. I highly recommend using a zero-based budgeting tool. You are thinking monthly, but you need to focus on exactly what you have available in each pay period, and give each dollar a job!

  • Reply Janie N. |

    I seem to recall that we addressed the “how to cut down on food spending” several months ago. (I think that it was with you, but it might have been suggestions for Hope.)

    I suggested at the time that you make up a family-friendly food schedule such as : Monday is pasta night; Tuesday is tacos; Wednesday is “breakfast for dinner” (such as scrambled eggs and pancakes, etc.); Thursday is chicken fried rice or some sort of stir-fry; Friday is something with fish; Saturday is pizza night; Sunday is leftovers. Does that “ring a bell?”

    I do have one caveat, though. It is NOT recommended to start with frozen meat in a crockpot. Please, THAW your meat in the refrigerator first! (I’ve had a LOT of food/microbiology courses; so, I know this well.)

    Yes; you easily could reduce you food spending by as much as $300 or $400 a month with some careful planning. That alone would pay that IRS payment each month.

    Good luck, there.

    Janie N.

  • Reply AS |

    Sorry, but you have to look beyond the food budget. You have 2017 income taxes due in two weeks — is that a refund or payment? You said you have to start thinking about replacing your car. You have property taxes to pay. You will have to buy clothes for growing children. Etc.

    Your husband’s income (and expense) needs to be added to the budget for it to be realistic and for this to be sustainable he has to bring in $1000 per month after tax. That gets you just above the financial waterline.

    Go over that and you have a window for substantial debt reduction. And you and he will have to make tough choices like really reducing debt rather than assuming anything over $1000 per month in income is extra spending money.

    Sorry, I know it’s not encouraging but that’s the way I see it. I don’t think you should bear this burden alone.

    • Reply Been There Done That |

      I have to agree. This has to be a joint effort between you and your husband. Food is still way too high. You should be able to get this down to $600/month. Really, restaurants should be a big, fat zero. You are on fire, and this is the lowest of priorities. I am absolutely, continually amazed that families that have so much debt continue to line budget for restaurants. No, no, no! This is such a huge red flag for me, and seems to indicate the level or lack thereof of commitment to pay off debt and get on your feet.

      I think you are making food too complicated. Just nix all those programs and gimmicks. Make up a very simple weekly menu, and stick to that for a while. Think baked chicken legs with some barbecue sauce, baked sweet or regular potatoes and a veggie. Simple pastas and wraps. Nothing fancy. You can tweak things as you get better at this. Planning is a huge part of this and you will immediately see improvement.

      • Reply Laura |

        I feel like husband’s income is really the elephant in the room here. I don’t want to be too hard on the guy because I know he was the main breadwinner for years, but it really seems like his income is for him and your income is for the family. This is not feasible in your situation. Has he seen these numbers? Does he know there is a shortfall every month? Giving him (and you) a small amount of personal fun money each month is fine but anything extra should be added to the family budget, along with any expenses he has that aren’t included here. For example is the gas budget just you or both of you?
        I also looked up dream dinners and didn’t realize they cost so much. $17-$25 for 3 servings? You can do better then that. Stop after April and cook at home. You’ve gotten a lot of good suggestions for how to do that, I will just add if you don’t want to cook every night make enough for leftovers when you do cook

        • Reply JayP |

          I would agree here. Not to be overly critical, because again you are doing a fantastic job overall developing a career and having a family! But I think its wrong to do both childcare and not have a second income. I’m sure ASU has night classes. You need 2 incomes to get out of your dilemma. Your family income should be more like $9K(instead of $6K) and imagine what that would do to your debt plan.

          • Laura |

            Another thought on this topic, why is childcare not going down until August? Is your husband taking classes over the summer? Consider having him care for the kids over the summer so you can get rid of childcare sooner. He can either take night classes or just take the summer off school. You need that extra money now and his degree being delayed a semester won’t be a big deal in the long run.

  • Reply Angie |

    How is it a budget if it is over your regular take home pay? You need to be realistic and get the budget to 5100 a month one way or another. If it means you have to pay minimums on credit card debt until childcare is gone in September than that’s just what it has to be. But putting a “would be nice” credit card payment in your budget, when your budget is way over your income, is just misleading yourself.

    • Reply Rose |

      I completely agree. You cannot budget more than you have. Also, thinking ‘monthly’ when you get paid bi-weekly can be tough. With each paycheck you need to think what do I need this money for in the next two weeks. Be realistic.

  • Reply Jennifer |

    I am not going to sugar coat this….this is rediculous. The amount of energy and stress you have each day of your finances needs to be channeled into sacrifices on your idea of what a dinner should look like. If you are serious about at least getting your budget to balance you need to slap yourself and get a plan for 5:00 in your kitchen that works for your budget. Dream Dinners and eating out are causing your budget inbalance and in turn causing you stress ….so are they really helping??? I have been at this working full time raising six kids for 28 years. What has worked for us is…keep it simple! We will buy a big pack of chicken and grill it all at once whole also grilling some hamburgers. One night it is chicken in a salad, one night it is chicken with rice and asian vegtables, one night it is chicken with mac n cheese, one night it is chicken with french fries , and the night you are sick of chicken eat a hamburger that just needs to be micriwaved. “Getting Fancy” in my experience necessitates extra ingredients, wasted food, and a lot of time. Keeping it simple a meat, two fruits and vegtables and a startch. Get a simple simple plan going. There is absolutely nothing wrong with simple if it balances your budget. You need to work on your mind set about dinner….it just shouldn’t be that hard. Your family can do this!

    • Reply Kate |

      “ the night you are sick of chicken eat a hamburger that just needs to be microwaved” had me laughing out loud! It’s true though! As a kid a lot of night dinner was a box of pasta with sauce and a lettuce and cucumber salad on the side. Nothing fancy but we survived and no less healthy than most takeout.

  • Reply Janie N. |

    By the way, I have to agree with the others. It is INSANE to pay more on the credit cards than their absolute minimum at this time!

    Using the numbers that you have provided, your deficit would be “only” $212 for the month if you make only minimum payments on the credit cards.

    Again, you EASILY can save $212 on your food spending.

    I agree with the poster who said that there should be absolutely, positively NO EATING OUT until you are “out of this hole.”

    Trust me: some of those grocery store frozen pizzas are darned good! USE THEM.

    Janie N.

  • Reply Katie |

    Others have mentioned making friends with your crockpot, I’ll mention making friends with your freezer. Make triple batches of stuff like spaghetti sauce or taco meat, and freeze 2/3 of it. Buy big quantities of veggies on sale and blanch and freeze them. Then you have food on hand for those nights when you only have 20 minutes to prep for dinner. Your food budget is really, really high for 2 adults and 2 preschoolers. For cable/Internet, go to just high-speed internet and something like Sling/Ooma, or internet and an antenna. We ditched Comcast, went to a Sling package, and not only are we saving money, we’re also watching less tv. Win win!

  • Reply Nicole |

    So many great ideas here. Springboarding off a few of them…
    Make proteins in advance. My mom taught me to cook ground beef the day I bought it. She even does 10 lbs at a time, and freezes in 1 lb servings. SO EASY later to make tacos, spaghetti with meat sauce, hamburger helper, sloppy joes, lasagna, chili, soup, etc.
    With your husband interested in fitness, usually food is a major part of that interest. Weekly meal prep and healthy eating so often go hand in hand. No judgment or suggestion, just don’t have the info on whether he is eating separately, prepping things for himself that could be added to for the whole family, etc.
    In the past you talked about $5 takeout pizzas. I wouldn’t be ashamed of that, or the dollar menu fast food. It’s a cheap, fast way to get people fed. Not the healthiest, but a temporary stop gap. I don’t feel bad eating junk when I go out, because I eat as healthy as I can at home (same for my kids). It’s a treat.
    Ingredient meals. Dinner doesn’t have to be fancy. One of my favorite healthy-eating instagrammers has a plate of random ingredients for almost every meal. For example a cooked protein or hard boiled eggs, bell pepper strips or carrots, fruit, potatoes.
    Let your crockpot or oven do the work. My husband raves over our lasagna…all I do is layer in a pan: sauce, noodles (just raw, not even pre-boiled!), cooked ground beef, shredded mozz. Repeat layers, cover with foil and bake until noodles are tender. As long as you use enough sauce (or add water) the noodles cook right in there. Budget Bytes has recipes for oven chicken enchiladas, oven sausage and peppers.
    Make sure to cook enough for dinner so there are lunch leftovers

    • Reply Walnut |

      Chiming in to say I definitely support spending a little extra money to eat a healthy diet with robust protein sources. My brother is finishing a degree in exercise science and about to go to physical therapy school. He’s lived with me this past semester during his internship and does 100% of his cooking on Sunday nights.

      Because he’s stuck between a college food budget and protein-heavy eating, he has become an expert at using up super cheap cuts of meat. He makes beef heart, beef tongue, darn near reject chicken parts, that sort of thing. I was super judgey, but you know what? Beef stew tastes like beef stew even if it’s made with beef heart.

      The bottom line is, protein is expensive. If it’s a priority for your husband, he needs to get on board with finding out how to achieve his protein goals in a more cost effective manner. It’s also very possible to bulk prep food when you’re focused on health and fitness.

      Oh! One more thing. I made quinoa in the rice cooker the other day and added a chicken broth bullion cube. Super easy and delicious.

  • Reply Carina |

    How many credit cards do you have? Have you listed those out with rates anywhere? You can’t afford to tackle them all at once and you need to pick one and tackle it. Then so on and so on. Maybe just double the payment for now and take your other money and build up a little savings cushion. I know it may sound crazy to save when you have debt but you need to get $1,000 saved because life WILL happen. And you can’t afford to not be a little prepared for it. So I’d go back to paying minimums on the cards or at least all but one of them and start trying to get a little money saved.

    You and your husband should have a weekly meeting after the kids are asleep to discuss your plan and see if you’re still on track. Right now it’s all overwhelming because it seems like you’re just flying by the seat of your pants hoping it all works out. You need to find a, starting point, you can’t eliminate it all at once at this rate. Sit down and get a budget and meal, plan for a week at, a time, search for coupons and deals. Take a calculator when you go in the store so you know exactly where your money’s going and you can better limit yourself to impulse purchases. Definitely don’t eat out, it’s way too expensive. Take turns cooking every other night so you don’t get burned out of cooking and cleaning.

    Can either of you do anything for extra cash? There’s apps like Mercari and Poshmark that you can sell old clothes on and make some extra money. I’ve used them and made a few hundred bucks. I never had much luck with ebay but these apps are easier to use I think.

    I’m still not sure how you got back into this debt situation. I guess losing hubby’s income wasn’t correctly planned out? To live on one income it takes some serious lifestyle changes. You can’t keep eating the same way you did before, you’ve got to change your perspective. I feel like you are just overwhelmed. A lot has and is happening and it’s hard to put your full focus into this but really sit down and focus on a place to start and go from there.

  • Reply Mary |

    There are good tips here and good points. Definitely batch cook and meal prep prior to the start of the week. I would also nix ‘eating out’ in your budget for the time being. As hard of a sacrifice as this may be, it’s possible and needs to be done. Once you’re out of the hole, you’ll appreciate all the sacrifices you’ve made and it’ll be great motivation to keep pushing forward.

  • Reply Molly |

    Honestly, when I see $1000/month for food I just want to throw up my hands. And you do not have teenagers but two tiny little girls. Ashley, this is just out of control! I can’t even… It’s like you have not learned a single thing in all these months (years) of blogging and soliciting advice.

    This has to be sliced—like yesterday. You can immediately free up $400-500 dollars each month just by getting your food under control. I also think doing this will translate into other areas of your life because you will be much more cognizant of your spending.

    You have to have a food plan. It takes about 30 minutes each week to come up with a simple menu and another hour or more to grocery shop. Some food prep could take another hour or so each week. You can get simple meals on the table in less than an hour, and much of this is just letting it bake in the oven or simmer in a pot. Use things like bagged lettuce, rotisserie chicken or other shortcuts. It’s still a lot cheaper than eating out. Your husband MUST help with the shopping and cooking. It’s only fair when both parents work.

    I hate to sound harsh, but you are not working hard enough on this. I worked full time with four kids. Seriously, we only ate out in restaurants about 4 times/year as a family. My husband and I put nutritious meals on the table every single day on a modest income. I feel like it is a broken record reading about your finances. You and your husband are stuck because you are not doing what you know you must do. You can make these budget lists until the cows come home, but unless you implement some changes, you are going to continue to spin your wheels.

    • Reply margann34 |

      I fully agree that Ashley knows all of this. Deep down, she knows exactly what she needs to do. I suspect there is something going on in her life that goes beyond money. The money problems are just a symptom of that other problem, whatever it is. She has talked a lot about being overwhelmed. I hope she can get counseling to help her get to a place where she can fully commit to tackling this debt.

  • Reply klm |

    $1000 per month is high. I mean, I get it. Eating out for 4, even with 2 littles is hard to do for less than $45 or $50 by the time you do tax and tip. But I think $300 is high, especially while you’re trying to work down unexpected debt. So, I would halve that amount, and look for ‘kids eat free’ places (that is, a kid eats free with a paid grown up’s meal). We have a bunch here, typically at fast casual type places, but that’s a place to start.
    Eat down the freezer and pantry. If you’re like me, there are some random cans of stewed tomatoes and half full boxes of lasagne noodles, a impulse bought bag of frozen rolls, and so on.
    Maybe track all your food related spending in April (including restaurants) and post it. Then you can also look at what you waste (no judgement–we end up tossing a lot of produce that I had great plans for).
    I’d also ease back on the Dream Dinners. If you’re really smitten with them, ask for a session there as a gift for your birthday or something.

  • Reply Lorij |

    I think it’s pretty obvious that Ashley and her husband are not on the same page in their debt reduction journey. I can’t imagine how overwhelming it must be to feel alone with all of the debt that they BOTH have accrued. Regardless, until her husband pitches in with the child care, food prep, etc. this will be a never ending struggle for her. I think a sit down with hubby is in order now where his money earned is included in the FAMILY pot, not his and theirs.

  • Reply C@thesingledollar |

    I agree with some of the above posters — you clearly don’t like cooking/shopping. That’s been true for years! But you’ve had times when you’re less stressed and you’ve done it and cut down the food expenses. Then you get more stressed and food gets out of control. It’s totally understandable. At the same time, if you want to make any headway, it’s the one area where you can do that. I honestly don’t understand why your husband doesn’t take on some of the food prep. If neither of you likes it, you should both be doing some of it. You’re working full time! The household is not your 100% job too!

    That said, if your husband won’t shop and cook, your other alternative is to eat more peanut butter sandwiches, frozen pizza, and pasta with jarred sauce. It won’t kill you! I ate a cheese sandwich and an apple pretty much every other night for dinner for years. It’s a little monotonous but it’s better than spending $1000 a month for food.

  • Reply debtor |

    why do people keep saying her husband doesn’t help with meal prep? Reread so many times and I don’t see her say that so genuinely confused. It seems there’s a lot of assuming going on.

  • Reply Anon |

    Ashley mentioned once before that she likes her husband and her to work toward his/her strengths. Apparently hers is the whole meal planning/cooking thing, so it appears she has taken that responsibility on. But it’s not working! Time for them to get on the same page and tag team this.

So, what do you think ?