Feeding my Family on $80 for a Month Part IIII

case-of-money

By Liz

 

If you haven’t had a chance, please check out Part I; Part II and Part III of this series.

Well, here we are…week 4 on my quest to save $500 for a month by only spending $80 for groceries for the past 30 days for my family of 7 plus 4 dogs.  In case you forgot, as I mentioned in my Penny Pinching June article, we have a decent sized walk in pantry, a chest freezer, a refrigerator in the kitchen and a refrigerator in the garage (used for mostly defrosting food or overflow of milk, eggs and other items) so prior to this experiment we had a decent stock pile of meat, dry goods and bread the only thing I was needing to purchase for the past month was items like milk, dairy and produce as these all have a short shelf life.

 


So how did I do this week with only $16.50 left of my $80 cash budget?

I can tell you, we put a really good dent in our food stockpile over the past month and we are down to our last loaf of bread, but we still have enough to probably use this method for another week or so, however, my family has been getting a little antsy when it comes to their guilty pleasures, things like ice cream, cookies, chips and soda, basically, all those treats they are used to having during the summer.

Now I admit, I do indulge my family on these items some of the time. We do not have these things on a regular basis in our home. In order for me to save money regularly, we don’t always have said treats and junk food. I usually make one or two baked goods for the week (a batch of cookies or a cake), things like chips and soda usually make an appearance in our house if we are having a cookout or the rest of the family comes over and although we eat our fair share of ice cream during the summer, I have noticed that generally by the 4th of July, the family starts getting burned out on it and by mid-August, I am discarding these now freezer burned treats.

Again this final week, I went to Aldi, still avoiding the variety and temptations that Winco has to offer, here is a snapshot and list of what I purchased this week:

80-dollars-prt-4-02
2 gallons of milk
10 pounds of potatoes
Bananas
Garlic
1 package of cheese slices
1 jar peanut butter

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For a grand total of $14.44. YAY!!! I actually came in under budget with $2.06 left to spare!

So what did we eat for this week?

Monday: Slow cooker, smothered chicken queso over rice.

Tuesday: Grilled hot Italian sausages and pierogies.

Wednesday: BBQ chicken on the grill/foil packet veggies (onion; summer squash & mushrooms)/garlic bread.

Thursday: Fresh slow cooker pinto beans/quesadillas.

Friday: Caprese salad pasta tossed with whatever was leftover of the sausages and chicken.

Saturday: Basil mac and cheese/fried chicken (that I forgot we had and was found in our chest freezer).

Sunday: Grilled steak/baked beans/simple salad with cucumbers and tomatoes.

Looking back, I am thankful it was a successful experiment and I was actually able to save my family the $500, if not more for the month. This was a challenge though, not going to lie about it, I probably would have had an easier go of it, if my meal planning was not as vast as it was and we ate things like beans and rice every Sunday or homemade pizza every Friday, but like I said previously, we like variety and it was nice to know that I was able to accomplish that with my stockpile and pantry offerings, sprinkled in with some fresh perishables.

piggy-bank

As previously mentioned, I will probably institute these kinds of penny pinching months at least twice a year into our savings plan and depending on what kind of deals I can gather during the regular months, and probably to the dismay of family, maybe, eventually make this a quarterly event. I will keep you updated.




My Menu Planning System

 

schedule

By Liz

I often get asked how I come up with a variety of nutritious, delicious, cost efficient meals for me and my family of 7. Unlike most meal and money saving plans, we really, really like to have variety. So one thing that you might notice here, is we don’t have pizza or rice and beans on our menu once a week, each of those is more like once a month.

My system maybe old school, but it is what works best for us.  On our fridge, there are two empty, monthly, block style calendars.  One is for the kids to post their work schedules and school hours and any kind of extra activity that may arise that is out of the norm.  The other is used for dinner planning, as it is the main meal in our house. Also on our fridge is a note pad to be used when I do our weekly grocery shopping.  This is a running list of items that we are either out of, or we are low on.  I have tried to challenge myself to go grocery shopping once a month, but our family goes through a lot of milk, fresh fruit and vegetables.

For our family of 7 we have the fridge in our kitchen, however, its design lacks optimal storage space on the inside, but it came with the house, so it is ours until it dies. We also have an extra fridge that is in our garage that holds mostly beverages, overflow of milk, eggs, juice and coffee creamer as well as meat that needs to be thawed or cut to portion size pieces; the top freezer portion contains bread, rolls, bagels muffins and buns.  In addition we have a 12 cubic foot chest freezer that holds primarily meat, batch cooked meals, ice cream, frozen vegetables and any kind of convenience food that we found worth our hard earned dollars and passes our personal, nutritional guidelines. Also worth mentioning is that we have a good size walk in pantry for all of our dry goods and staples.




Once a week, I will sit down with the kids’ and menu planning calendars and start filling in my dinner menu. I will browse my chest freezer for meat, chicken or fish, check my vegetables and dry goods to pair it with and start building my week of menus. Since the kids’ schedule is ever changing, I do this on a weekly and not a monthly basis, but it is nice to see what we had to eat in a month’s time. It also helps me fill out my running grocery list. If I am in need of an ingredient or will be using the last of a staple, then up on the list it goes.

I don’t plan out our breakfasts. Our house contains mostly adults and not all of us are morning people. I myself, rarely eat breakfast, I know it is the most important meal of the day, but I have always struggled with eating in the mornings.  I am good with just a cup of coffee or two. Some of the family however does like eating early in the morning and because of that there is always a supply of eggs, fruit, bread, jam, peanut butter, oatmeal, yogurt, premade muffins, breakfast sandwiches or burritos (that I make up in batches every two weeks).  We do share a weekly breakfast together, after Sunday service; I will cook brunch for the family that usually consists of a meat, toast, potatoes and eggs made to order, fresh hot coffee, juice and or milk. Once a month I will make either French toast or pancakes served with fresh fruit in place of the toast and potatoes.

Lunches are not planned out either, due to different schedules.  Our house has a revolving door between the hours of 7:00 a.m. to midnight, between work, school and socialization. So our lunches tend to be mostly leftovers, either as is or reworked a little. For instance, if the previous night we had chicken or steak, lunch then becomes either fajitas or quesadillas or if we have leftover baked potatoes from the night before, this easily becomes a broccoli and cheese stuffed potato for lunch.  We also, always have tuna, peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese on hand in case someone wants a sandwich.

market

My system makes it easy for me make the most of the money we spend on groceries. Since we have a freezer full of bread products, I only shop for this once a month. Since we have a freezer full of meat, I only pick more up if I come across a great deal (and I usually do) during my shopping trip. Since we have extra fridge space in the garage, I can stock up on milk, juice and eggs for the week and since we have pantry space, I can stock up on dry goods when they have reached rock bottom prices.

I love to cook and even though I have a formal education in culinary arts, it is not always very practical when operating a large household.  My menu planning contains mainly easy, healthy dishes that require minimum ingredients, time and most important….minimal clean up. Again, it might not work for all, but this is what works for us.