Feeding my Family on $80 for a Month Part IIII

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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:

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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.




Feeding my Family on $80 for a Month Part III

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By Liz

If you are just tuning in, feel free to check out Part I and Part II of this series.

So how did I do this week with only $32.10 of my $80 for my Penny Pinching June?

We are really getting down to the wire here and although my dry pantry staples and freezer are still in good shape, it is really things like my perishables I am having issue with. 

We are starting to miss a lot of dairy, items such as cheese, margarine, yogurt, sour cream and now that summer is here, ice cream.  I have been substituting real butter for the margarine, and while agree it tastes better and is better for us, real butter is expensive and does not stretch as far as margarine in certain recipes so I had to break down and get a tub.

Again I went to Aldi, I think I have been doing this to avoid Winco, there are just too many options at Winco, and I feel like I would be overly tempted to purchase more and blow through my cash budget.

Here is a snapshot and list of what I purchased this week:

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1 tub margarine

1 package cream cheese

1 package tortillas

2 dozen eggs

2 rolls of ground turkey

4 avocados

4 peaches

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I spent a total of $14.63 at Aldi.  Shortly after I got home, I realized I forgot to pick up milk, thankfully one of the boys was already out for the day, so I texted him and asked him to pick up 2 gallons, but he only brought home 1 (kids…insert big sigh here). I repaid him the 97 cents for the milk at dinner time. So my grand total spent for the day was $ 15.60, leaving me $16.50 for my final week of this challenge.




So what did we eat for this week?

Monday: Chili Dog Enchilada Casserole/ homemade potato wedges.

Tuesday: Pork Chili

Wednesday: Hamburgers/macaroni salad.

Thursday: Pizza (prior to the month I had found some rather large take and bake pizza’s that were discounted at Walmart so I picked up a couple and had them in stored in my freezer).

Friday:  Lemon Chicken Penne/garlic bread/salad.

Saturday: Spaghetti with Bolognese sauce (I had a spaghetti squash in my fridge for quite some time, so I made this for me instead of the pasta to cut back on the carbs.

Sunday: In honor of Father’s day and in an attempt to spoil my husband who is also a fabulous dad…I made steaks on the grill (that I butchered from a roast)/garlic smashed potatoes/green beans with lemon/sourdough rolls/dark chocolate cake with fresh raspberries.

One more week and it is going to be a huge challenge since our micro garden is now exploding and I need to put those ingredients to use, personally, I am starting to have cheese withdrawal and its summer so my kids want to know…WHERE IS THE ICE CREAM???

 

 


Five Frugal Friday

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By Liz

Summer is here, the days are getting hotter and longer and our revolving door is in full swing with work, education, cookouts, vacations and family time.  Looking at that list you would think that it might be tough to save some cash, but here are some things I did this week that saved us some green.

garden-jalepenos

1. Spared some jalapenos.  Our jalapeno plants are taking off this year, so much so that there is only so much I can serve my family.  I harvested this batch for the day and flash froze them for future in salsas, food bowls, and my open faced jalapeno bombs.

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2. Used a fresh harvest for dinner. Keeping with our micro gardening theme, two days after I flash froze all those jalapenos, we had a few more that were ready to be used, along with a bell pepper and a handful of pitiful shaped Roma tomatoes. I peeled and pureed the tomatoes, diced up all the peppers and used them in my pork chili that evening.

detailing

3. Detailed the inside of my car. This one was really all my hubby’s doing. My car has been used this spring to haul bags of dirt, compost, free fire wood, and hairy dogs. To say that the inside of my car needed a good cleaning would be an understatement.  My hubby spent hours going through every little nook and cranny.  My car looks and smells new again and we didn’t have to pay to have it professionally serviced.

hair-color

4. I colored my hair. Probably much to the dismay of my hair stylist (sorry Leslie), I color my own hair approximately every 4 to 6 weeks. I know that the day will come when I will need to seek professional services for this bit of vanity, but for right now, I can get away with a box of hair color that is less than $10, and believe it or not, I always seem to get compliments on my hair, so I know that I have a chosen a color that suits me and doesn’t make me look like I have clown colored hair.

payroll-studies

5. I am spending my Saturday’s this summer keeping up my certification. OK, depending on how you look at this one, it might not really be considered frugal. Every 5 years I have to re-certify as a CPP (Certified Payroll Professional) making sure I am up to date on the latest rules and laws as it governs the payroll industry. Even though I am unsure if I will ever go back to this profession, education is never a waste of one’s time or money. (and it never hurts to have a Plan B in your back pocket).

So there you have it, some ways I was able to save some dough this week. What kinds of things did you do to save some moola?

 


Feeding my Family on $80 for a Month Part I

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By Liz

Last week I announced that I was instituting a Penny Pinching June here at the house since I have felt like we had been “bleeding” money for the last couple of months. I wanted to reign in some of our spending while building our savings account back up to my “I can sleep at night” comfort level.

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I had taken an inventory of our current stock of foods from the pantry, freezer and fridge, did a small amount of stocking up in May on those staple items we seem to plow through and have decided that I would buy nothing else for the month of June and we would be living off of what we already had on hand.

My regular food budget for our family of 7, is approximately $600/month; however my challenge and goal for the month of June is to spend only $80 for the month on the perishables that I know have a much smaller window when it comes to expiration dates, items such as milk, eggs and fresh produce.

You might be wondering how I came up with the amount of $80. To be honest, it was what I had left in my wallet after my last grocery shopping trip in May.  I did however sit down and ran the numbers really quick on the perishable items listed above to see if this was a realistic amount, turns out; it is if I want to reach my goal of saving $500 this month.

As you may have deduced, $80 for the month, equals roughly $20 for the week. That sounds crazy…right?  C’mon…$20 per week for a family of 7 + 3 dogs?  Impossible you might say, well I guess we will find out together.

Thursday’s are my “running day”, the day when I do the majority of my shopping, errands and appointments and this past Thursday was my first attempt at shopping on this small budget. I had a very short shopping list with me that included only my absolute necessary perishables and my $80 in cash. I left all other means to pay (credit and debit cards/checkbook) at home. This day, I had a lot of errands to take care of, so I decided to shop at my local Aldi, which I would be passing on my route home. The entire time I was in the store adding items to my cart, I was doing the math and making a conscience effort not to go over $20. Currently, the price of eggs and milk are pretty low here in Texas, so I am taking full advantage of these particular 2 items that I can never seem to keep on hand with my brood and the rest were purchases that I needed, but looked for the best deal in the store and if it wasn’t within my price range or keeping within my budget…I put it back down.

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Here is a snapshot of everything I purchased that day:

2 packs of chicken thighs

1 gallon of milk

2 packages of mozzarella block cheese

1 container of cream cheese

1 container of ricotta cheese

1 (1) pound package of black forest ham

Bananas

3 dozen eggs

2 containers of strawberries

1 head of cauliflower

3 pounds of onions

My total came up a little higher than I wanted, it was $26.21, leaving me $53.79 for the next 3 weeks, but I am confident I will be able to pull it off.

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In my previous Penny Pinching June article, I said that we would have a monthly menu that included variety, and not just a diet of beans and rice or PB & J sandwiches. Here is what was we ate so far since June 1st until this posting.

Thursday:  Slow cooker corned beef and veggies.

Friday: Loaded Nachos, with beans, cheese, jalapenos, salsa and sour cream

Saturday: We were visiting my sister and brother-in-law, so we were invited to have dinner at their house.

Sunday: Grilled chicken thighs, potato salad and garden salad.

You might be wondering about breakfast and lunch. In our house, we all have different schedules as our kids are mostly teens and young adults, these two eating periods are an “every man for himself” situation. We always have a variety of breakfast and lunch items on hand; plenty of bread and bread like options (bagels, tortillas, English muffins), oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, cheese, eggs, sandwich meat, pre-cooked and frozen meats and pastas (made previously, bagged into portion sizes and then frozen), or the inevitable leftovers from the night before.

As a parent, and provider I have always felt this drive to ensure that my family is well fed and nourished, after all it’s one of our a basic necessities, because of that, we always have a decent size stock pile and selection in our freezer and pantry. And just as I have a certain discomfort level when our bank account drops below a certain amount, I have the same apprehension when it comes to the inventory of food in our home. I have to admit, that as I start this month, I feel as though we are in good shape and I am confident, at this point, I will make my goal, however, it will be interesting to see how I feel towards the end of the month, when my pantry and freezer starts to really look bare and I run out of cash. So I invite you to stay tuned to see how this experiment winds up, won’t you?



Saving $500 or More in One Month

 

shopping cart

By Liz

Living on one income, there are certain times throughout the year that make me anxious.  For one reason or another, we hit those irregular bills and I watch our account dwindle a little to the point it makes me start to wonder if leaving the work force was the right decision.  So much so, that I usually start dusting off my resume and start looking at the job boards again.

My husband will tell you that I over react during these times and that he could set his watch by them.  Looking at our books, I know we are fine, but when we hover around or we go below that “cushion” number in our account, it starts to make me lose sleep.  We have always rebounded, and brought that “cushion” back up, but there is always the looming question…what if we don’t?

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Summer time is one of those times of the year that make me feel financially uneasy.  I guess it stands to reason with payouts that include; increased electric bills with more people being home during the day watching T.V., playing video games, charging laptops, phones, etc…not to mention the A/C running to cool the house down in the Texas heat. Our water bill goes up, due to watering the lawn, the garden, extra showers, and laundry;  our food bill increases with hungry boys and one girl in and out of the house all summer; and then there is summer vacation and we all know how expensive that can be.

water

Now believe me when I tell you, I have done what I can to economize in ALL of these areas.  The A/C is on an automatic timer and is at a reasonable setting; laundry only gets washed when there are full loads to be done; showers are timed; and there are some years we don’t take a summer vacation, we didn’t last year, and I have to tell you, this year it is much needed. That leaves me with our food budget and while not completely out of control for a family of 7 and 4 dogs, it could still use some trimming.

Our average monthly food budget is approximately $600 for 7 people and 4 dogs, that breaks down to roughly $6.75 per person, per meal. Some would say this is to high, some will say that is low. Personally, I think it is too high and I want to start cutting back in this area in order to help reach some financial goals.



This past winter, I instituted “no spenduary” during the month of February.  After the holidays, I took inventory of our pantry, freezers and fridges and did a little bit of stocking up on staples that we plow through, things like potatoes, flour, sugar, coffee, pasta, rice, etc… Also, during the month of January if I saw rock bottom prices on meat, chicken or fish, I bought an extra pack or two then during the month of February, I did not do any grocery shopping.  We made do with what we already had in our inventory.  I did give myself a very small cash budget for the month to purchase some perishables such as milk, eggs and some fresh produce like lettuce, onions, bananas (since these things don’ t keep well for an entire month), but there were no large hauls, no overspending and in fact we wound up saving about $300 that month.

With summer just about to start, and having that “irky” feeling about our account again, I have decided to take the same action and I am instituting penny pinching June in our house. I have gone through our inventory, and have concluded that minus those perishables we have more than enough in our stash to make it through the month of June.  I am also giving myself a VERY strict, cash budget of only $80 to buy perishables for the month (crazy…right?).

beans

Now you might be thinking that, I will be feeding my family a steady stream of rice and beans, peanut butter and jelly, eggs made up, six ways to Sunday, but I want to be able to show that with a little creativity, we will have a variety of menu options by making do with what we already have on hand.  For the next 4 Mondays, my entries will be about my accountability and what we are eating and how far I can make that $80 stretch.

 

money

My goal is to be able to save $500 for the month of June.  This may not seem like a lot in today’s economy for a family of 7, but just like in February, I found myself and the rest of my family trying to save and economize in other ways as well, such as using the library more, car pooling with each other or friends, not buying that much “wanted” new video game (obviously, that one was for the kids), finding free or low cost entertainment, ditching the sodas for water, finding the locations for the lowest gas prices, etc.. It did my heart proud as the family followed my lead and took their own initiative to save some of their hard earned cash.

I know there are going to be times that myself or a family member will have a craving for some fast food or take out, or I will be tempted to pick up that amazing deal at the store when I walk in with my tiny amount of cash, earmarked for only the few perishables I will need and I will want to give in and take out my credit card, but I am hoping my resolve will be strong. In fact, I will be leaving the credit card at home. So follow me on my penny pinching June journey and see if my goal is truly reachable.



Five Frugal for Friday

By Liz

Did you ever have those times when you felt like you were in a fog, and it lasted for a long time?  That was us this week.    At the beginning of the week, I got to meet up with an old friend for lunch and that was great. However, the rest of the week just seemed to have a heaviness to it that felt like it just would not go away which made the week seem endless, but thankfully it is now Friday and the weekend is upon us.

Here are my 5 frugal accomplishments for this week:

1. We flipped a car. This accomplishment was not intentional. We had purchased a used, “first car” to help a close relative over a year ago. At the time, they could not afford the car out right, and was considering a loan with a very high interest rate.  We were in the position to help out by purchasing the car in full, and the arrangements were, they were to pay us monthly, for the cost of the car (no interest or fees) until the car was paid for.  Unfortunately, that did not work out, so my wonderful, more than handy, mechanically inclined husband, did some minor repairs, buffed out scratches and touched up paint, detailed the car top to bottom and we flipped it for a profit that will pay for our summer vacation this year.

2. I made Saturday morning pastry. I always treat my family to some kind of pastry on Saturday morning, whether it is bakery bought donuts, bagels, or pan dulce. However, some Saturdays if the conditions are right and the motivation is there, I will bake. This past Saturday, I made both strawberry and cheese Danish.

 

3. I made bread crumbs. We seemed to have a variety of breads with our meals last week. We had sourdough, Italian, baguette, and pita ends and pieces sitting in bags on top of the fridge. So I took all of them and dried them out in the oven and ran them through the food processor.  It yielded me almost 2 cups of crumbs, which I then used to make a double batch of meatballs.

 

4. I made a batch of homemade pesto. We love pesto in our house. We use it on pasta, sandwiches and on meat, fish and some vegetables.  Our micro garden is in full bloom, so I used the basil from our garden to make a batch of pesto sauce. Making pesto does require a lot of basil and we only have to planters in our garden, so I basically wiped out our crop, but I am hopeful the plants will regenerate.


5. I gave myself an overdue pedicure.  I do my own pedicures at home every 2 weeks, keeping my toes looking fresh, however time got away from me this month and I had finally reconciled that I had the time to do it.  I set up shop on my back patio, with my pedicure kit, a book and a very large, icy glass of sparkling water and spent an hour of pampering time.

So those are some of the ways I saved some money this week. How were you able to save some of your hard earned cash this week?