Friday, July 24, 2009

Budget update

Time to tally up what we've spent so far this week. We've had yet another change of plans for the weekend, and this time it may cost us, so what do I have left?

Spending so far:
  • Acme: $61.25
  • Mom's dinner out: $17.00
  • Ice cream treat mid-week: $10.34

Total so far: $88.59

Left to spend: $11.41

To finish the week, we'll need: bread, milk, lettuce (maybe), granola bars and other trail snacks for hub's hike.

Can we do it? We'll see!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tentative menu for week of 7/20

I think I have some ideas for a menu for this week. It's a little up in the air, but it's a particularly low-budget menu, so I'll use up the extra cash to go out with some moms from a local homeschooling group tonight, and to stock up on chicken which is 50% off at Acme this week!

Breakfasts: cereal, oatmeal, maybe some homemade bagels if I'm feeling ambitious

Lunches: Sandwiches, soup from the stash and freezer, and cut veggies

Monday: Hot dogs, pasta salad, and fresh cukes from the garden for DH and kids (I'm going to Cheesburger in Paradise!)
Tuesday: Salads with grilled pork and homemade ranch dressing (I'm so craving this right now! And I'll substitute whatever meat fits in the budget if need be)
Wednesday: Homemade pizzas with sausage and spinach (for the grown-ups) and plain cheese (for the kids). Dessert night: Chocolate cake
Thursday: Leftover night (most likely salads - and cake, of course!)
Friday: Baked ziti with tomatoes (this is ridiculously easy, which is good because I'm babysitting until 8pm)
Saturday: Finish up whatever salad stuff is left and have some more pasta
Sunday: Grilled or baked chicken, potatoes and veggies with homemade salsa (have to use up some garden hot peppers!)

One of my goals this week was to start using the sweet italian sausage I have in the freezer. I love to eat it on sandwiches with peppers and onions, but no one else in my house does! So this week I'll try it on pizza. How would you use up that kind of sausage?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Plans are made to change, right?

I will say that Week 1 of the All You Grocery Challenge was a success for me! As I approached the end of the week, I realized that I hadn't checked my pantry as carefully as I should have before setting out for the store, but a few little substitutions, and we made out a-ok!

Our week also included one unplanned stop at McD's for coveted Dawn of the Dinosaurs Happy Meal toys. Even with that splurge, our grand total for the week was $74.65!

The end of the week had me scrambling to change things up, though. We decided to visit my parents for their church's first block party in quite a long time. So other than breakfast, we didn't use or buy any of our own food on Saturday and Sunday.

That gives me some leftovers to work with this week. In fact, I'm feeling a little under the weather today, so I'm glad I won't be rushing off to the grocery store tomorrow morning. My upset tummy doesn't even want to look at food ads or recipes right now. Not sure whether I've got a bug or I had one halupki or bleenie too many at the party, but tomorrow it'll be broth and tea for me, hot dogs for hub and kiddos!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cutting the bill with coupons

I can remember sitting at my parents' kitchen table cutting out coupons for my Dad who was the primary grocery shopper in our house. I don't know that it did us much good then. Dad was a sale shopper, and if it was on sale, or he had a coupon, it was in the cart whether we would use it or not.

A few years later I found myself working at the corner grocery store, a small, family-owned local shop. When I worked my way up to helping out in the office, part of my job was to take all of the coupon fliers out of the leftover Sunday papers and cut and sort them. No doubt the owners of the store sent them to manufacturers as if they had been used. I'm pretty sure that was fraud, but the lottery caught up with them for fraud before any food manufacturer did. But I digress...

I started cutting coupons for myself about two months ago. So far they're only organized in a manila envelope. I depend on a few blogs to help me with deal matching since the big sites like Coupon Mom and Grocery Game don't match my local stores. But mostly I end up doing most of the matching myself. For the first few weeks, it was an absolute exercise in frustration. Going through my coupon pile over and over, and page after page of flyers from 3 different stores, trying to guess at regular prices, and wondering if Wal-Mart or a generic brand would be cheaper in the end anyhow.... I drove myself nearly to tears.

So I began to formulate a better strategy. I don't go wild with the coupon flyers. I still only buy a single copy of the Sunday paper. And when I sit down to clip, I ONLY clip things I know I can use. I hang on to the rest of the flyer and tuck it in the manila folder just in case, but it gives me a lot less to go through on match-up day. There are lots of sites with printable coupons as well, and this can get really crazy! I visit those sites only after I've made up my menu and shopping list and then see if there's anything I can use, maybe even adjusting an ingredient here or there if a coupon is available.

When I did this week's shopping and spent that grand total of less than $50, I had only saved $6 from coupons, and $4 of that was a catalina from the store for spending a certain amount 2 weeks before. So I think it is absolutely possible to do grocery shopping on a budget without stress about couponing! But of course I'm always looking for tips and tricks to do even better!

How do you coupon? Do you find it invaluable or frustrating? What about the idea that coupons are often for boxed or other processed foods? How do you fit those into your family's lifestyle? I'd love to hear from everyone and anyone out there!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Week 1 of All You grocery challenge

This is week 1 of the All You Grocery Challenge from All You magazine!

I took care to plan ahead this week and try to get my spending as slim as possible. I left room for milk and bread runs later in the week, and other ingredients I might find I'm lacking (such as yeast and flour).

I've been grocery shopping once this week to my local Weis Markets and my total was: $47.18

I'll comment on my planning and challenges in a later post, but for now, here is my menu plan:

Breakfasts this week:
  • cereal
  • bagels or english muffins
  • eggs (have some in fridge to use up)
  • bacon (taken out of freezer to use in soup, so now I have to use up the rest)


  • sandwiches
  • soup
  • salads

Dinners (I'll link in any recipes I used where possible):

  • Monday: soup (homemade Ham and Bean), salad and bread
  • Tuesday: salad, stuffed squash, and probably sandwiches for the kids
  • Wednesday: grilled chicken, peas and beans from the garden, rice
  • Thursday: turkey meatloaf, roast carrots and potatoes
  • Friday: leftover night
  • Saturday: soup and salad
  • Sunday: penne ala "not"-ka

Give me a challenge...

Ok, ok... so I'm lousy at this blogging thing. Ah, but give me a challenge and you're sure to bring me out of the woodwork!

For the next month, All You magazine has challenged readers to limit their grocery spending to $25 per person in their household. For me, that means $100 per week, which is above where I actually want to be. They're offering a contest (though I believe sign-ups have closed) and one lucky winner will receive $1000 in grocery prizes!

Bring it on!!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I found it!

Ah, that Acme receipt finally turned up, so I can post my spending summary for the week thus far.

In my second check-out at Acme on 5/31, I picked up
  • 2 5-packs of Kraft Mac N Cheese
  • 2 10-packs of Capri Sun Sunrise
  • jar of mayonnaise
  • 2-liter of A&W root beer
  • half-gallon of Edy's Ice Cream
  • 2 boxes of Eggo waffles

Grand total: $8.69

So this month so far (I'm counting 5/31 for June): $79.83

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Menu for week of 5/31

Sunday: Soup, leftovers
Hamburgers, baked fries, root beer floats
Monday: Make bagels, muffins to stock freezer for breakfasts
Salads for dinner
Tuesday: Cereal, frozen waffles
Mac N Cheese (for kids), leftover salad (for me)
Soup and sandwiches for dinner
Wednesday: Bagel with egg
String cheese and salads for lunch
Spaghetti and turkey meatballs

After that I'm stumped... I'll be cleaning out the fridge this week and trying to use up what we have on hand. So it looks like leftovers or homemade pizza for Thursday and Friday. We'll be out of the house Saturday.

(Not the healthiest menu for me, but typically I eat veggies or soup where everyone else is having a sandwich.)

Acme shopping and deals for 5/31

I got up early this morning (before my son commenced vomiting, fortunately) and picked up some deals at Acme. Some were major luck... the person checking out in front of me didn't wait for her coupons from the printer, so the cashier gave them to me. I scored a coupon for $2 off the next purchase and a free Edy's Ice Cream! I made a second trip into the store to pick up the ice cream and more Kraft deals, but I've lost that second receipt, so until I find it, here are the highlights from my first check-out:

Bisquick - $3.69 less .60 coupon doubled = $2.49
Kraft MacNCheese - 5 packs were BOGO + each pack had a tear off coupon for a free box of Capri Sun orange juice packs, so I got 10 boxes of Mac N Cheese + 20 Capri Sun packets for $5.29! This also triggered a register coupon for $2 off my next order!
5lb Green Giant Russet potatoes - $1.49
Kellogg's Corn Flakes - $1.99 with a tear off coupon for $1 off fresh fruit, which I was buying anyway, so I used that toward bananas.

Typically I do my grocery shopping at a Wal-Mart Supercenter or Giant, but being early AM and my family in need of groceries this week, I didn't have a ton of time to plan ahead and shop around. Some items seemed extremely expensive to me.
For example, ground turkey was $4.79 for 1.3lb. I bought 1lb at Wal-Mart later today for $1.76.
Hard salami is a staple in our deli drawer as my husband packs a sandwich every day for work, and when it's not on sale at Giant, I pay $5.99 per pound. Today, I paid $4 for half a pound.

Lesson learned: Shop Acme for the deals, and stick to the other stores for other items!

Today's total: $71.14

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Planning shopping for week of 5/31

Some thoughts on planning for the upcoming week:

  • My hub and kids don't need to slim down at all, but I do need to shed some pounds and that's a major struggle in my planning. My son and I watched a few episodes of "Cook Yourself Thin" on Lifetime on-demand this week and a few recipes caught his eye: Stuffed French Toast Sundaes (probably too pricey for this week), Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (thinking about making a big batch of these to take for vacation breakfasts), and Spaghetti and Meatballs (have a stockpile of spaghetti).
  • I made some homemade English Muffins this week and they were a hit! I would also try to make some bagels, again as something we can take along on a mini-vacation we're planning. So I need to restock flour, and possibly yeast.
  • Whole chickens are BOGO at our local Acme this week, so perhaps I can work that in somehow. I have a great recipe for high-temp roasted chicken that involves using potatoes to soak up some of the drippings. Not calorie-friendly, but potatoes are also on sale, so it may be a good week for that.
  • A few things to work around this week: Monday is our wedding anniversary (aww) but we probably won't go out, so maybe I could make something special at home; I do babysitting for a friend, and on those days when there's an extra toddler in the house, dinner prep is tough so need to make-ahead or make it super-easy; my Bible study group meets on Tuesday so I will eat with them, but still need to have something ready for hub and kids.

I'll do my grocery shopping tonight or tomorrow and come back with my receipt and meal plan!

Into the Garden

Well, that November plan didn't work out so well, did it? *wink*

But it's spring, and I'm back! We have so many interesting things going on around here to make our budget in the kitchen that I'm going to have to blog it because I'm just so flippin' excited! So what's new and exciting, you ask?

Our garden!!!

Last year for my birthday, my dear husband bought me a copy of
All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholemew. How thoughtful, right? Yeah, I thought so too. But it worked out for the best. All winter, we planned and plotted (teehee) and could hardly way for the snow to melt so we could get started.

In early April, we got started, and my husband built the first box. We mixed up our soil and started planting!

It has certainly been an adventure. Hub does all of the muscle work, and I do all of the planning for what goes in which square and when. Of course, the kids have to be in on the action too, so they dig little holes and drop in the seeds, help water and pull the rare weed (one of the benefits of this method of gardening. We're learning so much! And we've already harvested the first spinach that we added to salads just this afternoon!

Since we got our gardening groove on, we even put in a peach tree!
But let's not get too excited about those little peaches there. We've been told to prune this baby aggressively so that in about 3 years time we'll have a wonderfully productive tree with large fruit. For now, we've picked off the little fruit that started to grow and are letting the energy go into the branches. At some point over the summer (or maybe it's early next year?), we'll trim back any spindly branches and let the larger ones continue to grow. Rinse and repeat... and THEN we should be able to let it fruit the following year. Ah, patience is a virtue. I'm learning a lot about that with this garden :)

It is fun, however, to see everything start sprouting. We have 3 nearly complete squares now, a few pots on the deck and even a box raised on legs for salad greens, herbs and strawberries that is conveniently located right outside our kitchen door! The kids are going to love those berries! I'm guessing there won't be any around for jam-making, but that's ok!

Stay tuned throughout the summer and fall to see what we yield from this labor of love!