March in Review

March was a different kind of month. I have really enjoyed the last week off for my spring break. I realized today that I would for 14 days(3 weeks) and have a long weekend at Easter. This should also work out timing wise so we can plant most of the square foot garden. This past week, I have spent a lot of time cooking and shopping!

We were able to stick to our menu planning for the majority of the month! Yesterday, Saturday the 30th was a total fail as we ate out breakfast and lunch. Dinner was a find your own meal, which meant lots of starch was consumed. I did not stick to the grocery budget in any shape form or fashion, in fact I spent $1100 for groceries this month. Check out this post if you want to see my rationale.

Driving is a way of life for use but I am just trying to get a firm idea of what we are spending each month in order to budget better, $565 is the number for March.

Unfortunately, we did not reduce our overall debt in the month of March.  I did keep track of spending. We ended up with 6 days of NO spending for the month. This appears to be a really low number to me. I would like to track April and hopefully will achieve at least 50% or 15 days of no spending for the month.

I have continued with completing either Bible study or reading at least 3 times a week!
I did not use the treadmill this month. I did have a doctor’s visit this past week and have lost 2 pounds in 3 months but am `5 pounds heavier than I was a year ago.  I am hopefully with the warmer weather and longer days to start walking on a more regular basis. The goal for April will be once a week or a total of 5 times during the month.

This is post number 15 for the month!  After two years, I have finally met this goal. Now to continue with the success!

We have continued to earn money with Swagbucks this month but are at our lowest point of $80 for the month. We have used this entire amount for working on things outside. The good news is that this means we have not spent anything on the square foot garden so we are eating free food at this point.

PLANS: One of the downfalls of my new job is that in both April and May my paycheck will be reduced by $500. I am going to track our spending very closely for now to try and maintain some balance. We will have 2 or more Baseball games a week but this should be less than $10 each week.  I plan to keep grocery shopping to a minimal of less than $100 as well. The countdown to summer is on; 12 weeks till I have an 8 week vacation!

What I did on Spring Break!

I have waited years to be able to post this! Actually, this was only a possibility starting in August of last year when I accepted the position with the Davie County school system. I had a couple of goals that I really wanted to accomplish while out and I am very excited to say that I was able to meet them all!

First I planned to make several trips to several different grocery stores in order to take advantage of sales and really stock up. I shopped at Shuler’s Meat Store,  Food Lion 4 times, Costco, Harris Teeter twice, Aldi at least three times, Walmart  and at 3 different Dollar Generals.  I talked at length about my grocery spending in this post. I was able to grab some winter clearance deals at Dollar General including gloves and fleece blankets for $1.50 each. Braxton got several new outfits.

Next on my to do list was cooking ahead. We are entering a busy season with baseball, art, church and end of school activities.  I can finally say that our freezer is full with easy to prepare and things we enjoy meals. I decided that instead of spending an entire day or two cooking, I would attempt to cook one extra meal each day.  On Monday, I purchased boneless chicken thighs and place them in two crockpots to cook while we did the bulk of our shopping. Dinner on Monday was a chicken from Costco with potato salad and cauliflower.  I did take the remaining chicken, sautéed some onions and carrots to use as a quick soup starter in the next couple of weeks.  Tuesday- I grounded up 3 roast from the freezer and made a 10# batch of taco meat (7 meals). I also shredded the chicken thighs and assembled 2 broccoli and chicken  casseroles for the freezer. We tried a new recipe for cube steak and loved it. Wednesday- I used the shredded chicken to assemble 2 chicken pies and 2 chicken pot pies for the freezer. Thursday- I grounded up 4 additional roast from the freezer to make sloppy joes out of 5 pounds (5 meals) and another 4 bags of browned hamburger meat to use as meal starters. Friday- We had grilled chicken for dinner, using up most of the salad ingredients in the refrigerator. I also assembled with some help 2 baked ziti.  We have a total of 23 prepped meals in the freezer!  On Saturday, Matt and I came up with a menu plan for the month of April. I will be adding to the freezer stash with hamburgers this week but otherwise cooking should really be assembling and heating for most of the month.

The final item on my to do list for Spring Break was cleaning out and organizing my closet.  I am wearing “real clothes” aka not scrubs to work everyday.  I needed to finish sorting through my clothes and getting rid of anything stained or out dated. I even managed to sort my pajama, underwear and socks.  I am very pleased with how neat and organized my closet is currently.

Grocery Spending

First a look at the numbers:
March Grocery spending prior to my Spring break  $304.20
Grocery Spending this week (Spring break  $754.25
Total Grocery Spending for March $1058.45
Total Grocery Spending for February $175

Budget for Groceries $450 each month

 

One of the reasons that I continue to update and blog is that it proves accountability for me of some form. In addition, it allows me to glance back that years past and give a better perspective.
March 2018 Spending $726.27          March 2016 Spending $200

Now, let me explain at least part of the spending.  I am enjoying a week long break from my job so I wanted to make sure I got lots of things in place to help the next 9-11 weeks go smoothly.  We are entering a “busy” season for us, baseball 2-3 nights a week and then swimming for everyone starts in early May. My goal this week was to prepare ahead as many meals as possible which in the long run will save both time and money. I am actually ahead for the most part with this goal, I have already gotten 13 meals in the freezer with plans for at least 7 more before the week ends. So that is a total of 20 evening meals in addition to the 5 for this week.  Just looking at that number I am averaging $42.33 a meal to feed 6 people.  I also purchased 30 lunchables for the kids to take to school so that also reduces the amount.

Another  way to look at my March spending is that I had $275 left in my grocery budget for February.  I also purchased enough food that I don’t plan to spend much of my April budget for groceries either so if I leave $100 in the grocery budget for April then I am back to my monthly average of $450.

After looking at the numbers, overall I am very pleased with both the amount of spending and the amount of food that I have prepped ahead of time. I did way over spend this month but if I can control spending for the next couple of month I will definitely be back on track!

Saving on Saturday 3/23/2019

One of the ways that we attempt to cut out grocery budget is with the purchase of an entire cow. We purchased 890# of meat approximately one year ago.  This works well for us especially since we have the freezer space for all this meat and some to spare. We have been enjoying beef several times a week but it has become really clear that we as a family do not like roast.  I have tried several different versions and ways to make the roast with different taste and it still does not end up being all that great, with lots of left-overs. However, we like ground beef and eat it a hundred different ways with no complaint. Now here is how we are saving money today. I purchased last month on Amazon on a 60% off sale a grinder that attaches to my Kitchen Aid Mixer.

Last night, I set 3 roast out to unthaw and today, I cut the bones out of each of them and then ground them up with the grinder. I will admit it was a little bit of work to get this accomplished but less than 2 hours for the entire process.  After grinding the hunks of roast into ground beef, I fried it up and tossed in the crockpot with taco seasoning and water.  The remaining bones and meat that was attached I placed in a second crock pot  and made beef broth that I will bag and freeze tomorrow.

I was able to take 3 meals that we would eat and not enjoy and turn into at least 7 meals that will be quick and easy to prep and at least 16 cups of beef broth. I am definitely calling this a win  in the saving department!

Menu Planning on Tuesday

I am only one day late with this post and because the reason was the pictures from our kitchen, I don’t feel at all bad.  Last week turned out to be very interesting as Kendall was sick, my mom was sick and I ended up spending a lot of time not feeling great.  I did break down on Saturday and make a quick grocery store trip which push our grocery spending to $215 this month.  Thankfully, I have also been able to organize and re-arrange the freezers and I feel much better about the amount of food we have on hand these days.  We should easily make it until the end of the month before needing to grocery shop and we also have enough ground beef to last the rest of the year!  We are continuing to use items on hand and even try some new ideas!

Breakfast- Saturday– BLT biscuits, Sunday-Bagels  Monday Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday– Choice of eggs, oatmeal, grits, cereal, or toast.
Lunch–Saturday-  Pizza Sunday-Meatball vegetable soup (new and something we will repeat) Monday– Sandwich for kids and left-overs for me Tuesday– Soup , Wednesday-Thursday and Friday- Chicken nuggets and chicken salad wrap with leftover soup at least one day. We are out of uncrustables so the kids are having to think about lunches a little bit more. 
Dinner – Saturday-Gravy and biscuits and grits Sunday–Left-overs  Monday-Salisbury steak  Tuesday– Soft Tacos  Wednesday–Sweet Hawaiian beef (new)  Thursday– Spaghetti and meatballs Friday- KFC bowls 

Random Tuesday Thoughts

  • We have spent more money on “unexpected medical cost ” in the past month than in the past 2 years. Matt had an infection under his crown, $17 prescription and $129 dentist bill, Lily had strep throat, $40 co pay and $5 prescription and Kendall has a virus that has kept her out of school for the past 2 days $40 co pay.
  • I am becoming more and more frustrated this month as I am tracking every dollar we are spending. We currently have spent $267 in the past 8 days. There is only one day in that time period that has been a no spending day.  $99 of that is gas and $40 for a copay. The rest of the list is wants not needs.  I am planning to continue until the last week of the month. I am really surprised at the amount of money we are spending and how fast it is leaving my accounts.
  • I spent some time this weekend and have planned out most of the square foot garden. We are going to try something different this year, planting/starting most of it from seeds instead of buying plants. I have been collecting seeds at fifty cent a pack over the past several month and will also be using seeds that I have stored for the past couple of years. I am going to over sow the area as well and may have to weed out some plants but this still appears to be cheaper option than purchasing the plants. I do need to buy probably 4-5 bags of soil to add to some of the beds but I have decided against buying the expensive $18 a bag and plan to use gift cards from Swagbucks to purchase at Lowes.
  • We have started 2 separate grocery list, one for Costco and one for Aldi/Walmart. I think that I have finally gotten everyone on board with the no grocery shopping until the end of the month. We ended up using French fries last night for the breakfast casserole because we were out of both hash browns and tater tots.
  • Hopefully Matt will get the buffet/ bar finished this weekend, we have had a delay in progress due to the weather and another delay due to items not being ready at Lowes.

Monday Menu Planning 2/18/2019

You will notice lots of easy and quick meals on the menu this week. I still want to busy week we have scheduled I am saving most of the experiments for the weekend. I did make some changes to this weeks plan because we ended up eating left-overs on Friday night and I will be in a meeting until late on Tuesday night. I am planning to grind up a shoulder roast to use as the meat in the shepherds pie. I will also probably make extra mashed potatoes for the freezer and to use in the shephards pie on Friday.
Breakfast- Saturday– Biscuits- Sunday-Bacon omlet Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday– Choice of any available left-overs, oatmeal, grits, cereal, toast or eggos waffles. Wednesday- baked oatmeal either peanut butter/chocolate chip or strawberries and cream to use up the heavy cream at the house.
Lunch–Saturday-Crock pot mac and cheese Sunday-Mexician Monday– Potato soup for kids and chicken stew for me. Tuesday– hummus and dip for me , Kendall and Zach had egg salad sandwiches , Wednesday-Thursday and Friday- uncrustables for the kids. I have a salad for one day and left-overs.
Dinner – Saturday-Arby’s Sunday–Left-overs Monday-Rice Kieblsa . Tuesday– Cheese quesidila and mexican rice Wednesday–Chicken pie Thursday– sloppy joes and FF. Friday- Shephard pie

Menu Planning Monday

We were VERY successful eating up the junk food Sunday left-overs this past week. I did not post a menu plan but did talk about some of them over here.   The focus of this week is to try out some new recipes. I found a bunch of new to me crockpot recipes that include a shopping list. After looking at most of it, I realized that I would only have to buy the meat for most of these. I did want to do a taste test before stocking the freezer with these items. I also realized that some are just as easy to prepare the morning of or the night before. So far all three have been good but I will most likely only repeat two, the Mexican chill and Honey Sesame Chicken.

Breakfast- Saturday– Pancakes- with leftovers for several additional mornings this week. Sunday-I made an egg frittata with lots of veggies for me and biscuits for the kids and Matt. . Monday- Left-over egg frittata (the kids tasted mine on Sunday and wanted to finish it on Monday). Tuesday, Thursday, Friday– Choice of any available left-overs, oatmeal, grits, cereal, toast or eggos waffles.  Wednesday- baked oatmeal of some form.

Lunch–Saturday-Olive Garden (special treat) Sunday-Cranberry Roast with mixed veggies.  Monday– Potato soup for kids and a can of soup for me.  Tuesday– hummus and dip for me , Kendall and Zach had egg salad sandwiches , Wednesday-Thursday and Friday- uncrustables for the kids. I have a salad for one day and left-overs.

Dinner – Saturday-Mexican Chill with cornbread topping. Sunday–Oddles of noodles soup (yeap it was that good of a day) Monday-Honey Sesame chicken with egg rolls and rice. Tuesday– Taco pasta   Wednesday– Baked Ziti Thursday– Hamburgers and FF. Friday – left-overs or rice kielbasa depending on what the fridge looks like.

 

Do you have a favorite crockpot recipe for me to try?

Saving on Saturday 2/9/2019

I have often said in the past that saving money and living on less is a lifestyle choice.  I will also be the first to admit, it is not a fun or easy choice. I wanted to highlight some of the better choices that I made this week.

Gardening– The weather earlier this week was beautiful, highs in the 70’s for several days in a row.  We took one afternoon and spent about 2 hours trimming the rose bushes and removing weeds from the garden and flower beds.  I am really excited to have extra time this summer to spend working and caring for the garden.  After some thought, Matt and I have agreed to use our Swagbucks for both plants and supplies that we need to eliminate the initial cost. I estimate that prior to planting, first of May, we should have around $150 in gift cards to use for this project. I am hopeful that this will cover not only the cost of the plants but also some fertilizer and additional dirt.  I did purchase 2 packs of seeds at Walmart this weekend. We found for fifty cent each. I used Shopkicks  ($2 card earned in the store) to cover this purchase. No upfront expenses make any and all food we manage to raise FREE!

Groceries–  This is probably my greatest struggle.  This week we have focused on eating up and not letting any of the leftovers from junk food Sunday  go to waste.  One evening this week was a left-over meal. Additional, we have been using these items for lunches.  I enjoyed one day of a huge salad that included broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and tomatoes from the veggie tray. We added taco dip to our dinner of chicken enchiladas and spinach dip (creamed spinach) to our Salisbury steak meal.  I made egg salad with the remaining devil eggs which both Zach and Kendall took for lunch.

I also have found some new crock pot recipes that I want to try over the next couple of week to add to our list of quick and good meals. This particular website even provides a grocery list but I want to try each recipe using what we already have before spending additional money.  If these turn out to be repeats, they will be a summer project to stock the freezer while I am out of work during the summer.

I purchased a grinder attachment for the Kitchen Aid on sale for 60% off today. Our family does not particular enjoy roast, we purchased a whole cow last year with probably 20 different roast. My plan is to use the new attachment to turn the roast into hamburger which we used on a regular basis.

CVS- I have slowly been stock up on a variety of items from the weekly sales. I have managed to make a weekly trip the last several weeks. My saving percentages have been around 75% for each week. I have needed to restock on toothpaste, shampoo and body wash up front before moving on to laundry detergent and paper products. I am limiting myself to spending $10 or less per week at CVS.

January in Review

This January has turned into a quite expensive month. I did some reading of old post and realize that I usually have a successful clean out the pantry month and stay way below spending in grocery spending. This was not the case for this January. I did clean out the pantry for all but the last week. After some debate, it was physically less demanding and stressful for me to do a huge grocery shopping trip to Costco in January instead of trying to squeeze it into February.  I also ended buying food for junk food Sunday as well. Total spend in Groceries $800 YIKES!

I was able to keep a running total on our gas usage for the month. We are spending $93 a week to fill all three vehicles, for January that meant $465.  I know that both vans need oil changes in the month of February so I expect this amount to be closer to $600 next month.

Given the numbers above, I am not at all surprised that our overall debt increased by $481. YIKES! One of the other unexpected expenses for the month of January was the purchase of new phones and an apple watch for myself. Feel free to check out the details here 

Personally, I have been able to complete a devotional 3 times a week. This is a huge increase from zero!

I did use the treadmill several time this month. I also realize that I am walking quite a bit for work. I am averaging 2.5 miles just at work. I am going to set a goal for walking at least 3 miles a day for February.

Blogging: I have posted only 9 times this month. No real reason other than I am tired. Guess it is time to start doing instead of thinking.

PLANS: A couple of plans for February include not increasing our overall debit, staying under $200 for groceries and increasing both devotional time and treadmill time!