Saving on Groceries

I have shared before that our largest expense besides our mortgage is groceries. Yes, groceries are even higher than our car payment. Included in the grocery budget is all the cleaning products and paper products that we use in the house. On a positive note, I have been able to reduce our grocery budget over the past several years. When I started tracking our grocery budget I was spending around $800 a month. I will say that this included diapers for many years. Last year we spent $620 a month on groceries. This year, the grocery budget has varied significantly from $1100 to $175. I did an average of the 5 month and that put us at $540 a month. My goal for the year is $500 a month. I think this is doable as we continue to eat off the cow purchased last year which should reduce the budget as well.

In the month of June so far, I have spent $90.30! I am super excited about this! I am planning to have the lowest spending month ever for groceries. My goal for the summer is to keep spending below $200 for June and July.

Now on to the fun stuff, how am I planning to keep this goal reachable. First, we continue to earn at least $50 to $100 a month in gift cards from Swagbucks. I am using this earning for Walmart gift cards, to purchase toilet paper, sunscreen and all the other fun stuff that we need to keep the house running. I also received my Costco reward this month. I purchased laundry detergent, dishwashing tabs and such with it. A second way, is by using Norwex products for cleaning. I purchased the window cloth and a dusting system several years ago. Yes, the cost was upfront but after a year of use then I am saving money simply by using them. One of my new favorite ways of saving is looking through clearance section at Food Lion. I have been able to grab breakfast sausage, pastries, candy, juice and much more. This is all food that I know we will eat and usually priced fifty cent or less. I have also been going to Aldi on Wednesday afternoon, this is typically when they reduce bread and pastries. Finally, I am trying specifically to use what is in the garden, freezers and pantry. I even made a list of the items that we have in addition to several ideas of ways to use these items. In addition to the list of items we have, I started a stockpile list, these items I am going to watch for a good sale and build up our supply. I am eager to save as much money as possible this summer while enjoy a more relaxed pace!

Monday Musings

The end of school is fast approaching. Lily finishes up 8th grade this week with End of Grade test on Wednesday and Thursday. Zach and Kendall have two weeks left. They also have testing this week with the following week being a lot of celebrating and other activities. I have 3 weeks left. My weeks will be full of meeting and paperwork. But I am counting days can’t wait to start my summer break.

I am usually pretty good at looking at the schedule and determining just how busy we will be. However, I underestimated the last couple of weeks. We are staying supper busy with end of school activities and swim team practice. I am hoping to make it through the next 2 weeks without breaking the budget grabbing food on the run. But I am beginning to wonder how we will get it all done.

My grocery goal for the summer is to keep the grocery bill as low as possible for at least the months of June and July. I know that August will be a huge shopping trip as we stock up for the beginning of the school year. So far for the month of May we have spent $215 which includes lots of sodas to get us through the summer. We are running low on lots of quick and convenient meals but I am trying to stretch them at least the last two weeks of the school year.

My square foot garden is growing the best that I have ever seen, I am very hopeful that we will be able to not only use it for lots of food this summer but also that we can restock the freezer with yummy veggies for the winter.

I checked the freezer yesterday and estimate that we have about six month of beef left. I need to seriously start to work on a plan to use what we have but also to pay for another cow. This one has lasted about 18 months so that is a great way to stretch our budget!

We should not be spending any money on clothing for the next two months so that will make things a little bit easier as well.

Menu Planning Monday

 The countdown until the end of school is on! We have 3 more weeks and I have one additional week of workdays.  One of the ways I want to save money this month is by limiting our grocery budget. If I don’t go to Costco that significantly reduces my spending. I currently have spent $145 on groceries. My goal is to make it the rest of the month with spending less than $50. I know we need to buy both paper towels and toilet paper with that money.  I do hope to use Swagbucks to earn at least one $25 gift cards to help with the cost of these needed items.  The homemade uncrustables were a huge hit, in fact, I made 16 more for the next couple of week.  I even made a breakfast quiche for myself

Breakfast- Saturday Sausage biscuit – Sunday-biscuits and gravy.   Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday– Choice of breakfast burrito, oatmeal, grits, cereal, or toast.  Wednesday- baked oatmeal- peanut butter/chocolate chip

Lunch–Saturday-breakfast burritos from Sonic     Sunday- Stuffed green peppers.    Monday– salad and veggie day.  Tuesday–Wednesday-Thursday and Friday- uncrustables for the kids, I will take a combination of left-overs and salad items. I even made homemade chicken salad to use this week.

Dinner – Saturday-Pizza   Sunday–Grilled spam, sweet potatoes and creamed spinach. Monday-Hamburger helper Tuesday– soft tacos   Wednesday–Grilled pork chops  Thursday–Chicken pot pie . Friday- Hamburgers and FF

Saving on Saturday

This Saturday, we did more saving than we spent, which of course is the overall goal!  We decided to go to several yard sales that had been advertised in our neighborhood, in addition to our church yard sale.  I was very excited to find a Vera Bradley laptop bag in perfect condition for $2 and a separate Vera Bradley purse for $2. Another excellent find was a pair of converse tennis shoes for Kendall for $3. I picked up several tuppperware plastic cups for ten cent each.

The other way that we saved money this weekend was by eating out. I know that sounds very strange but we were able to eat out for all three meals for less than $30.  First, at one of the yard sales we all grabbled sausage biscuits for $1 each. I had already packed a cooler with drinks. For lunch, I stopped by Sonic and grabbed 5 breakfast burritos for $5.35. I received this deal via a text on Friday.  It was well work the effort of reading the text and pulling it up for the cashier to see. Finally, we ordered a pizza from a local restaurant and used a discount card from the school for a total of $15.35 for a 14 inch pizza.  We always take food with us to the pool so this made a huge impact of our budget! hidden1 \

Food Hacks that Work!

Our schedule for this week includes swim team practice on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and baseball games on Wednesday and Friday.   As you can imagine this means that we are extremely busy. I anticipated this season of busy enough to try a couple of new quick and easy food tricks this week.  I am so excited to report that they worked!

Breakfast is always a big deal at our house. We all enjoy eating breakfast but also like a lot of variety. I saw that Harris Teeter had “egg in a cup” on sale for $1.67 each this week. That gave me an idea and after a little bit of research on the internet, I made my own “breakfast bags” Zach fried up a pound of sausage while I diced green peppers and onions. I placed 1/8 cup of peppers, 1/8 cup of onions and ¼ cup in a snack bag, in the freezer they went.  My plan was to stir a couple of eggs in a cup drop in the bag contents. This week we have decided that you need at least 2 and usually 3 eggs if you chose to add cheese to the mixture.  In the microwave for 1.5 minutes or you can also add the bag to a frying pan and stir. Zach was unable to eat 2 eggs for breakfast so we decided to separate his bag in half and that seems to work well for one egg.  We also have some breakfast burritos in the freezer.  These simple omelets are a huge hit.   HUGE win for quick and cheap breakfast on the run.

Kendall and Zach take their lunches to school every day, at this point in the school year, we are tired and really want something new and fun for lunch.  Both Kendall and Zach love uncrustables and we have been able to purchase on sale several times this school year, however at fifty cent each on sale this is an expensive lunch.  I had heard of several folks making homemade ones and again after some research decided to try it. I was a little worried at first about needing some special way to seal the outside, however after using one of our glasses to make the circle I was pleasantly surprised to learn that by using the glass it sealed the sandwich. Kendall says that these taste better than the store bought ones.  I spent sixty-cent on a loaf of bread for these but otherwise have the peanut butter and grape jelly already in my pantry from sales.   I was able to make 8 sandwiches at the average cost of ten cent or less each!   I am planning to make another batch of these this weekend!   

Wordless Wednesday- Square Foot Garden

tiny corn plants!

Real broccoli

3 zucchini plants

between broccoli and oregano are 2 tiny squash plants and one watermelon is in front of oregano

2 jalapeno plants and cabbage

Peppers and corn

Do you see the small peppers?

Sweet potatoes with watermelon up front!

Cucumbers are starting to sprout!

Hope 8 tomatoes are enough

Last but not least the lettuce that continues to produce and strawberries!

Saving on Saturday/ Sunday

Saturday was a gorgeous spring day in North Carolina. The temperature was in the low 70s and no rain!  I took advantage of this great weather and the “Spring Black Friday Sale” at Lowes to get the Square Foot Garden up to date. We purchased 20 bags of garden soil at $2 saving $2.29 a bag for a total of $45, 2 green pepper plants,1 basil plant and a container of zucchini for $2.50 each saving a total of $5.12 and 7 small containers of annuals(flowers) saving sixty cent each for a total of $3.00.  The total saving for our two trips to Lowes was $53.10!  The garden beds are now full of dirt and we have started planting some of the vegetables. I was able to plant the green pepper and jalapeno plants that were purchased way ahead of time.  I have been successful at spouting both watermelon and pear tomato seeds. These will have to wait until the last chance of frost before planting outside. I am super excited about what we are planning to grow in the garden this year and the money we are going to save in the process.

I also shopped at CVS on Saturday. I had a raincheck for 2L Diet Cokes which I combined with ECB I already had to purchase 16 of the 2 L at sixty-seven cent each. We were out of razors at my house so I purchased multiple razors spending a total of $20 and saving $18.39. My total savings at CVS was $46.13.

On Sunday, Harris Teeter decided to run a “Super Double Coupons Event”. This means that they doubled all coupons up to $2.00. For me the bigger deal was the fact that they had a great sale of several items that we use and are easy to store including paper plates, Gatorades, Flour, cream cheese and gold fish.  Mom and I were able to find most items on my list except for the shampoo.  I spent $76.51 and saved $84.74 or 53%.

In all just this weekend shopping the sales, I saved $184!

 

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.