Mama's Money Makeover: The beginning
Monday, January 15, 2007
We are going through "The Total Money Makeover" program - slowly - and I thought I'd post our progress or lack thereof. I'll be posting more details about it later this week or next.

We've only gotten to chapter 3 so far, though, but I looked ahead and see that the first challenge is to save $1000 quick! Our current savings plan is in silver and copper, stored safely in an empty green olive jar. So this will be a challenge.

One thing I think will help accomplish this goal is to stay strictly on a budget for food. Actually, my Quicken category is "Household and Groceries", because I include toilet paper, diapers, laundry soap, etc. in this amount. I'd be willing to try cloth diapers (we've had four children in diapers at one time, I know I'd save a fortune!) but husband has put his foot down. No cloth diapers. Apparently his deep seated issues with textiles don't stop at placemats and tablecloths, but extend to heinie coverings as well.

My new goal is to spend $500 or less each month. Our grocery budget has gotten quite out of control - $900 in November, and $850 in December, (ok, there were birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, but really, we spent way too much!)

We have 8 people to feed: a German/Scottish construction worker, a pregnant lady, and 6 children - age 8, 7, 6, 4, 2, and 1. We refer to the 7 yo as "the black hole" - sometimes he out eats his daddy! We also have a strict diet - no MSG, BHA/BHT/TBHQ, no artificial food dyes (Red #40, Yellow #5, Blue Lake, et. al.), no artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame, etc.)
I'm experimenting with soaking grains and getting into the bread making habit - but that's slow going. The kids LOVE the brown rice oatmeal waffles I make them though - that's their breakfast before school usually! I've probably saved $20 on breakfast alone making them! (The fact that they readily accept them after eating Pillsbury and Eggo brand waffles for the last several months should tell you that they are actually quite good) Maybe a post on cheap breakfast is in order...

So far, January seems to be doing all right.
On Jan. 10, we had spent $21 in this category

Then, I went to the shopping and, of course, spent a little more than I wanted to- $168 at WalMart and $48 at the Pig. I've determined that it costs me about $100 to cruise the Big Blue W for groceries. Surprisingly, that figure seems more accurate than estimating from my list!

So, as of Jan. 15, we are at $237. Then we made the mistake of hitting up Dollar Tree as a family excursion, and spent another $28. I am planning a birthday party later this month, though, and some of that was for stickers, invitations, and so on. So, midmonth, we're at $265.

But... I have enough food for at least 10 days, and I can probably stretch it to the end of January if I really try, excepting a few more tidbits for the birthday party. My goal is to spend around $25 a week until the end of the month, for fresh fruits, veggies, and milk; also we do need diapers and a couple of things that were out of stock but on my list. I also have enough laundry detergent, bleach, shampoo, and all that stuff too.

I spent $48 at Piggly Wiggly, but got:
10 lbs. of ground beef
5 lbs. of bacon ends and pieces (you don't need the pretty strips to make most recipes;
5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 lbs. pork tenderloin, cut into chops (boneless)
5 lbs. sweet potatoes
10 lbs. russet potatoes
6 quarts apple juice (this is for our hurricane box - $1/2 qts. is cheaper than frozen concentrate!)

All of the meat was less than $1.50/lb., so I stocked up.

I also spent more than my target at WalMart, but that's because I bought some "fast and easy" type meals for days when I'm having a ton of contractions. I still kept it frugal, but not as cheap as cooking from scratch. I got a meal's worth of frozen salisbury steaks (MSG and preservative free!) for $4 total, and a meal's worth of frozen raviolis for under $5; also Chicken nuggets for emergency situations - $5. Which, is cheaper than ordering pizza!

The moral of that story - planning ahead will save you money!

I also splurged and bought an actual butter dish - glass - for $5 which didn't even make it into the house intact as my 4 yo helped bring the groceries in.

Usually, I give him the bag with toilet paper or other light things in it - he just happened to grab the one with my new butter dish. And 3 packages of light bulbs. And then tripped and fell. On top of the bag. Sigh.

The moral of that story - when you use the kids as free labor, sometimes you get what you paid for.

Here's our menu plan:
1. Meatloaf (2.5 lbs ground beef), baked potatoes
2. Chicken pasta primavera (2 bags frozen veggies, 2 lbs. chicken breast cut up, white sauce)
3. Jumbalaya (diced tomatoes, red beans, rice, sausage)
4. Mexican breakfast (soy based Chorizo, eggs, potatoes, nopalitos - yes my kids eat this!), corn tortillas
5. Pizza (homemade with breadmaker; for sauce I mix 6 oz. tomato paste, 8 oz. tomato sauce, garlic, italian seasoning. Makes enough sauce for 4 pizzas - I freeze the extra; I use 16 oz. mozzarella cheese for both pizzas, 3 oz. pepperonis, and put fresh tomatoes and olives on one)
6. Carnitas (crockpot - pork meat with spices, then shred into tortillas)
7. Sausage and cabbage
8. Honey Dijon Pork Chops, sweet potatoes, veggies
9. Sausage kolaches with sauerkraut or cabbage and potatoes (yep - breadmaker again!)
10. Fettucine Carbonara (white sauce, bacon, peas and carrots, season with lots of garlic)

In case you couldn't tell, cabbage is cheap, filling, and my family likes it.

I feel I should mention, for our entire family, I rarely use more than a pound and a half of meat. I make up the difference with beans, rice, or other grains for protein. An adult serving size of meat is 3-4 ounces = 3 to 4 servings per pound of meat. A toddler portion is 1-2 oz. So, I build portion control into the cooking method. The exceptions are meatloaf and chickens. I will roast (2) 3-4 lb. chickens; but I always get broth from them for other meals, and a 3 lb. chicken costs as much as a pound or so of other meat.

My other rule is to never, never pay more than $2 a pound for meat (fish excepted - but hopefully husband dear will start bringing it home for free!) So I reserve my grocery budget and stock up when ground beef is $1.39/lb, pork chops are $1.49/lb, and so on.

Coming tomorrow - Works for Me Wednesday - my food planning/menu/coupon solution!

As part of National Delurking Week, leave a comment! How much does your family spend on groceries? How do you stay on budget?

Let me know if you link back to me or subscribe with Bloglines - I'll be updating my blogroll someday soon!
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 1/15/2007 03:07:00 PM | Permalink | |