Confession

19 10 2008

I have a confession to make: Jeff and I don’t live on a budget.

This is not because we are rolling in dough, bathing in hundred dollar bills, lining the diaper pail with tens, wiping our tushes with twenties. No no, this is solely due to the fact that we are the laziest people you will ever meet.

We knew we needed to come up with a budget to stick by each month, and a few months into our marriage we began making one using, I think, a simple spreadsheet on our old, honkin’ clunker of a laptop. But we never finished it. And then we had a baby. And then we moved. And we just kept finding reasons to put off completing the thing and having to be held accountable for each dollar we spent.

But with our impending move looming (27 days!) (lease signed today!), and the new bills we’ll be taking on, we knew it was time. I’ll now be able to see on paper just how much (WAY TOO FRICKIN’ MUCH) money I spend at Target on a weekly basis, and hopefully be able to reign that in (thus sending Target’s sales into the red, surely).

I already know that I spend too much on groceries; I don’t need the stack of receipts and the spreadsheet to tell me that. I cannot imagine how this is possible, but last Wednesday I spent $228 dollars on food. Included in the items I bought were diapers, a pound of ground beef, two packages of chicken breasts, 3 bags of Halloween candy, multiple jars of baby food… and the rest was just the regular stuff. I saved $10 with coupons, but it still cost over $200 for food for a family of four. The kicker? Just four days later, I found myself back at the grocery store picking up “just a few things” to be able to cook dinners this week. Just a few things… and I spent another $35. Have food prices gone up that much?

Now, that past grocery shopping trip, and all the previous ones, were all done without sticking to any kind of budget. But no more. Our goal is to limit ourselves to $300 a month for groceries. I have no idea if this is realistic or not, but we’re soon going to find out. This morning, new budget in mind, I informed Jeff that we’d be “eating cheap” this week. This makes me sad, because for one thing, I love to try new recipes. Particularly ones I find here and here. Also, I like cooking healthy meals. Healthy and cheap are not synonymous. Which, WHY? Doesn’t make sense to me.

I tried to think of things I could cook this week that were both good for us and in line with our budget. Everything I came up with involves chicken in some form or another, which I don’t mind, I could eat chicken every night. But I’m hoping the rest of my family doesn’t get sick of it. And, variety, you know. It’s the spice. My problem: I have to do this AGAIN next week. Think of meals. That don’t involve lots of fat and calories, but do involve vegetables and whole grains… and are also low-cost… and oh, yeah, did I mention it’d be cool if they didn’t take lots of work? I don’t mind putting work into cooking dinner, but it’s not something I have the time to do on weeknights.

I know I am not the only one in this boat. This boat, it is extremely overcrowded, probably on the verge of sinking, I know. So I’m thinking I’ll start sharing the recipes I find that fit the bill, my bill, here. And PLEASE feel free to share any you may have! I am all about the cheap, and the not awfully unhealthy.

For dinner today I made curry chicken, sweet potatoes and coconut rice in the crock pot, the recipe for which can be found here. It was super easy, as just about everything is that involves the crock. The only thing needed for the recipe that I don’t normally stock in my kitchen was a can of coconut milk, so it was definitely easy on the budget, as well. And the consensus? DELISH. Well, Jeff and I thought so, anyway. Curry? Not exactly a friend to the 3-year-old’s pallet. He refused to eat it, opting instead for a peanut butter sandwich, thus resulting in No Dessert (apple crisp and vanilla ice cream; not healthy AT ALL but I’m not afraid of you, Jillian Michaels! Bring it!). So hopefully the rest of my 27 million chicken-ey meals this week will go over a little better with the kids. Don’t forget to leave me your ideas/suggestions in the comments!


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6 responses

19 10 2008
Nora

We definitely have to eat cheap too, and I am cooking for two vegetarians (myself and my 16-month-old) and a picky picky meat eater (my husband). Some things that please us all:

+ whole grain pasta with tomato sauce (I buy the jarred stuff and watch for corn syrup, the bane of my existence), and salad
+ whole grain pasta with olive oil and garlic powder and steamed or stir-fried veggies- the hubs gets chicken with his
+ English muffin or French bread pizza (I load mine and my son’s with veggies)
+ brown rice and beans with mixed veggies
+ Boca Burgers with salad
+ breakfast for dinner: scrambled eggs, toast (again I scour labels for corn syrup in my bread), and soy sausage. I don’t know how healthy this is- I know there’s fat but for us vegetarians, the scrambled eggs are a great source of protein and fat for us, and by not having real meat it cuts out more potential fat and cholesterol. Morning Star Farms makes really tasty sausage patties and links.

That’s all I can think of right now. Good luck with your budget!

19 10 2008
Ethan's Oma

Don’t forget the delicious Morningstar Farms tomato and basil pizza burgers !!! oh and that spinach and garlic pizza from california kitchen, mmmmmmmm. They are much cheaper at wegman’s than anyplace else i have seen them.

20 10 2008
Hallie

Do you plan out a whole weeks worth of meals? We do at least 5 meals and fill it out on our wipe off grocery list. It helps to not forget stuff and it keeps the cost down. Yes, groceries went up about $10-$20 for us. We went to the grocery store on Saturday without a list. I was miserable the whole time b/c it is so much harder to remember the meals and all the ingredients.

You can get your meat at Costco and split it up and freeze. That isn’t always cheapest but often it is.

As for recipes, we do tacos with ground turkey and pinto beans. You can cut the amount of meat in half b/c of the beans. I will get back to you with others.

20 10 2008
aliasmother

Honey, I can help you. $300 might be smidge low, so you might want to bump it up to $400. You don’t want to handicap yourself too much and get frustrated. We eat for about $300-$350/month for three of us, but we don’t really eat any meat.

Hallie is right: plan, plan, plan. Planning the whole week’s menu at once keeps your list focused, which means you only buy what you need. Also, it’s kind of reassuring on those busy days to not have to think about dinner. I swear I save at least 30 minutes of dithering time a night with a menu.

Also: beans. I know. Boring, but true. Cheap, filling, and yummy. Try doing beans twice a week. (We do more but again, no meat at our house.)

Black bean and corn enchiladas are good and easy (saute black beans, red pepper, onion, corn and spices, roll into corn or flour tortillas, top with salsa verde and cheese, bake ’til melty).

Another thing we make all the time is lentil and barley soup with whole wheat biscuits on the side (saute onion, mushrooms and garlic, add lentils, barley, can of tomatoes, some broth, thyme, simmer until done. Sometimes I add spinach or chard at the end for more veggie-ness. Make any biscuit recipe but sub in ww flour to 1/4 to 1/3 of the flour). I’ve never priced it out, but that whole meal can’t be more than $3-$4.

Stir-fry over brown rice.

Homemade pizza. Buy or make your own dough (easy, do it on the weekend then freeze until you need it).

God, I sound like Susie Homemaker over here. Sorry. I’ll stop. Good luck!

20 10 2008
Hallie

About budgets…when we were doing one (fell off the wagon like everything else–hmm except the menu planning)we used Quicken. Most credit cards and banks allow you to download their information in the program and often will sort it for you. That way you know how much you are spending and where you are spending it at.

Oh and I know you are going to a single family home. The benefits of apartments is that you share walls and floors which means you often don’t spend as much on heat. When we lived in our duplex we had over $300 gas bills. My suggestion is to weatherproof as much as you can. Seal your windows and use the energy saving window treatments.

20 10 2008
Ethan's Oma

Also, on the heating bills, it’s well worth the $50-$75 to get the furnace cleaned every year. I didn’t know I had to do that, went 5 years without, and my heating bill was cut almost in half after I got it cleaned !

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