As I said last week, I’ve been tracking my budget and my meal plan separately and that’s led to some confusion in my records. But the point of this whole exercise is to find something that works. So as week four of this budget experiment draws to a close, I’m making some adjustments. Fortunately this has lined up with Day 12 (by my numbering) of the Don’t Waste the Crumbs cleaning out the kitchen challenge: Budget check-in.
As I mentioned before, our out-of-the-house spending was way out of control, clocking in at more than $1000 one month this year. And the beginning of the month was very similar (We actually ended up coming in at $900 for this month total). There were reasons (there’s always a reason), but instead of explaining it away a meal at a time, we started reigning it in and planning ahead (with the help of this guide).
For the final weekly check-in I’ve got 4 shopping trips to report (all done in one day, actually). Here we go:
3 16-count Charmin … $29.97 (saved)
1 Jif ……………. $ 1.40 (saved
6 Puffs ………….. $ 5.94 (saved
Plus I had a 30% off email coupon which reduced the total by $10
$32.61 + $10 ECB back
+ $1.30 bottle refund (used at the farmer’s market)
This one was broken up into two trips to take advantage of a cash back deal.
4 Pop Secret … $14.00
Went on a gift card. Got $5 back.
2 Nestle smart water … $ 7.00 (got $1.50 Ibotta rebate)
1 Jam ……………… $ 2.49 (after $1 coupon)
4 Peperoni …………. $10.16 (on sale)
2 Bread ……………. $ 5.30 (on sale + 10% off cartwheel deal + $0.25 Ibotta rebate)
4 Raisins ………….. $ 3.88 (5% off cartwheel deal)
1 Organic Beef ……… $ 4.39 (after $3 off coupon, also got $1.50 Ibotta rebate)
I paid with gift cards leaving $6.80 out of pocket. + $2.75 back in Ibotta rebates.
This is actually the first time we’ve been to the farmer’s market this month and man it was good to be back. We didn’t get much, but what we got was some great finds. (All but the bananas are local and organic.)
1 yellow and 1 red pepper … $1.00
2 squash & 5 bananas …….. $2.00
2 baskets of thin carrots … $1.00
1 medium sized pumpkin …… $1.00
2 more pumpkins …………. $1.00 (the little one was SO excited)
Mums …………………… $2.00
3 dozen eggs ……………. $6.00
2 full chicken breasts …… $10.94
Total: $23.64 (after the $1.30 bottle return from CVS)
This was the end of a very long day for two (under-the-weather) moms and one very patient little boy. So the first thing we did was Halloween costumes. I’m glad we waited as long as we did because we found costume parts for T and the little one for less than $25. We’re putting together the rest of the costumes at home, so some of the expense is eliminated.
The boy will be Optimus Prime. We bought the robot part of the suit and T made this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIBcZbowkJ8. Since we have a ton of boxes from the move, it was no extra cost to make him a really cool outfit.
Meanwhile, T and I decided to do a couples costume: Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. We got her hood on this trip and I grabbed a wolf hat on Amazon. Again, we’ll fill out the rest from items we have at home.
Optimus Prime … $ 9.99 ($5 savings)
Hood ………… $11.24 ($3.75 savings)
We also got a seasonal towel for $4.99 ($2 savings)
I’m hesitant to include these things in our grocery total, especially because I don’t have to count my costume in this because we didn’t get it on a grocery trip (bought on Amazon using Discover cash back rewards), so I’m not going to. In my Mint.com app, I’ve split off the $26.28 (including tax) and counted it as “Shopping”.
Here’s the groceries:
Shampoo ………. $ 5.59
Conditioner …… $ 5.59
Soap …………. $ 0.99 (saved $0.50)
Ramen (x44) …… $ 9.24
Cucumbers …….. $ 0.77
Pizza Sauce …… $ 1.19
Celery ……….. $ 1.99
Dressing ……… $ 1.99 (saved $0.30)
Tortillas …….. $ 1.99 (saved $0.90) This one was exciting because we finally found some without hydrogenated oils!
Teddy Grahams (x4) $10.36 (saved $2.00 plus coupons below)
Ritz crackers …. $ 2.59 (saved $0.22 plus coupons below)
Ritz chips ……. $ 2.59 (saved $0.60 plus coupons below)
Mac & Cheese (x4) $ 5.00 (saved $0.95 plus coupons below)
Lettuce ………. $ 2.50 (saved $0.49)
Onions (x2) …… $ 2.00 (saved $1.98)
Creamer ………. $ 1.67 (saved $0.52 plus coupons below)
Tomatoes (x2) …. $ 2.00 (saved $2.98)
Shells (x2) …… $ 2.50 (saved $2.48)
Mushrooms …….. $ 1.67 (saved $0.62)
Bagels (x2) …… $ 6.00 (saved $1.78)
Cheese (x4) …… $ 9.00 (saved $4.92)
Milk …………. $ 1.73 (saved $1.16 + $0.25 Ibotta rebate)
Wine …………. $ 8.99
– $6 on 6 Nabisco items
– $1 coupon on Teddy Grahams
– $1.50 coupon on creamer
– $0.60 bottle refund
– $2 off for spending $10 on Aussie
Total: ($105.78) $79.50 on groceries + $0.25 back in Ibotta rebates.
We grabbed drinks at CVS on Sunday for $2.18
We also stopped at Meijer on Monday while I was sick to return some bottles and grab some Faygo and grapes (read: feel-good food) for $8.56
The meal plan
We’re not going to talk about it. I came down with something Thursday night, was sick through my weekend (Friday and Saturday) and then missed work Monday and Tuesday. This week has been a haze of leftover meatloaf (that I managed to make Sunday) and breakfast-for-dinner meals.
In total, we spent $152.79 on groceries and $66.30 on eating out (including 4 coffee shop beverages, two fast food stops and one sit-down meal). That brings the four week total to $305.22 for groceries and $379.31 out of the house. While calculating all this, I discovered a $44.67 CVS run that I didn’t record in the first week, several others in the second week (I don’t even remember these trips, how awful is that?) and recalculated all our numbers. The weekly totals were:
Week 1: $125.57 groceries | $187.69 eating out Total: $313.26
Week 2: $ 92.80 groceries | $ 99.76 eating out Total: $192.56
Week 3: -$13.16 groceries | $ 45.99 eating out Total: $ 32.83
Week 4: $152.79 groceries | $ 66.30 eating out Total: $220.39
Four-week totals: $358.69 groceries | $399.74 eating out Total: $757.74
Now, this does not include the $160.89 we managed to spend in the two days before I started counting (not sure if all of that was bought in October, but it’s showing up as hitting the accounts on Oct. 1 and 2). All of that was during the move week, though and I’ve vowed to forgive us for the time we were moving.
Part of me is kind of annoyed that the first day of the month is landing between pay periods, because it makes things less ordered in my mind. But anyway, our starting point for the next month is about $350 groceries and $400 eating out.
I want to reduce the eating out category as much as possible (mainly by not stopping for fast food or coffee/pop outside of grocery store runs). This may increase the grocery category and that’s OK. That’s the goal even.
The food stamp budget for a family of three (which seemed like a good benchmark for our household grocery budget) is $497 per month. But we’re coming in $197 under that goal, and I don’t know that it’s a good thing. If we could trade $197 of food at home for the extra $400 that we spend eating out, we’d save $200 per month. I don’t know that we will honestly reduce all of our eating out costs, but if we reduce them that’s a great thing.
Another thing to consider is that our nephew will be coming to live with us for the next two months. He will be contributing $25 per week to food, but the added $100 per month may not offset the full cost of feeding him. (Although, the food stamp budget for a family of 4 is $632 per month, for what it’s worth. Sounds like the government thinks an extra $135 would cover it. Have they met any 21-year-old guys lately?)
So where this ramble is going, I’m not quite sure.
Here’s what I do know:
– We don’t make enough to keep spending at this pace
– Our money can go further by making food at home than by eating out
– We’ll be healthier eating at home than fast food
– And I want to be cooking more
– If we went to Pronto (a slightly-higher-than-average-priced restaurant near us) once a week we would spend $200 for the month and get about two meals each out of each visit (24 meals total).
I still don’t know what our eating out target should be money-wise, but I know we can find better things to spend $400 on. I don’t want to stop eating out altogether, but I want it to be a special thing we do, rather than a I-don’t-feel-like-cooking-let’s-grab-McDonalds thing.
I feel like there’s a point I’m supposed to be driving toward, but I’m not sure what it is. I will keep checking in on this budgeting thing though. It’s nice to feel some sense of accountability.
Oct. 4 – Clean out the fridge
Oct. 5-6 – Eat the old stuff
Oct. 7 – Create a grocery budget
Oct. 9 – Ditch hydrogenated oils
Oct. 10-12 – Clean out the Freezer
Oct. 13 – Eat a Simple Meal
Oct. 14 – Make money
Oct. 20 –
Bake Bread Plan meals for one week
Oct. 30 – Clean out the pantry and cupboards; Create a signature company dish; Use food twice
Oct. 31 – Budget check-in
Nov. 1 – All the rest