Switching gears this week! Why? Well, as I mentioned recently, we’ve moved into a new place. It’s a sweet little house we’re renting in a rural area of my husband’s home town. It’s only two bedrooms, but spacious, airy, bright, and just wonderful! It’s an old Sears and Roebuck home that was built in 1909 and hauled out to this spot and plopped down in the midst of many acres of Texas farmland. A new place means a few more expenses for us (as you may know, we were living in a travel trailer and then a brief stint at my husband’s parents’ house before moving out here).
I have a ton of decorating I would like to do but since we’re just renting and we haven’t decided how long we will be here yet, the big things will have to wait a while. What I DO need to focus on is minimizing our expenses and making sure we can actually afford to live here without financial stress. SO, the first project revamp on my list is our grocery budget. Why? Because I have been notoriously terrible at keeping to a grocery budget.
Okay, I am kind of lying.
I haven’t even bothered making one most of the time in the last couple of years. So many things in our lives were changing so constantly and so quickly and we were traveling so much that it seemed like just one more thing that would just get changed and rearranged a gazillion times. Excuses, excuses, right? It’s time. It’s past time to get serious about our grocery budget.
Um…so, in honor of getting all serious and stuff, wanna play a game? I’m thinking of a number. It’s a number with three digits. It is my monthly grocery budget. Each week for the next four weeks, I will be providing you with the meals I planned (and hopefully stuck to) throughout that week. At the end of the four weeks, let’s see who can guess what my planned budget was and what I actually spent. I will provide receipts after the game is over and after guesses have been made. Will there be a prize for the first one to guess the right answer? Yes. I have something in mind, but don’t know if it’s a done deal yet so I will not mention it yet. But, yes, there will be a small prize for the winner!
Some things to note:
- We are a family of four. Two adults, one five year old girl and one almost 18 month old boy. The boy still nurses and eats most regular foods.
- We live in a small, rural town in north Texas – population is less than 2600 people and there is one grocery store: A United Supermarket. The grocery store is about a 15 minute drive (9 miles) from our house each way. The only other shopping option I have is a dollar store (right next to the United). A Walmart is my next option at 25 miles away. Or I can shop online.
- We are not vegetarian or vegan. We do eat meat AND will also incorporate fruits and vegetables in some way every day, but none of us has any self-imposed or involuntary dietary restrictions (though we probably should. One challenge at a time here). Well, wait…my daughter basically doesn’t like anything – so I guess you could say she has some self-imposed dietary restrictions.
- The game officially started on Tuesday, October 20th. That was my first shopping trip under my new budgetary guidelines and will end when I give my last week’s report on Tuesday, November, 17th. I plan to put out my first report tomorrow, Tuesday, October 27th, hopefully prior to my next trip to do our weekly shopping.
- In addition to food, my budget DOES include all paper products, diapers, shampoos, soap, etc. It does not include gas.
- Meal plans provided at the end of a week in the blog post will be for dinners only, because we already make it a habit of making enough for dinner that we can then have that as a left over for lunch, and yes, even breakfast. Most of the time, breakfasts around here are an “everyone for themselves” kind of thing. For instance, my husband usually just wants a bowl of cereal in the morning – not a big meal. My daughter snacks on an apple and an oatmeal muffin, or cereal, and my son will eat whatever you put near his mouth. No joke. I will try to give as much information as I can about what happened during breakfasts and lunches, but you can be sure whatever it is – it has to make use of what was purchased in our weekly trip.
- One more word about dietary stuff: I KNOW there are ton of people out there who eat very differently than we do, and some who eat quite the same. Please be kind. This is not an invitation for you to critique our eating habits. I take recipe and budget suggestions of every kind (including vegetarian and vegan) but will not tolerate anyone being rude about it – to me – or to each other.
Some of the tools I will be using to keep to my budget:
- If it’s only a carb, it will be made from scratch or we will not have it. In other words, no hamburger buns, sandwich breads, tortillas, etc. from the store. Why? Because I like baking bread to start with and I know those things are expensive and that saves me money, so I am going to use that to my advantage. I’m already used to baking my own bread products. The only difference now will be that I can’t just do it when I feel like it or go to the store and get it when I don’t feel like baking. Check out the tortillas I made last week! I made a bunch to have with meals and to freeze. They have already proven very helpful in adding some variety to the meal plan (also: YUM). The only exception that I can think of to this rule for now will be cereal. Because: my husband. He has a certain cereal he loves. I would love to take boxed cereal out of our diet or at least replace it with homemade granola, but for right now, it stays. Again, one thing at a time.A few days ago, the baking project was for sandwich bread. Two loaves like these two: one to have out and one to freeze. The biggest challenge when you bake this stuff yourself is that is tastes SO much better than the stuff from the store that everyone eats more of it – and they (okay, WE) usually finish it off way too fast if you let them (okay, US). So part of this budgeting thing is also practicing portion control and self control! Imagine that.
- Store run happens once a week. If I forget it, I don’t get it. Why this rule? It will force me to keep my grocery list current and have a meal plan ready. Frequent trips to and from the grocery store all week long are not fun with two little ones. And we’re not budgeting for gas yet, but I don’t want to waste gas going back and forth if I don’t have to.
- I have signed up for the grocery store’s rewards program and will be using their local weekly ads and coupons when I can.
Okay, I will meet y’all back here tomorrow with my first report for the week. I can’t wait to see what people guess at the end of this month, though, I am a little nervous at revealing whether or not I succeed or fail, but I have wonderful and kind readers, who hopefully won’t judge me too harshly if I go over budget!
One more caveat: This is not an advice column. This is me possibly about to be a big old train wreck or surprise the heck out of myself and have a story to tell. I am fully aware that my situation (just like my family’s eating habits) is different than anyone else’s. I welcome all your thoughts on the subject (again, as long as they are spoken in kindness). Let’s start wit this one:
What’s your monthly budget? How do you make it work?