Grocery Shopping Week Three

$500 Grocery Budget
Grocery Shopping Week One
Grocery Shopping Week Two

This week I find myself with so much food in my house. My parents were here over the weekend, and they left nothing short of a small feast in my fridge and pantry.

1/2 box cheerios
1 gallon of milk
some leftover beef tenderloin
a whole ham
1 box lettuce
some cheese grits
leftover gumbo
a ba-jillion potatoes

I'd be a fool not to make the most of it.

In addition to the food they left me, I have in my freezer one turkey meatloaf, two packages of chicken thighs, and a spaghetti pie (made from leftover spaghetti on week one). In my pantry I have various canned goods, pasta, and plenty of red sauce. I also have enough frozen vegetables to make vegetable soup and all the ingredients to make another round of pimento cheese.

Truly I did not need to buy many groceries this week. But I was our of trash bags and shredded Mozzarella cheese for our homemade pizzas - both big ticket items I like to buy from Costco.

When I set out to grocery shop at the beginning of the week I had $32.23 roll over from the previous two weeks. To that amount I added $100. My goal has been to spend $100 or less each week. If I stick to this plan, which I have so far! then I will have minimum $100 remaining out of my $500 monthly budget to stock up on goods for the month of March.

Tuesday I went Costco with $132.23 in my envelope. I spent $78.57. I also received a $10.99 refund for some chicken salad I returned because we did not like it, and Costco has an amazing no questions asked return policy.

Here's what I bought...

eggs 2.79
trash bags 14.99
rolls 3.69
bananas 1.39
huge bag of Mozzarella cheese 14.59
strawberries 4.99
frozen broccoli 6.49
cheese slices 8.99
orange slices 7.59
goldfish crackers 8.19
total with tax = 78.50

Because this experiment is going so well and I'm ending up with such a surplus of funds here at the end of the month, I decided to waver on a couple of my original stipulations and I bought Laurie's classroom snacks with the family grocery budget money instead of paying for them out of a different fund. She had the snack bucket and typically I like to pay for things like this out of a different budget category.

Also, I paid it forward and bought a $30 Publix gift card for a family in our community. I hesitate to share this here. It's so not Matthew 6:3. But you need to know where I spent that random $30. Also, one of the many gifts of being a good steward is having the freedom to give. What a joy!

My total spending so far this week comes to $108. 50. Plus, the $10.99 refund.
That leaves me with $34.72 to roll over into next week.

My meal plan this week has been very relaxed.

Monday: leftover beef tenderloin, salad, potatoes
Tuesday: church event
Wednesday: chicken (from freezer) and broccoli
Thursday: more leftovers or something from freezer
Friday: homemade pizza
Saturday: probably will grill out and make a quick trip to the store or get take out
Sunday: eggs, grits, toast or leftovers

The two biggest lesson I've learned so far are

1- Make good use of the food you already have. Don't waste a thing.
2- Map out a spending plan for the whole month. Pace yourself.

The reason I started this challenge in the first place is I always start off strong at the beginning of the month, keeping our grocery budget on track and organized. But by the end I (almost) always overspend. I get tired and I lose my resolve to finish strong. Everything competes for my grocery cash. $5 here for a pizza party at school. $2 for that drive through coffee. $10 I owe a friend. I have so much trouble behaving and using my grocery cash for groceries.

I'm gaining from this experiment exactly what I'd hoped - more deliberate, calculated, and controlled spending habits. I can't wait to carry over these lessons next month!

Stay tuned, one more week to go!


Homemade Valentine's + Some Links

The kids and I made some super simple Valentine's for their class parties. We cut out hearts and glued them on paper. The end.

I keep one modest box of construction paper, glue, scissors, and some stickers. We like to get like to get it down every now and then and craft our hearts out (pun intended).


I was totally intrigued by this article on children's play.  I've been experimenting in the area of play. I'm trying (with mild success so far) to get my children to play better without my constant involvement. I'm trying to not turn on the TV quite as often. I found the article so inspiring!

Check out this hilarious video a mom of three made in response to the question "do you work?" when asked at the doctors office.

My favorite pancake recipe so far.

And if you haven't read this article about how to keep a stomach virus from spreading through your house, I highly recommend it (and then immediately order from Amazon a box of rubber gloves to keep handy - I did).


Have a great Tuesday.


Grocery Shopping Week Two

$500 Grocery Budget
Grocery Shopping Week One

We've had a crazy week! A school interview, an overnight trip, and two sets of out of town family company have made this an anything but ordinary week.

Over the weekend, as I was looking ahead I knew that my shopping and meal planning needed to be done ahead of time and that I needed a lot of flexibility.

This is how it's shaping up so far....

Monday - vegetable soup (link is similar to the recipe I used, but I omitted beef and used all frozen vegetables, pimento cheese and crackers
Tuesday - out of town and on the road, drove through Wendy's (just adults, kids were with my mother in law)
Wednesday - shepherd's pie
I will be taking some major shortcuts with this recipe, no pureed carrots. I plan to just do a layer of cooked frozen ones. Ain't nobody got time for that.
Thursday-my parents in town for the weekend
Friday- eat with family
Saturday-eat with family
Sunday- eggs, grits, toast or leftovers

Over this past weekend, I made blueberry muffins and chocolate chip banana bread for quick, easy breakfasts and snacks. Per usual, I made all of our sandwiches for the week on Sunday night. I also browned the ground beef ahead time for the shepherd's pie so that I would have one step less to worry about as I prepare for dinner tonight! Whoop whoop.

I bought some chicken salad at Costco thinking it would be nice to have one more already-made food on hand. But I don't like it and I'm taking it back. Costco has a no questions asked return policy. So that will be $10 back in my pocket.

As far as grocery shopping and budgeting is going, I'm still on track!

The first week of February I spent 

Costco 32.55
Publix 34.40
Publix 14.62* (2 half gallons ice cream, sugar cones, paper plates, bananas)
total 81.57

This second (crazy week) I've spent

Costco 46.50. This total includes 2 gallons milk, one large bag sweet onions, pre-made chicken salad, bananas, large bag frozen vegetables, bread, egss, shredded cheese

Publix 25.56 This total includes 2 cans diced tomatoes, tomato juice, 3 bags frozen vegetables, jar of pimentos, crackers, sour cream, starch for ironing, and 1 bag Starbucks coffee on sale. I originally planned to only buy coffee online and not include it in our food budget, but it still has not arrived and we were out, so of course, I had to buy some.

Gas station 2.00 bottled waters

Wendy's 12.14 This total includes two separate stops at Wendy's - ha. The first stop I ordered a cup of chili and a coke for a hearty snack. The second stop Stephen and I both had dinner. We got burgers and one small Frosty, waters, and no fries.

This week's total is 86.20 (so far)

My goal has been to only spend $100/week so that I will have a remaining $100 at the end of the month to stock pile, buy meat, and take advantage of sales. One trick I'm using is to only get $100 in cash at the ATM for groceries each week, and I'm only taking that amount in the store. Because I don't physically have the extra money on me, I can't overspend without going back to the car or house to get my debit card.

I have not had to buy any meat yet because I have so much in my freezer. As I'm using it up, I'm rationing it carefully and portioning a little less that I normally would. Also, I discovered a bag of slightly freezer burned blue berries and strawberries so I'm using those up in smoothies and muffins.

And sure, I'm catching a break because my parents are coming to town this weekend and they usually treat us to several meals while they are here.

Only two weeks in, and I'm already amazed at this experiment. I haven't done so well with my grocery budget in years. It is forcing me to plan better and flex my frugality muscles. The skills I'm learning are taking effort now, but I anticipate they will become second nature in the future. I'm learning so much about the way I typically shop/plan. The things that are making it work are public accountability (this blog), planning well, and a willingness to eat what we have. My tendency is to overspend, and this exercise is really reining in my shopping/meal planning skills. But the challenge is not over. I have two weeks to go.

Hang with me.

Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred. Proverbs 15:17 (NIV)


Reader Questions + Goal Review + Facebook Break

I posted here about our massive toy overhaul, and L commented: I am curious as to what toys made the cut and got to stay out in your house.

Here's a list of what stayed:
1 basket matchbox cars
3 stuffed animals
2 baby dolls
3 - 4 tractors
magna doodle
train table and trains

play kitchen
1 set toy sandwiches
1 pot
1 spoon
1 knife
1 tea kettle

a few bath toys
box of art and craft supplies that contains construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, crayons, & water colors
2 boxes dress up clothes (boys and girls)
outside toys (bike, tricycle, scooter, cozy coupe)

As you can see there are still plenty of  toys to play with. But to give you an idea of how much I put away, I have 4 large boxes of toys packed and stored to rotate later.

The neatest thing I have observed since packing up so many of the toys is how hard they play with what they have. Stephen (age 4) has fallen in love all over again with his alligator, Shaun (formerly known as Jean Bordeaux). We take Shaun to the park, to speech therapy, to the store. We put Shaun in a seat belt. He gets a snack, an occasional bath, and he has been known to dress him up as Super Shaun a time or two, sporting a cape. His imagination has run wild with Shaun. I believe there is a direct correlation between the toy overhaul and his new found friendship with Shaun. Quality over quantity.

My daughter (age 3) loves her Melissa and Doug sandwiches and often they double as "pancakes." She flips them with her one toy knife.

Less is truly more. And it does not take me a long time to clean up. In fact, it is such a reasonable amount of  mess, I actually get them to clean up. And they do it!

(making coffee)


I posted here about how I make a bunch of sandwiches for the week and L asked the question:
Ok, I've got a question and it is going to sound so snobby and it is NOT meant that way! Promise. :) Making sandwiches in bulk. Um...is that not gross? Do that hold up? I honestly would never fathom doing that so I haven't tried it but for some reason it seems really gross to me?! Ha.  

Short answer: No.

Sure, the mayonnaise, mustard, pickle combo is very married by the time its been in the fridge all week. But not much more than it would be sitting in your lunch box all morning. I can see how this would bother some people, but we are totally okay with the situation and it saves me so much work and effort to make a bunch of sandwiches at once. I even make peanut butter and jelly for the week. To keep those from getting soggy, I coat both sides of the bread with a thin layer of peanut butter and put the jelly in the middle.


Goals 2014

Bible reading and prayer life
read 1-2 Kings before March 1st
prayer journal - write one page a day
memorize one Proverb a month

Pure Barre 3X week
Plan afternoon snack and enjoy it (I always eat badly in the late afternoon).
Sleep. If tired from waking up early, try to coordinate children's rest times and take a nap. Sleep late one day week.

Children and Reading:
Read 2-4 books at breakfast
20 minutes in the afternoon
20 minutes at night
(less TV, more outdoors)

2X week
 (more if possible)

I'm loving my goals. I'm making progress and sticking to them. A couple tricks I've picked up to keep me in line is I write them down everyday. When I'm writing in my prayer journal, I just flip the page over and write down all my goals. Yes, almost every single day! This keeps them on the forefront of my mind. I have also altered them to be more specific and changed them a little as I find what is working and what is not.

*I picked up the writing your goals down everyday tip from this podcast by Kat Lee @ Inspired to Action.

For example: reading to the kids for 20 minutes in the afternoon was not working. It was like herding cats. They fought over the book and my lap. Chaos. So I've tried to lengthen our reading time at breakfast. Instead of just one book, I try to do 2 - 4.

My proverb to memorize this month is

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come to you like a robber and want like an armed man.  Proverbs 6:10-11


Lastly, I have to share a book recommendation with y'all. I've mentioned it before but its too good to not share again. Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine. Moms of young ones, read it. While reading this week about time management, I was inspired to log off of facebook. I did not delete my account. I just decided to log off for the week when I added up how much time I spent on there and how much stuff was left undone each day.

It was such a huge distraction for me. I'd get on the computer to look up a recipe and then I'd end up on face book. I'd get on to do some online banking and then get sucked in to facebook. I'd try to write a blog post and then facebook would call my name every other minute. The pull was too much. So I logged off and I don't know my password. It's like I've been given hours of my day back. 

Just call me or e-mail me if you need me. sbspooner@gmail.com

I'm thinking I will make facebook a weekend thing.


Forgive me if there are typos I don't have time to edit this post.

Happy weekend!


Grocery Shopping Week One

$500/month grocery budget.

Monday I did my first round of grocery shopping for the month of February. My goal was to keep my spending well under $100 for this first trip. I only spent $66.95 between Costco and Publix. Success!!!

I want to spend as little as possible on the front end of this month so that I will have some reserve for later. This is not my natural tendency. I tend to splurge at the beginning of the month and come up short by the end.

There are two things I know about saving money on groceries. It takes 1- organization and 2- a little extra time in the kitchen.

So as I approached this first shopping trip, I made a thorough meal plan and list.

meal plan
Monday- salad topped with chicken and a side of vegetables
Tuesday- spaghetti
Wednesday- chicken fajitas
Thursday- chicken curry
Friday- homemade pizza
Saturday- dinner with friends (us), frozen pizza or leftovers (kids)
Sunday - eggs, grits, bacon, toast or leftovers

afternoon snacks: cut up strawberries, energy bites

I made this meal plan with FIFO in mind. My brother has worked in the restaurant industry, and he told me about FIFO (first in first out), meaning you eat the food that came in first and will spoil the quickest. It's common sense. But how often do we let our mood determine what we are going to eat versus what will make best use of our food supply.

Knowing my lettuce only had a little life left in it, I made a big salad for Monday. Avocados need to be eaten by Wednesday, so we plan to have fajitas.

Also, over the weekend I made a huge batch of sandwiches so we could grab and go with a quick, convenient lunch.


What I bought at Costco 

3 gallons of milk
2 pounds strawberries
3 frozen pizzas
2 loaves bread
1.5 dozen eggs
total 32.55


What I bought at Publix

2 boxes of cheese its (BOGO)
1 bag potatoes
1 pound pork sausage
1 green cabbage
1 jar marinara
small bag of sugar
large bag of flour
2 bags frozen vegetables
oatmeal (BOGO)
jar of planters peanuts (BOGO)
2 cans tomatoes (BOGO)
bag of mini chocolate chips
bag of dried coconut
total   $34.40

This first week, I'm relying heavily on the food I already have in my pantry and freezer. The things I bought at the store will be used to round out my recipes and for lunches and snacks.

Knowing that I'm not superwoman and that anything could throw off my plan, I bought some frozen pizzas for back up. Gotta plan for the unexpected.


Energy Bites

I love this quick snack to have on hand. It is filling and super easy to make.

1 cup dry oatmeal
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup coconut flakes
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup wheat germ or flax seed
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix. Chill mixture in fridge for 30 minutes. Roll into 1.5 inch bites.
Store in fridge in ziplock bag.


$500 Grocery Budget

This month, our family is budgeting $500 for groceries and household items, and I want you, dear readers, to come along for the ride.

There are several reasons I'm doing this. One, I went crazy last month and majorly overspent on groceries. Some of it was legit, but most of it could have been avoided with better planning and organization.

Another reason, I want to flex my frugality muscles. I've gotten a little too relaxed about our envelope system, and I have been known to rob Peter to pay Paul more times than I care to count. That loose-ness always leads to overspending.

Lastly, I want to do it to encourage anybody out there that needs encouraging and inspiration. I want to share some of my thought processes as I navigate grocery shopping, cooking, and feeding a family of five on a tight budget.


The timing of this "experiment" is good for our family as we have several non monthly expenses this month (school registration fees, medical, and some home repairs). Plus, February is a short month! So while a $500 grocery/household goods budget will be challenging, I only have 4 weeks to go.

So here's the stipulations...

The $500 is strictly for groceries and household goods. I have a few things (like diapers and wipes) coming in via my Amazon subscribe and save subscription, so I am not including those things as part of the $500.

Social obligations do not count. If we are invited to any kind of social event and asked to contribute to the meal or take food to someone who is sick or had a baby, I will use money from another fund. The $500 goes strictly to feed our family 7 days a week, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

This budget includes drinks (milk), but not alcohol or coffee. I've been wanting to try Buzz Box coffee and I'm ordering that online.

This budget does include going out to eat or ordering take out, so most likely we will not be doing that unless Stephen or I want to use our personal "spending money."

To my advantage, I have a nice stock of most household items and I have quite a bit of food in my deep freezer and pantry. I hope this will set me up for success. I also have a full supply of laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and toilet paper. In my deep freezer, I have a couple pounds of ground beef, 1 pound of bacon, a bag of frozen chicken tenders, some chicken thighs, and I have a frozen meatloaf that is cooked and ready to be dethawed for an easy meal. Lots of meat! This abundance is all the more reason to set strict parameters on budgeting and spending this month. 

My hope is that I can pace myself by spending only $100 per week and that I will have about a $100 remaining at the end of the month to take advantage of some good deals and stockpile some groceries to roll over into the next month.

Wish me the best! Follow along. Send your questions.
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