Monday, March 31, 2014

Budget Cuts and...Onions!

Our week was kick-started with some gorgeous weather today! It was 63 and sunny.....until about 2:30pm when the sun disappeared for another week or so. C'est la vie, around here! I was able to get out twice today and soak up some rays. I'm hoping I got some extra vitamin D to make up for the upcoming rainy days:)

I have been doing lots of research this weekend for my new budget cuts. I am very determined to slim down the grocery fund, if you will (haha), and have been coming up with lots of new ideas. It's going to take some hard work sometimes and I'm feeling anxious and excited all at the same time! Anxiously excited, anyone?

Ready for my goal? I am attempting to cut down our grocery budget by $100-150 a month. We have been budgeting around $600 a month for our groceries, toiletries and household needs for awhile now. And as the prices (and appetites have risen),  we have started to go over that by at least $50. It has been SO incredibly frustrating not to be able to stick within the budget. So WHY am I doing something crazy like this??

It makes no sense! It's crazy! But it's a challenge and we are going to need to make some serious cuts and changes to pay off loans and whatnot (for the next 20+ years...) groan. If we can ever get our life situation figured out, we may be setting some serious goals for paying off the loans as quickly as possible.  (But that's another story for another time in our life.) Hence the budgeting changes....follow me?

Anyhoo. My new goal is $500 a month for groceries and household needs. That includes pull-ups, toilet paper, toothpaste, you name it! I am going to attempt to spend $100 per week on food for our meals and $100 total per month for the other goods. (Attempt is the key word!!) I am really nervous! With tomorrow being the first day of April, I am making my first week's shopping trip. I have been working hard to plan a menu for the week that is simple, healthy and inexpensive. I'll even share some of my meals sometimes! I am absolutely determined not to hate menu planning just because I want to cut expenses. We don't have to be bored with rice and beans every single night. I refuse! (I jazzed up some rice tonight with this recipe and it was SO good. Ben says it's the best rice I've ever made! I didn't exactly have all of the spices so it may be even better with those...)

Some tips for cutting expenses that I have been employing and will continue to are:

*Vinegar, vinegar, vinegar! Within this past year, I quit buying cleaning supplies and we clean almost completely with vinegar, baking soda and lemons. (I still have a bottle of Clorox Anywhere spray that I occasionally use:) Vinegar is WAY cheaper than cleaning products and safer, too. I have 3 biggish to little ones, baby sit an even littler one and have a husband with asthma. I don't want harsh chemicals all over my house for everyone to breath in! Not to mention, those 3 ingredients are killer and do an amazing job cleaning. I can share some of those tips, too:)

*Cutting down meats. Meat is expensive! I often half the meat portions required in a recipe and fill in more veggies instead. I also try to plan a lot more meals without meat! We probably only eat meals with meat 2-3 times a week, if that.

* We will be eating lots of beans! Bean, beans, the magical fruit.....nevermind:) (I live with lots of boys, please excuse me.) I am going to be buying dried beans instead of canned and learning to cook them well and freeze the extra portions.

* Buying things in bulk. Not everything, just things that will be cheaper in the long run and that we will actually use! For instance, rice. We have a huge bag of rice down in our basement. Like 20 lbs, huge. I cut an opening, keep it clipped shut with a chip clip and run down with a bowl and a measuring cup whenever I need some rice. It is SOOOO much cheaper. To buy Jasmine rice, which we really like, for instance, runs at least $6 for a small container. Maybe 2-3 lbs? Our ginormous Sam's Club bag costs about double that. For more 6-7 times the amount of rice. Definitely worth it!

* I am trying to use up everything we have on the shelves instead of letting things go to waste. I'm really bad about purposefully ignoring certain ingredients on my shelves or in my freezer because either I am not crazy about them, aren't sure what to do with them or aren't sure how long they've been there! Example: Found some brown rice that I so cleverly stored in a see-through container and realized it has been expired since 2012.....I definitely can't let that kind of stuff happen anymore!

* I am going to be doing a lot of extra preparation and stocking the freezer! Example:

I asked Ben to buy me an onion last week and he bought a whole bag! Normal people probably buy a bag of onions but not me. Who said I was normal?? Onions and I don't share a very long history. I honestly only cooked with dried minced onion for the first 5-6 years of our marriage. I hated onions! I still do not love big chunks of onions but I have learned how to really appreciate how much better recipes are with them! I hate cutting them up, though, hence the one onion at a time rule. So, tonight I spent 20 minutes or so and diced up 5 onions and divided them into baggies for meals. Now I have 9 bags stocked in the freezer and NO onions will go to waste!
* I'm also planning on making a LOT more things homemade. I've always loved to make things from scratch; a love I got from watching my mom growing up. But I am going to need to take it to a whole new level to make this budget cut thing work. I am going to try to make all of our bread, tortillas included, and freeze a bunch. I'm going back to homemade laundry detergent (that took a little hiatus since I broke my food processor 6 months ago doing it! I guess I'll be grating soap by hand!), homemade snacks and I still have to do some research but I may attempt other things like lotions, etc. Think I'm crazy yet?? (um, I do...)
* Let's talk cereal. My 3 bambinos and their daddy are cereal mongers. I can barely keep cereal stocked in the house! I'm not as big of a fan and prefer to eat other things so this won't be so much of a loss for me. I wonder how they will all fair though when I break the news that cereal won't be so easily accessible in our house......We're going to go the route of oatmeal (whether fresh in the morning, in the crockpot or baked), cream of wheat, muffins (which I LOVE to make!), eggs, smoothies, etc.
The reason I'm writing this all out is a) to keep me accountable! This is really important to me and will hopefully help our family eventually get out from under the looming mountain of school loans someday. Not to mention, I'll feel so much better if I know I'm being careful with what we have and feeding my family in a healthy way!
b) I am hoping my journey through this might help others! I've been reading many, many different blogs, websites, stories about people's tips and ideas for this and I'm pooling a lot of it together. I can't do it all. Like I said, no chickens, no garden and I'm not knitting my kids matching outfits. But maybe I can take the dirtiness out of the word "budget" for someone and inspire them to try, too!
c) This is a little bit fun, venturing into a more challenging territory that will require me to quit making excuses and making impulse buys. I need to learn to have better self-discipline and also build up some confidence in myself. I think I can, I think I can....
d) I'll probably need your encouragement (whatever you can muster up!) sometimes when this is really hard or we are existing on rice and beans only at the end of each month or something. Or I am missing that impulse buy I really wanted to make....
I will write a post at the end of the first month, and hopefully each month after, about how the budgeting is going: failures AND successes. Because there will be both! And I am allowing myself some grace. (gasp!) If this is too unattainable, then I'll give myself a little wiggle room and up the budget by a tiny bit, if I need to. But I am really hoping not to.
I don't have all of the little details and organization worked out but I am in the process and Ben is behind me 100%. We will probably have to buy a bread machine because I really don't have the time to knead bread every single day. I so miss my wonderful bread machine that happily churned our delicious loaves and dough for 10 years.....sniff. Any recommendations??
Bottom line. I'm not a crazy hippy person. Just trying to be a better steward, if you will, and trying to help ease burdens and be a little more responsible. I still want to have fun and eat well and love chocolate. Just a little more carefully!

1 comment:

Lizzy said...

Heidi! I was just giving our March budget an overview looking to April when I got discouraged and started wandering around the internet. Boom! You've got me back on track! And I will be back for more ideas!
Our kids are still little so we can always stretch dinner leftovers into lunch. But when that doesn't work anymore I can see how things are going to be revamped. I really don't know much yet, but here's the recipe I use for sandwich bread:
I buy jars of yeast, not packets, but I'm guessing there's a better "bulk" way to do that.
I don't know how comfortable you ware with Freecycle, but I wouldn't be surprised if a wanted ad for a bread machine was successful. Back in Chicago we got everything from Freecycle :)
I'll be back!