Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Living on a Budget

Budget? What's that? Oh's that pesky tool intended to improve financial health.
I've been trying to get in the habit of living on an actual budget. But, it's rather difficult.  I have a serious problem distinguishing between what I want and what I need. Maybe my blog readers can help keep me accountable?

I have an especially difficult time when it comes to our food budget.  I buy too much produce that we can't eat in time. I'm terrible at using leftovers. I always need some fancy ingredient which drives up the cost of our grocery bill. I need a solution! I turned to the internet to discover how other people do it. Based on my in-depth research, it sounds like I need to do a few different things:

1) Plan my meals
2) Make meals based on what's on sale (especially meat and produce)
3) Use everything!
4) Coupon
5) Simplify the menu
6) Pay with cash

My well-(over)stocked freezer

However, most of these things come with some difficulty. Planning my meals, using the sales to make my menu decisions, and couponing requires a lot of time. Simplifying the menu is difficult because there are so many delightfully inspiring things in my cookbooks and on Pinterest. Use everything...leftovers never taste as good, who needs two cups of heavy cream, and I really thought we'd use three heads of lettuce. Pay with cash, but the closest ATM for our bank is 15 minutes away. Ugh. There, now you know my excuses.

Maybe a little refrigerator organization would help me to use everything in the fridge. Hmm.
Right. Time to get past the excuses. Just do it. (Thank you Nike for a life motto!) Since you, my lovely readers, are keeping me accountable, I thought I'd tell you my plan. I created 35 days of dinner menus. (I'll send you my extensive excel spreadsheet if you're interested.) About 1/3 of the items are meatless meals - meat is flippin' expensive. There are a variety of meat dishes too: chicken, ground beef, pork, fish, sausage and a few pricier meats, like steak, shrimp, and salmon. Each week, I will pick six or seven menu items based on what's on sale. I'll also stock up on meat that I can freeze for later in the month if there is a good deal ($.99/# chicken!). And, I've started attempting to use coupons to buy staples (pasta, rice, flour, sugar, beans, etc) and treats (ice cream, oreos, brownie mixes, etc).

This week, we're having:
  • Lemony Broccoli Pasta with Chicken and a Salad
  • Roast Chicken, Mac 'n Cheese, and Salad
  • BLTs with Mac 'n Cheese (leftovers!!), and Salad
  • Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Pepper with Salad
  • Chicken Quesadillas with Black Beans and Rice
  • Chili with Cornbread
  • Bean Burgers with Guacamole and Broccoli
The Lemony Broccoli Pasta, Mac 'n Cheese, and Chili should all make enough leftovers to keep me eating at lunch times. I'll post menus, pics and prices next week.


  1. I think ATM being far away is the whole point of "Pay with cash" method. So you don't run to the ATM and fill up your purse, thereby limiting the stuff you buy. No?

    1. Good point! Way to turn my excuse into a positive.

  2. This won't really help with your "pay with cash" goal, but Amazon often has great deals on bulk shelf stable groceries (especially with subscribe & save). We buy a ton of stuff online like noodles, spices, cereal, nuts, etc. Plus, the cats love boxes :)

  3. Yesterday, I finally made an awesome 3# chuck roast like my mom - Ben's Grandma - used to make! I started by dredging it in flour and browning it in a small amount of olive oil, then put it in a Dutch oven with a little water, without a lid, in a 300 degree oven, at about 3 pm. About 2.5 hrs. later, I steamed a bunch of cut up fresh potatoes, carrots, onions and celery in the microwave, then added all of the veggies, with a little salt and pepper, to the pot - under and on top of the roast - and put the tight lid on and put it back in the oven. It took about 3.5 to 4 hrs. total. If you make it ahead and put it in the refrigerator, you can even pick the hardened fat off the top before reheating and serving it. It's enough for 2+ meals for 2+ people. Nothing fancy ~ just very good, inexpensive, and a reminder of life at home on the farm. XO