Monday, December 8, 2008

Pantry Challenge - Week 1

Well, our first week of the Pantry Challenge went pretty well... I had stocked up on a few fresh things before the month started, so we started the week with plenty of milk, veggies, and cereal (the things we usually run out of weekly). For dinners we had baked potatoes stuffed with shredded chicken and broccoli, burritos, and pasta with ground turkey. Leftovers got us through the rest of the week.

I did have to run to the store towards the middle of the week for milk, deli meat and cheese and spent $23.86 (there were a few impulse items in there as well, milk's not quite that expensive yet). Our limit weekly is $25 based on family members.

I realize now that our biggest challenge is going to be lunches. We normally pack lunch for all three of us, but the things I normally put in lunches are things I tend to buy weekly and with our limits in place I may not be able to get what I need for lunches and the inevitable milk and fresh fruit/veg. I'll be updating our pantry staples list to include lunch and snack items towards the end of the month. This is a great time to rethink our food storage plans and identify any holes.

The Challenge for this week is to inventory our pantries and freezers. You can't use your stockpiles effectively if you don't know what's in them! I have a tendency to use the items at the top of my chest freezer sooner, simply because I can see them easily. There has to be a better way of organizing a freezer than that!

What are your best tips and tricks for making the most of your freezer space and not losing things in there?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pantry Challenge at the Nourished Kitchen

Now that winter's winds are blowing and our pantries are (hopefully) stocked, Jenny at The Nourished Kitchen is challenging us to use those pantries for what they were intended - eating! Check out the link and then come right back, k?

Ok, for those of you that don't want to click away to check it out:

The Rules:
  • The Pantry Challenge Begins at 12:01 a.m. on December 1st and ends at 12:01 a.m. on January 1st.
  • Post your progress by Wednesday of each week.
  • Check-in here every Wednesday after you post for that week’s mini-challenge (i.e. Pantry Inventory, Meal Planning etc.) and to let us know your progress and share any tips you might have.
  • Use only what’s in your pantry, freezer and cupboards. Be inventive and creative.
  • If you desperately need to head to the store, keep your tab under $10 per week per person over 13 and $5 per week per person under 13 not to exceed $50 per week.
  • Keep a running total of any money spent on food in each of your Pantry Challenge blog posts.

  • Inventory Your Pantry, Cupboards, Cellar and Freezer
  • Do some bulk shopping now to prepare for December
  • Meal Plan, Meal Plan, Meal Plan

So who's in? Now you really do have to follow that link and go sign up. You'll be entered for the prize (a vintage cookbook) when you do and if you mention it on your own blog you'll get more entries. Then there's another vintage cookbook that you could become eligible for by going back every week and playing along with the mini-challenges.

Come on! It'll be fun-- I promise.

And if anyone wants to de-lurk long enough to tell me that they're playing along, I might even consider a prize during one of the mini-challenges of the month.

I'll be posting meal ideas and photos of my bulging freezer in the next week to show you where I'm beginning from and we'll see how much progress we make....

Can't wait to have you join in the fun!


Monday, November 10, 2008

Coming out of the Fog

Lighthouse in Fog
Originally uploaded by *clairity*
I woke up after a month of the fog of illness. A virus turned sinus infection has sapped my strength, energy and drive for the last 4 weeks and I am so thankful it's over.

Unfortunately, I find that most of my coupon stash and all my CVS ECBs have expired while I was hibernating. During my illness, shopping was a low priority and the few trips that we made were emergency trips for milk and not much more. Eating out has also been higher than normal since no one has felt like cooking. Our neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant knows our order by heart now.

Yesterday I made a tentative meal plan and a monster grocery list. We need to get back into the habits of taking our lunches to work/school and cooking at home. Our pantry and freezer are filled to the brim and I'm ready to get back into the kitchen. Last night we made a big pot of beans and a pan of cornbread (yummy!), and this morning lunches were gathered up -- I really need to get on the ball with making lunches at night. Mornings are not my strong suit.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Finance Fiesta!

My article on Hillbilly Housewife's $45 Menu - Revisited was included in the Finance Fiesta at BrokeGradStudent. Go check out all the other great articles that were submitted!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Good Links Monday

Have you ever noticed there are some days when every article in your feed reader is great? Here are some interesting items I found this morning.

With the current financial meltdown and subsequent bail-out, many people are starting to realize that getting out of debt and living within their means is a smart thing to do. If you're one of those people, here are some tips to getting started at Paid Twice.

The Frugal Duchess brings up points that the financial stress of the times may lead us to make less than intelligent decisions.

Celias points out an interesting corrollary to the sub-prime lending meltdown to the current environmental concerns.

And $ out of 15 cents wonders if it's possible to live on half your income, in case you had to. Make sure you read the comments as well.

JD at Get Rich Slowly posts an interesting exchange from Ask Metafilter about finding your passion in life and whether you should try to follow that passion into a career or not.

And finally, Daily Writing Tips posts a wealth of information on finding inspirations sources online. This looks like a fabulous bunch of links that I'll have to explore the next time I have writer's block.

Menu Plan Monday 10/6-10/12

Ahhhh.... another Monday. I'm not the best at the 'get up and go' portion of the morning, especially on Mondays, but I've found that the more prep work I've done the night before the easier it is to get everyone out of the house on time. Laying out our clothes, packing lunches, and thinking about what to have for breakfast is tons simpler at night when my mind is clear.

I usually do my menu planning on Sundays as I'm prepping the grocery list. Sometimes the menu plan includes specific recipes, but mostly is just a general idea of what we'll be cooking. I'm more of a fly by the seat of my pants chef unless I'm trying something new.

This week, here's what we'll be having:

oatmeal x2
cereal x2

varies per person


Monday: Breakfast for dinner (probably eggs/toast)

Tuesday: Chicken & veggies

Wednesday: Mac & Cheese

Thursday: Garlic Chicken & Spinach over pasta

Friday: Turkey tacos

Saturday: Cod fillets & veggies

Sunday: depends

Um... okay, usually I don't plan out 7 dinners a week. I've found 5 works out the best, as sometimes there are leftovers that don't get taken in lunches and we occasionally go out to dinner on Fridays as a date night. And dinners can also get switched around depending on schedules. Mondays and Wednesdays are school nights for G, so E and I are on our own for dinner. Usually we have something easy or kid friendly. Having things planned out so we can keep to a schedule is crutial on those days so we don't get distracted and forget about dinner completely.

Usually more menus can be found weekly at Org Junkie but today I'm not seeing the Mr.Linky... maybe she'll get it fixed soon.

What are you having this week?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hillbilly Housewife - $45 Menu Revisited

How much would it cost for a bare-bones menu for one week if you had absolutely no food in the house?

The Hillbilly Housewife answered this question twice, once with her $45 menu in 2006 and again with the $70 menu. In fact, her entire site is a fabulous resource because it has all the recipes you need to cook the menus and has all sorts of ideas for how to cope with hard times.

But I wondered, how has the costs of her menus changed with the higher food prices we've been dealing with lately? In July, Living Almost Large did a comparison with the $70 menu in a high Cost of Living Area, and last week I compared prices at my area (Texas - a medium cost of living area I think) grocery store for the items on the $45 menu.

ItemHH's PriceMy Price
10 lbs all purpose flour1.923.76
3 pack yeast0.620.89
Baking Powder0.770.84
3 lbs long grain white rice0.991.95
2 lb bag of cornmeal0.880.99
5 lb sugar1.881.99
Vegetable Oil1.502.49
2 cans frozen o.j.1.762.68
20 qt box instand nonfat dry milk8.8713.99
2 lb lentils1.201.38
2 lb pinto beans1.201.38
1 lb black beans0.600.89
1 lb lima beans0.600.99
3 boxes Macaroni & Cheese1.001.08
3 packs Ramen Noodles0.300.51
2 dozen eggs1.382.14
2 lb margarine0.961.28
1 lb hot dogs0.890.73
1 28oz can tomatoes0.891.09
1 15oz can tomatoes0.500.75
1 15oz can green peas0.420.69
1 15oz can corn0.450.50
1 15oz can greens0.400.49
1 15oz can spinach0.420.49
5 lb bag carrots2.003.95
3 lb bag onions2.001.50
1 bunch celery1.201.59
6oz can tuna0.440.66
18oz jar peanut butter1.501.39
Pancake Syrup1.001.34
Garlic Powder0.501.13
Chili Powder0.501.13
Bouillon Cubes1.000.54
100 Count Box of Tea Bags1.001.69

Notes on my costs: On several items, HH didn't specify what size or amount she purchased, so I made my best guess as to how much we would use in a week and priced accordingly. Also some packaging had changed (i.e. my store sells 4 lb bags of sugar, not 5 lb), so I adjusted my prices to reflect purchasing the amount HH specified.

Mostly our prices were a little higher due to rising prices, but on a few items (hot dogs) I got the better price -- I don't know if this is a discrepency because I priced the cheapest, but overall, I think the menu and grocery list are a good starting point.

Certainly, following this menu would be a good idea if you were completely out of food and were frankly a little panicked about what you were going to buy and feed your family that week. It doesn't require a lot of thinking or worry about what to fix when. It even has a to do list attached for each evening to prepare for the next day.

However, I don't think I would follow the list blindly for my family. Some of the items on the list I don't think I would buy or I would change their amounts. We have plenty of cinnamon in the cupboard and I don't think we'll be running out anytime soon. We also don't really eat canned peas or greens. And I think we'd use the 13.99 cost of dry milk to buy 2 or 3 gallons of milk and use the remaining money on some fruit, such as bananas, or some fresh veggies or potatoes.

Also since we've been stockpiling things as they go on sale, we've gotten some of these items at better prices in the recent past, and stocked up on the items we would use.

But this does help make a valid point. If your resources are strained, a plan like this would most likely be within your budget with maybe a few adjustments (don't buy things you won't eat).

Then the next week, you will have a little extra in the budget because you won't need to repurchase salt, spices, and whatever else you have leftover. You can purchase other items to supplement the basic list and stock up on a good sale if you see one. Even on a strained budget, it's possible to start a stockpile and start reaping the benefits of eating foods bought at the lowest possible price.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - August 25th

This week is going to be extra busy because G and E are both returning to school, so our dinner schedule may be up in the air until we get our routines down. Also we will now be packing 3 lunchbags every day and eating a healthy breakfast before leaving the house in the mornings.

Here's the plan:

Oatmeal w/ brown sugar
Toast w/ peanut butter, yogurt
Eggs and toast

Leftovers from dinner
Lunch meat sandwich
Mac and cheese
*lunches usually have 2 or more of the following: carrot sticks, goldfish crackers, pretzels, dinner rolls, trail mix, grape tomatoes, banana, plums, pudding, cookies.


Sunday: Ravioli (frozen) w/ tomato sauce
Monday: Salad
Tuesday: Rice with stir fried veggies
Wednesday: Soup (veggie with beans)
Thursday: Spaghetti Cups
Friday: Pizza (probably this crust with leftover sauce from Sunday and ground turkey)
Saturday: Pinto beans and cornbread

I try to plan a different dinner for each night, but if one night turns out to be extremely busy and no time to cook, there are usually leftovers from an earlier night. We typically eat at least 5 dinners off our plan, and the dinners we don't get to get merged into the next week.

For more menus, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie - plus there's a giveaway! You might get lucky...

Have a great week everybody!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bulking Up My Emergency Fund

Lately G and I have been steadily bulking up our emergency fund. While we're focusing on paying down our credit card debt we don't want any surprise bills to overthrow our efforts.

It's a good think we have been, too, because we recently had some roof damage and the insurance company has decided it's time to replace it. If we had to come up with our deductible a few months ago, we would have had to put it on a credit card and it would have taken us three months to work our way back from the negative progress.

Now we can take care of the roof calmly and continue our road to financial recovery.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Jam-Packed Weekend

(okay, bad pun)
One of my favorite money saving tools of all time is my freezer. We bought a small chest freezer about 8 months ago to supplement our refrigerator’s freezer section, and I know that within the next 6 months it will have paid for itself. Not only is it great to be able to purchase greater quantities of perishable sale items for future use, but it’s also a great time savings when I can prepare a double amount of a meal and freeze half for later.

But I can’t keep stuffing things into it constantly without eventually taking something out. It’s been getting a little cramped in there and I need to clean it out a bit, organize what’s in there, and make an inventory so that I use up my freezer stocks to strategically stretch my food dollars.

This weekend I did a little freezer magic... After Thanksgiving, huge bags of fresh cranberries were on sale for practically nothing, so I bought a bag and threw it in the freezer. Cranberries are very easy to freeze because they don’t need any prep work at all and they freeze beautifully. Since the end of the summer is typically when I make jams and jellies and can veggies, it’s also the time of year when my stocks are lowest.

This year, our personal crops weren’t very abundant and we haven’t had a lot of time to hit the farmer’s market, so my canning adventures have been few and far between. But I decided it was time to make a bit of room in the freezer and fill up the jab cupboard at the same time. I searched around for a yummy sounding cranberry jam and came up with this one. The addition of cinnamon was intriguing and I wanted to see how it would turn out.

Cranberry Jam

It turned out great-looking and -smelling. I haven’t tried it on toast yet, the ultimate test, but should tomorrow.

I also put up a few containers of strawberry freezer jam since I found a great deal on strawberries at the grocery store but didn’t get a good picture. I used the standard recipe that comes in the liquid pectin package. Has anyone else tried this? This was my first time for a non-cooked jam and the sugar didn’t seem to combine in properly. Is this normal with freezer jam?

I’ll try to get our menu plan posted sometime today. It’s been tremendously helpful for me to plan out our meals at the beginning of the week, since when I get the question “What’s for dinner, Mom?” I have a solid answer. It makes grocery shopping a very streamlined affair as well. My weekly grocery trips are getting quicker and less expensive the more consistently I meal plan.

What time or money saving trick has been working best for you lately? Please comment, I’d love to hear from you!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

School Daze

Well, G is finally registered for school, and E will be registering for her new elementary school tomorrow. Everyone's going to school around here but me! That's okay, with everything I've got going on lately, there's no time for school.

One thing I've figured out I do need to make more time for, though, is diet and exercise. Doing the menu planning weekly has helped tremendously, but I haven't been watching my portion sizes as well as I should and the gym has been last on my list of priorities lately. I've been watching the scale creeeeep upwards and I'm not liking the result.

So tonight I'm going to hit the books and figure out a healthy plan for a little weight loss. I'll probably work on a modified 'Weight Watchers' type program. I tried them before and the program does work, but the group meetings weren't the right environment for me. There are lots of great online resources out there and I have the basic booklet still from my last foray into the world of WW.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Menu Plan July 20 - 26

Last week's menu plan went really well. We did substitute pizza on one night when we took a trip to Costco, but all in all, menu planning went well. One thing we do need to plan in more detail are breakfasts and lunches. Packing lunches at 6 in the morning when you have no idea what to pack makes for some pretty interesting lunches. So here's the plan for the week:

Sausage biscuits
Eggs & Toast

Broccoli Salad
PBJ sandwiches
Egg Sandwich

Sunday: Twice baked potatoes
Monday: Broccoli Rice casserole
Tuesday: Turkey Pasta Bake & Salad
Wednesday: Salmon Croquets & Veggie Medley
Thursday: Veggie Pasta Sauce
Friday: Date Night
Saturday: Leftovers/Everyone for themselves

To see more menus for the week, check out the main post at I'm an Organizing Junkie

Lunches are a little tricky because G is essentially vegetarian at this point and doesn't like traditional lunch foods such as sandwiches. I'd love to think of a few more options for him, as sending a lunchbag full of fruit, cut up veggies, and pretzels seems like a skimpy lunch. Any suggestions?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Menu Plan July 13-19

Now that we're back from vacation it's time to really get back on schedule. Beginning with menu planning for the week and getting the laundry washed, folded and put away.

This week's menu will look something like this:

  • Sunday: Beans & cornbread

  • Monday: Salad with grilled chicken

  • Tuesday: Salmon & rice

  • Wednesday: Bean burritos

  • Thursday: Leftovers

  • Friday: Pasta with veggie sauce

  • Saturday: Out to eat or breakfast for dinner

This is my first week submitting to Menu Plan Monday. To see more menus for the week, check out the main post at I'm an Organizing Junkie

Friday, June 20, 2008

Dustbunnies and Socks

So far I’m doing alright with the Flylady system. I’ve shined my sink two nights in a row, and two nights in a row H has put a dirty bowl into it within minutes of my shining it. It’s okay, though. It’s a new system and I try not to sigh or comment maliciously.

Yesterday I took a few minutes to dust the dustbunnies off the ceiling fan. Formerly this fan would run 24-7, but I’ve been turning it off when we leave the house lately to save on energy. Meaning when we walk into the house we see this bunny-encrusted ceiling fan just sitting there taunting us. So I dusted it. I realize now that the bunnies were a crucial part of the balancing mechanism for the fan, because now it’s making little ‘tick-tick-tick’ noises every couple of minutes.

Next week my focus will be on laying out my clothes the night before. We do this with E, as she has a hanger with compartments and we fill it up with a weeks worth of clothes at a time. This helps her get up and dressed a lot faster without worrying about whether she has clean socks. This week I’ve had to worry about socks, and more importantly pants for work, and it has not helped us get out of the house quickly in the mornings.

I’m feeling a little more centered about the process of getting my act together, as I’m realizing it is a process and will not happen overnight, or even in a week. As long as I’m making progress I think I’ll be okay.

Financially we are still right on the edge and still waiting for our stimulus check, but it comes when it comes.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Beginning Again

Originally uploaded by torres21
Lately, I’ve fallen off the financial planning wagon as several things have clumped up to make things rather tight for us as well as very busy and I’ve fallen off the blogging wagon as well. For some reason, I feel as if I shouldn’t blog if I’m not doing well in my financial goals. But if this is truly going to be a record of my progress, in this and any other goals I’m trying to accomplish, I need to record the good and the bad. So I’m calling a mulligan and starting over.

I did a bad thing. I had planned to use our stimulus check to pay some credit cards off and buy some camping equipment we needed for a trip we were planning. Originally we thought the check would be direct deposited, but that didn’t happen. So we were looking at the payment schedule and figured the check would be here mid June, so we used our regular paycheck to pay for the camping equipment and trip and figured the check would be here by the time our trip was over and we needed to pay our regular bills. But somehow we managed to read the schedule wrong. So our 2nd check for the month covered the bills for the 1st half of the month, and the 2nd half bills will be covered by the check when it gets here.

Moral: Never count your chickens before they hatch.

Meanwhile, I will be starting a new job in 2 weeks. This won’t make much difference in our financial picture, but the commute will be a bit shorter and I will hopefully be less stressed. The new job situation looks to have a much saner boss and work schedule.

And I’ve decided that I need to make some major organizational changes in our household… in that we need a little. So I’m looking into I’ve been on Flylady’s program before, but more in the ‘I read the emails and don’t really follow the advice’ kind of way. This time I’m going to read the emails and follow along as best I can. I’ll try to keep an update here on my progress in that department.

Also, I’m going to try to follow along with the Going Green group that ’Burban Mom is starting up.

So a lot of changes here at Trifling Occasions. Let’s hope I can keep up.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tuesday Update

The garden survived the storm for the most part... our sunflowers are now leaning a bit to one side, but hopefully they'll straighten up here pretty soon. With warm weather this last week, the soil's dried out and we've been able to get out there and weed. I saw a tiny little tomato on one of our tomato plants. I hope it's the first of many.

Last year our garden really only produced green beans and cucumbers. Squash bugs got our zucchini plants and the lettuces and spinach never sprouted at all. We're not sure if it was an overabundance of water (last spring was extremely rainy) or if an animal scratched up the seeds. We tried to plant a little earlier this year, but since we were expanding the beds things went in the ground about the same time.

We're calling it the year of experimental gardening. Planting things we haven't planted before, filling in with more and different seeds if certain plants don't sprout. So far it's looking really promising.

The only problem we've really had so far this year has been with dirt. Last year we had a very small box garden which we filled with dirt from the home center. Since we're in the suburbs, our dirt is mainly fill, which has plenty of fun stuff like nails, broken glass, and rocks in it. So we tilled it up a little, put a raised box on top, and filled it with the good dirt.

This year, since we've added a bigger box, we decided to get a load of dirt from the dirt/gravel place down the road. We specifically said we were gardening in raised beds, and the foreman pointed us towards a mix of soil he called 'pro mix'. Said it was really good stuff. It looked good as we were loading it into the box, but it's really fine stuff, and the first time it rained it locked together like it was cement. Drains about as well too.

A third bed that was planted into the fill dirt, rocks and all, is turning out to be better soil. But the plants that are planted in this pro mix are growing, just slowly. I figure now that we have the quantity of dirt we need, we can add to it with our compost pile and mix it together. Next year should be much better all around.

But for now, we'll do the best with what we have.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Last night we had a tornado warning. It ended up being just a lot of wind and rain and no actual tornado, so that was good. But we had already decided that since our garden beds and boxes weren’t draining as well as we’d hoped, we didn’t need to water them for a few days. We’ll go out tonight to see if our plants have completely drowned or are still holding on to the life raft with all their might.

It’s supposed to rain all week. Hang in there, little plants!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Returning from AWOL

I've been missing in action for a while now, and lest you think I've given up blogging altogether, I'm popping in to ask for your input.

Due to allergies and general spring-ness, we've all been a little sick, sniffly, generally miserable. Not only that, but this is prime time to get the garden up and running, which contributes to our food budget lowering significantly in the summer months, so we've been busy.

Unfortunately, this has meant fast food breakfasts and take-out dinners for the most part, and even a few lunches out on days I didn't have time/energy to pack lunches for the crew. Meaning I definitely need a better plan for days like these.

Any suggestions? How do you handle it when time is tight and energy is fleeting? Any tips that could be shared so I can handle the next time without blowing the budget would be greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Two Month Challenge

DH has been in an unacceptable job situation for a while now, and while I've encouraged him to quit and look into going back to school, so far he's resisted. Mainly because he makes the majority of our income. But I've run the numbers and with a part-time job that he actually enjoys we could certainly survive, although it would be pretty tight in our current situation (low savings, credit card debt).

Today he's reached the end of his rope. He has three potential job openings on the horizon he would be qualified for, and will apply for. But if he does not get hired for one of them, he will be quitting his job as of June 1st.

So now I start planning... I have a little over 2 months to work on the Personal Finance Trifecta. Build an emergency fund, Reduce our debt, Build our stockpile.

We've done fairly well with staying within our budget in the past, but the last month or so, we've gotten lax about eating out for lunch (when we didn't want to pack our lunches) and overspending at Costco. Starting April 1st, this won't be an option as we prepare for our income to drop by 60%. If he does get one of the jobs he's applying for, it'll be great that we won't have to cut our budget that much, but we'll be prepared for it if necessary.

If anyone has tips, suggestions, success stories that will give us confidence, etc... we'd greatly appreciate any and all help.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Why Stockpile?

Food storage can be a marvelous asset when money is short, especially if the money that is available needs to be spent on other things. When a shortfall in your budget keeps your grocery list short, a healthy food stockpile in your home rounds out the meal plan nicely. Hardships are much easier to bear knowing that food will continue to be on the table.

Sharon at Casaubon's Book has recently started an online course on beginning food storage. The article "Eating out of your pantry" details what would be stored for a three month supply for 4 people, and is a great place to start. So far, I've been purchasing an extra can or box of a few things on my grocery list as a haphazard beginning food stockpile, but Sharon gives me an idea of quantities to shoot for, additional foods I should be stockpiling and suggesting recipes for those foods.

This weekend we cleaned out half of our garage, throwing out some useless junk that's been cluttering up our lives. We used the extra room to set up some metal shelves that will be the basis for our bulk food storage. Our small stockpile is being kept in our pantry, but with this extra room we can store bulky items like buckets of grains and beans. This keeps our pantry from becoming too cluttered to use effectively.

I plan on visiting our neighborhood food coop to see what they have available and if larger quantities can be ordered. Sharon plans on posting weekly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so I encourage you to check it out.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Grocery List - Part 2

So if I have all the items off my $10 Grocery List in my pantry or refrigerator, what would I buy withy $10? Instead of doing another $10 list, I'll just list a few things, in order of preference, that might make the cut.

Milk - 1/2 gal $2.24 - Milk didn't make my original list because it cut out too many other things at the price and milk by itself isn't going to fill our tummies. Also, I didn't figure a week's worth of calcium deprivation would affect us too much. But having it would expand our options to include more breads, gravies, and a variety of cooked foods. I also tend to have a box of dry milk in my pantry to use in cooking but we wouldn't drink it unless straights were dire.

Tuna - 52 cents a 6 oz. can - Great source of protein in a cheap package. Strangely enough, I was looking at some of the larger cans (12 oz) and wondered if they'd be a better deal -- they weren't ($1.12). Always check unit pricing to make sure you're getting a good deal.

Veggies - 50 cents - I noticed cans of green beans and frozen packages of broccoli at the store for 50 cents each. If I had some extra room in the budget, I'd definitely add more veggies to the basic menu.

Fruit - varies approx $1.00 - either bananas at 44 cents/pound or canned pineapple at 99 cents/can, I'd add fruit for the sweetness and the variety of baked goods that could be made.

Hamburger - $2.08/pound - This price fluctuates on a weekly basis it seems, but that's about average for my area (this is not the leanest hamburger). There is also something called 'skillet mix' sold in chubs like hamburger for $1.38/pound, but I would not recommend it after reading the ingredient list. ICK!

Yeast - 89 cents for 3 pack - I normally buy yeast in bulk at Costco, but if I were out and times were tight, this would provide us with good, healthy bread at cheaper than grocery store prices.

Pasta - varies - Don't forget to check out other areas in the store when buying staples such as pasta. I noticed pasta in the pasta aisle averaged 6 cents per ounce while pasta being sold in the ethnic section averaged 4 cents per ounce. It might be worth it to do a taste comparison if your family eats a lot of pasta.

Bacon - $2.50/pound - I'd like to add bacon to my menu for flavoring bean dishes, adding it to gravies, and rounding out a breakfast of eggs.

Almost everything in today's list and my original list keeps well, with the exception of fresh fruits and veggies. I like to keep a list of my basic ingredients I cook with and when something on that list goes on sale, I stock up. This is also where a price book comes in handy, to keep track of when a sale price is an exceptionally good deal, or merely an average one.

What's in your pantry or must have list that would be good to stockpile?

Monday, February 25, 2008

$10 Grocery List

With food and gas prices on the rise, we're all feeling a greater pinch in our pocketbooks. And as the economy gets deeper into the recession, the possibilities of layoffs and long-term unemployment are becoming more real. This is the perfect time for us to practice our survival skills.

Recently, I came across this thread on the MommySavers Forums which asked the question:
If you were down to your last $10 and had to buy groceries to get you through the week, what would you buy? Could you do it?
It was interesting to see how many responders stated simply "Nope. Couldn't do it." "We'd starve." "We couldn't even by milk with $10." while others rose to the challenge and thought about what they would buy. The key to survival is knowing that if you had to do it, giving up is not an option.

So what would you buy? While I was at the store for my regular shopping list, I decided to write down a few prices of the most likely candidates to see what sort of shopping list I could come up with for $10. It doesn't have very many items on it, and the menu it would create would be monotonous over the course of a week, but no one would starve.

  • carrots
  • - 67 cents a pound - $1.00
  • bouillon cubes
  • - 67 cents
  • tomato sauce
  • - 25 cents per 8 oz can (2) - $.50
  • rice
  • - 1 lb bag - 95 cents
  • beans
  • - 20 oz bag - $1.00
  • oatmeal
  • - 20 oz box - $1.20
  • eggs
  • - 1 dozen - $1.69
  • flour
  • - 5 lb. bag - $1.58
  • margarine
  • - 60 cents
  • baking powder
  • - 79 cents
  • TOTAL - $9.98
The menu for the week would include oatmeal, rice & beans, soup, biscuits, tortillas, fried rice, eggs, rice with tomato sauce, and rice cereal. Not a lot of variety, but hopefully enough to keep the three of us from going hungry.

It gets easier when one considers stockpiling. Most of the things on the list are currently in my fridge and pantry, and a not unsubstantial cache of frozen meat and veggies as well. I chose to create the list as if I had nothing in the pantry but the basic seasonings, so if someone was in dire straights but didn't know what they could buy for such a small sum, they could use this list as a starting place.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

All's Well That Ends Well

Yesterday I had a small scare, with the potential of becoming a much bigger scare. When I was gathering up my things to go to work yesterday morning, I couldn’t find my purse. At first, when I was looking in the living room, the bedroom, anywhere I could think of that I might have put it down, I didn’t panic much. Maybe I’d left it in the car, either in the trunk with my gym bag or in the backseat.

It wasn’t there. I started to mentally retrace my steps and came to the conclusion I’d left it at the gym the day before. I knew I’d had it on my way to the kids club to pick up our daughter, but couldn’t account for it after that. So I called. No one had turned it in, no one had seen it.

I still wasn’t entirely panicked, as the kids club workers hadn’t arrived yet. Surely one of them had seen my purse and put it somewhere safe. The desk worker assured me they’d call if it turned up. By lunchtime, no call. After work I tried again and spoke with one of the ladies in the kids club. Still no luck.

So last night, after a trip to the grocery store and dinner, I knew I needed to go over and either look for myself, or decide someone had absconded with it and take the necessary precautions of changing account numbers and ordering new cards, license, etc.

Luckily, it was found in the kids club, hanging on a hook where the workers usually hang their own bags. Apparently one of the ladies had seen it and put it there for safekeeping, thinking I’d be back to the gym last night to work out, but she wasn’t there when I’d called in earlier in the day. Nothing was missing and everything is accounted for, so I breathed a big sigh of relief.

This could have turned into a huge stolen identity disaster, but it didn’t. It did remind me that I carry way too much personal information in my purse that I shouldn’t be carrying on a daily basis. It also reminded me I need to check my credit report on a regular basis to make sure someone hasn’t gotten my personal information in another way and is out there partying it up on my dime. I’ve been meaning to do that anyway, but this is just the kick in the pants to go ahead and get it done.

Friday, February 1, 2008

January Review

Aahhhh… the dawn of a new month. But how did January wrap up? Better than could be expected, I guess. The last two weeks of the month were filled with family illness, so the blog was getting a little dusty (sorry ‘bout that) and the checkbook wasn’t getting balanced as it should. Since I’m still in the startup phase of my financial health program, I haven’t got all my habits in place yet.

But all in all, we didn’t do half bad. Even without the diligent pouring over the books we kept the thought in our mind that we were cutting back on our spending. Some of our cash accounts (eating out and personal money in particular) went over our budgets but we trimmed enough from other areas that we ended the month on a positive note.

The only black mark was that our savings budget was rerouted to other areas mid-month, so we didn’t save at all this month. But we also didn’t use credit, so I feel it really evened out. Now that everyone’s on their way to wellness, February should be much easier.

I’m ready to get back on track and tackle my nemesis, the budget. A little creative figuring this evening and we’ll see how the month is going to shape up.

What were your financial snags or victories in January?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

CVS Trip 1/14/08

Just thought I'd let you know how I fared on my latest CVS trip... I had to stop by anyway to pick up a prescription, and I noticed they finally had SoyJoy bars in stock.

I've seen people blog about the SoyJoy deal, as CVS usually has these on special every few weeks where they are on sale 4/$4, and generate $4 in ECBs. This is a great deal if you have ECBs that are about the expire, since they generate as many ECBs as they use, so you can rollover your ECBs and get some free product. This is great on those weeks where there aren't too many other deals and you don't want to use your whole ECB stash without generating more. If you can find coupons, it's an even better deal.

(I believe this special is on all month, but not sure where I saw it now) I had two manufacturer's coupons that came out in the 1/6 paper, $3 off 10 bars and 1 bar free, plus a CVS coupon for $2 off $10 purchase. So here's how it worked out:
  • 12 SoyJoy bars - $12
  • $2 off $10 coupon - minus $2
  • 1 free bar - minus $1
  • $3 off 10 bars - minus $3
  • $3 in ECBs left from last time - minus $3
  • total paid out of pocket - $3
  • ECBs generated - $12

I get why people like this deal -- but would I like the bars? I tried two of the flavors, and while I wasn't overjoyed, it wasn't that bad. I can definitely stash these in my desk for those afternoons when I get overwhelmed with hunger at 3 pm. I won't be tempted to scarf them all down, but they will keep me from buying a candy bar from the vending machine, which is also good for the budget.

Have you tried a CVS deal yet? What have you had a good experience with?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Finding Bargains at CVS!

There’s no better feeling that being paid to shop! When your purchases are free, or close to it, and you walk away with money off your next purchase, it really helps the bottom line of the budget. What am I talking about? CVS!

Every month, CVS prints out their monthly list of deals that earn customers Extra Care Bucks(ECBs) that are good for their next purchase. Not only are some products free after ECBs, but many offer ECBs on multiple products, so you can purchase the item multiple times and stock up your medicine cabinets absolutely free. Weekly deals come out in mailout flyers or in the Sunday paper and also include ECB deals and discounts.

Even better, combine coupons with these great deals and get paid to shop! Okay, they won’t actually hand over a wad of cash, but you can add on extra merchandise to bring the total to zero and walk out with that stuff free as well. Considering the high price of milk these days, walking out with a free gallon can really make your day.

There are several ways to get the information on what specials CVS is offering for the month or week. One would be to stop by and pick up a copy of their flyers. I’ll usually pick up a copy of the monthly flyer the first time I stop in for the month, just to keep the best deals in front of me, but mostly, I find the offers online.

CVS prints their flyers on their website, or there are also forums dedicated to saving money that will print the monthly and weekly deals for you. Not only do they show you the deals (usually a day or two early) but they’ll also match them with recent coupons to show you how low the prices can be. My favorite is Pinching Your Pennies. There’s a forum category dedicated to deals at CVS and Walgreens in the “Deals about town” section that is fabulous!

Another great resource is Money Saving Mom. Crystal is an avid CVS’er and many weeks will post on how she uses the deals to her best advantage. She usually shows me how to separate the best deals into multiple transactions to minimize out of pocket spending, which is difficult for me.

Although I’m only scratching the surface with my own CVS experiences, I will definitely be exploring this option more as I attempt to get this area of my budget down to its bare minimum. My latest score? Two Cover Girl lipsticks free. A buy 1 get 1 free offer began on Sunday, and I had a coupon for buy 1 get 1 free that expired on the 31st. Combined, I got both lipsticks absolutely free.*

* your mileage may vary on offers similar to this due to differing managers and how they want their cashiers to ring these up. Mine rang up as 1 lipstick for $6.99 and the 2nd free, then the coupon discounted my total ticket $6.99. Some stores say B1G1, but really ring both up at half price ($3.49 in this case) giving you two lipsticks for ½ price of one. Other managers refuse the coupon as invalid with the deal. Try it and see how your store handles it. *

Happy Shopping!