As promised, here is the first of my updates as to how the Savvy Spending Challenge is going in our home!
The first significant challenge that I faced in implementing these major budget cuts was in my meal planning and grocery shopping. We cut our grocery budget by 36%. That left me $50 for my whole food co-op, and then $45 a week for our regular groceries. Also, the $50 co-op order will not arrive until two weeks into the month, so it's only $45 a week until then. I use the co-op to keep stocked up on many of my basics, like flour, oats, raisins, Bragg's, vinegar, beans, etc.
Because I have been able to stockpile our cleaning supplies and toiletries in the last little while, we fortunately do not need to buy any during this two-week period. The only household item we will require is toilet paper, and some dish scrubbies.
My first plan of action was to stretch out what was in the fridge for as long as I possibly could before I went shopping. This has become a new habit of mine, and one that I feel is worthwhile in several regards. First, it helps me to be a wise steward of the food that I have, making sure that as little as possible goes to waste. Secondly, it helps me get creative and learn to see meal possibilities where before I only saw a near empty fridge. Third, it helps create contentment in me, working with what I have and knowing that we don't truly "need" to run out to the store the moment the paycheck hits the bank account.
Here's an example of one of my using-what-I-have creations. I sauteed 1/2 cup diced red onion and 2 cloves of garlic in coconut oil, then added 2-3 cups leftover cooked brown rice. I cut up 3 sausage links (natural chicken with dried tomato and basil), and added those, along with 3 small diced tomatoes. Next I added 3/4 cup chicken broth, 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, sea salt and fresh pepper and let it all simmer. It ended up becoming a bit like a risotto, nice and creamy. At the end I added about 3 Tbsp snipped fresh parsley. It was actually really nice, and you could make a similar style dish with so many combinations of random ingredients.
The next challenge was planning a shopping list and meal plan for the week. Because I had stretched out what I had until Monday morning (our payday is Friday), I gave myself a bit of leeway with my $45, knowing that I would only need the remaining money for about 4 days the next week, rather than a full week.
Here's what I spent:
2 EE's (produce): $15.69
Total: $52.39 (so, I have $37.61 left for next Monday's shopping, to last until that Friday)
Overall, I was fairly happy with it. My major disappointment was that I couldn't afford to get organic milk as I usually do. I was hoping there would be some near expiry that I could ask for a deal on, but alas, there wasn't. I sadly bought regular milk.
I don't include breakfasts and lunches in my meal planning. Breakfast is usually homemade
bread for toast, cheese, yogurt, granola, fruit and/or berries, fruit
smoothies, eggs, pancakes, muffins, etc.). Lunch is primarily leftovers, and occasionally sandwiches, homemade salsa and guac, etc.
Here's my meal plan:
Monday: Moose roast (my step-Dad likes to hunt- yay for us!) in the crock pot with potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, and gravy.
Tuesday: Homemade macaroni casserole (white sauce with cheese, canned salmon,
veggies like mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, etc.), herb salad.
Wednesday: Moose stew (leftover meat from Monday's roast), homemade bread and broccoli salad.
Thursday: Shepherd's pie and salad.
Friday: Mexican rice skillet with beans
Saturday: Spaghetti (sauce from scratch), salad, squash, homemade bread.
Sunday: Lentil soup that I will make today and freeze for Sunday. I try not to cook on Sundays if I can avoid it.
Also, on Monday night I hosted my friend's baby shower, and I provided a birthday cake for her, as well as tea, coffee, and a spiced apple cider (so easy to make- I used 2 cans of apple juice concentrate, made slightly on the strong side, put in a crock pot on low with a couple of cinnamon sticks, and a few pinches of nutmeg and allspice- simmer for a couple hours). And both Thursday and Saturday we have another family coming over for dinner.
But we're doing it!
As for the rest of our spending, we've done well, only a few small items. In order to take our enough cash (because our withdrawal daily limit was too low), my hubby had to buy something at the store so he could take out cash with his purchase. He chose well- two mechanical pencils for our cash systems, and chocolate- of course! That was a couple of bucks.
And, we are unfortunately having to spend some money on passport applications for our kids. My husbands family lives in the States, and we go down to Washington often. As of January, we all require passports to cross the border. We had heard a rumor they were extending the date for requiring a passport, but it isn't true. So, we have to do the applications this week. The photos set us back about $22, and the applications are $40. Ouch. But, it has to be done. That's ok, we can still reach our goal!!!
We went to the library and got a few movies and books and magazines, so we've all got some interesting stuff to read and do. We feel good about what we're saving and how the challenge is going so far!
I'd love to hear how it's going for any of you! How are you doing on your spending so far? What have been your challenges? In what areas have you cut costs or made do without something?