Sunday, August 25, 2013

August on $100

Well, we managed to keep August to our $100/month grocery budget. I kept receipts all month and tallied them this weekend, and we had $18 to spend for this week, so overall our budgeting has gone pretty well.

We scored some major deals on meat this month, so our freezer is stocked. We found kielbasa going out of date at the HT with $2 off coupons on the packages from the meat department. So we bought four packages to use in the coming months for jambalaya, potato hash, and as add-ins in mac and cheese. Earth Fare was running a special on their grass fed beef, so we were able to get two and a half pounds for $10. I portioned it out into half pound portions and froze it to use in pasta, sloppy joes, stuffed cabbage, and soups over the next few months. We also had a friend give us some venison sausage, so I used a half pound of that in a breakfast casserole this month. Learning to cut back on meat hasn't been difficult for us, since we were already pretty much weekday vegetarians anyway. But we've learned to be creative. For instance, I made sloppy joes this week with only a half pound of meat and cooked lentils to fill out the rest of the filling. They were awesome! Not only did they taste great, but the lentils allowed us to make more filling than the recipe called for, so it fed us for an extra day or two beyond our normal recipe.

I've totally depleted my baking pantry this month, so I'm going to be stocking up on flour and sugar and cornmeal by buying them in bulk. We've been making about two loaves of bread a week and muffins for breakfasts and some cornbread to go with dinner, so the baking things have gone away rapidly. However, I think this scratch baking has allowed us to save significantly on our breakfast budget. We're no longer purchasing boxed cereals, which we never bought for much more than $1 per box anyway, so that means we're using less milk in a week. We're still getting our dairy in by using cheese and sour cream and milk in other things. We've been using the bread for sandwiches for lunches, egg and cheese sandwiches for breakfasts, and open faced sandwiches (sloppy joes and meatball sandwiches) for dinners. I also used some bread crumbs I had in the freezer as the basis for my breakfast casserole a few weeks ago, and it turned out very tasty with the wide variety of breads that were in the bag. (Saving your stale bread in a freezer bag in the freezer is a great way to not let good bread go to waste. We use it for casseroles, baked french toast, and bread crumbs for chicken nuggets or rounding out a meatloaf.)

We've been able to save on produce, particularly fruit, by purchasing things that are generally cheap or in season. Usually I don't like bananas unless they're really green and starchy, so I buy them green and eat a few, Benny eats most of the rest, and then the last few go in the freezer for banana bread or muffins. Bananas are really cheap and pretty nutritious, and they fill out a lunch easily or make a good midmorning snack. Peaches have been pretty cheap this summer, so I've stocked up from the produce stand and have made some peach preserves and peach salsa for gifting for Christmas too. A few weeks ago, organic strawberries were on sale, so we bought some and had fruit salad with our pancakes for dinner and really enjoyed them. Friends brought us some fresh corn and summer squash, so we had tacos one night with those.

Using dried beans has become a staple in our house too. I generally cook a crockpot full each week and use them in casseroles, stir fries, tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, salads and bean burgers. They also freeze well when covered with the cooking liquid, so I freeze some for soups. We do black beans, kidney beans, pintos, and black eyed peas this way. The black beans and pintos also make great crockpot refried beans (crockpot 365 is a great blog if you haven't checked it out!).

Probably the biggest change for us has really been in the beverage department. We're only making one pitcher of tea a week, and we've got no juice or coffee in the house. We will keep coffee on hand for when we have guests, and I still make a cup of herbal tea each morning before I go to work. I know I've been drinking far more water as a result of this shift, and I think Benny would probably say the same. It's definitely freed up about $10-$20 a month for us to spend on food, rather than extra calories we probably don't need anyway.

Southers Savers has really helped us make good use of our coupons, and its free, while the Grocery Game isn't. So, we cut out our subscription to the Grocery Game in the interest of saving a few bucks, and really have been pretty happy. Last week was super doubles at HT and this week is super doubles at Lowes Food, so we're doing pretty good with purchasing our toiletries, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, etc. for free or super cheap.

Sharing meals with friends and family has also helped us stick to the grocery budget. We usually have at least on meal a week with my mom, and try to have at least one meal a week with friends. By doing things potluck style, it allows us to use things we already have to contribute to the meal, but it means we don't have to fix it all, which not only saves us money but time. We enjoy entertaining this way, and its definitely cheaper than eating out with friends.

We've still managed to have some treats in the house with our $100/month budget, like some chocolate mint cookies this week and I'm planning on making some homemade icecream next weekend. We really don't feel like we're deprived of anything, just changing our habits a bit and being a little more conscious of how we spend a buck. The occasional gift card we get for a grocery store will help us treat ourselves once in a while to those specialty ingredients we like to have, so we can still try out new recipes.

What about you? Have you been able to stick to your grocery budget?

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