Monday, October 31, 2011

$400 grocery challenge review

I was hoping to do a weekly check in this month, but life has a way of, well, being life! I came down with mastitis (kicked it quickly, thankfully), Helena got coxsackie (not so fast to get rid of that one), and I blinked once or twice, and here we are at the end of the month.

I just finished tallying receipts, and the verdict is...$511.55 for the month. So we did not keep within the $400 mark.

 Here's where we went awry:

- I bought 3 jars of almond butter on sale before the start of the challenge for a total of nearly $30.00
- I bought $17.00 worth of olive oil on sale at our coop...I knew this would contribute to pushing us over, but went for it anyway, since it was good price on good quality olive oil.
- I sent Patrick to the store several times without a complete list, and he had to wing it...this always results in more spending.
- Since Helena was sick and her little mouth full of blisters, so we splurged on Popsicles and soft, out of season fruits we would not otherwise have purchased.
- I didn't plan ahead for Patrick's birthday, and we needed some  birthday meal items I could have budgeted in better had been more organized.

However, this brought us in a good $200 under our normally monthly expenditure, so, in the spirit of celebrating the small victories rather than focusing on short comings, I'm considering this quite a success.

Some things that helped us cut corners were:
- Using what was available...lots of vegis still from the CSA, and therefor lots of soups and stews that made more than one meal.
- planning meals ahead and sticking to the plan as much as possible.
- Cutting back on meat a bit...Patrick felt ready to relax on the no yeast diet after being fairly stringent for awhile, so we did more vegetarian meals, and bulked up the meat meals with more vegis..and we both agreed we feel better with this balance.
- I did try to use some of what was on hand in the pantry, but made a point not to try to live mostly off what was there and drain our reserves, so to speak.

One thing that would have helped a lot would have been to incorporate more legumes, which I love, but am avoiding at the moment, since they seem to bother little Lucy's tummy when I eat them. We'll try adding them back again in another month or so as her system develops, and see how it goes. I miss them, especially this time of year.

This was a great exercise for me, and one that I will continue to work with. It feels good to tighten things up and be more mindful in this way, and it wasn't hard to do. 

Heather has some great ideas in her weekly updates, and there are some great ones in the comments as well. 

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Simply Ten

Simply ten...ten simple things to be thankful for, inspired by Amanda Soule.

- Nearly a week of sun, after so many dark days.
- Good Coffee, mmmmmm
- Having the quiet house to myself for a bit (shared with a peacefully sleeping Lucy)
- Refrigerator stocked with CSA and garden bounty
- The beginnings of a meal plan, once again, after a long hiatus..ahhhh
- My favorite leftover soup for lunch
- My body, heading back to normal, after pregnancy and birth
- The image of Lucy falling asleep on Helena's chest (so grateful that the have each other)
- Wrapping up a big project before the sunny weekend=outdoor family time!
- Healthy,  growing baby girl (3+ pounds and 3 inches in 4 weeks!)

Wishing you a wonderful weekend! Do you have a Simply Ten List? Post or link to it in the comments, I'd love to take a peek!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

$400 for the month of October grocery challenge

I haven't participated in any sort of blog-land challenge in all honesty, just writing here, given my busyness and sleep deprivedness these days is quite a challenge.

But I've been thinking along these lines already. Between maternity leave for me (unpaid, since I'm self-employed) and work slow down for Patrick (also self employed, it comes with the territory), it's a good time to tighten up the budget.

So we're joining Heather, at one of my favorite blogs, Beauty that Moves, for her October Grocery challenge.

$400 Grocery Challenge

You can participate or follow Heather's and other's progress by clicking the button above. 

I would say that, on average, we spend close to twice that amount, which seems crazy to me when I think of it. I can remember the days, back in San Diego (food was cheaper there, then, not sure anymore), when we could easily get by on about $200 or so. But we were a family of two working adults, and we worked in hotels (me in banquets and spas, him on the conference circuit) where food was readily available to us on the job. I never thought to calculate how much we saved in not buying food, but I would guess that eating for free at work easily cut our grocery bill in half or more.

But I digress (as a so often do). Now, we're a family of four...2 adults, a 7 year old, and an infant who doesn't eat food yet, but whose breast feeding mama eats like a horse these days....

We buy local foods as much as possible, whole foods as much as possible, and organic as much as possible, and we cook from scratch. We also try to buy in season as much as possible, but I find myself cringing and caving to the picky eating habits of my 7 year old daughter and buying things like pre-made snack foods (which, when you buy the healthier varieties,cost even more) and strawberries out of season and the like.

Also, Patrick is on a low yeast diet, which requires a considerable amount of meat, also pricey.

So this will be a challenge, but not, I think, impossible. My strategy, such as it it, is as follows:

- Better menu planning...this has gotten pretty loosey goosey lately, and I know we spend less when I have a plan. 

- Utilizing CSA veggies and gifts from my parent's garden in the menu plan, especially items from the "take as much as you can use" area.  We've been good about this, but, I think, with a bit more planning, could be better. I have a nice bag of summer squash calling for creative use.

- Pulling modestly from what's on hand....don't want to drain the pantry or freezer, per say, but taking a look at what's there and what's been sitting could be helpful.

- Making a few more things from scratch...especially snack foods. Helena bores easily of whatever we get too often, so mixing it up could be fun and cost effective....this could also be challenging, given how full my plate is, so we'll see how it goes....

I'll keep you posted, hopefully with weekly updates...

Care to join in?