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What’s for breakfast?

One of the most common questions I am asked when I mention my ridiculously low budgeted amount for groceries is 

WHAT DO YOU EAT????

The second question is usually “Are you an extreme couponer?” No, no I am not. I used to coupon, but with 5 kids, one in high school and 2 homeschooled, I don’t have time for that. I wish I did. 🙂

Naturally if you are not spending a fortune on groceries, people assume you are eating crap. I can assure you, there is no crap buying here. Why buy crap when you can make crap for free? 

Okay, that was in poor taste. Sorry. :hangs head in shame:

I was talking about chocolate chip cookies. Promise. 

Let’s get back to what we eat. I think one lie that I bought into for many years is that we need variety. I used to stockpile 12 different kinds of cereal. I think I stopped doing that, because I stopped couponing and then I just couldn’t get a good deal. My kids love Fruit Loops, but they don’t need Fruit Loops. If they want Cocoa Crispies, they buy Cocoa Crispies with their own money. 

I’m really good at going off on a tangent. Variety. Focus. We pretty much eat the same thing for breakfast most of the time:

  • Cream of Wheat (my husband’s current kick) There are 24 servings in one box, so it lasts about a month. – $4 (at the most)
  • Oatmeal – With my cholesterol issues, oatmeal is my breakfast of choice at least 4/5 of the weekdays. Our local grocery store has it on sale for 69 cents a pound in the bulk section. I buy the thick cut oats and stock up when it’s on sale. 
  • Cheerios – I keep one box on hand, because my teen likes it and it lasts about a month. A large box is about $3.50
  • Eggs – $7 for 5 dozen. One will last a full month.
  • Potatoes – $2 for a 10 lb bag, unless it’s on sale in a larger size. I buy two for a month. I like to make this at the beginning of the week, then the kids or my husband can just pop it in the microwave for a quick breakfast. Her prices and portion sizes seem to be a bit higher than mine. I make 10 servings from one recipe and calculated that each serving costs about $0.50
  • Pancakes – I use this recipe. We rarely have pancakes, but when we do, it’s a weekend. 

The above is what we generally eat. We always have fruit, veggies and yogurt on hand. Every once in a while we will make omelettes. Charlee, the baby, likes to eat bananas and cottage cheese for breakfast. Piper sticks with toast. In our house, everyone is on their own schedule and pretty much on their own for breakfast. 

I’ve found that keeping breakfast simple makes the mornings easier. Us Dixons are creatures of habits anyway and once we find something we like, we usually stick with it.

While we don’t have an enormous amount of variety in our breakfasts, as individuals, we don’t indulge in a lot of unhealthy breakfast items. Every once in a while I throw in a surprise breakfast item. In fact, I plan on making this for my husband this week. I just want to know if it’s good.  

What do you eat for breakfast? 

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Update: That HUGE grocery shop

Last weekend I alluded to a HUGE grocery shop and dangled a carrot in front of my friends. I said I would be back to share how it went. Then life happened and I am not making excuses, but… 

Well, yes I am. School happened. A high schooler. Yikes! Two home schooled kiddos, yi yi yi. Several doctor appointments, and working my little side job. I am not a waitress in a cafe bar. Although that is not a bad idea. 

Yeah, so anyway, In this post, I mentioned that I would like to switch to a huge monthly shop for non-perishable groceries. I planned out an entire month of meals, which was a whole lot easier than I thought. If you want to know how I did that, I can tell you… later… again. I use Plan to Eat to plan our meals. Try it, you’ll like it, then come back and thank me. You’re welcome. 

I checked my list and deleted all the items I already had on hand. I only planned side dishes for the first week of the month, because I fully anticipate returning to the store each week for produce, salads, cottage cheese, etc. 

Our first stop was at our local produce store. We stock up on a week’s worth of produce and a month’s worth of bulk here. We gravitate mostly towards items that are on sale. Our fruit consisted of apples and bananas last week because those were the least expensive. The total amount for produce for the week and bulk for the month (mostly rice) was $50. We filled 6 bags. 

Our next stop was at Winco. Let me tell you, it got a little stressful here. One reason is because I was using the Plan to Eat “app” on my phone. I set the dates for the full month and started on the non-perishable foods. After that, I switched the dates for just the week so I could get all of the perishable foods we needed just for the week. Before this, I did not realize that when you toggle between dates, your items will show back up on your list. I will definitely need to come up with a better system. I typically have a good memory, so I knew what I had already picked up, but we had 4 kids with us, and it was a busy day at the store and I felt like I was in the way of everyone. I haven’t decided how I am going to handle this on future shopping trips, but I trust I will figure something out!

Total spent for a month’s worth of staples and the weekly perishables: $200. I didn’t get EVERYTHING I needed, because some of the stuff wasn’t on sale and I knew it goes on sale every other week. So I will check the prices on those things when I return for our small weekly shop. 

We picked up 20lbs of ground meat from a friend and spent $50 there. This will last us at least 10 weeks, but usually more like 15. They also blessed us with a few different cuts, which I found out when I thawed some ground meat yesterday, only to open the package and find some tenderloin. That will teach me to read the package. 

Pizza was on the menu tonight, but Chad and I talked about it and decided that instead of going to the store to buy the toppings and sauce, we would see what we could make from what we have. We are barbecuing the tenderloins we thawed yesterday, making a potato salad (thank you, mom, for the mayo!), and grilling some zucchini that our friends AND the neighbor gave us. 

During the past week, I went to the grocery store one time and that’s because my daughter wanted to buy herself a cake. I found some marked down meat, a pound of ground lamb and a sirloin steak, and paid $8 total for those. 

So our total spent for the month, so far is $308, but some of this stuff will last past a month. I am excited to go pick up our perishables tomorrow and see how little we can spend. I am also interested in the time we save. I think we spent a total of 3 hours last week grocery shopping. It’s hard to tell, because we also went school clothes shopping and those trips tend to run together. 

Update next week? Same time, same place? Maybe? 

I Need a Budget. Do you (need a budget)

Or Do you want to build a snowman?

Do ya? Uh? Uh? Uh?

So annoying.

Moving on.

Okay. I’ve had too much coffee today, or too little. It’s all about perspective. I really want to tell you about You Need a Budget (YNAB)! We have been using YNAB for a month now. Originally I signed up for the 30 day trial version, but the very next day I won the software from a contest at Not a Stepford Life the very next day! I can no longer say “I never win anything”, because there was that one time (now)!

Do you want the short version or the long version? The long is really long and the short is “I LOVE IT! How did I live for so long without it? How come when I heard ‘You Need a Budget’, I thought ‘no I don’t!’?”

WHY?

Now that we have been using YNAB for a month, I can see clearly that yes, I do need a budget. It has kept us accountable for the past month. We have diligently budgeted, recorded our transactions, reconciled and looked forward to the next paycheck!

YNAB has four rules: 

  1. Give every dollar a job
  2. Save for a rainy day
  3. Roll with the punches
  4. Live on last month’s income

You can read more about the rules here

Prior to using YNAB, we were pretty good at rules 2 and 3. Rule 4 is interesting because while we had enough in savings for last month’s income, we weren’t actually living on it. As far as rule 1, our dollars that went towards monthly bills had a job, the rest of the money was FREE MONEY! Whoo hoo. Not really. 

Early in the month, while reading about living on last month’s income, it suddenly made sense why they make that a rule. I explained it to my husband, we thought about it for a while and figured “hey, if we don’t like it, we will take our paychecks and put them back in savings and live on the current month’s income”. We held hands, transferred all of our savings to checking, jumped and have not looked back. It is the best feeling ever. I’m not worrying about the next paycheck and how much it is, because it’s just going into our account. I don’t need it for THIS month, because I am still using LAST month’s income. Our bills were paid early in the month and the amount of mail we receive has been drastically reduced! 

You should check it out. I know that some of you are like me and you think you don’t need a budget, but what if you do? 

As August draws to a close, this is where we are at with our budget: We overspent our budget for August by ($0.51). Yep, we are less than a dollar in the red. It’s okay though, because I still have this month’s income waiting to jump in and be used for September. We only have 4 days left in the month and we have been really good about not spending money. Our gas tanks are relatively full, we have enough food to last. Something may come up, but we have our buffer, so no worries. 

Do You Need a Budget? Go on over, check it out and then come back and tell me what you think. Sign up for a class! It’s free. You don’t even need to purchase the software and they give one away during each class. It could be you! 

  

Large Family, One Income, and a Day at the Fair (Possible?)

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I am a person that is big on adventure. I love to go, do, and see things. Out of necessity and desire, I go, do, and see on a budget. A small budget. 

I’ve come across people, with smaller families and bigger income than us, that think it’s impossible. My neighbor, married, with two kids, and a double income family was just lamenting yesterday about how much her boys want to go to the fair, but it costs so much. I looked at her and said “We went yesterday, we spent $109”. Her eyes bulged out of her head. “How did you do that?”

Taken from our county fair website, here is the breakdown of prices for the fair and our family (our 20 year old chose not to go this year):

3 adult admissions (and since when is a 14 year old considered an adult, other than when it’s financially beneficial for you????): $30

2 children admissions: $14

Child under 6: Free

3 ride bracelets: $75

Ride Coupon book (for the hubs and I, who don’t ride more than a few rides): $23 for 25 coupons

Parking Pass: $6

Total: $148

That total actually makes me feel a bit queasy. Then when you add in the price of food and games… Oh, my, that day at the fair just made mommy throw up and I didn’t even get to ride the Yoyo.

So how did we do it for just $109? 

1. Our kids get a small spending amount every month. We told the kids “Allowance or fair, but not both”. They actually did the math! “How much does it cost to get into the fair and ride rides?” They found out the benefits they got with the fair far exceeded what they would get in cash. 

2. Next question! “Rides or games?” I told them I would give them $25 for games or they could have a ride bracelet. They chose the ride bracelet. 🙂 Smart kids.

3. We pre-purchased our tickets! My neighbor did not know you could do this, but yes! Several outlets around here sell the tickets before the day of the fair and they are considerably cheaper:

  • 3 adult tickets: $24
  • 2 children tickets: $10
  • Child under 6: free
  • 3 ride bracelets: $66
  • Coupon book of 30 rides (as opposed to the 25 at the gate): $20
  • Parking Pass: $5

Total: $125 We would have saved $23 right there.

4. Blood donation. My 20 year old donated blood at the Red Cross and received 2 free tickets to the fair. My mama didn’t raise a dummy. My 20 year old gifted those to us, I used them for 2 adult admission tickets. Savings: $16

5. I’m not entirely a big meanie. We told the kids we would advance their next allotment of spending money, if by chance they saw a game they wanted to play, a food they wanted to eat or a toy they wanted to have. My son wanted a Mt Dew. He came back and said “$3???? I’ll wait”. My 9 year old spent hers plus $1, but since I ate half of her cotton candy, I forgave that dollar. 😉

6. Food. So how did we handle the food? Well, we did what we always do. As stated above, the kids had some money they COULD spend, but they knew it was coming from THEIR money and not MINE and they are always a little more careful with THEIR money than they are MY money. I told you my mom didn’t raise a dummy. I digress. Back to food. We brought it with us. Yep, carted it in my husband’s HUGE lunch bag. We made four PBJ sandwiches. I cut each sandwich into 4 pieces so they were grabbable. These went into a large Rubbermaid food container. My husband made meat tortilla wraps. I cut up cheese into bite size pieces, my husband made some Peanut butter celery bites. I grabbed a sleeve of Ritz and a sleeve of graham crackers for any snacking needs. Each of my kids owns a Thermos water bottle and they filled those before we left. The night before the fair, we froze half of a gallon of water, filled it with water the next morning and brought that for refills. 

I know there are people that think you can’t experience the sights! the sounds! the taste! of the fair without doing it ALL, but my kids did not complain. They knew they COULD do some things, but they WOULD have to give up others. (I like CAPS) It was their choice. It wasn’t their mean mama telling them they couldn’t. When they knew they could buy a corn dog, but there were some free sandwiches, they chose the sandwich. My kids aren’t dummies either. 

So, that’s how we did the fair on $109. Yeah, it’s still a bit spendy, but if I’m being honest, it really only cost me $9 out of my pocket. I listed an item and sold it for my parents and the deal was if I did that, they would pay me $100. It was perfect timing. 🙂 When you subtract out the spending money the kids DIDN’T get, because they chose the fair, I think I made money. Woot! 

I want my kids to experience all the sights and the sounds of life, but they also need to know there is a cost to all that. I am pretty darned proud of them and their spending choices. I’m proud that they can walk right by the barking carnies and say “nope, I like my money more than I like that stuffed animal that I will donate in 6 months”.

Smart, eh?

And, really, they look like they were having fun!

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Are you going to the fair this year?