Sunday, September 30, 2012

SNAP challenge: Shopping Day!

I hope you will forgive me. Pay day was Friday, but we were busy with car repairs, and yesterday was an away game for Soccer Star so I have to shop today. As usual, my plans and menus have gone out the window due to my crippling inability to accurately plan ahead, so I will have to revamp.

Right now, I'm wondering how committed I am to this project and if I can stick to it. Crazy Dumbsaint of the Mind said we don't have to count food we have in our pantries, so I won't because all that running around meant eating out. Several times. Le sigh. Cooking and shopping the way that I do means that it is very difficult to pack a meal for the road. I need to work on that.

So far we have blown $50 eating out. That's really not too bad for a family of six, I guess, but that leaves me about $120 to shop with for the week. I'm going to say a quick prayer in gratitude that all of this is optional and I don't have to survive on a limited grocery budget.

I did it for years early in my marriage. I had exactly $80 a week for DH and I. Then we added our Soccer Star and later Artiste to the family. Food consumption for the littles isn't really reflected on the budget until about age two and again at age four. So, for a family of four I ended up budgeting about $120. Actually $125 because I had to figure in the cost of gas to get to the store. That was six years ago and food and gas prices have gone WAY up since then. What's up with that? 

Modified week of menus (Sunday through Thursday):

  1. Tacos served with corn tortillas, black beans, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, salsa and maybe yogurt
  2. Carnitas, served with lettuce, tomatoes, olives, corn tortillas
  3. Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and side vegetable
  4. Meatloaf, green beans, salad, and mashed veggies
  5. Chicken paprikash with GF dumplings and salad
  1. Chicken salad (from leftover roast chicken) with tossed salad and fruit
  2. Meatballs and spaghetti (GF noodles)
  3. Tuna salad with tossed salad and fruit
  4. Chicken and dumplings (from the roast chicken leftovers)
  5. Chili served with pumpkin cornbread
Shopping list (my estimated cost), updated to reflect actual shopping trip:
  • 7 4 lbs ground turkey/beef (14) 8
  • Whole chicken (I need two, but I have one in the freezer) (6) 5.60
  • Pork shoulder (10) 8.90
  • Butter or cream (I'm thinking about making my own butter to eliminate residudal whey) (3) 2.7
  • 3 5 dozen eggs (5.5) 6.9
  • 2 lbs bacon (6) 3.78 (I only got charged for one package.)
  • 2 lbs sausage (4)
  • 1 lb black forest ham (2.5)
  • Large can of pumpkin (2)
  • 4 2 cans tuna (3) 1.5
  • pasta sauce (1)
  • 2 cans whole olives (3) 2.6
  • corn chips (2)
  • lentils (1.5)
  • celery (1) 1.28
  • mushrooms (1.5) 1.8
  • jalepeno (.25)
  • spaghetti squash* (4)
  • fresh cilantro* (.5) .88
  • avocados or guacamole* (1-3) 1.92
  • sugar snap peas (4)
  • zucchini (1.5) 1.80
  • tomatoes (4) 2.12
  • cauliflower (2) 2.78
  • rutabaga (1) 1.04
  • turnip (1) 1.64
  • apples (4.5) 5.61
  • pears (4.5) 5.2
  • salt (1) .4
  • paprika (2)
  • oregano (2)
  • GF spaghetti noodles (2) 2.2
  • coffee (4) 4.3
  • tea (2)
  • apple cider vinegar (2) 1.2
Added while shopping:
  • frozen broccoli 1.3
  • frozen green beans 1.1
  • chicken breast 9.6
  • corn tortillas 1.9
  • Truvia 3.5
  • Black beans, dry 1.4
  • salsa 2
My estimated shopping list was $110-112. After some omissions and additions my total at the store was just under $110! Yay! I still have $10 for anything that pops up, or to pick up the things I was unable to get on this trip. The estimation is critical in making your meal plan and shopping list. You need to have a rough idea of what you are going to spend before you start shopping for it. Making radical adjustments to stay within budget while shopping is very frustrating and disheartening.

There's usually some give and take, some things you decide to go with out to accommodate other things you want. Like the Truvia. I don't need it, but I wanted to get it for tea. Also, the chicken breast. I decided that if the really cheap ground turkey is the same price per pound as the chicken breast, I was gonna get some chicken breast and adjust my menu accordingly. There were other things I could have lived without. The olives, fresh cilantro, and avocados were kind of extravagent and in a pinch, items like these can be eliminated to stay within your budget.

So, what's your grocery budget like? What are your favorite meals? How far can you stretch your dollar?

Go here to visit the SNAP Challenge and join the frugal fun!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Taking on the SNAP challenge

Not too long ago, Crazy Dumbsaint of the Mind posted a food stamp (SNAP) challenge, and I took her up on it. Basically, can you survive on your state's food allowance? I took her up on her challenge, because, well, I like a good challenge. Especially challenges that help me simplify my life and keep money in my pocket.

Figuring on the maximum, even though I only qualify for $0, I have a monthly food budget of $747.48. Now, we could totally survive on a great deal less than this, but I would like to do more than survive. I like to feed my family with wholesome food and, to boot, we've been challenged by a Higher Authority to give up gluten and dairy. Believe me when I say that no one in my family is the least bit happy about this. I'll wax on about the evils of dairy another time, but it really is not a necessary human staple.

Since the hubs and I are a bit on the fluffy side of skinny, I've decided that we are going to go primal and go all hunter-gatherer in the grocery store as a way of life and he's agreed to put up with it. It's meat and vegetables vegetables and meat. That means I'm not shopping for breads, cereals, pastas, etc. The kids still get gluten-free baked goods (and I get to sample them) and sometimes I serve corn chips or corn tortillas. It's all about moderation, 80/20, yada, yada. I'm not radical about it. Anyway, back on topic, my shopping is centered around meats, vegetables, and a modest supply of gluten-free baking goods for the kids.

I've focused on whole-foods for quite a while now, so I have mostly phased out prepackaged foods and make most things from scratch. That used to include bread. Switching to paleo-ish meal planning has not been that difficult. Instead of coming up with a starchy side, I just skip it. Easy-peasy. It is a bit more expensive, though.

Since the hubs gets paid 26 times a year, and I shop weekly, I figure my weekly food budget is $172.50 for a family of six. I think this is doable. If we can eat for $2 a day, we can do this.

Seven breakfasts: $20

I usually serve eggs and breakfast meat, and I can easily use a dozen eggs for this meal. I budget 8 oz of meat for the family, whether it be sausage or bacon. I used to buy the $1 package of breakfast links, because they're tasty, but have you looked at those ingredients? Yikes! Eggs are about a dime a piece and breakfast meats average 19 cents an ounce. Rounding everything up, breakfasts for the week will cost about $20 for all of us.

Seven morning and afternoon snacks: $20

I usually serve fruit in the morning and popcorn, kale chips, or roasted chickpeas in the afternoon.

Seven Lunches and Dinners: meat $65, everything else $67.5

Lunches will mostly be planned leftovers, crudites, and fruit. The 14 meals I plan to make (in no particular order) are:
  1. Tacos served with lettuce, tomatoes, olives, salsa
  2. Tacos again. We LOVE taco night.
  3. Chili served with pumpkin cornbread
  4. Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and side vegetable
  5. Chicken and dumplings (from the roast chicken leftovers)
  6. Chicken paprikash with GF dumplings and salad
  7. Chicken salad with tossed salad and fruit
  8. Salmon chowder with salad
  9. Meatballs and spaghetti (GF noodles)
  10. Meatloaf, green beans, salad, and mashed veggies
  11. Sausage and potatoes, served with salad
  12. Carnitas, served with lettuce, tomatoes, olives, corn tortillas
  13. Leftover carnitas
  14. More leftovers. There's always leftovers.
I suspect this is too much food, but better too much than not enough. After breakfast foods, snacks, and meat, my budget has $67.50 left for all of my produce, coffee, tea, and beverages.

I usually shop several times during a pay period. I would love to only shop once, but I inevitably forget a few things and I just can't fit all the produce I like to buy into my fridge. I buy all my meat for the pay period during my first shopping trip and promptly put it into the chest freezer. I also buy as much produce as I think I can fit into my fridge. I try to hold out for a week before I go to the store for more produce or eggs. We eat a LOT of eggs.

Eating frugally is largely a matter of organization and discipline. You have to keep meal-making foods on hand at all times. You must have an emergency plan for when you forget to thaw your meat or life gets in the way. Cooking or prepping foods ahead of time also save a lot of time and money, because when you are prepared and have a plan, you are much less likely to say, "forget this. Let's go hit up the dollar menu."

That's it for now. I'll post my grocery lists, money spent, and recipes when I get rolling.
So, what do you think? Tell me about your budget and what's on your shopping list.