Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The March Challenge Results

So the results are in, on my challenge to do a much better job with our grocery expenses.  During the month of March, I ended up spending $419.  Not too bad.  My goal was $400, but I am very pleased with the results.  And, if I wouldn't have had to buy Pull-Ups on Sunday and had another $10 purchase that wasn't expected, I would have hit my target.  It was tough, especially this last week.  DVB was quite shocked to see how bare our pantry and refrigerator got by the end, but we did fine.  We'll see how this month goes as I spent $350 today at Costco to replenish the supplies!!!  $400 a month may be difficult to keep up, but I am hopeful that we will be making some improvements to the overall bottom line.  All and all, this was a good challenge for me and helped me really figure out where our money is going and where we can cut back.  This was my first time that I actually kept track of every purchase for an entire month and by doing that I knew how much I had left every couple of days.  Question for you moms....do you figure in diapers and wipes in your monthly grocery budgets or do they fall into their own category???

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Homemade Pizza

Here's a great recipe from my Cooking Light cookbook of a whole wheat pizza crust that is delicious!  I found it online too.  We have made three pizzas from scratch already....yeah...saving money!  It freezes very well too (if you accidently double the dough like we did).  I am going to try to figure out the cost per pizza and get back to you....I would guess about $2-3!!!  The crust is a little thick, so we recommend baking the crust for 8-10 minutes before adding the toppings.  We prefer a thinner crust.  We have to work on our pizza dough rolling out and tossing skills! Enjoy! We haven't ordered out any pizza this month!  Yeah!


Things to buy in bulk...

Just thought I do a quick post of some things I buy in bulk...maybe this will give you all some new ideas...please share your random bulk purchases too!

1.  shredded cheese (it freezes very well-you can put it is separate ziploc bags)
2.  bread (also freezes very well)
3.  the obvious toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, paper plates and cups, detergent, ziploc bags, shaving cream, diapers, wipes, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, hand soap, dish washer detergent, dish soap, clorox wipes, cleaners, even Spray 'N Wash-you use a lot of that when you have kids
4.  oatmeal
5.  ketchup and BBQ sauce
6.  just bought bulk bread crumbs for the first time
7.  all my meat (unless of course its on super sale at the grocery store)
8.  turkey bacon (so much cheaper and freezes very well)
9.  sugar and brown sugar
10.  D and D coffee (I'm not ready to be frugal with my coffee...hehehe)
11.  Peanut Butter and Jelly
12.  salad, carrots, and broccoli
13.  frozen veggies
14.  whole wheat pasta
15.  cereal bars
16.  walnuts
17.  batteries (and DVB tells me that Kirkland batteries are rated #1 in Consumer Reports)
18.  yogurt (sometimes)
19.  frozen berries/blueberries
20.  fresh strawberries 
21.  sweet potatoes when they are in season (one time I got 10 lbs. for $2.99!!!!!!!!!!!)

Ok, so almost everything I buy comes from Costco if I can help it.   But my four most surprising things:
1.  Honey (if you use it a lot, its so much cheaper...I never realized how expensive it was until I started using it a lot)
2.  Pure vanilla extract  (same reason as above)
3.  Hershey's Chocolate Syrup (DVB's idea)
4.  whipped cream!!!!!  Land of Lakes is by far the best whipped cream....

And things I wish I could buy in bulk...that would save me my trips to Walmart or another grocery store
1.   whole wheat flour
2.  Good Seasons dressing
3.  Yoplait kids yogurt
4.  bananas that weren't so green
  

Monday, March 9, 2009

$400 March Challenge

So I have never been that great at keeping an accurate track of our grocery expenses.  Its always been, "well, I think we spend about this much..."  I thought its time I really look at how much is going out of our pockets toward groceries, including food, diapers, toiletries, paper products, cleaning supplies etc.   Last week, before looking at how much we had been spending each month, I told DVB that I wanted to see if I could do it all for $400.  I mentioned this amount to one of my friends and she thought that $400 would be tough.   Especially when shopping at Costco because some months you run out of all those big things that you don't buy that often (i.e. diapers, paper towels, toilet paper, soap, detergent, etc.) and it throws the monthly budget off.  I'm still trying to figure out how to account for those types of months.  Anyway,  I decided to tally up what we spent in February....I was shocked to find out we spent about $619 (I did get a lot of big things)!!!!  WOW....that's a lot!  I bet $550 would be a little more accurate since we did have a purchase of $70 for DVB's razors and our fancy toothbrush heads that we won't have to buy again for another 4-6 months....anyway...now the challenge is really on.  I am so determined to see if I can keep our grocery bill to about $400. One of my other goals is to continue to cook relatively healthy and fun meals too, since we have been on our health kick for so long now.  And I love to cook, so I want to keep up with a variety of meals.  So far, so good.  I have already spent $300 but I have mostly everything covered for the month except additional milk, coffee cream, yogurt, and fruits and veggies, that I have to buy every 1-2 weeks.  We'll see how it goes.  Just last week I found a great recipe for homemade wheat pizza that was delicious (2 more balls of dough in the freezer).  We have a weakness for ordering out pizza in this house (granted I always have a coupon), but now that I know how to make dough, and its not as intimidating as I thought, we will not order out this month as a way to save some extra cash.  I also had found a great deal on some yummy frozen pizzas at Costco a few weeks ago that ended up costing only about $2.5o/pizza!  So there's no excuse to order out.  Last week, I also found another light recipe that was very economical.  We started getting a weekly paper and just last week I used over $10 worth of coupons at Walmart...that pays for our monthly cost of the newspaper subscription.  

I'm excited and up for the challenge.  Its helping me to be more organized, and to plan better as far as meals are concerned.  Oh, here's another frugal tip:

12.  We eat Quaker old fashioned oatmeal almost every day of our lives!  All four of us do and, no, our kids don't need sugar on it.  We do sometimes put fruit or Craisins, but both our little ones will eat it plain.  I actually transitioned NDVB to real oatmeal right after baby oatmeal. Does baby oatmeal have sugar? No.   They don't know what they are missing until they have it...so don't give it.  Oh, and you can make it in the microwave. Another benefit....you have oatmeal on hand for delicious homemade energy bars and yummy healthy chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies.   Here's the cost per serving: (and if you're feeding it to children, you probably get more servings per box because your giving them less).
A box at Costco costs:  $6.49 with about 102 servings/box
Serving price:  $0.06  (Wow!!!)

I must say I think that is a pretty great deal for a breakfast budget-24 cents/day for four people!!!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Tidbits...

Here are some basics that I/we have done for awhile now as a way to save money and be more frugal, thrifty, cheap...whatever you want to call it...
1. We don't have any fancy cable package...just the bare minimum service ($13/month) because an antenna never worked and we wanted some sort of TV reception.
2.  The very basic phone service for our home-line and then we use our cell phone for long distance.
3.  I buy 90-95% of my children's clothes on sale, mostly clearance, and thankfully, I have always been able to buy their clothes a season (or two or three) ahead of time.  Just a few weeks ago, I was able to pick up fall and winter clothes for next year at the Children's Place at some rock bottom prices.   I do prefer quality, name brand clothes and have always managed to get great deals. 
4.  I also hit up garage sales and Goodwill for clothing, toys, baby items, etc.  Twice, I went to garage sales and found name brand little boys clothes for only $1 an item and they were in great condition.  (One of my friends had told me about them-thank you FP!)
5.  I shop at Costco at least 2 times a month for the majority of our grocery shopping.  Buying in bulk really does pay off.  My goal lately is to really compare Costco to Walmart and I found 3-4 particular items that were cheaper at Costco.  We also have an executive membership which ends up paying for itself since you get 2% back on all your purchases and over the past two  years we spent more than enough there to cover the $100 fee each year.   I also make sure to use the Costco coupons.
6. We have a FSA (Flexible Spending Account) to take care of all our medical expenses like prescriptions, co-pays, medicines, contacts, glasses, diaper cream, etc.  This is tax-free money from my husband's income that is put into a special account.
7. I try to join all the "frequent shopper" and/or "birthday clubs" that are free and end up saving a lot when it comes to buying gifts and groceries, i.e. at Borders, the Children's Place, of course the grocery stores. Just last year, I ended up getting at least $50 back from the Children's Place for purchases I made over the course of the year.  Its not the credit card, but some other "place member" card, that keeps track of your purchases, then rewards you when you spend so much.  I then could use that money to buy the clothes for next year and for some gifts.
8.  I do go Christmas shopping on Black Friday and there were incredible deals at The Children's Place  (with some of their additional coupons-they honored all three that I had!), AC Moore, and Toys R Us.  Its worth getting up or not going to sleep!
9. Coupons.....coupons....coupons....my parents trained me very well to always look for coupons for everything...a haircut, an oil change, groceries, for department stores, food, toys, diapers, restaurants (an Entertainment book is a must--I was shocked I didn't get one this year for Christmas), and for any sort of entertainment like theater, zoos, museums, etc.  
10.  Scan the weekly circulars for good deals on meat, soda, and fruit.  I'm excited to tell you all about my pot-roast story soon!
11.  Thanks to a dear friend sharing this with me, we are now saving on our paper towel budget. Rather than always using paper towels to wipe off my kids after meals, I purchased 8 wash cloths for about $3 at Walmart and use those instead.  I've noticed my rolls of paper towels are lasting a lot longer.  

Ok, I'm tried...that's all for now.  Be back again soon!

New Blog

In addition to our family blog, I wanted to start a second blog focusing more on my small attempts to live a more frugal life with our family.  In this crazy, and somewhat scary economical times we are living in, I think a lot of people are making changes to their lifestyles.  I have come across so many blogs on the subject of being frugal.  I'm not trying to compete with any of "those" blogs, but thought it would be fun to have a little local network of friends and family trying to help each other along the way.  I have always considered myself somewhat thrifty, frugal, cheap, etc., but am beginning to realize I still have a lot to learn.  As I continue in my adventure to learn how to be more wise with the blessings and gifts that God has given us, I thought it would be neat to have a blog to document all of that and also to share what I already try to do to help manage our finances in a responsible way.  We'll see how it goes and how I can manage to keep up with it. Won't you join me and share what you have learned about the frugal life?