Whew. I am a little bit late posting our summary of week three in the Uber Frugal Month Challenge but that is because last week was a whirlwind of expensive things breaking, children being sick and massive amounts of the general craziness that comes from being a family. I did not catch up on my reading but about half way through the week I realized it was ok. We are still being uber frugal with our spending and we are completely on track to make my conservative goal of only spending $500 on groceries this month so we are doing great. We have not spent less than $500 a month on groceries since before we added our four year old to the mix so it is kind of a big deal for us.
When I first started looking at our spending last summer we were spending at least $1000 a month on groceries and many months it was closer to $1300 which is crazy. Part of that was because I did not separate out our non-grocery items as carefully as I have been lately and we were spending a lot on general household items but we were still topping $800 a month on just food which is way too high, especially since we were not eating out. We have chopped our general household items budget to almost nothing and I am trying really hard to keep our groceries down. It is really difficult though because I am gluten-free and the kids are dairy-free and they drink a lot of “milk”. I spend probably $100+ a month on minimal amounts of dairy-free milk, yogurt and cheese just for the kids and we run out of “cheese” all the time. We have been slowly testing them on non-cow milk cheeses to see if they tolerate them since it is way cheaper to go to Costco and buy a gigantic block of goat milk cheese then to buy a tiny pack of vegan cheese on sale for 5, 6 or even 9 dollars (and goat cheese is divine!). My kids would eat one vegan pack of cheese in 1-2 days and it has nowhere near the nutrients we would like so we eat them sparingly. We also have to supplement calcium and vitamin D for them as well and I have definitely noticed that now that we have two kids eating gummy vitamins we are having to buy them more often.
We were really good this week about eating our leftovers and making meals out of what we had. We did have to go to the store and my husband went so I don’t remember the exact break down but we still have about $120 left in our grocery budget for the next week or so and that should be enough. We bought a bunch of basics such as frozen vegetables, meat, toilet paper, fresh blueberries, bananas, grapes, avocados, and milk for the kids. My husband bought pork and made garlic sausage from scratch which is the meat we will be eating this week. He also splurged a bit and bought some fish (which we rarely buy) and he fried it a couple of days in a row and we ate it for dinner and breakfast the next day. The kids loved fish for breakfast and it was a great cheap protein source.
I am proud to say that we threw out no leftovers and we have increased our vegetables quite a bit. Usually our kids eat a huge snack at 3:30 or 4:00 and then are ready for bed at 6:30 which doesn’t leave much room for a late dinner so we squeezed it in at 6:00. This past week we tried giving them a very light snack at 4:00 and eating dinner at 5:00/5:30 and lo and behold our kids are actually eating a huge dinner now including all of their vegetables without fuss. We have decided to keep it up and now our youngest is eating way more vegetables and our four year old is not picking at her food and taking forever to eat.
We did end up using our freezer meal this week on a night my husband was out late and we were low on cooked meals in the house. The kids loved it and I was able to stretch it with some rice and a salad on the side and the one meal lasted for a few grown up meals and several kid meals. We bought the beef, carrot and potato stew meal from Costco. We usually don’t like to buy pre-made meals like that but we bought it last November in anticipation of my husband being out of town for a week on business and we never used it. It was reaching the time when it needed to be used so we brought it out for our Uber Frugal Month and it worked great. I am thinking about making some freezer meals to have on hand but honestly we don’t really eat them unless we make a conscious effort (I’m looking at you leftover lentil soup that has been in my freezer for a couple of months). I am thinking about doing a pantry challenge next month since we seem to have barely made a dent in our pantry/freezer this month even though we have cut way back on our groceries.
One of the great thing that has come out of the Uber Frugal Month Challenge is that my husband is making bread again. Back in the day when we only had one kid and before I became gluten-free my husband used to make the most delicious bread all the time. He stopped because we just weren’t eating it but now that we have more kids and they are able to eat it he has started up again. I hear it is wonderful but I have not tried it. He was able to make it dairy-free for the kids and they have been enjoying it in their lunches with nut butter and our homemade raspberry jam.
I did get around to drying our bananas this week and just in time too! My son polished off the last of our previous batch and quite a bit of the current one before I could get it out of the dehydrator. I tried drying a few apples to see if the kids liked them and they gobbled the apples up so fast I hardly blinked! I will definitely be making more dried apples some time soon!
We splurged a bit this week and bought a membership to the Pacific Science Center. We absolutely love going there and it has been a huge part of our lives. Our oldest daughter even volunteered there a few summers and participated in many of their camps. If you buy the membership you get discounts on IMAX movies, upcoming exhibits and most importantly summer camps. Since I will be going back to work I will need to find some sort of care for our four year old over the summer. Our youngest will be at his daycare but our four year old’s school has summer camps instead of regular school so I will have to be signing her up no matter what. The summer camps at the Pacific Science Center are some of the best in the area and spots fill fast but members can sign up almost two weeks early and they receive a discount so buying the membership is totally worth it. Even if we didn’t send our daughter to camp we would only need to visit the science center three times this year in order to make the membership worth it. Buying a yearly membership to a local museum/science center and then visiting every month or every other month is one of the ways we have enjoyed cheap entertainment over the years. Science Center members also enjoy discounted tickets at sister sites and we have visited the science center in Portland OR in the past while on vacation.
Now on to the expensive part of our week. We did replace our hot water heater and it ended up costing us quite a bit since we have gas and in our county they do not do many rebates for a gas hot water heater but I have really noticed a difference in our hot water. It was such a drastic change that I even got out our meat thermometer to check that it was heating the water correctly to 120 degrees and yup, the water was the correct temperature. I had my first hot and not lukewarm bath yesterday since we moved in two years ago and it was glorious! The old one was not heating the water very quickly and if anyone used hot water after bath time, like say to do the dishes, it took forever for it to reheat. I am really glad we replaced the whole unit and not just the leaky valve at the top.
Another major expense this week was the repairs to my car. It turns out that my car is no longer under warranty since it has joined the 100,000 mile club and it needed a few repairs. We had the oil changed, the alignment fixed and the drive belt replaced. The leak in the sunroof turned out to be clogged drains and that was cleaned out as well. My daughter really liked the loaner car and was very excited for me to keep the “new car”. It turned into a conversation about how I loved my car and we didn’t need another one just because something newer came along. My car is a 2010 and the loaner was the same car but a 2015 so the inside looked much prettier, especially since it had not been well loved by my kids for the past five years. I am not sure how much of the conversation my four year old grasped but I am hoping that by talking about how we don’t need to buy new things all the time or replace cars just because they are older it will lay the foundations for her to have a stable financial future. You have to start somewhere right?
How is your Uber Frugal Month going?