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March 2022 Spending

March 2022 Spending

For 2022 we are focusing on our grocery spending and trying to find ways to reduce it despite all of the price increases. In January we completed a pantry cleanout challenge and in February I focused on eating through the odds and ends in our […]

2022 Goals

2022 Goals

Setting goals for 2022 seems a little scary to me. I set high goals for myself for 2020 thinking “this would be my year” but then Covid happened and we ended up treading water for the entire year along with the rest of the world. […]

January 2022 Spending

January 2022 Spending

In January we attempted to do meal planning for the entire month and complete a pantry cleanout and eat through items in our freezer. Whew. It was a lot to keep track of and I am pretty proud of our progress. I was planning on doing a super low spend month for January too but then Omicron surged right as school was starting and we ended up doing a large grocery run at the beginning of the month to avoid the store as long as possible. It ended up working out for us and we were able to avoid the store for the most part for a couple of weeks and did only minimal shopping the rest of the month.

January and February tend to be the months in the year when we naturally run out of things in our pantry such as rice, beans, eggs and many other staples. We have historically had low spending months at the first part of the year in an attempt to catch up with holiday/birthday spending and since we have several large yearly bills that need to be paid the first couple of months of the year. This means we run out of staples and need to rebuy them around the beginning of February. This really hit us hard in 2020 when we were out of many staples and unable to find them at stores so this year I decided to stock up on some of the basics we were low on the first weekend of January. We did eat through all of the fresh vegetables, eggs and many items with our pantry clean out and that was amazing.

Deep Freezer
Clean Deep Freezer.

We were able to eat down our small deep freezer enough to defrost and clean it really well before moving it out of the garage and into our downstairs storage room. Some of the items in it were a huge surprise to me including Otter Pops and a couple of gallons of blueberries we picked in 2017 which were still looking beautiful. We clearly had not been paying attention to what was in there or rotating it at all. I ended up throwing out half the Otter Pops because they were leaking once I thawed them out and we are definitely eating through the blueberries. I have made three cobblers out of blueberries and other fruit so far and my daughter has been eating oatmeal with blueberries a couple of mornings a week which is one of her favorites. This time around we are making a list of what is in there and keeping track better. So far we have a turkey, a pork loin, chicken bones for stock and most of the bread I bought on my trip to the Franz Outlet. The freezer isn’t even half full yet so we definitely have room to spare.

Cobbler
Blueberry, strawberry, pomegranate cobbler.

Our spending from January 10th through February 28th or so is the largest chunk of our budget for the entire year. We have to be very careful about our spending from March to June of the year in order to have enough saved by the end of December to cover everything which can be tricky.

During this period we cover:

  1. Car insurance for the first half of the year.
  2. Medical deductibles need to be met again and we always get some sort of illness in February.
  3. Tuition deposit for our kids’ school which has crept up the past couple of years.
  4. All of summer camp for two kids for the entire summer. This is super expensive.
  5. Two family members have birthdays and we throw at least one party.
  6. After school sports and activities registration for the first quarter of the year.
  7. Pre-Covid we also had Valentine’s day dinner out and booked a trip or two in advance but that is not happening now.

Needless to say, it is a large chunk all at once, especially coming off of a high spend month like December. We have had this pattern for a few years though and I am getting better at predicting what we need. Last year we only had camp for eight weeks in the summer and it was way less expensive. This year I am keeping the kids home for 2-3 weeks as well. Camp can be a lot of stimulation and the kids did well being home and getting some down time prior to school starting in the fall. I am keeping them home the first week of the summer, a week in July and the last week before school starts. This will save us about $2500 in camp costs this summer which seems high but camp prices have increased this year. $400 per kid per week times two kids for three weeks is $2400 plus tax and that doesn’t include after care at an extra$100-150 a week per kid. Child care is expensive to say the least.

Shelf Stable gluten-free food
Shelf-stable gluten-free soup.

For our January spending I focused on our groceries. We did get meals from the school a couple of the weeks so the kids had some variety in their meals and I felt like we did a decent job of not going to the store but we did end up spending just over $1000.00 on food for January which is pretty high. We used to average around $600 a month for four of us but last year this crept up to $1000 due to price increases. We have a lot of dietary restrictions and a picky eater so some things we can’t substitute for cheaper items. I also found that we were buying way to many snacks and barely cooking. We definitely fell into the working parent trap of buying convenience food to save on time. My goal this year is to work on this and reduce our spending with meal planning.

Our spending was mostly from the shopping trip I took the first weekend of January where we spent nearly $500 on basics and stock up items. This type of trip we only do a couple of times a year so this was pretty unusual for us. We also found some excellent deals at my favorite grocery outlet store on meat, gluten-free crackers, cereal, and tea which we of course bought extras of since they run out quickly. I also bought some gluten-free flour in bulk and stocked up on some items we were almost out of from Amazon like the gluten-free ramen I love. I only buy ramen a few times a year and it goes out of stock very frequently so if they have it in stock you kind of have to jump on it. I don’t anticipate buying more flour or ramen for several months, maybe even a year for the flour. We are baking more though so maybe we will need more flour near the end of 2022.

Freezer
Main freezer items. Frozen peas are a must!

Being gluten-free and nut free is pretty expensive and finding shelf stable food can be difficult. We like to keep a couple of weeks of easy to make meals on hand for emergencies and the ramen is an easy thing to cook with or without dressing it up. Everyone should have a month’s worth of food on hand for emergencies, especially in Washington where earthquakes can happen. We did not need to run to the store during the snow in December and it was so nice to be able to not stress about running out of food. The important part of keeping enough for an emergency is to make sure it is items you will actually eat. We keep things we eat regularly and rotate through them as we go. If we aren’t eating an item I try to donate it before it expires at a local free pantry or through our Buy Nothing group.

Regifting clothes from our Buy Nothing group after my son outgrew them.

Overall I am pretty disappointed in our January grocery spending. We bought too much at the beginning of the month and took too many smaller trips towards the end of the month and this added up pretty quickly. I was hoping to spend under $800 for the month with our stocking up and we were way over. For February we are so far at just under $500 which is ok for half way through the month. I did a larger trip at the start of the month but only spent about $250 on groceries at that trip. I should probably mention that that is just for food. I keep track of cleaning supplies, paper products and coffee separately and honestly we don’t spend that much on other items. My goal for February is to stay under $500 but I am really hoping to stay under $600.

 

My spending goal for March will be low but I will talk about that in our next post. For now, how are you keeping your grocery spending down? Do you have enough food for a couple of weeks in an emergency? A month?

 

Meal Planning: January 2022 Week 4

 

Uber Frugal Month January 2018 Wrap Up!

 

 

Meal Planning: January 2022 Week 4

Meal Planning: January 2022 Week 4

We made it to the end of January with our meal planning and although we didn’t follow the plan exactly, we did do a great job of eating through items in the pantry. Some of the highlights from this week were roasted potatoes, oatmeal and […]

Meal Planning: January 2022 Week 3

Meal Planning: January 2022 Week 3

For Meal Planning this week I pulled a bunch of forgotten items out of the pantry once again. We have a lot in there and honestly I could probably do this clean out for another month or two with only some grocery shopping for fresh […]

Meal Planning: January 2022 Week 2

Meal Planning: January 2022 Week 2

Meal planning this week was mostly about eating leftovers and using fresh produce that needed to be eaten. We did our last major grocery run on 1/02/22 so after a couple of weeks some of our produce was looking like it would go bad. I am also remembering why I am not so good at meal planning. We are very last minute with our meals most days and never know how much of something will get eaten the first night. Our kids tend to eat a lot some weeks and then not very much the next and it is hit or miss whether or not our particular eater will try something we make. All of this makes it hard to plan out meals but we are working on it and hopefully with practice we will get better at it.

broccoli casserold
Broccoli cheese casserole.

We cooked way too much food the first couple of weeks of January so there were tons of leftovers to use up this week including this broccoli cheese casserole from last weekend. Although this casserole was very tasty, my daughter preferred other leftovers and didn’t eat much of it. It was also super not good for you with tons of cheese and butter so we probably won’t be making it again anytime soon. We are trying to eat healthier and unfortunately gluten-free noodles don’t freeze very well so we had to eat it all this week. This did however use up some of the ham and broccoli that which was great.

eggs and pearseggs and pears

Can you see a theme here? I ate a lot of eggs and pears for breakfast last week. The pears were part of the produce that needed to be eaten before it went bad and I am trying to keep up with my protein in the morning. Eggs are one of the quickest ways to get protein in first thing in the morning. Over easy eggs are my favorite but sometimes I like to eat scrambled eggs with a little bit of mozzarella mixed in. One of the things I have been trying to do is eat something fermented or pickled at a meal or two a day. This week it has been pickles and Spanish queen olives. Usually I would have had kimchi as well but we are out and it takes a while to make more. The baby bell cheeses also need to be eaten up since the kids lost interest in those after eating about 2/3 of them. Why am I not surprised?

Apples and oranges
Apples and oranges from the school.

So I must confess on Friday I broke down and went to the Franz Bread Outlet near me and went a little bit overboard on bread. I went on the way home from picking up lunch kits from our local school. In case anyone didn’t know, The FDA has approved free lunches and breakfasts for all kids age 1-18 in the U.S so if you are experiencing food insecurity and do not know about this program I would encourage you to look up the different school districts in your area and see how they are providing them. We go to a neighboring district because the pickup times work better for us. Some schools will only provide a days worth of meals and others will provide meals for 5-7 days at a time. We only get them occasionally when the kids are home since the kits include lunches that kids can make themselves which is super helpful for those weeks when the kids are home and the adults are working. The variety they provide has also helped our particular eater find new thing they like so I love that as well. Please see the below links for more information:

Free Lunches for Everyone

USDA Free Lunches

bagel and broccolli
Pizza bagel and broccoli.

I stopped at Franz because I wasn’t feeling so hot and I realized I didn’t have any gluten-free bread that I could toast. Have you ever been to a bread factory just before lunch when they have super fresh bread 4/$5.00 with a free loaf for every $10 you spend? I did and I went a little bit overboard. I was just going to get gluten-free bread for me and bagels for the kids but they had so much fresh bread I went a little crazy. Keep in mind that I can’t eat any of it since I am gluten-free. All of it was $1.25 each. Such a steal! I got a variety of bread, rolls, English muffins, bagels and one single pack of donuts for the kids. 8 items of gluten filled joy for $10 and then a loaf of gluten-free bread and a pack of gluten-free bagels for me for another $11.00 plus the lady gave us three free items off of the free rack and a pack of animal cookies for my daughter. It was a crazy amount of bread for only $22! I put most of it into the freezer, gave some to my oldest daughter and we opened up the bagels to make pizza bagels for lunch. We won’t need to buy bread for a very long time!

soup
Ramen with vegetables.

I was feeling very run down last week with lots of work stress and just general stress from everything going on in the world right now. One of my go-to comfort meals is some gluten-free ramen with leftover vegetables, fresh tomatoes and seaweed. This week I ate some steamed broccoli, tomatoes, grated carrot, seaweed and I added an egg while the noodles were cooking. Usually I add some kimchi to this as well but we need to make more. I love the saltiness of the ramen in the middle of the day. I have a hard time getting enough salt but lately I have been working on it and I have found that a salty lunch really works well for this. This is a pretty big bowl of soup to and it keeps me full until dinner time which helps with the afternoon snack cravings.

tofu soup
Tofu soup.

On Saturday we were invited over to my mother-in-laws for lunch and she made us so much yummy food! My favorite was this tofu soup which was super simple but flavorful. She sent some home with us so we also had it for dinner as well. We are super spoiled because she sends us food all the time (even during the pandemic she would randomly drop it off) and all of it is delicious. My kids love her homemade Pho best of all. They eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner every time she cooks it! We had some hesitations about going over there since Omicron is spreading fast but she lives alone and everyone is vaccinated so we decided to go. Our kids are tested for Covid at least once a week and they have been negative the whole time. My husband and I have been mostly isolating with the occasional quick trip to the store so our risk was low. It was kind of strange because the kids had a blast just getting out of the house and playing with different toys for once. They are old enough now that we were able to let them play in the front yard while the grownups talked in the kitchen too which is so amazing.

gluten-free crumb cake
Gluten-free crumb cake.

The pantry cleanout item I am the most proud of this week was the gluten-free crumb cake I made on Friday. I have pulled this box out of the pantry many times over the past four months or so and then put it back so it wasn’t cluttering the counter. I have no idea why I never made it but now that I have I can say it was pretty good! Next time I will swirl the crumb topping in more but otherwise we loved eating it. I am pretty proud that I finally used up an item I had been trying to use up for months. Phew.

fruit leather
Fruit leather and raisins.

Another item we needed to eat up was some fruit I bought for fruit leather and the grapes my daughter insisted she would eat. Newsflash, she did not eat them all as we had hoped. On Saturday I cooked up the pears, blackberries and a couple of apples on the stove until they were tender. I blended them up and put them in the dehydrator with some washed grapes and now we have fruit leather! My son loves fruit leather and this is an easy way to make it without all of the plastic packaging. I am going to get a recipe up on the blog for fruit leather soon! The grapes are still drying as I write this since they take a lot longer to dry but hopefully the kids will eat them. I know better than to buy grapes at Costco since we never eat them but I was hopeful as always…

Items to use up this week.

I should probably give an update on the items I used up this week from my goal last week. For one, the dish soap ended up not cleaning anything to save it’s life so we ended up throwing it out. I am sure it was too old to work any more. We ate up the craisins, ate and made fruit leather out of the pears, made the crumb cake, ate some peanuts, and some of the One bars so overall I would say we did a great job. My focus was on fresh produce and leftovers for the second week of January so overall we did pretty well.

Goal items used up this week:

  1. Fresh produce: pears, blackberries, broccoli (one meal left), rainbow carrots (we ate tons of these)
  2. Snack items: lentil crackers, veggie straws, peanuts – regular, One bars, fruit cups
  3. Meal type items: None
  4. Dried Fruit: dried cranberries
  5. Junk: Crumb cake mix, Halloween candy my son eats a piece or two for dessert every night
  6. Fridge/freezer items: fancy chocolate – still lots left, spinach bites, ham, cheesy broccoli bake, tomato sauce
Meal Plan
Meal plan for week 2 of January.

I filled in our meal plan for the rest of the week last night. I have not started on this week’s since I was cleaning this morning instead of cooking. I need to look through the pantry and fridge and see where we are at for the week which I probably won’t get to until tomorrow honestly. My husband is making some sausage tonight or maybe tomorrow so that will also affect what we eat for the first part of the week. I may do a mid-week post on how things are going but I have a feeling this will be another weird week. Things I know we need to eat up are listed below.

Items to use up January week 3:

  1. Fresh produce: cabbage, broccoli (one meal left), rainbow carrots, potatoes, tomatoes
  2. Snack items: peanuts – regular, One bars, fruit cups
  3. Meal type items: oatmeal (not gf), pancake mix
  4. Dried Fruit: strawberries, raspberries, apple chips
  5. Junk: Halloween candy – still
  6. Fridge/freezer items: fancy chocolate, sausage, steak, Pho, mashed potatoes, Baked Alaska, cookie dough
Items to use up this week.

Looking at this list I realized we have cookie dough in the freezer along with most of a Baked Alaska that I don’t remember when we started. We should probably eat that this week. The cookie dough will probably be fine for next week but the Baked Alaska really needs to be eaten. I know I have soup in the freezer that we should work through but one of the issues I am having is that other people are not as on board with eating up older items as I am and I end up eating it for every meal. Does anyone else have that issue? As soon as I make room something else fills it’s spot. I am hoping that by focusing on planning out our meals this month we will get better at using things up though!

 

How is your meal planning going this month?

 

Recipe links from the blog:

Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Dried Banana Chips

Easy Dairy-Free Grandma’s Fruit Salad

Meal Planning: January 2022 Week 1

Meal Planning: January 2022 Week 1

Whew. Another week of meal planning under our belt. We used up a lot of things this week from our pantry, fridge and freezer. We still have so many leftovers that we won’t really need to cook for the next few days but we are […]

Meal Planning: A New Start

Meal Planning: A New Start

This past year I realized we have fallen down a hole of eating not so healthy foods more often then we should. We totally fell off the bandwagon of both eating well and keeping our grocery costs down. The pandemic has really split our routine […]

Gardening Update 11.07.21

Gardening Update 11.07.21

A lot happened in the garden since my last post in July which can be found here. We had a large crop of green tomatoes, lots of greens, successfully grew two nice sized pumpkins and many other vegetables. We continued to battle pests throughout the summer and fall with slugs being the main culprit. Most of our apple crop was wormy this year as can happen in Washington. I am going to try netting my apples next year when they are small and see if that helps. We did however get three pears and they were quite frankly the best pears I have ever eaten. I am really excited for next year to see if we get more. We planted our pear tree about five years ago so it is just starting to fruit.

Cucumbers on the vine.
Cucumbers on the vine.

One of our pleasant surprises this year was our cucumber crop. I planted them late in a shady part of the garden and they did really well. We got several larger cucumbers and quite a few of the small ones as well. We got so many of the larger ones I had a hard time finding them and unfortunately we didn’t get to all of them before they turned bitter. However, this is the first year I have been able to successfully grow cucumbers so I am excited to try them again next year.

Giant Mangel Beets.
Giant Mangel Beets.

Another fun item we grew this year was giant beets. Ours did not get nearly as big as they were supposed to but I probably didn’t fertilize them at the right times. My favorite part about the beets we grew was the greens. I ate quite a few beet greens both raw and blanched for soup. They were delicious! We are going to try saving some seeds this year so I left a few in the garden for the spring and hopefully we will get some seeds from them next year. Beets are biannual crops and flower the second year so next spring will be prime beet flower time. Every time I think about beet flowers I remember the scene in a book from my childhood where the main character pulls out a gigantic beet or turnip that turns out to be inedible because it was on it’s second year. I can’t remember if that was Ramona or Ellen Tebbets but either way, I was fascinated by this when I was younger.

Tomato harvest
Tomato harvest.

Our tomato plants loved the heat this year. I planted them in our garlic beds with a bunch of egg shells and they did fabulously! We got several large bowls of them and just finished eating the last of them about a week ago. I picked ours early because of a long wet streak of weather and ripened them inside. We have been very successful with this strategy in the past. I put them by our south facing windows with a paper towel on top and sometimes a banana. We were maneuvering around tomatoes for a bit but it was worth it to have a steady supply of fresh homegrown tomatoes for a couple of months. I did not can any tomatoes this year. We had a very busy fall and there just wasn’t any time to do it. Next year maybe I will plant more determinate varieties and try to can some pizza sauce or plain diced tomatoes.

Pumpkins
Our two pumpkins.

We were very happy to get two nice sized pumpkins this year. I picked them a little green because I needed the pots and the squirrels were eyeing them but we baked them this weekend and they were delicious. I pureed the baked pumpkin and froze it. I guess you aren’t supposed to can your own pumpkin any more because it is too dense to guarantee it will heat up enough in the center to kill all of the bacteria but we have several cups of pumpkin in the freezer that should last us until spring. I also did not carve the gigantic white pumpkin I picked out at the farm for Halloween and I might bake that one as well. Right now I am really enjoying having it on the porch for a fall decoration though.

Sunflower
Our one sunflower.

A major disappointment for us this year was our sunflower crop. I planted maybe 25-30 seeds, got about four plants and only one survived long enough to flower. Unfortunately our large flower barely got pollinated and we were only able to harvest about a third of the seeds. I definitely noticed a drop in the number of bees in our yard this year and I realized we simply didn’t have very many flowers later in the summer through early fall. I need to step up my flower game and plant more this year. I am not sure why we didn’t have as many in August but I didn’t buy a lot of flowers at the store and tried not cutting back the Hydrangea blooms this year and it didn’t produce more blooms so that may be part of it. We also had plants flowering later in the year as well. I have already started scoping out flower seeds in catalogs for next year and some native plants to help the bees as well. Hopefully next year we will do better on the flower front.

Beds prepped
Beds prepped for next year.

One thing I did remember to do this fall was to fill in my garden beds with more dirt. I actually added grass clippings on top of this dirt, then more dirt and left it for a few weeks before turning the soil and planting these beds with garlic. I have a couple more garden beds I need to fill and add egg shells to but I am hoping next year to have better soil quality overall. I am definitely working on my permaculture skills and finding ways to mulch with what we already have in the garden. Some of my plants I have to throw in the yard waste because they root from the branches but others I have been laying down around the bushes they come off of. I have heard this also helps with the insect populations because when you throw all of your yard clippings into the yard waste right away you are also throwing out all of your beneficial insects as well. Insect populations are definitely something I am thinking more about this year with climate issues becoming more urgent.

 

You can find more pictures of our garden and more frequent updates on Instagram located here. How has your garden done this fall?

 

Some of my favorite gardening links:

 

Territorial Seed

 

Tilth Alliance

 

Epic Gardening

 

Acre Homestead

 

Stitching Update 07.20.21

Stitching Update 07.20.21

Cross-stitching is something I picked up many years ago when I was having some health issues and forced to rest for periods of time. If you know me, I hate sitting around watching TV and I love to keep my mind/body busy so when I […]


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