Our goal for May of 2022 was to spend as little money as possible on groceries for the month. We are using our local free lunches and breakfasts for the community as well as eating through our pantry items and just supplementing with items from […]
Welcome to the end of April when our garden starts to take off. We have been celebrating the emergence of our asparagus and planted many flowers and I am super excited for the summer when all of our plants start taking off. I am still […]
I thought I would share some of my favorite up and coming YouTube channels today. I am noticing a lot of Food Bank haul unboxing videos trending in my feed and I thought I would highlight a few. Many people rely on food banks temporarily when they are in need and food banks are a valuable resource to the community. Please, if you are in need always ask for help.
One of my goals this year is to highlight some of the food programs across the U.S. that greatly benefit people, especially children. The universal free lunch program that was started during the pandemic is an example of how feeding children without any income requirements has helped families tremendously. Many children in the United States are living at or below the poverty line and guaranteed breakfast and lunch is many times the only food kids get to eat in a day. Below is the link to my video where I go through what we received in the middle of April.
Fabulous Food Bank Unboxing Channels:
Mustard Saves is one of my favorites. She started out as a couponer and moved to food bank videos when they decided to utilize their food pantry after some sort of financial difficulties. She has some fabulous videos on how to cook through what you have, rotating between the freezer, pantry and fridge clean outs and on how to store the food once you receive it since typically people only go once or twice a month.
Joveta’s Kitchen is another one of my favorites. She shows everyone how to cook many of the items from scratch and helps out her community as well. There are so many good recipes on this channel and Joveta definitely knows how to make the most of everything she gets.
I came across Kemp Freehold when I was watching Joveta’s Kitchen and it looks like they started using their food bank after a job loss. This family has a few kids and are homesteaders and I thought I would include them as well.
If you are in need the website for Feeding America has a search function so you can find food pantries in your area. Local churches and community centers can also be a resource as well as your local school district.
As always, thank you for reading!
For 2022 we are really expanding our garden and possibly adding in some chickens later in the year. We are garden zone 8b in the Pacific Northwest located in the Seattle area. Our weather is wet a lot of the year and we have been […]
Our spending goal for April was to keep our grocery budget under $600. We have been spending between $1000 and $1300 for the past year so cutting our budget down to $600 was quite a stretch. Part of why I wanted to cut our bill […]
Hello spring! I am very excited for the garden this year. I have been out in it every day checking things out and seeing what is coming up. One of the beautiful things that has come out of our gardening over the past few years is the joy the kids and I have for finding the first signs of spring and delighting in the timing of new things popping up throughout the season. Every year we watch the asparagus bed like a hawk until the first few spears start coming up and it has become a right of passage into the end of the school year.
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Last fall I ordered all the things and have a very ambitious planting season ahead of me. One of the main items I ordered were five new gigantic garden beds along with this hardware cloth to put in the bottom. We live next to the woods and rodents are tunneling in all of my other garden beds so for the new ones I am going to try and keep them out. I also ordered these beds from Epic Gardening (no affiliation) and although they are very expensive they are super long lasting and excellent quality. Last year I put one of the smaller ones up and I was super happy with it. This time around I bought the tall ones in the hopes that they will help keep the rabbits out. I also bought this cloth tunnel hoping to deter the cabbage butterflies this year.
All of the kale and collards I planted last year did great over the winter despite being squashed by all the snow we had. We are still harvesting a little bit off of them even though they are starting to flower. I planted a bunch more of the winter greens mix I have in a few different areas throughout the garden. I did this last year and the slugs got most of them so this year I was a little bit more generous with my seeds. I will also do another sowing in a few weeks and twice more nearer to the end of summer. I got about a dozen nice plants from my efforts last year which is more than enough for our needs.
My garlic continues to do well although it is probably time to fertilize them. I did sneak some beets, fennel and parsnips in amongst the rows and I honestly can’t tell if they sprouted or not. Most of the seeds were planted last week so I will give it another week before planting more. I planted over a hundred cloves of garlic last fall and it looks like we will have a bumper crop this year. One of the reasons I had to buy more beds is there is not enough room in my current beds to plant what I have before the garlic gets harvested. I am hoping to take out some grass for next year so I will have more room.
My rhubarb still seems small and I am not sure why. I planted this last spring and it immediately died from something, I think maybe a dog or a rabbit or something, I can’t remember. I was surprised when it came back over the summer. I will probably fertilize this as well and make sure it gets enough water this year. Hopefully it will continue to grow and maybe next year I will be able to harvest it. We haven’t grown rhubarb before so if you have any tricks let me know.
Both of my rosemary bushes are doing poorly this year and I think it is due to the large amount of snow followed by the deep freeze we had over the winter. The brown areas are still pliable and may recover but I am concerned about how they will do next year if we have another year of massive snow. We got about a foot over the course of a week this winter which is highly unusual for our area. I will try fertilizing these as well and keep them well watered. We have had a very damp winter and spring so far so I have not been watering them since our soil is very saturated this year but I will keep an eye out for when things start to dry up.
Some of my baby pea plants are coming up as well. I am going to put covers on these in the hopes that the slugs will leave them alone and plant more this week. I bought some trellising for my pea, cucumber and squash plants this year and hopefully I will be able to extend my harvest with some strategic shade.
I know it doesn’t look like much but the kids and I are working on clearing out a large area down the south side of the house to put all of our large garden beds in. I am going to cover this whole area with either cardboard or landscape cloth and mulch anew to keep the weeds down. This area is weedy every year and this year I am determined to keep them to a dull roar. We will be taking down some trees as well which will allow much more light into the back yard. This will also allow for some natural succession with the native “weeds” such as the stinky bob pictured here. New vegetables we are trying this year are sweet potatoes, horseradish, and tons of flowers. So far I have some seeds started and I direct sowed peas, spinach, corn (I know it is a long shot), and my winter greens mix.
Our gardening goals this year are pretty ambitious but I find such joy in it that I don’t mind. What do you have planned for your garden this year?
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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 […]
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.
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.
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:
- Car insurance for the first half of the year.
- Medical deductibles need to be met again and we always get some sort of illness in February.
- Tuition deposit for our kids’ school which has crept up the past couple of years.
- All of summer camp for two kids for the entire summer. This is super expensive.
- Two family members have birthdays and we throw at least one party.
- After school sports and activities registration for the first quarter of the year.
- 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.
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.
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.
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?
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 […]