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Tag: frugal living

April 2022 Low Spend Month Goals

April 2022 Low Spend Month Goals

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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. I set no goals in 2021 except to keep our heads above water. This year however, instead of surviving I want to thrive!

Shelf Stable gluten-free food
Ramen for days.

2021 was a tough year for us financially. Our expenses for the kids increased dramatically, we ended up owing a chunk of a change in taxes, I took 6 weeks off for surgery, we had to replace a car, our oldest child moved out and our grocery budget doubled even with our cutting back methods and utilizing free school lunches over the summer when the kids were home. Having strict dietary needs and a child that only eats certain items really increases our budget, especially if those items are skyrocketing in price. We used to be able to keep our budget under $600 for our family of four plus helping our oldest daughter out but now we regularly spend $1000 in a month for groceries and we never eat out, and I mean never. My dining out budget for the entire year is probably $200 and we use gift cards if at all possible.

For 2022 we are setting some goals but only tentatively. We ended up refinancing our house at the end of 2021 to take advantage of the low interest rates. We did take a little bit of cash out to pay down some debt and fix a couple of things, but we are still hovering at around 40-50% equity which I am ok with. We most definitely did not max out our loan amount to pay for major remodels like some of my neighbors did. Hopefully their investments will pay off when they sell their houses in 5ish years like they plan to but it seems risky to me.

Financial Goals:

  1. Max out IRAs – Done. We did this last week with some of the Refi money. I do not recommend this at all but I am way behind on my retirement so for us the risk was worth it.
  2. Increase our 401k contributions – I haven’t increased this yet because the employer match goes up in April. Our goal is to narrow the gap between what we are contributing now and maxing it depending on mid-year promotions.
  3. Save, save save. I don’t have a savings number goal but I increased our investment amounts, reinstated my automatic contributions to our emergency fund and increased the kids’ college savings amounts.
  4. Decrease our grocery spending – This year I really want to focus on meal planning and eating through our pantry and freezer. I have been working on slowly building our food storage up to about 30-60 days worth but food goes bad and I wouldn’t want to waste any of it. We just completed our January pantry clean out and are worked on the freezer in February. I don’t feel comfortable letting the pantry get down to bare bones any more, not since February of 2020 when we last did this and then Covid hit and we were out of everything but we do need to regularly make an effort to eat through the odds and ends of what we have.
  5. Be more mindful of our spending – Last year I tried to greatly reduce plastic in our every day lives and this year I want to focus on mindful spending. Some questions we are asking are: Are we buying things just to shop or do we actually need them?

 

That’s it for 2022. Our focus will be on saving and trying not to let our expenses get away from us. What are your goals for 2022?

 

Meal Planning: January 2022 Week 1

 

Gardening Update 11.07.21

 

Stitching Update 07.20.21

 

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 […]

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 items. I am pretty proud of that since I have been working the last year to build up our food storage. We were very short on basics when Covid hit the country in 2020 and it was pretty difficult to navigate the shortages with our dietary needs and a child that is very particular about what they eat. The downside of having a stocked pantry is that it is easy to forget what you have in the back and smaller items get lost. Doing a pantry clean out a few times a year really helps keep down the odds and ends. This week I discovered we have lots of open crackers…like way more than pictured but this was what I thought we could get through this week. We will be eating lots of crackers and cheese this week for sure!

pantry
Soup wall shelf.

Do you see my wall of soup? That, my friends, is the shelf I am afraid to look at. The bins are conveniently covered by the wall of canned soup I slowly collected over the past six months so they are out of sight out of mind at the moment. Gluten-free soup is very expensive, around $4.00 a can normally, so I wait until it goes on super sale for under $2.00 a can to buy it. I consider this fully stocked on soup since I really don’t eat it very often any more. I will eat a can or two a month for lunch if I don’t have any homemade soup in the freezer but luckily I have been making it often enough I always have some I can heat up. We use the oil all the time but to the right of the oil is a large container of teas that have probably been there since we moved in six years ago. I have not gone through it in a long time and the tea we actually drink is over next to the coffee machine so I should probably clean it out as well but tea is something I have a hard time convincing my husband to throw away because it is “still good”. The lower shelf is the one I have been mostly working through the past few weeks. I know it doesn’t look very empty but that is because I filled it again with items that were just sitting on the counter since we had no room in the pantry such as the case of Double Noodle soup I bought for my particular eater and the beans my husband got me for Christmas. We will continue to work through the lower shelf this week. My goal is clean counters and only items we actually eat in the pantry.

Meal plan for this week.

We did pretty well last week with our meal plan and ate up a bunch of items we needed to. i am going to try filming the cabbage soup making and upload it as my first video on the Oscoey YouTube channel which I am pretty excited about! Look for it later this week! We did however get much better about eating up the leftovers this week. We spent the first part of the week eating the food my mother-in-law sent home and the “Broccoli Beef” my husband made with pork and the last purple cauliflower (it was delicious by the way). Unfortunately half way through the week I was very disappointed to discover our 5 pound bag of carrots had a couple of moldy ones in it. I am not sure why, they usually last way longer than a few weeks in the fridge but we pulled them all out, tossed the moldy ones, washed the rest and are trying to eat through them as fast as we can. My daughter loves them steamed so she had them in her lunches this week and I added the steamed ones to pretty much everything I heated up for lunch. We still have about four or five carrots left in the bag but they should be eaten in the next few days.

Nachos
Nachos.

On Sunday night we had nachos which was definitely planned on. When we did our large grocery shop at the start of the month we bought tortilla chips specifically for nachos. We make two separate trays with half for each person and it works out perfectly. We could probably combine them but our particular eater will not eat from the tray with peppers on it so we have to separate them. It is an easy fix and makes dinner go much smoother. We make our own cheese sauce, add refried beans, cheese, olives, sour cream and tomatoes and it is divine! We will probably have them again in another week or two to use up the tortilla chips. Nachos are also a great way to eat up leftover meat or vegetables you have lying around. In the summer time we slice up fresh radishes and green onions from the garden and add them after cooking them for a little kick.

Leftover steak, mashed potatoes and steamed cauliflower.

One thing we had a lot of leftovers for from my mother-in-law’s house was steak and mashed potatoes. We had enough steak for a few days of meals. My daughter ate the mashed potatoes for breakfast and lunch so those went very fast but the rest of us got a little bit for dinner one night along with one of the cauliflowers steamed with butter. Yum!

Soup with steak, cauliflower, carrots and onions.
Soup with steak, cauliflower, carrots and onions.

Since we had a lot of steamed vegetables to eat and leftover steak I made another batch of my gluten-free ramen for lunch one of the days last week. This was probably one of the best bowls of ramen I have eaten for a long time. It was delicious! I will definitely do this combination again the next time we have leftover steak. This was also a great way to eat through the cauliflower and carrots.

gluten-free toast peaches
Gluten-free toast and peaches.

For breakfast this week I mostly had toast and some sort of fruit. When you buy gluten-free bread it goes bad pretty quickly so it needs to be eaten the week you buy it or frozen and pulled out a few at a time. I love peanut butter toast for breakfast so I loved it this week. I am also still on my peaches kick but I am down to one last jar so I am not sure if I should open it or wait until closer to when we do another big Costco run. My daughter also wants to eat them so we will probably end up eating the last jar this week.

Broccoli Beef made with pork and cauliflower.
Broccoli Beef made with pork and cauliflower.

Wow. I apologize for the out of focus picture but dinners this week were pretty hectic and I probably was in a hurry. Don’t let the blurriness fool you, this was one of the best meals I have eaten in a long time. My husband made Broccoli Beef only we were low on broccoli and had pork to use up from the sausage making so we substituted cauliflower and pork. It was so good! This will definitely be on regular rotation in our meal planning in the future. We had enough leftovers for two family meals plus several lunches. My daughter has ice skating at dinner time on Thursdays and we were able to put some this heated up in a thermos for her to eat on the way home and it worked really well.

empty plate
Empty plate.

I ended up using the whole box of pancake mix this week because the puppy got on the counter and ate most of what I made for breakfast on Friday morning. Luckily the kids had already eaten theirs but I missed out on pancakes that morning. We ended up making them again this morning for Sunday breakfast and I got to eat them finally! We will probably make a different kind next week so the kids don’t get tired of them but these are a great easy meal. We still have about eight boxes left of the mix I got on super sale at Grocery Outlet a couple of months ago. I bought about 15 total so we have used about half of them so far. I figured they would last six months or so which is pretty good.

Sushi ingredients.

On Saturday night we had a meal planning and pantry cleanout fail. My husband asked me if I wanted sushi and I figured we would use what we have to make it but it turns out we were out of a lot of the ingredients such as cucumber, fish eggs, wasabi and I am sure others I don’t know about. I found out after he came home from the store so it was too late. The sushi was very good and I did not get a picture of my sushi bowl but I did take a picture of some of the ingredients we used. We buy the salmon frozen from Costco and my husband makes the eggs. It is pretty good although I always put way too much wasabi in my gluten-free soy sauce and am steaming all night. I love it though!

Items we wanted to use up this week.

Let’s take a look at what we used up in the past week. Above is the photo I took of what I was hoping to use and honestly we did pretty good this week. Another item we ate up that I didn’t even put on the list was some ice cream I bought last summer. We tend to eat ice cream very slowly and don’t always eat it before it goes bad. We still have half a container of Mermaid ice cream left that I will give the kids a serving of once or twice a week until it is gone. We also made pudding out of some milk since we have so much milk right now. Instant pudding is a quick way to make dessert and use up any extra milk that you have lying around. I always keep a couple of boxes in the pantry for just this purpose. Pudding is one my my particular eater’s foods they are working on eating since the texture is one they don’t like and by getting them involved in making it the chances of them eating it are much higher. Pudding is also a great way to get milk into kids that won’t drink it.

Items left from January week 3:

  1. Fresh produce: rainbow carrots, potatoes, tomatoes (my husband bought more gah!)
  2. Snack items: One bars
  3. Meal type items: oatmeal (not gf)
  4. Dried Fruit: strawberries, raspberries, apple chips
  5. Junk: Halloween candy – still
  6. Fridge/freezer items: fancy chocolate, Baked Alaska, cookie dough
Pantry items to use up.

The focus on this week is crackers, oatmeal and more crackers. I took this photo yesterday and we have already eaten the rest of the pancake mix, one pack of oatmeal, the fruit cup, and some crackers. I ended up throwing up the unsalted sunflower seeds which are hard to see but they expired in 2018 so I felt very comfortable tossing them. They were in no way sealed all the way and it just didn’t feel safe to eat them. We will probably have oatmeal again tomorrow morning along with some peanuts or sunflower seeds. We also ate up one of the boxes of Maple One bars and this is the last one I pulled from the pantry. One of my kids gets half of one a day as part of their morning routine. I know they aren’t the best but they also have a bunch of vitamins that we are somewhat lacking in. We need to eat the squash and will find a way to cook the riceberry rice. My mom gave us some for Christmas and I realized we still had a pack from last year. I am not really sure how to cook it but I am sure we will find something.

Items to use up January Week 4:

  1. Fresh produce: rainbow carrots, squash, potatoes, brussels sprouts, tomatoes (my husband bought more gah!)
  2. Snack items: One bars, crackers, more crackers, peanuts, sunflower seeds, fruit cup
  3. Meal type items: oatmeal (not gf), pancake mix, cheese sauce, rice
  4. Dried Fruit: strawberries, raspberries, apple chips
  5. Junk: Halloween candy – still
  6. Fridge/freezer items: fancy chocolate, Baked Alaska, cookie dough, mermaid ice cream

 

Links:

Oscoey YouTube Channel

 

Meal Planning: January 2022 Week 2

 

Dried Banana Chips

 

How “Sleeping in” Until 5:30 Costs us $300 a Month

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 […]

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 into many different parts. We now have to base our budget on whether or not the store has our food in stock, if the kids are home from school for a bit and whether our oldest daughter will be at our house. Since the oldest has moved out this has become less of an issue and she fully embraces scrounging for food whenever she stops by, and “shopping” our pantry but honestly now that she is on her own we don’t really worry about food costs for her any more.

Tuna Casserole
Tuna Casserole was not so well received…

We have also in the last couple of years had to adjust how we eat. We now have a nut allergies, gluten-free, vegetarian, and sensory preferences to account for and honestly we now have so many different foods for everyone that we have to keep on hand that we would be fine for at least a few weeks if we had some sort of emergency situation where we couldn’t go to the store as long as we have the right foods on hand. Our biggest issue is with our kid with food preferences since the rest of us are more flexible and will be ok with alternates. I am always worried the store will be out of one of their preferred foods and we will have to figure out a work around, which is not fun on a bad day. We did run into this over the summer when the correct dried fruit leather was nowhere to be found or beyond overpriced. Luckily fruit was in season so I was able to make some fruit leather on my own and that was an acceptable alternate. Phew…

Tuna Casserole
Tuna Casserole, green beans and pomegranate (my new obsession).

A few years ago I wrote the below Meal Planning post in my first attempt at meal planning. Let’s just say, attempting to change our eating ways right before starting a new job was not one of my best ideas but it did make me think about how we can do better. Over the past six months or so I have been obsessively been watchin grocery haul, extreme grocery budget, freezer meal making and meal planning videos on YouTube and I have gotten tons of ideas. I especially love the videos where they make meals for a week from the a dollar store since there are so many people living in food deserts where Dollar Tree is the only grocery store around. I will link some of my favorites down below.

An Overview of Meal Planning

 

Meal Planning
November/December 2021Meal Plan.

I thought we would take a stab at meal planning again this fall in an attempt to keep our costs down and create some organization to the chaos of our lives. As you can see, there are a lot of holes in my meal planner for November/December. The kids helped me with some of it and we instituted chicken nugget night for our selective eater so that with pizza night as well, they had at least two nights of the week that were predictable and dinner was something they liked. Most of the time the grownups eat chicken nuggets as well on Tuesdays but if there are extra leftovers I usually eat those instead since gluten-free chicken nuggets are really expensive and I am not a huge fan of fried food. We did run out of chicken nuggets a few weeks ago and it was predictably a disaster. Fish sticks were not an acceptable alternative and dinner was skipped that night. We now have chicken nuggets back in the freezer so hopefully we will not forget to get more next time we are low.

potatoes, cabbage and kielbasa
Steamed potatoes, cabbage and Kielbasa.

Our first month was definitely an adjustment and overall it went pretty well. I made a lot of dishes from my childhood such as steamed potatoes, cabbage and Kielbasa, tuna casserole and tater tot casserole (a huge hit with my daughters). There were a couple of nights where something else was made by my husband but we just adjusted and I pushed out the next night of cooking. I am hoping to be better about following the plan in the future though since it threw off our groceries and when we were using up things in the fridge.

Lentils, eggs olives
Lentils, hard boiled eggs and an olive were a favorite.

We are mostly vegetarian and I am gluten-free so most family meals need to follow along those lines for us. One of the ways we did some light meal prepping was to hard boil about eight eggs and then eat them over the course of a few days for extra protein. We all love lentils so when we make them we usually eat them for dinner the first night and the kids have them for breakfast the next day. I bought some gigantic Spanish Queen olives from Costco last month. I am trying to eat fermented foods or olives every day and a great way for me to do that is to eat an olive with one or two meals a day. I love kimchi as well but we are currently out of it. We should probably make some more!

soup
Veggie soup.

One way I have been trying to eat healthier is to eat vegetable soup a few times a week. Usually I put in greens from the garden, carrots, tomatoes, beans and whatever else I need to use up in the fridge. In September and November I made a bunch of veggie broth and put it in the freezer along with blanched greens from the garden. I have been using that to make soup every couple of weeks. I did however make a batch from the turkey broth we made from Thanksgiving which made the soup seem really rich to me after months of straight vegetable soup. Usually I serve it for dinner and freeze half the batch into portions for later. When I heat it up I add in an egg or leftover meat for protein. Both my daughter and I love soup so usually when I make it she will eat some as well.

pancakes
Pancakes for breakfast.

Another item we have been eating a lot of are pancakes with a hard boiled egg on the side. They are easy to make, keep for a couple of days and I got an excellent deal on some gluten-free pancake mix at Grocery Outlet so we have tons of it, like literally I probably have 10 of 15 boxes left at this point. Since these are confetti pancakes we usually serve them with jam and then make Nutella sandwiches with them for lunch the next day for the kids. My selective eater loves Nutella sandwiches (who doesn’t?) so on that day usually their lunch comes back pretty empty which is a major win for us. This is a great way to cook once and have meals for a couple of days. I usually make half the box at a time and honestly I am not above snagging one later on for snack time with a hard boiled egg. You could totally make the whole box and freeze some for later in the week as well if you are short on time.

Oatmeal Bake
Oatmeal Bake

One of my favorite YouTube recipes I have found is this Oatmeal Bake from Acre Homestead on Scratchpantry.com. I absolutely love it because it contains almost a dozen eggs and it is great to make and freeze half of it for later. It is super healthy, full of protein and in a first, keeps me full until lunchtime. Usually with oatmeal I get super hungry an hour or so after I eat it but with the eggs and fruit in there this one keeps me going until lunch which is fabulous. Only two of us like to eat this for breakfast so usually I slice and freeze half to thaw out the second week. That way I am only making two a month which really saves on time. We are also currently without a microwave so I have found a great way to heat it up is to mostly thaw it, slice it and then cook the slices in butter for a crunch edge. It is delicious!

roasted broccoli
Roasted broccoli for dinner.

We love roasted vegetables in our house and can eat an embarrassingly large amount of them for dinner. Our favorite is roasted cauliflower and honestly when my oldest is home we can eat a whole Costco bag in one meal. It is that delicious! We have been trying roasted broccoli since the bag is much larger and cheaper. So far we love the broccoli as well. We have made it several times and there are usually no leftovers either. Roasted veggies are something that are quick to put together and you can make ahead. They freeze well if you are putting them into containers and can be heated up on the stove or in the microwave. They also add some fabulous flavor to soups if you need to use some up.

All in all our meal planning is going better than I expected. We are going to keep it up for January along with an attempt at eating through our pantry. We did go to the store for a major grocery haul today which I was not planning on but we were low on a few key items and with the new Covid variant spreading like wildfire I wanted to get groceries now and then not go for as long as possible. I am pretty sure we can make it to the end of January with a couple of exceptions like eggs, seaweed (we forgot it) and salad greens.

 

How do you incorporate meal planning in your house?

 

Links:

 

Oatmeal Bake from Acre Homestead

 

My favorite YouTube channels:

AcreHomestead

I love how Becky tries to eat everything from her garden and she has some fabulous freezer meal recipes.

Frugal Fit Mom

Christine does a great job of showing how to make cheap and healthy meals on a super restrictive budget. She is also a fan of bargain grocery shopping like me and I love sharing the thrill of a good deal when she finds them.

That Lisa Dawn

Lisa is a fabulous person trying to spread the word of how to buy groceries if you have a limited budget. She has my same love of beans and is an excellent cook. Lisa is probably my favorite because she is so kind and I love how much she tries to help people find ways to get around food insecurity.

Jamerrill Stewart

Jamerrill is a mom of a large family who has a no frills way of showing how she feeds her family. Honestly when Jamerrill first showed up in my feed I was skeptical because so many large families try to capitalize on their kids but Jamerrill’s respect for her kids’ privacy and honest videos when things go wrong are so refreshing that I fell in love with her.

 

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 […]


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