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Tag: meal planning

June 2022 Final Grocery Spending

June 2022 Final Grocery Spending

Our June grocery goal was to eat through our fridge and freezer as much as possible and for the most part we reached this goal. I am super proud of our progress! Up until the last week of June we kept our spending under $300 […]

May 2022 Final Grocery Spending

We are working on our grocery spending for 2022 and our goal for May was to do a low spend month. Unfortunately we ended up a little bit swamped during the middle of the month and we both spent too much money and I did […]

June 2022 Spending Goals and Mid-Year Check In

June 2022 Spending Goals and Mid-Year Check In

Our 2022 spending goals have already gone a little bit sideways with me leaving the workforce in March. I left my job for both health and family reasons and it has thrown our budget into a hurricane of uncertainty. For now our goal is to spend as little as possible across the board so I can continue to not work through at least the end of the year. I read over our 2022 Spending Goals and for the most part we have been sticking to them except for me bumping up my 401k. June is a good time for us to review and revise our goals and this year is no exception.

Below are our goals for the year with a new recap:

  1. Max out IRAs – Mine is done. My husband still needs to max his out but we may have to wait until we get his bonus next year.
  2. Increase our 401k contributions – We increased my husband’s by 1% in March and hope to keep it there until the end of the year. I no longer have a 401k since I am not working.
  3. Save, save save. We reinstated our automatic savings, upped our investment amounts and increased our kids’ college savings amounts. Now that I am not working we may have to reduce our regular savings BUT we do have a nice chunk in our cash emergency fund already so it should be ok.
  4. Decrease our grocery spendingWe have been working on this all year. We did both a pantry and freezer clean out, tried a no spend month and meal planning. This is still a work in progress but we are doing another freezer clean out for June and are making progress.
  5. Be more mindful of our spending – We continue to work on our mindful spending. I have been resisting the urge to buy clothes for the kids and trying to do laundry more often but they are growing so fast it is hard to keep up. We are also not shopping as often which greatly reduces the temptation to pick things up randomly.
Free Lunches.
Free Lunches.

We are also taking advantage of the last couple of months of free universal lunches and breakfasts. I linked our latest video below and here.  This program ends in June but I firmly believe that all kids should be receiving lunch at schools for free without the stigma that is attached to it when only low income kids receive it. Getting lunches from the school has helped our budget out tremendously and as I discovered this week, they are giving tons of extra food to help families out over the summer when the program is no longer available. I am really hoping another bill passes so that all kids can have free meals again. Grocery prices have increased significantly over the past year and a lot of families that do not qualify for assistance are struggling.

 

Our budget resets every July since we pay tuition for the kids only 10 months out of the year. We usually don’t get a tuition statement with the exact amount of the payments until mid-June. I put an estimate of the amount when we get the tuition amounts in February and look at our spending for the rest of the year. This year since I am not working we do qualify for a little bit of financial aid but we are still going to have a very tight budget. We knew this though when we decided that I would leave my job and have cut our spending on vacations and activities with the kids (not their regular sports yet). We also did not sign up for summer camp every week of the summer which saved us nearly $5,000. Summer camp is super expensive and this year the prices definitely went up.

Camping at Whidbey.
Camping at Whidbey.

Instead of taking a bunch of expensive trips we are going to be doing day trips and camping out at my dad’s house on Whidbey. Camping out there is nearly free and I absolutely love that the kids are growing up helping my dad build his cabin and develop a place for family to hang out for years to come. We are putting them to work helping with clearing the land and planting some crops for my dad to harvest later. My oldest is also starting her cabin building out there this summer so the kids will help with that as well.

Beach
Beach view.

Some of our day trip ideas so far include hiking, the beach and visiting local parks. Mr. Oscoey has a bunch of PTO to use up so he is going to take some time off as well this summer so we can do some trips as a family during the week when everything is less crowded. I may break down and find a couple of days down in Oregon later this summer but it will depend on how we do for our spending in June and July. For now we are planning on staying local and as frugal as possible.

 

How are you cutting back your spending this year?

 

2022 Goals

 

Garden Update 04.30.22

May 2022 Spending Check In

May 2022 Spending Check In

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 […]

Low Spend April 2022 Grocery Spending Mid-Month Check In

Low Spend April 2022 Grocery Spending Mid-Month Check In

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 […]

April 2022 Low Spend Month Goals

April 2022 Low Spend Month Goals

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For April 2022 our goal is to have a low spend month with a focus on groceries, activities and other household items. We are going to achieve this through meal planning, shopping sales, eating through our pantry, only shopping for what is necessary and planning low cost activities. As you may know our focus for 2022 is keeping our grocery budget down and working on using what we have. I would love to reduce our food waste and get better at planning ahead with our meals. So far we completed a pantry clean out challenge in January and worked on our freezer for February. March was kind of a wash since we were dealing with family stuff but for April I would love to clear out more freezer space and eat through the meals I have stashed away in there to make room for the garden season this spring and summer.

Budget Planning Tool
Legend Budget Planner

To get a fresh start with my budgeting I bought this Budget Planner off of Amazon. Unfortunately I ended up having to buy two since our puppy ate the first one while I was washing dishes. I have been using YNAB (referral link) for the past six or so months in addition to Quicken but I am finding that YNAB struggles with our method of putting everything on a credit card and paying it off. I am going to try a paper planner for a bit and see if that will help me visualize our money better. Our budget is pretty wonky and uneven from month to month so I am hoping that by writing it down my brain will keep track of it in a different way. I also bought these stickers to go along with my planner as well. At the end of the month I will let you know how it is going.

Meal Planning
April Meal Planning

Another tool we are using to reduce our costs is to work on our meal planning. I took this picture when I was just starting to fill out our monthly meal plan but we have two nights a week when our menu is preset. I put chicken nuggets on for Tuesday nights but really only our son eats chicken nuggets every week. Tuesday night chicken nuggets has turned into chicken night and I have been cooking chicken breast for anyone who wants an alternative option. It really helps our kids to have touchstone meals in their weekly routine and I have found that by having two night a week where they know what dinner will be it really helps with satisfying that itch for routine and predictability in their week. I picked up this Meal Planning Bundle from Mindful Hustle (No affiliation) last fall and so far I am liking the layout of them.

Cranberry Lake
Cranberry Lake

Another strategy we will be using to reduce our costs in April is to do a staycation over Spring Break and do low cost or free activities. Last weekend we took a day trip up to Deception Pass on Whidbey Island and it ended up only costing us money because we drove down the island and took the ferry home. We do have family that lives on the southern part of the island and one of our activities over break will be to spend the day out there. I anticipate this will be our most expensive day since we will be paying for the ferry and buying bagels for everyone. It will still be cheaper than a vacation though!

cabbage
Cabbages June 2020

April is also a heavy gardening month and this year I plan on adding several new beds down the side of my house. Although I did have to purchase new beds, I bought them a month ago and technically they will not count towards my April budget. I will however need to buy soil to fill my beds this month and part of why I am doing a low spend this month is to cover the cost of the soil. I honestly have a lot to do to get our garden ready and we will be spending most of our afternoons and weekends working in the yard this month. Gardening is one of my favorite activities so I am really going to enjoy it!

The last tool we are going to utilize this month is one of my favorite ways to keep costs down, no spend days. I find that the more no spend days we do a month, the better we are at staying within budget. I have been trying to consolidate our grocery trips this year and with gas prices rising I am also working on reducing our trips out of the house as well. We are doing one grocery trip at the start of April to buy dog food and cheese (can you believe we forgot to buy it at the store last time?) but after that we will be waiting as long as possible to go back. We have a well stocked pantry and my greens are starting to grow in the garden so I am hoping we can wait at least a couple of weeks to make any sort of meaningful grocery trip. Our spending goal for April is to stay under $600 for groceries which is very tight for us right now.

 

What ways are you trying this month to reduce your spending?

 

Links:

You Need a Budget

Meal Planning Template

Budget Planner:

 

Stickers:

 

2022 Goals

 

Victoria Part 1: Butchart Gardens

 

A New Beginning in Budgeting Part One: Using Quicken to Build a Buffer

 

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 […]


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