Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Keeping our Costco membership

In deciding that we were going to cut out all the non-necessities from our budget as a way to sacrifice.

We had a long discussion about our Costco membership. The nearest Costco is about 65 miles from our home. So going has to be a planned and calculated choice. Is a Costco membership really worth it for us when we live so far and can go so infrequently?

We travel to Phoenix about every other month to visit my family, have my siblings see their cousins, pick up our bread, attend the Temple as part of our religious commitments, and to go to Costco. So is having a membership going to be worth it to us.

Math- we started with a list of what we buy and what the cost of starting to buy those at the grocery store (or online) would be and the cost verse buying them at Costco. In Oats and peanut butter alone our Costco membership is paid for in a year.

So we determined that the membership is not worth taking off our budget as a sacrifice (and it would be a sacrifice, I love shopping at Costco). We did discus canceling the membership and having someone purchase gift cards* for us any time we needed to go, but our past experience trying to get family in friends to do errands for us before we come up to town haven't worked very well and relaying on that we'd have what we need and when would not be a smart idea considering our tight windows.

*$ saving tip- you don't needed a membership card to go shopping at Costco, a Costco gift card will do

What do I buy at Costco?
first off great resource- QueenBeenCoupon's Costco price list or Pratical-Stewardship's list
Prices at Costco change all the time, but this is a good place to check when you're debating if that item at the store is a better deal than Costco or the other way around. This list of what I buy is always being evaluated and changing. Sometimes these items are even on the Costco which makes them even more of an awesome deal

  • Quaker Oats 10 lb total (2 bags) are $7.99 box = .80 per lb compare to the best price I have EVER got on the 42 oz canisters is .95 per lb- and that is Costco's everyday price- you can't beat it.
  • Peanut Butter the 2 packs of the 48 oz =.10 per oz the grocery store brand in the cheapest per ounce of peanut butter is .12 per oz on sale.
  • Whole Rotisserie chickens ~3lbs= 4.99 (1.66 per lb) these are huge, ready to eat, and I normally make it stretch it for at least three meals. Also great for when you are going to get home late from doing the shopping or on vacation- run into a Costco instead of fast food for your family.
  • Vlasic 1 Gallon Pickle jars- 1 jar ~$4.90 that is the same price as the small jars at my local grocery store.
  • Whole Almonds- $15.99 for a 3 lb bad. I love almonds and substitute them for pecans or walnuts (since I can't eat those) in every recipe, this is $5.23 per lb, at the grocery I can easily pay $7 for less than a pound of shelled almonds.
  • Chocolate Chips- $9.99 for 72 oz. an 11 oz bag at the grocery store has to be $1.50 or less to beat that price. 
  • Baby Carrots- we eat baby carrots almost every day at our house. As snacks with meals, yes if you don't eat carrots they will go bad and are not a good deal for you. But compared to the grocery store price about $1 per pound at its very best these 5lb bags of carrots come in at .98 per lb. If you like the pre-bags carrots, come home and split some of the bag into snack bags/containers. Without carrots we end up eating processed chips- which would you rather have your family eating. I buy at least 2 every time I'm at Costco, sometimes 3.

Now because I do once a month shopping and I'm not running into the store to grab the best deal every time it goes on sale there are things I buy at Costco because the every day price there is cheaper then the everyday grocery store price, and doing the coupons, price matching, and running around isn't worth it to me. If I happen to be at the store when they are on sale- awesome I'll pick it at there, but otherwise it is Costco:

  • Ham- There pre-cut extra lean ham it comes in 1.5 lbs 2 packs for around $10
  • Eggs- 5 dozen, if I can going home to my house and not traveling these bulk packs are cheaper then the local grocery store when they are not on sale. Lately eggs haven't been on sale much.
  • Frozen Veggies- The quality is better than the grocery story's and if the grocery story isn't having a good deal they are about the same price.
  • Cream of Mushroom Soup- yes I know, making it myself is cheaper. I'm a little intimidated that it will change the taste too much to use homemade versions. So if you're lazy like me =.89 per can, butter price then anything that isn't a lot sale at the grocery store.
  • Yogurt- its on coupon at Costco a lot, and unless the local store has a super 20/$10 sale, Costco is typically cheaper
  • Apple Sauce- the jars come in packs of 4 averaging $2 per jar. That is a typical sale price for the same size jar.
  • Flour- 25 lb bag for 7.99 that is about .32 per lb of flour. If you bake a lot this is a great deal
  • Sugar- 25 lb bag for 10.79 that is .43 per lb of sugar. If you do a lot of baking!
  • Fresh Spinach bags-  - Fantastic deal but you have to have a game plan to make this happen. You'll have about 2 weeks from leaving the store. Planned meals with Spinach (my husband loves it for lunch salads) good news it you can freeze what you don't get to in time.
  • Computer paper
  • Printer Ink
  • Tortillas
  • Minced Garlic
  • Otter pops- these are only available seasonally, they come 80 in a box and are a great price. I found them once at the grocery story for about the same price for 100 and thought I was getting a way better deal until I realized that the Costco otter pops are the 2 ounce pops and the grocery store are 1 ounce pops. Take your pick on what you value- if you're giving pops to 100 kids at a summer camp doing the smaller ones at 100 pops might be the better deal for you.
  • Fruit Snacks- when I'm not making my own and when these are on coupon, it is a good price for fruit snacks and the ones at Costco have more nutritional value then the cheap ones at the grocery store.
  • Yeast- when I am doing a lot of pizza, bread, and dough making I go through a lot of yeast. I go through those packets at the grocery store so fast and the Costco yeast is worth it. So if I'm buying yeast at Costco I am making a commitment to use it regularly and not get lazy on my dough making.

What I don't buy at Costco:

  • Animal Crackers- I love to eat them,  I love to use the canisters afterwards for storing all the other bulk items I buy at Costco- but $9 for 64 oz. I have found my kids love the super cheap animal Crackers that are $1 for 1 lb from our local grocery store.
  • BBQ sauce- yes there are some fun and tasty BBQ sauce at Costco, but every time I've done the numbers I am over paying even everyday prices at my local grocery store.
  • Hot Dog packages- Even when on coupon it always feels there are better deals at my local grocery story
  • Meats in general- I travel a way to get to the Costco- my meats have to survive the drive in freezer bags, in addition, they are never that great of prices. Yes they are around the average price at the grocery, but it is one of those items that I can regularly get cheaper at the grocery story- if I am willing to buy the meat and cuts that are on sale that week. Now if you want a specific cut or type of meat for a special occasion then this is a reasonable deal for not overspending on it. Example for me is Lamb- lamb is expensive but there are a couple times of year I like to make lamb for special occasions. If I buy it at my local grocer then I will pay about $10 per lb. I can similar cuts for around $5.50 per lb. Still more then my goal per lb cost for meat in general but it is for a special occasion. 
  • Soda/pop- if you are a Soda drinker of more than a can a day, this might be a good deal for you, but even when discounted at Costco they are still more per can then I would ever spend on it at the grocery store. My purchase price for soda has be to cheaper than .20 per can, Costco comes close sometimes, but not to my purchase point.

What are your must buys or stay-away products at Costco?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Why Once a Month shopping?

I get a lot of shocked looks and questions when my local friends find out about my once a month shopping or even our twice a month limit.

How we allot our funds is the last paycheck of the previous month is for all bills that occur before the 15th of that month's budget. The first paycheck of the month is for everything else- so gas and groceries come out of that paycheck. About the 15th of the month I go grocery shopping.  We allow for a second trip that normally happens around the 5th, where one of us (most of the time my husband on his way home from work) goes in and gets milk and a couple fresh items to hold us over til I do our large trip. The second trip is normally about $10 (rarely over) depending on if there is anything else I need.

Why I do it-
1- Less times to the store means we spend less.
2- The planing it takes to make sure we have what we are going to need for a month means we spend less.
3- We live 20 minutes south of town HWY driving. Gas costs a lot. The fewer trips to town I am making means we spend less.
4- It forces me to be a planner. Planing ahead means that we already know what is for dinner, it is probably already partially made. That means dinner is most of the time ready when my husband gets home from work and we are less likely to be temped to eat out. Most of our bad choices when it comes to eating out is because dinner wasn't ready to go. Eating out less means we waste less food I bought at the store and we spend less.

What I do before I go?
-Take inventory of what I have. Make a list of what needs to be replenished and what items I need to use up in my planning.
-Go through the calendar from now until my next shopping trip. Consider plans for each day and assign a mean(s) to each day appropriate for that days needs.
-While planning the means look at the Ads. I normally plan to do on a Monday or Tuesday so that I can use that week's ad to plan what we are buying. If there are no good sales for that week I could go I will then move my shopping to Thursday so I can use Wed's ads to make changes to my plan.
*tip the meat I buy this month is often used for next month's meals, that way I am not at the mercy of what I find to reconfigure meals.
-Go though my calendar meals and add to my shopping list any items that would need to be purchased to make those happen.
-Add to the shopping list items for snacks or making homemade snack food
-Using the ads and previous shopping trips to assign an expected cost to each of item on my shopping list
-Add up all the expected costs, if the expected amount exceeds this month's budget I go through and highlight items I can do without for another month. Also take into consideration if less of an expected item could be purchased to still meet your needs ie- getting 2 lbs of apples instead of 3.
Since these items are still on my list I won't forget that I still needed them, but this way if enough items cost less then I expected to pay for them I can add an item or two from my highlighted list.
-Sit down with or have my husband take a look at my lists, see if he noticed anything I had overlooked or forgotten.
*have a second pair of eyes or do it yourself- look through everything again with a calendar of that month's events in front of them. That way they might notice overlooked things like a party in a child's classroom or that you're assigned snacks for the Tball team.
-after everything is double checked I should be ready to grab my envelope and go

While at the store:
-no item goes into the cart without writing it on the paper. I use a paper that I put three columns on- One for the item name, Two for the expected cost, Three for what the items actual cost was. As I go through the store I put what the actual cost of each item and how many I put into my cart onto the paper.
-I use to enjoy talking my kids with me, now I only go do my once a month shopping when I have no kids only one kid. In addition I only go when I have 2+ hours open to go. If I feel rushed in the store by kids or time restrictions then I make bad choices, forget, or spend more than I wanted. I make sure I can take my time.
this is the way I use to try to once a month shop
When I get home- I rotate, prep some items, and put away. I have a running list of what needs to be bought on a chalkboard inside my cupboard. The top is my Costco list the bottom is the grocery store.
use the inside of a cupboard to create a running grocery list
Last thing I do is delete off the list things I did pick up and write anything on the list I decided I could wait until next month.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Making Sacrifices: Giving up Netflix

We have decided that we need to make sacrifices in order to full commit to where we want to be.

One of the things we have decided to sacrifice is our Netflix account.

This was hard for us. We have loved Netflix. A few years ago we were unemployed for about 6 months and we cancelled our Netflix then and it was so sad. We missed it so much and it was the first thing to come back when we were employed again. It will be probably be one of the first things we put back into our budget when we are fully out of debt. It was also a hard choice for us to sacrifice because it is such a small amount out of our budget- Less than $10 a month for unlimited entertainment for our whole family. If we had only $10 for entertainment in our budget each month- it is the best value for that money.
We have been without cable for 6 years now- which was not an easy choice because we live in a rural community and there are no "local" tv channels with out cable. We watch everything online and don't feel like we're missing out on anything. Chromcast and Netflix have been wonderful to us. But we are cutting out anything that isn't necessary.
We own lots of DVDs. There are lots sites that we use to watch for free. We can do this.
Some of the online watching resources we use:
pbskids is probably our favorite site to watch online

What are your favorite online places to view content?

If you in the cut the cord from cable boat to make sacrifices. If you don't already do Netflix consider it. Their selections of kids shows is awesome. They have a lot of shows of my husband and I want to watch, and their movie selection isn't bad and is constantly changing. The value of how many options you have is very reasonable. I look forward to the day we can put it back in our life.

Side Note- What I miss most about cable is the sporting events. I am a huge football fan and I miss my college football. Additionally I like turning on baseball games to occasionally watch. How do you give up cable when you want to watch sports?
Suggestions- Go to friend or family to watch the game. Sport events should be social anyway so make it social by watching it over there. Another suggestion is make it your date night (if your significant other likes sports too). ESPN online use to allow you to watch online if your internet was a participating company, but now it is only if you put in your cable information. Boo ESPN. Which leads me to the last method I use to watch sporting events. Bootleg TV. There are sites out there (very shady sites) that re-stream live TV. Due to their shadiness and ever changing locations I will not be sponsoring any of those sites on my blog. Needless to say, they exist and you can find them. Word of warning be careful where you click, don't let the moving or fake box closing x's to trick you. If you click wrong it will take you to sites you never wanted to see and can't un-see. I do not set up the sporting events in view of my children for this reason.

Good luck in all your efforts to live more thrifty lives. What sacrifices have ya'll made in getting out of debt or to live within your means?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Murphy's Law

Why is it whenever you set a goal for something- out of the woodwork comes all the millions of reasons, excuses, and obstacles that weren't there before? Some people call it Murphy's Law.
In college I owned this posted and it was in our kitchen. Made for a fun conversation starter- after all everyone has their own Murphy story.
So we've had our visits or about to be visits from Murphy since resolving that we are going to be financially responsible and get out of debt.
1- Our washing machine started to leak. It is leaking into the basin. It wasn't making any mess. I was running the the last spin cycle an extra time and drying them more in the dryer. I was worrying that we needed to call someone, or get a new washer. Our washer is pushing 10 years old (we've had it for 6 years and the people gave it to us told us it was about 5 years old). But we tightened the knob in looking at and it stopped dripping for a little while.  I am all ready to start doing laundry at my in-laws or a laundry mat. Looks like we are using borrowed time before we have to get a new washer.
2- Our microwave has been slowly falling apart. This last week the turning plate fell out and crashed in to tiny pieces. At the moment it is still working, but if it dies I will be doing more stove and oven cooking. I can live without a microwave for a little while if it comes to that.
3- Last week I chipped my tooth. It is my front tooth. I am not in pain. I can still eat just fine. But I need to set up a dentist appointment now.
There are other little things that have tried us. That's the way it goes. But we are resolved- it is past time. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Reading The Total Money Makeover

My husband and I already knew our way of looking at things was broken.  We knew something had to give. We had been at this point many times when we tried to have an honest discussion about our debt in the past. In trying to decide what we needed to change my husband brought of the popular method of "cash and carry" that is recommended by Dave Ramsey. Although we didn't attach his name or anything else to it. Knowing that some of our friends have used this method to get out of debt and stay out of debt it had come up in our discussions many times- but honestly my husband didn't see it working for him so therefore it was off the table of options. Not to mentions my previous issues with cash (I worked as a teller through out college, cash is something I give away to other people, not use myself) therefore I wasn't going to push it. That being said, it came up this time and it was my husband talking about it. I suggested if we were going to be serious we read the book first that started most of my friends on that journey- just to make sure we really understood it and did it right. The book is "The Total Money Makeover". My husband downloaded it, read it, was totally on board. Then it was my turn to read it....
Thought One-
How could I have been so misled? How did I allow myself to be so misled? Didn't I know better? Didn't I question it at any time? How I could I miss lead others? I had been so worried about my credit score (my how-much-I-love-debt score). It went way out of my way to go into debt to built my credit, buying a car when I had the money in savings and making payments on it every month- how dumb and mislead was I? I talked people into taking more debt because it would only change their monthly payments for a few dollars. Reading him lay out all the lies I had told myself and others made me physically sick. I had made one mistake after mistake after mistake all because I had bought into all the lies. Up unto that point I had been proud of myself that my great 'how-much-I-love-debt-score' had made it possible for us to buy a house. That brings me to thought two.
Thought Two-
Besides the issues I have with our house- the roof needs an overhaul by honest roofers, I can't stand that people can see my dirty kitchen from the front door, and the awkwardness of the kitchen in general- we really love our house. We love the location. We love the size of it for our current family and as we've have grown or continue to grow. We looked at what we could afford and decided the top of our price range was worth having an actual possible forever home for our family. Then in reading, for the actual serious first time ever I started to question if this home had been our worst choice ever. Had all the lies we'd been told blind us to what we should have been looking for. It made me sick, more then with buying into the lies, because a home isn't the easiest thing to change. I started fretting over it. I started doing possible math scenarios in my head and on paper. "What if we rented our house for two years?" "What is our home worth now?" "In this market could we even sell our home?" "How could we give up this location?" I should have been focusing on the book and the overall message, not fretting about my house. In the end we did the recommended math for a home, yes it was a little on the higher end of the recommended range for our pay grade (and when we bought the house we were making a little more than we are now), and that was such a relief to know. That according to Mr Ramsey's guidelines on home purchasing we hadn't purchased out of our income.
my once a year haircut
Thought Three-
As I read about all the sacrifices that people had to start giving up it made me sick. Not because I didn't want to give up those things, but because I already had. You can't cut things out of your budget that aren't there. In the past, as we've tried to scale ourselves back we have looked at things that are not needs, and even things that are needs we've looked at and said is it as need as often as we use it? We gave up cable years ago. My husband was already going twice as long for each hair cut as he would like, and we had stripped my 4 times a year to once a year for my hair cuts (I cut it really short, then grow it out for the year and then cut it off again the next year.) And we both go to very reasonable in cost places. Additionally, I don't get manicures or pedicures (not that I wouldn't like to but they are not needs). We had started just doing "desserts" or "half price appetizers" for date nights to cut the cost of going out to dinner and we almost never go out to movies (about once a year). We both play World of Warcraft, but the game has started doing an in game token that you can buy game time with your in game gold. We have both started buying our game time this way, so we aren't paying $30 a month for our game play anymore. It made me feel so downtrodden. We had stripped ourselves of all these things, and we were still unable to make a dent. Besides our Netflix and our Costco membership the only thing left was our vacations. It was all our over spending on the little day to day things that were completely discretionary. But what was there left to sacrifice, what was there left to get a "snow-ball" going.
Disneyland is one of my favorite and repeated vacations
Thought Four-
I value my vacations. I live life just to go on vacations, when I realized that the only thing I had left to sacrifice was my vacations I actually cried. I had hit my rock bottom. I was completely defeated. There was not getting up from that last blow. To really get a feel for how down and defeated I was, I don't really cry. With the exception of when I am pregnant- which I can say with 100% knowledge that I know I was/am not pregnant. I felt as though someone came in and started beating me up, I couldn't do anything to respond, and they kept beating me up until they left me for dead to cry on the ground. It hurt so much to think we were going to have a sacrifice our vacations. Now in the past we have taken some vacations that would have been seen as extravagant. They may have appeared unwise, and many of the choices we made may not have been the most wise choices at the time. But we paid for most of them the way we should have, by saving for them. Granted to be honest we should have been doing the snow ball method sooner, and applying that money to our debt not putting it in a savings account for vacations. But I had the right idea, real problem was though that we continued to spend on other things that went to the debt. So going back to giving up our upcoming vacations- this summer we had a cheap vacation lined up. It wasn't a cruise or Disneyland (my two favorite vacations) it was going camping in Colorado with my extended family. But even that was going to cost money- there is no such thing as a completely free vacation. Not to mention, we needed to be sacrificing something what else was left if not this. Then I went to a really dark place a despair- how long would it honestly be before we could take any vacation at all? It wasn't giving up just this summer's trip, but it would be giving up a few summers to come. Now when my husband married me, I made sure he understood that vacations were my life. That I need vacations to look forward to, to keep me going from day to day. I can be prone to depression, and I can do little things to help me get through a day or two, but the only thing that has ever actually pulled me out of a depression funk is looking forward to a vacation. Planing it, learning about the place's history, the options we'd have. If I have a vacation to direct my mind to I can overcome that funk in no time. But the thought of no vacations with no vacations at the end of the tunnel was devastating to me. It sucked all happiness and sunshine from my life for days. All my creativity- I graphic design digital scrapbooking kits, I couldn't work/create for days. It was seriously as though my world had ended. Now this book isn't the step by step how to that I get the impression some other things of Mr. Ramsey are. This book is a~ slap to the side of the head wake up call that you are going about this all wrong-You already know how, is the reminder, now do it right~ book. So the only glimmer of hope I had was asking myself "at what point can you say, we've been good, we are doing good, we need to reward ourselves with a vacation"? I am still not sure at what point until we are just on the saving steps with lots and lots of savings can you justify large spending like that. Maybe if I listened to his show, podcast, attended a conference, or read another one of his books I could better answer this but I don't have the answer now. I got stuck on this thought. I forced myself through the rest of the book. I was still on board- heck we didn't know where else to go to change our future. But it looks like the most depressing future that I could imagine until we were totally and completely out of debt. I am still depressed about it, even with a month into it. Ask me again in 6 months when I hopefully see that there can be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Now my husband did come up with dim light at the end of a far away tunnel. He did some math to see where having a 6 month emergency after all the debt is gone and then saving for a LARGE trip would land us. About 5 years away. He said I could dream up the most amazing vacation I wanted and we'd made that our goal. I said I want to backpack around mainland Europe with our kids, stay in family hostiles and then take a cruise. My husband says that if that is what I want we can shoot for that, my parents think I am crazy and should plan to leave the kids home. We'll see. In the meantime it is super depressing that it is 5 years away, but at least it is something to dream about.
Lastly Thought Five-
When is this book going to end? I am already on board. I agree, this is what I need to do. Hearing everyone's stories aren't inspiring me anymore I'm just depressed, I need this book to be over- but no. It keeps going and going and going and it is taking so long that I am stating to wish my head would explode and then my husband could collect the life insurance and be out of debt (but would he learn the lessons we need to learn if it happened that easy), then again the pain of my head exploding would be better then this depression and trying to finish this book. All the stories talk about how "fired" up they were when finishing the book, but I am so depressed. What is wrong with me? Am I the only one who feels/felt that way? I just needed it to end so I could start moving on with life.
I love to take Cruises to places I've never been (was almost 20 weeks pregnant here)

If you're still hanging in here- Thank-you. I needed an outlet to let out these thoughts. I also wanted to show that I am not in love with Dave Ramsey's stuff. I quote it, I am using it, and linking it. But it is not because it is totally awesome I love everything about it- it is because he speaks hard truths and when things are hard like that and true you know you are in the wrong- "the guilty taketh the truth to be hard"- 1 Nephi 16:2. 

Cheap Meals: Ham and Potatoes

Easy recipe that used affordable ingredients. As is the recipe feeds 4 full adult portions.

It uses:
oil (of your choice just enough to cover the pan for use)
6-8 potatoes (scrubbed and diced) approximately 30 ounces of potato.
1 cup chopped loose chunks/cubes ham/pork meat (thick sandwich ham, leftover Easter ham, pork roast, bacon, hot dogs- use what you have or what is cheapest, I have even used diced chicken).
1 can cream of whatever (I prefer cream of mushroom) *
1/2 can milk
1 TBS flour or gravy thickener mix
salt and pepper to taste
optional- 2 TBS sour cream (if you are feeling extravagant more makes a nice creamy sauce. My mom always used a whole 16 oz container in one meal)

*to save money, if you double this recipe, don't double the soup, add an extra 1/2 can milk (for a total of a 1 1/2 cans of milk)

dice potatoes, put into hot oiled pan, on a medium heat cook the potatoes till they are just starting to soften, add your meat (the more raw your meat is the soon you'll want to add it)- add it by creating a space on your pan for the meat to go. Let it sizzle for a bit and them start mixing the two together. Cook together until the meat is cooked and the potatoes are softy and getting crispy outers. Add the cream of soup, milk, and thickener. Stir well and let sit only stirring to keep it from sticking to pan bottom. Let everything thicken and attach to the potatoes. Remove from heat. Add sour cream just prior to serving after removing from heat. Suggest serving with cooked peas. My mom often mixed cooked peas in, I serve them on the side.

Enjoy. My kids all love this dish. It is one my mom always made for us. She used SPAM (because she liked it), I hated and swore I would never make it for my family. Then one day I was craving the version she'd make after Easter with the leftover ham and I made it. Still can't eat it with SPAM- but if that is what you have it totally does work. (My disgust for SPAM lead me to make this crazy fake cooking show video for a contest back in my single days).

downloadable and printable recipe card (right click and "save as")

Meal Cost Breakdown: based on my last shopping trip (6/16/2015)
potatoes +.69,  bacon(in the picture used 1/4 of package I bought for 2.50) +.62, can of soup +.98, milk +.12, flour +.02, sour cream +.05=2.48 for the main dish + sides

Monday, June 22, 2015

Grocery Budget Moving Forward

So when I choose $60 for June's grocery budget. I knew that was not going to be sustainable, and I made that clear to my husband. I just knew we could make some sacrifices in the food department in order to get more cash flow to help get our snow ball going.

But that has egged the question for me of "What should our grocery budget be?"
1- I want a sustainable budget to feed my family of 6 to be full and healthy eating.
2- Room for the occasional fun items.
3- Comfortably have money left each month for saving for food storage.
4- Wiggle room for my every-other-month trip to Costco and trips to the bread store.
5- But still reflects the sacrifice we are making to get out of debt.

What should be a reasonable amount?
After searching a ton of blogs on what other thrifty people are spending I found one of them quoting Dave Ramsey, then I found it on his web site.
"We recommend spending 5–15% of your take-home pay on food, which includes groceries and meals out."
So this was a good place to start. My husband and I did the math and decided that our previous spending (before our money make over) was reasonable for the grocery side, not reasonable when you considered what we were spending eating out. Our previous grocery bills averaged $250-300 per month.

Taking my list of what I want in a grocery budget, what we were spending before, and Mr. Ramsey's advice, I am going to aim for $210. $200 for groceries & household items, and $10 for food storage and stocking up. I know I can do this. It will mean rethinking some of our meals- I have never been a big potato using person. I will be utilizing those much more. I'm going to be cutting any store bought junk food. I will be doing better with my meal planing and making more deliberate choices on what I purchase. Yes that means no more sushi lunches (a pleasure I have always justified by buying my husband his own sushi for lunch too).
I think this is totally do able, and as we do this longer we can adjust as needed.

Setting up our Budget- $60 grocery budget

Setting up a budget the first time (especially when you had one that was actually so broken and ignored) is not a fun experience. On the same level as pulling teeth. Not actually that bad. I would rather make a budget then ever have a tooth pulled again.

To get started I recommend checking out the budget tool on Dave Ramsey's site - good place to start out.

So... when we were doing my first budget my husband asked "What are you going to spend on groceries for this month?" Now before I gave the outrageous number I am about to tell you I did give it some thought...
1- we have lots of food storage, I keep telling myself I want to rotate it more
2- I want this number to be as low as possible to we can get a snowball rolling
3- We *JUST* went to Costco last weekend. I should have enough of the big stuff
Then I said with every confidence "$60" "Are you sure $60?" came from my husband. "Yes $60 but that can't be every month just this month." "okay 60"

Now in all honesty as we reviewed our numbers a week later I added 20 to that number to make 80. But that was after I took an actual inventory of what we had and after my children destroyed my deodorant and I realized I was going to have to spend money on deodorant. Now that 60 now 80 was not including what was just spent at Costco, and it was not including the cat's food or liter since that was a separate budget.

Now looking at $80 isn't a whole lot. But I figured taking into account the other stuff it should be enough. After all prior to starting our money make over I was spending between $250-300 a month depending on if it was a Costco month or not (we do not live near a Costco, we only go every other month). I don't know if we have a "Year Supply" or not, but we do have an impressive amount of food storage that is mostly rotatable. So this should totally be possible. **in full disclosure that budget number did not reflect what we spent eating out. I am so ashamed of that number I am not going to tell you what we WERE spending eating out and letting food go bad, Not any more**

How I shop (tips for thrifty shopping):
1-Now I already have tried to follow the "Once a Month Grocery shopping" except I have made it a twice a month shopping (comes out to once a paycheck)- one BIG everything trip, and one other time trip for milk and some fresh veggies and fruits (whatever is on sale) with the occasionally totally forgot item. I normally send my husband and he is awesome at buying only exactly what I put on his list. I find it is easier to spend less money the less times I walk into a store. I learned about it from this blogger at Blissful and Domestic. Although I can't find her original post that got me thinking about it and changing my attitudes on how I shopped. 
2- I do not coupon. I know it could save me money but it is hardly worth it for me. Here are some of my reasons- it takes a lot of time, I have a hard time obtaining coupons (I refuse to buy newspapers), the coupons friends save for me are normally expired or not what I need by the time I get them, when I have used them I don't feel like I saved money because I end up spending money on things I wouldn't have normally bought, I have got viruses on my computer from downloading coupons and coupon apps -no more. I am not anti-coupons. I do use the on a blue moon. But most of the time they are the ones I get from the store to use on my next visit, or the rare one I found online or was given that is perfect.
3- If I don't have it I find a way to make do! Leave it out, find a substitute, make from scratch, mend it, put it on the list for next month.
4- I make shopping lists. One running list of when I use something up, and I make a list- based off of that week's Ads and what I need of exactly what I am going to purchase. My shopping list has 3 columns One for the item to be purchased, Two for the expected purchase price with the number next to it of how many I plan on buying, Three to fill in at the store of how much the item actually costs. If my list of what to buy is over my budget then I have to decide what comes off the list- what I don't actually NEED.
5-Save a little in your budget for stocking up (planned from sales or unplanned for that special discount you find when you get there.)
6- Part of knowing what you need is knowing what you are going to make. Plan your meals. Make the list. Use a calendar (I put it into my google calendar so both my husband and I can see it) Now I know this all sounds like I'm an organized "J" personality (Myers-Briggs for "judging" personality type of organized person who loves lists). But I am not. I am as "P" as it gets and so is my husband (and that is where we have made lots of bad choices, because we don't make choices). WE have learned that we have to start making choices, we have to be proactive, and we HAVE to make some lists otherwise we all forget the easiest things. If I can do it- you can do it. 
7- I personally don't are about "organic" or "gluten-free" those are not my family needs. We do look for items that are "Whole Wheat" "no sugar added" and "reduced-fat". These things are things you can personally value. You can value what you want to, but remember that to stick to a budget there are trade offs you have to sometimes make. Fun a new way, make do, or do without.
8- Buy in bulk (it is lasting you a month or two, if you won't use it up in that time then don't buy it in bulk, but there is no need to buy 4 off the small item if you are going to use the large one)
9- Use less meat, I use about half or less of whatever a recipe calls for. I then often add beans or veggies as fillers in the recipe. We try to do one meal a week completely meatless- we started this one not to save money but as a way to feel we were better keeping the Word of Wisdom to "eat meat sparingly". We also have a meat grinder attachment for our Kitchen Aid. I rarely buy ground meats. Instead we buy bulk meat and grind it ourselves. I use ground pork or chicken in any recipe that calls for a ground meat.
10- Confession, I don't make bread. I'm trying, but my loafs of bread of super sad. But we have found fantastic bread for .50 a loaf (I can't make it quite that cheap or good). How? Bread factories day old bread or irregular bread. In Mesa (Southern & Country Club) is a bread factory. If you go in the morning (Monday- Friday) rejected loafs or day old loafs are .50 each. On Wed and Friday after one all their loafs are $1 each limit 5. There is no limit on the .50 loafs until they are out of stock. When we go up to Mesa to visit my family we stop in and buy 20-30 loafs and freeze them. When we can't be up in the mornings on a week day we try to find someone to stop by for us and pick up our loaves. If we run out of bread before we go up again, that is when I make our bread.
(we ended up with some funny math because I had to go back and fix the cost of some items)

So onto how I spend the $80 this month:
Milk x4 @1.99
Eggs   @11.99 (5 doz pack. Local price 6/16/2015)
Flour    @3.57 (10 lb all-purpose enriched flour, I grind my own wheat flour and most things I use a 3 wheat cups to 1 all-purpose ratio)
animal crackers @1.99 (Huge bag of Mexican animal crackers. My kids like them better than the "organic" Kirtland signature ones at Costco. I use the Costco tub and refill it with the cheapies and my kids are happier- one bag almost fills the cost tub)
Peanut Butter @4.69 (store brand, largest I could buy)
Pineapples x2 @.87each
Molassas  @3.59
Cottage cheese @1.69
Sour Cream @1.69 (larger tub, hurt me but I bought full fat because the reduce fat wasn't on sale- like I said make trade offs for budget)
Yogurt  @1.99 (large tub-vanilla)
Lettuces x2 @.99 
Onion bag  @2.49
5lb bag potatoes @3.69
apples 2lbs @.99
Crazins @2.00
Tomato Soup @1.67 (family size store brand)
small white Corn Tortillas @2.69 (70 tortillas)
Hamburger buns @.89 (small store brand 8 buns)
Block of Medium Cheddar Cheese @1.67
Sliced Cheese @1.99
Chips @1.00 (store brand baked tortilla chips)
Heavy cream @1.49 (this was a frivolous purchase to make ice cream on the July 4th because it is tradition)
Jello  2x .39
gelatin @1.49
Hot Dogs @.89 (store brand, chicken and pork and I don't care what you say)
Frozen Peas @2.39 (largest bag I could find)
syrup @1.99 (I had been making it from scratch for the past few weeks but the cost of the butter and brown syrup actually came out more then the $2 for the jug)
deodorant @3.79 (husband bought the brand I wanted, died a little when I learned what he paid- oh well live and learn)
=with tax= $78.17
Now there was one item I still need to buy and I'm not sure how I am going to buy it. I need to go to the local farmer's market and buy and new large jar of local honey and that is $8. I am going to see if I can make the bit of honey we have last till next month's budget and add my change to next month. Either that or I will be raiding all my coin jars for the 6 something to go buy our honey.

So yes I did it under $80. Yes I bought a few items I could have cut out. But with the gelatin and Jello I am going to make homemade fruit snacks for my kids, I didn't need the can of soup, I found the one I thought I had already in the pantry when I got home, and I could have totally passed on the expensive never on sale Molasses for another day (my husband uses it to make BBQ sauce and I make ginger snaps for my kids). 
And yes if I didn't have a good amount of food storage and spices in my cupboard already (including meat in my freezer). This wouldn't have been possible, but then I would have been buying more of those items and less of the special items like the jello and cream.

What our meals look like:
Oatmeal with brown sugar/pb/fruit, eggs with toast, cream of wheat (made with my wheat grinder), crockpot soaked wheat, pancakes/waffles, homemade cinnamon rolls (Sunday Morning), cold cereal (never more than once a week and only when it was on sale sale), fried rice, egg and potatoes skillet

My husband takes leftovers, or a meat and cheese sandwich with a snack every day for work. We do have Healthy Choice Steamers that I buy on sale when $1 each in the deep freezer as back ups for bad mornings when I don't make him a lunch.
Me and the kids: pb&Js, dino chickens from Costco, noodles with canned veggies, quesadillas (cheese and tortilla), bean burritos/tostadas, ritz crackers/ham/pepperonies/sliced cheese , mac N cheese, cheese sandwich (hot or cold),

I try to have a good variety. But using similar ingredients. Every Friday I make homemade pizza (and extra dough & make the cinnamon rolls for Sunday, they then sit covered in the fridge till Sunday morning when I cook them), Saturday is my husband's night to grill, we tend to grill a lot of pork chops, chicken thighs, and turkey burgers because that is the cheapest meats.
listing off meals: pasta with veggies, lasagna, stir fry, Korean Bolgolgi, Thai Fried Rice, Chicken Alfredo, creamy pasta, Enchiladas (bean and chicken, sometimes pulled pork), pulled pork tamales (baked Tamale Pie), pulled pork sandwiches, pulled pork tacos, pulled pork over zucchini, Pulled pork Taco Salad Stacks, chicken and rice, hay stacks, Curry, Various Chilies, Shepherds Pie (most of the time made with ground pork), Crock pot pork chops, Strogonoff, Ham and Potatoes, PoMan's, Pigs in a cloud (mashed potatoes with hot dogs), Baked potatoes, Omelets, Tuna Noodle Casserole. 

last week dinners:
Mon- Thai fried Rice, Tues- Shepherds' Pie, Wed-Chicken Salad Lettuces Wraps, Thurs- Baked Potatoes, Friday- Pasta Salad (husband and son at Church activity so I skipped making Pizza), Sat- Homemade Pizza
This week's plan:
Sun-Lasagna (mixture of veggies and meat), Mon- Ham and Potatoes, Tues- Left overs, Wed- Enchiladas, Thurs-Crock Pot Pork Chops Fri- Pizza, Fri- Hot dogs (grilled)

Sorry there are no links yet. Eventually I hope to get them all up either to other sites or on this blog.

apples, fruits of the month (pineapple slices this month- I cut and freeze), animal crackers,popcorn, fruit snacks (I make), mini quesadillas, carrots, otter pops, yogurt, crackers (sometimes I make them), slice of cheese, chips and salsa, PICKLES spears

Good luck with your shopping. Next time I won't be explaining all my tips. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Why I'm here

First off I'm not starting this blog as a way to become one of those guru bloggers. Or even make a little cash from the traffic or advertising. I'm here to make myself and my family accountable.
My family of 6
My husband and I recently came to a realization. Yes we live well. We paid all our bills, we had money for things that we wanted- or at least that is what we thought. Whenever we looked at our finances, there was always this pile of debt that tried as we may to throw money at it wouldn't go away. We would buckle down and make meaningless goals and continue to throw money at the pile of debt, but the interest kept eating all that money. We would then give up, keep throwing money at it and pretend it wasn't there, and not talk about it. Just wishing and hoping and dreaming that throwing money would one day work and about all those things we wanted to do in the future "when we had money".
I had heard many of my friends and blogs talk about the book "The Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey. And more specifically the "cash and carry" method he talks about and the "snow-ball" method of eliminating your debt and what Dave Ramsey is all about. But, there seemed to be something totally off to buy a book about saving money, in order to save money. My husband and I were having a finance conversation about money and our goals. I suggested that I had recently seen a friend post about how this book had changed her family's outlook on money. It had been a required reading for her accounting class. I mentioned my issues with buying the book to "save money" but my husband was actually more on board then I thought. That evening he got on his Kindle and purchased an e-copy. He spend all weekend reading it whenever he got a chance. He was all fired up and ready to get started- after I read it. I use to love to read. But as a mom I have the hardest time reading anything that takes me more than a minute to skim. Not to mention I read supeeeerrrr slow. But I knew our goals and dreams were going to stay out of reach unless we made some deliberate choices to change them. So I read it. Took me a whole week of trying to read every moment I could pull away from my children to read.
So here we are. Almost done with the first month of our total money makeover and it has not been easy. We have decided we are going to make sacrifices to reach our goals. Some of those include: canceling our Netflix account, canceling our summer vacation, making more things from scratch, no fast food or eating out for probably the next year... Just with anything when we want to show the LORD we are serious about a goal we show Him by making sacrifices. We've set up our budget and have our emergency fund, and even paid off my student load that was barely hanging in there. There are times I have wanted to cry, but it is my heart changing.
On a spiritual note, we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, aka the Mormons.  We have been commanded to not go into debt, and if you are in debt- to get out of debt. For the past few years I have been telling myself lies- and didn't even realize it. Any time we were counseled to get out of debt I would tell myself "we're working on it" and convince myself it would happen. People it won't ever happen unless you are actively trying to do something about it with specific goals. Set the goals work to the goal, do it with purpose. I know my family isn't alone, just saying you are trying to pay off that debt isn't doing it.
On another note- I feel guilty that I help perpetuate lies, I am never going to find the people who I lied to and ask their forgiveness. I don't even remember most of them, and the sad part is I wholly believed the lies I was telling. Let me explain. I supported myself through college by working as a teller (and other positions) at some credit unions. Now I was born to goodly parents who lived debt free and taught me the evils of debt. They taught me how to make a budget and how to live within my means, and for the most part I did. But when I entered the world of finance- I met lots of people who told me differently. Lots of people who told me that debt can be good. Debt is needed, debt is the only way you are going to be successful. I bought into it hook line and sinker. I told myself that I could have a little debt. I would still be living within my means, I could make the payments. I can have a credit card -even my parents had a credit card- but my dad is one of the few people in the world who actually pay off every single penny with each purchase they make when they make that purchase. I thought I could be that disciplined. But it was all lies to myself. Lies I had become so numb to that I didn't even realize that they were lies until I was reading Dave Ramsey's book. In addition, I had given up on cash. When I was a teller, cash was something I "counted" out to other people. It was paper to me. I could touch up to $200,000 a day and it meant nothing. When I had my own cash I spend it like you should drink water and couldn't understand where it ever went. I decided me and cash didn't get along. I divorced cash for the sleek world of cards, that way I could keep tract and see every single little penny I spent. And at that time that actually worked for me. As a bank employee I could see and check my account 100 times a day. I watched every penny leave my account and be accounted for. Fast forward 9 years and I haven't worked in the finance work that whole time and I check my bank account online maybe once a week. Plus now their are two of us with drawling from that account, and we aren't always communicating on what and when we are spending money. So we've made some bad choices to avoid making other mistakes. Now I can't go back to my days as a teller and tell every person that I spoke to suggesting debt was the way to go and tell them how stupid I was. But I can now, right here say stop using credit cards, don't be afraid of cash, stop saying we can having it now and instead say we can save for it now and buy it when we have the money.  For everyone I knew as a teller I say, I am so sorry I tried to lead you down the unwise path. Please forgive me. And for everyone who is in debt just like we are. We can do it! We can get out of debt with sacrifice and with deliberate choices to pay off our debt.