Monday, February 19, 2018

Recipe Calculations

I'm a numbers geek. I like doing math equations and figuring out proportions, calculating interest, those types of things. I like to cost, at least roughly, the ingredients in recipes and compare to the equivalent restaurant or ready meal. It's a boring slight obsession I have, but with the cost of groceries going higher and higher, I'm starting to feel like it is a necessity to ensure I don't mindlessly toss money out the window overspending on our groceries. For those that think I should get a life and are completely bored with this sort of thing, hopefully you'll join me on my next post. For those of you equally numbers geek inclined or those that might be curious if you are getting value for your meal planning, thanks for sticking around. 

I love long weekends. I feel like I can get a jump start on meals for the week, on my house, and actually have some down time. With soups, stews, meats,and breads made ahead, we have leftovers and prep done for the busy nights ahead. Here's three of the meals I made for the weekend and week ahead. Nothing is very glamorous, but hearty and wholesome and will fill us up. Man, have prices gone up on some of my staples. It might be the time of year, but I'm finding pennies more on basic items and smaller packages as well. I now just a year or two ago I could make these meals for even less. For the most part, these are standard priced groceries, some a bit on sale, others purchased at Adi's or the cheapest store brand. I'd say pretty typical prices that at least in my part of the US are easily replicated. The ingredient cost is my estimate for the amount used based on my grocery receipts. 

Pasta, Vegetable Fagiole
 I should point out I was trying to use up spinach salad that I let get past prime. I don't normally throw it in the soup, and doing so added  $.67 tot he cost, but it also upped the nutritional value, so a win. I might also vary the extra vegetables. I had a zucchini so it went in the soup. 

$ 0.56        5 carrots 
$0.33         4 celery stalks
$.28           1 large onion
$0.25         2 potatoes
$0.80         8 stock cubes
$0.45         2 9dry) cups pasta
$0.69         1 15 oz. diced tomatoes
$0.69         1 15 oz chili beans in sauce
$o.67         1/3 bag Spinach
$0.42          1 zucchini
$5.14 for 14 cups, at 12 ounce portions, this soup comes to $0.55 per serving. DH bought Healthy Choice prepared soups for $0.89 for 12 ounce can, making mine $0.34 per serving cheaper. 

Chicken and dumplings (though mine were biscuits as I made for crock pot)
$2.40        3/4 pound chicken breast
$0.50         4 potatoes
$0.56         4 Carrots
$0.17         2 celery stalks
$0.14         1/2 onion
$0.10         1 stock cube
$0.06         1/4 cup milk
$$0.17        1/4 c yogurt
flour-negligible for thickening
$0.13         1 c four
$0.17         1/4 c vegetable oil
$0.06         1/4 c milk
$0.25          salt, soda, baking powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning
$4.71 for four generous servings at $1.18 each. I didn't buy any, but I noticed the Dinty Moore microwave meals are $1.89 at Target. No comparison to taste. 

Banana Chocolate Chip and Oat Bread
I just started throwing together things I had on hand as DD2 and I were craving something sweet and decadent. this checked those boxes. 
 $0.16        1 c sugar
$0.12         1 egg
$0.25         1 banana
$0.34         1/2 cup vegetable oil
$0.25         1/2 C yogurt
$0.12         1/2 c milk
$0.19          1 1/2 c flour
$0.43          1 c quick oats
$0.98          1 c chocolate chips
$0.15           salt, soda, baking powder

$2.99 for four mini loaves, with each 1/2 loaf about the size of a bakery muffin, or $0.38 per serving.I had just made without the chocolate chips, but I had them on hand already opened, the cost per muffin equivalent would have been only $0.26. Our Cub Foods has muffins on sale in the bakery 4 for $3.99, or $1.00 a muffin. 

So there you have it. Three basic meals/snacks from my kitchen, compared to  equivalent or near equivalent pre-made. Hands down, my stuff wins for flavor. Learning basic kitchen skills is one of the best ways to keep your grocery budget down. I know  I have the luxury of a fully stocked kitchen, oven and stove top, so am not relying on foods that need to just be heated up. Convenience food and ready made meals are still important staples for many folks without adequate time or space to prepare foods. For this reason, I consider myself blessed being able to cook from scratch to provide for my family. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Low Hanging Savings Fruit of Late

DD2 had bought me coffee from Costa Rica last March. DH had a customer that imports coffee beans for local Twin Cities coffee shops and gifted a two pound bag of beans. Eight O'clock brand coffee was on sale earlier in the week for insanely cheap. I am stocked up for months with coffee, which makes that an easy area to save other than the occasional coffee meeting I have for work. My thermal mugs will suit me just fine.

I have three days of training this week, but one day lunch is provided by my new union representatives. With my promotion, I'm in a different union now. Another day, lunch is provided by our HR and Exec team for a new agency Change Champions group. I was selected to represent my peers on the committee. I'll have leftover soup that I can place in a thermos along with some veggies and hummus and fruit for the one day of training left instead of the expensive cafe in the training center. I spent nearly $25 on lunch last month at three days of training-crazy when I am trying to save funds for more important priorities. My soup will be pennies since I''m getting  huge 12 cup batch for under $4.00. 

I've gone back and reread some blogs I followed in my early thrift blogging days. There are not tons of ways to save big, but dozens each week to shave pennies and dollars that cumulatively add up. I like my approach theses days. I'm not feeling like I am missing out. Though, I will say the other day someone ordered Thai food through our daily Foodsby delivery and I had a little bit of envy, until I remembered her lunch came in at over $12. Anna over at My Random Thoughts has been indulging me with Thai recipes. I love the Skint Dad UK site. Ricky and Naomi have loads of ideas for fake away, but really good recipes, when you want to taste of take out, but want to control the budget, but also, the ingredients. Meals out, groceries and household items can kill budgets if approached with mindlessness. I'm not a die hard bargain shopper, hate cutting coupons, and often forget to have them with even when I do. But, making choices to eat leftovers for lunch and a second night of dinner help me keep our costs down without doing without. 

Tonight, supper will be a sit down dinner with a bottle of wine from our wine club. We made a decion to cancell. We just were not getting to the meet-ups enough to warrant the monthly cost. However, we have a sizeable stock pile and indulge our wine habit for many months to come. I  feel like we learned a lot and understand when shopping for wine on our own as to what is a good value for our money. Educating oneself is a thrift measure. Even if I buy three $10 bottles of wine a month, the same number we got with our wine club membership, I'll be saving $30 a month. I can put together some basic appetizer and invite a couple or two over and have out own once a month tasting at a time that actually works with DH's work schedule.This is our plan for next Saturday night, and we'll open bottles from the stockpile. 

Plans today are to get caught up with laundry, carefully caring for my our nicer clothes with delicate cycle washes and line or hanger drying. Not replacing basic clothing too frequently is part of my strategy. I want to do another closet purge though, slowly weeding out all but the clothes I really wear, and donating the usable to Goodwill or another group. Basically, I'm focused, not on being miserly, but on not spending money where it doesn't need to be spent. Taking advanatage of little perks when they come like a free lunch every now and then is a free indulgence. Let's get back to money savings basics. how are you saving money every day, helping your bottom line, whie still enjoying a good quality of life? 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Budget Check in and Craving Wholesome Food

Between busy schedules and feeling less than chipper, the meals have been pretty uninspiring.With a day off yesterday spent on the road to do an in depth of one of DD2's top college  choices, we ate donuts in the car, shared waffle fries, cheese curds and a personal pizza for lunch, and  fruit snacks on the way home. Meals with too much processed stuff, and not nearly enough fruit and vegetables. I plan to remedy this at least for the weekend. It's a four day weekend for me, so I have today, tomorrow, and Monday to get menus created and some prep done that will having me reaching for soup and homemade hot dishes from the freezer instead of frozen pizza and taquitos. 

I promised DD2 veggie curry for supper-we are both craving an infusion of vegetables into our meals. DH doesn't like it, so I thought he might just get some steamed vegetables, a couple baked potatoes and either a piece of chicken or fish. I've got beans soaking to do a huge batch of bean soup, plenty for my lunches. DD2 is partial to soups with broth and pasta so I'm also going to do a pasta fagiole, loaded with onions, carrots, celery, spinach,potato, and zucchini. DH likes both kinds of soup so despite the curry meal not floating his boat, he should be happy. I've got eggs to make egg salad and w have plenty of canned tuna to eat along side as sandwiches, or as In trying to reduce carbs, perched on a bed of greens. I am going to do a little research on a couple slow cooker meals to have ready for the week as well. My body feels better just planning to make better food. 

We got the VISA that will be due the end of the month. We are doing really well as a family controlling our spending. There are no surprises on there or tallies of purchases that we absent mindedly forgot about. On the grocery and household front, we've spent $267.35 so far, plus the $24.50 carried into the month from January stock piing, for a total of $291.85, leaving a balance to be at or below our $400 budget of $108.15. We need milk, onions, celery, chicken, and some more fruit and veg to round out the groceries on hand for the week. Household items are good, but I think we'll need a good $12-$15 of personal care items. If I can keep all this under $60 today, that will leave plenty for odds and ends next week-perhaps even come under budget by 5-10%. Depending on DH's last paycheck next week, we should be able to put a fair sum aside. 

Life is expensive. Poor health though is really expensive. I need to make sure that while we try and save money, we are taking care of our health needs at the same time. Time for me to make some eggs and avacado and get my weekend fueled. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

I Said No and Lived to Tell the Tale

I am a victim of my own over willingness to say yes too often when asked to do something. I've moaned about not feel healthy for a while now. I was supposed to ref volleyball, begged to ref volleyball, a few weeks back to close the season. Well between how I am feeling, my knee acting up, general muscle pain, and then the sadness of yesterdays violence in Florida, I just needed to be home last night. I put out the word early I was not going to ref; either one of the teens could still show up or the games could run without refs on one of the courts. The lowest division games are so  senselessness to even have refs since if all the mistakes were called, the games would never end. I guess that is what they ended up doing. 

I received a request for a donation for an adult family member going on a mission trip this summer. Don't get me wrong, I support these trips in my church with  my kids, in fact I spearhead one of the major fundraisers each year, the Palm Sunday breakfast. I would feel fine if his church was having a fundraiser of some sort and inviting us to attend for the purpose of raising money. Somehow though, it just strikes me odd to be straight up requested money from an adult to go on a trip. Let's face it, most of these mission trips are voluntourism-a little bit of work, but mostly a youth group get away. I guess it doesn't matter really how the group or individuals raise money, and still our choice to give or not. I just tend to have classified these kinds of trips as either the responsibility of the organization or individual youth raising money through various activities like bake sales and car washes. Now that I think about it though, sending out letters to everyone you know was on the list of fundraising ideas when my kids have done them but we never went that route and tended to do the physical fundraisers. 

While we haven't said no, I'm reminded that I don't always have to say yes just because I'm asked. It is OK to admit I am sick, admit I am tapped out financially or energy wise. It's OK to just believe and state that my priorities with my time and money are elsewhere.