September 29, 2015

One Month at a Time: Part 2

As promised I wanted to give you all the break down on my first Once a Month shopping/Menu/Batch meals for our family of five. I stated in the last post that we resembled the "Old Mother Hubbard" nursery rhyme by our pay day.

See? My bare refrigerator. Yikes! This was taken late night the day before the "Big Haul." Since I had meal planned for the week, we were living on what was left in our cupboards. But any Mom will tell you, by this point you are getting super creative with meals. I did make an inventory of what items we had left in our freezer and small deep freezer.  So with that being said, let's start with my break down of everything!

1. Inventory on Hand

7 pounds of Chicken Thighs
2 Smoke Sausage
8 pounds of ground deer meat
3 quarts of strawberries, picked this summer and froze
1 large beef bone, for broth
2 pork chops, about 2 pounds
1 huge filet of salmon
2 pints jar of homemade strawberry freezer jam
2 12 ounce bags of frozen green beans
                                                                               1 12 ounce bag of frozen Brussels sprouts
                                                                                2 quart bags of frozen spaghetti squash
                                                                                1 gallon bag of shredded sweet potatoes
                                                                                1/2 pound of rice
I had still on hand all my Almond flour, Coconut flour, Coconut oil, gelatin, etc. As far as canned goods, I had tuna fish, beets, chick peas. As you can see the refrigerator was slim pickings! Still had a half a dozen eggs, some grapes, coconut milk, cheese sticks, butter and condiments.

2. The Grocery List (my hand hurt after making it!)

As I said in my prior post, I check the local ads. This was the first time I had to really do my major homework, comparing prices, weights and unit prices. I also had a blank calendar next to me and plugged in meal ideas, my recipe book, and looked up recipes online. But we pretty much know what we like and do not like, so it was not that difficult. I used one of our Composition books and made a list on each page according to the store. I wrote the amount I needed and the price and then the totals. That way I kind of knew where my budget was. REMEMBER I ONLY TOOK $440 with me.

Store #1 
 Our little village has a grocery store. Normally we only shop there if we run out of milk etc. However, they were having the best sale around on meat. Plus the meat is from a local source. The were also having a great 10 for $10 sale, which included paper towels.

12 Paper Towel rolls(they only had 7 left, I was not the only one who was digging the bargain!) So, 7 paper towels, 2 pkg. of pepperoni, 4 boxes of instant mac n cheese (kids and hubby are not fully on my gluten free/Paleo eating, yet!) 2 cans of biscuits, 4lb Chuck roast @ $3.49 a pound, 10 pound of ground beef @ $2.99 a pound, 12 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts @ @1.79 a pound

Store #2-Aldi
Here is where I used a price list I googled. Some of the prices were spot on, but some were lower.

1 bag of Pretzels, 2 bags of regular chips, 1 bag of Tortilla chips, 1 jar of peanut butter, 1 jar of almond butter, 3 boxes of cereal, 1 10 pack box of Oatmeal, 4 Applesauce cups with 6 per a pack, 1 corn bread, 4 cream cheese, 1 1/2 gallon Almond milk, 4 packages of bacon, 4 bags of bagels, 2 boxes of Taco shells, 2 20 ct. flour tortillas, 1 3 pound bag of rice, 1 bag of Gluten free penne pasta, 2 bags of gluten free spaghetti noodles, 1 box of regular penne pasta, 1 bag of Spinach, 1 cottage cheese, 8 blocks of cheese, 10 loaves of bread, 6 gallons of milk (it was the cheapest at $1.69 a gallon) 2 cans of black beans, 4 cans of kidney beans, 12 cans of corn, 12 cans of green beans, 2 cans of mixed veggies, 4 cans of pineapple, and about 6 1/2 pounds of Bananas   

Store #3-Costco
1 box of 12 cans of organic tomato sauce, 1 6 pound bag of Italian meatballs, 1 butter (4) 1 pound sticks, 1 bag of Frigo Cheese sticks, 1 liter of Natural Maple syrup, 1 box of 100% Natural juice boxes, 36 count, Laundry Soap(normally 13.99 was on sale for $2.00 off) 1 dish soap (normally $7.99, on sale for $2.00 off) Toilet paper, Cat food, 4 dozen organic eggs

Store #4-Ciolinos Fruit/Veggie market, a.k.a My happy place

2 10 pound bags of Potatoes, 1 10lb. bag of Red Delicious apples, 2.45 pounds of zucchini, 7.85 pound cabbage, 2 jumbo cauliflowers, 2 pkg. of 4 each red, orange, yellow sweet peppers, 3 pkg. of mushrooms, 3 large cucumbers, 3 pound bag of grapes, Romaine lettuce 2 pack, 2 bunches of green onions, 3 limes, 1 Pomegranate, 2 large green peppers, 2 3 pound bag of carrots. Total here: $34.21

Again another place that has 10 for $10. We also love their manager's specials on meat. We have found some awesome deals. We just use it or freeze it right away.
2 Ekrich Bologna, 2 Ekrich hot dogs (again not my choice, and we normally do NOT buy it) 1 sour cream, I had a coupon for this, and it was on sale, so I paid .85 for it. 12 6 ounce yogurts( on sale) 2 pkg of 2 lb. lunch meat, 4 pkg of corned beef lunch meat. I also had two coupons for 1 free 4 to 6 ounce toothpaste, and 1 free tub of lunch meat. Total: $21.99

Had a sale on Pork loins, in which I ended up getting 14 chops out of and about 2 lbs of extra meat. Pork loin was 7.82 pounds. I also did a "No-No" I got caught up in the Halloween mood and bought the kids a package of Halloween Oreos on sale for $2.79.

Store #7 Dollar Tree-Everything is only $1
2 boxes of Lasagna Noodles, 1 jar of minced garlic, 2 cans of coconut milk, 4 8x8 pans, 1 box of Quart baggies, 1 box of Gallon bags, 1 shampoo, 1 conditioner, 1 package of maxi pads.

Store #8-Dollar General
1 can of Parmesan cheese, 1 bag of dark chocolate chips, and I added 2 more boxes of Gallon bags.

The last four stores were all with in the same area. So my final total when all was said and done was...

        $419. 25

Now do I think this will be the same every month, no. I am shooting for next month to be about $350. Some of the things I bought at Costco will last us about 2 to 3 months.(i.e. laundry soap, dish soap, cat food) Plus this leads me into how I utilized all of our goodies into batch and freezer meals. It is my hope that we may have a few things left over when the next big haul comes. Here is what I batched cooked.

Meals:Batched and Frozen too! 

2 dozen muffin tin Omelet cups
3 dozen banana, almond butter, chocolate bites
1 1/2 dozen Paleo Banana Chocolate chip bars
14 pork loin chops (2 meals)
2 lbs. of pork, which I cubed
4 lbs. of Taco meat
1 meatloaf
2 meals of Chili
8 Chicken Alfredo veggie lasagna roll-ups
1 Gallon bag of chicken stock
1 Roast with vegetables
2 meals of Chicken Fajitas
1 meal of Potato soup
1 meal of Chicken and Wild Rice soup
2 Lasagnas
2 trays of Mac-n- cheese
2 meals of Pigs in a Blanket, or Stuffed Cabbage
1 Gallon bag of chopped cabbage, will use for soups, or some kind of meal
3 or 4 meals with the 6lb. bag of meatballs
1 meal of Crock pot Cilantro Chicken
2 lbs of Tuna, for sandwiches, salads, of patties
24 individual Pepperoni Bagel Pizzas
2 meals of homemade chicken nuggets
1 meal of chicken chunks
Paleo Pumpkin Pancakes
18 Cinnamon French Toast sticks
1 meal of Bake Potato bar
1 meal of Bacon and Cinnamon Monkey Bread (I will eat eggs)
2 quarts of chopped carrots, for soups, side veggie, snacks
1 meal of Grilled Middle Eastern Chicken breast

Now for breakfast and lunches I will do cereal, eggs, smoothies, oatmeal, etc. Lunches we will use up the lunch meat first. My kids love when I make rolled up meat and cheese in a tortilla, or even Quesadillas. Also, every so many days, lunches will be left overs too. You can also see on one of the Saturdays, I put "O.Y.O" meaning On Your Own. Pretty much find something.  I just used my Chalk board calendar and separated the days into Breakfast, Lunch and Dinners. I also designated certain days of the week as always a theme. Wednesdays: Breakfast Night, Fridays: Fiesta Fridays, Saturdays: Soup

 I also listed up at the the top in the blank space ideas for snacks. The kids and Deputy Dog love popcorn, so that is always a inexpensive snack, plus they love to use the air popper. 
Since the way Deputy Dog's pay period falls, we are shooting for not having to do the next haul until October 23. There are some a day or two when we will not be at home for lunch, so that also gives me and extra meal. We have also decided since my big shopping day is so hectic, that will be the day we get a treat and have a meal out. This is within a budget of course. 

This is just my first time. As I said before I hope to get the budget for our family of five down to around $350 or less a month. I look forward to the challenge! 

Month at a Time: The New Budget, List, and Shopping!

Meal planning, coupon clipping, has been something I have done for a while now. Usually I would plan meals for two weeks since the hubby, "Deputy Dog" is paid biweekly. I would sit down the week of the paycheck and go through our local stores ads, compare prices, gather any coupons and then plan two weeks of meals. I occasionally prepared freezer meals or batch cooking. I really did see a savings when I did that. Coupon clipping in my opinion helped at times, but overall I did not see a big difference in my savings. Mainly because I find that "off brands" are cheaper. Plus I think once couponing became super popular, the stores got smart to it and couponing is not as beneficial. Correct me if I am wrong. However, recently our lives have changed. This year we have decided to home school our two youngest children, so our already busy life just became a tad bit more hectic!

As I said previous, I have cooked batch/freezer meals. Once. I think I got three weeks of dinners for our family of five for $249 dollars or something like that. It was just dinners though. At that time the kiddos were eating lunches at school and breakfast was at best hit or miss. Mostly grab a cheese stick or toast and juice. Snacks were bought as needed, and there was a lot of eating out. Honestly, we were not saving, it seemed like our money was just flying out the window, well it was. We seemed to be always broke. Then about two weeks ago I was reading over Jamerrill Stewart's website Free Homeschool Deals, when I linked into her You Tube channel. (by the way, love the idea of Vlogs! Hmmm....) I was immediately hooked. I loved the idea of once a month meals. I loved how her large family operated. I loved everything about them. Jamerrill shared in one of her Vlogs, about Dave Ramsey's financial plan.My head was spinning! My heart was screaming "this is it!" You know the saying that God works through people? Well, I believe that, and this was an answer to our family's problems. Thank you Heavenly Father!

Deputy Dog and I sat down and had a real heart to heart about what I had learned. We started our research. For him, to really look at Ramsey's info and begin to outline it for our life. Me, to research ads, price lists, and how I could do once a month meals while I eat a clean eating Paleo lifestyle. If you follow my other blog The Goddess I Truly Am Inside, you know that in June I started eating a gluten free, then a paleo diet. It has really worked for me. Anyway, I digress...
 We were really ready to jump in. This past Friday was a pay day. We decided this would be the best time to implement our new plan of action.  Plus, if you looked at my cupboards/Refrigerator, it was right out of the nursery rhyme "Old Mother Hubbard." The only plus side to this was my Refrigerator got a really good cleaning out!  I spent a few evenings when time permitted, to look at our local ads for the week. I want to give a shout out to all those who have compiled price lists for Costco and Aldi store, thank you, thank you, and thank you! From there I just put on my creative hat and planned out meals. Now Jamerrill utilizes one meal, such as Chili and feeds her family that for a couple of meals consecutively. It works for her. For us, we are not above left overs. But we have to spread them out. So with that being said I created certain days where we would have left overs for Dinner or Lunch. I also gave certain days a theme. For example: Fiesta Fridays, Soupy Saturdays, and Wednesday's will be Breakfast Nights.(Sorry could not come up with a catchy name for that.) That way it made it a bit easier to plan for meals on those nights.Then I printed off a blank calendar and proceeded to plug in the meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.This is where my recipes and creative juices started to flow. Now my family will eat Gluten free but they are not 100% doing Paleo. So if they are having something that I do not eat, I made a notation for my alternate. I used the blank paper calendar first, which is good for me since I would not post same type of meals in a row. We love chicken, but eating chicken three days in a row, we begin to feel like we could grow feathers and cluck!  After I made a mock up meal plan, with pencil I might add,  I transferred it to my cute black board calendar that hangs in our kitchen. That way everyone knows the meal plans, or in case Momma needs a night off and then they can prepare it.

Method to my Madness

Alright, how did I do this? I will just break it down under headings. I think it would be easier to follow, I hope. I stated above that I checked our store's ads and consulted online price lists. Now granted I learned from various blogs that pricing on certain items can fluctuate. For instance, milk and eggs.We have our own chickens, the Ladies of the Yard, but they are molting, so eggs are hit and miss. (Deputy Dog calls them Union Workers, no offense) I also found that certain items can be misprinted. For example, a price list I looked at said cream cheese at Aldi was $1.69 each. For my Aldi, it was .99 cents each. I budgeted the $1.69 when I made my list. I also found that Costco had my Laundry soap and Dish soap on sale for the week. While I was shopping I did find deals on some things that I had not seen on my late night ad searching...Hello, Momma Brain!Or I decided to buy the kids a "goodie" that was on sale. Like I said this was my first time, so I budgeted for some hiccups. That is life right?

The Budget

We crunched numbers. We figured that since we were out of much of our food, this was going to be a expensive trip. I needed to buy taxable items like toilet paper, cat food, chicken feed, cleaning etc. Do not get me wrong, we were not starving. I had some things still in our freezer. I will list what I started with. I took  So we decided that $440 was what I was going to go out shopping with in cash only as Dave Ramsey suggests. It helps to not use the debit card, you will not over spend.  The $440 would include all our food, cleaning items, etc. EVERYTHING! This shopping trip will be for September 25 through October 23. Guess what? My final spending was $419.37! I did not even use it all. So, again utilizing Dave Ramsey's approach, that extra money went into an envelope labeled groceries. It can be used towards items I may run out of for the month, or go towards the next month's haul.

The List

O.k. this is what I did. I made my list a little bit from what I knew I needed, what was on sale, the unit prices per items, cross referenced those with other store's products and what I menu planned for. I grabbed a Composition notebook and on each page I wrote down the store's name, what I was going to buy there and the quantity. I then wrote the price down for each item. For example: Aldi,
Bagels: 4x $1.69=$6.76 after I was done with all the items I was going to buy from each store, I added up the totals.
One page of my list. Seriously there is a method to my Madness


I made my plan of action. The whole purpose of this is to try and save money. So I really planned out what stores I could shop at that were fairly close to one another. Lucky for me, our local village grocery store had a heck of deal on chicken breasts $1.79 a pound and beef at $2.99 a pound this week. Wahoo! Plus the other major stores I shop at are all located by each other. However, there is one place that I love to buy my vegetable and fruit at. They carry local and they are so inexpensive.I mean $4.99 for a 10 pound bag of apples, .19 cents a pound for zucchini! I love that place! The issue is this, it is about 30 to 45 minutes from our home. But, four of the other stores are also located to it. So really I could shop there and not feel too bad. It is just not my normal stores, you know how you frequent a place so much to "change" is a bit foreign? But I can get over it. This time I was not sure what prices were on eggs and milk at Costco and Aldi. So it was a bit of more of a drive for me, chalk it up to research! Anyway, I organized my list in the notebook. I took a red pen to cross off my buys and to make any adjustments on prices, or if I had add-on items. I do not want to get into the habit of having Add-on items, but I gave myself that buffer in my budget this time. My total time shopping/driving was 5 1/2 hours.

My Stores I Shop At

I live in North West Ohio so I know that you may not have these locally. I implore you to find the best deals with in your area and match up the unit prices and weights of food. It really does make a difference.My go to stores are Aldi, Costco, Kroger, Meijer, Ciolino's (fruit and veggie market), Dollar Tree, and Dollar General.

Stay Tuned...

For the sake of your eyes and that this post does not turn into a novel, I will post a "Part 2" for you all. I will break down what I had on hand, what I bought, and what I ended up Batch cooking and freezing up.

The other side
One side of my counter