Archive for the ‘Intro’ Category

Catalyst

July 26, 2008

Chicken…rotten chicken!

Alright, let me back track just a little. To start properly, I should introduce myself. My name is Debbie and I am a 35 year old wife and mom of 2 (18yrs & 11 1/2 months) with another one on the way. I love to cook and experiment with new recipes, but this is not always budget friendly, at least the way I have been known to do it. For the last couple of years, this has worked fine for me, but it is now all about to come to a screeching halt.

Well right now you might be asking yourself, if everyone has been happy for so long, why change the status quo? The answer, my friends, is simple…MONEY! It appears that we are soon going to be loosing a large chunk of our income. I am looking at having to retire from my job very shortly, and that would cut my income by 50%. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find this just a little scary and overwhelming. My response has been to analyze our expenses. The revelations were not particularly pleasant. We spend a LOT on food. I won’t embarrass myself by telling you how much, but let’s just say that it is well over the country’s average. It was time to do something.

I started with the easiest and most obvious thing: stop eating out. This was not difficult since I don’t mind cooking and had lately become very dissatisfied with our local restaurants. The next step was to start shopping the sales very carefully. This I am good at. I can go to a store and leave having only bought things that were on sale, seeing at least a 30% savings, sometimes 50% or more. I started doing this like a woman possessed. We have three freezers and they are all currently well stocked with things that were on sale!

You are probably thinking that I am missing a crucial element here, coupons! You would be quite correct. This is a flaw in my strategy that I am very well aware of. My excuse (more an explanation really) is that I simply have not gotten around to it. That seems strange for me to say since I used to be a coupon queen. I would walk out of the store with things I had gotten for free and many more at at least a 50% savings. I used coupons on things that were already on sale and would only shop where they would double coupons. However when I think back on that time in my life I realize that I was buying mostly processed, packaged foods, some of which never were eaten. Sometimes I bought stuff just because it was what I had a coupon for. This is not smart for many reasons, and until I can revamp my view on and use of coupons, I will continue to put them as a low priority. Hopefully sometime in the near future, coupons and I will find a way to happily coexist.

All right now, let’s get back on track. We have stopped eating out and started faithfully shopping the sales, so what’s next? I started googling budget-friendly meals. Unfortunately, most of what I found were stories about the many politicians who participated in the Food Stamp Challenge. I found these stories interesting but unrealistic. So I asked people on a message board I frequent for blog recommendations, and there were very few responses, and of the responses, none of the blogs actually talked about the costs of individual meals or how to buy food more economically. Yesterday while on the same site but a different message board someone posted this link about an MSN reporter who was challenged to feed her family of 4 on $100 for a week. This post led to a post about the Hillbilly Housewife’s $45 a week menu and her $70 a week menu, neither of which impressed me. Finally, someone posted a link to Rebecca’s Pocket which I found very interesting. I read this blog from her first post to the end of her 1 month challenge in one sitting. She fed herself and her husband on $320.80 which is what the USDA said a Thrifty family of 2 should need to spend in 2007. The USDA has now increased that amount to $352.50. She used mostly organic ingredients and even had wine and beer. I don’t know if intrigued is a strong enough word for how I felt after reading Rebecca’s Pocket. I discussed it with my mom, husband, and then spent most of the evening thinking about it. I decided that I would like to try something similar, but still needed to figure out the terms and time frame. Trying something like this would take a lot of planning and preparation. It was something I could think about in more detail tomorrow or next week — or so I thought.

Then, this morning, after adding up our food expenditure for the month so far and freaking out (to be fair, it included much stocking up on sale items and things for our son’s birthday party at the beginning of next month), it happened….

Chicken…rotten chicken!!!!

My husband informed me that some chicken we had bought earlier in the month had gone bad in the downstairs refrigerator because we had failed to freeze it. We had forgotten about it! Well I was pissed and almost in tears. I had worked so hard this month, and we had just wasted food and money. One might think that such a little thing shouldn’t bother me that much, but for me it was a breaking point. I no longer cared about proper planning and preparation — we were starting today!

My “plan” is to account for the cost of each meal and add it all up each week to keep a running tally of our actual expenses as we consume them. I will continue to buy in bulk and stock up when the sales are right, but I will break down the costs when making each meal. I will not resort to buying packaged food that I would not otherwise buy just to lower the total. I will make a post of each shopping trip, not only to give you an idea of what our purchases and hence raw materials are, but also to keep a list of prices for me to refer back to when pricing out a meal. I will start blogging the meals and prices tomorrow. This will initially have to be a good faith estimate as we have a lot of food in our house for which I do not have an accurate list of prices. I will do my best to price them as closely as I can remember to their purchase price, but at least in the beginning there will be a margin of error. I will post recipes as appropriate.

I must warn you that not every meal will be “healthy”. My oldest child loves sausage and kielbasa, one of my favorite meals is tuna casserole, and we all love pasta. However I will do my best to keep the menu as balanced as possible.

As for the actual budget, I am going to let it play out for a while to see where it falls naturally, and then adjust as needed. My ultimate goal will be to fall between the USDA’s thrifty budget of $352.50 and their low cost plan at $447.10 for a family of 2 adults for a month. Since our 18 year old is rarely home and eats relatively few meals with us, I am leaving her out of the equation for now. The same thing goes for the baby as he is still on formula and baby food. Before I start with the first meal tomorrow I will give you an idea of how I will account for things such as a 1/2 gallon of milk, box of cereal, bag of flour, etc.

So this is the beginning. Wish me luck!!! I’ll see you all tomorrow.

P.S. For all of you who actually read all of my ramblings, I thank you. Future posts should not be quite so lengthy.

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