Monday, February 28, 2011

How We Eat and Shop on a Tight Budget

The past few weeks we have been on an even tighter food budget than ever...due to less income thanks to the snow storms. We have depleted our frozen meat selection and continue to eat mainly fresh or frozen veggies. So, with virtually no money to spend ,what have we been eating?? Not Ramen Noodles as you may be thinking...we have eaten some really yummy and tasty meals!

Breakfast continues to be either oatmeal, eggs, pancakes, or yogurt. I buy the plain Quick Oats and microwave as needed...adding extract or cinnamon or Sprinkles to ad taste and variety. Eggs, I buy in 18 or larger packs...and I microwave in one-cup prep bowls-cup prep bowls...I cut in the bowl and wa-la I have easy scrambled eggs. I sometimes sneak in some baby rice cereal for added nutrition. Pancakes are my most labor intensive meal...I buy the just add water mix from the Wal-store..their brand. I make about 8 pancakes at a time and the girls will eat them all...any leftovers get a layer of peanut butter as a snack later in the day. Of course, I keep yogurt, bought in the large container on hand...sometimes plain, sometimes vanilla, sometimes peach...if its plain I add fruit or flavors depending on what I have on hand.

Lunch is either leftovers, or cheese and deli meat, or yogurt or PBJ. Sometimes grilled cheese. Baby Girl eats lunch while Gator is napping. Gator eats when she gets up. Gator usually has veggies...either ones that I have steamed and frozen at an earlier time...or straight from the frozen veggie bag.

Yes, That is broccoli...and she asks for it...begs for it!!

Supper has been Spinach and Cheese Manicotti, Chili Mac, Beef Fried Rice, Moroccan Stew, Chili, Chicken Cacatorri, Shepherd's Pie, Pronto Pasta and Sausage, Turkey! Hubby has been happy and full...Baby Girl says during every meal...Mama this supper is dood (good)!

I have been taking inventory of freezer and pantry first. Then I grab a cookbook...I find 4-5 recipes that have most of the items already in my freezer or pantry. Then I list the rest of the items that I need...and I don't look and look and look. I open the cookbook and the first recipe that I have the majority of the items I write down and move on to the next...don't make this step hard. I also place a maker in the cookbook so next week I can easily find the recipe that goes with the ingredients.

I made a large batch of chicken broth a few weeks ago with some chicken I found on I won't need to buy any for awhile...and we had Chicken Caccatorri with the chicken that night. I bought all the veggies I needed in the freezer section (way cheaper than in individual cans...and seems to be lasting longer) During the spring/summer, I like to buy fresh and freeze for later.

I try to only buy meat that has the markdown due to sell-by date...I freeze large packs of meats into smaller bags when I get home...that way I can pull out what I need as I need it...and this is also why I meal plan with what is in the freezer. It is hard for me to watch the sale fliers...and if I only buy markdown meat...I don't know what they will have before hand.

I only take cash to the store...and lately it has been $20-$30...I keep a running tally of the items in my cart..i.e. I grab milk and put in cart...I mark milk off the list...and I add 4 tally marks to the total tally on the side of my list. (I try to round everything up to account for tax) Once I get the items that we HAVE to have...milk, diapers...then I go to the next most needed items, etc until I hit my total that I have in hand. Then we head to the check out...even if there are items left on the list...this is also why I get the MOST IMPORTANT items first!

It takes me a little more time, because I do tend to zig zag the store. I only go to the items that I need and are on our list. No cruising the aisles....go right to what we need and move on...

So, maybe the recipe calls for pork...but I have beef...I'll swap. Maybe the recipe calls for peas and carrots...I may only have one or the other...I leave one out....I do make those adjustments as the week progresses...but this is what has been working for us.

Today I am working near and Aldi...and we NEED milk...I am going to venture into the store I have been wanting to go to forever to try to save more money...the closet Aldi is 30 miles from our house, so it is not a usual suspect on our errands route. I am all about saving money, but gas is high while I may pay a little more for my milk...I save on the gas...adjustments have to be made!!

How do you save? Meal plan? Budget? Any tips to share?

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