Category Archives: budget

Special Diets on a Budget

As you have probably noticed, I am eating a “special” diet right now.  And by special, I mean that I’m NOT eating any of the following foods:

  • Dairy (including butter, cheese, yogurt, shortening, etc)
  • Eggs
  • Gluten (including wheat, oats, rye and barley)
  • Tomatoes (tomato sauces or anything else containing tomatoes)
  • Dehydrated Fruit
  • Rice, corn, potatoes
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee, black tea, and soda
  • Fruit juices
  • Iodized salt
  • Sugar and natural & artificial sweeteners (including honey, agave, coconut sugar, stevia)
  • Soy or any products containing soy
  • Peanuts
  • Beef, pork, shellfish, cold cuts, bacon, hot dogs, canned meat, sausage

ai_dietWhy?  I’m following an Anti-Inflammatory diet given to me by my holistic care doctor.  I’m currently on day 7 of this new diet, and I’ve found already that I’m not having to take my daily nap every day anymore.  I had 2 good days during this first week, and that’s more than I’d had in the previous month!  What a blessing.

It is, however, more expensive to eat this way….at least for me.  No matter how you look at it, sweet potatoes generally cost more than white potatoes.  Quinoa is WAY more expensive than rice.  It’s just how it is.

So, how do you eat a special diet on a budget?  Well, it’s something that I’m slowly figuring out, and I wanted to share what I’ve found so far with you:

 

 

  1. Shop the Sales (?)

This can be very hard when you are so limited in what you can eat.  For example, if you are allowed fresh veggies, but the veggies you are able to eat aren’t in season, well then what’s a girl to do?  Just this last week I went to pick up some bell peppers and the cheapest I could find them was $1.29 PER PEPPER.  Ridiculous!  So, I went without.  Instead, I ate other veggies that frankly, I’m not as fond of.  If you’re on a tight budget though, you’ll just have to learn to be less choosy (a lesson I’m currently learning).  Shop the sales.  It’s critical.

2.  Buy in bulk

indexBy “bulk”, I do not necessarily mean “buy a ton”.  Sure, Costco and other warehouse locations offer some great deals.  I’ve been very impressed with Costco’s selection of healthy foods.  The quinoa there is a great deal.  However, in addition to that type of shopping, try to shop the bulk sections at other stores – you know, when you bag your own stuff, tie it up and weigh it.  Winco is my favorite place to do that.  There are bulk bins at most health food stores as well, like Whole Foods and Sprouts.  That way, you’re not paying for the packaging.

3. Keep a price list

Oh my gosh, keep a price list.  If you find yourself trying new foods you’re not used to, I’m betting you’re not familiar with the average price for that food.  You’ll have NO idea if you’re getting a decent deal or not!  Ask friends and family what they pay, and when you make a purchase, write down the cost-per-ounce or pound and take that book with you when shopping future sales.  Know what a good deal looks like.

4.  Stick to the basics

I know.  It’s hard.  You want to try a new recipe because you are SO SICK of eating carrot sticks and baked chicken.  I feel you.  (really, I do.)  If your budget allows, try some new food ideas, but don’t plan a huge shopping spree to buy all new stuff.  What if you don’t like half of it?  It’ll go to waste, and you’ve lost that money.  Try a few new things at a time, and stick with the basic meals you already know for now.  As you slowly build up new recipes and items that you like, your menu will expand, but only do it as you can afford to.

5.  Give yourself an occasional break

Don’t expect that you’ll be perfect all the time.  When I first went gluten free, I refused to buy $5 frozen gf pizzas, because it would cost more money than making my own.  Then I would get a hankering for pizza and not have anything on hand, so I’d go out and spend $12 to get a freshly cooked one from a gf friendly restaurant.  If you have a weak spot and you know you’ll eventually cave, don’t be afraid to spend a little money buying some of those items pre-made and frozen.  If you truly have the time, then save even more $$ by pre-cooking and freezing some of your favorites.  Speaking of which…

6. PREPARE

I know life is busy, and not everyone will be able to do this.  If you have the time/energy, I’d highly suggest doing a freezer cooking session.  Make a double or triple batch of gluten free cookie dough, or of dairy free rolls, and freeze them.  Mix up a huge batch of turkey burgers, shape and freeze them.  This makes buying in bulk during the sales easier, and it makes your life a whole lot easier when you don’t feel you have time to make an involved meal.  If you don’t have an entire day to devote, you can do a mini 1-hour freezer cooking batch, like I do.

7. Stick with natural foods

10487226_10152495996751815_3535428456217654932_nAs much as possible, try to stick with foods that are naturally dairy free, or peanut free, or whatever your need may be.  Fresh fruits/veggies and unprocessed meats are generally allergen-safe (depending, of course, on the allergen you are avoiding).  Buying the gluten-free version of something generally is going to cost at least TWICE the money than it’s wheat-filled counterpart.  If you stick with the naturally safe foods, you’ll save.

I realize that not all of these tips will work for everyone.  Do what you can with what you can.  I’m sure there are a lot of other fantastic ideas.  Like I said, I’m new to this, and am still figuring things out.  I’ll happily share any other tips that I find as I go!  And hey, if you’ve got a great idea to save money on these types of meals, you’d better tell me! :)  Now let’s go save some moolah.

*Linked up at Thrifty Thursday!

Save Money: Lower Your Food Budget

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I think one of the easiest ways for us to lower our household/family expenses is through food.  I may not be able to change the monthly cost of my mortgage, but I can actively make changes to my lifestyle to save money on food.

 

If you are looking to cut costs in your life, I’d suggest starting with food.  It’s one of the easiest things to adjust.  Of course, I’m not a financial adviser…just a mom on a tight budget!  Below are some things that have helped me to cut my grocery/food costs dramatically:

 

 

  • We eat a lot of rice, potatoes and dry beans.  Not very exciting, true, but you know what?  Those foods are all naturally gluten free, and having a severe gluten intolerance can be killer on the grocery budget, so we do what we’ve gotta do!

 

  • I grind my own rice flour.  Again, GF living can get expensive, so I grind whatever flours I can, and make my own flour blends to bake with.

 

  • Limit my meat purchases to $2/lb or less.

 

 

  • Buy fruits/veggies in season when they are cheapest.  We’ve been eating a LOT of apples and oranges lately.  Grapes, not so much.  Red peppers have been on sale for as little as 3 for $1, so we’ve been eating more of those.  Carrots and potatoes always seem to be decently priced year round, so we eat a lot of those.  As the weather warms we’ll be enjoying more strawberries, grapes, zucchini, and the like.

 

  • Grow a garden.  I’m not even close to being a master gardener, although it is an aspiration of mine.  Every year we grow peas, tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, carrots, cilantro, and zucchini.  We have apple, peach, cherry, and pear trees; grape vines, blackberry, raspberry, and bush cherry bushes.  We don’t always get a killer crop, but we happily take whatever we can get.  When we have excess, I break out the canner and we store our food.  We have fun making a year’s supply of salsa each summer, as well as applesauce, apple pie filling, and anything else we can think of!

 

  • Avoid pre-packaged processed food.  I know, $1 for a boxed pasta dinner seems tempting, but it’s really not cheaper than making your own, and making your own pasta and sauce is much healthier too!  Don’t pay for convenience if you don’t have to!

 

  • Shop the sales, and only the sales.  I don’t use coupons often, simply because with my dietary needs, there aren’t a ton of coupons that I can actually use.  That, and the fact that I work 2 part time jobs and don’t feel that I have the time.  I do shop the sales.  The three stores I shop at the most are Reams, Winco, and Sprouts.  Winco is great when I want to stock up on meat (they discount their meat every morning) and when I want to buy baking stuff and spices.  Their bulk section is incredible!  Sprouts is a health-food store that I shop at probably 2x a month.  Wednesdays they have their double ad day, which means the two weekly ads are overlapping and I can usually find twice the stuff on sale.  I typically only buy the produce at Sprouts…their deals can be awesome!  Reams has general low prices and is close by, so that is the store I shop at if I’m not going to the other two.

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  • Have breakfast for dinner every week.  One of the most frugal, simple meals we make each week is breakfast:  homemade pancakes, homemade hash browns (not those expensive frozen packages), fruit, etc.  The kids always like it, and it’s affordable.

 

  • Eat leftovers!  We have a leftover dinner night each week, in which we eat any leftovers we have.  A lot of the time, we’ll put it together into a soup, but not always.  It helps us clean out the fridge, and keeps food from going to waste.  I also tend to eat a lot of leftovers for lunch.

 

  • Eat at home.  I mean it!  Brown bag it to work.  I actually don’t eat at work at all.  I work until 1 in the afternoon, so I just head straight home and eat my lunch (usually a smoothie or leftovers) then.  My husband simply takes a banana to eat for his lunch, and then “supplements” later when he gets home since he doesn’t like to take leftovers to work.  I confess I wasn’t really good at this one until I discovered my intolerance to gluten.  There aren’t as many options to “eat out” anymore, and so I just don’t do it.  We probably go out to eat once a month as a family.  But never more often than that, and it’s been really helpful to our budget.

 

  • Use “fillers” for your meatloaf.  I usually add more bread crumbs/oats/pureed beans to my meatloaf than the typical recipe calls for, simply because it gives me more food for my $$.

 

Those are just a few things we do in my household to keep monthly food costs down.  What works for me may not work for or apply to you, but I hope it jogs some ideas for you.  What are some ways you save on food?

 

Fast and Frugal: Buy Discounted Meat

I have a rule that I almost never break when it comes to meat:  Don’t spend more than $2/lb on meat.  The only exceptions are that I allow myself to buy tilapia, salmon and steak once a year or so.  I wish I could afford the more expensive cuts, but it’s just not reality for me.

 

So…how do I find a deal?  Buy the discounted meats…you know, the stuff that is either close to a sell-by-date, or reduced just to make more room.  Finding these meats isn’t always easy, but it just got a lot easier for me, and I just have to share!

 

 

win-eostack

 

 

If you have a Winco Foods grocery store near you, listen up.  Did you know that they discount their meat EVERY morning??  I went in the other day, hoping that I was early enough to avoid crowds, and was browsing through the meat, hoping to see something on sale.  Boy, oh boy…tons of options were on sale 50% off!   After talking to two employees at the store, I discovered that it’s something they do every morning, simply to make room for whatever else they have in the back.  Some days there is plenty of room, and they don’t need to discount much.  Other days they have way more meat than they have room for.  Here’s a sampling of what I got:

 

100_3570 - This Pork Carnita boneless meat pack was normally $1.98/lb, half off at $0.99/lb!

 

- I got a couple of packs of Hormel boneless pork chops on sale for $1.84/lb.

 

- One nice, big beef round roast for $1.94/lb.

 

- Pork sausage links from New York Style Sausage Company for $1.50/lb.

 

All in all, I was able to get 26.04 lbs of beef and pork (I didn’t buy chicken cause we already have a bunch, but there was chicken discounted as well) for $41.71.  This meat will last us for a few months.

 

That works out to only $1.60/lb!!

 

A lot of other stores discount their meats on specific days of the week.  Ask your local butcher what their schedule is to get an idea of when best to go so that you can stock up.  If you have room in your freezer, go for it and save yourself some money on meat.

 

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November Wellness Challenge – Let’s Add in a Little Finance

It’s now day 5 of my personal November Wellness Challenge.  I confess, there are aspects that I haven’t done so well with, but there are others in which I’m feeling ahead of the game.  Let me share a few highlights/lowlights with you:

 

You remember the Jump Up and Drink Up November Challenge?  The point of this is to improve my wellness physically (obviously).  Here’s my physical wellness overview:

- I have drank the required amount of water every day so far.

- I have NOT pulled out the jump rope…not even once! (I can’t find it.)

- I took my very first Zumba class in lieu of the jump rope…it was awesome!  So fun, and I am a really terrible dancer.  I think that’s actually part of the fun…watching us all try and shake our hips unsuccessfully. :-)

- I have continued to do the exercises my chiropractor suggested.  Today I was given more exercises to start.

- I walked to work for the first time in over a month!

 

As for the Decluttering of the Home Challenge:

-I have de-cluttered the kitchen drawers and the kitchen cupboards.

- We’ve been able to get rid of 12 things so far…some will be donated to charity, others will simply get trashed.

 
 

And now, I’m adding another small challenge to my list.  I encourage you to do the same.  It’s a small one, I promise!!  It’s all about Budgeting and Finances.

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For this challenge, all you have to do is track your money spent.  That’s it!!  I’ve set myself up an excel spreadsheet and each night I enter all spending from that day.  I’m not tracking the usual bills like the utilities, mortgage, health insurance, etc.  This is tracking simply for the following categories:

  • Groceries (food and non-food)
  • Car gas money
  • Entertainment (going out to eat, redbox)
  • Christmas and other gifts

These categories are the ones that we use the cash envelope system for.  I realize that our gifts category will be higher than usual this month and next, with Christmas on the way, but I’m just trying to get a general idea so that I’m up and ready to go come January, when all the New Year’s Goals start coming out!

 

So…if you’re doing the challenge, you may or may not want to add in some expense tracking.  Let me know if you do, and posts your updates!  I want to know how everyone else is doing, too.

August Spending Total – Groceries, Toiletries, etc

Well, since the month is almost over and I’m outta cash, I think it’s safe to say I won’t do any shopping this week….maybe on Saturday, September 1, ha ha.

 

This is what was purchased since I last updated:

 

Reams:

  • 5 lbs Norbest ground turkey ($1.79/lb)
  • 2 lbs red grapes ($0.88/lb)
  • 3 kiwi (3 for $1)
  • 4 lbs bananas ($0.44/lb)
  • 1 lb strawberries ($0.99)
  • 1 bag Dole salad )$1.59)

Reams Total:  $16.71

 

Winco:

  • 2 lb Cocoa Munchies cereal from bulk ($1.84/lb)
  • 1.25 lb brown rice ($0.56/lb)
  • 0.5 lb semi sweet chocolate chips ($2.24/lb)
  • 1 Anaheim pepper ($1.48/lb
  • 10 herbal peppermint tea bags ($0.11 each)
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoning ($0.22)
  • 1/2 lb tapioca starch ($1.32/lb)
  • 2.5 lb red grapes ($0.88/lb)
  • 1/4 cup nutmeg ($1.07)
  • 3 green bell peppers ($0.48 each)
  • 1 jalepeno pepper ($0.58)
  • 2 lb cheddar cheese ($4.48)

Winco Total:  17.87

 

August Spending Total:

$292.76 – $150 gift card

Out of Pocket August Spending Total:

$142.76

August Spending Update

We got some good news in the mail the other day:  a $150 gift card to Walmart.  It was a bonus from my husband’s work from a few months ago, and it finally arrived!  The timing couldn’t be better since we’ve got back to school shopping to do.  It let’s us boost the shopping budget up quite a bit this month!

I know you’re shocked to know that we already spent the entire thing, aren’t you?  Boy, the family was excited to use it and get stuff that we don’t normally get!  Here’s what we bought:

- 2 beach balls for the kids                                          - 5 pack boys underwear

- 8 pack boys socks                                                            - 1 girls’ backpack

- 3 pack Clorox wipes (for school)                              - 1 gallon bleach

- 1 box washing soda                                                       – 1 sports bra

-3 lb ground beef                                                                 – 2 lbs sausage

- 1.5 lb apples                                                                        - 2 lb bananas

- 3 frozen pizzas                                                                   – 1 box dixie cups (for school)

- 1 lb turkey deli meat                                                      - 1 box pasta roni

- 5 pack mac n’ cheese                                                     – 1 large bottle mayonnaise

- 10 lb sugar                                                                       – 2 gallons milk

- gluten free spaghetti                                                   – 1 pack flour tortillas

- 1 large pack toilet paper                                            -  24-pack string cheese

- 1 can enchilada sauce                                                - 3 cans tomato paste

- 1 pack fresh blueberries                                         – 2 cans tuna

- 2 loaves bread                                                                 – 1 bag tortilla chips

- 3 lb colby jack cheese                                                - 1 pkg polenta

- 2 lunchables                                                                   – 6 kiwi

- 2 lb red grapes                                                                  - 1 pack corn tortillas

- 24-pack cherry coke                                                 – 1 8-oz tub sour cream

Whew…I don’t think we’ve EVER spent that much money in one trip.  But we were determined to spend the whole amount, and we only went $1.18 over, so our out of pocket cost wasn’t much! :-)

 

At Buddy Boy’s new school, he will be in charge of providing snacks for his class every other week.  I decided to take advantage of the Smith’s deal going on right now (buy 10 participating items, get $5 off), but I confess, I didn’t do any coupon matching, so I’m sure I could have gotten a better deal if I’d taken some time planning it out:

- 5 bags goldfish

- 2 boxes fruit snacks

- 1 box fruit gushers

-2 64-oz bottles 100% juice

- 1 bottle Tums

- 1 16-oz tub sour cream

Total spent:  $19.31

 

So…if we DON’T count the money from the gift card, our out-of-pocket total for the month is $21.18 + $87…

$108.18

 

If we do count it, and just give ourselves a bigger budget for the month, we’ve spent:

$258.18

 

 

August Grocery Spending – Already Made a Trip!

Dang, it hasn’t been August that long, and I’ve already made three, YES THREE, “trips”.  I put trips in quotations because I don’t know if one of them is technically a trip.

 

Or perhaps I do it simply because I CAN. :-)

 

Anyway, the first trip for the month was to pick up my Bountiful Baskets order.  The total was what it typically is, $16.50, and as usual, I was very pleased with what I got.  The second trip was to Reams grocery, and the third was a walk to a guy’s house in our neighborhood who just happens to own an acre of land and uses it to grow produce to sell.  (LOVE the man, by the way.  He’s an awesome 80+ year old and he works SO HARD.  He’s inspiring and sweet.)

 

Anyway, here’s the overall picture (literally and figuratively) of what I got:

 

Bountiful Baskets:

- 1 head green cabbage

- 1 head green lettuce

- 5 tomatoes

- 8 red potatoes

- 3 large avocados

- 2 lb bag cherries

- 3 mangoes

- 5 peaches

- 1 bunch bananas

- 1 cantaloupe

- 6 oz pkg blueberries

 

Reams ($60.25):

- 1 can Hunt’s Spaghetti sauce ($1.25)                                    - 24 sticks string cheese ($6)

- 2 lb pork sausage ($1.89/lb)                                                   – 2 lb colby jack cheese ($2.95/lb)

- 1 pkg grated Myzithra cheese ($3.99)                                    - 5 lb boneless skinless chicken breast ($1.69/lb)

- 3 packs socks (7 pair per pack) ($3.99 each)                        - 2 lbs butter ($4)

- 8-oz cream cheese ($1.99)                                                      15 lb Russet potatoes ($2.99)

- 2 lb bananas ($0.49/lb)                                                       – 2.5 lbs grapes ($0.99/lb)

- 4 ears corn ($1)                                                                      - 5 lbs strawberries ($0.99/lb)

 

 

Our Neighbor Dude ($10)

- 24 ears corn

- 14 large peaches

- 4 large tomatoes

- 2 large cucumbers

 

*Yes, we like corn on the cob a little bit.:-)

 

Total spent for August (and it’s only the 6th!!):  $87

 

Well, I guess we’ll have to be a little more careful the rest of the month, eh?  At least we all have socks without holes now.:-)

 

 

 

July Grocery Spending Update

Wow, I can’t believe it’s already July 30!  Practically the end of the month.  I can think of only one thing I will likely need to buy before the month ends, cause it ran out a week ago.  I need my hair “food”!

 

Anyway, last week’s shopping looked like this:

Reams

  • 1 whole chicken ($0.99/lb)
  • 2 lb bacon ($1.99/lb)
  • 1 seedless watermelon (4 lbs/$1)
  • 3 watermelon licorice twists (3/$1)
  • 1 pint strawberry milk ($0.50)
  • 1 can Pillsbury Grand biscuits ($1.50)
  • 8 spiral notebooks (4/$1)
  • 2 lined filler paper packs (2/$1)
  • 2 pairs kids scissors (2/$1)
  • 4 packs 24-piece crayons (2/$1)
  • 3 school glue ($0.39 each)
  • 4 Iodent toothbrushes (2/$1)
  • 2 folding camp chairs ($6.99 each)

 

Reams Total (w/tax):  $40.78

 

Bountiful Baskets:

  • 2.5 lb red grapes
  • 2 mangoes
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 2 lbs baby carrots
  • 5 plums
  • 5 peaches
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 cantaloupe
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 8 red potatoes (MY FAVE)

Bountiful Baskets Total:  $16.50

This week’s Total:  $50.78, round to $51

 

July’s Total:  $191

 

 

 

July Grocery Spending Update

As of my last post, my July total was $111.

 

As I was writing, my husband was at Dollar Tree, so I have that and a couple others to update.

 

Dollar Tree:

  • 10-pack Motts 100% juice (Apple and White Grape)  $1
  • 1 gallon bleach $1
  • 1 container bouncy putty $1 (Kinda representative of how he turns to putty when his daughter asks him for something at the store!)

Total $3.17

 

Reams:

  • 1 dozen eggs $1.19 (this one was my fault…I made some homemade egg noodles and forgot that I was out of eggs!)
  • 2 airheads for rewards program for the kids $0.50

Total:  $1.74

 

Bountiful Baskets:

  • 1 cantaloupe melon
  • 2 English cucumbers
  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 6 oz raspberries
  • 4 ears corn (loved this!)
  • 6 large plums
  • 2 lb bag carrots
  • 1 head butter lettuce (Still with roots so we can add water to the container and keep growing!)
  • 3 stalks broccoli
  • 4 small yellow squash
  • 2.5 lbs green grapes

Total:  $16.50

This week’s total:  $21.41, round up to $22

 

That brings July’s total to:

$133