Monthly Shopping = Failure!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
  I can't wait for this month to be over! I have not been successful at this once a month grocery shopping plan, next month we're going back to $50/week. We have stocked up on a few things so we did spend more than planned.

 This week Kroger had chicken on sale for $.99/lb so we bought a few packages to freeze, they also had pasta sauce on sale so we picked up 4 jars to go with all the pasta we bought on sale a few weeks ago. Strawberries have been on sale at Aldi all summer for $.99/lb. After finally convincing Phillip that frozen strawberries are just as good in his smoothies as fresh one we bought 8lbs of those and froze them, now he has plenty of fruit for his smoothies.

 Another boo-boo I made this month? Not taking out cash for our grocery envelope, going out envelope, or our blow money envelope. I meant to do this but the month got away from me so I started thinking "what's the point".

Here's the rundown of our last shopping trip:

Salsa $1.49
Pasta Sauce $1.25 (x4)
Yogurt $.40 (x5)
Greek Yogurt $.99 (x3)
Butter $1.39
Milk $2.89
Tortilla Chips $2
Tyson Thighs $1.94
Tyson Thighs $2.46
Tyson Chicken Breasts $2.17
Tyson Chicken Breasts $2.43
Total:  $32.06

Soup $1.49 (x2)
Cucumbers $.39
Strawberries $.99 (x8)
Plastic Bag $.10
Total : $11.39

Weekly Total: $43.45

Berry Picking/Freezing - Part 2

Monday, July 23, 2012
  Saturday morning we went back to Falls Farm to gather more blueberries. We realized that at $1.40/lb we should stock up and freeze as much as we can since they will last over a year. This is way more cost effective/tasty than buying frozen blueberries from the store.

We also stocked up on strawberries from Aldi this weekend too. More on that later :)

  I wanted to share a few pictures too :)

Freezing these is super simple. All you have to do is cover a cookie sheet with wax paper, spread a layer of berries onto the sheet and put it in the freezer. After they're frozen place them in a freezer bag, mark the date and enjoy! We picked 10lbs of berries on Saturday and so far we've used them for smoothies and I made blueberry muffins for our upstairs neighbor who jump-started my car last week and the maintenance guys who  cleaned up our flooded apartment on Friday.

What's your favorite blueberry recipe?

The Sneaky Bill

Wednesday, July 18, 2012
 There is only one bill I have problems budgeting for. Everything else we have pretty exact amounts. This is the bill I've been dreading all month, all stinking, hot, icky, month. Can you guess which one it is???

 Our utilities. Luckily since we rent our water is covered by the apartment complex but our electric bill is a bit of a beast.
This month I guessed and budgeted $100 for electricity, knowing we've been using more than normal. The bill came yesterday; $99.83! I felt triumphant.

Now I know we could lower our bill but you see, Phillip and I are whiny individuals. We don't like to be hot, especially when sleeping. So at night the thermostat goes down to 68 degrees, and before leaving for work it goes up to 75.

 I figure we do pretty well at keeping the lights off and all that jazz and when winter comes we will barely use the heat (I slept with my window open most of last winter) so it should even out.

  Which bill do you hate to find in your mail box? (Yes, "all of them" is an acceptable answer!)

Looking for cheap family friendly outings?

Monday, July 16, 2012
      Last week Phillip was watching PBS while I was at work and some special about blueberries came on. A few Google searches later and he had his newest date planned. It always makes me a little weary when he asks "do you have anything planned for 6:30 Saturday morning?" because typically his early morning plans involve a lot of work, like biking Cades Cove or digging in the dirt.

      We went blueberry picking at Falls Farm in Maryville. It was really awesome and we're going back this Saturday (with our camera lol) It's owned by a sweet retired couple who suit you up with a belt and milk jug to store your berries (this will make more sense when I take the camera). We suited up and off we went! Since Phillip had seen the PBS special he told me all about blueberries while we picked, it was pretty darn cute, did you know that blueberries were originally called Starberries?  

    Bob told us a bit about the trees, they are over 30 years old! They do not use any sprays or pesticides and only use aluminum pie tins to keep the birds away. After we finished picking they weighed our berries and put them in a cardboard flat, super easy to transport. We also left with a recipe sheet of blueberry recipes from the 1930's and instructions on freezing.

   We spent $11 and came home with 8lbs of blueberries! Organic hand picked blueberries at that! Not too shabby considering the frozen berries we buy cost $2.99/12oz.

   If you decide to go I would recommend wearing close-toed shoes and maybe spray yourself down with bug spray before you go. Lots of mosquitoes! Also if you're taking children with you be aware that some places do have poison ivy and yellow jackets, so just keep your eye out for them!


Just say no!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012
 Familiar with that phrase? What your school didn't offer the D.A.R.E program? Oh, well that was an awkward exchange then wasn't it?

 Adapting to a new work environment can be tricky. Learning how people operate and not violating whatever norms are already established is not the easiest thing for me to do. I'm a smidge of a people pleaser. That being said one of the most difficult interactions at work this week has been "Hey, want to go to lunch?". I really don't want to be the weirdo that says "No thanks I brought my lunch".

 At my previous job everyone ate together at a specified time, for 30 minutes. We all knew the drill, end of story. Dude, why does this embarrass me?

 How do you avoid lunchtime peer pressure?


New Job = New Budget...well kinda

Monday, July 9, 2012
       I started my new job today! Now with a day under my belt hopefully the nightmares will subside! I kept dreaming that I came in for work and no one remembered hiring me or had any clue who I was. Talk about stress levels going up, phew.
       Today I learned about our ticket system and sold some tickets. We spent a lot of the day working on brochures, tomorrow I'll be filling out all of my paperwork and going to a production meeting. So far so good!
      One awesome perk of this job is a pay increase. When we heard that we started thinking of all these things we needed wish we had. Funny how that happens huh?  Oh you mean I'm bring in $X more dollars/ we really could use some new furniture, smart phones, an ipad, etc. Thankfully we snapped out of that mindset pretty quick.
      We're going to try to trick ourselves into not seeing any of my pay increase. I still have my checking account from before we were married. We're thinking about splitting my direct deposit and only putting what I'm used to earning in our joint/regular account and anything above that will go into my old account. We'll look at that balance and use it to pay extra on our lowest loan payment.
       I'm not sure about you guys but I know that if I look at our account and we have more than I anticipated  I start finding ways to spend it. My theory is that if it's out of sight in another account we won't be tempted to spend it because it's already set aside to go toward our loans. Has anyone tried something like this before? We're hoping it works as well in practice as in theory!

Produce Run: Week 2 of new grocery shopping trial

Saturday, July 7, 2012
  Since we stocked up on everything but perishables last week this week we were shooting for spending $25 or less.

Milk $2.89
Strawberries $.99(x3)
Celery $1.19
Zucchini $.89
Sandwich Thins Whole Wheat bread $1.99
Spinach $1.69
Yogurt $.39 (x5)
Cucumber $.39
Total: 13.96

Green Apples $2.01
Gala Apples $1.38
Red Grapes $2.59
Plums $1.08
Bananas $1.99
Greek Yogurt $1 (x5)
Total: 14.02

Grand total: $27.98

Almost made it!!

Inedible Kitchen Experiments

Friday, July 6, 2012
  So this time I wasn't experimenting with a new food recipe, though I did try a recipe for skillet chicken parmesan last week It was mediocre at best.

  This week I made this:

Can you guess what it is? DIY fabric softener! I saw my cousin Chris post it on Facebook and after looking into it a little further I decided to try it out. It was really easy to make and seems to be working as well as regular fabric softener. I found my recipe here:

Homemade Fabric Softener

Here is what you will need...

-2 Cups of cheap Hair Conditioner 
-3 Cups of White Distilled Vinegar
-6 Cups of Hot Water

Step 1: Mix Conditioner and hot water together until conditioner is dissolved.

Step 2: Add vinegar to conditioner and water. Mix.

Step 3: Store in a container of your choice (you can reuse an old fabric softener bottle). Use your homemade fabric softener exactly like you would the store bought version! 

The only thing I've noticed is when I lean in to get the laundry out the little spot where you put the softener smells like vinegar, but the clothes themselves do not. 

Cost Breakdown:
    Bottle of Suave Eternal Sunshine conditioner: $1.47
    Vinegar: $1.00
    Water: Free from your tap
    Total: $2.47! 

This work out to about $.08/load of laundry. Pretty sweet deal. Definitely cheaper than the Gain softener I typically use. For more scent some people suggest adding a product like Downy Unstoppables or the Purex Crystals or even essential oils. 

The next thing I want to attempt is making laundry detergent. All of the recipes I've found require Borax and Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda. Anyone know where I could get those? 

June Expenses Recap!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012
 I hope everyone is enjoying their 4th of July holiday! We've been lazing around the house listening to Dave Ramsey and figuring up last months expenses. We're going to the mountains for a picnic dinner and will probably watch Downton Abbey when we get home. Wow....we're old people!

June was our first month of completely combined expenses. Now we can really see what we're spending!
To figure out what we spent/where we spent it I went to our bank website and downloaded a transaction file. Really easy to do! It opens into an excel file. What I did was organize each transaction into different categories and then figure out the percentage we spent in each category. 

Then I went to PieColor and made a pie chart. Actually now that I think about it I could have done that in Word and it probably would have been prettier. Here are our results:
      That 2.9% going out....unplanned. We really didn't realize we went out that much! Ouch. Needs improvement right? 
      Also the giant Discover payment is going away as well. Most of that was leftover from expenses on our Honeymoon and it's now completely paid off. Phillip still uses his card for gas to get the cash back rewards. 
      The 9.88% Miscellaneous expenses comes from a few things that were expected, a bridesmaids dress, wedding shower gift, and mail said shower gift took up a big chunk of that. We also went camping so that included food for camping, buying firewood and supplies, and renting bicycles. 
     I'm starting to see why having a Zero-Based budget is important, we definitely need to work on sitting down and setting up a budget that we will actually follow. I know it will be a process and we have to train ourselves to do it but I think we can (sounds like Bob the Builder right?).
    But in good news when all was said and done we brought in more than we spent which is always a good thing! 
   Enjoy your holiday!

Don't shop hungry...or moody...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012
So much for staying out of the store. This morning Phillip had a crisis...we're almost out of coffee.

 Instead of waiting until Friday when I stock up on perishables I decided to swing by the store after work. Today was my 9th day in a row of work, so I cut my hours and left at 3:30 because I'm pooped!! I also had a really trying day at work, which isn't good when your patience is running thin. I think I bit my tongue pretty much all morning.

So I decided to stop at Kroger and get coffee, creamer, and sugar...but I was hungry and crabby. So somehow I ended up with a mini pizza and gelato. Oops. Even though we had a menu planned...and even though I'm not supposed to be shopping I somehow spent $20. I think I need to have more than a banana and yogurt for lunch to prevent this from happening again.

Sugar     2.48
Creamer 3.39
Gelato   3.99
Coffee   8.29
Pizza     2.50
Total (w/tax)  $22.20

Also shopping with Phillip keeps me from buying stuff that's not on the list, and I do the same with him. Apparently we're not disciplined enough to shop on our own!!

Attempt at new shopping method #2...

Sunday, July 1, 2012
   I didn't fare too well with trying to plan around what was on sale. I spent about as much as we usually do, since today marks a new month we thought we should try the Once a Month Shopping trip. I've read a few blog posts about it.

Like this one:
and this one:

The only snag we hit with this is we hardly have any storage space in our fridge/freezer as it is, and that is just shopping a week at a time. Also we eat fresh produce very regularly and the first post I referenced mentions how they go to applesauce and canned fruits after using their fresh produce but I don't really like that idea. So we compromised, using our Google Calendar I came up with a meal plan of 14 meals. Looks like this:
Please ignore our lack of balanced meals...we're working on that!

The top line is breakfast, middle is Phillip's lunch, bottom is dinner. I eat the same thing for lunch every day so I didn't feel the need to add it. We also make a smoothie every morning, hence all of the frozen fruit & yogurt.

Based on our month-long menu I put together a shopping list of staples/things that won't get icky. I'll go in once a week to pick up our produce/milk, all of which can be picked up at Aldi. If I can stay out of Walmart I won't spend nearly as much! 

Here's the rundown:


Strawberries: $.99 (x3) 
Cucumber    $.39
Tomato Sauce .29 (x3)
Milk 2.89
Toaster Pastries 1.89
Jalapeno Peppers 1.19 (x2)
Mozzarella  1.79
Neufchatel 1.19
tortillas 1.19 (x2)
Lemonade bars 1.99
Frozen Blueberries 2.49 (x2) 
Mixed Frozen fruit 1.99 (x2)
Parmesan 2.39

Total:        $30.09


Bacon  2.68
Ham Steak  3.08
Chicken Breast 8.98 
Butter (real, sticks) 2.68
Queso Melt   3.78
32 oz plain yogurt 2.38
Greek yogurt  2.78
Water 35 pack  4.84
Flour 2.38
Jumbo Shells  1.68
Pizza Sauce 1.00
Bagels 2.50
Sub Rolls 2.88
Olive Oil 4.74
Corn on the Cob .25(x3)
Bananas 2.25
French Bread 1.60
Black Grapes 2.37
Apples 3.94

Total:         $57.29

Grand Total:       $87.38 

Not too bad, now if we can stick to our schedule we should be good to go! We are also going try not to go out to eat at all this month. We overdid it last month, I'm kind of nervous about looking at last months transaction report and seeing how much we spent!  

We bought a really large package of chicken breast. Right after we got home Phillip went to work splitting up all of the chicken into portion sizes and putting them in freezer bags. We now have a nice stack of frozen individually wrapped chicken! This makes it a lot easier for me to cook it for dinner and since it's already pre-packaged and frozen it's not going to funk up our fridge. Nope, no funky chicken here. 

They had a less expensive/ounce package but the package stated that they were injected with "up to 15% chicken broth solution". That doesn't sound sketchy right? We bought Tyson All Natural, a little more expensive, probably still a little sketchy, but it made me feel better about buying it. 

I'm rambling...I just worked my 7th day in a row and I have 2 more before I get a day off. I should probably shut up and go to bed :) G'nite!