With the looming added expense of additional daycare, we sat down to figure out our budget. My poor hubby, as competent as he is, has tried his damnedest to clue me in to the importance of a proper budget. I'm able to admit that I'm as hard-headed as they come. However, thanks to our banks and a free online program like Mint, I was able to visually see where I was hemorrhaging money: food/entertainment & impulse shopping. Many familiar budgeting systems didn't work for me. However, like with anything, it required buy-in. Well, for my 34th birthday, I finally came to it on my own and realized that if I were more financially minded, I'd be able to reach and exceed my goals (consequentially, since we are halfway through the year, I didn't meet them...boohissboo). All that to say, the light bulb went on and in the past two weeks I've already seen MAJOR improvement. The catalyst, aside from not meeting my goals, as Don was entering the monthly receipts, I slunk away and pulled out everything I’d bought. Nothing was of great importance, nor was it an essential. In many cases, it was food that I’d consumed and the evidence lingered on my waistline. Here’s a series of budget-related posts to share with you what works for me. I’m no expert, but I know what works for me and maybe one of these things will work for you.
During our discussion, we not only challenged ourselves to save, but to also shed inches and fat. One place where we could trim the fat is going out to eat, or entertainment expenses. I know I just had a baby, but I want to be strong again. I want to be able to do an unassisted pull-up. I want to be able to run a 5K in less than 27 minutes. I want to be like 85% lean meat instead of bargain beef. This doesn’t just come from intense exercise, but it comes from what we put into our bodies. As you might have guessed by the title and what I’ve already discussed, this focus will be on food.
One of the things we noticed when we first started cooking at home at the beginning of the year was how much food we were throwing away because we didn't consume it before it spoiled. This was tough to handle because we wanted to eat fresh and healthy, but not preparing the foods was like throwing away money.
Or if we prepared the food, the leftovers wouldn’t be eaten before they went bad. That was an even bigger slap in the face to me because of the wasted time spent preparing the food and then throwing it away. I don’t like leftovers, but I’ve learned that I don’t mind leftover pasta.
Composting is an easy way to see just how much food you are wasting each week. We don’t compost, but in one meal we saved items to compost for my sister. I was SHOCKED by the amount of waste! (sidenote: this new concept of a grocery store is awesome) I also noticed how much food we wasted when we would go out to eat. If I ate everything, then I over indulged and consumed too many calories. If there were leftovers, I wouldn’t eat them and then we’d we’d throw it away. Thus the added trash of food and to-go containers. Not cool!
Not long ago, we'd cut out as many processed foods as possible. We look for whole wheat items and multi-grains too. Lately, we are on a quinoa pasta kick! It is a little more than regular pasta, but because it is a more complete vegetable, we reap the added benefits. Additionally, we plan our meals…or rather plan at least 4 meals for the week. They aren’t always dinner either. At least once a week, we’ll have breakfast for dinner. We’ll also have some type of pasta dish at least once a week too. Instead of chips for snacks, we indulge in fresh fruit that is in season.
Like I previously mentioned, I also use Everyday Foods as a resource to help with meal planning. Since many of the recipes involve produce that is in season, it is a no-brainer for us! Even better is that some of the recipes (if not all of them) contain the calorie information.
You’ve seen that show Extreme Couponing. It sounds well and good to me, but all of the food they buy is processed. I applaud them for wanting to feed their families on a tight budget. What sometimes bothers me is seeing all of that food they have in their storage, yet there are so many that go hungry. Why not donate some of that stuff they got for free? Also, why are there never coupons for fresh fruits & vegetables? Ever notice how there aren’t many coupons for items found at the perimeter of a market?
You may be able to buy a frozen pizza in the $1-$10 price range, but you don’t know what ingredients were put in it, including the preservatives. Here I talked about making your own pizzas for a little more than $2 a pizza. Added bonus, time spent as a family preparing the meal. Can’t get so caught up in the electronic world and television if you are busy in the kitchen talking to your family. There’s no better way to learn cooperation and teamwork than when you prepare a meal together.
The organic cream cheese and eggs we purchase cost more, but they are healthier. The cream cheese doesn’t have weird preservatives that I can’t pronounce. The eggs don’t have the added hormones and well, that’s important for the growing girls in our home. We don’t want them to mature prematurely. The changes: we don’t struggle nearly as much with constipation with Mari. (TMI, I know, but still.) Additionally, cutting out the refined sugars, she’s better able to keep attention. She’s still a very active 3 year old, but she’s noticeably less out of control than before. Her tiny body is an efficient machine and quite frankly, I wish I was as strong as she is. She can do two uninterrupted/unassisted pull-ups. She can jump non-stop for half an hour or more. She can also run a half mile without having to stop. That’s pretty remarkable!
The first part of my life was spent eating simple meals with beans, rice, and some type of beef. Many of the vegetables were canned. Some times, we even had potted meat as a snack or even Vienna Sausages. I’m not ashamed to admit it. It is what I knew and what I grew up with. As we got older, the meals became more processed. Hamburger Helper became a staple. Summer times were filled with fresh fruit, but the rest of the year, nothing, except for Christmas. And me, I didn’t like fruit. My mom used to watch these three kiddos (hello Anthony, Preston, & Kymberli). Their mom brought over their prepared their meals each morning. I was intrigued! She included freshly steamed potatoes, lima beans, black-eyed peas, and corn! All of these were freshly harvested from her garden. I was impressed. But when we moved away, I’d forgotten about all of that until I became a mother myself.
Well, you can imagine my shock when Don presented the first meal he prepared for me: a whole wheat tortilla filled with eggs scrambled with spinach and loads of fresh salsa. I knew I loved that man because I ate every last bit of it (even though I didn’t really like it…ha ha). When he met me, I didn’t even dare eat Pace Picante, mild. Now, I eat fresh jalapenos with gusto! I still can’t, however, eat any sort of green bean unless it is Del Monte’s canned. Weird, ‘eh?
Anyway, any item that has potential to have added growth hormone (meats & milks), we try to stay away from. Our grocery story includes an awesome NuVal score that shows an unbias number stating the healthy-ness of an item. This definitely makes it easy to compare like items (cream cheese to cream cheese).
But Bianca, where is the savings? Well, the savings is in long-term health. In theory, we’ll have less medical expenses because of the preventative care. Well, I’m not sure how you put a price on that, but I know quality of life will pay off in the long run. If you knew you could prevent open heart surgery by changing a few habits, would you? I’d like to think so.
Let me know if you’d like for me to share some more recipes. I’d be glad to share!
Next up…plastic tricks…