Budget // Groceries // Setting a Budget

We have been all over the place when it comes to deciding on a budget for groceries. Part of this fluctuation in budget amount is due to life events and jobs. When we dropped from two incomes to one we had to reevaluate. When we moved cross country and used up a chunk of our savings we once again had to reevaluate. When we decided to move before our lease was up we once again had to reevaluate (yes I see a trend of less than wonderful decisions but we are happy and doing well so that’s what matters). Now we have a second baby on the way and a big trip coming up so it’s time to once again take a look at our budget and with that how much of it we are spending on food.

In general I am not fond of divulging the actual numbers of our budget because really it’s not the business of anyone else however I make an exception for groceries. I think that sharing the actual numbers of a grocery budget can really be helpful for others especially when you are looking to save money and still eat well. Up until now we have been spending anywhere from $550-800 per month on groceries. You may be wondering why there is such a huge gap and I’ll tell you that gap is in large part due to the desire to make more complicated meals, heading to the market to pick up one or two things that “we just have to have right now” and buying more luxury items (prepackaged items, vegan faux meats, bagels and tofutti every weekend).

After really taking a hard look at what we are buying each month (we started this in January) we have come to see that we are buying items that are necessities, are a little more expensive than we need to and that we need to make some smarter decisions when it comes to shopping in general. As I wrote in my last post we are looking at buying a few more conventional items and we are also spending the next month or so trying out some new to us grocery stores in our area. We have also decided to stick to a strict grocery budget. While it is going to be a challenge at first I know after the first few weeks we will find our groove and it will start to become more natural.

Our Current Grocery Budget & How We Came To It

So as I said above we have been spending $550-800 per month on groceries and I’ll be honest up until January it was definitely closer to the $800 per month side of things. We just can’t be spending that type of money right now. We have a baby (including some birth costs) and a trip to save up for so we really need to make cuts. So our current budget is $460. I know a huge difference from the $800, although for the past two months we have been more at $550-580 so not as big of a drop from that.

How did we decide on this? Well basically we decided meals should be on average $5 (or less) and with seven days in a week and three meals per day plus snacks.

($5 per meal x 7 days x 3 meals) + $10 for snacks = $115/week

Our grocery budget does not include alcohol, coffee or other household items (paper towels, toilet paper, laundry detergent, toothpaste, ect) those all come from different budget categories. A meal for the most part serves 4-6 people so some days we have enough for leftovers for all of us and most days we just have enough leftovers for Neil to take to lunch. Also $5 is just an average; some meals cost us $10 and others will cost $2-3.

How are we going to make this work? That I tell you is the test of the month. We haven’t been on this low of a budget since it was just the  two of us but now we have a toddler who can eat just as much as we can and as this pregnancy progresses so does my appetite. In the end I really think we can make it work. Some of the steps we are taking to be successful include:

  • Checking out the weekly flyers for the stores in our area.
  • Taking advantage of coupons including Chinook Book coupons.
  • Taking advantage of our monthly 10% we get for being members at our co-op.
  • Menu planning and making a grocery list.
  • Being flexible with our shopping ie. being prepared to swap out items on our list for less expensive items.
  • Buying items in bulk to eat all week when it’s more economical. For example: buying a 3lb bag of organic apples for the week at $1.50/lb rather than buying a wide variety of fruit at $2-3/lb
  • Eating less diverse meals throughout the week. This one is a bit of a follow up to the step above but by choosing to use the same ingredients in different ways throughout the week I really think we can save some money.
  • Create simple meals most nights of the week. This could mean a variation on beans, greens and grains a few nights during the week. The thing is simple and cheap doesn’t have to mean unappetizing and unhealthy. This also doesn’t mean you can’t have a fun meal or two during the week either. Plan a night where you make a really awesome homemade pizza or a special themed meal but make the other nights of your week more simple so you can afford these fun nights.
  • Buy less convince foods and novelty items.
  • Make more from scratch when possible and when it makes sense. There is no doubt that homemade bread, chia pudding, bbq sauce, soups, spaghetti sauce, and so many other items can be made so much cheaper and healthfully at home rather than buying prepared.
  • Only go to the grocery store once per week. The more we travel to the store the more we pick up and the more we spend. One trip to pick up everything on the list and that is it. We eat what we have and wait until the next shopping day comes around before buying more. This will hopefully prevent over spending and the wasting of food.

So this is how we are going to do it. Now the true test will be how successful we are in the end. Things to note while we are planning to stay in our $115/week budget this is an average for the week as we are prepared to spend more some weeks when staple items are needed and less other weeks when we are not in need of staples. I am planning to share our weekly grocery haul and will share our current weeks in the next day or two along with details about or first shopping trip to a new store.

Do you have a set grocery budget? How do you stick to your budget?

12 Vegan Sweet & Savory Pies #EasyAsPie

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Foodie.com All opinions are my own.

I love pies. Pizza pie, sweet pies, savory pies, tarts, hand pies…I think you get the picture. As I put this collection together I had to stop myself from going out to buy all of the ingredients to make each one. Since making all of them at once would be irresponsible I guess I’ll have to make each of these over the next few months. I have to say I am especially looking forward to the raw banana cream pie – how insane does that look?

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You can check out my entire collection here:

What’s your favorite type of pie?

Budget // Groceries // Conventional v. Organic

One of our family goals for the new year is to get ourselves on a solid budget. We have tried budgeting for years but half way through the month we seem to fall off our budget and then wonder where did all that money go? Now that we have second baby on the way and a pretty big (currently the location is a secret) trip coming up we are feeling a lot of pressure from ourselves to really stick to a budget. Over on Naturally Family we are discussing our budgeting process in more detail but I thought that I would share how we grocery budget here.

Throwback Photo: May 2013 Shopping at PSU Farmers Market

Throwback Photo: May 2013 Shopping at PSU Farmers Market

Grocery budgeting has really become a trial and error process for us. One of the big things for us is that we are still getting to know our new home and trying to find the best grocery stores. Up until now we have tended to only shop at Whole Foods, New Seasons (local store similar to Whole Foods), Trader Joe’s and a local co-op.  We shop at farmer’s markets in the spring, summer and fall as well.

The problem with shopping primarily at Whole Foods and New Seasons is that they can be expensive at times. Trader Joe’s while often less expensive is really hit or miss for me when it comes to produce and I know I’m not the only one who gets distracted by all the flashy items that they have for sale and end up walking out with more than I had planned. Our local co-op is nice however limited in the items they carry. That all being said we have yet to venture to the more conventional grocery stores or discount grocery stores, but over the next month or so that is going to change as we check out our other options and compare prices and quality of produce.ProduceRow

Currently 90% of what we buy is organic and while I prefer organic it’s not always the most budget friendly so we are choosing to make compromises when it comes to buying organic versus conventional produce. We are planning to avoid any produce that lands on the Dirty Dozen Plus list as these items contain the highest level of pesticides. We are comfortable with buying off the Clean Fifteen and as for anything else that kind of falls in the grey area/doesn’t make the list we will buy organic when possible.

Dirty Dozen Plus* 

(I say plus here because depending on what source you find the items can vary so anything that lands on a dirty dozen list is on our organics list)

1. Apples
2. Berries (Strawberries, raspberries, marion berries, blueberries)
3. Grapes
4. Celery
5. Peaches
6. Tomatoes
7. Cucumber
8. Nectarines
9. Bell Peppers and hot peppers
10. Greens (Kale, Collard, Chard, Spinach, Lettuce)
11. Summer Squash
12. Cherries
13. Potatoes
14. Fresh Sweet Peas

Clean Fifteen*

1. Asparagus
2. Avocado
3. Cabbage
4. Melon
5. Sweet Corn
6. Eggplant
7. Grapefruit
8. Kiwi
9. Mango
10. Mushrooms
11. Onions
12. Papaya
13. Pineapple
14. Frozen Sweet Peas
15. Sweet Potatoes

*Source

Luckily some of the items that are staples in our house (avocado, mushrooms, and onions) are on the Clean Fifteen list so we can start saving a bit by purchasing conventional. Now the next step in this process is a bit scary to me but we need to branch out and really evaluate our options. That next step is visiting some new grocery stores to really see what they have to offer. I decided to check reviews of stores online (taken with a grain of salt) to see which ones tend to get rated the best in hopes of setting us up for success. Then it’s time to see how prices and produce really stack up. Our first adventure will be this weekend and fingers crossed it will go well.

Where do you do most of your grocery shopping? Do you shop around or do you stick to the same store? Do you buy organic or conventional or both?

I realize now that the topic of Grocery Budgeting needs to be broken up into multiple parts because there is just so much to write about. Rather than write a lengthy post that you won’t read all of (and thank you to those of you who have read this far) I am going to continue our budgeting discussion another day.

Erin Hamlin and USA Luge Slider Search

This post was created in partnership with Citi®. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I honestly didn’t think I would get so into watching the Olympics. I think the last time I watched the Winter Olympics was back in 2002 and that was probably mostly because I still lived with my parents and it was always on TV. So this year I surprised myself when I turned the TV on most nights to watch the Olympics (side note NBC is one of the four channels we get via rabbit ears) instead of a show on Netflix.

One sport I really got wrapped up in was the luge. I mean seriously how insane is the luge? Oh and don’t get me started on skeleton. I found myself stuck to the TV watching Erin Hamlin and her fellow lugers speed down the track. I honestly am semi petrified of sledding after an icy crash when I was 10 or 11 so I can’t even imagine going 80+ mph down an ice track on a thin board; maybe that’s why I got so into it?

Well as you all probably know by now Erin Hamlin won the bronze medal in the Luge Women’s Single competition and became the first American female luger to win a medal at any Winter Olympics and the first American to win an Olympic medal in singles luge of either gender. Pretty amazing right?


Erin Hamlin actually started her luge journey by reluctantly attending a USA Luge Slider Search event back in 1999. Although at first the luge didn’t come naturally to Erin with hard work and dedication she mastered the sport. Now she is a U.S. Olympian and is taking the time to give back and inspire kids around the country. Erin is teaming up with USA Luge Slider Search to introduce kids around the country to luge and find candidates who have what it takes to become the best in the country.

So wants to become an Olympic luger? Or maybe you know a kid who would be interested in learning to luge or another Olympic sport? You can help support their dream by heading on over to the Citi® Every Step of the Way® site and clicking on the Award $5 of Citi’s Donation (it’s FREE to do this!) to USA Slider Search or any other program that interests you pick the one that speaks to you! Don’t forget to come back and let me know which one you picked! To learn more about how you can help check out this short Citi® Every Step of the Way® Welcome Video 

Meatless Monday: Brown Rice Tortillas

I haven’t really had any major pregnancy cravings but one thing I have been loving lately are brown rice tortillas. I had this same craving when I was pregnant with Edith and most days you could find me making some sort of wrap after work. Well the tradition continues on and currently my favorite way to eat them is topped with lots of refried black beans.

brown rice tortillaLunch (and breakfast) yesterday was a toasted up brown rice tortilla topped with a big slathering of black beans, tofu scramble that had onions, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, chili powder and salt and pepper. It was topped with chopped tomatoes (who else is excited that tomatoes are slowly coming back into season?) and 1/4 of a creamy avocado.

Now that I write all this I think I know what I am going to have for breakfast this morning! YUM!

What do you like up top your tortilla or wrapped inside?

#rethinkyourday with Polar Loop

The following post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Polar. As always all opinions are my own!

When I first received the Polar Loop I was excited but a little skeptical about whether or not I would actually find it useful. Since I started wearing the Polar Loop a few weeks ago I have really become more aware of how much I move (or don’t move) during the day. As a stay-at-home-mom it is easy to get in the habit of sitting around and since it is winter in the Pacific Northwest it is pretty easy to find yourself not leaving the house some days simply because you don’t want to get decked out in rain gear.

Polar LoopAfter the first day of wearing the Polar Loop I was a little embarrassed at just how much I sat down that day. My only redeeming note is that I didn’t sit for long periods of time all at once (this is one of the cool features of the Polar Loop tracking). Nevertheless I still sat more than I know I should and since then have been making an effort to get off my butt and move more. While some days we still don’t leave the house, like during our recent snowstorm, I am still finding ways to move at home and at the gym.

So after three weeks of wearing the Polar Loop I find myself still not moving as much as I’d like. According to my stats I am active about 25% of the day and honestly that just isn’t good enough for me. I would like to bump this up to 40-60% of the day.

What an ideal day looks like - 53% activity

What an ideal day looks like – 53% activity

This is an average day- 27%

This is an average day- 27% activity

Ways I plan to increase my activity over the next month:

  • Take a post dinner walk with my family.
  • Walk up and down the stairs (our main living area is on the second floor) once per hour.
  • Commit to three gym days and two at home workouts per week.
  • Get out once per day (weather permitting) with Edith and go for a walk to the park, to the market, to the community center, ect.
  • Have more dance parties with Edith.

The best part by increasing my activity level I will also be increasing our outdoor time! I will also be relieving stress, increasing my energy and preparing my body for labor and birth. So all I can say is wearing the Polar Loop has been eye opening and has helped me to make the changes that I have known I needed to make for months now.

Final Thoughts:

Pros:

  • It tracks five different levels of activity <– love this.
  • It’s waterproof and you can even wear it swimming.
  • Provides tips to help you reach your daily activity and it updates throughout the day. Basically it tells you how long you would need to run, walk or just be up on your feet moving around.
  • Syncs with phone and will even send inactivity alerts to your phone if you’ve been sitting too long.
  • Low battery alerts.
  • Compatible with Polar H6 and H7 heart rate sensor.
  • Customizable size.

Cons:

  • It’s a bit bulky for me but not too bulky for me not to wear it.
  • While the size is customizable you have to cut it and well that just made me a bit nervous that I was going to cut it too small so it took me a few tries before I got it (almost) perfect.

Do you track your activity? How has it changed your days/life/workout?

 

Day In A Life

5:50a This morning I actually set an alarm to go to the gym because I have been sleeping 20-30 minutes too late to stay in my workout window. I quickly check my email on my phone and then I’m out of bed. I find my clothes in the dark (note to self put gym clothes out before bed) and get dressed. I down two glasses of water and half a banana and out the door by 6:05a

6:09a I stop at the bank machine to get stamps so I can finally mail out the Valentines that Edith made our family and friends.

IMG_10196:11a I’m back on the road to the gym.

6:22a I arrive at the gym hop on the elliptical and finish an episode of Call the Midwife. I end my workout with a little strength training.

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7:02a On my way home!

7:17a I arrive home and I am ready to eat. I prep a batch of chia pudding, make chia jam and toast up some frozen waffles. Note always make extra because even if your toddler has already eaten breakfast they will want to eat yours too.

7:40a Neil heads to work.

7:47a I finally sit down to eat! Edith and I share some waffles and chat.

IMG_10268:05a E and I watch a little bit of the today show and then move on to reading the same book five times.

8:40a It’s time for our skype date with my parents.

9:16a After skyping we color and I sip on an iced coffee.

10:10a I put on Daniel Tiger for Edith and I work for a bit. I was hoping to go outside but it is still raining.

10:30a E is entertaining herself so I catch up on a few emails and chat with Neil via google chat.

10:50a Time to make lunch and do a load of dishes.

11:35a Lunch time! I make up a batch of creamy cheezy veggie soup and add some gluten free noodles to it.

IMG_1040Soup Recipe:

  • 12 oz veg broth
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 2tbs nutritional yeast

Blend in a high speed blender and serve!

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12p A messy lunch + morning workout = shower!

12:15p After our shower it’s time to read four books and then take a nap.

12:37p I head to the living room and do some work while watching Call The Midwife.

2:20p Edith is up from her nap and we cuddle for a bit on the couch and read a book.

IMG_10282:30p It’s time for E’s afternoon snack and while she munches I clean out fridge and realize we need to make a grocery trip.

IMG_10413:00p I grab a few baskets of laundry to fold and E “helps” me and we sing songs.

3:40p E and I draw and read (yes E really requests to read books all the time). I try to figure out dinner since we are so low on food and already had pasta for lunch.

4:50p After coming to the conclusion that my only option was to figure something out with what was left to eat in our fridge and freezer I reluctantly head to the kitchen and make dinner.

5:20p E and I attempt to eat the dinner I prepared but neither of us is too impressed.

5:40p E asks for a snack and we watch The Office (this isn’t a normal night for us- Neil had dinner and concert plans with a friend so we were on our own).

6:15p I blended the chia pudding I had prepped in the morning and make E a banana smoothie since she was still hungry.

6:50p Time for books in bed.

What does a day in your life look like?

7:15p Lights out and bed time for Edith. I lay in bed for awhile (we have a co-sleeping set up) and once she is out I get back up.

7:35p I get up and make some baked fries, try to do some work and look for something to watch. I find myself not feeling very motivated to work and I end up starting about 5 different shows on Netflix but don’t get into any of them.

8:45p I head to bed and watch an episode of the office on netflix via phone until I fall asleep.

11:45p Neil comes in to let me know he is home.