I've said that money is tight a few times. I have a budget worked out that if we stick to, we'll be okay, but as everyone knows, it's not fun to stick to a budget and you really need to have self-control and commit to it. But my current financial goal is to not only stick to the budget but even try to come in under-budget each month.
The first step was to look at the last few months' spending in every category and edit the budget to be more realistic. For example, I had budgeted $150 each month for gas, but when I analyzed what we actually were spending I was shocked to discover it was around $400 each month! Damn those high gas prices!!! So that was one spot I needed to adjust.
But now that I have a more practical budget, I need to work on cutting down any extra spending, constantly asking if we REALLY need it right now or if it can wait.
I planned out inexpensive meals for the month yesterday. The first step for me was to create a list of meals that I can make without even looking at a recipe and that the kids all eat.
I put the meals in four categories: Meat, Chicken, Breakfast, and Pasta/Vegetarian.
I decided on a category for each day of the week: Mondays = Pasta/Vegetarian, Tuesdays = Meat or Chicken, Wednesdays = Breakfast, Thursdays = Homemade pizza (we make this together with veggies), Fridays = Shabbat dinner at my parents' - I bring a hot vegetable and a side dish, Saturday = "Buffet" of leftovers, Sunday = Dinner at my in-laws'.
I'm purposely only going to do a meat/chicken meal once a week to save on expenses (and of course will only use stuff on sale). Breakfast for dinner is another really cheap way that I like to do a meal. And I'm really focusing on using what we have at home and avoiding impulse buys or "quick trips" to the store, trying to make do with what we have at home. After planning out our meals for the month, I went ahead and ordered them from Genuardi's since they had just sent me a "Welcome Back" postcard for free delivery. I bought it all for $200, minus the meat which is cheapest at Giant so I'll buy that this weekend. The groceries won't be delivered until tomorrow afternoon, so we needed to "make do" for breakfast today and tomorrow. I made a big pot of oatmeal for the kids and I with the last of our milk, the last of our raisins, chopping up almonds into it to add more protein to it, and sweetened it with the last of our brown sugar. And the kids actually ate it!!! Well, I really had to stress how much sugar I put in it and how sweet it was, blah, blah, blah, but that at least got them to try it. When DH was disappointed that the groceries wouldn't arrive until tomorrow since it contains the bagels he eats for breakfast (he feels the need to eat in the car since he leaves for work so early), I just made up an egg sandwich for him and packed it up for him to grab tomorrow morning.
Tomorrow the kids and I will go to Produce Junction and stock up on fruits and vegetables, which can usually last us for about two weeks. I'm pushing the kids to eat the fruits and veggies for snacks, which is not only healthier, it seems to fill them up more than snacking on the pretzels and crackers that I put out in their "snack box." I can usually buy produce for less than $40 that last for two weeks, so that's about $80 a month. But it's only worth it if I make sure we eat everything we buy. In the past we've bought stuff that has gotten pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten that I eventually have to toss. Last month I managed to actually use up everything we bought - no waste!
So my frugal goal for the month is to see if we can get by on LESS than $400 for the five of us, including produce, dairy (we normally go through two gallons every 2 - 3 days), and meat.
Anyone else have any frugal tips on food that don't require too much time?