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Thursday, August 25, 2016

This Budget Crap Bites

Today I started our new 200 dollar a month food budget. We had been reading about the struggles people who are dependent on EBT cards experience so we are  trying it for 2 1/2 months mainly to see if we can do it.  This is going to cause some major adjustments in both the way we shop and also the way we eat and it is going to be particularly hard on TheHub.  Stopping at Publix on his way home from the office is  recreational plus it also feeds his ice cream or candy bar habit.

As usual I am creating some arbitrary rules about the budget.  I decided even if I use something from the freezer, I will deduct the current week's ad price from the food budget.  I want to see if we could actually stick to the budget using the real food cost.  The exception is things like staples, spices, condiments and things I carried over from last week that are in the fridge. I will base all meals on the best buys of each weeks current food ad, and am trying to stay under 50 dollars a week, but am hoping I can do it for a little less just in case there is a terrific buy one week so I could buy enough to carry over to the next week.

                                                  (I wish these prices were still good!)

I have to confess, I have not hated a trip to the grocery store so badly since we were first married and had a 50 dollar a month food budget. (Which is why we ate with TheHubs parents at least once a week, so we could one delicious meal every 7 days.  Plus they had a garden and always kept us supplied with whatever excess veggies they grew. I actually think his dad planted an extra row so he could give us their excess.  We were both still in college and our part time jobs barely covered rent, utilities and spartan living expenses so their food gift was most appreciated)

I am listing our expenses here and will update them as I shop the remainder of this week.

Sprouts
Boneless chicken breasts @ 1.79 lb              6.37
Brown rice @ .50 lb                                        .93
White rice @ .50 lb.                                      1.06
Avocado 3/1.00                                               .64
Bell pepper 2/1.00                                         1.00
Red pepper .98                                                .98
Black grapes   @ .88 lb                                 1.79
Tomatoes @ .48 lb                                        1.68
Yellow onions   2 lb. bag 1.00                      1.00
Zucchini @ .98 lb.                                        2.13
Carrots .89 lb bag                                           .89
Lemon   3/1.00                                               .34
Limes 5/1.00                                                 1.00
                                                                    19.81
Dollar Tree
Coffee 6 oz@1.00                                        1.00
Wyler's lemonade 1.00*                               1.00                                     
                                                                     2.00                                                                

Aldi
Eggs .49 per dozen                                      1.47
Cucumbers .25 each                                    1.00
Mushrooms .79                                            1.58
Carrots .49                                                   1.57
Chocolate milk  1.59                                   1.59
Hamburger buns .85                                      .85
Baked Beans 1.39                                        1.39
Italian seasoning .99                                      .99
Canned garbanzos .79                                    .79
Multi grain oats cereal 1.79                         1.79
2% milk (gallon) 2.69                                  2.69
Iceberg lettuce .89                                          .89
Bananas .29 lb                                                .70
Buttermilk biscuits .48                                   .96
                                                                   18.26

                                                               

Piggly Wiggly
Bread                                                            1.99
Cauliflower                                                   2.00
Broccoli                                                        1.50
Tea bags                                                        1.69
                                                                      7.18
Homegrown okra 1 lb value                         1.50

Total spent this week                                   48.75  food cost or value
             

I found cleaners and paper products are not allowed SNAP purchases so I will have 50 dollars for food purchases.

As of today I have spent 27.43 of my 200.00 for the month.  Since our grocery ads are Wednesday-Tuesday I have a tad under half of my "weekly" budget. (There is no way I am going to keep this as a weekly budget though.  A month is all I really need to keep up with.)

I am keeping up with the meals we are eating and will probably post them at the end of the week. Looks like this week is going to be a heavy chicken and egg recipe week.  It will be interesting to see
what meals I plan based of what the food ads dictate.

* indicates a food I already had on hand but assigned the weeks cost to it
** The coffee from Dollar Tree is horrible.  I only bought it because I was out of coffee and there were no good coffee sales this week.  Horrible coffee provides the same caffeine fix, but in a much smaller dosage.  2 cups is more than enough!

51 comments:

  1. Interesting experiment. How many people are you feeding with this budget?

    I can't believe your eggs cost half what we pay for them! They were $1.09 a dozen at Aldi yesterday but $0.99 at Save A Lot.

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    Replies
    1. Just the 2 of us with Son2 for an occasional meal

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    2. So, $200 for 2 people for one month?
      If I was only feeding myself and hubby, I think I could do it with lots of planning and figuring. Our grocery budget is much higher now because we have grandchildren and other family here so often.

      Best wishes to you - I'll be following along.

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    3. I am planning mainly for the 2 of us, with occasional meals for Son2 but it is requiring some planning. (It kind of helped that , unknown to me before hand, he had business dinner meetings Wednesday and Thursday)

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  2. Replies
    1. I think the hardest thing is going to be planning. TheHub and I tend to be rather impetuous when it comes to eating and this is going to negate a quick decision to run pick up anything.

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  3. I just looked at Sprouts and was so happy with the price of black grapes and chicken breasts. I would be price-matching a lot of Aldi and Sprouts bargains, but I have about $4 to last until the end of the month and must use that on gas.

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    1. There will be other ads and next month will be here in a few days!

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    2. That is always what I think--more ads later. I did go and buy a pound of black grapes. I might borrow the money from exbf and give him a check for the chicken. He will be here Tuesday. Did you know both weeks's ads are good on Wednesday for Sprouts?

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    3. Yes, I shop at Sprouts every Wednesday and cherry pick both weeks

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  4. Starting from nowhere, this is going to be difficult, but not impossible. If you choose to do it for a while, I think you would develop a rhythm and coordination among the things you stock-up on, what you cook, etc. and find it not as difficult. But it all takes time and work. Good luck.

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    1. Hard yes, especially since I generally buy whatever I want. It will be a little trying but I am going to stick with it for a while. I have been working on a volunteer program to help young mother's in particular to manage meals on a strict budget. I figure if I am going to talk it I need to walk it.

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    2. Since you're talking about EBT, remind yourself and the young mother that you CAN use coupons with EBTs. If she doesn't have access to a newspaper or cannot print coupons, have her check the library. Mine has a "Free" corner where people drop off the coupon inserts that they don't need/want.

      Also, if she's a young mom, I'm assuming she's getting WIC assistance. If not, she needs to sign up for it.

      HTH.

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    3. I understand the use of coupons, I am just not sure the type of food most coupons are for work well with a seriously limited budget.

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    4. Coupons work with a seriously limited budget.

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  5. I'm always confused about other peoples' food/grocery budgets because I have trouble keeping mine under $600 each month. So when you say your budgeting $200 a month on food, are you just including actual food? For example, Do you have pets? If so, where do you include them in your budget? There are 3 of us in my household plus a dog and two cats. One 4 lb bag of C/D Kidney Care cat food costs me $27.79 every 4 weeks (auto delivery). One 17 lb bag of Purina One dog food costs $19.99 and lasts about 3 weeks. One bag of dog chews costs $9.99 and lasts about 2 weeks. Add to that their monthly flea treatments (Approx $10.00 ea), the dog's heartworm preventative (about $10.00 ea) and the cats' kitty litter ($12.00 month), we're up over $100 a month just for pet care costs.

    Then there's paper products (paper towels, toilet paper, napkins, tissues), cleaning supplies (laundry detergent, spray cleaners etc) and toiletries (shampoo, soap, toothpaste, etc). If I just total what I spend on food food (lol), I'm sure it's probably not that much in comparison to all the other non-food items I purchase each month. So are you just counting actual food food in that $200?

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    Replies
    1. I am including paper products but not the dogs food and treats. She is Son2's dog and he is responsible for her foodstuffs. I am including my cleaning products (but to be honest I have a lot of them already and will probably not need to replace anything other than dishwasher stuff ( i know I am almost out of it) and fabric softener. I am also including just the food costs, not our ridiculous sales tax on food.
      Alcohol is also in a separate budget since EBT cards can't be used for that, and I am trying to mimic the EBT card use as much as possible.

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  6. Can I ask where you came up with $200? Is that he current rate for 2 adults on SNAP, or your goal? Please post more-I a so intrigued and wish you a lot of luck. Your budget back in the day was even tighter than mine-I had $10 a week, and it was just buying groceries for myself, plus I heavily tapped into mom's pantry when I cam home form college. I at so much rice and peanut butter, boloney, and generic cheese product, but saved part of the $10 for cheap beer.

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    Replies
    1. It is an average Snap/EBT/ name your poison amount for a 2 adult household in Alabama as of the last figure I could fine. It might be more or less right now, but that is the closest I can find so it is the amount I am using

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  7. Good luck. I am pretty certain we couldn't do it, but judging by your list our prices are quite a bit higher. Chicken breasts? Nearly $10 a kilo (on special). Mushrooms $10 a kilo.

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    1. I am doing a ton of cherry picking at the grocery stores but so far it is working. Of course I am eating nothing that I really want to eat. Just eating what we have and whatever is cheapest.

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    2. What are you really wanting to eat? I manage to buy fruit and vegetables all the time by price-matching Aldi's and Sprouts at Walmart. Are you going to do that?

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    3. I do not price match at Walmart. It is about 1/2 mile up the road from Sprouts and I like the produce at Sprouts much better. I also go to Aldi because it is close to a couple of other places I regularly go. Walmart is my least favorite of all the stores around me.

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    4. I can understand your feelings about WM, but does Sprouts have electric carts? I need those. I don't just go to WM because it is my favorite. However, WM might be the choice of your clients. I was asking if you were going to teach the people how to price match. They might only go to WM or cannot get a ride to multiple places. lol...I was not suggesting you do that. I still have a horrendous headache and shakes, so maybe I did not express myself well.

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    5. I am not even anti Walmart. There are a couple of neighborhood Markets about 3 miles in either direction from me and they are really nice stores. The one closest to me is a badly run and poorly stocked store. Not sure if Sprouts has carts or not, but I will check when I go on Wednesday.

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  8. That is an interesting challenge. It is difficult for me to compare of course what with being in France (and in an expensive area of France at that). I'm going on holiday at the end of next week but realize I am spending too much on groceries for just me alone, so will give it a try to live on 50 euros a week when I get back (that will include everything - I also take my breakfast and lunch to work). Just think how much you/we could save if we succeed. Good luck. Anna

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    1. I am really doing this to develop a master plan for using with lower income families as part of a volunteer/mentoring organization. I feel like I need to experience the plan and some of the frustrations that come along with it to be able to really help someone else. It is hard for me, with a full freezer, to understand the frustrations of someone with limited resources. I decided I also have to do this with limited equipment to replicate a limited kitchen, so I am using a hand mixer, wooden spoon, 2 knives, 1 pot and 1 pan, a stove top griddle, a baking pan, 1 8x8 pan, a 12 muffin tin, a tea kettle, and a crock pot. The ultimate goal is to set up some sort of non-profit to give households with limited means help with meal planning and a crock pot of their own, since it makes meal planning so much easier for someone with limited time.

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    2. This is so interesting to me! I have been thinking about how I would approach mentoring youth who need to learn how to cook (and manage other household tasks) and I have a similar list of limited kitchen equipment. Also a list of fairly easy recipes and then I started trying to think of how I could manage a grocery trip so that certain staples were purchased to build up a small pantry but with the bulk of the food intended for consumption that week. There are so many variables. And also a lot of ways to approach the topic. Best of luck as you try this out and in your mentoring program.

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    3. Also, something random I thought of -- if you are mentoring families for whom a gap in utility service may occasionally happen, building up a freezer storage might not be a great idea but a cooler to hold milk and other perishables might be helpful. I know that there are programs out there to help ensure there isn't a service gap for low income folks, particularly if children or the elderly are in the home, but...programs don't cover all realities, unfortunately.

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    4. There are a lot of variables and I don't think anyone has all the answers for everyone. I have spoken with a few families who are in middle of some difficult times and everyones journey is a little different. Right now I am doing it just to see what it is like to do with little, counting on a very small amount of food storage items. The people I have spoken with are not starting kitchens from scratch so they all have something in the way of staples, though the amount of said staples varies greatly from house to house. Like everything else this isn't a one size fits all approach, but you have to start somewhere or do nothing at all.

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  9. I tried to email you but was not going to gather all my email in one spot as your service suggested. Can you email me at pparsimony@yahoo.com. I think if you can cherry pick at several stores, your people in the class may not be able to do so. Public transportation, walking, or depending on undependable people may be their best chance even if they will not admit it to you. Price-matching at WM might be their choice instead of going all over town or even where you go. Remember, you have means and opportunity. You belong to the group of confident people, people who will ask questions in a strange store. They might not. They may not have a stove or oven or any kind of mixer. They may not even have a refrigerator or freezer. This is why they seemingly waste money, going to the convenience store in walking distance and buying enough Vienna sausages for a meal, never having the option of buying a vegetable. They may too embarrassed to admit this to anyone, especially in a public setting. Unfortunately, their past is not your past. Good for you for helping people that have needs.

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    1. I have no idea what you mean about my service. I have a simple gmail account. haljam3@gmail.com

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    2. I meant whatever it was that wanted me to gather all my email accounts in one place when I tried to contact you. Maybe "service" was not the right word. Thanks.

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  10. I am sure you can meet your goal of $200 per month. My monthly budget for food only (no paper products, no cleaning supplies, no pet food, etc., all that was budgeted for separately) for two people (myself and my young adult daughter) was $150 when my daughter was living at home. She has since moved to Northern California, where grocery prices are slightly higher; she budgets $100 per month for herself. I budget $75 for myself; occasionally $100 if daughter is visiting because I tend to buy groceries for her, as well (this month, for example, she's visiting me for a little over a week). I generally buy only items that are on sale that week or items that are below my price point.

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  11. If you can feed yourself off 75 per month I am tremendously impressed!

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  12. Anne, it sounds like a very low budget so I will be very interested to see how you go.
    I think we spend about $250 a week for six people and we eat reasonably well but by no means luxuriously.

    After i read your post my mind was buzzing with thoughts and recollections around budget eating. I was hoping to write a post about it tonight but I am suddenly quite blithered. maybe tomorrow!

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    Replies
    1. I can understand why people feel defeated when they try and live off a small amount

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  13. Anne, it just occurred to me this morning that this free resource might be helpful: it's a free pdf download of a cookbook. In the words of the author (Leanne Brown), "Good and Cheap is a cookbook for people with very tight budgets, particularly those on SNAP/Food Stamp benefits." I've made several recipes from it and they've all been very good. You can download it from her site: http://www.leannebrown.com/

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  14. Thanks Nathalie! I appreciate it tremendously and will download it right away!

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  15. We lived on our food storage many a time and it really cut our budget, just pretend you can't get to the store and make due with what you have at home. This really works!

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    1. I have lived on food storage before also. This is just to see how difficult managing food assistance really is and how to break the self defeating cycle. I have found several people who are willing to share their stories with me and I am finding that many have never even thought of cherry picking stores/ or price matching food add. It seems there is a big disconnect between services like SNAP and information on how to best utilize the available funds

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    2. I keep on seeing those comments about price matching at Walmart and I had to post this article. Since the beginning of the summer, Walmart has stopped price-matching at 800 of their stores. So when you mention price matching at Walmart to people, be cognizant of this. They need to make sure that particularly Walmart still allows it before they get to the register and all their hard work was for nothing.
      https://consumerist.com/2016/08/10/walmart-to-stop-price-matching-of-local-competitors-ads-at-300-additional-stores/

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    3. I am not sure how/what I will say about couponing or price matching. Many of the people I have talked with have no idea how to plan a simple menu and rely on frozen prepared foods. The money just doesn't go as far like that. For starters I just want to teach them how to read food ads and how to plan quick, easy, lots of bang for the buck meals.

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  16. "Stopping at Publix on his way home from the office is recreational ... " -- oh my dear heavens, I thought only MY husband did this! I mean, how many boxes of Cheez-its can one family eat? (Answer: all of them, apparently).

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    1. Hahahaha! TheHub loves to stop on his way home and this is really cutting into his social time there! He runs into people we know every time he stops so he gets a little chit chat done while picking up milk. These 2 months our milk is coming from Aldi because it is so much cheaper. I guess he is going to have to come home and just talk to me?

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    2. My husband has recreational time at Publix too. Cookies, Gatorade, Chips.... you know, the healthy stuff.

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  17. You are amazing and this will make for an interesting read. I think that you would be able to accomplish this more so than I ever could. You are able to mish-mosh meals and sadly I can not.
    If memory serves, I think that it is $70/wk here in IL. I think if we had to make it, I would get close but I would probably think about going to the food pantry. Oh goodness, how would I buy liquor?

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  18. I may or it may be a total bust for us. I am fine pulling bits and pieces together and calling it a meal, but I wonder how long we can do it before we start wanting/demanding something really good that is not in the very meager budget? I guess we will see.

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  19. I made it to the post from the beginning reading my way back:) I do shop sales and use coupons to get the most for my money and my $160 budget. I know that people think that it costs money but I get the free local paper and spend a lot of time cutting and organizing the coupons. I do print coupons from my computer as well but I don't think that they are totally necessary for those who don't have access to the computer. We have a huge local library network that people can use and pay very little to print things from their computers. I know that I go to stores that are more out of the way then other stores because of the pricing and coupon policy but it is well worth the trip for me and my family. I get a good deals and stock up so that I don't have to pay for that item later so it would be totally hard for me to calculate what we would actually spend in one month based on the shelf price because we never pay the shelf price :) I can tell you what I paid when I bought it though!! Interesting reasoning behind your process of trying to maintain $200 per month on your groceries to better relate to others. Hope that you learn lots and the best thing is not to waste a thing and make a meal plan. It really helps because I don't buy anything that isn't needed for our meals because I don't want to waste it. Can't wait to hear your final review of your process. Your newest follower :)

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  20. Do you read Thrifty Mom in Boise (http://thriftymominboise.blogspot.com/)? If not, you would probably like her blog, you will be amazed at her grocery budget for 3 people!!

    Tania

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  21. I really appreciate your professional approach.These are pieces of very useful information that will be of great use for me in future.

    แตกใน xxx

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