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Frugal Groceries: Homemade Seasonings

April 30th, 2019 at 09:52 am

I'm going to be going back to basics regarding our grocery bill. I am on a new eating plan, which has lowered our grocery bill and I will talk about that when I have more definitive results to share. However, we are attempting to keep costs in check this summer with our daughter home while supporting our older daughter who will be staying in our college town. She may end up covering most of the expenses since she does have an internship and a very part time job, but until that gets going we have to be prepared to help a bit.

So as I alluded to in the title, I need to tweek my homemade seasonings. We have tacos or fajitas once or twice a week and I have always bought those premade seasoning packets. A quick look at the Budget Bytes website and her recipe for taco seasoning is almost exactly what I pay for a packet. So it may not even work out as a savings, but I will avoid the added preservatives and unnecessary ingredients, which is important to me. I will have to watch for good prices on the
individual prices from now on!

Once I get an idea of what our daughter wants to eat on a regular basis, I'm going to be checking sales ads weekly. I may be able to stock up on some of her staples if they are loss leaders and save over the cost at the commissary. Generally, the commissary saves us 30% over the cost at traditional grocery stores. They do have some sales, but not always things we buy.

Anyway, you may be seeing more posts from me about grocery savings. Please chime and share your best tips for saving on groceries! My first one for anyone to work on is avoiding brand name items. Nearly all the time store brands are less expensive and the taste is the same. If you have never tried the store brand, I suggest it would be worth a side by side taste test to determine if you really can detect a difference. And if there is the difference is the price difference worth it to you? I will admit we need to switch back to store brand shredded cheese...or shred our own cheese if that is more cost effective.

Do you make your own homemade seasonings? Do you buy store brand? Why or why not?

A New High And Budget Adjustments

April 28th, 2019 at 09:05 am

Yay! Our retirement accounts have reached a new high as of the closing on Friday afternoon. So grateful we have money increasing in value for retirement! We just keep plugging away adding funds to our account monthly. All of these contributions are set up automatically, so other than recorded them in our check register (which is auto on YNAB), we don't think too much about it. Auto investing is the way to go!

Yesterday's mail was fruitful financially. We received a refund check from our utility service here on base. We have stay at or under the average compared to similar sized homes on base for electrical and water usage. The result is a refund of $55.

The other check in the mail was the proceeds from our oldest daughter's UTMA. I'd have to go back and look at our total investment in that account, but I'm going to guess under $1,000 since the late 90s and early 2000s. The final redemption amount was $3,973.62. This is money going towards her first car. Her car will likely be more than this, but hopefully not by much.

I have two items ending on eBay that are being watched, so two sales possible. They won't make more than a few dollars, but it all adds up, as I have shown over and over again on this blog.

I cut our Hulu Live subscription effective today. It's saving us $45 a month. This is planned for the summer months to offset the need to pay $55 a month for our youngest daughter to store her dorm items this summer. Our older daughter has always stored her items at my parents since she is pretty close. Our youngest is much farther away, so this just made sense logistically. Not exactly how I want to spend money, but we are going to try it this first summer and see how it goes. I think my husband is going to miss Hulu, so this is temporary because we did like it for accessing college football in the fall.

I stopped our youngest daughter's allowance for the summer. She was receiving $125 a month from us. Honestly it far exceeded her needs and expenses. I noticed she seems to buy music and make Go Fund Me donations with it. I love that she is generous. The primary reason to end it for the summer and reevaluate is to help cover rent for our older daughter. Our younger daughter will be home and we can cover anything that comes up with our own budget. We will likely reinstate some form of spending money, but we also know she is starting a part time research job, so she will start accumulating her own spending money, thus less needed from us.

I've also decided to stop funding our car maintenance and repair sinking fund for a few months. We currently have $1000 set aside plus an emergency fund. We have been funding it with $275 a month because we have older cars. We are very current on major repairs and maintenance we we think this will not be an issue short term. We expect to start it back up in August or September. This change is also due to upcoming expenses with our daughter staying in her college town this summer.

I'm doing my best to maintain our current Big Savings Goal progress and monthly contributions, thus the reason for making other adjustments to the budget temporarily. I'm grateful that we have flexibility to make changes to how we spend our money.

Tax Refund Arrives Tomorrow

March 5th, 2019 at 07:58 am

Tax refund is pending in our second checking account right now. Somewhere I saw that it would arrive March 12. It's arrival is about a week sooner than I expected.

I really, really want to add this to the Big Goal. And I probably can, but then just back it out later if needed.

Another part of me thinks I should put it towards college tuition expenses since the refund can be directly attributed to taking the American Opportunity Tax credit.

I also know that I could send it various places too.

I think I'm conflicted about where to allocate it because of some bigger outflows happening right now. Spent over $800 on plane tickets for our daughters to come home for spring break. We need to pay the VA for the overpayment they sent the University (and University sent to us). I think there is something else too.

Once I work through my emotions and review our budget in YNAB a bit more, I think I can eventually make a decision. It's been several years since we had a refund and I wasn't expecting one...so I wasn't making plans on what to do with it!

I'll be back to let you know once I decide for sure!

Dreaming Big

February 14th, 2019 at 09:40 am

I've mentioned before that we are living on a military installation for the first time ever. One of the pros this time around was how much we would save on fuel for our vehicles with his commute being 4 minutes rather than 40 minutes. I'm trying to convince him to ride his bike to work, but so far a no go! He would rather buy a motorcycle if he was going to do that. Ha, ha,

We expect to save at least $200 a month. I'm still testing it. I'm purposely not budgeting $200 each pay period to see if that money is really extra due to the fuel savings. So far things seem promising, but this time of year tends to be low in all costs for us, so it's not entirely clear. And yes, $200 per pay period is $400 a month, which would be the higher end of fuel costs.

I guess I find it a bit of a game by holding that money out of the budget, not categorizing it in YNAB. Not sure it make sense to anyone but me.

I received a $5 settlement from some class action lawsuit, Olive oil I think. I like getting those in the mail. Always a surprise when they come to fruition! I've funneled that to our Big Goal, since small amounts add up.

"Believe in love. Believe in magic. Hell, believe in Santa Clause. Believe in others. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. If you don't, who will?" - Jon Bon Jovi

Yes, I'm a big fan of Bon Jovi...probably tells you when I grew up. Fault me, I'm living on a prayer!

January Big Goal Additions

February 2nd, 2019 at 07:15 am

I'm going to try to post about the amount we added to our Big Goal each month, with a year to date total as well. This will help me a year end know the final tally. I do a pretty good job in YNAB marking what we add, but this will help reinforce and be a backup to that information.

$108.00 1/1 paycheck
$175.00 1/15 paycheck
_$10.00 2 Hulu $5 credit offers Amex
__$1.89 Starbucks Amex offer
__$2.91 Cell phone bill Amex offer
_$50.90 Amex Rewards
_$81.13 NFCU Interest
_$66.07 FNBO Direct Interest
__$0.06 USAA Interest
$213.50 Extra contribution

$709.45 January Total Big Goal
$709.45 2019 YTD

$61,602.14 Previous Big Goal Balance
$62,311.59 New Big Goal Balance

31.15% of $200,000 Goal

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take"

January Interest Earned and Savings

February 1st, 2019 at 07:33 am

In January we earned a nice amount of interest on our savings. We always save all interest, even when we were paying on debt. Although back then our interest earned was piddly!

$66.07 FNBO Direct
$81.13 Navy Federal CU
$147.20 Total interest earned

In December our total was $118.73. We have increased our monthly interest by $28.47 because we moved a large amount of cash from one bank earning 2.15% to a CD at the other bank earning 3.2%. At about $150/month, we are on schedule to save $1,800 in interest this year.

We did a great job with extra savings this month. We only spent $31 on fuel for our vehicles. I think we both need to fill up soon! We saved toward the Big Goal as planned, but also since we were under budget we have added $545.05 to our emergency fund.

I've decided for 2019, continue the Big Goal saving with $350 a month ($175 each paycheck), add in credit card rewards and other snowflake money and interest earned. Any extra we save is going to our emergency fund. I think there are some expense we will incur in 2019 that are hard to anticipate the amount, so any extra cash saved will be helpful. I'd rather money from those come from what we have stashed and marked as EF money, than from our BIg Goal money.

Here's to a great year of saving!

Throwing Some Food Out

January 20th, 2019 at 10:41 am

The challenge this past week was to eat as much from the pantry, fridge and freezer as possible. In other words, not to buy more food before I ate what we had. I did really well. There wasn't physically anyway to actually eat it all, so as a result I have had to toss some food.

I didn't grocery shop until Friday night in order to buy more eggs and sausage for the rice mix. Because I buy organic eggs, I spent about $9.

I tossed out about a cup of cooked rice just now. It didn't go bad, but going forward I'm reducing most processed carbs. I'm also going to toss out the last bit of spaghetti sauce. Oh, and I had to toss the lunch meat as it was turning bad several days after the expiration.

I did eat up the following:
rice dinner mix
micro popcorn
pistachios
provolone cheese
salsa
eggs (husband helped)
apples
cucumbers
turkey crumbles (husband ate)
canned navy beans

I still have several slices of bread in the freezer, the sweet potato fries, dried cranberries, sour cream, 3 veggie burgers, 1/4c tomato sauce, dry kidney beans, and some corn chips.

I'm very happy with the progress, but honestly some of those items are not doing my body any favors and I may have to throw those out as well. Going forward we are going to focus on eating low carb vegetables and avoid all the processed carbs that our daughter's still can eat!

How is your low spend month or frugal month going? Have you been able to rein in your spending?

More Food Used Up

January 17th, 2019 at 07:20 am

I'm making great progress using up the food, or just using what I have on hand. I ate the rest of my Barley Potato soup yesterday. I had it with a salad at lunch and with a sandwich at dinner.

I have used up these items:
Spinach
Red onion
Tomato
Cucumber
2 slices of cheese
Grape juice
2 slices of bread
2 tangerines
Cheerios
Chocolate chips
Pistachios

Today, I will likely eat a sandwich for lunch with an apple and cucumber slices. I think I will make rice and eat that with the navy beans and salsa for dinner and probably lunch tomorrow.

My husband returns home tomorrow. We will have the rice mix for dinner, but we already talked about wanting to add a protein to it, so I will go to the commissary to buy that. We can eat eggs with cheese and turkey crumbles for breakfast Saturday and Sunday morning. I will propose sandwiches for lunch, with carrots and dressing. Although there could be leftovers from Friday night, too. And finally, I think I can make Pepperoni pizza for dinner on Saturday night, which should provide leftovers for Sunday lunch. At that point we will need to go to the store!!

I guess it's time to make a meal plan, so I can make a grocery list for Sunday's shopping. I will still have a couple things in the pantry and freezer that I can incorporate into the meal plan, so I will have fewer things to buy.

In addition to Uber Frugal Month, I've been inspired to eat from what we have on hand and be mindful of using things up because of the government shutdown. We have families living right by us that are not getting a paycheck. The community has rallied around them to provide food, formula, baby food, diapers, wipes and gas gift cards. I am a big believer in an emergency fund of course, but it's not wrong to help out our fellow humans in their time of need.

Using Up the Food Progress

January 15th, 2019 at 09:33 am

Here's what I ate yesterday. I think I was a little snacky, so no judgements, please. Smile

1 cup of cereal with milk
2 Cinnamon muffins (this used up the milk and 1 egg)
2 tangerines
Leftover taco meat
2 tomato slices
(ate the two above with cheddar cheese and tostitos)
2 servings of Barley potato soup
The soup used up the potatoes, garlic, celery, chicken broth, the yellow onion, and two carrots)
1 slice of provolone cheese
1 serving of grape juice (I use in my water for flavor)
1 lemon (use in my water)

Today, I ate:
1 cup of cereal with almond milk
Spinach salad (used up red onion, half a cucumber and 1/3 of a tomato)
1 veggie burger
1 slice provolone cheese

I expect to eat more of the Barley Potato soup for dinner, likely with another salad like I ate for lunch today. I'm sure another snack will be eaten as well.

It has only been over 24 hours since I have embarked on my use it all up quest, but I feel good about my plan and progress so far.

https://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/barley-potato-soup-48475 that I modified slightly, mostly the seasonings.

Food On Hand

January 14th, 2019 at 07:48 am

My husband is traveling this week. Both of our daughters are back at college. The fridge and pantry are very likely going to be more than adequate to sustain me this week, and maybe through the weekend with my husband home, making it an no spend grocery week!

Before I get to the list of what I have, I will say some of these things are not what I normally eat. The Cheerios were requested by my daughter when she was home. And now they are left here. I did eat Cheerios and milk this morning. And to use up the milk, I made cinnamon muffins, which I will freeze and use if and when I have a sugar craving. But at least at this point we can say I didn't waste the milk!

Here's what I have in the pantry:
Honey Nut Cheerios (4 cups)
Dried cranberries
Microwave popcorn (1 bag)
Pistachios (1/2 c.)
Almonds (1.5 cups)
Canned veggie soup
Canned navy beans
8oz dried kidney beans
Rice dinner mix
Peanut butter (1/3 jar)
Quinoa
White rice
Pearled barley
Chicken broth (2 cans)
Tostitos (1/2 bag)
Bread (13 slices)

Here's what I have in the freezer:
4 veggie burgers
1/2 bag sweet potato fries
15 oz of crushed tomatoes
1/3 bag of chocolate chips
Ice (ha, ha)

Here's what I have in the fridge:
1/3 bag spinach
2 cucumbers
2 apples
11 tangerines
1 tomato and 2 tomato slices
4 lemons
1/2 yellow onion
1/4 red onion
Fresh ginger
Celery
Carrots
8 oz turkey lunch meat
Pepperoni slices
7 eggs
leftover taco meat (1 c.)
4 oz prepared turkey crumbles
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Shredded cheddar cheese
Provolone slices (5)
Salsa (6 oz)
1/2 jar tomato sauce
1/4 jar pasta sauce
Sour cream 4 oz
Almond milk
Grape juice (2 servings)

I also have three medium potatoes and garlic on hand.

That is actually a lot of food! There is no way I can eat all of that in five days by myself. I'm going to focus on the perishables first. Some of the fridge items (lunch meat, turkey crumbles and eggs) can likely still be good for the weekend and are things my husband eats, so while I may eat them, I'm going to focus on other things.

I'm pretty sure I need to make a soup to use up the potatoes, onion, celery, carrots. That sounds like potato soup, but I don't want to buy more milk, and don't think almond milk would taste right would it? It is unsweetened. I think maybe a barley vegetable soup would work though.

I'm going to save the rice dinner mix for the weekend when my husband is home. But I think I could make some sort dish with the rice, navy beans and the salsa. It would make quite a bit, I might even be willing to eat it for breakfast!

Today for lunch I will eat the leftover taco meat with those two tomato slices and likely an apple or a small salad. Tonight might be soup for dinner.

I'm realizing I should freeze the bread if I'm not going to eat the turkey lunch meat or the veggie burgers. I can use the bread from the freezer if I change my mind.

I'll update you on my progress this week to eat it all up!

What you make off for lunch or dinner if you had my fridge, freezer and pantry to eat from? Have you done this where you focus on eating it all up to help the grocery budget?