Monday, September 30, 2013

Spending Freeze Adventure: Week 4 Shopping Trip

I know, I know!  I just went grocery shopping on Friday.  In my defense I really only stocked up on basics (flour, milk, etc) so I decided to get my grocery shopping done early this morning in order to help supplement this week's meals.  Plus if you get to McCords (our awesome, little local supermarket) early enough you can get $0.99 bags of produce!

So without further ado here are the results of my shopping trips:

First up McCords!

Liam and I headed out bright and early to McCords and picked up the following:
  • 3lbs of bananas (7 bananas)
  • 2 15oz cans of kidney beans
  • 3lb bag of locally grown onions
  • 2 $0.99 bags of clearance produce
We got the following in our two clearance bags:

We got 4 tomatoes, 5 kiwis, and 4 lemons for $0.99!
In our 2nd bag we got 3 oranges, 1 grapefruit, 1 giant lemon (I think), and a 2lb bag of purple onions for $0.99!

I plan on zesting and juicing the lemons and then freezing the zest and juice for use in recipes later on.  I will also be dicing the purple onions and freezing them because they are nearing the point of "use it or lose it".  We will keep the other onions in cold storage in our basement with produce from our garden. If you notice, none of the clearance produce is in terrible shape.  I think I will have to toss one of the purple onions, but everything else is great!  Side note:  Liam had his first kiwi today and downed the whole thing in under 20 seconds.  I think he liked it...

McCords Shopping Trip Total: $5.15

Next Stop: Meijer!

I purchased the following items:
  • 3 boxes of Meijer Macaroni & Cheese
  • 2 cans of corn
  • 1 can of sweet peas
  • 1 bag of frozen peas and carrots
  • 2 Steak and Cheese Burritos
  • 2 Breakfast Burritos
  • 12 oz bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar (not pictured)
Apple Cider Vinegar was not my first choice for using one of my precious $10 but we have a fruit fly problem and I used the last of my stash yesterday.  I rarely, if ever, purchase frozen burritos, but at $0.16 a pop after coupons I couldn't resist. I can't even make them that cheap!  It also helped that the canned veggies and mac and cheese were both 3 for $1 this week.  I'm envisioning soup additions with those veggies!

Meijer Shopping Trip Total: $4.54

Grocery Shopping Trip Grand Total: $9.69!

So yeah, we slid in right under $10.  Don't worry, I'll be keeping you updated about how our meals are working out!

PS:  In case you're wondering about the first couple comments on this post... I accidentally published the post before I typed a single letter in the body of the post :-)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Spending Freeze Adventure: Week 3 & A Shopping Trip

We're just finishing week 3 of our Spending Freeze Adventure.   If you have no idea what I'm talking about check out this post here to find out more about the crazy adventure we're on!

This week we took our first official grocery trip after we spent the afternoon at ArtPrize. As I mentioned in my original Spending Freeze post I am planning to spend no more than $10 each week to feed my family of 3.   I know it seems crazy, but we do have a small stockpile of food in the basement so I think we'll make do for a while.  

Since we were going to be in Grand Rapids for ArtPrize we decided to do our shopping at Sam's.  With $10.  Yeah, it was a crazy idea.  To be honest if we lived closer to Sam's or Aldis I think I could do $10/week for food fairly easily.  However being 40 minutes away from the nearest Sam's and Aldis does not make weekly shopping there feasible.  That being said I knew my $10 for the week was not going to go very far, especially since I knew I could stand to stock up on flour (I'm baking my own bread now) and milk (it's only $1.99!), among other things. 

I started praying that God would provide more money for us to stock up on a few items.  After perusing Sam's website I determined that I could really use $40 to buy the following items: 25lbs of flour, 1 canister of basil (since Liam dumped mine and I use it a lot), 5 gallons of milk (we freeze it), salt, 2 rotisserie chickens (they're only $4.88!) and a pair of winter pajamas for Liam (they have the cheapest new fleece pajamas around).  I began praying specifically for that amount.  

God answered my prayer in two phases.  First, I suddenly remembered that I had gotten a $5 gift card from Sam's in the mail recently.  I was going to use it when we stocked up at Sam's before beginning the Spending Freeze but Will went for me instead and I didn't have a chance to give it to him.  So I tucked that into my wallet along with my $10.  Then, a couple days later I unexpectedly received $25 as a gift for something that I had done for some friends thus giving me the exact amount I had prayed for.

So we stopped at Sam's on our way home from ArtPrize and picked up the flour, milk, chicken, salt, basil, and pajamas.  Our total: $39.09!  So I guess technically we spent more than $10 but the money beyond the $10 didn't come from our bank account so I'm willing to let it slide. 

Then we went home and I made one of our favorites:  Southwest Chicken and Rice Casserole!

And lest you think we don't eat very well I'll recap a few of the meals from this week:

  • Cold Cereal
  • Baked Oatmeal
  • Toast
  • Fresh Fruit
  • PB&J
  • Deli Meat Sandwiches
  • Fresh Fruit/Vegetables
  •  Ham and Cheese Stromboli
  • Will was able to score free lunch at work several days this week
  • Leftover Chicken Teriyaki and Rice (with peppers from our garden) from last week
  • Chicken Alfredo Pasta, Zucchini sauteed with Italian Dressing and Tomatoes, Salad, Breadsticks
  • Ditto (we had it Tuesday night with Will's parents and then ate leftovers on Thursday)
  • Popcorn (because we leave for church on Wednesdays shortly after Will gets home from work I feed Liam dinner before we leave and Will and I have popcorn when we get home)
  • Southwest Chicken and Rice Casserole with corn on the cob (we'll have the leftovers next week!)
  • Pizza (our Saturday night/Sunday afternoon tradition)
See!  We're not going hungry at all! 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Spending Freeze Adventure: Frugal Fun

Just because we aren't spending any money doesn't mean we can't have any fun...

Today my husband took a much deserved day off.  He was sweet enough to watch Liam while I got my haircut (don't worry, I had saved up for this before the spending freeze).  Then when I got home we headed out to ArtPrize.  If you're not from the area or familiar with ArtPrize it's the world's largest art competition and gives the world's largest prize for contemporary art.  You can check it out here!   They give out prizes based on public voting and as well as juried prizes.

This is a great opportunity to have a frugal, fun day with your family, but it also works well as a field trip if you live in the area and homeschool your children.  There are so many great opportunities for art discussion because the variety is extensive!  It would be fairly easy to spend a bunch of money at some of the food vendors, but all you really need is some spare change for a parking meter, the rest is free!

So we headed out and used all the spare change in our car to park for a few hours at a meter downtown.  We spent some time looking at exhibits around the riverfront area.  Here were a couple of our favorites!
This guy would stand absolutely still for the longest time and then would "come to life" and put on a show.

We loved this piece!

This one was unique and we liked the 3D aspect of it.

This one was gorgeous!

This one was a lot of fun!

I thought this dress made out of measuring tape was intriguing!

So many ties!  Looks like part of Will's closet...

This one cracked us up.  However we were a little disappointed to find out that he had created/painted all the license plates and signs; they weren't real.

As we meandered our way along the river we stopped in a nice shady place to eat the lunch we packed.  It was a beautiful (though warm) day and we enjoyed the rest and shade!  And Liam enjoyed some time out of the stroller and a yummy honey crisp apple (courtesy of Will's nice boss who has his own honey crisp orchard)!  Our total out of pocket cost for this day of fun was $1.85 that we paid for our parking meter.

Always stealing someone's shades, but never willing to wear his own...

Be still, my beating heart!

"App-poe peeeeee!"

I have so much more that I want to share about the tiny million ways God has shown His love to us since we started this adventure but I don't want to overwhelm you guys!  I'll share one quick little example: Today we were able to find a great parking spot at a parking meter that still had a considerable amount of time left on it!  It may seem small, but it was still an encouragement to us and stretched our $1.85 even further!

Hopefully I'll have a post up tomorrow about our first official grocery shopping trip of this spending freeze and whether or not I was able to stick to my $10/budget...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Spending Freeze Adventure: Revenge of the Spice Drawer Bandit

It would appear that Liam isn't quite sure about the Spending Freeze Adventure that we started recently...

A few days ago he used his favorite little stool to get a hold of a fork and then headed on over to the fruit bowl to see what kind of damage he could inflict. 

Thankfully I got to him pretty quickly and only one apple fell victim to fruiticide.  Yeah, I totally made that word up.

So then this morning I was out on our enclosed front porch talking on the phone because it's one of only two places in our house that gets reliable cell phone service.  I was watching Liam The Spice Drawer Bandit through the big picture window we have between our living room and the front porch.  He was busy playing with a toy so I figured he would be fine.  He ducked out of my sight for just a couple seconds, but I just thought he was getting another toy.  As I was watching through the window he climbed up onto the couch, which is up against the window and starts knocking on the window and laughing.  Then, before I even knew what was happening he dumped my 3/4 full shaker of dried basil leaves on the top of our couch.  Are you kidding me?  He's laughing hysterically and I'm saying "No Liam, no!"  and the lady I was talking to on the phone was laughing me.

I have thus determined that Liam wants me to spend more money on groceries that I'm supposed to.  Especially with the way he goes through bananas!  I suppose that since his current favorite cartoon is Curious George it's appropriate but man he goes bananas for bananas.  He has one almost every day for breakfast, and before he's even all the way done he's already pointing at his plate saying, "Nan-nan, pleeeeeee".  

Liam likes to make sure his bananas have company

Thankfully keeping up with his banana cravings shouldn't be too difficult because we have been wonderfully blessed with a little supermarket in our hometown that rotates rock-bottom sale prices on produce.  Their bananas are ALWAYS $0.39/lb and about every 3-4 weeks they go on sale for $0.33/lb.  That is an amazing price for a) being in Michigan and b) not being a Costco or Sam's Club.  So needless to say we go through a lot of bananas in our house.  I'll be talking a little more about this wonderful supermarket in the future and how it helps me stick to my grocery budget!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Spending Freeze Adventure: Introduction and Weeks 1 & 2

I know in the past I've not been very good at keep my blog updated but I think this last "break" really takes the cake for the longest time between posts!  I'm actually a little embarrassed by it, especially because I don't really have a good reason for it.  Basically I've been blog lazy...

So anyway I want to talk a little bit about being frugal.  I've talked before about bill paying but I wanted to go a little more in-depth about finances and talk about our newest financial adventure; a spending freeze! Before I get into that though I want to give you a little background.  

We've been down to one income now for almost 2 years.  Thus far it has been an interesting and sometimes frustrating journey.  We had been using a loose budget since we were first married and it was really helpful.  Before we had our little guy and I was working full time we were doing just fine.  We knew that when we had kids I would stay home so we decided to live on Will's income and use my income to pay off debt.  We paid off all of my Bachelors and Masters degree debt and we also paid off about a quarter of our mortgage.  So thankfully, by the time Liam was born we were technically debt free, with the exception of our mortgage.

We decided to be a little more strict with our budget once we were down to one income and it seemed to be ok.  However we got lazy with our budget and I got lazy with the grocery shopping and we had unexpected expenses.  Soon our savings account was dwindling and I couldn't figure out why we weren't ever adding to it! I also stopped relying on God to provide for our needs and started worrying. We certainly had enough money to pay our bills, give to our church, and purchase food and gas, but there never seemed to be anything extra to set aside for the future.  I was getting frustrated.  At this point I realized that I had indeed stopped relying on God to meet our needs and I was repentant.

I decided last month to take a hard look with fresh, faith-filled eyes at our current finances and our projected finances once our new, more expensive health care kicks in next month.  Most people can see an immediate difference in their finances when they cut out their daily trips to Starbucks or weekly eating out but we already had a bare-bones budget.  We don't have smart phones or cable, we don't eat out, we don't have A/C in our house and Will carpools so we don't spend an obnoxious amount of money each month in gas for him to get to and from work (it's about 80 miles round trip for him).  That being said, once I totaled the cost of our monthly bills, our tithing, and food and gas expenses I realized that we could potentially be putting $500 each month into our savings account if we didn't buy anything but the basics.  

I was flabbergasted, to say the least!  I mean obviously there are miscellaneous expenses that come along, but our budget was *supposed* to account for those.  Frankly I could NOT figure out where in the world the money had gone and I was ashamed, especially because the Bible frequently encourages Christians to be good stewards of the money with which He has blessed them. 

So now to the Spending Freeze Part:

Right around the time I had my epiphany I read this blog post about going on a month-long spending freeze and I was very intrigued by the idea.  I knew we needed do something a little different since our budget is already very basic.  After some time spent in prayer I believe that this is a good option for my family.  I know this idea won't work for everyone, but I think it will for us.  

The gist of a spending freeze is that you pay your bills and tithe each month and that's it.  You should set some ground rules on what you can and cannot spend money and you should try to eat out of your current food stores for as long as possible.  If you don't have a stockpile of food you should do as Dave Ramsey says and go on a rice and beans diet.  

Dave Ramsey also says that you should have an Emergency Savings Account with 3-6 months worth of living expenses.  As I looked at our bank I account I realized that we do not have that.  After a few recent extra expenses we didn't even have 1 months worth, which was kind of disheartening.  We decided that the amount we wanted to save up for this account was $5,000 and that doing a spending freeze for 6 months would be a great start and should put us really close to our goal. 

We technically started our Spending Freeze Adventure September 9th, 2013 and are planning to stop around March 9th, 2014 and I plan to blog weekly about our progress!

Some of the rules we decided on besides tithing and paying our monthly bills include the following:
  • We will still get oil changes on our car.  Our local oil changing place offers them for cheaper than we can do them on our own, so we'll still get them done there on both our cars
  • We will still purchase nighttime diapers for Liam.  Though I use cloth diapers on him during the day I still haven't figured out a nighttime cloth diaper solution that doesn't require me to spend a lot of money on wool diaper covers.  That will cost us about $14 for 3 months worth of diapers
  • We will still buy kitty litter because, yeah, that's gross
  • We will spend no more than $10 each week on groceries (mostly on milk, eggs, cheese, lunchmeat, veggies and fruit).  We don't have a crazy large stockpile of food but I recently stocked up on some meat, canned veggies and other staples from Sam's Club so we're in a pretty good place. 
  • We will only buy clothes as needed for Liam.  Liam is going to need some winter PJ's soon so I plan to buy those, but he is VERY well set up already with winter clothes thanks to an awesome Moms to Moms sale I went to last fall.
  • Will's birthday and Christmas are both coming up.  Yes we will be participating in both!  We've been saving up for Christmas with each of Will's paychecks and it is a line item on our budget!
  • We will not eat out, unless of course you plan to pay ;-)
  • And I will not buy any Kindle books (it's amazing how $1.99 here and $2.99 there adds up!)
I'm sure there are other things that I'm forgetting, but for now that's it!  I'll be updating the blog soon with some struggles we've already had in the first 2 weeks of this spending freeze!