Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Increasing the Budget

*Warning, long post ahead!*

I've been debating with myself a lot lately about increasing the food budget. My current amount works out to $25/week for two people! I don't think that's nearly enough. How on earth have a managed it to this point? I believe I've been able to scrape by for the following reasons:

~Once a week we eat at my Sweetheart's parents. His mom loves to make these fantastic meat balls! They are just great.

~Sweetheart has insisted on eating out two-three times a week. He had been accustomed to eating out even more often than that. We had tried a budget of $50/week for eating out, but alas it didn't last long. (I couldn't get him to go any lower!)

~About every other week we've made it over to my parents for a meal. Sometimes this meant eating out, again. Other times my parents have footed the bill for an in house meal with us bring along dessert.

~All of the above at times meant there was a possibility of left overs. This has meant easy packable meals or quick meals when we've been too tired.

~I've often used Extra Bucks to buy Coke from CVS. These EB were generated from deals that either were MM or stuff that was nearly free or needed but paid for out of my pocket money. So I'm really paying for stuff from my free money instead of the grocery items.

~Some grocery items I've managed to get free after sales, coupons & rewards. (Anyone remember that fantastic week of Edy's Ice Cream, Chex Mix & Lay's Stax at Rite Aid? If not see here.)

A recent meal from our 'vacation' weekend.

Things have slowly been changing. We use to go out more often to eat. Sweetheart's dad ate out a lot. I meal a lot! (Like 5 or 6 days a week sometimes for all three meals of the day!) He often liked to have company around and would invite us to join him. It was not entirely uncommon for him to invite us out twice if not three times in one week. Sometimes I was working and Sweetheart went by himself, but more often than not I was there as well. He hasn't asked as much of late. (As of this posting it's been about two/three months since I've joined him.) We're not sure why but we suspect he's started to keep an eye on his money. (Recently retired.)

Sweetheart has been out less often than what he use to. While it was two to three times a week with me, there were still another two or three times he would out himself when I was not around. Lunch out while at work, a meal out with a friend or getting dinner on the walk home. He takes lunch to work unless he needs to walk there. Our friends come over for a meal in house. Sweetheart doesn't buy his dinner on the way home anymore. He goes through his bread for sandwiches a lot fast than he use to. (Sweetheart loves white bread. I hate it. He doesn't like wheat, but I love it. So we end up with separate bread.)

Not eating out as often means less in left overs. His parents not eating out means even less. There had been times when they would get two large Pizzas and offer us the left overs. We would happily except them and eat them for work.

Lastly food prices are started to creep slowly up. I hadn't noticed much beyond the price changes at work until one of my main packing staples went up by $.25. It's not a lot, but a item originally priced at $2.50 each now at $2.75 is a price jump of 10%! Ouch. That really hurts on a small budget with little room for error.

It's time for a change . . .

Home "cooking". How much of this is really cooking when it's a box mix?

I don't want to honestly, but something has got to give. I'm spending the grocery money fast than it's coming in. Sometimes I know it has to do with my choices. I like Florida's Natural Orange Juice. Yes, it can be pricey, but I love knowing the Orange juice is from the USA. It makes me happy to support 'local' farmers. (Florida's not really local, but Oranges hardly suited to grow well in the PA climate.)

I also buy organic meat, milk & carrots. I'm not exactly sure why I started to buy organic meat. I just did at some point in college. I suppose I thought it was better for you. I certainly think it tastes better. That's all a matter of opinion though. As for carrots, one day I noticed the store I bought them from had regular & organic carrots for the same exact price. Same size bag, identical looking cut and no good reason not to buy organic. (Prices have gone up slightly, but not enough for me to switch.)

I go through phases on milk. Sometimes I drink a lot and a half gallon is gone in less than three days. At other times I'll have one glass from the container and then not touch it for over a week. My milk spoil on me before I could finish it. I also had always thought milk tasted funny after you got about half way through it. Organic milk has a far longer expiration date. The reason is the ultra pasteurization process it goes through. Which meant my milk doesn't spoil if I go through a period when I'm not drinking it. And no more funny taste after the containers been opened for two days. Yea!

Other choices are cheap, cheap, cheap! Sweetheart loves his white bread and at $1.19 for a typical loaf it will make lots of cheap meals. Eggs: Hard boiled, scrabbled, used to make french toast, a cheap source of protein. Buying in on deals even if it's snack items or junk food (Rite Aid!), as long as it's edible enough to eat.

A deal from Giant a few weeks back. The fruit snacks, instant potatoes & granola bars worked out to $.86 after coupons, doubling, instant savings & Cat of $$ off your next order coupons. The other items are things I needed to help fill the pantry.

Now what? I'll start by increasing the budget. Unfortunately I can only add in about $5/week. Ouch! I plan on using it to buy more veggies & fruits. I've decided to eat healthier than prepackaged store bought meals or meals that go from box to table. That is one thing I was to back away from.

I've asked my Sweetheart to chip in. Tonight I made a meal of pasta & chicken. He really enjoyed it. Really, really liked it. I've talked to him about increasing the budget, eating out less and having him help me a little with the food. It's only going to add another $5/week, but it's something.

It would be nice to add more to the budget, but I'm not certain I would spend it in the best way if I jump it up much further. I'm also worried about gas prices. Filling my tank for the past two weeks has cost me about $39 each. That's $4 over budget. I can't do that every week. So that too needs an increase. Also I'm still working on those loans. I want them gone as soon as can be. I'm hoping that this small increase will be enough.

At least I wait for my meat to go on sale. I freeze these for latter because most often they are marked down needing to be sold within two days.

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