Pantry Check

Early this month ML and I blew through our monthly grocery budget. At that time we acknowledged the hit and vowed to try to avoid the grocery until the end of the month.

This weekend I made a beef stew with ingredients purchased from that trip and took sometime to review what we have in the house in the hopes of making it to December without going to the grocery.

Heres where we stand:

  • 5 wraps
  • 4 English muffins
  • 2 packs biscuit mix ( makes 10 each)
  • 2 containers of crescent rolls
  • 2 containers ricotta
  • 1 pack imitation crab
  • 11 eggs
  • 2.5 sweet peppers
  • 1/2 pack frozen shrimp
  • 2 lbs bacon
  • 2 packs drumsticks
  • 2 lasagna
  • waffles
  • 1/8 bag of rice
  • 1 3/4 packs spaghetti
  • 1 can sloppy joe
  • 3 cans chickpeas
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 3 tins tomato
  • 1 Tin black bean
  • 2 tins cream of mushroom
  • 1 soup mix pack
  • 1 veggie broth
  • 1 hamburger helper
  • 2 tomato sauces
  • 1 tin pumpkin
  • 1 tin Vienna sausages
  • a vast array of seasonings

After compiling that list, I went from considering a grocery trip to knowing we only need a few more veggies.

At a quick glance I see the following meals in my future:

  1. Lasagna
  2. Spaghetti with carrots, peppers and sloppy joe
  3. Baked mushroom drumsticks with hamburger helper side
  4. pumpkin bake with beans
  5. Mexican rice
  6. soup with crescent rolls

I’m really looking forward to finishing this month in the black!

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Week 3: November 2017

When I got paid last time I transferred the money into a holding account with the thought that I would move funds over when I get paid next, on the 23rd. That didn’t quite work out as planned so today I transferred over a bit to see me through the rest of the month.

I was supposed to only have one expense this week: Breakfast with my dad. That went a bit higher than anticipated as I had forgotten to factor in the taxes and tip into my figure. I also added a couple of expenses. The first was Bunny related.

At 9,  my darling girl got her first cold. So off she went to the vet, which was an unanticipated cost that only grew when I added in medication. Thankfully, I have my Life Happens account that was able to take the hit.

Last year, for the first time, we did personalized Christmas cards. It was thrilling and Bunny had served as my model. Fresh off a day of weeping as I had never let anyone keep Bunny I decided that since this may be her last Christmas we’re sending family cards again!

You can probably tell that this was an emotional decision rather than one rooted in deep through and budget consultation. Luckily for the budget, VistaPrint is running a promotion so the cost wasn’t awful.

However, it does mean that I only have $120 left for the month to complete ~$160 worth of activities. I revisited my spending plan and came up with this option.

Variable Cost Activity Cost  Total
Eating out Dinner with friends $20
Lunch with work $18
Lunch with my mum $40  $          78
Gas $40  $          40
Anticipated Spending  $        118

While I had been guessing on the previous meals, now that I know where the dinner and work lunch are going to take place I took a peek at the menus and calculated my meal including taxes and tip. Now, I just have to ensure that whatever I select definitely stays within my budget.

I adjusted the price of lunch with my mum and I’m hopeful that I can stay in budget. It’s a bit harder as I’d like to buy us both lunch when we do a group shopping trip.

The slightly tough part is that all these expenses are this week. Which means that the last week in November I’m going to have to be strong and not purchase a thing if I want to stay within budget.

 

 

Christmas Planning

If you’ve followed me for the past couple of years, you know Christmas is a time that sends me into a tizzy. You’d think after penning so many posts about my angst and always coming to the realization that gifts just need to be meaningful and thoughtful I’d finally have conquered the crazy.

Not quite but I’m getting there.

One of the big helps is that my side decided to only give gifts to each couple and put a firm limit. My parents went a step further and requested gift cards. I’ve gone from spending $50 per person to the same amount per couple. It’s a huge guilt-free savings.

Today I started truly Christmas shopping. I was feeling awful because I’m behind. Usually I start planning in May and keep an eye out for items.

ML and I hit Costco with a list and got most of the presents. It felt good to go with a list and know who we are giving gifts to and have strong ideas of the types of things we want to give them.

Leaving the gifts to a reasonable time frame and having a list of those who matter means that I will be under my usual budget and we’re giving thoughtful gifts.

Have you started thinking of the Holiday season and gift giving?

Gift Giving

My family is big into gift giving. It’s our short-hand to say, “I love you!”

Last night my mum called to chat about our upcoming anniversary. It was an interesting and strange conversation which included this beautiful acknowledgement:

“You and ML have reached a stage in your life that most people reach when they’re in their fifties. You’re very aware of what you’re bringing into your home and what you’ll use. “

She went on to share that knowing this, they didn’t want to get us something that we would feel obligated to keep but not enjoy.

By the end of the conversation, she asked that I let her know if there was something we would like that fit into the traditional or modern anniversary gift model. If not, my parents will be happy to give us a financial gift.

The offer of a financial gift is a huge move. My parents previously hated the idea of gift cards, much less, handing over money. They felt no thought or love went into the gift when you throw cash at people.

My sibling and I feel differently and slowly have managed to adjust their perception. So much so that all they’re asking for this Christmas is gift cards.

Knowing that my parents prefer to give gifts but that I didn’t want to ask for anything, ML came up with a compromise: a salad bowl.

The one we received at our wedding was recently chipped and I’m working my way to throwing it away. This would be a lovely, meaningful gift that will allow my parents to layer another memory into our lives.

 

The Cost of Decorating

One of my over-arching goals has always been to make improve my home for us. One of my greatest fears was living a certain way and then transforming my home into a gorgeous thing to sell it.

In fact, I went so far to make 2017: Year of the House. We hadn’t done a lot of work on it until June and then suddenly everything seemed to come together. Honestly, we needed a kick in the pants which came in the form of two friends coming to stay with us in August.

I decided that their arrival would coincide with our new and improved home. So of course we made a list! We went through each room of our home and noticed things that needed to be fixed or cleaned.

Once we had a list I put dollar signs beside anything that we needed to purchase. The purchase list wasn’t bad:

  • Paint*
  • Painters tape
  • paint brushes
  • Everything to re-stain coffee set: varnish remover, tools to remove varnish, wood stain
  • Tablecloth for dining room
  • Lighting for foyer
  • Mirror for bedroom
  • Bathroom fan (still to be purchased)

I ended up adding the duvet and curtain later, which meant that we spent a little over $350 giving our home huge face-lift. I also had a gift card to a hardware store that allowed me to spend closer to $300.

I anticipate spending another $100 or so as we need to purchase the fan for the bathroom, pay an electrician to hang the lights, and purchase some cleaning supplies. I’m always a bit terrified when we begin home improvement projects as I feel that they can just keep going as you discover new things you want to do.

I’m thrilled that I’m only taking ~ $400 out of the home improvement budget and that it’s made such a huge difference. With a little luck this means that I won’t wait to do things and instead tackle them head on instead of making it a mad dash of repairs.

Do you have frugal tips to spruce up your home?

* The paint ended up being 7 different colours that we used. I discovered sample sizes which kept the cost down.

 

Choices and Shame

I’ve been avoiding my budget and, therefore, blogging in June.  I’ve been shopping and I know that I haven’t been making great frugal choices.

shop

It also doesn’t help that ML has been doing a great deal of the shopping so I don’t have a record in my own bank account of things that I have purchased. I currently owe him about $500.

Here’s how it breaks down, I think:

  • Skin care (more on that later) $300
  • Shoes $50
  • Groceries $70
  • Bunny $40
  • Gas $40

We decided he’d shoot me a bill this weekend so I can have a breakdown in my budget and reimburse him.

The skin care line is what has been shame inducing for me. I tend to be a drugstore girl, I’ll purchase Oil of Olay or Clean & Clear when it’s on sale. Now that I’m getting older I’m seeing that those who pamper their skin have better results in general. I’m currently battling mild acne, acne scarring, and wrinkles!

I also am a woman of colour in a city in which the drugstore clerks try to ‘whiten me’ by selling me foundations that are a shade or two lighter than my skin. To get my colour I need to mix 2 foundations. If one of my colours isn’t in it’s a trial and error adventure as not all stores will offer samples on the less expensive lines.

I wanted to purchase products that are made for my multiple needs, skin colour and were not tested on animals.

So this time I decided to head to Sephora, I often avoid Sephora because their products are great but much more expensive than my usual fare. Thank goodness ML went with me and was able to hold my hand through the process. The woman who helped me was wonderful and did the exact opposite of what I expected: she told me to purchase less things than I anticipated.

She refused to let me purchase a toner, extra moisturizer, eye cream, anti-wrinkle serum, concealer, and scar correcter.  Instead she worked with me to get two moisturizers (day & night) that would address different concerns, cleanser, acne serum and a foundation in my colour. I also purchased the foundation brush she was using as my current brush would waste the expensive product. This purchase in a drugstore may cost me $100.

While thrilled with my purchases I began to feel vain and spend-thrifty immediately. How can I claim to be frugal but throw down $300 on things that no one would even see? I don’t have an answer to that.

Do the products work? Yes! I just went through a week that often sees me having multiple breakouts all over my face and instead I just had 2 small blemishes. Using just 1 foundation has made a huge difference! I’m no longer leaving splotches of foundation on everything that touches my face and I don’t feel like my skin is completely hidden.

I am going to track how long it takes for these products to finish. I purchased them mid-June and with a shelf life of 12 months I’m hoping that based on the amounts they last for at least 7 months. If they do, the monthly breakdown would mean that I would have spent ~$40 per month on them which is the amount I allocate monthly to ‘fashion’ items.

The goal has always been to spend money on things that matter to me. Being able to purchase from a skincare line that does not test on animals is extremely important to me and now that I have the money to do so I am happy with this purchase.

Are there things you purchase that feel exorbitant but worth it?

 

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles via freedigitalphotos.net

Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals

Yesterday, I went public with my crazy goal for 2017/2018.

This had me reviewing my BHAG for 2017 as they’re definitely in need of an update now.

Here’s how they’ve been adjusted:

Goal 1: Save for new kitchen

2018 is going to be our 10th wedding anniversary.We’d still love to throw a big party. In fact that’s what got the kitchen ball rolling. When we looked into a what we wanted to do we realized it was going to cost us at least $10,000.

That money seemed better spent on a kitchen, we could then host 120 people in our home for an anniversary open house. We’re willing to forgo the vacation if we can get a fantastic kitchen that allows us to entertain and actually enjoy cooking together.

Goal 2: Home Improvement

This will be the year that we fix the sinking driveway and update our light fixtures. I feel that these are two realistic goals that can easily be achieved and will make our home seem much more welcoming. I’ll give myself until May before I think about the driveway properly since it’ll be either snow or rain covered until then. The light fixtures we can begin our search in the new year. There are at least 4 that must be replaced with a couple of others that would be nice to have done.

Other Goals

While I would still love to work on my emergency fund, I’m not going to throw all my additional money into it. The aim is to not use any of the money in it for the new kitchen.

 

 

Coming Soon(ish): New Kitchen

I’ve been wanting a new kitchen since we purchased this house but there’s always been something else that we wanted or needed to do. Frankly when faced with a big sum of money or a lot of little things it’s easier to spend on the little things. That’s meant going on short vacations, purchasing some furniture, fixing the washing machine, buying new mats for the bathroom. You get the idea.

This year we’ve dubbed the year of the house. Since the kitchen is a huge project we asked our favourite contractor to visit us with the aim of saving for to do it next year. He’ll be providing a detailed quote but he estimated somewhere between $15,000 – 20,000.

I must confess my heart clutched at that number. I’m determined to do the kitchen by next April. This means saving $1,600 per month in a year if I want to do this.

The only way to do this is if I slash my spending considerably and stop saving for everything else:

  • vacations: I need these, even if it’s $200 to go visit a friend or look around my neck of the woods.
  • Life Happens: giving this up would mean I’m just throwing myself into debt if something were to happen, like an appliance dying.
  • Car: this can be reduced but the whole point was to have a sizeable down payment if my 2007 vehicle is no longer feasible as well as to ensure that I’m maintaining her properly
  • Gifts: I give a lot of gifts because I have lots of people to treat. I shop frugally and put a great deal of thought into my gifts so this is not budging
  • House Insurance: this is non-negotiable
  • Medical – this is also non-negotiable it covers those needs that aren’t covered by insurance and since I have to wait for insurance to reimburse me it also helps me not go over budget.
  • Sky is Falling Account: I have two of these. One is liquid and the other can easily be liquidated. I treat one as a job loss account and the other as retirement savings.  My aim is to have 6 months savings in one so that if I were to lose my job I’d have breathing room.
  • Mortgage additional payments – I’ve got money being set aside so we can pay the mortgage sooner.
  • Leftover Fund: money that was budgeted but wasn’t used gets put here to be spent on fun extras.
  • Home Improvement: for any non-kitchen related upgrades we want this year.
  • Kitchen: I currently have ~$100 going into this. So you know, just $1,500 more needed per month…

My sky is falling Job Loss account  has a little less than 25% of my goal in it. To help my heart, I’m going to act as if the money currently in that account is being put towards the kitchen. This will allow me to not stress too much while still building the job loss account.

DECISION: I’m going to keep saving as I do with the knowledge that next April all my savings lines may be pressed into service. All extra money, ML’s side hustle or my staying below budget, will be siphoned into the kitchen fund.

REALITY: To save $20,000 in a year is definitely a stretch goal. I’m not sure it’s reasonable. So this year is every month is going to have to be uber-frugal month. ML is on board so I know I can count on his support. We’re going to aim for $20,000 and work with the contractor to get it in as close to $15,000 as possible. We don’t want to scrimp on the kitchen as it’s a large job and want to pay upfront for quality products.

We’re not going insane but as the room needs to be gutted and all appliances replaced it’s going to be a big job and we need to realistic about it.

 

 

Grocery Budget

Since 2105, I’ve consistently tracked my spending in an Excel spreadsheet. The other day I was looking at my grocery line and got curious.

In 2015 I was budgeting $300/month and my spending ranged from $170 – $350. In 2016 I budgeted $260/month and ranged from $270 – $140. In January of this year I lowered that again to $200 and in March I dropped it to $150.

It’s one of those shocking things as I would have expected that line to climb quite consistently in an effort to keep up with inflation.

Of course I then got curious about how I was doing it!

SWS Groceries definition: anything that can be found in a grocery store, whether or not you can eat it.

With that definition it quickly became apparent that we were able to cut out a lot simply by no longer buying certain products (paper towels is a big one) and buying others only when they’re on sale (toilet paper, toothpaste).

Other changes include:

  • We only buy our convenience food on sale, our closest store has Dollar Days every month or so and I stock up.
  • We tend to no longer get ‘fun’ stuff e.g. cereals, the array of snacks, ice cream, etc
    • If we do they’re discounted and they’re treats
  • We do weekly menu planning which means that we try to purchase things we know will be used
  • We stock up reasonably when things go on sale
    • I used to treat those signs that say Limit 6 per customer as though that meant I had to get 6 massive pizzas.
  • We plan when we have people coming over
    • Previously it would be treated as a surprise and we’d blow a bundle that weekend getting stuff. Now we purchase ahead of time and keep things so we always have something nice on hand
  • We have more meals with little or no meat; most of our meat is chicken
  • We rarely purchase bread (down from 2 loaves a week)
  • We try to only purchase fruits and vegetables we know we’ll use (food waste was a pretty big problem before)
  • I love the idea of yogurt! I rarely eat yogurt so I’ve stopped buying it in spite of the great flavours and deals that tempt me

I can feel the me from 2 years ago rising up and thinking, “My gosh! You’ve got no fun in your life! No snacks – those packaged cake things are only $2. Have some sugar!”

I’m in a bit of shock as typing this shows how far both ML & I have come not only in our grocery budget but in terms of our lifestyle. Though we would both benefit from more fruits and veggies in our day, we have significantly cut down our consumption of packaged goods and food waste.

It will be interesting to see if we can stick to the $150 grocery budget. I know we’ll go over in high entertainment months which is to be expected.

How do you keep you grocery budget in check?

 

11 Meals

Yesterday I shared what’s in my pantry and freezer as well as my realization that I need those ingredients to make 11 meals. Here goes!

Meal #1: Loaded Baked Potato Casserole

This bad boy makes use of chicken that’s currently marinating in my freezer, potatoes, green onions. It’s also a great simple recipe I feel comfortable trying out.

Meal #2: One pan Cheesy Chicken Broccoli and Cheese

It’s been ages since I’ve made this but it was so good! This would also only use half the tray of chicken.

Meal #3: Chicken Tacos

The taco kit gets used as does tomatoes and the rest of the chicken thighs!

Meal #4: Pasta with Vienna Sausages

I’ve been in the mood for comfort food recently and this is basically homemade Chef Boyarde. I usually make it with spaghetti but the tube pasta will definitely work! I’ll also load it with veggies.

Meal #5: Chana Masala and rice

I pinned this recipe a while ago but hadn’t made it. This will be a great way to use the chickpeas and tomatoes.

Meal #6: Roast chicken with potatoes (and later sweet & spicy sweet potatoes)

Whenever we roast a chicken we throw in potatoes and carrots. We always seem to run out of the potatoes & carrots before we finish the chicken. I’m so glad I’ve rediscovered the sweet potato recipe

Meal #7: Roasted duck with red beans and rice

We got the duck because it was on sale and we haven’t had duck in ages. It’s time to roast it and enjoy! Based on my pantry those red beans are going to be substituted with black eyed peas.

Meal #8: Mexican Rice Casserole

I’ll be using a tin of tomatoes and the peas and carrots since I’m out of corn. This is one where the recipe is really  just an outline for me to indulge in flavours while using ingredients on hand.

Meal #9: Lentil sloppy joes

I made this once before and was surprised by how much I loved it. With the weather going from hot to cold within a matter of hours this sounds like just the ticket!

Meal #10: Tuna patties

I really want tuna melts but I feel the tuna will be stretched further and will  make a much healthier meal if I go this route.

Meal #11: Leg of lamb with roasted potatoes and bean salad

It’s been ages since we’ve cooked lamb and I’m really looking forward to this.

Based on these recipes my grocery money should be used to get some fresh produce to round out some of these meals and one pack of burger buns. I’ve planned this by guessing that I will be cooking a meal every other day as each recipe makes 6-8 servings or at least 4 lunches and 2 dinners.