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Red beans and rice didn't miss me

August 14th, 2007 at 05:47 pm

Actually they did. MSN Money has an interesting article about switching to a diet of rice, corn and beans -- not just for health but also to save money.

I'm not sure I could convince my family to switch to a vegetarian diet. Or a pescetarian diet.

10 days of no eating out!

August 13th, 2007 at 12:34 pm

I've officially gone 10 days without eating out at all -- not even for lunch. Not even a bag of chips out of the vending machine.

I've easily saved at least $50, probably $100.

Time to buy a cow

August 10th, 2007 at 07:55 pm

Milk prices are going up again, averaging $3.80 a gallon now. This hurts for us because we buy a gallon a week. Fortunately we don't spend $3.80 a gallon, but we've noticed the prices rising.

I'm going to have to start doing what an old coworker used to do, pour Mountain Dew into his Cocoa Puffs.

New grocery store strategy

August 10th, 2007 at 12:21 pm

As my previous blog entry notes, my wife and I need to cut our monthly food expenditure. We're trying out a new strategy, and so far it's worked.

Plan meals for the week. This is a biggie. We figure out what meals we'd like to have through the week and write it down. This prevents buying food items we don't need and not having enough of other things we need (which might entice us to eat out).

Write down a list of what we need and only what we need. After we have our meal plan we go through the cupboards and fridge BEFORE we go to the store. That way we don't do the "Do we have enough butter?" thing once we get there. Also we may find an item that's about to go bad (for example, eggs). We can tweak our meal plan to make use of that and save some money.

At the store, stick to the list! For many years, we've just strolled through the aisles picking up anything that looked good. (We're big suckers for ice cream.) Not only has sticking to the list saved us money, it saves a helluva lot of time too. We still pick up a few impulse items. Who can pass up ice cream when it's 50% off?

Don't be a brand snob. We shop at Super Target which makes this easier, but still it can be hard to break the brand habit. We've been saving a lot of money using the store brand. And it tastes just as good. But it's not a slam dunk. Some brand items are cheaper than the store brand. Crisco-brand cooking spray, for example, was much cheaper than the store brand.

Smaller size is sometimes better. We never go through sour cream before it expires. We used to get the bigger sour cream because it was a better deal per unit... BUT we never got our money's worth. So we get the smaller container and save money.

Be more vigilant at the checkout. My wife and I tag-team at the checkout. I'm responsible for unloading the groceries. My wife is responsible for closely watching the register to make sure everything is the right price. She is the master of finding incorrect prices. We could take this a little further by writing down the prices but we haven't gotten that Type A just yet.

Stick to the meal plan, and save the leftovers. Stick to the meals. Be sure not to use up food that was designated for the meal. Also save the leftovers for lunch the next day.

We've been considering making a longer-term meal plan (like a monthly plan or even a yearly plan) but we haven't done that yet. That would save time in meal planning since that can be a chore sometimes. But there would have to be some flexibility built in. Sometimes you're not going to be home for a meal, or sometimes you may feel like eating some red meat instead of Morningstar Chik'n Patties.

No more eating out

August 10th, 2007 at 11:42 am

A few weeks ago, my wife and I decided to clamp down on the budget. Our spending had gotten out of hand and we needed to bring it inline with our income. We went through a few months worth of statements and plugged it all in to Excel. Housing was by far the biggest category (mortgage, taxes, insurance, maintenance)... about 40% of our income. Wow. That's a lot but we really like this house and we plan on staying here a long time. And there's not much we can do about that item in our budget.

But one item that stuck out like a sore thumb: Food! 16% of our budget was going to groceries (which includes store-bought food, toiletries and household items) and eating out. It was a real eye-opener.

There are some things we can do about the grocery shopping, and I'll talk about that in a separate post. But the REAL killer was the eating out. We looked through and see what we spend at various places... Chili's, Olive Garden, Max & Erma's, etc. And it is way out of line from what we can afford. As I posted on the forums, the cost of food at these places has gone way up. When you tack on the ever-increasing tax (8%... grrr) and tip (20% minimum... double grrr), it's unreasonable. Let's not even talk about appetizers, drinks and desserts.

We've resolved to drastically reduce eating out. It will be for a special occasion. Also we are faithfully bringing lunch to work rather than eating out. The McDonald's/Potbelly/Chipotle cycle has been broken!

In fact, I'm really enjoying my PB&J and chips. I don't feel bloated the whole day like I do with a McChicken and Big n' Nasty from McD's.