Yesterday, I totally forgot about my budget post. In fact, I totally forgot it was Thursday until this morning at 6am when I took the dog out, glanced at my calendar, and realized that Thursday had passed by. To be fair to myself, some unexpected health-related news pretty much blew my mind yesterday afternoon, and I’ve been unable to think of much else since then. (More about that later.)
For fifty-two weeks, I have been recording my food budget and weekly menus. Yes, I’ve missed some weeks, and some weeks I wrote a short post with no menu, but more or less, I completed the project. I’m grateful to Emily Levenson for hosting this project, and I am thankful to the many readers who told me that they liked my food posts and even took ideas from my menus. Those comments made me feel great! I had many doubts about this project over these 52 weeks. I don’t have a lot of blogging time, so when some weeks went by with only a budget post, I felt like the project was taking over my blog and changing the whole look and dynamic of my little corner of the web. I also felt extremely vulnerable at times–unsure if I wanted others to examine (and judge) the choices we make about money and food. At the same time, I liked the accountability and the simple fact of having a record that I could easily access and review.
I’ve learned a few things this year.
1. I am really lucky to have kids who (usually) eat what I make. I would spend a lot more money on food if I had to prepare multiple-choice dinners. Even if they wouldn’t eat my meals, I wouldn’t make other meals for them on principle…but nonetheless, it would be a potentially expensive pain!
2. Simplicity makes food easier. I believe an important key for our family to stay on budget is to be fairly boring! My grocery list doesn’t change much, and that makes anticipating the week’s costs really easy. The list only shifts with the dinner menu, and I keep lunch and breakfast pretty steady. In our family, weekday breakfasts include cereal, bagels or English muffins, fruit, and yogurt. I only keep one or possibly two kinds of cereal on hand, and we buy generic when possible. On the weekends, we occasionally have eggs or pancakes or oatmeal. Our lunches are usually peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bagels, cheese, fruit, veggies cut up, yogurt, and sometimes a cookie. Our snacks are made up of all the same things as lunch and breakfast, but I also buy nuts, raisins, dried bananas, and occasionally tortilla chips with salsa.
3. Drinks will suck up your budget if you let them. We go through milk fast. I wish we could buy a cow. We can’t do that, but we’ve done a few things that help with our drink expenses. I guess the best thing is not buying alcohol. We don’t drink at all, so that’s an easy zero on the budget. We limit juice for the kids to a small glass at lunch or dinner. That decision was based on dental health, but it was a good move for financial health as well. We buy one jug of apple juice per week, and we keep a few frozen concentrates in the freezer. Secondly, we make chocolate milk with syrup if we need a little treat. It’s cheaper than ready-made chocolate milk. We stopped buying pop (soda) years ago, but occasionally, my hubby craves it. In those cases, he chooses a generic variety that is on sale, and he is the only one who drinks it. Finally, we make our own iced tea. We drink a lot of it! It’s nice to be able to control caffeine and sugar content by making it at home.
(to be continued…)