Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Managing a Monthly Food Budget

It is January 21st. There are 10 more days left before February.
  • This month, I budgeted $250 for all of my meals, household detergents and paper products. (BTW, I stopped buying paper dinner napkins, paper cups, and paper plates several months ago and began using cloth napkins, dishes, ceramic mugs, glasses all the time.) I still buy cheap paper towels and, of course, bathroom tissue in bulk and on sale.
  • So far, I've spent $151. I can spend $99 over the next 10 days and no more. Part of the $151 included stocking up on paper goods and detergent. I think I have enough detergent for the rest of the year so I can ignore the rest of the detergent sales for several months.
  • My regular freezer (I don't own a 2nd freezer) has about 2.5 pounds of ground turkey, several servings of broccoli, green beans, a 5 lb. bag of party wings, 3 medium containers of homemade soup, and the last of those delicious turkey meatballs I made from a recipe new to me last Sunday.
  • My pantry has 12 pounds of potatoes, a couple of cans of veggies, 9 packs of ramen noodles, apple juice, pasta - but not much.
  • Weekly to every 10 days, I shop at one of three stores and make occasional visits to the farmer's market in my city. This week, one of the stores has whole chickens on sale for $.69/lb. I usually buy 3 or 4 when they drop this low. I will bake one this weekend and freeze the others. Eggs, cheese, oranges, bananas, juice, apples, pasta, and pasta sauce are also on sale. So, I will restock on those. I still don't freeze fruit so I only buy what I can eat within a couple of days. There are only 4 items on my refrigerator list and 2 of them are on sale this week. Yay!
I will not need to spend more than $30 or $40 this week on sale items which will really be restocking items since I froze a few meals and deals over the past 8 weeks. I only shop at one store per week so if the ads don't draw me in, I don't drive around. I gave up Costco years ago because of their floor plan: They make you pass all kinds of tempting stuff just to get to the food waaaayyyy in the back. So, my preferred warehouse is Smart N Final.

I haven't eaten in a restaurant this month, yet. If and when I do, it does not come out of my $250 food/household budget. I have a separate budget for "fun" and that includes restaurants. I rarely order more than soup or salad (some salads aren't cheap but dinner salads usually are under 10 bucks). If invited to a special occasion, I will usually eat at home first so that I never show up hungry and I rarely create a large bill. If at someone's house and the food doesn't look tasty, it's truthful to say, "I just ate so I'm not really that hungry. I really watch what I'm eating these days." (hahahahahaha) It is soooooo liberating to know how to cook your own food and make it taste delightful! Sometimes, I'll add garnish for "presentation" then chuckle because one can easily pay an extra $20 for fresh $2 parsley on the plate. Those days are gone for me unless it's really a totally new dining experience or my special sushi place - I have no desire to learn how to roll sushi.

Getting together with people you enjoy - not the food filled with the unknown, or waiting for bad service, or trying to find a parking spot - is the main reason I like to meet them in a restaurant. Otherwise, I'd just rather stay at home and invite 1, 2, or 3 over at a time for good conversation and a simple homemade meal. Freedom!

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