Monday, October 3, 2011

Food for a week - Learnvest's project

This is great! Learnvest has put together a dinner grocery list for $27.42 for an entire weeks worth of dinners. Most of the prep work is completed on Sunday and then the rest of the food takes 10 minutes or less to cook each evening. How great is that!??!

Being that I'm expecting a little baby anyday, this might be the best solution for cooking meals for the next few weeks.

This week the main meat is pork. Then they have you roast veggies - Sunday prep is cooking the pork, roasting the veggies, cooking up some quinoa in advance and making pita chips. Really most of the work is done in the oven...just checking the food while it cooks..but by no means are YOU cooking food all day long...the oven is doing the work. Pretty fantastic.

So for 5 evening dinners - $27.42, 10 servings = $2.74 per dinner serving. That leaves us with $2.26 for the rest of the days meals per person. 2 organic eggs in the morning = $0.67; some oatmeal; sandwiches for lunch; a couple pieces of fruit or veggies... limiting the rest of the day to $2.26/person is very doable... You might even be able to do it for less, and save a buck a day/person. How great is that? Put that towards a going out budget - if you do that you deserve a nice night out!

This is a great resource and something I'm definitely gonna give a try. Maybe it will help me see how I can make my own menus and save lots of cashola! :)

Check out their menu and prep directions here:

Learnvest Weekly Menus

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Feeding others with community gardens

Okay...I know that summer is over, so this might have to be tabled for a year...BUT this women I met on a Tweetchat fed 275 people at a community meal using what she had grown in her community awesome is that?!?! I you know how much that cost her? Next to NOTHING! It was work but she fed 275 people a healthy, organic meal as well as fed her family from this garden...I was just thrilled with the thought of it! you plan on gardening next year? I might be... I would love to feed 275 people a meal, wait...25 people a meal from my very own garden! So incredible!!! I love it!

Saving money, feeding people in our own community, feeding your family, sending excess to those in need.... this is an amazing way to start being. I am going to have to start planning and learning for next year! Love it!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

$1 per pound rule...

So...I went grocery shopping yesterday and was shocked by how nearly impossible it would be to follow the $1 per pound rule.... This rule may need some adjusting, such as a max price on per serving, or something more along that nature.

$1/pound for even produce is nearly impossible...maybe it's because it's nearing the winter season so most items are more than $1/pound...maybe this rule is more easily followed in the summer time or with frozen fruits & veggies.

However pretty much everything else was more than $1/pound - meats, nuts, cheeses, dairy, some bulk grains, etc. It was even more than $2/pound.

So to be realistic with budgeting I will adjust this rule into something more reasonable that still allows us to stay within our grocery budget limits. After some research I will post what I come up with as a basic per serving rule to help steer us away from unhealthy foods and towards healthier, cost effective foods. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

New York Times Cost Comparison

Check out this article/image from the New York times that compares a meal at McDonalds vs. two home cooked meals and the major savings you experience cooking at home. Basically, the McDonalds meal costs $27.89 vs. the homemade which cost $13.78 and $9.26!

New York Time Cost Comparison

Sunday, September 25, 2011

McDonalds vs. Home Meal

To help prove that eating at home is cheaper than McDonalds, Here I'll compare the costs of eating a meal at McDonalds vs. At Home:

Meal for 4:
McDonald's McDouble (2.6 oz. Beef): 1.00 x 4 = 4.00
McDonald's Dollar Fries: 1.00 x 4 = 4.00
Total Cost: $8.00

Home Meal:
1 lb of beef (quarter pound each)  = $3.29
Cheddar Cheese Slice (1 oz) = $0.80
4 Bun = $1.00
1.5 pounds potatoes (4 potatoes)  = .73
Olive Oil for sliced potatoes = .30
Total Cost for healthier home meal: $6.12

(you can even have a quarter pound burgers instead of 2.6 oz beef)

Eat this for dinner for a month and save $56.40

Oh wait...don't most states have to pay taxes at fast food restaurants??? So here in Minnesota, prepared food is taxed at 6.875%, so really this McDonald's meal costs $8.55, so if you ate this meal everyday for a month (which I hope you don't!) - you would save $72.90 a month just for dinner...

Let's say instead you had Chicken, Rice, and Veggies for dinner, what would that cost:

4 - 1/2 Chicken Breast for 4 - $2.14

4 - 1/2 Cup Rice - $3.68
4 servings of veggies (raw, steamed, broiled) - approximately $2.00 for in season vegetables
Total: $7.82

Again, even with this healthier meal, we save... .73/day = a total savings of $21.90 per month

This dinner costs $1.96 per person; which leaves $3.04 for the remainder of the day. 2 Eggs, toast, milk, and a piece of fruit for breakfast? $0.97 for breakfast, leaving $2.07 for the rest of the day... PB&J Sandwich for lunch, fruit, veggie & milk - $1.53.

We have 54 cents left...

So far with this meal we've had the following from the food pyramid:
4 proteins: Peanut Butter, 2 eggs, Chicken
4 Grains: Toast, 2 pieces of bread for sandwich, Rice
4 Fruits & Vegetables: Fruit @ breakfast, Fruit & Vegetable @ Lunch, Vegetable @ Dinner
1 Sweet: Jelly
2 Dairy's: Milk @ breakfast, Milk @ Lunch

You could another fruit or vegetable, a piece of toast or some oatmeal for a snack...however, this is a well balanced menu for a day helping you get all the nutrients you need...

The total cost of the day for each individual is $4.46; leaving $0.54 remaining per person. This leaves, for a family of 4, $64.80 per family. This can be spent on additional snacks, nuts, fruits & veggies, a treat, whatever you'd like...

Imagine if you began making some of your own breads or started a garden... This could save substantial amounts of money a month and even allow you to freeze or can fruits & veggies for the winter months... much money to save.

$5 per person/$1 per pound rule

People across America live on $5 per day/per person through welfare. I tried to make sure I was locating the most current statistics for food assistance, but was unable to support these figure 100%. However, based on other articles, it seems that this is close to the figure given through government food assistance programs. Statistically, low income families have had the belief that they can eat only unhealthy foods because healthier foods are too expensive for their meager budget, I do not believe this to be true. Maybe if you eat off the dollar menu only, a family of 4 could eat dinner for $8 - however, if you order " two Big Macs, cheeseburger, chicken mcnuggets, two medium and two small fries, two medium and two small sodas - costs about $28 at McDonalds" according to an article in the New York Times written by Mark Bittman. Let's say this family shares 2 large fries and 2 large beverages instead, it shaves about $7-$10 off the meal. But this is just one meal. If a family of 4 spends $21 at one meal, they've already spent more than their daily $5 per person per day...

No matter what they save, eating that meal everyday is going to make them unhealthy and unwell...which effects different areas of their life.

So rule #1 - prove that you can eat healthy and conveniently for $5 per person per day. This has to be a possibility. If it's not possible through conventional shopping at a grocery store, there must be other ways to keep costs down...

Rule #2 - $1 per pound rule - This is a great rule with a few exceptions! This not only prevents most purchases of pre-packaged foods but it also helps us buy fresh produce that's in season. Keeping costs down through purchasing foods in season is healthier for you, supports local farms, and makes it more likely for you to stay within the $5 per person per day rule. There are some categories that will be more than a $ per meal, such as meats and dairy. I am not a vegetarian, so I do eat dairy and meats. Personally, I won't apply this rule to dairies and meats.

Here are some tips that are going to keep costs down per month:

  • Bulk Grains - Oatmeal, Rice, Quinoa - These are all whole grains that are healthier than processed grains. It's also possible to make things, like slow-cook oatmeal, more convenient and easier to digest. Soaking the oats... Below is a great recipe that I love and I know is healthy for my family.
  • Apply the $1 per pound rule
  • Coupons - combine manufacture coupons and store coupons to get double bang for your buck
  • Go to lower cost stores, such as Trader Joe's
  • Frozen Fruits/Veggies - especially if you have access to bulk stores if there aren't many seasonal fruits & veggies available in your area
  • Meal Plan
  • Write a grocery list before going to the store to avoid unnecessary items. 
  • Stick the parameter of the grocery store to also avoid temptation of unnecessary items.

Quick and Healthy Soaked Oatmeal - 2 servings

1 Cup Oatmeal
1/2 Lemon
1/2 Cup Milk, Water or Coconut Milk

Toppings Suggestions:
Raw Almonds
Unsweetened Dried Fruit
Brown Sugar
Fruit Preserves
Fresh Fruit

To prepare: 12-24 hours before, put 1 cup of oats in a large cup - fill cup with water to just cover the oatmeal. Squeeze 1/2 lemon into the cup. Stir.

Soak 12-24 hours.

In morning: Rinse oatmeal and put in pan over medium heat with 1/2 cup milk, water or coconut milk. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the liquid has cooked into the oatmeal. Divide into 2 bowls and add more milk or coconut milk if desired. Add mix of toppings.

It may sound inconvenient because you have to soak the oats, but how easy is it to put the oatmeal in the pan, cook it for only 5 minutes, and put oats in for the next day? So simple...and it's an incredibly inexpensive and healthy breakfast...of course as long as your control your toppings...

I'll prepare a meal plan for the next few weeks and post here as well as some suggestions for items to stock in your pantry.

If you can't afford all organic, it doesn't mean you can't afford to eat healthy for your family. Or if you're here and desire to help others, you can cut your grocery bill down and use the excess to help others or pay down bills. There are many ways cutting your grocery bill can benefit you AND your family. Decide what excess you'd like to give to help organizations that you believe in and what percentage you'd like to put towards paying down your debt. Set this number and adjust your remaining budget accordingly. Being purposeful in your goals will give you momentum to achieve the desired results.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Budgets...MAN OH MAN!

In March, my husband and I moved from Seattle, WA to Minneapolis, MN; which brought us closer to my family and friends. Once we moved out here, we went from 2 incomes to 1 income and decided to stay on one income since I was pregnant and would stay home once the baby arrived.

We stayed with my family for a couple months, sold our condo, and moved into a new home. Now we're getting used to one income...and's a big difference.

Habits are hard to change - now things like gas & groceries need to be budgeted and I have to be better at staying within the budget.... Time for me to get creative.

I'm searching for more creative ideas on saving money - Couponing, Co-Ops, Meal Planning... It's just knowing what's going to be the most fruitful for my family - and still have the goal of being generous to those who really are struggling in the world.

So I'm going to do some research on these things and see what I find...see how I can save some dollars...We shall see what I find...