Friday, November 15, 2013

Ugh... a week since my last update on the FS budget challenge... :/  To be fair, work has been crazy!  And, I'm battling a horrible cold (very low grade fever, sore throat, hacking cough, exhaustion).  Icky!

 - Breakfasts have all been cold cereal/oatmeal, fruit, yogurt, and the occasional granola bar, with the exception of french toast on Sunday.
 - Lunches all "the usual" stuff - pbj, lunchmeat sandwiches, leftover soup one day, all with a piece of fruit, and some other something - pirate's booty, chips, graham bunnies, etc.
 - Dinners - 11/8 was leftover soup; 11/9 the kids were at a sitter, Mr. A and I ate out (cheaply, only spending $15 for both of us); 11/10 was salad with homemade chicken strips; 11/11 - "Mr. A's favorite chicken," rice, peas and carrots; 11/12 we had a casserole (ground beef, shredded potatoes, homemade versions of cream-of soups, celery, green beans, seasonings - not very pretty, but pretty well received); 11/13 I wanted chili and Mr. A wanted lasagna, so I cooked both.  We ate the chili, as the lasagna wasn't ready before church; 11/14 was lasagna and salad.
 - Snacks - popcorn, ice cream (2 nights), fruit, veggies (carrots and celery), cheese and crackers, chips and salsa
 - Drinks - milk, water, juice (boxes in lunches), iced tea

I have done some shopping since my last post as well:
     1 bag potato chips                              $2.99
     1 bag organic tortilla chips (coupon)  $1.99
     1 12-ct pkg Pirate Booty (sale)           $4.49
     1 box whole wheat crackers               $2.09
     2 boxes organic granola bars (sale)    $6.00
     1 lb organic carrots                            $1.99
     1 box woven wheat cereal                 $2.89
     1 12-ct applesauce pouches               $6.64
     1 carton OJ (1/2 gallon)                     $2.29
     3 jars natural PB (B2GO + coupon)  $9.00
     2.75 lb ground beef                           $10.17
     3.35 lb italian sausage                       $10.08
     1 box lasagna noodles (sale)             $1.50
     1 lb mozzarella (sale)                        $3.99
     1 lb ricotta                                         $4.99
     1 lb frozen chopped spinach             $1.00
     1 jar spaghetti sauce                          $1.50
     1 can each kidney/black beans         $1.50
     3.75 lb honeycrisp apples (sale)       $7.50
     2.3 lb bananas                                  $1.36
     1 sweet onion                                   $0.75
     Milk (1 gallon at health food store)   $4.85
                                  Total = $89.56
Running total = 236.59
Remaining balance for the month = $438.41

*So, with over 1/2 of the month left, I still have well over $400.  I'm hoping to feel better soon and to add more variety to our menu.  Breakfast is something I really struggle with in terms of offering a variety of options.  Mornings are simply chaos in our home.  In fact, prior to this month, most morning meals were "whatever you can eat in the car" on the way to wherever.  We've switched things up a bit, and Mr. A is now getting Scotch up and allowing her to sit with him and eat breakfast before getting dressed.  We're also purposing to wake the boys up before my shower, so they can get dressed, then eat.  It's tough, though.  I'd love to make something hot and fresh every morning - but I just can't.  I do make extra (pancakes, waffles, etc.) when I make them on the weekend, and then freeze them.  Scotch has loved having those as options the past couple of days.  I'm planning on doing some baking this weekend, so we'll be able to have fewer pre-packaged items in lunches and as snacks next week.  :)

Alright, have a great weekend.

Friday, November 8, 2013

11/7 Meals
B:  granola bar and banana x 2
      cold cereal and milk x 2
      coffee/creamer x 1
L:  pbj, chips, applesauce (1), orange (1), bunny grahams, juice box x 2
     lunchmeat/cheese sandwiches, chips, pickle, apple, water x 2
D: "Loaded Potato" soup, salad x 5
     milk x 2, water x 3
Snacks:  yogurt x 3

Shopping Trip (11/6) and things I've opened that were in the cabinets already:  (Ugh!  I hate it when I have to go back to the store mid-week.  But, it happens...)
  2 loaves honey/whole wheat bread (sale)     $4.00
  1 pkg whole wheat hot dog rolls                  $3.49
  1 box Annie's chocolate graham bunnies     $2.50
  1 box granola "sandwich" snacks                $2.50
  1 box organic chicken broth (sale)               $1.99
  2 1-lb blocks cheese (BOGO sale)              $4.00
  10 containers yogurt (sale)                          $5.00
  1 qt milk (I don't use raw for cooking)        $1.00
  1 jar natural strawberry jelly (sale)              $2.50
  5 lb oranges (sale)                                       $3.00
  1 pkg bacon (already on hand)                    $3.50
  1 pkg turkey sausage (on hand)                  $3.50
  2 gallons milk (from the dairy)                    $9.00
                                                    Total =     $44.98
Running Total = 147.03
Remaining Balance = 527.97

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tuesday Meals:
   B:  Banana and homemade pumpkin granola bar x 1
        Cereal with milk and banana slices x 3
         Coffee with homemade creamer x 1
         OJ x 2, water x 1
    L:  pbj, apple slices, graham bunnies, juice box x 2
          lunchmeat, cheese, greens sandwich, chips, granola bar, pickle, apple, orange x 1
          soup, bread, fruit x 1 (free!  We take turns at work making lunch for everyone on Tuesdays)
          water x 2
    D:  take-out- pizza x 3, cheesesteak sandwiches x 2, salad x 5
          iced tea x 5
    Snacks:  applesauce x 2, dried fruit x 1

Wednesday Meals:
     B:  yogurt, granola, frozen berries x 2
           oatmeal x 2
           cereal with milk x 1
           coffee/creamer x 1, apple juice x 2
     L:  lunchmeat, cheese, spinach wraps x 2 (+chips, carrots, fruit)
           "homemade lunchables" x 2 (crackers, lunchmeat, cheese, fruit, carrots)
           pbj crackers x 1
           juice boxes x 2, water x 2, milk x 1
     D:  turkey sausage sandwiches, Annie's organic whole wheat mac and cheese, steamed green beans x 5
           milk x 2, water x 3

I did go shopping on Wednesday for a couple of things as well.  I'll list those items with cost and add them to the running total with my next post.  In thinking about accounting for the two extra mouths twice a week, I realized that it shouldn't make too big of a difference... I get free lunch once a week (well, I do make/contribute to the meal once a month or so; I'll count the cost of food for that).  The Baby goes to a sitter twice a week.  She has found it easier to just feed him what she's feeding her own kids, so we pay her an extra bit above the agreed upon daily rate to account for that - but I'm not going to add that figure in either.  I figure a family of five on food stamps would likely need to pay for childcare as well.  Even with the extra, our childcare cost is probably less than they'd be paying.  :)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Food Stamp Budget Challenge

At the beginning of October, a FB friend started a challenge (for herself) of eating healthfully for a full month on a foodstamp budget.  That is, the amount that is designated for a single person to receive as benefits for the month.  She created a Facebook community where people can follow along, seeing what she eats, etc.  This came to be after she had see various politicians and celebrities trying it for a shorter amount of time, and saying it’s so difficult.  I’ve followed her on this journey, and it sparked some curiosity in me.  I began reading about what benefits a family of my size would be eligible for.  I began wondering if we would be able to eat well within that budget.  I decided to give it a shot.  This serves two purposes for me – 1) Satisfying my curiosity.  And 2) We’ve been really careless about setting and keeping to a budget, so hopefully this will encourage us to be more aware of our spending. 

I went shopping on Saturday, so I’m starting with November 2nd.  (Friday was a leftover day anyway for all meals.)  I will list all of my food purchases, and keep a running total of the cost.  I’ll also share each of our meals.  I’m going in with some staples and other items already in my cabinets.  I’ve debated over how to include those costs, and have come up with this as my solution.  If I have less than half of a package or container of something as of the beginning of the month, I’m not counting the cost of that item.  If I have to buy it new, that cost will, of course, be added.  Also, if I have to open something that was previously in my cabinets but not opened, that will be counted.  (For example, I have about 2 cups of flour in an open container, but I purchased a new bag last month.  If/when I open the new bag this month, I’ll add the cost in.)  For other items (spices, seasonings, condiments, etc.), I’ll add the cost if they need to be replenished this month.

As I started looking into maximum benefits, I found some mixed information.  The lowest amount I found was $642 for a family of 5; the highest was $698.  My friend, and others who’ve attempted this have used a figure of $4.50 per person per day as their guideline.  When I do that math, I come up with $675 for the month.  I’m going to shoot for that as my maximum, figuring it’s near the middle of the range I found.  I kind of feel like $675 is high for the month; it's nearly $170 per week.  But, I'll stick with that number... if I stay way below, maybe I'll challenge myself to stay further below in December. :)

Alright, here goes…  Shopping total for 11/2:
Grocery store –
    2 loaves white whole grain bread (on sale)             $4.00
    2 bags potato chips (BOGO)                                  $4.29
    1 pkg dried fruit/fruit snacks (sale)                          $2.49
    2  4-ct. boxes organic applesauce pouches (sale)    $5.00
    1 bottle vanilla extract (sale)                                   $4.99
    1 box multi-grain Cheerios (sale)                            $2.50
    1 lb coconut oil                                                       $7.99
    1 jar natural peanut butter (sale)                               $3.99
    1 jar pumpkin puree            (sale)                            $1.50
    10 lb potatoes (5 lb bags BOGO)                            $4.99
    1 pkg organic salad greens (sale)                             $3.50
    1 lb American cheese (sale)                                     $5.49
    1 lb butter                                                                 $2.99
    3.5 lbs bananas                                                        $1.40
    1.85 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast (sale)        $3.95
    3 lb (2 pkgs) ground beef                                       $10.23
    4 packs lunchmeat (sale)                                        $10.00
                                                Grocery Store Total = $79.30
                                                Coupon ($5 off $50)    - 5.00
                                                                        Total - $74.30

Farmer’s Market (I did check, and our local farmer’s market does accept food stamps.  The individual vendors don’t, but the farmer’s market tent transfers money – from foodstamps, credit cards, etc. into tokens that the vendors do accept.)

            2 qts apples (about a dozen)                                    $5.50
            1 dozen bell peppers (green, red, orange)                $5.00
            1 baguette                                                                $3.75
            1 jar raw honey                                                       $7.00
                                                Farmer’s Market Total =    $20.75

Dairy (We go to a local dairy for our milk and eggs.  I didn’t check to see if they accept foodstamps.  They do, however, participate in the farmer’s market, so the same items could be purchased there at the same prices with foodstamps.)
    1 gallon milk (purchased in October, opened 11/2)            $4.50
    1 dozen eggs                                                                       $2.50
                                                            Dairy Total =   $7.00

Running Total = $102.05
Remaining Budget for the month = $572.95

11/2  B: cereal with milk x 4
              oatmeal x 
              OJ x 2, apple juice x 1, milk x 1, coffee x 1
         L: pbj with apple slices x 3
             lunchmeat, cheese, salad greens with apple slices x2
             water x 5
       D:  stuffed peppers x 5
             milk x 2, water x 3

11/3 B:  bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches x 2
              cereal with milk x 2
               banana x 1
          L: pbj with orange wedges x 3
               grilled cheese sandwiches x 2
               water x 3, iced tea x 5
          D: stuffed peppers x 5 
               water x 3, milk x 2

11/4   B:  cereal with milk x 3
                granola bar (homemade) x 2
                coffee x 1 (with homemade pumpkin spice creamer)
                apple juice x 2
           L:  pbj, apple, bunny grahams, juice box x 2
                 peanut butter crackers, cheese slices, apple slices x 1
                 lunchmeat, cheese, salad greens, orange and apple slices, chips, granola bar x 2
           D: I had plans to go out with a friend that were canceled at the last minute, so dinner was a quickly thrown together breakfast for dinner of pancakes and bacon, with milk or water (I know, it was a very low veggie day...)
            Snacks/treats:  bunny grahams x 1, leftover Halloween candy x 3, applesauce x 2

*I did run into a "snag" on Monday.  Twice a week, we have two nieces at our house while Mr. A's aunt watches the Baby; she has all three kids those days.  Monday, Scotch stayed home as well, so she had all 4.  Of course, our nieces want whatever snacks and foods my kids are having... which really isn't a huge deal, but I'm not sure how to account for the cost.  Apart from just knowing keeping track of what we spend, knowing that a few days a week, there are a couple of extra mouths in the house munching on whatever... 

Also, we don't typically buy/use as much lunchmeat as I bought on Saturday.  The price was good enough, though, that I went for it.  We do eat a lot of sandwiches for lunches, though.  Mr. A drives all day, so whatever he gets for lunch has to be easily transported and eaten in the truck.  

Anyway, if you're still here after all of this, I'd love to have you follow along for the month.  My plan is to update each time I go to the store, and to share meals every day or every few days.  I'd love feedback, too.  :)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Spring Break

We've been home all week, for our Spring Break.  It's been fun re-connecting as a family, just hanging out together.  These kids are just growing up too fast.  The Baby, who still doesn't have a ton of words (really, just a few... nothing like my other 2), has fully mastered the word no.  He knows how to use it properly, and his little voice is so cute.  But, we're working on adding "yes" to his repertoire.

Scotch, who is so imaginative, will spend hours playing, singing, and just being silly.  The other day, she was singing into a toy microphone, and I happened to catch her lyrics -
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the diamond there
God has placed you in the sky
Sometimes I wonder why
But I'm glad you're shining there

SO cute!  It reminded me of LK's version of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, which I wrote about just over 4 years ago here.  I was able to get a short video of Scotch singing her version the other day.  :)

And then, there's LK.  He just started his 2nd year of baseball this week, and he is LOVING it.  He was, however, a tiny bit disappointed when his coach first called and told me what team he's on.  The conversation went something like this -
Me:  LK, I got a call tonight from your baseball coach.
LK:  Cool!  When does practice start?
Me:  They want to start next week, but it will probably be 2 weeks or so.  The field isn't ready yet.
LK:  OK.  (long pause)  Am I on the Dodgers again?
Me:  No.  It wasn't Coach George, either.
LK:  What?!?!  Why not?
Me:  I don't know.  Maybe he decided not to coach this year.
LK:  Fine.  What team am I on?
Me:  Well...
LK:  Oh, NO!  It's the Yankees, isn't it?!
Me:  Yes.
LK:  This is horrible!
Me:   It isn't that bad, LK.
LK:  Fine.  But, I will NOT be a Yankees fan!

In related LK and baseball news, he begged me for a Sharpie the other day.  When I asked him why, he said that he wanted to sign all of the baseballs in the house, so that when he's playing in the major leagues, we won't have to ask for a signed ball from him.  ;)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Festivities

 Saturday evening, we had fun dying eggs.  The Baby was there, too, but didn't help with the dying process just yet.

The Easter baskets, before being dug into by eager kids looking for candy.  

And, 3 cute kiddos dressed up for Easter Sunday!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Scotch:  Mommy, before Daddy left, he said that you have to give me a bath.  Me and The Baby.
Me:  Yes, Scotch, I was planning on giving both of you baths tonight.
Scotch:  Good.  Because we're stinky.
Me:  Why do you stink so much?  You just had a bath last night.
Scotch:  Well, we played a lot today.  Outside.  And with Obi (the dog).  Oh, and we fart.