January budget challenge

I'd love to say that I will come up with a challenge for each month but I know better than to do that. However, I'm giving myself a challenge for the month of January: to spend 1/2 of my normal food budget for the month. In a normal month, I budget $400 for our family of 4. That includes any and all paper products, hygiene products, groceries, and eating out. My goal for the month of January is to slash that in half.

To be honest, this might not be much of a challenge, per se, given the amount of leftovers and pantry stocks I currently have on hand. It's the tail-end of the holidays and, as usual, I have plenty of extra food. As I type this, I have a 12-pound turkey roasting in my oven (mind you, it's December 27th...) because we wound up not needing it as part of our holiday meals (good thing it was dirt cheap!). I have a large container of leftover ham sitting in my fridge along with a bunch of other assorted holiday leftovers. In addition to using up some of what I have on hand (I'll post a list below...though it won't be comprehensive because I'm not motivated enough to list EVERYTHING I have in my pantry), I am planning to use Money Saving Mom's menu suggestions in her article, "Is It Possible to Survive on a $30 Per Week Grocery Budget?"

My freezer is pretty well stocked at this point:
- 2 gallon-sized bags of homemade minestrone soup
- 5 slabs of ham (from a free Hormel ham I received when I bought the dirt-cheap turkey)
- 1.5 boxes beef taquitoes
- 1 loaf Rhoades bread dough
- ice cream
- bag of bagels
- turkey sausage (about 6 links)
- 4 small tilapia fillets
- 1# beef cubes for stew
- bag chicken nuggets
- 1 package frozen ravioli
- frozen veggies x 4
- 1/3 of a bag of tater tots
- 1/2 of a bag of curly fries
- meat from the turkey in my oven (coming soon!)
- 1 block cream cheese
- 1/2 cup homemade butter (unsalted)
- 4 juice concentrates
- 1 gallon ziploc of frozen strawberries (bought when they were in season and on sale)

The fridge is pretty full as well:
- leftover ham from Christmas
- 7 eggs
- 3 pie crusts
- 2 pumpkin cheesecakes (we never got around to eating them on Christmas!)
- container of cool whip (for the cheesecakes...)
- milk
- yogurts
- fruit
- salad fixings
- sauces and condiments

And the pantry is doing its best to keep up:
- 1 pkg mini raviolis
- 1 box spaghetti
- egg noodles
- assorted other pastas
- bisquick
- rice (probably 4# worth)
- oatmeal
- 3 cans pumpkin
- 1 pkg Shake & Bake
- 1 box stuffing (yep...didn't eat it either)
- 2 cans chili
- taco shells
- 5 spare boxes cereal (yay coupons and sales!)
- 1 box mac & cheese (don't judge)
- canned fruit
- 4 cans black beans (no idea why...think they were on sale)
- snacks
- PB&J
- condiments, sauces, spices, etc.

*** Whoops! I totally forgot to include the contents of the deli drawer. BIG oversight! Add to the list 2 packages of deli meat (ham, turkey), 10 slices American 'square' cheese, 3 blocks of regular cheese (Colby/Jack, Sharp Cheddar, and Mozz), 0.5# bacon). ***

Like I said, we're pretty well stocked. I didn't list the snacky items we have because a.) there aren't many and b.) what we do have tends to go pretty quickly. I do have a good stockpile of baking goods so I'm going to aim to make the majority of our sweet snacks at home this month. But every once in a while, I get a hankerin' for double-stuffed Oreos that cannot be satisfied by anything else. So there's that.

My plan is to sit down in the next day or so and, using the week's ads from the local grocery stores, map out a menu for the upcoming week. I'm thinking that, for the next week at a minimum, all I'm going to need to buy is:

- 1 bag frozen chicken breasts ($7ish)
- milk (we buy raw from a local dairy) ($8)
- fruit (may not even need any...we still have plenty of apples left over) ($5)
- fresh veggies ($10)
- eggs (from the KSU dairy mart - locally raised, cage free, grass fed!) ($3.50)
- maybe a loaf of bread from the bread outlet store ($1.50)

I may also buy a bag of dry beans and an onion to make homemade refried beans for a meal or three.

I'll post my menu for the upcoming week in the next few days and then post what I spend at the grocery store. Whatever money I have left over at the end of the month will go 1/2 into savings and 1/2 toward a credit card bill. This will also help us lighten our load if and when the time comes to move.

I don't do resolutions but this challenge should be fun. Besides rent and our credit card payments, our food budget is our biggest budgetary expense. I'm looking forward to downsizing it a bit! What about you? What challenges are you looking to tackle as we ring in the new year?


- hfs


Anonymous said...

Good luck. My biggest challenge this year will be dealing with VA. Always so fun. But this year I'm going to do it with a smile (okay more like a wicked grin) on my face. Maybe a rum bottle in hand.

Homefront Six said...

Might I share your rum? Because this year, we start dealing with them as well. Fun times. Fun times.

Anonymous said...

But of course you may share my rum. Annie

Crista said...

In 2013 we're shipping the man to the Stan again and will pay off kiddo's braces and both cars (both a couple years early). Can't wait. Great progress being made. Kiddo has her own bank account now and is learning how to manage/budget her own money. I know this is one of the greatest gifts my mom gave me...ability to balance a checkbook and know where the money is going.

I vow to go back to being more diligent with my couponing. I slacked the last few months of 2012 and need to pick back up.

In 2012 I learned to make my own dishwasher detergent and laundry detergent. Felt pretty accomplished with the savings achieved from that.

I will be setting some personal and professional goals for 2013 and look forward to diving into those once my work schedule slacks off after this week. Triple my normal hours for the entire month of December has not been fun...but the pay checks have been very nice. :)

Anonymous said...

I am intrigued by making your own detergents. Where can I find the info to lesrn how? My hubbies jeans tske up half the washer PER PAIR!

Homefront Six said...

This is the recipe I use:

1 Cup of Borax
1 Cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (Different than baking soda...yellow box in the detergent aisle)
1 Bar of Ivory soap or Fels Naptha soap (can be found at Wal-Mart and local grocery stores in the detergent aisle) - grated (I used my Cuisinart)
Use 1 to 2 Tablespoons for each load of laundry

It can be used with HE washers as well. You can also add essential oils (lavender, for example) but I like the smell of the F-N soap.


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