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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Making June's grocery money last

How are you doing this month with your grocery spending? We've just a few days left in June. For those of you who keep a budget, do you tally up your spending as you go? I add up the expenses a few times per month. Last week, before my big shopping rounds, I did the tally. Good thing, too, as I discovered I just had $30 US, left.  I thought I had more. I guess that's why it's a good idea to keep track, because we often think we have more to spend than we really do. Anyways, here's the update for the month.

June 8, 2012    Last month, May 31st greeted me with no grocery money left in the budget.  So this month, instead of just spending all month, then waiting to see where we stand at the end, I'm planning ahead. And I figured, if we all pool our ideas, we all will get through this month with more coins in our pocket. (Plus, for my family, whatever is leftover in the grocery budget this month gets put in our summer fun budget.)

The Cheap and Cheerful Menu

refried beans with homemade tortillas
lentil-barley salad in mustard vinaigrette
tabbouleh (using brown rice in place of cracked wheat, as we have lots of brown rice)
homemade pizza

additional things to do to stretch the grocery budget:

using what's ready in the garden (for us, that's mostly greens)
baking more breads and rolls

What other Cheap and Cheerful meal ideas do you have?

June 26, 2012     Update on making June's grocery money last--
We're in the last week of the month. I've gone over our budget by about $2.50 for the month. I consider that a win, as I started the month $10 in the hole. (But no extra money to put into our summer fun budget, unfortunately.) I'm making progress getting us back in line. I did have to buy extra produce this week, as we have a guest staying with us for the week. But I'm using up meat that we already had in our freezer. I had one small beef roast, and quite a bit of turkey, and some hot dogs.

Here's what our menu looks like for this final week (with a guest):

Breakfast -- oatmeal
Lunch -- sloppy Joes made with lentils and barley, on biscuits (that my daughters made) for buns
Dinner (Father-in-law arrived an hour before dinner) -- leftover turkey and gravy from freezer, mashed potatoes, frozen peas, homemade sourdough bread (baked that afternoon, so fresh and warm), salad (from garden), plain cake topped with rhubarb sauce and whip cream

Breakfast -- bran muffins, cantaloupe
Lunch -- Hot turkey sandwiches on whole wheat bread, mashed potatoes and gravy, salad (from garden), fruit compote
Dinner -- Beef stew (made with small beef roast, carrots, peas, barley, potatoes and tomato sauce), salad (from garden, plus produce stand avocados and cucumbers), garlic toast (made with leftover sourdough bread), cookies (my daughters baked)

Breakfast -- homemade granola with fruit and milk
Lunch -- Father-in-law and husband are downtown and will use a gift card to grab a bite for lunch, daughters and I will have leftover stew
Dinner -- turkey pot pie (frozen turkey/gravy, veggies, topped with pie crust), salad (from garden, plus produce stand avocados and cucumber, again) rest of plain cake, topped with strawberries (from garden) in rhubarb sauce, with whip cream

Breakfast -- rhubarb muffins, cantaloupe
Lunch -- egg salad sandwiches, fruit compote, cookies
Dinner -- roast hot dogs over fire in patio fire bowl, with homemade hot dog buns, green salad, rhubarb jello salad, toasted marshmallows

Breakfast-- toast and fruit
Lunch -- Homemade tomato soup and broiled cheese sandwiches
Dinner -- teriyaki with turkey, rice, and vegetables (primarily from garden), fruit, rhubarb pie

Breakfast -- granola with fruit and milk
Lunch -- large main dish salad, with boiled eggs, bacon, vegetables and lettuce, along with cheese biscuits
Dinner -- eating out

Breakfast -- bacon, eggs, coffee cake (my daughters will bake), fruit
Lunch -- (my Father-in-law leaves sometime in the AM to catch a flight), sunflower seed butter on bread, fruit, cookies
Dinner -- any leftovers from the week (and that's the end of the month, woohoo!)

You'll notice the week is heavy in turkey.  Early in June I roasted our last of 4 turkeys, bought and frozen in fall. They were about 30 cents a pound, a real deal for meat. I roasted one for Thanksgiving, 1 for Christmas, 1 for Easter and now this last a few weeks ago. The teriyaki turkey is a great way to disguise the turkey. My husband is always asking if it's shredded beef. When I pick apart the turkey, I freeze shreds in containers of homemade teriyaki sauce, all ready to turn into a dinner some night.

June 30, 2012   One last update to the month. One small glitch in the meal planning. Mid-week I boiled up all the eggs! So no eggs left for Saturday breakfast of eggs with coffee cake. Not too big of a problem. We did sausage, toast, muffins (leftover from earlier in the week) and fruit. Just one of those mind-fog moments, where I lose track of the plan for a minute. It all turned out well. We kept to $2.50 over budget. And I have all the month of July to get us back within our grocery budget! I love a new month -- new start, new energy, new challenges!
p.s. read the comments for some good ways to use turkey!


  1. Can you share your rhubarb Jello salad recipe? Also, a great way to hide turkey is to make "pulled pork" out of it. I simply placed cooked turkey in a crock pot and cover it with BBQ sauce and let it go all day. I shred it with 2 forks, serve on buns with homemade coleslaw. Another trick is to dice it and place it in a skillet along with taco seasoning (I make my own) and 1/4 cup water. I also add 1 can's worth of drained beans,usually pintos. Once the water is cooked off the seasonings have impregnated the meat and we find that we prefer tacos with poultry (chicken or turkey) over beef! Fill $1 Tree flour tortillas with garden/farm lettuce, tomatoes, homemade taco sauce, home shredded cheese, etc and it's an economical meal!

  2. Hi!
    I was trying to get the link pasted into the comment, but it wouldn't take it. Following is the rhubarb jello that I make. Funny you should mention the bbq turkey. That's what I did about 2 weeks ago, right after I first roasted this last turkey. And guess what? My family thought it was pulled pork! I'll try your Mex-style turkey. Sounds really yum!
    Thanks for commenting.
    Here's the cut and paste for creamy rhubarb jello

  3. Great ideas for both of you! Lots of things to do to cut the food budget, sadly I don't really have a budget, and wouldn't know where to begin. But since I have paid more attention to what we are wasting, my refrigerator is more bare, and that's a good thing! Less trips to the grocery store I notice too!

    1. Hi Bears Fan!
      You've been doing a great job with reducing food waste! That's an integral part of keeping grocery spending down, whether you keep a budget or not.
      Thanks for leaving a comment!

  4. Bears fan-
    I agree with Lili, less food waste=significant savings! That is a great start right there! Also, the less trips to the store=less temptation. How many times have we all gone for just a few items, only to find 1/2 a cart full of items at the check out? Staying out of the stores is also another great way to save!

    There are lots of other tips on how to reduce your grocery spending. I suggest starting by first inventorying every bit of food on hand: write down what is in the pantry cabinets, the fridge, the freezer. Then, start coming up with menu ideas to incorporate what you already have on hand. Missing a recipe ingredient? perhaps you can skip it or substitute something else that you already have. Need ideas? Blogs like these are great forums for sharing! : )
    Good luck!

  5. Lili
    Another tip for turkey that I'd like to share is to prepare what I call "frozen assets." Cook that whole turkey (or 4!) and make bags up of the cooked meat (I try to carefully cut the whole breast off and wrap that separately for sandwiches) and freeze it-certainly a lot cheaper than Deli meats. Make stock out of the skin and bones. Refrigerate it, remove the hardened fat layer (can be used for frying if desparate*). Meanwhile, cube some turkey for future meals such as salad and casseroles, dice some for tacos/enchilladas. Reserve the scrap pieces for soup/croquettes. Get out some spaghetti noodles and make up trays of tettrazini for the freezer, and they will be ready on busy days or in a few weeks when you are no longer sick of eating turkey. Use some of the homemade stock in your recipe. Freeze the rest of the stock in 2 cup containers-ready for rice, a quick soup, a casserole (make a white sauce using stock instead and you can replace creamed soups in recipes), or to make homemade gravy.


    1. CTMOM,
      Great ideas to use every last bit of the turkey! If bought on sale in the fall, turkey is most definitely the least expensive meat one can buy (hence my 4 turkeys every year). But it's not such a great deal if I don't use every last morsel. I've never thought to save the hardened fat off the stock. That may be quite tasty, blended with vegetable oil in turkey/potato hash.
      Thanks for the information!

    2. My husband does that! We eat turkey all year long (I like the "pulled pork" idea for turkey!). We also buy ham on sale at Christmas/Easter, slice it up, divide it into smaller portions, and eat it all year long. It is a terrific addition to potato soup, bean soup, and split pea soup (having some sort of homemade bread is a great way to entice your kids to eat these if they are hesitant). Add the ham broth to the soup and yummmmmmmmmmmmm! Ham tetrazzini and stromboli are also favorites in my household. And sometimes for a quick dinner we just eat the ham as-is!

    3. HI Kris,
      I am so glad to hear of other folks who eat turkey more than just at Thanksgiving. You don't know how kooky I sometimes, feel buying so many turkeys! (I'd buy even one more if I had the freezer space!) And I'm kicking myself for not buying ham this year at Easter. It would be so nice to have some ham in the freezer right now! Ham stock is really great. Do you roast your ham bone before making stock with it? What is stromboli? (Besides the mean guy in Pinocchio!)
      Thanks for your comments!

  6. I am so impressed that you keep track of your menus! I can barely keep track of my handbag, let alone all those yummy meals.

    You might say we plan on the fly. We stock up on bargain items when we shop. I am likely to plan a day's worth of meals by poking my head into the freezer and fridge to see what's available. Then I cook once and eat twice where feasible. I enjoy the challenge of coming up with menus that way and so long as The Normanator is game to eat it, we're good.

    We have a set amount each month and we live within that amount, even if we eat some strange combos at times!

    It's important to me not to stress over food but to play with it!

    Your blog is new to me and already I have learned so much!

    Mother Connie

    1. Hi Connie,
      I only do extensive menu planning the last week of the month, sort of a brainstorming on how to prepare meals on what's left in the kitchen. Otherwise, I plan about one day ahead. And often, it's in the car in the morning, when I'm driving my daughters to school, that I'll call out "what should we have for dinner?" Followed by a "now that we're done dreaming, what should we have for dinner that includes lentils, rice, greens, etc?"

      And of course, this week is different, as well, as we have my father-in-law staying with us. So I'm a little busier, plus I want to make sure the meals are our best.

      My family has been extraordinarily great about eating all my creations. I enjoy the challenge as well, of trying to come up with "something" when if you looked into my pantry it looks more like "nothing", as I mostly buy the basics.

      I love the name the Normanator! Have a great day, and thanks for the comment!


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