Making the budget work, a year later

So how do I make $50 last an entire week for a family of 3 (and one coming)? Well, it’s not easy. Some weeks it is downright frustrating. There have been a few weeks where I “borrowed” from another budget item (never the debt one!) to get the last few essentials. BUT largely, I stick strictly to a $50 a week grocery budget.

What all does this include? All food for the week and any toiletries (paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, vitamins, etc..). This means I have to go where the sales are. Now, I’m SUPER blessed that I normally can hit up one store and get it all, and at the cheapest price – KROGER. I LOVE Kroger! I am not paid to talk about them at all, but I still heavily endorse them.

They have an app where I can download, digitally, their coupons to my “card” (which is simply me putting my phone number in at checkout – since I have no idea where the actual card is). Every Friday they have a “Free Friday Download”, which is a free item for any Kroger Plus Customer. Could be anything from a small candy bar, a box of breakfast bars, a bag of chips, or a can of soup. I also get paper coupons in the mail from them, all based on the groceries I normally purchase. So I have those coupons as well. About once a month or so I receive an email with a different freebie. Again, based on what I buy on a normal basis.

They also have gas points. For every $10 I spend, I get 1 point. 10 points is $0.10 off a gallon. I think..I don’t really track those too much, because gas is almost always cheaper at Sam’s Club anyway.

I also do not buy items in bulk like I used to. I purchase our toilet paper, paper towels, and tissues as I need them and only buy what is currently on sale. I do buy my chicken and meat in bulk, as that’s almost always the cheapest price.

We don’t have name brand items unless they are on sale and still cheaper than the generic brand. The funny thing is, now that I’m used to buying like this, I can’t imagine going back to only name brand and always purchasing in bulk. I know that some people may say that it’s cheaper to buy in bulk BUT when your budget is $50 and you need quite a few items, buying in bulk does not work. If I bought my toilet paper and paper towels in bulk, the same week, that’s about $35-40 right there!!! How would I buy our food items (or other misc. items) for a mere $10-15???? So, for now, we don’t buy in bulk. Maybe when we’re debt free, we will do that, as the grocery budget increases.

The easiest way I’ve found to stick to the budget is to meal plan – I make a monthly menu and we largely stick to it. Some nights I have to improvise. Maybe I ran out of time in the day, or forgot to get the meat out for the meal, so it’s frozen…or I just don’t want to cook that meal, so I make something else. BUT since I still have those items, I usually make that meal the next night and just move the other meals back a day (in my head – I don’t re-write the board. I don’t have time for that!).

The good thing about meal planning? I only plan the dinner meal. Why? Well, my husband doesn’t make a breakfast, at home, during the week. He takes sliced beets and cottage cheese as his breakfast (ewww to the beets) or he has oatmeal he makes (the large can – no packets here!). Z and I have eggs, Trader-Joe’s O’s (Cheerios, essentially), or pancakes, using this homemade mix. Lunch is leftovers for my husband and I, and maybe the boys OR I make them PB & J sandwiches, mac n cheese (Kroger carries a brand, called Psst and it’s only $0.39 a box!), pancakes, eggs or maybe something miscellaneous we have on hand. To be fair, the boys usually insist on PB & J or mac n cheese. Seriously, EVERY DAY.

We try to eat healthy, but fresh fruits and veggies aren’t always that cheap. So I have to buy what’s on sale that week. Thankfully, the last few weeks, bananas, strawberries, apples, carrots, tomatoes and grapes have been on sale. So we’ve had more fruit than normal on hand. YEA!!!

I also don’t let things go to waste. Did the dinner recipe make more than we’ll actually eat, even for leftovers? Then I put enough in a container for our leftovers and the rest goes into a Ziplock bag to be frozen for a later meal. Bananas going bad? Banana bread or muffins it is! Those can always be frozen if we won’t eat them all.

When I bake for other folks, any leftovers I have will be frozen and used when we have company or when I just need some sugar. 😉

I used to wonder why in the world my grandmother would use every last bit of peanut butter before allowing another jar to be opened, but now I know why! I do the same thing now.

And when I start to feel frustrated, overwhelmed or just bummed because we are being so frugal, I remember the end goal. I pull up my big-girl panties and remind myself that this is all SOOO WORTH it. We may not live like everyone else, but we’re living like no one else for our own calling. We feel called to be debt free. We have had so many blessings along the long, hard way. This isn’t an easy lifestyle and it’s not a quick one either. BUT there’s freedom in making your money work for you, as opposed to the other way around. We may live almost paycheck-to-paycheck, but we’re doing it BECAUSE WE’RE CHOOSING TO. Not because we have no options.

Folks, it’s not easy. We like to go out to eat, we like to be able to just go grab something at the store because we want it. But we’re learning valuable lessons on being patient and only purchasing a need. If it’s a want that we really want, we can save up for it. Chances are, by the time we have the money saved up, we realize we don’t WANT that anymore, lol!

The best part? We’re showing our son (and soon to be daughter) how to live as good stewards of the money and resources that the Lord has given us. We would love if they never have any debt in their life, but chances are they might. Prayerfully, it’s not credit card debt and the debt they do incur, will be paid off faster than normal because of the actions they see their daddy and I do.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:19-21)

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