Saturday, February 4, 2012

Learning To Be Poor; Learning to Grocery shop

You would think it would be fairly simple, you make a list, you go to the grocery store and buy what is on the list. Not so simple is it? How much on average a week do you think a family of four spends on groceries? Answer: roughly 150.00 or 600.00 a month, now how much of that do  you suppose goes to waste? how much is spent towards house hold items; cleaning supplies, hygiene supplies, pet food and supplies the like.
I have a family of 3 (well 6 if you include 3 cats) and I try very hard to maintain a 90.00 a week budget. Yep 60.00 below average. Some weeks I do eh some not so much. I don't use a lot of coupons because quite honestly I forget to take them. I do however diligently price check, and shop around.
In my last post I showed you pictures of my price lists, they really do exist,  I really did do all the leg work and they really do help me at least. Again I am not that organized I promise you but I want to be able to feed my kids and myself relatively healthy and for as little as I can possibly spend. I try very hard not to buy a lot of processed items, boxed meals that type of thing,with my type 2 diabetes I do not know for sure which foods will trigger it in a bad way so I tend to play it safe when I can. I know that sounds crazy but it's just better for us all around the less processed junk you eat the better you will feel really.
So when I left off my last post we had gone through about everything we had in the house, it was time to grocery shop , yep the dreaded "g" word as it's known around here. I really am not good at it I fake it very well some times. Key's for me; knowing what things cost in advance, scouring the store web sites and fliers for sales, and adjusting on the fly depending on what is on sale or isn't. For me, at least, the key is being flexible. I can sit down and get a "rough" idea of what I want to fix for meals that week, but I always have to keep my mind open to being flexible enough to change course if something I counted on is out of stock or not on sale.
I do make a list yes, there are things that I simply can not or will not buy generic on; toilet paper( did this will NOT do it again ..owch) , sweetener, cereal everything else is pretty much fair game. One of the hardest adjustments for my daughter was being less of a food snob. For the longest time she would eat only Kraft Mac n cheese,  or certain cereals,  now she is getting better not by choice much LOL. My son not so much he tries everything  at least once.
One of the other things that ties in with this, is what you cook. Figure out what your go to dishes are, stock up on those ingredients and then play. As I said in earlier posts this has really reignited my passion for cooking, in our house we have "experimental food' night at least once a week. More so lOL when the supplies are running low somethings are wonderful and there have been a few flops I will admit it but not many.
So I make my list, here again it comes in hand to know roughly what you already have in the house. I will post pic's of my list it hangs on the inside of my pantry door and really as I use stuff I do mark it off or check it so I know i need to stock up. Once you have a vague idea of what you want to make, what you already have on hand the list becomes a little simpler. I try to allow a certain amount in my budget for unexpected sales, this too goes along with the willingness to be flexible about what you want to feed everyone for the week.
For instnace; the grocery trip I'm talking about above, when my daughter and I went,we found an unadvertised sale on chicken breasts bone out skin off, I stocked up mulitpurpose ingredient here really it is. And chicken being chicken you can make it take any flavor or spice you choose. They also had sirloin tip roasts (a  hellaciously big treat in our house ) on sale so there you go. It changed my menu drastically but I still managed to stay on budget only going over by .10.   Okay okay die hards yes an overage is an overage but when it's a dime I'll take the hit and be proud of myself.
Have  I rambled too far off course,  such is the lot with an ADD brain like mine.
Once at the store I do try very hard to stick to the list, for me it's easier if I take no one with me then I'm not as tempted to throw extra items in. Although my daughter is pretty good when she goes with me so it all works out
Once home the meat I process down , if I buy in bulk like the chicken breasts I portion it out to four servings per freezer bag, that is one each for us and an extra the kid's can split or left overs for chicken salad or something similar. I do the same thing with ground beef and the chuck roasts I cut at least one or two up into stew beef sized chunks.
One of our bigger expenses is snacks for the kids, my daughter will snack on frozen veggies this I encourage my son well he is a teen age boy so we are still working on that part.
I cook abou 5 days out of 7 I try to have over the weekend a turkey breast, or ham so that we can just graze and not feel obligated to make a big meal.  It does not always work but hey we try.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Learning TO Be Poor: Preparing for the grocery haul

Oh the sense of dread is almost over whelming. Did  I mention I HATE to grocery really I loathe it, I'd rather be beaten with a spiked stick. First of all, let me say I have NEVER been a good grocery shopper, I forget the list and coupons at home, I impulse buy what can I say I suck at it.
However, over the course of starting this adventure I have gotten better. I still forget the coupons, (Its okay I know I will never be an extreme couponer LOL) but I have learned you can't put all your eggs in one basket so to speak. You have to compare prices, you have to do your research like any purchase. Sad isn't it. To buy food you need to do research. Ugh.
So how do you research for groceries? Well LOL it's not that hard. Okay the next time you grocery shop at your favorite store, when you get home make note of the prices of things you regularly buy, then just start price comparing. I have a note book just your average spiral notebook and I have three sections, one for Wal-Mart, Meijers and Aldi's the three stores I shop at most. It is time consuming I won't kid you but its well worth it. I will post pictures of it later today. I update it every time I grocery shop so it is current.  Okay let me say this,I know it seems like a lot of unnecessary work but for me at least,it is an important thing that i have even a very rough idea of what things cost. I have a limited budget to feed my family  on every month about 360.00  do the math that's roughly 90.00 a week. I NEED to know what things cost in order to best spend what I allow myself.

Okay so how should I best approach explaining this, really I don't have a clue I write like I talk which I'm sure makes this a ton of fun to read. I think, best approach I start with the basics of what I do to figure out what the hell I am going shopping for so if I ramble forgive me and bear with me this will probably be posted ,edited, re-posted, re-edited you get the idea.
Price list for Walmart

Price list for Aldi's

SO let's start;
First I have to admit I am not that organized I really am not. This is probably the ONLY area in my house or my life that is truly systematic and organized and only because if it's not it isn't possible.
Before I could even begin to try and slash my grocery budget and not sacrifice quality meals I had to figure out the following;
1. What did I already have in the house
2. What did I make frequently
3. Where was I wasting money (buying food and not using to it's full potential)
4. Where could I make reasonable cuts without again sacrificing quality, taste or nutrition
5. What could we absolutely NOT get rid of ( I am a diabetic I can't or shouldn't do real sugar so you get the idea.)

From there it was time to take "stock" literally of what I had in the house. At the time I started this I had a 7 cubic foot freezer about 1/4 of the way full of meat. My first sub goal (is that  a word) was to use the meat I had in the house before I bought more. It wasn't a hard thing to do there was a mix of chicken, pork and beef so possibilities were endless. Then came the task of going through the pantry and I can tell you it was a hodge podge of nothing you would think you could make a meal out.  As I went through each the chest freezer,the pantry,the freezer on the fridge I was making lists. Time consuming? A bit yes but definitely necessary.  Once the lists were complete I had an exact idea of what there was food wise in the house. I then set out to plan to some degree what I could make to use what we had.
In the past I was one to just shop wildly. I would make a list yes but  I never really stuck to it, nor did I price shop or any of that. Now absolutely but I digress.
In making the menu I re-discovered the sheer joy and peace I find when cooking, something that had been largely forgotten while I lived in a construction zone. I dug out mom's cook books, my own, poured over numerous foodie sites on the web and had a good idea of what I could do that would at least get the kid's to try it and that type of thing. 
By the time I was done , and this did take some time ,about a day to get the lists and find palatable recipes, I had enough stocked in the house for roughly four to five weeks (Scary isn't it) and my intention and ultimate goal was to use every morsel of it I could.
I won't tell you we did not have some um "mistakes" in the dishes I prepared but for the most part the kids were good sports and at least tried everything I made. Side perk my cooking repitoir was and continues to grow.
By the end of the four weeks the house was truly almost out of food and it was time to grocery shop. Ugh is all I can say i was so not looking forward to it at all. Did I mention I hate to grocery shop? 
The dreaded grocery list and believe me this time it was most certainly dreaded. As I sat pondering over what I thought most likely would happen I knew my habits as a shopper had to change. I did what anyone do, I started searching the internet about better ways, more efficient ways to grocery shop and save money while I was doing it. Stay tuned for more....

Monday, January 30, 2012

Learning To Be Poor: More statistics to boggle the mind

Yep I've got more like yesterdays weren't enough and really these are the same thing just a bit easier to understand.
The number of Americans living below the poverty line NOt by choice is at its highest in 52 years according to the Census bureau. If you have a conscience you WILL stop and ask yourself how that can be possible in a country known for it's abundance. We take care of everyone but your own it would seem.
Look I'm not here to debate politics but I am here as your average , every day citizen and it is a scary thing to know you do not have a reserve to fall back on, to know there is no one to give you a "hand up" not a "hand out "when you are down and feeling very much like the scum of the earth, because after all isn't that how this country see's the impoverished? They are trash, scum, unfit to associate with. Really? I don't think so! Really, stop and think about the movies, how do they portray the poor?  Filthy, toothless living in shacks. While to some degree there are indivduals out there like that, they are by no means the norm. My guess is today,  you could not really tell if someone is poor or not, not by simply looking at them. And why? Why should we stigmatize it so badly? Some are poor by their own bad choices, some are thrown below that invisible line through no fault of their own does it make a difference? I don't really think so.
Growing up,  I had a friend  her family would of been classified as "poor" did she fit some of the stereotypes I suppose if I look back she did, but you know what, she was the salt of the earth her entire family was. They would give what little they had to anyone that asked or was in need. To me that is not poor that is rich beyond measure in character and heart and those values matter far more to me than the balance in someone's checking account. 
I have said very little up to this point as to why I have made the choice I have. Mostly because I figure nobody really want's to wade through miles of reasons and they are personal each and everyone. I will say this, I want my children to know what it is to have to work for what they want like I have had to do. I want my children to develop the kind of heart and character I know they can and frankly, all I see of kids with  parents with a huge disposable income is a bunch of self entitled brats. That is NOT how I want my kid's to turn out. Make no mistakes though, they were and remain in the loop on each and every decision that is made, their opinions weigh heavily on me but ultimately as the parent the decisions are mine and mine alone. 
So okay down to business enough of my tangent eh?  Goals we must have goals in order to succeed or at least that is what I'm told. Eh I'm add so goals and I are not always buddies but we'll see how it goes.

1. to cut my living expenses as sharply as I possibly can
  a. Lower utilities
  b. lower food expenses
  c. lower unnecessary spending
2. Show my kid's that life is NOT about what you have but about how you live your life. That you can be rich in character, heart and soul and still not have more than a handful of change in your pocket and not really mind.
3. Show the world it can be done, you can live on a stark(to say the least) budget and not feel cheated or as if you have missed out. (Living on the budget we are does not mean we eat beans and rice 5 days a week  and shower every other week.)
For now those are the priorities there are subsets of goals that I will include as we go along but for now these are the priority for me at least.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Learning To Be Poor: The Beginning of the end?

So do you learn to be poor, are you born poor? Can you become poor? A myriad of questions ensue with each of these questions. In our case, we "chose" to live as if we were poor because quite frankly the stress of dealing with even having a little money was a bit more than I could handle. I feel no shame in saying that at all. I won't go into all the whys and where's but it was largely by choice before it became necessity. Enough said on that.
So, the bigger question is.. exactly how does one learn to be poor and still have a quality life? Can it be done? Should it be done willingly?  Let's face it with the economy the way it is more and more folks are being forced to learn how to live on far less than they are used to. They don't have a choice, if I'm going to I'd rather make that choice and how I approach things myself. Not be forced in to it kicking and screaming.
I won't tell you it is a pretty process nor is it easy. It is what it is and we are figuring things out as we go.
"     The nation's official poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008 — the second statistically significant annual increase in the poverty rate since 2004. There were 43.6 million people in poverty in 2009, up from 39.8 million in 2008 — the third consecutive annual increase." (US Census Bureau ,1/2012).  That's a hell of a lot of people scraping and scrambling and not even really making it by in this day in age.  Let's go one step further, let's define poverty shall we;


[pov-er-tee] Show IPA
the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor. privation, neediness, destitution, indigence, pauperism, penury. riches, wealth, plenty.
deficiency of necessary or desirable ingredients, qualities, etc.: poverty of the soil. thinness, poorness, insufficiency.
scantiness; insufficiency: Their efforts to stamp out disease were hampered by a poverty of medical supplies. meagerness, inadequacy, sparseness, shortage, paucity, dearth. abundance, surfeit, sufficiency, bounty, glut." this from
I don't necessarily like this definition it brings a light of shame to being poor and really there is no or should not be any shame to it. It is a fact of life some people have some people do not. We all do the best we can.  I am a firm believer that a word's force largely comes from the user. It  may have a set "meaning" but how that meaning is taken or feels to other people depends largely on how we use it.. make sense? I hope so.
I started this as I said because I wanted to choose when I was in this position and if things had kept going we would of been forced here one way or the other.
 In future posts I'll go more in depth on the decisions we as a family had to make and some of the good and the bad. So stayed tuned it promises to be an interesting ride to say the least and hey..may be we will all learn a little something along the way...
Peace out.