Two posts and then nothing for a month. So, yeah, about par for the course.
Well, for us, February has officially begun, at least fiscally speaking. I was pleasantly surprised with how responsible January seemed to be, right up until that last week. We went for two and a half weeks without eating out, which meant that even when no one felt like cooking and the pantry seemed bare, we still managed to find something to eat. Then Ben spent the day with his youth kids and we met them for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. The church covered that meal, but our proverbial cherry had been popped and you know what happens then: total indulgence. I am not usually a fan of Mexican restaurants (I prefer making my own Mexican-like food), but this one was really good. In an act of irresponsibility, I proposed that we re-visit it a few days later for a kid free lunch. But before that, we’d hung around to see him at the church after he preached and strong-armed him into going to Five Guys. Then we accompanied him on a short day trip and had to get lunch while out. Five Guys again. Then for being such good sports on our trip, everybody got (not even Happy Hour priced!) milkshakes at Steak ‘n Shake. It is a slippery slope from being responsible to all out gluttony, I tell ya. Here’s to hoping we can resist the temptation more strongly in February.
On the debt front, our lowest balance card was paid off. It was done by using the system I talked about earlier, where we paid it in installments rather than all at once. I really liked the built-in safety net that afforded us. I’ve already set up to pay another card off using the same system. This may sound silly, but the card paid off in January was a Home Depot card with a 0% balance. For some reason, paying it off doesn’t seem that grand. This current card, though, is a true “credit card” with an actual (not unreasonable, but still present) interest rate. I’ll be happy to see it go, but I know the real work is ahead of us, because we have a $5000+ balance and an almost $5000 balance to attack next. I’d still love to find a way to wring $1000 each month from our budget to throw at one of those each month.
I found the one real problem with the cash only grocery system: if we need something and it’s on Ben’s way home, he’ll stop at the store and get it. He uses a debit card, so each week I’ve had to add up transactions from our bank’s website to the cash I’ve taken out to see how much has been spent/how much to deduct from next week’s grocery total. That’s kind of a pain, so I’m thinking I’ll give him $50 or so at the beginning of the month and subtract that from the $500 total.
One of the ways I’ve been able to stay pretty much on budget for grocery shopping is by making a lot of soup. It helps that it’s January, but frankly, this January has been so bizarre in terms of weather (lots of days where the high reaches above 70, which is rare even for the Gulf Coast) that it being January is just an excuse. I’d make the soups even if it was June, because they’re cheap. One of our family favorites is taco soup. I think I’ve made it four or five times this month. I follow the linked recipe, but make some cheaper substitutions. I use dried beans, no meat, and frozen corn instead of canned. I also make my own taco and ranch seasoning, courtesy of Pinterest. We top the soup with tortilla chips (Target’s White Corn are the BEST!), cheese, and, for some of us, sour cream. I’ll usually set aside enough to have for lunch the next day and then freeze the rest. By making a whole bag of beans (I use dried pinto and red kidney beans), I have enough to split the cooked beans into three batches, which I freeze and just throw in when I make a new thing of soup. I try to undercook the beans a bit because they’ll cook more in the crock pot. And just because I am somewhat OCD and this has become a habit of mine lately (trust me, my roasted chicken breakdown is a study in anal retentive-ness), let’s do the math on this soup, shall we?
- 1 can Hunt’s petite diced tomatoes: $1.00
- 1 can Rotel tomatoes and chiles: $1.29
- 1 1 lb bag dried kidney beans for 1.29/4 (because I made enough for 4 batches): $0.32
- 1 2 lb bag dried pinto beans (I only cooked half the bag) for 2.29/2=1.14/4: $0.29
- 1 bag frozen corn for 3.50, divided by 3 (because I only use a third): $1.17
- 1 bag tortilla chips: $2.99
- 1 cup cheese: $1.00
Grand total: $8.06/10 servings=$0.81 per serving
That’s half of what a regular order of fries at Five Guys costs.
So, anyway, that’s January. I have some (hopefully) cheap home improvement fixes planned that I (hopefully) will get around to writing about soon, too.