Musings on Budgets and Cooking

Originally posted at keeping feet on 10/14/2006

I definitely started this post Monday. It's been a busy week.

Ashley, on her Onward and Upward blog, wrote about learning to grocery shop and cook, now that there's two mouths to feed in her household. She got some tips from a series on the Biblical Womanhood blog about budgets and grocery shopping (see her blog above for links). I've blogged some about specific kitchen experiments, but recently we've made some higher-level changes that hopefully will help us save money and eat healthier-- or, rather, eat IN, which is, generally, healthier and less expensive (For more on that topic, check out a fabulous post at Get Rich Slowly, asking Is Eating Out Cheaper than Eating In?). I thought I'd add my two cents worth to the conversation.

Starting two weeks ago, Josh and I took Dave Ramsey's advice and decided to keep track of where all our money is going by spending (pretty much) only cash. We made a budget for different areas like gas, groceries, eating out, etc, got those amounts in cash when paycheck time came around, and put our budgeted amounts in separate envelopes. Now, if Josh is headed out to get gas for the cars, he'll grab money from the Gas envelope, or if I'm going to the grocery store, I'll make sure to have enough cash from the Grocery envelope to cover the things on my list. Speaking of the list...

Another thing we're doing is making a meal list for the week. From this list, we look at our current food supply and decide what we need to buy for the week to make those meals happen. Then we go to the store and get only the things on the list. This avoids impulse buys and the grocery store, which are very tempting for me, as I have gotten more creative with cooking and am looking to try to make new things left and right. More on that later. As we use up staples- stuff we want to have around the house regardless of the meal list- they go on the shopping list for the following weekend. We always have a few extra meals around the house to make in case nothing on the list we made sounds good, or unforseen time constraints require something simpler. Which brings me to our third strategy...

This is the newest and yet-unproven strategy. A while back, I mentioned I cooked an Italian Sausage Soup that went over well. It made 4 servings, and we ate two immediately and froze the other half of the meal. A couple weeks ago, I got the ice cube out of the freezer, heated it up, and it was as good as ever. Last Saturday morning, I cooked up another batch of the soup, froze both meals, and made a pizza crust recipe I had tried before as well, which made 6 crusts. These crusts freeze well, and are pretty easy to spead out, put sauce on, and pop in the oven. So, over the course of a couple hours in the morning, before my husband was even awake, I had made 8 meals to have on hand when we decide nothing else sounds good. This week, while waiting for dinner to cook, I made another recipe I wanted to see how it would taste (veggie burgers? what am I thinking?), but, because dinner was already cooking, it got frozen for later.

Now, I don't want you to think we have a huge freezer for a month's worth of food- we don't. These are small things I'm freezing, that still require preparation. This is a downside to living in an apartment and trying to save money on groceries. Many tips say to A) buy in bulk or B) buy alot of something you'll need when it's on sale. In our cozy little apartment, we don't have the space to do that.

Another note: doing all of this isn't hard, and it is having a big impact, especially the envelope system. It's letting us see where our money's going, and makign me not worry about it at all. I know we have X to spend on eating out, and so I know we aren't spending too much this week, and I know that what is in the bank will stay in the bank, and not get spent. I like it, and I appreciate hugely the effort and attention Josh has put into figuring all this out.

What other tips have worked for you guys?

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