January Food Budget and Meal Plan

Month in Review:

This month we had a budget of $210 for food.  Technically it started out at $250, but then New Year’s Eve rolled around.  We decided that maybe we should celebrate the last day of Mr. Countdown’s pizza job and the end of really crazy year.  Queue the alcohol, junk food, and pizza.  It’s all about priorities, people. 😉  We lived off of about $200 a month in groceries last year, so I wasn’t too worried.  Things are also a bit convoluted this month since we went out of town the last 5 days of the month.  

Below are the receipts for all of our food purchases.  We’re not too loyal to any particular store.  We usually make a trip out to Costco every 6-8 weeks.  Kroger and Winco are equidistant from our house.  I like Winco’s bulk bins, but I will go to Kroger if they have better deals that week.  There’s an associated foods store by our parents’ houses, so we might stop in there while visiting if they are having a really, really good deal on something.  

I came across a fantastic deal from Schwan’s and Swagbucks, where if I spent $35,  I got $40 back.  I stacked that with a special they had on their pizzas and a coupon for 50% off and free delivery and walked away with some free treatsy food.  What’d I get? 5 frozen pizzas for the days when all hell breaks loose, 1 bag of chicken nuggets for the kiddos lunches, and 6+ pounds of various frozen fruit.  Not bad since I got paid $1 for all of that!

Side note: we get around Winco not accepting our travel hacking credit cards by buying $500 gift cards online (which does accept credit cards) and paying $1 to ship them to us.  We also get gift cards to Kroger for various reasons.  Whether things are paid with a gift card or credit card, they all come out of the food budget.  Also, I really suck at taking straight photos of receipts.  

What We Spent and What We Ate:

Breakfasts are pretty run of the mill around here.  We eat a lot of oatmeal, yogurt, toast, and pancakes during the week.  The weekend is for lazy mornings and big breakfasts.  We usually enjoy a feast of eggs, potatoes, and bacon.  Lunches are always leftovers (or in some rare instances PB&J or tuna sandwiches).  The kids like things simple and get sandwiches or a variety of meat, cheese, and grains with a fruit and veggie in their lunchboxes. 

You might notice that we don’t have 7 dinner meals most weeks.  That’s because we usually have dinner with one or both of our parents on most weekends.  Also, we’re human and like to go out every once in a while with friends and family.

Week 1

Technically this week’s food was bought at the end of last month’s budget.  I don’t have receipts for that, but eggs and butter were cheap, cheap, cheap.  I spent most of my remaining of December’s food budget stocking up on those, so we ate a lot of tidbits left in the freezer and pantry.  I had some potatoes starting to sprout, so I used those up in potato soup.  The Migas let me use some of the eggs I bought plus a lonely can of green chiles I found in the pantry.

Week 2

  • Rotisserie Chicken with Roasted Sweet Potato and Salad
  • Chicken and Wild Rice Soup and Cornbread
  • Chicken Salad Sandwiches/Pizza
  • Lasagna and Salad
  • Coconut Fish with Acorn Squash & Broccoli
  • Leftovers

Costco week!  I always grab a rotisserie chicken while I’m there, and then fashion it into meals for the next few weeks and make a big pot of stock with the carcass and veggie scraps.  I’m making use of the cheese my work gave us for Christmas–whilst being crowned the best mom ever–by making my kids’ favorite, lasagna.  Pro-tip: if you tell your kids that the coconut fish bites are chicken nuggets, they will devour them, no (okay, few) questions asked. 

I made a delicious chicken salad, but someone in the house balked at it (I believe the phrase was “what is this Martha’s Vineyard monstrosity??”).  Luckily, Schwann’s delivered that night, and Mr. CTF was able to make a frozen pizza for himself and the kids who were now afraid of the meat mixture.  Guess who ate the leftovers for lunch the next three days? 🙋🏻‍♀️ They were so delicious.

This week I could get a whole pineapple for 99 cents, so we gorged on a couple of those.  Toothpaste was free, and chicken breasts and cheese were the cheapest I’ve seen in a long while.  I didn’t need any of those, but I grabbed them and stashed them away for later.  I also had some coupons that Kroger sent me in the mail for free bread and peanut butter and some cheap pasta.  I grabbed all of those as well.  I don’t usually hit multiple stores in a week, but I needed some wild rice and quick oats, and Winco bulk bins are the only way to go for those.  Costco had our favorite protein pancake mix on sale.  This happens every year in January.  I stock up for the year on that since I tried making my own, and it just wasn’t the same (kind of like the frosty in Mr. Deeds).

This was seriously the longest damn receipt ever. It's got the logo, payment info, and survey info cropped off as well as the summary of savings and coupons used (a lot on both accounts).

Week 3

I did some pantry cleaning this week (it was beyond embarrassing) and found all sorts of hidden treasures.  After getting the Schwan’s delivery, making a big ol’ pot of black beans, and stocking up on chicken breasts, my freezer was a bit too full for my liking.  This week’s and next week’s meals focus on getting both more manageable.  The posole was made with some shredded pork that was tucked away in the freezer and some hominy that I found in the pantry.  The enchiladas let me use up the rest of the cream cheese from last week before I forgot about it and some rotisserie chicken leftovers stashed in the freezer, which actually turned out to be turkey (and a great reminder that I need to get some more masking tape to label my freezer contents).  I used a different enchilada recipe and it made a ton!  We ate it for two days straight for lunch and dinner!  Due to sick kids and the holiday weekend, we ended up over at our parents’ houses for dinner three different times this week (twice unplanned).  I pushed some stuff on to next week’s meal plan.  

There weren’t great sales at the stores, so I just bought what I needed to get by, namely bread, milk, and sparkling water.  I bought some coconut milk for a coconut curry soup recipe but didn’t get around to making it.  I’ll freeze the ginger I bought for that as well for another week.

Week 4

I had one goal in mind this week:  get as much stuff out of the fridge as possible before we left town.  I lost track of the date on the sour cream, and a whole container had to get used up by the end of the week.  Taquitos and the (planned) casserole should help with that.  I also wasn’t paying attention when I stocked up on cheese earlier this month: I bought processed pepper cheese instead of pepper jack cheese.  WTF?  I don’t even know what to think of this product.  I figured that mac and cheese might be suitable way to hide it (and it let me use up the over half pound of chorizo in my freezer from last week).  The chicken yakisoba used up some stray frozen veggies and the cabbage leftover from the coleslaw made for the fish tacos.

The goal was as few of groceries as possible this week since we’re leaving town.  I ended up having to shop on a weird day and had to take the kids with me to the store, which usually ends up not good.  I walked out without grabbing the mushrooms or egg noodles for my beef and mushroom casserole I had planned and bought a gallon of milk that I didn’t need.  I ultimately decided it wasn’t worth another trip to the store, especially since I had leftover recipes that didn’t get made last week.  I’m freezing the extra gallon of milk to see how that goes.  I stocked up on some ziplock bags since we haven’t had most sizes for quite some time now and grabbed a small cheap roll of tinfoil to last until the next Costco visit.  My uterus also demanded ice cream, and she and I both knew that we were well under our food budget for the month.  She was  slightly appeased.

A few days before our trip, I used the extra money left in the budget to go stock up on snacks for our trip.  I grabbed some granola bars for the kids, kind bars for me and Mr. CTF, and some hard candies.  I figured it would save us a lot of money and hangry tears while in the park.  I grabbed a box of cereal for the early morning ride to the airport, knowing that there was no way I could get the kids or myself to eat a full meal at 5:00 in the morning.  Since I rarely buy cereal, the kids are thinking they are getting away with something.  I also grabbed a tube of chips to go along with the PB&J sandwiches we will eat during our layover.  I always pack a PB&J sandwich when I travel for business or pleasure because 1. I have a fear of being stuck somewhere and getting hungry and 2. airport food is expensive AF and usually very disappointing.  There’s a pack of beer costed in the total ($8.99) that I don’t have a receipt for that Mr. CTF grabbed when he went to the store for a bike tire (further proof of why that man is not allowed in stores that sell food/beverages).  The litter box and ear plugs for the trip were not costed to food ($6.37 for both with tax).

Grand total spent this month was $190.35, or $19.65 under budget.  Not every month is like this.  Leaving town helped to decrease our food consumption but increased money spent on our food budget since I was buying convenience food for travel.  Overall , I’m calling it a success!  We are renting a house for the last 4 days of our vacation and will be cooking meals there.  I will include those receipts in February’s recap.

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