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Old 12-25-2006, 07:53 AM   #31
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Budgeting for Monthly Shopping

Quote:
Originally Posted by D_Blackwell
I had fallen into a pattern of eating out a lot - trash food mostly, and thought that setting a budget might help me to eat better, and save some money also. I had no idea what I was spending on food; keeping track of nothing.
I have to ask, what do you think got you to the point of falling into that pattern? Usually there's some hidden sign we don't always see that causes a change in our daily activities. Unfortunately it throws everything off balance and hence the domino effect takes place. You mention the pattern of eating out alot; I know exactly what that's like because I've been in the situation before and so has my husband. He works long hours as an IDX computer operator (still does) and before I stopped working my hours were horrible as a UNIX computer operator (50-60 a week) so it travels in the family - literally.

What changed things around was the fast food. Four years ago my husband was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes from his many years of eating habits; the fast food diet; not exercising (like he had the time to anyway); but this wasn't an overnight cessation. He'd gone through this for years. Well over 8 at least.

What made it interesting was we had just started to change our eating habits into a healthier diet choice then all of a sudden wrath had no fury but just as well it was a wake up call for both of us and it made me realize that eating outside the home is okay but unless it is taken in moderation it can be regretful.


Quote:
Originally Posted by D_Blackwell
With no idea of what a reasonable budget might be (It's just me.), and internet searches not turning out to be much help, I wound up guesstimating a number. $300.00 a month.
There isn't anything wrong with using a budget however consider something reasonable. I'm not sure what type of prices that are in your area. Best suggestion I can make is get a membership at your local Sam's Club and take advantage of what they've got for bargains; purchase items in bulk. If you've got a deep freezer, take advantage of it. I'm not sure your living space however I would make use of the room you have and purchase things that are easy to store, priced reasonable and you will not run out of from pay check to pay check.

Things like:

Toilet Paper
Paper Towels
Napkins
Garbage Bags
Kleenex (in winter months and/or if you have allergies)

Depending upon your situation for a freezer will determine on your situation for meat. I rarely do any shopping for it at Sams (at least in the beef section) because from my experience there is no bargain until you start purchasing well beyond $400 and no one is going to purchase that amount unless you're in the catering and/or resturant business. The only two types that I've found any bargains on is with their chicken breasts and sometimes I can get a good deal on their whole pork loin.

Here the chicken usually runs about $12 to $13 (can't remember) but it's 21 oz worth and they're resturant quality so it's top rank, you're paying for something that is worth the price and will last. Since it's just my husband and myself I can make two of them and there's still some left over because they are so thick. They turn out excellent every time when cooking as well. For the pork loin it varies on price and weight due to the cut and fat content as I'm sure you know. Usually I can pick up a whole loin (no bone) for $16 to $18. They're wonderful because I can cut those up to whatever size I want in thickness or use it to make stirfry, etc.

Since I have the deep freezer I get the benefit using it because after I make the cuts everything goes right in the freezer and viola! Between the two, I'm good to go for a little over two weeks. I've also picked up things such as frozen meatballs that are premade (yes I'm lazy) if I'm skimping and don't feel like making my own. Great to have and quick for low cost spaghetti dinners throughout the week as a change of pace.

When I do go to the grocery store here in town I have been able to get a good buy every so often on ground chuck lean so I'll pick it up and use it for a mix (meatballs, hamburger helper, meatloaf, etc) I won't get it unless there's a good bargain on the price. The same goes for beef itself. We purchase 2 steaks for the weekend and only for the weekend. The rest of the week is reasonable priced dinners. My husband does the cooking so that's his thing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by D_Blackwell
Something of a 'sugar junkie', I have also instituted a rule against anything but 'home made' desserts (No bags of M&Ms allowed:)), wresting a little more control there as well.
I think we all have that little bit of a sugar fit every so often. Heaven knows I still do Anyway. Why do you say no sugar allowed? If you force yourself not to have it you know that you'll want to eat it even more. If you have it in moderation it may make a difference in how often you spoil yourself. Sometimes homemade desserts are worse in sugar content than the ones purchased in the store in my opinion. Nevertheless, there isn't anything wrong with having the sugar what you may want to consider is going the sugar free route if you're trying to keep your carbs low.

Quote:
Originally Posted by D_Blackwell
Today I was given the best resource that I have seen so far for getting at what a 'reasonable' budget might really be.
http://www.usda.gov/cnpp/FoodPlans/Updates/foodmay06.pdf Turns out that my $300.00 is almost dead on for the USDA definition of the 'Liberal Plan' for my age group. Though I am now making the budget and not feeling as though I'm suffering in the process, it still doesn't feel so 'liberal'.
One of the things that I'd been reading a long time ago rather shocked me after I got the thinking about it. I'd checked into the caloric intake for body weight for my height. There's been mixed reviews on the issue; some say it's great and others have their doubts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by D_Blackwell
So - the question is: What kind of budgets are y'all using? Do you keep track of $$ at all? Eat out much? Deliberately develop low cost, good yield recipes? What do people really spend? Does the 'average' person eat out more than they eat in? That costs $$$.
To answer your question, my husband and I go by his pay check yes but we also purchase things in bulk as I mentioned above. We take advantage of our deep freezer. He makes chili in bulk that gets put into the freezer for quick meals. I make an Italian spaghetti sauce (family tradition recipe) that gets frozen for meals. We purchase meats to put into the freezer.

He got me a crock pot I wanted for Christmas (one part of my Christmas present, looking at a stainless steel cookware set now ) about two weeks ago so now we have it to use and do bulk items with plus make dinner while he's at work - very easy to make dinners with, set them up and go. There's a lot of things you can do to make low expensive dinners, it's a matter of finding the best place(s) to shop in your area and taking advantage of it(them).

Sorry so long but this is how we've done it and so far it's working. Final note. My husband is head of household now, I'm a graduate student and on hiatus from programming career so money is a little tight. We're caretakers of his grandmother and we're paying all bills plus since we're co-owners of the house we're putting out money for whatever is needed to keep the house up to par and fix odds and ends.

In the end, you find a plan that works for you and stick with it.

Happy Holidays!

Sue
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Old 12-25-2006, 02:04 PM   #32
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$300 USD a month for a single person?! Hardly! I spent $100 at the grocery store and had a full cart. I clip coupons, shop sales, buy what I need not what I want. Frozen vegetables (again, shop what's in season and get frozen if you can't get fresh, just because I hate most canned vegetables). A dollar stretches a long way but only if you make it do so.

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Old 12-25-2006, 04:39 PM   #33
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SueBear -

-- The pattern evolved (not for the first time) from a combination of a little bit of lazy (and/or just tiredness), a lot of work and responsibility, and time constraints - basically starting as a little snowball and becoming a full scale avanlanche; exactly the domino effect the you referenced.

-- Tracking the total dollars spent on the food budget has been a very effective way of regaining control of decisions and priorities; of changing the course of how and what I eat. I am spending considerably less money, and eating much better food. I generally try to be careful with money, to watch where it goes, to differentiate between 'splurging' (a justitfiable choice) and 'wasting' (a foolish choice). However, primarily - tracking the money for the food budget is one of the tools that I have used to 'shift the balance'. I could afford what I was spending, but it made bad choices all the easier. The dedication to a money restriction has made better choices all the easier.

-- Oh, I've got to have my sugar:)) But the new rule about only homemade desserts has been very helpful. I have to take a little time to make them, which, in turn, makes it more likely that I'll savor them (as opposed to just ripping open a bag of something and chowing down:)) Yes, many homemade desserts contain vast amounts of sugar (and I have made a fudge or two), but many recipes are pretty reasonable. For example, I've got a strawberry granita, and also a buttterscotch pudding that are current favorites, that will each last me for practically a week of desserts. Figure the sugar content against the yield (and great flavors), and overall, I've knocked my sugar consumption way down - without feeling like I've given up a thing.

FraidKnot -

-- Stretching a dollar depends on the priorities. In some areas of my life I can extract every potential advantage from a dollar and not think twice about walking away from a deal if I don't get my way. In other areas, I choose a looser approach.

That $300.00 respresents a steep cut in spending from my starting point, and has resulted in a significant betterment of lifestyle. The next step won't be to further cut the money, but further improve the quality of what and how I eat. Depending upon the recipes that I focus on, I may come in easily below budget, or I may 'splurge' on some prime ingredients and tiptoe up to the budget line:))

bethazaring -

Quote:
We have 40 categories for expenses. We started this about 15 years ago and this exercise has been so enlightening and life changing we have contined to track our income and expenses.
In many respects, managing a home (a life), is no different than managing a business. One must know where the resources are going and why. Even the most basic tracking can lead to shocking realizations.
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Old 12-25-2006, 05:23 PM   #34
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I buy quality stuff; I love seafood; I buy a good steak from time to time; good cheeses (brie is one of my fav's, a bacon spinach & brie omelet is to die for! and feta for quiche) and "artisan" breads. I can still feed myself (last time I checked I was still only one person) for about $100, maybe $150 a month.

It also depends on where you live, of course. Groceries in Manhattan or Los Angeles most assuredly cost more than in the Memphis, TN area. I've no idea where you live but I still think $300 for a single person per month is excessive so we'll agree to disagree and leave it at that. More power to you.

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Old 12-26-2006, 10:09 AM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by D_Blackwell
-- The pattern evolved (not for the first time) from a combination of a little bit of lazy (and/or just tiredness), a lot of work and responsibility, and time constraints - basically starting as a little snowball and becoming a full scale avanlanche; exactly the domino effect the you referenced.
I know the feeling all too well, trust me! When I lived on the long hours the surplus in my refridgerator consisted of diet pop, a stock of yougurt to get me through the mornings - that is when I could eat breakfast - otherwise I'd get it on the way to the office. A can of coffee that I kept in stock; and freezer was filled with things for dinner but 80% of the time I'd leave work for 20 mins, grab dinner then bring it back to the office and eat while working after hours on long nights. Do what you gotta do in the situation that you're in but eh, I know the feeling of living on the viscious cycle.

I have to giggle at the fact being, I was always so good at having fairly reasonable eating schedule but when I started working the long hours that kind of went out the door. Funny how things happen sometimes eh?

Quote:
Originally Posted by D_Blackwell
Tracking the total dollars spent on the food budget has been a very effective way of regaining control of decisions and priorities; of changing the course of how and what I eat. I am spending considerably less money, and eating much better food. I generally try to be careful with money, to watch where it goes, to differentiate between 'splurging' (a justitfiable choice) and 'wasting' (a foolish choice). However, primarily - tracking the money for the food budget is one of the tools that I have used to 'shift the balance'. I could afford what I was spending, but it made bad choices all the easier. The dedication to a money restriction has made better choices all the easier.
When my husband and I got together his schedule was a little crazy but things changed into more of a budget issue like what you're referring to since there are corners to watch and things of that nature. With me being a full time student it makes a difference for sure. We've done okay for the most part. Since it's just the two of us (no kids), it's the both of us that go and do the shopping together. He works night shift computer programmer so it's easy for us to go into Wally World at 3am and there be next to no one there. Which is actually kind of nice, no rush and can take our time on things.

Our average seems to fall somewhere between $100 to $120. The last couple of times I've seen it go has been $150 maybe but with it being the holidays it makes sense. We keep it low and based on what we absolutely need and plus what we can spend plus base on the pay period bill time. Depending upon what bills go out that time of the month will determine what we spend for groceries. We've worked out a system to ensure that there is a constant flow of small things like I mentioned earlier (paper products, etc) are there always. The important issues like dinners for two weeks are planned ahead of time so we know what we need.

When we have the cash flow, it's time to pick up the bulk buy of meat for deep freezer stocking to keep an even keel with that. The pay check flow comes with the territory on that area there as well. This might be an idea for you to consider also. If you get paid every two weeks, sometimes there are two paychecks in a month and sometimes there are three depending upon how long the month is and depending upon when the pay periods fall.

Perfect way to schedule bills and shopping for items that you might not necessarily shop for during normal shopping periods so you are covered on those pay periods when things are tighter. Make sense? Everyone has their own little system planned and this is something in which each has to work set specifically but once it's designed for their needs it actually works quite well. Grant it, nothing is perfect because emergency situations do arise however if a generic time frame can be judged it could save a lot of trouble down the line. Just a thought to consider.

Sue
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