Monday, March 17, 2008

Panic at the Budget meeting!

So This weekend I got my electric bill for the last month at the new apartment. Keep in mind this is a large first floor old apartment not set up in a way very conductive for air flow. There is little insulation it would appear in the walls and nothing between the basement and the floor. The bill is Gas AND electric so it was for heat (2 baseboard heaters and 2 space heaters) Lights (we are big on turning off lights though with kids the bathroom light stays on all night) Hot water (We have cut back to showers only every other day, not sure if that will fly come summer though, wash dishes once a day) and a gas stove. Also, one or two loads of laundry in COLD water, washed and dried, daily. So guess how much the bill was?

Three.. Hundred.. smackaroos.

I think I fainted. I was in shock, I am NOT kidding you. I cannot afford this on top of a 600 dollar rent! I am calling the landlord today to see if he can reduce the rent, I’m not even kidding you. And this week I am caulking every last little draft I find and pray summer comes quick. We don’t use air conditioning, but we do use a lot of fans. And we have a TON of windows so I think if we only use the fans in the room we are in and at night I can cut that bill in half. And hang clothes outside.

I went freezer shopping this weekend too but after the electric bill came in, I chickened out. I plan to call the electric company and ask them how much they think the freezer will run me a month and if it is worth it.

Seeing as I need to save even more now here are some ideas for cutting food costs that I borrowed from another site .. and I can’t remember where! If you know please please let me know so I can link back to them ASAP.

6 easy ways to keep food costs down

Eat more vegetarian based meals. Typically, meat is pricey, especially when compared to beans and frozen veggies. We are experimenting with making more meals meat-free and are having a blast. Last week, we enjoyed Pasta with Butternut Squash and Ricotta, Pad Thai with Tofu, and Vegetable Curry. Personally, I’m using it as an excuse to explore ethnic cooking. I estimate that we can save over $30 a month by skipping the meat at most meals.
Start a “Soup and Sandwich” night. Planning a “soup and sandwich” night once a week helps me save money. That night is all about simple comfort food, nothing fancy. I like to pair a classic grilled cheese with canned tomato or potato soup. How about a tuna or turkey melt with veggie soup? Substitute a baked potato every so often to mix it up. Just make it cheap and with the stuff you have at home.
Bring your breakfast AND lunch from home. Just do it. Eric keeps oatmeal, trail mix, and breakfast bars in his desk for quick breakfasts and snacks. For lunch he takes the leftovers from the previous night or I pack him a sandwich, salad, yogurt, and snack. You’ll be shocked at how much you can save by brown bagging it 5 days a week.
Minimize waste. Waste is the enemy of economy. At these prices you simply can’t afford to allow the food go bad before you can use it. I always cook fresh meat dishes in the first few days after shopping, with fish and shellfish being cooked within 1 day of purchase. Pad the end of your week with cheaper and less perishable meals like sandwiches, pasta, frozen meals, and soups. If we have meat or veggies at the end of the week it is almost always from my freezer. Eating the fresh food first really helps cut down on spoiled or unused food and that equals savings.
Plan (and hope) for leftovers. When planning your week make sure to make note of possible leftovers. I find that if I don’t plan for leftovers I’ll end up making too many dinners that week and something goes bad (either the fresh food or the leftovers). Serve the leftovers for lunch or have them again for dinner a few days later with an interesting side dish or topping. Push back meals that don’t have perishable ingredients to make room for those leftovers. Utilizing leftovers is key when stretching the budget.
Tap your pantry once a week. I usually have one or two nights a week where I don’t plan a dinner. That “free space” allows me to push back meals to take advantage of leftovers or other cravings and it “forces” me to use what I have. Many of us have stocked pantries but don’t use the food in them. When I moved I found canned corn and jello that was 5 years old! Match up the fresh food that needs to be used with several pantry items to create something interesting. Your pantry and your pocketbook will thank you.

Are you feeling the crunch at the supermarket? How do you plan to save money on weekly meals?

1 comment:

Tia said...

Well I am a single mom of 2 and we only buy organic veggies & fruits. These are SUPER expensive so we buy whatever is on sale that week. We may have apples this week (apples in our oatmeal, apples for snack, apple cobbler etc...) and then oranges the next week. I only buy meats when I find a really good sale price and then I stock up and freeze. I buy eggs that are near their sell by date because personally, we like the older eggs as we hard boil them most often and older eggs peel much easier.
Other examples:
-oatmeal in rather than boxes of sugary cereal
-I make our own cookies & snack foods so I can make 'em healthy and cheap
-buy in bulk (whole grain pastas, rice, oatmeal, dried fruits, nuts) this is cheaper at the natural grocer near us
-we drink water, water & more water! occasionally seltzer water with splash of pomegranate or black cherry juice. YUMMY!
-i stopped buying condensed soups and make my own base now. Its easy and tastes the same. :)

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