Cheap Eats Week 1: Stockpiling and Flexibility

All right! It’s time to get started with the first Cheap Eats post. If you are new to Cheap Eats, read the introductory post HERE.

Let me start out by saying that this was not a typical week for us (so of course it’s the week I would choose to start this whole series. Go figure). We had a potluck dinner, visited family and went to a Superbowl party all in one week. That really messed with our normal dinners. Plus there were some killer deals at the store and I stocked up on a few things, which made my weekly total higher than normal. I also went to the store twice in one week, which is rare. But I guess that’s a lesson in itself: sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.

I’ve color-coded the menu to match up with the things on my receipt. Hopefully that helps you see where the food came from for each of these meals. If it is left black, it was probably a breakfast or lunch item or something I’ll use later on. Keep in mind that I have a stocked pantry, so many ingredients come from there. And don’t get frustrated. Over time you will be able to build a stockpile too.

Tuesday- Creamy Pasta (canned sauce + 1/2 brick cream cheese), Homemade Breadsticks, Frozen Spinach
Wednesday- Polish Sausage, Rice, Frozen Mixed Vegetables, Fresh Oranges
Thursday- Cheesy Corn Bake (church potluck)
Friday- Navajo Tacos (homemade dough and dry black beans)
Saturday- Dinner at my parent’s house
Sunday- Hot Bean Dip, Root Beer Floats (Superbowl Party)
Monday- French Toast, Scrambled Eggs, Smoothies

Frozen corn, 2 bags 1.96
Green onions .38
Sandwich bags 2.44
Vanilla ice cream bucket 3.98
Cream cheese .98
Refried beans .67
Tortilla chips .98

Shasta 2 liter soda pop .48
4 XL size Kraft BBQ sauce 3.12
Shasta 2 liter soda pop .48
Shasta 2 liter soda pop .48
5 Ketchup 2.40
2 Gallons milk 4.56
Shredded cheese 2 lbs 5.98
Frozen chicken patties 3.48
Frozen spinach .97
Polish Sausage .98
Nonfat yogurt large container 1.68
Pancake syrup 1.98
4 pkg. Hot dogs 1.92
Margarine .78
2 Avocados .96
Roma Tomatoes .45
Bananas 1.20
Grape Tomatoes .98
Head of Lettuce 1.48
4 Ramen noodles .68
Mayonnaise 2.19
Tuna .50
2 Wheat bread 1.76
1 White bread .88
24 cans Spaghetti sauce 11.52

One of the most important lessons in making a tight budget work is learning to stock up when things are on sale. When I first started shopping, I kept a little price notebook. I would write down the lowest price for items I purchased frequently. Just because something is “on sale” does not mean it is actually the lowest the price goes on that item. Writing it all down helped me learn when I should buy a few extras and when it was time to buy a ton. I don’t keep a notebook anymore because I pretty much have all of my goal prices in my head.

My stockpiling rule of thumb:
normal price=buy only what I need.
decent sale price=buy enough to last until the next time it goes on sale.
rock bottom sale price=buy as much as I have space to store or as much as I can use before the product expires.

This week, spaghetti sauce hit the rock bottom sale price, so I bought two cases. It’s something my family uses frequently, I had space for it in my storage room, and we will definitely use all of it before the expiration date (which is in two years). In fact, it was such a smoking deal, if it’s still there next week, I’ll probably buy more. I also stocked up on ketchup and barbecue sauce.

This leads me to another point I want to make today. I do not set a strict weekly budget because I want the flexibility to buy a lot one week when there are good sale prices. I don’t say, “Well, it’s too bad spaghetti sauce is such a good price because I only have $50 to spend this week.” I stock up when the prices are good and in the end it saves me money. Having a large stock of food on hand helps me have weeks where I only need to spend $20-30 at the store. But this only works for me because I have a lot of self control and I don’t want to spend money on extras. If you are having a hard time sticking to a budget, then you may need to be more strict with yourself.

I did my end-of-the-month budget review this past weekend and I have a confession. I went over budget in January. I spent $226 on groceries. Why? There were several big stock-up type trips and some really good sale items. (I found canned green beans and corn for 33 cents each! I think I bought six cases!) And I am not beating myself up about it because I have come in under budget for the last four months, so I had some extra money floating around. And did you notice the sandwich bags on the receipt? Technically that should come out of my household goods budget, but like I mentioned in the introductory post, it is not worth it to me to separate things out.

I bought chicken patties and thought we’d have chicken sandwiches this week, but because of the parties, I will put them on the menu for next week. And that’s why I’m okay with going over my weekly budget…because I know over the course of the month, things will even out. I’ve already got one less dinner to buy next week!

Weekly Total: $67.07
Money Left for February: $132.93

Click HERE for Cheap Eats Week 2



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