Tuesday, March 28, 2017
1st Quarter Review for 2017
While March isn't quite ended, I feel it's close enough I can review my first quarter of this year. I'll be working on our budget for the second quarter today. I've felt rather prosperous this new year on many scores. I think part of it has been the number of things I've managed to do this year.
Budget meal plans: I've had three challenges, one for each month of the quarter. My first was to feed the two of us three meals a day on $20. I did put together a grocery list with real prices for my area, real menu plans which we followed with some additions to accommodate my diet. I learned that if the world turned topsy turvy, we could eat on a very tight budget.
I found planning a little easier with the $27 and $30 week budgets I worked up for February and March. It really restored my confidence in my ability to manage on a dime, too.
Meatless Meals: I'd pretty much given up meatless meals because they tend to be higher in carbs and therefore more difficult for me to manage on a diabetic meal plan. Then John tossed me a nice little bomb right in the midst of my first thrifty week challenge. He wanted to participate in a Daniel fast.
It was frustrating to have my plans sideswiped and pushed off the road but I've been a mom and wife for most of my life and by now I'm sort of used to it, so I hurried up and studied hard and came up with three weeks of meals that worked with a Daniel fast.
This prompted me to return to my previous studies on food combinations that form more complete proteins.
It was because of this challenge that we discovered how I could, with care, eat less meat and balance the carbohydrates so that I stayed within my limits. I enjoyed stretching my knowledge and my budget in this way. It was also because of this challenge that I began to use almond milk. I don't use it for all things, but it was good for John's meatless/dairy-free meal plan. Aldi had the best price on their store brand which is sugar free, has added Vitamin E and D.
Added bonus: we tried some new recipes, a few of which we have, or will add, to our menu plan. Lentil tacos and Kale Farro Stew were big hits.
Small earnings. I had a small earnings this quarter from Swagbucks ($15 gift card), cashed in Pinecone rewards twice ($30) and earned another $100 from adsense on the blog. I signed up for emails from Home Depot and joined their garden club which netted me two $5 coupons. It's not a lot of money but it adds up. These earnings allowed me to purchase new rugs for the kitchen and master bath, and new curtains for our bedroom. Typically, I use my Christmas gift monies for this but we purposed that for carpeting this year so I was pleased to have small earnings to use towards home décor.
I also consider the FREE items from Kroger an added bonus, a sort of 'earning', as well. I didn't pick up every single item. I let two expire and there were three that were not available in my stores. However, I picked up 3 in January, 2 in February and 2 in March. I have one item loaded on my card this week and there will hopefully be another on Friday. I'll load the item on my card before we leave home to shop for groceries.
Making it homemade. The meal challenges necessitated making it homemade. That included yogurt, which I had made in the past and given up doing. Honestly, I guess I didn't have time at some point and it was so easy to pop those little cartons in the shopping cart at the grocery. The truth is I don't much care for store bought yogurt. Nine times out of ten, they contain cornstarch or gelatins to thicken, added sugar or aspartame. I'd forgotten how very good homemade yogurt is and I've enjoyed it very much. I make enough from a half gallon of milk to last a month. John won't touch it, but I eat far more yogurt than he does.
Homemade bread is also tasty. Here is where John eats more of an item than I do, so while I was happy to return to making bread, I will reserve this skill for making mini Challahs for Shabat and the occasional cinnamon rolls using the same dough. John prefers the store bought stuff. I insist he at least eat the better bakery breads rather than the mass produced commercial loaf breads.
Egg Noodles. This particular recipe was not the best one and I didn't get the noodles nearly thin enough but I'm willing to do this again. I made half a recipe which netted me enough noodles for two pots of chicken soup.
Tortillas was my challenge food this month. I got two thumbs up from John who is thrilled I can make him whole wheat tortillas. This was not difficult at all. It took about an hour, from mixing through cooking to make 16 tortillas. I rolled them out so they were not perfectly round but uneven works as well as round ones. I followed the recipe suggestions of freezing and highly recommend that you do so, too, if you make them. I took them out of the freezer and they dried out quickly, despite being well wrapped and inside a zippered bag. They hold up well in the freezer by the way and next time I'll just remove what I need and thaw to use rather than thaw the whole bag.
Finishing the carpeting of the house. We pushed all of our Christmas gift monies towards this project and we had more than enough to finish it. We were even able to set some of the leftover money aside for new tires for my car which was a big expense that we hadn't set money aside for.
New tires on my car. John decided this was necessary this year and then asked Sam for a second opinion. He agreed that it was time. I pushed all the overtime holidays pay (Christmas and New Year's) towards this after John got a quote from the place where we have the oil changed. In the end, we received a further discount due to an error on their part and that extra was pushed to begin a pre-fund for vacation.
Started a vacation fund. I have a goal in mind and we've set dates for vacation. I plan to fill this account with overtime earnings that John is making this month and next. I hope I fill it up but we generally take money from savings for this, so if we have any funds set aside prior to that time, it's that much we don't have to take from savings.
Pre-filling sub-accounts. We have sub-accounts within our checking that we set aside a monthly amount to cover annual costs and fees like taxes and tags. The last frugal boot camp I did, I brainstormed the idea of pre-filling sub-accounts with overtime earnings. Well I did one better. I paid six full months of car insurance and took that small monthly amount and started putting it into the next annual fee that was due. When it was full, I went ahead and filled the next one coming due. In four months time (I started in December), I have filled all but our next six month installment of car insurance (started filling that this pay period) and our annual house insurance renewal money. I have made good use of some of our overtime to pre-fill annual property taxes and tags for next year. My goal is that come this November, I will have all of the house insurance funds needed to pay that renewal in full, rather than in monthly installments as we've done the past 20 years.
Blog goals. I wanted to make 6 posts each week of this year, which is a hard push let me tell you! I made 25 in January, 20 in February (this one surprises me most since it was a short month and I spent half of it in south Georgia), and have made 23 this month (including this post). I have at least 2 more posts ready to go up this week which will bring me to goal yet again.
Grocery budget. I was over my planned lowered budget for January, but well under my more usual spending total. In February, I was spot on the new low budget. That was considerably helped by not being at home! In March, I was over budget. I think it about balanced out February to bring me under 'normal' but nowhere near the new low budget. I will continue to try to pull this figure down to the lower budgeted amount.
I set aside $100 to put towards cleaning supplies and paper products in March. I have spent about $67, and I suppose I did add those figures into my grocery budget. It doesn't bring it down to where I'd hoped to be but it does make a difference in the total overall.
Food waste. I had very little food waste this year thus far which is awesome considering I was gone unexpectedly for two full weeks. I put 5 bananas that ripened very quickly into the freezer. I tossed a half bag of Brussels Sprouts, two tortillas that molded and a few oranges that spoiled immediately upon arrival at home. I think I had two stalks of celery from one bunch that went off quickly. I removed beef fat scrap and two 1/2 cup portions of soup that we haven't eaten from the freezer to toss. There may have been one or two other items over these three months but I know that the tally isn't high. Gone are the days when I'd fill a waste basket with foodstuffs that had been allowed to spoil! All in all, I think I did pretty well with food waste.
Needs list. I had several items on my list of needs when I came into the New Year: underthings, shoes, and a few household items. I am taken care of. I found a great sale on shoes and John gave me the other items for my birthday at my request. We've bought some power tools to use here to clean up the yard, something we've needed for years but only just have managed to purchase. Most of those funds came from pocket money John saved, plus a little of the overtime he earned. I told you, this year I am all about making his overtime work as hard for us as he does for it! I mentioned my earnings for the year thus far and most all of that has already been put towards the house with he exception of the gift cards and Home Depot coupons. Those will be used here in the first part of this next quarter.
We used about $100 of the income tax return to purchase some necessary items for John's wardrobe and a small purchase of Amope replacement heads for myself.
We don't buy Christmas gifts for any but the very youngest. Right now that's Josh, Taylor and Isaac. Rosa's is at the same age range but her gift is included in the family gift we give to Amie and Ben. I have TWO Christmas gifts purchased. I'll keep my eyes open to find something suitable for the last one on my list.
Spring Cleaning. I hadn't exactly planned this. I just became aware this month that it was going to be necessary. At present, I have to finish the pantry and do some more work on the kitchen, but I am hopeful to finish this off this week. I have all day today alone and John works a half day again on Thursday which should net me plenty of work hours.
The unplanned. A battery for my car was needed in January. We purchased that with money from our car maintenance sub-account. Tires weren't necessarily on our list right away. We'd planned to wait a few months but I quickly managed to save that money up, as I've mentioned already. My two weeks in south Georgia to care for Josh when Isaac decided he really needed to be another February baby for the family cost us only a little extra in gasoline, but the bulk of that was met by the travel fund. The few groceries I bought while there were mostly for my own diet benefits and cost far less than I'd have spent at home.
The fun. We had a family visit from the kids in January. We had a visit from Bess and Sam in February and immediately after Isaac was born. We visited with Bess and Sam so Grampa could meet his new grandson in March and then we went to visit with Katie, Matt and Taylor.
I had lunch out with Mama a few times.
John and I had a date at least four times over the past three months.
John has enjoyed working with his new yard tools.
Finally, I am finished. I'm really surprised at all that I did in this first quarter! It was a big help to me to see that while I might not have tackled many big projects, I still accomplished quite a lot.
Spring refresh on the house. I used the earnings from Pinecone and the blog ads to purchase a few items for the house. I moved accessories about, and just generally tried to make each room look a little fresh for the new season we've ushered in. I do call this fun, but make no mistake, it was also work, lol.
We had multiple birthdays from the first week of January through the end of February. John and I celebrated our day quietly. We didn't get to join our family for their birthdays but they were all remembered with a small gift or card.