Grocery Budget Busting ~ Week 3

3 weeks ago, I decided to attempt to save some money on my groceries. If you haven’t read my previous posts here’s the start, Week 1 & Week 2.

Money Spent: I’ve now gotten quite low on a lot of things thankfully. My regular shop has been able to be lowered to approx $100-$120 per week. However, I feel this was due to running out of a lot of staple items. Going forward, I will lower by regular budget from $180 per week, to $100 per week, with also putting aside $20/week for those items that don’t come up regularly (laundry detergent, toilet paper, cleaning items etc)

I’m hoping that I can lower this even further as I feel I have a better grasp on what my family actually uses and needs for a full, healthy diet.

Recipes Cooked:

  • Devilled Sausages – this was a delicious family fave!
  • Shepherds Pie
  • Nachos (bulked up with beans, which made it last 2 meals, even though the kids weren’t a huge fan of the black beans)

I also discovered The Healthy Mummy website. It has heaps of free recipes that I’ve really enjoyed. I’m glad I stumbled across this site and I don’t need to purchase a whole pile of strange ingredients that I won’t be using again…..

Food Wasted/Thrown Out: this week I went through my sauces. Some expired 4 years ago! Oh dear. But it’s freed up room in my fridge, and enabled me to rearrange it a bit – I like it much more now. Less is definitely more with my new grocery mindset.

This Week’s Amazing Discovery: I have 2, TWO jars of Red Curry Paste. Guess I better cook something with it….

I think this will be the last regular post in this series, as I have happily gotten my pantry, fridge & freezer down to a less cluttered, usable level. I have cooked more, my family has eaten out less and I have saved money, enabling us to use it on other things (like a belated Valentine’s Day experience, an Apple Slinky machine and also paid for new makeup and uniform staples for myself because I’m going back to an actual job that I need to get dressed for) that we otherwise would not have been able to afford.

I really hope you’ve found inspiration in my self-imposed challenge. I will sporadically do more challenges and report back once I’ve found my happy medium of a new grocery budget.

Christine xx

Grocery Budget Busting – Week 2

2 weeks ago, I decided to attempt to save some money on my groceries. You can see how I went with Week 1 here, and now, I’m doing a Week 2 progress report. Who knew we had that much food in the pantry and freezer!!!!

Money Spent: I took out $180 (my usual budget) and have only used cash.

  • 3x 3L Milk – $9.00
  • Hot Roast Chook – $8.00
  • 4x Tins Dog Food – $9.60
  • 850g Green Apples – $4.90
  • 500g Cheerio’s (Frankfurters) – $3.50
  • 2kg of Chicken Drumsticks – $6.35
  • 500g Beef Mince – $4.00
  • Cornflakes (Coles Brand) – $1.80
  • Nurtigrain – $3.70 (half price)
  • 1.4kg Weet-bix – $4.50
  • 1x Box Macaroni Cheese – $2.90
  • Box of 24 Water Ice Blocks – $2.80
  • Box of 8 Lemonade Ice Blocks – $2.70
  • 12 pack of Chocolate yoghurt – $4.80
  • 5x Yoghurts for lunch boxes – $3.75
  • 1kg Carrots – $2.00
  • 1.4kg Royal Gala Apples – $3.82
  • 1kg Granny Smith Apples – $4.27
  • 700g Tomatos – $4.27
  • 2x Cucumbers – $5.00
  • Smooth Peanut Butter – $5.68
  • 1x Loaf of Bread – $3.00
  • 12 Eggs – $3.00 (we usually don’t buy eggs as we have chooks, but I needed to make some cupcakes for the class for a friend)

TOTAL SPENT: $103.35

As you can tell, I’ve started running out of things, so needed to stock up a little. My biggest expense this week was an Apple Slinky Machine. My kids go CRAZY over the apple slinky’s from the school tuck shop, therefore it’s worth it financially for this expense. Plus I saved this amount of money from groceries last week.

Recipes Cooked:

  • Hot Chicken & Macaroni Cheese – hubby & I had a date night / late Valentines Day Dinner Event and left the kids home with my 90 year old nan. We wanted something quick and easy for her to give to the kids that I knew they would eat without any fuss. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
  • I gave 1/4 of the pumpkin from last week to a friend, and then used the remaining pumpkin for Slow Cooker Pumpkin Soup. Yum. Also found 4 mini bread rolls in the freezer so had them with the soup. Again, this was 2 nights worth of dinner.
  • We had extra kids over one night, so we used the chicken drumsticks, but it only lasted us 2 meals instead of the 3-4 I was expecting, but that’s ok.
  • Hot Chook & salad rolls.

Food Wasted/Thrown Out: This week I come across an old packet of cranberry and nut mix in the pantry. Was fairly out of date and the nuts weren’t the right colour any more. Feeling a bit wasteful right now!

This Week’s Amazing Discovery: Room in my Freezer and pantry. I also discovered some choc mud scones in the freezer, so a morning or afternoon treat for myself coming right up 😉

Did you attempt this challenge? If so, did you make it to week 2? If not, are you inspired to try? Next week most likely won’t be the same, as I am starting to run low on things, but I’m hoping this changes my shopping outlook and moving forward allows me to allocate an extra $80/week elsewhere in the budget!!! Looking forward to next week.

Christine xx

Grocery Budget Busting – Week 1 Report

Last week, I decided to attempt to save some money on my groceries. 1 week later, here is my progress report.

Money Spent: I took out $180 (my usual budget) and have only used cash. When it comes to tomorrow (“grocery day”), I will take out another $180 to put in my cash envelope, and what is currently in my envelope has been moved to my “holiday” envelope.

  • 4L Laundry Detergent – $13.00
  • 2x 3L Milk – $6.00
  • 1x Cucumbers – $1.00 (my kids eat these like they’re going out of fashion!)
  • 500g Nectarine’s – $2.45
  • 680g Granny Smith Apples – $3.40
  • 1x Iceberg Lettuce – $2.00
  • 1x Tub Philly Cream Cheese – $4.00
  • 1x loaf of bread – $3.00
  • 200g Feta Cheese – $1.65 (purchased from the Deli section is so much cheaper then the packets)

TOTAL SPENT: $36.50.

My biggest expense this week was obviously my laundry detergent. but it’s always allowed for in my regular budget. My biggest eye-opener was the thought of how much I’m spending “just because that’s my budget”. My family didn’t starve. I purchased items that probably weren’t necessary (Philly Cream Cheese & Feta Cheese for example) but overall, I was more intentional with my shopping and saved quite a substantial amount this week.

Recipes Cooked:

  • Lasagne & salad (used a large lasagne in my freezer, leftover salad ingredients etc, this meal done us for 2 nights)
  • Mixed Berry Crumble (1 bag frozen mixed berries and misc baking ingredients from pantry) – this actually done us for 3 or 4 nights.
  • Seafood Marinara – we didn’t have any wine, so just left it out and substituted 1/4 cup water and used spaghetti instead. This lasted us 2 meals, with the kids having Sausages and salad the second night (sometimes they just like a picking plate)
  • Chicken, Pumpkin, Quinoa, Basil & Feta “Salad” – I forgot that there was a pumpkin in the shed, and also discovered some unopened, still-in-date basil with cashew and parmesan chunky dip. We were also given a roast chook from a tournament hubby was involved in over the weekend – Bonus! So I had to use it up. Plenty leftover for dinner the next 2 nights as well.
  • Last night, because hubby had enough of just having the Chicken & pumpkin dish, I got out some steak and we had that with the chicken dish as a side. We could have easily had no steak as there was enough, but 3 nights in a row was too much.

Food Wasted/Thrown Out:

  • One bag of something from the pantry. It was possibly Buckwheat. It seems to ring a bell when I look at it, but no idea what it is or what I would use it for and because of this, I had to throw it.
  • 1 and a half bags of Almonds
  • Half a bag of Veggie Crisps – these last 2 were full of weevils, which I didn’t realise until I packed some for hubby and he called to let me know. Oops.

This Week’s Amazing Discovery: Well, did you know we are apparently lolly hoarders. I have discovered a PILE of miscellaneous lollies as well as 6 Pez Dispensers – yes, SIX!!! For 2 kids. That rarely get Pez lollies. I have no clue why we have the amount of lollies we do, but I removed them from my pantry and after discussing with hubby, we tossed up between a) throwing the lot b) making ice cream treat cups or c) cutting up the chocolates etc and turning them into Cold Rock style Mix-in’s. We will be going with b I think and purchasing a 2L tub of ice cream and some disposable cups with lids, mixed-in the chopped up chocolates and put them in the freezer. Then I will throw out the remaining / not very nice looking ones.

Did you attempt this challenge? How did you go after 1 week? So far, so good and I’ll be going for another week yet at this stage.

Christine xx

8 Easy Tips to Reduce Your Grocery Bill

In light of my recent post about Grocery Budget Busting and trying to use up what’s in my pantry & freezer in an effort to save money, I’ve decided to share some tips on how to reduce your own grocery bill.

Yesterday, on my first grocery shop on my self-imposed grocery shopping ban, I noticed a few things

  • Those half-price (or sometimes better) deals are seriously there to draw you in. I was walking past and noticed one and immediately I was like ohhhhhh and made a direct beeline for that product (I can’t even remember what that was and it was only 24 hours ago, so obviously I won’t die without it)
  • I started to question if previously I have just been spending $180/week on groceries because “that’s my budget”. Regardless of if I had to purchase meat or not, I always managed to spend AT LEAST that amount of money.

So here are some tips to help reduce your own Grocery Bill:

  1. Before you go, have something to eat. Take a bottle of water with you and chew gum if you have to. This way you are shopping on a full stomach.
  2. Join rewards programs if the shop offers it. Here in Australia, we unfortunately don’t have access to Coupons (I wish we did!!!). These programs are free (Woolworths Rewards and Flybuys are 2 that I know of and Flybuys I use all the time), they give you money back, just for shopping. I’m always surprised when someone doesn’t have a rewards card. IT’S FREE MONEY PEOPLE!!! (sorry for shouting, I just don’t understand it hehe) I usually try to save my Flybuys dollars up for Christmas. But I have been known to cash in some money when I have been a bit short before. Also, with Flybuys, you can connect your activity tracker and receive 10 points every day you reach 10,000 steps. There are other programs you can link to your card, and you can use Flybuys at Coles, Coles Service Stations (when you get your fuel), Target, Kmart, Liquorland and First Choice. Every 2000 points = $10. This all adds up for doing what you do usually.
  3. Menu/Meal Plan. Yes, it can be long and sometimes painful, but this is the only way you will know what you need to buy! When the catalogues arrive, look at the specials and compare, then choose where you will shop and what goes on your menu. Ask the kids what they would like for dinner. If the answer is Chicken nuggets and chips, put potato’s and chicken on the list. (my kids love it when I cut the potato’s using the peeler and put them in the oven. They taste and look like potato chips and they think it’s a real treat!) Some of our family favourites that go a fair way or can be stretched are: Shepherds Pie, Lasagne, Taco’s, Sausages and Veggies, Spaghetti Bolognaise, Chicken (it’s so versatile you can use it for anything really), Casseroles/Stew/Slow-Cooker Meals (especially in Winter). I love adding Dumplings to my casseroles as that makes the meal stretch quite significantly especially when teamed with pasta or rice and it’s full of veggies.
  4. Make a list. Write out everything you need, but be sure to STICK TO IT!! Again, it’s easy to be sucked in to the ohhhhh specials!! Those tags are designed to be eye catching!!!!
  5. Check what’s in your pantry/freezer and use that first, also, cross reference your list you’ve just made and cross it off if you own it. Sometimes (like me) you may be able to get away with a small shop because you have no room in your freezer or pantry. Do you actually know what’s in there? What’s lurking in the back? Or that top shelf? Are you doubling or tripling up on some things? Shop at home first at least once a month to use up what you can and have a “top up shop” only. Imagine only doing a top up shop once a month and only spending $50 instead of $180 – that’s a savings of over $1,500 per year!! Fun Fact: That’s almost enough to fly a family of 4 from Brisbane to New Zealand and back 😉 Holiday anyone??
  6. Look at the price. Now this one seems obvious, but with packages being all different shapes and sizes, sometimes what first seems the best deal really isn’t. Look at the 100g/100ml price and compare. Don’t be brand loyal. I have started trying Coles brand products and 9 times out of 10 I don’t know the difference and a lot of the times, when looking at the nutritional label, there IS no difference. I’m a bit of a snob with my coffee, so I do spend a little more but when I’m only having 1 per day generally, I figure, life is too short to drink terrible coffee. Oh and toilet paper, I like the brand I like, so I won’t compromise. But milk, flour, sugar, etc are absolutely fine being the home brand and work just as well. Also, compare prices in the Deli per kg to the pre-packaged. I can generally buy Chicken cheaper from the deli then the meat section and sometimes Chicken Drumsticks are on sale for $2-$3/kg – When this happens, I stock up and buy a few kg’s worth. It makes for an easy dinner and you can use them a few different ways. (as of right now, Chicken Drumsticks are $3.50 per kilo at Woolworths, 2kg would easily make 3-4 meals for our family depending what I make with it, that’s around $2 per meal or 50c per person)
  7. Use leftovers. I love leftovers. It means I often don’t need to do anything except heat and serve. It makes for easy dinners on those days when you’re running late or you just can’t be bothered. You can purchase Chinese containers for $10 for 25 at Coles or Woolworths (same price at both) if you would prefer to freeze and have a stockpile of ready to go meals, but don’t forget to use them!!!!
  8. Stick to your Menu/Meal Plan. If you make a meal plan, stick to it as much as possible. Sometimes, you will unexpectedly end up with extras, or you get a random invitation to a BBQ (it is Summer in Australia after all), so some weeks you won’t end up making every meal on the plan. Therefore, when this happens, make sure these meals are the first thing to be added to next weeks meal plan. You already have all the ingredients after all.

So this is my list and 8 easy tips to save yourself some money. My top hint is definitely taking advantage of Rewards Programs and taking the time to discover what other things you can link to it. Get the most you possibly can out of these free programs that can end up giving you $100+ (depending on your general shop) come Christmas time. I have used Flybuys to purchase Christmas Presents and Christmas lunch for the extended family and I haven’t had to dig into my budget for this.

I hope this has helped, and I plan on sharing some of my family’s favorite recipes over the coming weeks while I use up what I discover in my freezer and pantry! On the menu tonight is Spaghetti Marinara.

Christine xx

 

Grocery Budget Busting

Usually tomorrow (Friday) is my grocery day! But this week, tired of the overwhelming mess in my pantry, I’ve decided to challenge myself by not grocery shopping – or at least drastically reducing the amount spent.

The honest mess in my pantry.

The plan: Use as many items in my fridge/freezer and pantry as I can.

Exceptions: I am allowed to purchase Milk, Bread/Wraps, fresh salad ingredients and fresh fruit (lunches and snacks). But ONLY when I’ve run out of the items we already have.

I have plenty of items to bake snacks for school – biscuits/cakes/slices, my freezer has enough meat and misc. items in there, as does my pantry. There were some things I’ve purchased because they were for a recipe that I never made (Tamarind Paste anyone).

My normal grocery budget is $180/week to feed a family of 4 (2x adults, Miss 5 and Mr 4). Overall, I would love to cut that down if possible.

My Goals:

  •  To save as much money as possible from my grocery budget.
  • Stop unnecessary overspending.
  • Get creative with my recipes using food I currently have available.
  • Declutter my freezers (we have one fridge/freezer combo plus an additional freezer).
  • Declutter my pantry.
  • Become more intentional and smarter with my grocery shopping and hopefully get my budget down as much as possible.

What I will report back: Recipes used, actual money spent on purchasing groceries and what I bought, updated pictures of my pantry, a list of anything I’ve thrown out (because of out of date etc) and amazing discoveries (because who knows what’s actually in the freezer & pantry).

CHALLENGE: Look in your pantry and freezer – could it do with a clean out? Instead of throwing out and being wasteful, could you maybe skip a week (or 2) grocery shopping and save yourself some money? What difference would this make to your family?

Let’s bust this grocery budget!!!

Christine xx

Budget Conscious Party Season

For most of us party season is in full swing. Christmas parties left, right and centre. However, in our family we have 1 birthday left, my mother-in-laws 60th. 

I have been madly helping with party prep – decorating and cake making is generally my domain 😉 which I love. So here’s how I managed to decorate this 2 night party for under $150.

Paper Lanterns are pretty and fairly simple. These one were only $2.00 each at a discount store. 


I purchased a sheet of diamonte strip “stickers” and also diamonte ribbon. First off I added the diamontes top and bottom, 2x AAA batteries and using my hot glue gun I attached diamonte ribbon around the middle. 


And lit up:


Next I used some white and purple crepe streamers and purple & silver balloons to decorate the top of a gazebo. This is the end result looking up:


Bit windy. But with some time and effort, this is really effective and looks awesome. 

Next is probably the most expensive part of the whole decorating process, the champagne bottle with bubbles. This is so suitable for my mother in law, but totally worth the added expense and made a gorgeous photo prop/backdrop.


And last, but certainly not least, the streamer wall with the addition of the 60 balloons.


This would also be an awesome photo backdrop with a row of balloons at the top & bottom instead of the large numbers. We got packs of streamers from The Reject Shop for around $2.00 each, the large bows were a Christmas decoration and $3.00 each. 

These decorations did take me time, but mostly fairly cheap. The large balloons were our biggest expense at $10-$15 each, so without these it would greatly reduce costs for sure. 20 packs of balloons for $3.00 each, hired a tank of helium from Spotlight for $40 (plus $100 refundable deposit) which also isn’t necessary if you don’t have the large numbers and champagne bottle, it would probably be cheaper to just purchase a few helium balloons for the tables/floor decorations from big w or spotlight. 

Sometimes the simple decorations are the most effective.

Christine xx

Is the Bullet Journal system for me?

As a busy mum, I always had notes everywhere and was desperately trying to get myself (and my house) organised. At the end of May / start of June I felt I was drowning so started searching for ideas. Thanks to Pinterest I discovered Bullet Journalling. It called to my creative heart with the prettiness of it and thought: Yes! This is for me!!!

“The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.” ~ Ryder Carroll

I won’t go through every little detail, as you can find lots of comprehensive guides online that I certainly couldn’t compete with, like the original method by Ryder Carroll or Boho Berry’s Bullet Journal 101 series or even join a Facebook group but here’s what I have personally done and found and my experience.

One thing you need to remember is, this is YOUR journal. I know you will compare it to others, but remember, this is your journey and if it brings joy, creativeness and helps you out with your every day life, then it’s absolutely perfect. You don’t need to spend big $$ (unless you want to) and I have managed to do this system quite reasonably when I didn’t get caught up in the hype of you have to have this, that or the other!

  1. A cheap NOTEBOOK will be absolutely fine. I personally have this one from Kmart for $5 – budget friendly with PLENTY of pages. It is lined, which bothers some people, but not me. I did feel like I was doing “something wrong” by not using a grid or dotted notebook, but I couldn’t find any in my smallish town and I certainly wasn’t willing to fork out the money for these journals as most are quite expensive. And honestly, at the start, I wasn’t sure I was going to stick with this whole Bullet Journalling thing, so cheaper was certainly a great place to start.
  2. PENS – I use my Pink Parker Pen with medium nib black ink.I purchased it years ago when I was working in an office. This is my every day pen, I also use some cheap Glitter Gel Pens for headings and decorative features when I have the time or need to de-stress. I know a lot of people prefer fine line pens, and I do use these occasionally (and again, I just use the Faber-Castell from Kmart which are fairly cheap).
  3. HOW DO I START? Well, that’s easy:
  • A Key for your journal. Mine is fairly simple and sticks closely to the original key for my lists
    and to migrate tasks etc. This is right at the front of my journal.
  • Next I went with a calendar overview for the next 6 months with the school holidays in a different colour (because now that Miss S is at school, I need to know these dates). This is just like the calendars you see on your fridge, nothing fancy and nothing really on there except that.
  • Index – My index has item first, and pages last. Eg: Cleaning – 35, 49-53, 76, 101 This way if I’m after something to do with cleaning, I simply refer to my index and am able to flick to those pages and find what I’m after.
  • Future Log – this just has the months listed with blank spaces, anything that is a future event and I need to know but haven’t set that month up yet, then I put it in here.
  • Month Title Page – this is my pretty page to mark the start of a new month. I sometimes add goals that I want to achieve that month. This month (October) I haven’t done that, but may go back to it next month.
  • Monthly Overview. This is basically a calendar for the month. I add in all my upcoming events transferred from the future log and when I’m setting up my weekly spread, I refer to here as well. Again, this month I didn’t include this as I have set my whole month up together. So I transferred from the future log directly to the appropriate page.
  • Daily To-Do List. My Bujo (Bullet Journal’s nickname), has the date and then my to-do list. After the first 2 months, I had a really good idea on how much space I generally used per day and now do my own version of a weekly spread. So I set my whole month up together, separate the days with narrow washi tape, put in the dates on the top, transfer items from my future log and then my set up is done.
  • Collections/Spreads – A lot of people (including me) chooses to add collections or spreads. Some of the ones I have made in mine include: Budget Tracker/Dave Ramsey Baby Steps (slightly altered to suit our personal situation), TV Series trackers, Book Shelf, Long Term Goals (including money, Level 10 Life, Ultimate Travel List etc), Zen Art Challenges, Jamberry collection, Spring Cleaning etc. (I may go more into these at a later date)

Every night before bed, I sit down for a few minutes and write out my next days to-do list. I have found this method really beneficial and definitely have started sleeping better as there isn’t 1,000,000 things running around in my head when I’m trying to sleep.

Decorating, making it pretty, unique and mine. I love using washi tape on the edge of the pages, I do a different theme/colour for each month. I really feel a sense of achievement seeing my Bujo getting “fatter” and crossing things off my list. I can just sit down and realise that I did make progress. Every day. Even if I done nothing but chase my tail. And yes, I DO sometimes add things that I’ve already done just to cross them off hehe.

Do I still use my Bujo daily? Absolutely. Has it helped me? No doubt. There’s just something about putting pen to paper, feeling the crinkle of the pages and crossing off items from my to-do list that is just satisfying. I know I could probably find an app that will do all of this, I much prefer this method. It’s motivating! And although I have had to skip my ZenArt Challenge this month due to time restrictions and wanting to spend a bit of time setting up my Blog, I still need to finish September’s Challenge and will start fresh for November. Honestly, this process takes next to no time at all (unless you want it to of course) and I have found I have been much more productive, sleep better and feel happier.

Do you use a Bullet Journal? How have you found it? Would love for you to share your pics.

Christine xx

PLEASE NOTE: This is my personal experience and opinions. There are NO affiliate links posted above and would not recommend any items I have not personally used.