food costs challenge – june 2019 report

It’s time for the first full month report for our Food Costs Challenge! June was just about spot on for our target restaurant/fast food spend!

Our goal was $350, and so at $352.40, we were right there! You can also see that our frequency was one of the lowest of the previous year.

So how did it feel? With the exception of being tired a couple nights when we cooked (where we would have previously gone out to eat at a restaurant), it felt pretty okay. We had just a couple of additional conversations where we were deciding when to go out to eat and when to stay home. It didn’t feel hard to me really, probably because…

…we spent significantly more on groceries. We spent $906.48 on groceries, which is so absolutely insane for 3 adults and a child! Our total food costs for the month of June was $1,298.88. So. Much.

I know that we are going to need to address our food costs as a whole. We tent to buy bulk, so I’m hoping that our monthly average goes down over time. We have also had some conversations about making larger quantity, lower cost meals. With an Instant Pot, crockpot, and someone here in the day to start something if we need it, we really shouldn’t have any problems making 2-3 large meals (with 8-10 servings) throughout the week.

I’d love to be between $750-$850 per month for food costs for our family. I think that is a really reasonable goal to aim for. And wow, that’s $500 less than this month. Imagine what we could be doing with the additional $500/month! It’s time to reign it in!

So tell me reader, how was your June? What amazing meal did you eat? What do you think of our June report?

Cheers!
Mel

small garden update

Hello summer! Look at the progress on our garden!

Actual food is growing! Amazing, right? We’re dealing with some wild rabbits and birds trying to get some snacks, but Bear will chase them out (if we tell him to). I’m pretty sure that I saw dog paw prints in there too, but he’s yet to be caught in the act.

Cheers!
Mel

food costs challenge – june 2019 check in

Hi reader!

Welcome to our June 2019 check in! One of our main goals right now is to reduce our restaurant (including fast food) costs. Over the course of the past year, we averaged approximately $520 per month on restaurant costs. Insane. Our first food challenge goal (of hopefully many) is to keep our restaurant costs to $350 or less per month.

For the first half of the month, we are at $166.16! Just under half, so not bad! We had some family in town from out-of-state that bought a big meal for us, and we bought some additional food to accommodate them as well. What we have found this first month, is that we’re spending a lot more on expensive groceries. I know we’ll tackle the general grocery costs at some point, because those are exorbitant as well.

Reader, let’s hear about your food goals! Do you have any expenses that you are following closely? Or maybe it’s all of your expenses… drop me a line in the comments and let me know!

Cheers!
Mel

food costs challenge – end of may (mini report)

Check out the first post in the food cost challenge.

Well, reader, May is over. Remember how I said that I intended to be authentic in talking about the good and the bad in this blog? I also said I was going to start these reports with a check-in around mid-June, but I decided to go ahead and post for May.

I am pretty horrified, but not surprised, at the amount we spent on food this month. We travelled the most we ever have with (and without) Bo, which was for approximately half the month. And on those trips, we never stayed in a single location for more than 4 nights, so we ate at restaurants (including fast food) a whole lot in May. And we spent the most that we’ve spent on restaurants in the last 12 months.

We went to 29 restaurants/fast food establishments for a grand total of $810.21.

We did not establish our restaurant goal until later in the month, which is to spend no more than $350/month on restaurants. Our previous average over the last 12 months was around $520/month. As you can see, we have a lot of lifestyle decisions to make going forward.

Here are a few things I’ve thought about in regard to this food costs challenge:

  • What can we do with the difference (~$170) between our typical restaurant spending and our goal? Invest in our retirement? Contribute to Bo’s newly-opened 529? Save for home improvement projects?
  • Restaurants no longer feel like a novelty to me. But, when I was a kid my family went out to fast food no more than once/week, and if we ate at a restaurant in addition to that, it was very inexpensive. It always felt like a treat because every other meal was eaten at home.
  • I don’t want Bo to have restaurants as her baseline for nutritional and “ease of access” expectations. Luckily, right now she is so picky that she eats very little food from restaurants. But when she’s older, I want her to expect that we’ll cook and eat at home with healthy ingredients. My intuition tells me that is right for our family… and sometimes you’ve gotta’ listen to your gut (pun intended).
  • Goodness knows what’s in most restaurant food, but we cook relatively healthy at home. And this year (since January 4, 2019), by tracking our calories on the Lose It app, my husband and I have lost a combined total of 30lbs! I’d love to keep on our healthy trajectory. I’m feeling quite inspired by our garden right now, which will hopefully yield us a ton of veggies by the end of the summer!

So, reader, what would you do with an “extra” $170 per month? Do you budget for your restaurant (or other food) spending? How tight of a grip do you have on your food costs? Have any tips you’d like to share?

Cheers,
Mel

compost bin & garden beds

Hi Reader,

Since we’ve moved into this house (over 4 years ago!), we knew that we wanted to have garden beds. We have green thumbs in both of our families, and both grew up on eating fresh food out of our families’ gardens. Plus, we have the space: our house sits on a half acre. When we moved in, other than the house itself and a few small landscaped beds, the whole half acre was grass. And not nice grass either, but grass that would need a lot of love to be attractive to the eye.

We have already built a 12’x4′ three-section compost bin. And, as time goes on, the plan is to replace even more of the (resource-sucking) grass with things that are useful, such as a shed, swing set and sandbox for Bo, and our garden beds.

Compost Bin:

We built the compost bin a couple years ago. I feel great about it because we have way too much food waste. Like, a ton (this is, of course, something that we’re working on), and now it’s not going into a landfill. Of course, we put grass clippings and compostable yard waste in there too.

What it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in function. The compost bin is comprised of three sections, and the majority of it was reclaimed cedar planks from a fence that fell down prior to us moving into the house. The front panels and panels between the sections can be removed board by board for easy access and compost-turning. The back of the structure is compost mesh to allow the compost to breathe.

Garden Beds:

We’ve just finished building our garden beds. They are next to the compost bin for easy access, and because this corner of the yard gets the best light. Our beds are:

  • Two 4′ x 8′ x 2′ beds made with Alaskan Yellow Cedar (primarily 4′ x 4’s). One of the beds has a trellis for climbing plants, and the wire portion of the trellis is from leftover material that we already had. The wood and 6″ screws were purchased new. The lowest layer is filled with the sod we cut out, then compost, then a dirt/compost mixture (purchased)
  • One 4′ x 4.5′ x 8″ bed made with 8″ x 8″ cedar posts and 2″ x 6″ boards that were scrap wood from another project.
  • One 2′ x 2′ x 8″ bed also made with the wood scraps.

The total cost of the garden materials this year (including the material for the beds, dirt, plants, seeds, and a hose that reaches this corner of the yard) is probably around $750. Of all 5 structures (including the compost bin), only 2 have been made with new materials. And, because we planned and used sturdy materials, we expect them to last. Although expensive, I consider this project to be in two spend categories: 1) Food (reducing future costs), and 2) Hobbies (because we would not have spent as much if we genuinely didn’t enjoy spending time and energy on both the building and the gardening).

Post a comment or link to your garden set up! What has worked and what hasn’t? What will this years’ yields look like for you?

Cheers!
Mel

challenge: reducing our food costs

Dear Reader, hold on to your pants. You’re about to see some big numbers!

Let’s start this post out with total honesty: We spend too much money on food. I could feel it in my soul. And with financial independence (FI) as an ultimate goal, I decided to dig in to the numbers. Though I have pretty much ignored it for years (problem numero uno), we have always had Mint.com. I logged in and started going through transactions. And our transactions can be summed up like this: Restaurant, restaurant, fast food, amazon, restaurant, restaurant, restaurant, restaurant….

I decided to go to only 2 food categories to try to help me see clearly where money is going in regards to food, and because I know eating out is more expensive than eating at home. Now we have Groceries and Restaurants (which includes fast food). Then, I looked at the bottom line for the Food category.

We spend about $1200/mo on food.

And the restaurant piece of that is ridiculous. Let’s take a look:

The two highest months are months that we traveled extensively, which makes sense to me. But that’s over 250 times in 11 months! That’s an average of over 20 times per month, and over $500/month of spending.

I talked to my husband about this. We’ve always been great about working towards a goal. Some might say that we are a bit too inflexible when we are working towards something, but I think that’s great for this type of thing. So, we’re challenging ourselves to spend no more than $350/month on restaurants. Whether or not we meet this mark, I’ll be documenting this journey on the blog. I will have a mid-month check-in and a post-month report post. Since May is pretty much a bust, I’ll start with my mid-June check-in.

And very soon, I will find out if this number is either painful or attainable. But heck, $150 of savings is a lot of money per month! And since I need to focus on one thing at a time, I’ll be tackling even more aspects of our food costs in the future.

So join me for this challenge by posting updates or links below, and I will follow along. I’d love to see how other people manage their food costs.

Cheers,
Mel