Ideas and inspiration for efficient living.

Menu planning challenge – Results

Eight weeks ago, I challenged myself to follow a set meal plan and stay within budget for my grocery shopping for the first time in months. You can read about it here.

The results are in! For the first half, I went over my February monthly budget, simply because I started after the first week (so I just followed my plan for the remaining 3 weeks). I wasn’t very successful, but I expected the second month to be better, because a lot of the way I shopped changed.

For the second half of the challenge, I only went over by 13$. It think that is excellent! We have plenty of food and the menu is varied enough that we don’t get bored.

One major money saver I have found is to make one trip at the beginning of the month to buy non-perishable items at the cheapest grocery store I know. This is the only store I shop at that carries all kinds of junk and convenience foods, so the fact that I only go once a month saves me the “extras” that I ended up buying on impulse before.

I started buying more organic produce, such as apples, pears, bananas and lettuce. They are usually the same price as conventional, so they didn’t impact my budget.

I switched from canned to dry beans, they are at least 4 times cheaper.

Instead of buying fresh-baked white French bread to eat with soup, I make my own in my bread machine and make it with whole-wheat. It’s time I put my bread machine to good use!

I make dessert less often, usually no more than once a week, so I am saving on sugar, even though I wasn’t using that much already. We eat dried fruits or applesauce instead and no one minds!

I picked up my first order of organic beef this week. I ordered 1/2 beef with family, so we got a good price per pound and the cost is about equivalent to the meat I buy at the conventional butcher.

I’m also about to join an organic coop, and I will save on everything organic from flour to dried fruit. I can’t wait for a spot to open so I can join!

I’m saving time on my weekly menu planning. My lists are already made, so I look at my pantry and write down what is missing.

I think all the time I put in planning in January/February was worth it, both financially and time-wise. Because of the coop, I’ll be able to afford more organic because it will cost the same as conventional.

I’m pretty happy about the changes our family is making. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s already better!

What are you doing right now to move toward healthier and thriftier eating? 


Housekeeping and the iron fence

I stink at cleaning. I wish my mom had passed on her housekeeping genes to me, but unfortunately, they skipped a generation.

I haven’t been a poor housekeeper forever, it began when I had children. Of course, some amount of letting go is to be expected as you add a new person to your family. But even as my kids grew older, I just disliked cleaning so much that even though I had more time, I devoted hardly any of it to making my home cleaner.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy cleanliness. I love it when I visit spotless homes. I also hate clutter, so clutter is not a problem, it’s the dust and grime that is.

After I had my second child, I really let my house go. It was still (mostly) sanitary. But I had zero motivation to bring it up to a better level. I figured, I stink at it, so when I can afford it, I’ll pay a housekeeper.

That is until a fateful day last summer. I was in my car, waiting for the road to clear so I could go through. My eye caught a repairman working an on iron fence. He was using a sandblaster to remove the dust before repainting it. The fence went halfway around an apartment building, it was tall and it had MANY rungs.

My first thought was that the cost to pay this man for all the work he was doing to restore this fence must be much higher than entirely replacing the fence with a PVC one that didn’t need repainting… In my mind, it was a poor efficiency ratio.

I also wondered, why go through all the trouble anyway? It’s just a fence. What a waste of time. Until it occurred to me that if this fence remained all rusty, it would be a massive piece of ugly metal. And if everything else around the apartment building was left to itself, it would make the whole surroundings ugly. It would not make people want to live there very much.

Here is thing: beauty is attractive. Order is welcoming.

Then I thought of my house… Was I making sure that it was pretty and orderly? Could I do a better job taking care of it? I knew the answer.

So what did that iron fence change in my life? My house isn’t sparkly clean because I have young children. But I make a conscious effort almost everyday to do something that will make it cleaner and more inviting. I’ve stopped using the excuse “I stink at cleaning” and replaced it with “It’s a privilege to care for my house to make it beautiful and orderly.”

Is there something that motivates you to keep a clean home?