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Category: Budgeting

Weekly Frugal Meal Plan

I’ve decided to change things up a bit and talk about what we spent and are planning to eat in the beginning of the week. If I lay my frugal meal plan out here for everyone to see, there is a better chance that I will actually stick to it. Fingers crossed!

frugal shopping frugal meal plans

Weekly Grocery Trip

On Sunday I spent $85.52 at the grocery store and accrued $.60 in fuel perks. Mr. Daisy ran his truck over later that evening to fill up for a whopping $1.20/gal. Full disclosure, I haven’t made it to ALDI the last few weeks. It’s just too. damn. crowded. I truly love the efficiency of ALDI, but I have zero patience when it comes to cart traffic. I don’t have the option of going shopping in the middle of the day or at other potential slow times. I’ve tried everything…Saturday mornings as soon as they open, Wednesday evenings an hour before closing…but to no avail. I don’t browse through the grocery store. I have my list and I know what I want. I’m afraid you’ll see me on the news for reckless operation of a cart 🙂 So, that’s why my grocery bill has been a bit higher than normal. I have no doubt that this grocery trip would have been more around my goal of $50 but I just wasn’t in the mood to battle the crowds.

No grocery picture, sorry! So, here’s a quick rundown of what I purchased. I put it in a pdf so that if you’re interested, you can click and read it. If you’re not interested, I haven’t wasted any extra blog space for you to scroll through .

Shopping 032617

Weekly Meal Plan

Breakfast:

Mr. Daisy eats Clif bars each morning on his way to work with his coffee. I can get them for $1/bar at a regional chain store. That’s not too frugal, but in comparison to him running through a drive-thru each morning, it’s definitely frugal. I’ll take the $5/week breakfast over a potential $20-$30/week.

We are fortunate that Little Daisy’s daycare provider feeds her breakfast each morning. If she’s up especially early one morning I will give her a piece of toast while I get ready for work.

For myself, I alternate between peanut butter toast and maple brown sugar oatmeal. With coffee of course. Both of these tend to hold me over until lunch so I’m not itching for a snack at 10am.

Lunches:

Our predominate lunch expense is with Mr. Daisy. He is unable to re-heat leftovers or have a hot lunch. Most of the time he will eat right in whatever equipment he’s operating (not while in operation, though). He alternates between egg salad, tuna salad, and salami sandwiches. He also packs some chips or pretzels, cashews (which are not cheap!), Gatorade, and some sort of snack. It reminds me of a lunch your mom would pack you in 4th grade, but it works and he’s not picky. Little Daisy of course eats at her daycare and I always try to bring leftovers to avoid food waste. However, there are times when I get restless and need to leave my desk. Once per week I’ll use some of my weekly spending cash and grab lunch out (usually meeting with my brother’s girlfriend).

Dinners:

Here is our weekly dinner plan:

Monday| Breakfast sausage and cheese quesadillas with rice and black beans

Tuesday| Family meal at my grandfather’s. It is my week to cook and I am making a big batch of baked spaghetti.

Wednesday| Crock Pot vegetable soup with grilled cheese. I have a love/hate relationship with my slow cooker, but that’s a post for another day.

Thursday| BBQ shredded chicken sliders with a veggie side.

Friday| We have bowling league this night. I’m sure we will have leftovers from the week, so we will try to eat some of those up.

Saturday| We are going to experiment with our new smoker on Saturday. I think my husband is planning on smoking a wild turkey breast, so we will have that for dinner!

Sunday| We will pick through the fridge and try to gobble up leftovers to reduce any food waste.

Meal Prep for the Week

In order to spend as little time as possible preparing dinner after work (and more time with my family!), I try to do a bunch of meal prep on Sundays. This saves in cooking time as well as clean up time. This week I spent only 45 minutes doing the following:

  • cooked up 1 pound of ground breakfast sausage for Monday’s meal
  • cooked up 2 pounds of ground beef for Tuesday’s baked spaghetti
  • boiled 4 chicken breasts for easy shredding for Thursday’s meal
  • moved the wild turkey breast from the deep freezer to the refrigerator to thaw for Saturday
  • I have a small basket on the counter full of Mr. Daisy’s lunch items. He is NOT a morning person, so rifling through the house getting his lunch ready is not the way Mr. Cranky Pants wants to start his day. So, on Sunday we pre-portion out his chips, cashews, and fill his basket with his other items so all he has to do is grab what he wants and go.

That 45 minutes is time well spent in my eyes because it leads to more time with my family during the week.

I’m hoping to calculate a cost for each meal because I am curious to know, maybe you are too! I didn’t intend for this post to be so long, sorry 🙂 I will update you next Sunday on how well we stuck or didn’t stick to plan!

Do you meal plan or prep food for the week? Why or why not?

Budget Setbacks {& how I handle them}

When it comes to planning and organizing, I am 100% Type A. You should have seen our first budget as a married couple; there were pages and pages of categories and formulas and colors. It was too specific. Because of the specificity, our first budget failed. Big time. I was trying to be far too precise and particular about tracking our money and telling it where to go. For example: under Little Daisy’s category, I had 5 budget lines. Why does an infant need 5 budget lines? I was also trying to track every transaction as it occurred. I would be checking our online banking at least once each day. You know what happened? I got tired, burnt out, and pissed that my day was now revolving around our money.

Fast forward 3 years and several other budget system fails: I’ve created a much simpler, visually pleasing, and easy to navigate budget. Even my free-spirit husband doesn’t mind sitting down to our  weekly and monthly budget meetings. I still tweak it each month because life happens. Our daughter is getting older and we are hitting different milestones and seasons of life. Just like the world around us, our budget is a living thing. It evolves with the ebbs and flows of time. We have the quick weekly check-ins, the mid-month check, and the “big” end of the month/beginning of the next month meeting. Less is definitely more when it comes to our budgeting style.

The Budget Setback

But just when you think you’ve got said perfect balance and your system is flowing perfectly…BAM! In comes the budget buster! Crashing through your wall like the god damned Kool-Aid Man. Not just a $50 buster that you forgot to budget for. But a $600 vehicle repair that was most definitely NOT in your plans.

Mr. Daisy has been worried about his transfer case for about a month. We knew it was going to need replaced eventually. He crawled under yesterday and in his words, “It’s puking fluid. Needs fixed now.” But as he was under there he also noticed that the front ball joints were in bad shape, the water pump needed to be replaced, and might as well throw in the wipers while we’re at it. Before our balanced budgeting days, I would have had a mini meltdown any time something popped up that I hadn’t accounted for.

Now that I’m in my budget-Zen mode, I take a few breaths and look at the bright side:

  1. If we had to take his truck to a shop to get repaired, this would easily cost us well over $1200 with parts and labor. Mr. Daisy is a mechanic so no labor costs and we have the wholesale hookup on parts through my Dad and brother’s businesses, so no crazy marked up parts prices.
  2. Daisy’s truck will get him from point A to point B safely.
  3. I enjoy working on vehicles with Mr. Daisy. One of his 5 Love Languages is Quality Time and he appreciates when I take interest in something that he’s doing. (I would prefer that it didn’t cost $600, but I digress).
  4. We can afford the costs of repairing his truck and we can afford having two vehicles. We are fully aware that this type of setback would cause other people in other situations much more grief than it has caused us. It will not affect our ability to put food on the table, get to work, or disrupt our daily lives and we are grateful for that.

It is natural and automatic to immediately compartmentalize unplanned and unfortunate setbacks into the “The Sky is Falling” category. It’s something that I did for a really, really long time. I would get frustrated and give up on budgeting and gaining control over our finances. It was difficult for me to see that light at the end of the tunnel and still is sometimes. If this would have been a $3000 repair, I would have panicked. No doubt about that. In my struggle to become more calm and Zen with our budgeting and finances; I am trying to teach myself  that much (if not all) of life is about balance. It’s about understanding which situations require calmness and which require an intense approach. Does this small thing really require an argument with my husband? Does the plant that Little Daisy accidentally knocked over validate me losing my patience?

It’s nothing groundbreaking on how I handle budget busters and life setbacks in general. I attempt to find and keep stability, get back up from whatever set back it is, notch it in my brain for future reference, and move on. It may require creative tweaking in next month’s budget, but life will go on with or without me pouting about something. There’s no room for hostility towards something I cannot control when there’s an adorable three year old asking me to play Candy Land with her.

What types of budget setbacks have you encountered? How do you handle them?

What We Spent | What We Ate {we’re on budget!}

A quick grocery trip this week cost us $50.83. While this is over my super strict goal of $20/week due to one heck of an expensive shopping trip a few weeks ago, we’re trending right on budget which makes this momma happy.

You’ll notice that this week’s shopping trip is mainly snacky, processed foods. Mr. Daisy was fresh out of food for his lunches. He is unable to heat leftovers at work, so he packs what I like to call a high school lunch 🙂

 

What We’ve Spent: 

March trip #1 : $33.65 + $27.97 ( I forgot to throw the second shopping trip in last week’s post, oops!)

March trip #2: $50.83

Total: $112.45 

I budget $225  per month for groceries (to see a breakdown of our budget, look HERE or HERE), so we’re left with $112.55 to get us through these last two weeks of the month.

 

What We Ate: 

Monday is ballet night. We had a snacky dinner that consisted of veggies, fruit, yogurt, and sandwiches.

Tuesday  is family dinner night. It wasn’t my turn to cook (yay!). We had pizzas at my grandfather’s.

Wednesday, I made some delicious homemade chicken nuggets. They were perfect and crispy and moist and so good. I will get a recipe post written and share this deliciousness with you all. We had edamame and some homemade applesauce on the side.

Thursday was a night out to eat. Little Daisy went to spend time with her aunts and new baby cousin, so Mr. Daisy and I stopped in at our favorite restaurant in town. Everything at this place is amazing. Whether it’s the pulled pork, chili, pizza, wings, subs, chicken parmesan…it’s all good. It is a locally owned, family run business so we have no qualms whatsoever about spending our money there.

Friday is bowling night. I have errands to run after work so I brought an extra sandwich and a granola bar, Little Daisy is having dinner with her grandma, and Mr. Daisy is on his own.

We will be spending this weekend trying to master our new smoker, planning the garden, and doing some frugal DIY projects that I hope to share next week.

What did you have to eat this week? Are you on budget?

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So please comment and share on social media. I love to interact and share with people!

Mid-Month Budget Check-In with Actual Numbers

{A side note: Yesterday, Dirt Road Daisy hit its first 1000 views! I am so excited and thankful to those of you continuing to return}

Near the middle of each month, I print out our bank statements, comb through them, categorize each transaction, add it to the budget spreadsheet, and take stock of where we stand.  I primarily do this mid-month check-up for one reason: to assess our variable expenses.  We’ve identified the variable expenses as the category that kills our budget for very obvious reasons…they vary. By looking at what we’ve spent so far this month, I am able to grasp whether we are on track to be below, on, or exceeding  our budgeted amounts.

I have this in a nifty 3 columned spreadsheet with some very obvious formatting to let me know how off or on the tracks we are. The 3 columns are: Budgeted, Actual, and Results. I put the values pulled from our transactions into the actual column. The results column contains formulas and conditional formatting built into the spreadsheet so the values and colors are generated automatically.

Green means we are under target, yellow is on target, red is exceeding target.

A quick glance at the Living Expense category will show you a few things: we are on budget for rent and car insurance. Duh, those are fixed and don’t change each month. I overestimated our utilities bill, so we are under in that category. I underestimated gas, so it is red.

The glaring factor in this snippet is that we are $175.06 over budget in the cell phone line. My poor 6 year old Samsung Galaxy finally died on me. The $295.06 we spent here takes the replacement phone I purchased into account.

Here is our mid-month check up:

{ If you would like an in-depth look at our monthly budget, I wrote about it HERE }

Like I said, at the mid-month check-in I’m most focused on the variable expenses. Here are the main take-aways:

  • Groceries: We’ve used about 50% of our grocery budget. I’m happy with this and will just be mindful to shop smart the rest of the month. Status: Good. 
  • Pets: We have $41.30 left to spend for our pets. I anticipate we will go over this by the end of the month. The price of their dog food has jumped, plus they will need their flea/tick/heartworm meds. Status: Meh. 
  • Household Misc: About 50% here, not bad. I don’t have any more purchases planned in this department. We’ll see how well that goes. Status: Good. 
  • Fuel: This will be a close one. Gas prices have risen to about $2.25/gallon here. We were spoiled with the prices hovering around $2.00/gallon for a while. This line will probably have to be adjusted next month. Status: Meh. 
  • Entertainment: We are on track to be a little over budget here. Mr. Daisy spent around $40 at an indoor archery range to practice his craft. He could have worse hobbies 🙂 Status: Over-budget
  • Spending cash: We’re definitely on track to be over-budget here. No rhyme, reason, or excuse. It’s just something we will have to be smarter about next month. Maybe a goal for next month will be to track our (ehemm, my) spending money and see where’s it’s going… Status: Over-budget. 
  • Little Daisy: We spent some money on matching outfits for Little Daisy and her new baby niece for Easter photos. I know, not frugal. But I have justification! These photos will make adorable frugal gifts for grandmas, great grandmas, and great-great grandmas (yes, we have those!). I will take the photos myself with my DSLR. So in the long-run, it may be a frugal win 😉 Status: Good. 
  • Oh $hit: Remember my KFC frugal fail that I talked about HERE?  I threw that in this category. Status: Good. 
  • Other: Another budget buster. I forgot to budget for two wedding showers this month and clothing for a wedding that Mr. Daisy is a groomsman in. There are also a few ATM fees and eBay sales packaging purchases thrown in. Status: Over-budget. 

In addition to the mid-month check up, Mr. Daisy and I have quickie budget meetings, usually each Sunday evening. These last no longer than a few minutes and are not in depth whatsoever. I’m the spreadsheet nerd, him not so much. Since I manage everything financial-related, we utilize these to maintain open communication about finances and where we stand. I’m sure we are all aware that finances are easily a top contender in the category of divorce-causer. We quickly discuss how much is in the checking account, what bills will be paid in the coming week, and any other expenses we assume will come up. For instance, this past Sunday Mr. Daisy let me know that his truck will need ball joints and some sort of transfer case thingy in the very near future. While it will be a hit to our budget, we are fortunate to not have to shoulder full retail prices on parts or pay for service at a shop. The perks of marrying a mechanic and having a dad that’s a business owner.

At the end of the month I will share the final numbers for the month, including our income (which is set to be more than expected, yay for overtime!).

How is your budget looking so far this month?

 

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Our Monthly Budget with Real Numbers

 

Happy March y’all!

Today’s the day.

 I am going to share our real budget with real numbers.

Before I get started, please remember that our budget fits our life. There is no one size fits all budget, and our priorities may be different than yours.

For example, we budget $100 each month for our dogs, while some people may scoff at that. Their health and happiness is a priority to us, so we put our money where our priorities are, and you should too. You may enjoy eating out at restaurants, while that is not something we do on the regular.

So, be nice and don’t judge. No judging allowed 

Each month, we budget down to zero and tell our money what to do. I am paid once per month on the 28th, which I LOVE. I love having all of that money at the beginning of the month to work with. My husband is paid weekly. We are still in our debt free journey, therefore, we are not living on last month’s paycheck like so many financial gurus tell you to do. Sure, it’s a goal. It’s just not the reality right now.

Obvious disclaimer: I’m not a finance expert.

{I’m just a girl in debt, trying to be a girl not in debt.}

Here’s a quick rundown on how I create our budget each month:

  1. Calculate our total income
  2. Budget our Fixed Expenses (Living, Debt, Miscellaneous)
  3. Calculate our balance after Fixed Expenses
  4. Budget our Variable Expenses
  5. Calculate our balance after Variable Expenses
  6. The balance from step 5 is then either put into savings or on debt, depending on our plan for the month.

So, here lies our plan for March. Notice, it is a plan. Things will happen, because…well…Murphy. First, a detailed paragraph form of our budget. I will follow it up with a spreadsheet for all of my spreadsheet lovers out there. No shame, I’m one of them.

INCOME – after taxes

Mrs. Daisy: $3931.88

  • The above amount is my take home pay after 401k contribution, taxes, and health care.
  • Here is the breakdown:
    • $55.34 for dental
    • $51.23 for short term disability
    • $100.00 direct deposited in our HSA account
    • $160.68 to 401(k)

Mr. Daisy: $2808.80

  • Mr. Daisy works as a heavy equipment operator. The number reflected here is his base hourly pay with no overtime. Now that Spring is starting to peek in a little bit, he will be getting more and more overtime. I will reflect that, if any, in the end of the month recap.

Total Income: $6740.68

___________________________________________________________________________

FIXED EXPENSES

Living

Rent: $450.00

*We are lucky enough to be renting a house owned by my in-laws. They are extremely generous with the rent amount

Utilities: $350.00

*The city we live in operates on a co-op. Our electric, wireless Internet, cable, trash, water, and sewage is all included on one bill.

Gas: $70.00

Cell phones: $120.00

*I am researching alternatives in this area. The area I live in is notorious for spotty service when you veer away from Verizon.

Car Insurance: $123.00

Total Fixed Living Expenses:  $1113.00

Debt

Student Loans: $ 846.11

Consumer Debt: $334.21

Personal Loan: $137.40

Vehicles: $699.47

Total Debt Payments: $2017.19

Miscellaneous

Daycare: $540.00

Subscriptions: $38.00

*Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited. We may cancel Hulu, our Roku picks up pretty much everything we care about on Hulu.

Total Miscellaneous Fixed Expenses: $578.00

TOTAL FIXED EXPENSES: $3708.19

Total Income: $6740.00

Total Fixed Expenses: $3708.00

Left to Budget: $3032.00

_______________________________________________________________________

Variable Expenses

Groceries: $225.00 or 56.25/week

Pets: $100.00

*This includes their food and preventive care

Household Miscellaneous: $50.00

*Repairs, décor, etc.

Fuel: $300.00

Entertainment: $120.00

*This includes my bowling budget. Yes, I’m a bowling nerd.

Spending Cash: $320.00

*My husband and I each get $40 in cash as spending money per week. I usually spend it, my husband on the other hand, tends to save it up and splurge on himself (or Little Daisy and I) every few months.

Little Daisy: $50

*Clothes, ballet, anything else she may end up needing

Oh $hit: $150.00

*A buffer I like to leave in the checking account in case of a little emergency or unexpected expense.

Total Variable Expenses: $1315.00

Balance from above: $3032.00

Total Variable Expenses: $1315

Remaining Income: $1717.00

Here is a link to a .pdf file that contains a spreadsheet of our monthly budget for a more concise view:

DRD Budget March 2017

Our current plan of attack is simply banking the remaining $1717.00 in a savings account to build up our savings this month.

So, there you have it! My first foray into using the entire Internet as my accountability partner. Oy. At the end of the month I will post what we actually spent. Let’s see how well we stick to our budget this month.

Have you created your March budget? What format do you use? What are your challenges? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!