Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Price of Country Livin'

Almost 4 years ago we made the move from urban Metro Detroit to a little township between between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. We love living here and have ZERO plans to move back to "the city" at any time, ever. But every once in awhile something comes up where I think, "Wow I really miss that!"

I was visiting my family this weekend, which was a very frugal trip since we haven't sold our house there and can sleep there for free, and this morning I drove by Randazzo's Fruit Ranch. When I lived there I would typically go there at least once a week to buy fresh produce and I absolutely loved it. We would make fresh salads with our meals, lots of stir fry's, and plenty of variety in buying fruit. Driving by I remembered just how much I miss having that kind of convenience.

So I stopped in and walked around. I could have bought a couple of just about everything, but ended up leaving with: 3 heads of garlic, 2 lbs of gnocchi, 2lbs of popcorn, 10lbs of apples, 2.5lbs of grapes, and celery....all for $11.10. Last time I bought celery, about a week or so ago I paid $2.50!

I guess there really are trade-offs to everything, I just wish I didn't have to give up reasonably priced produce to live here!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Savings Angel

West Michigan - Cut your grocery bill in HALF!

So it's been a little over a year since I started using Savings Angel and I wanted to get some thoughts down on the program.

-Amazing deals!
-Centalized list making
-Easy access to printable coupons
-Supportive community for swapping coupons and non sale deals

-It does cost $20/month

It took me a long time to wrap my mind around the whole concept of paying $20/month to be a part of the service, but the money is VERY well spent! I easily save that in just a week of shopping using them.

I was not a Meijer shopper at all before Savings Angel, and now that is pretty much my store of choice. With their MealBox coupons stacked with a manufacturer coupon, I can get groceries for just pennies on the dollar, or just plain free. Plus, I am in Meijer more often, so I can take advantage of their produce and meat markdowns that I come across as I am in the store. My kids have enjoyed more fruit this way than I was able to budget and buy in the past. Fruit in our house doesn't last much longer than a day or two, so the ripe fruit markdowns are just fine for us.

As we've paid off our debts and we've had some wiggle room in our budget, I've actually increased our grocery budget over time. We were budgeting right around $200/month at one point, and I've increased that to $250/month. We were almost living exclusively on chicken since it was the most inexpensive meat to buy, but now I splurge and we're eating more beef and pork than we used to. I personally could eat chicken every single day because I love the taste of it, but the variety is nice too. In theory, Dave would have us stick to the barebones until we were debt free, but I think that he would be amazed that a family of 5 could even make it on $250/month, forget the $200 we were skating by with!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gone Baby Gone

Hard to believe, but today I scheduled the FINAL payment on our credit card. I honestly can't remember a time in our relationship where we haven't had some sort of credit card payment to contend with. It was a long road that we started down, and while the numbers were somewhat fuzzy, I look back and see that of the nearly $40,000 in debt we started with, approximately $12,000 of that was credit card debt.

When we got our tax return back, we were thankfully able to be able to cover quite a few things that needed to be taken care of:

1. Tires on our van
2. Paid off the credit card
3. Paid our property taxes

I'll admit and throw out there that once those 3 things were taken care of, we did purchase a new desktop computer for our house. Matt is actually building it because he was able to get a pretty good deal on the parts vs a ready made system. Our desktop died quite a few months ago and we've been trying to run things off of a second hand laptop that I bought from work, and every once in awhile it takes an absolute dump and we get the blue screen of death. We aren't very "hard" on our computers, so I anticipate we'll be holding onto this one for quite a few years, much like we did with our dearly departed desktop.

Starting debt: $39216.30
Amount paid: $25,153.71

$14062.49 until we are DEBT FREE

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

We Have a Winner!

I've been experimenting with different bread recipes trying to find one that works for our family. The main criteria being:

1. Simple ingredients that I have on hand (yeast, flour, salt, etc)
2. Not overly elaborate steps
3. Low maintenance

Let's face it, I have 3 kids and I work full time, I don't have time to knead, proof, rinse, repeat, babysit and all that comes with the more common bread recipes. I have a KitchenAid mixer with hook, so that cuts down on the amount of hands on I am willing to put into this. I don't want a bunch of extra stuff in the bread either, so I avoided recipes that have shortening (gross!), butter, whole milk, buttermilk and a host of other oddball ingredients that I either don't want in my bread or I don't have in my house often enough.

Tonight I think I found my winner. From start to finish it was a little over an hour and that was 40 minutes of cooking. In between steps I found time to hand wash the mixer parts and empty my dishwasher, so it's a multi-tasking friendly recipe!

The bread does have brown sugar in it, but it's not super sweet at all, in fact, I forgot the sugar was in there until I just looked at the recipe again. I have some honey that a friend from church gave me from her hive, so I am thinking I might try to use that next batch to see how it tastes. If anything, I would rather have my kids eating bread with local, fresh honey in it than GFS brown sugar :)

Tomorrow I am testing driving a recipe from the Hillbilly Housewife, Italian Beans and Rice:

Last month Spartan had coupons on their website,, for $1 off of a 2lb bag of dried beans, so I picked up some dried northern beans and we've been trying to use them in different ways. We made a very tasty bean and ham soup, and now it's time to put them to the beans and rice test.