$75 Meal Plan #5 – Sugar Free Edition

A meal plan, if it’s going to work, isn’t broken down into weekly measured portions and their associated costs. It’s a mix of this week’s purchases, what’s in your pantry, gifts and ground-scores.

So, following this format, I’m pitching in my budget. I spend $50-$75 a week on me and my husband. I’m currently breastfeeding so I eat twice as much as I previously did.

But we have no other sources of food beyond our budget. No garden, herbs in the window sill – nothing. I use coupons sparingly – the store ad for wherever I’m shopping, the occasional newspaper and coupons.com. When I get the mood I also use Ibotta, Grocery 51 and MobiSave. But these aren’t included in my grocery budget; they pay for date night.

THIS WEEK WE BOUGHT:

 Bananas, eggs, russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, 1 romaine head, milk, sugar free salad dressing, 3lbs. apples, honey, angel hair pasta, 8oz salad shrimp, 1 cabbage head, red onion, celery, 2 lbs. Bag of carrots, 1 corned beef roast, 8oz. saltwater salmon, asparagus, cilantro, 2 tomatoes.

BREAKFAST OPTIONS:

Fruit

Oatmeal with honey

Banana Peanut Butter Smoothies

Scrambled eggs and hashbrowns

Baked sweet potato

LUNCH OPTIONS:

Burritos

Tuna salad

Leftovers

SNACK OPTIONS:

Popcorn

Fresh fruit

Vegetables

Boiled eggs

Pickles

Tea

Coffee

DINNER MENU:

Thursday  – creamy garlic chicken with rice.

Friday – shrimp pasta.

Saturday – chicken stir fry.

Sunday – corned beef with cabbage and potatoes.

Monday – southwest chicken salad.

Tuesday – grilled salmon with asparagus and quinoa.

Wednesday – corned beef hash (using leftover corned beef).

MEAL PREPPING I DID THIS WEEK:

These foods were prepared over the course of the weekend. Some was stashed away for later and some was consumed this week.

  • Crockpot beans
  • Boiled eggs
  • Baked sweet potatoes
  • Chopped cabbage in thin slices.
  • Shredded 2 carrots; roughly chopped 1; sliced 4 into sticks.
  • Diced small red onion.
  • Diced 5 sweet onions.
  • Quartered 1 yellow onion.
  • Cubed 2 lbs. Chicken breasts
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Celery sticks
  • Minced cilantro
  • Diced tomato

THIS WEEK’S TOTAL SPENT: 

How do you spend your grocery budget?

Winter Root Beef Stew (in the Crockpot)

If you’ve been reading for long you know I have a passion for teaching sustainability – be that on the farm or a city apartment, every system should be sustainable if not self sufficient.

I did not grow up with that lifestyle. I’ve had to learn the hard way, one lesson at a time. One of my more recent adventures has been learning to cook seasonally – and with local ingredients.

This is my new favorite winter recipe. You can even get locally brewed (or homemade) hard cider.

Shopping locally and in season is more work. So to make it easier on you I’ve got a good recipe for you in winter and it’s super easy to make. And if you want it in the summer? Well it makes a good freezer meal too!

Feeds 4- 6 people

You Will Need:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lbs. Beef roast, cubed
  • 4 medium yellow potatoes
  • 2 parsnips, chopped
  • 1 turnip, chopped
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 2 tbsp worcestershire
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 can hard cider (I used Angry Orchard)
  • 4 – 6 cups beef broth (enough to cover)

Prepare

Put olive oil in the bottom of the crockpot. Then add garlic cloves and worcestershire. Place beef on top. Then add paprika, salt and pepper. Next the vegetables – potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery and onions.

Pour the cider in. Then add broth until all the vegetables are covered.

Cook

Cover the crockpot with lid. Set to cook on high for 6 to 8 hours. All the alcohol will have cooked out.

Serve

Serve hot, with crusty peasant bread and a leafy green salad for best deliciousness.

Freeze It

Put all ingredients except cider and broth in a 2 gallon freezer bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to prepare, dump still frozen in crockpot, top with cider and broth and cook high 8- 10 hours. It will be slightly mushier.

Budget Version

Omit cider. Replace broth with water. Double onion, carrot and celery. Omit parsnips and turnip. Add 1/2 cup applesauce.

I hope you e joy this recipe. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

What We Actually Needed for Baby: Zero Waste Style

*This post contains affiliate links, where I recieve a portion of your purchase at no extra cost to you. All affiliate links are to products I have actually used. 

Raising a baby requires a lot of crap. And if you go mainstream it requires an absurd amount of crap. Every child is different; every lifestyle, climate and laundry schedule are different too. But it is helpful as a new parent to see what other moms did.

Whether you’re a new mom or not, if you want to raise your child with a minimalist and zero waste attitude, this checklist is for you. Below you will find all the things we actually needed for our little Pudge’s first year, as we pursued a zero waste and minimalist lifestyle.

Keep in mind lifestyle differences as you read – I have full access to a washer and dryer, I breastfeed, Pudge comes to work with me so my pumping needs are limited, and I live in a spastic climate with extreme cold and hot weather.

Items in green were absolute necessities – everything else just made life easier.

Diapering

  • Cloth wipes. We have enough to fill 4 quart size mason jars because I’m paranoid about running out. This lasts 2- 3 days.
  • 30 reuseable cloth diaper liners/inserts.
  • 25 cloth diaper covers. Our Pudge had bad diahrea from antibiotics so we would go through up to 12 a day.
  • Spritzer bottle with DIY wipes solution.
  • Mason jar.
  • Small jar with DIY diaper rash cream.
  • Diaper changing pad/waterproof blanket.
  • 2 small portable wet bags.
  • 2 large wet bags that fit diaper pail.
  • Diaper pail.

Bathing

  • Two towels
  • 3 soft washcloths
  • Baby castille soap
  • Baby lotion
  • Water pitcher

Feeding

I breastfeed. If your planning on formula feeding or doing a combination of the two this list will need alterations. If you have the choice, always breastfeed exclusively. Its better for you, your baby and the planet. And your wallet!

  • 2 glass bottles
  • Electric pump
  • Pumping bra
  • Bottle brush
  • Dishwasher bottle basket
  • Castille soap for washing bottles
  • 304 steel pot for sterilizing pumping supplies, bottles and pacifiers.
  • Reuseable milk storage
  • Insulated cooler and ice packs for transporting milk.
  • Nursing pillow and washable cover
  • Lasinoh cream for your nipplies
  • Reuseable WATERPROOF nursing pads (if theyre not lined with waterproof material on the back you’ll leak right through them).
  • 2 nursing bras
  • Clothes you can nurse in public in – stretchy T-shirts, loose sweaters and low tank tops work great and are cheap. Or get the amaaaazing nursing sweater I have.
  • Nursing cover (if you’re uncomfortable in public).
  • Prenatal vitamins for mom.

Moving on to solids between 4- 6 months, you will also need:

  • Whole foods – bananas, squash, etc.
  • Small mason jars for prepped food – these will also freeze.
  • Lunchbox for on the go.
  • Potato masher.
  • Teething bags (stuff it with frozen berries. Seriously, no orajel needed).
  • 4 Bibs

Bedtime

  • 3 Velcro swaddles (these saved my life – seriously. I wasn’t going to buy any but one was given to me and I loved them so much I bought two backups)
  • Two heavy blankets
  • Two medium blankets
  • Two light blankets
  • 6 recieving blankets (these double as burp rags)

Clothes (year one)

In the spirit of zero waste, buy as much of these used as possible. For when you can’t, I’ve provided links to organic cotton clothing that can be passed down until it’s ready to be composted.

  • 10 newborn onesies – 5 long sleeve, 5 short sleeve.
  • 2 newborn hats.
  • 10 newborn pairs of pants.
  • 2 newborn light zip up footie pajamas.
  • 2 newborn heavy zip up footie pajamas.
  • 20-40 pairs of 0-3 month socks (Dont waste money on newborn ones).
  • 2 pairs of 0-3 month booties (only if it’s really cold).
  • 0-3 month snowsuit (only if it’s really cold).
  • 10 0-3 month onesies – 5 long sleeve, 5 short sleeve.
  • 2 0-3 month hats.
  • 10 0-3 month pairs of pants.
  • 2 0-3 month light zip up footie pajamas.
  • 2 0-3 month heavy zip up footie pajamas.
  • 20-40 pairs of 3-6 month socks.
  • 2 pairs of 3-6 month booties (only if it’s really cold).
  • 3-6 month snowsuit (only if it’s really cold).
  • 8 3-6 month onesies – 4 long sleeve, 4 short sleeve.
  • 2 3-6 month hats.
  • 8 3-6 month pairs of pants.
  • 2 3-6 month light zip up footie pajamas.
  • 2 3-6 month heavy zip up footie pajamas.
  • 20-40 pairs of 6- 18 month socks.
  • 2 pairs of 6-18 month booties (only if it’s really cold).
  • 1 6- 9 month snowsuit (only if it’s really cold).
  • 8 6- 9 month onesies – 4 long sleeve, 4 short sleeve.
  • 2 6- 9 month hats.
  • 8 6- 9 month pairs of pants.
  • 2 6- 9 month light zip up footie pajamas.
  • 2 6- 9 month heavy zip up footie pajamas
  • 20-40 pairs of 18- 24 month socks.
  • 2 pairs of 18- 24 month booties (only if it’s really cold).
  • 1 9- 12 month snowsuit (only if it’s really cold).
  • 8 9- 12 month onesies – 4 long sleeve, 4 short sleeve.
  • 2 9- 12 month hats.
  • 8 9- 12 month pairs of pants.
  • 2 9- 12 month light zip up footie pajamas.
  • 2 9- 12 month heavy zip up footie pajamas
  • Dirty clothes basket
  • Baby safe stain remover
  • Baby/cloth diaper safe laundry soap
  • Net bag for washing socks in (so your machine doesn’t eat them)

Gear

  • Convertible car seat
  • Stroller and rain shield
  • Car mirror (so you can see baby)
  • Car window covers
  • Diaper bag (if you’re not using your purse)
  • Convertible crib. In the United States you are legally required to provide your baby an age aplropriate bed with a frame.
  • Highchair or other seating while eating device.
  • Somewhere to keep clothes off the floor; Baskets, bookshelves and dressers all work.
  • Boba wrap or baby carrier

Playtime/Learning

  • Hand-held rattle
  • Two stuffed toys (ours sing)
  • Foot rattles
  • Rings
  • Books to read (As many as you feel is apropriate)

Misc.

  • Pacifiers and clips
  • Nail clippers
  • Hairbrush
  • Missing persons kit
  • Waterproof file for important documents

Baby Health

  • Forehead thermometer.
  • Lavendar vaporub for colds.
  • Nasal aspirator (there are different sizes – get all of them).
  • Syringe for medications/vitamins.
  • Infant tylenol.
  • Peppermint tea (for belly aches).

What did your baby need?

This is part two of a series on raising a zero waste family.

Part One

Part Two

50% Project: November Review and December Planning

I’m doing the 50% Project. It starts today, with my most recent paycheck. And the goal is simple – save 50% of every penny that enters my wallet. Don’t let my expenses exceed my means.

So how will the project work? If you want to join in, here’s what I’m doing:

  1. Put away 50% of all income, whether it’s from work, gifts or tax returns.
  2. Make it as difficult as possible to spend the money you’re saving, so you’re less likely to spend it. This can be putting it in a locked savings account, or just giving it to a more responsible spouse to keep safe. Safety deposit boxes work well, and old fashioned piggy banks are good too.
  3. Keep track of how much money is coming in, how much is going out, and where it’s going.
  4. Every once in awhile I’ll post an update here on the blog of what I’ve managed to save, a glance at where my money went, and any suggestions I have or lessons I’ve learned.
  5. Doing Christmas for as little money as I can possibly manage. This year we didn’t have time to make gifts, so we set very low budgets and will be doing birth announcements for our Christmas cards. We will spend less than $300 for the entire holiday.
  6. Staying accountable – I promised my husband that I’m going to stick to this, and now I’m promising you.
  7. Stay positive – if I mess up, I’m not going to beat myself up. I’m going to keep moving forward, and so should you. Reflecting on mistakes helps me make better choices but ruminating on regrets is unproductive.

What do I hope to accomplish with this project?

  1. Move into our own apartment.
  2. Credit scores over 600.
  3. Trade in our current car for a safer one.
  4. Have an emergency savings of $1000
  5. Pay off our debt.
  6. Develop self-discipline and better money-managing skills.
  7. Learn to live minimally.
  8. Be financially independent of others (not needing to rely on help from family or welfare).

But it’s Christmas.

I am very aware that it’s December, the hardest month for almost anyone to save. But I also believe that it’s the perfect time to test this, to try and stretch the limits of our self-control and practice delayed-gratification. For more information on a minimalist Christmas, I highly suggest this post over at Zen Habits. Christmas doesn’t have to cost you.

I wish all of you luck with your own financial journeys; thanks for sticking around to read about mine.

I’m going to be straight up here, partially to help dispel a lot of the misperceptions and stigma surrounding poverty, but also because I believe by being honest about my husband and I’s journey I can help you and learn myself.

We’re poor. Like, we would have starved to death years ago without public assistance, poor. So while other bloggers might do the “SNAP Project” – that’s been our life. And it’s actually how we both grew up, too. But we have no intentions of staying this way – we’ve bounced on and off the system as our life circumstances have changed. But the goal has always been stability. Self-sufficiency. We could definitely be in worse situations, too.

So whether you’re trying to escape poverty, survive a family disaster such as job loss or illness, or just want to save money so you can do awesome shit with your life, this project might help you. Please feel free to share any suggestions you might have.

We are starting out fresh again this month, just in time for Christmas. My husband just landed a new job after being unemployed for almost two months. I’m 39 weeks pregnant. We have an older, high-needs dog. We don’t use our credit card – we’re trying to pay it off. We currently stay for free in the bedroom of my husband’s uncle’s house, with their family of four people and four fur babies. We’ve been homeless for over a year, off and on unemployed for various reasons for 18 months, and our credit reports look pretty bad.

Every family’s needs are different. Every lifestyle is different. The transparency here is meant to serve as inspiration and encouragement.

Budget

(In order of priority)

$400 – Groceries/Food

$100 – Work uniform for new job PAID

$85 – Storage Shed (This has all our belongings and all of my husband’s mother’s belongings) PAID

$196 – Phone bill

$160 – Gasoline

$289 – Car Payment PAID

$100 – Auto Insurance Premium PAID

$31 – Credit Card Minimum

$15 – Web Hosting Service

$100 – Household expenses/Personal Care/Baby needs

$40 – Oil Change (Required by our loan agreement)

$150 – Christmas

$50 – My birthday

$25 – Date night

$400 – Brakes

$7 – Crunchyroll subscription

$35 – Birth certificate (the hospital no longer provides these – we have to order it from the state)

Expected Income

$588 – Cash Assistance for November and December RECEIVED

$357 – SNAP (Can only be spent on food) RECEIVED

$275 – Daycare Wages for November

$250 – Toys R Us Wages for December (Joseph’s new job – we don’t actually know how much to expect so we’ll see)

Account Remainders

$87.99 – Checking Account

$682 – Fall Term FAFSA

$120 – Cash

Frugal Accomplishments for November

  • My husband finally quit smoking!! This was something he promised me he would do before our son was born, and I’m so grateful he was able to do it. He started smoking when he was 10 and he didn’t want our son to go down the same path.
  • Pre-Baby Meal Prepping: Stocked our freezer with 11 dinners, which is enough to feed us for a month (we share cooking duties with the house) and stocked our cupboards with a week of easy foods for after baby. And saved $50!!
  • Ibotta rebates earned – $23.50
  • Started couponing again.
  • Packed lunches from home for the majority of the school days.
  • Under spent gas budget – saved $30 by the end of the month.
  • We budgeted $13 for most of the people on our Christmas list – and only spent about $8 on most of them but still got awesome gifts.
  • Took the city bus or carpooled multiple times.
  • Bought Halloween candy the first of November, on discount, with coupons. Over $100 worth of candy for less than $40.
  • Switched to making my coffee at home.
  • Moved in with family – this saved us $800+ a month in camping fees from staying in our trailer.
  • Almost all the baby things we needed were either acquired for free or as gifts. We spent less than $150 on baby items – and most of that was on the Co-Sleeper Pack n Play and the diaper pail.

Lessons Learned

  • Went back to the cash envelope system because the debit cards were getting overdrawn too easily and the credit card that we aren’t supposed to be using got taken out a few too many times.
  • Black Friday is a giant scam. I’m glad I didn’t actually do any in-store shopping – I did it all on online and it saved me from impulse purchases and overspending on the items I was intending to purchase.

Savings Account Balance:

$5.00

Preparing for Parenthood: The Zero Waste Baby

Zero Waste Baby NeedsI’m having a baby in December, and as our lifestyle has transitioned to zero waste and minimalist living, it’s just as important for that lifestyle to continue with us as our family changes. This is my first child, but I cared for my younger siblings for years as well as did daycare for a variety of families.

There are lots of cool gadgets out there for babies and young children. But very little of it is necessary, and some of it is straight up ridiculous.

Given my family’s tight budget and our commitment to reduce consumption in all areas of our lives, we’re sticking with the minimum. Lots of this has been gifted to us by family and upon our baby shower we’re probably going to receive more. I’ve also perused Facebook classifieds, craigslist and Freecycle for many free items. I encourage you to do this if you have the time or if you’re on a tight budget.

Household Changes

  • Water filter for sink
  • Filtering shower head and bath faucet
  • Waterproof mattress cover (for my mattress)
  • Cotton sheets (for my mattress)
  • Outlet covers
  • Dog bed (because we’re co-sleeping in the beginning and the dog can’t sleep on the bed anymore…)
  • CO and radon detector
  • Fabric shower curtain
  • If you haven’t already switched, get all the plastic out of your kitchen and switch to:
    • Bamboo cutting boards
    • Cast iron or 304 Steel cookware
    • Ceramic or cast iron bakeware

Baby Bedding

  • Crib or convertible bassinet (Convertible is better!!) with matress
  • Cotton sheets for crib (x2)
  • Homemade crib quilt
  • Light receiving blankets (x4)

Bathtime

  • Cotton undyed towels (x2)
  • Cotton undyed wash cloths (x8)
  • Baby grooming kit
    • Soft hair brush
    • Infant nail clippers
    • Snot sucker
  • Baby mild castille soap
  • Gentle baby lotion (you can make your own if you’re ambitious)

Diaper Changing

  • 20 cloth diapers
  • Homemade diaper rash balm
  • Diaper pins (steel; x4 sets)
  • Reuseable wipes, in a homemade solution, in a reuseable container
  • Waterproof diaper covers (x8)
  • Dirty diaper container and reusable liner (x2)

Clothes

  • Onesies (x16)
  • Socks or booties (x8)
  • Coming home outfit <3
  • Swimsuit
  • Scratch-proof mittens
  • A hat
  • leggings/pants (x16)
  • Pajamas (Light; x8)
  • Pajamas (Heavy; x8)
  • Swaddle wrap (x2)
  • Dirty clothes hamper

Feeding

  • Burp clothes (x8)
  • Glass bottles (x3)
  • Bottle brush
  • Breast pump
  • Freezer storage for pumped milk
  • Bibs (x3)
  • Highchair or seat with support

Misc. Needs

  • Moby wrap carrier (make this myself)
  • Stroller
  • Car seat
  • “Diaper Bag” (A bag that accommodates my normal purse items and baby needs when travelling)
  • Baby thermometer (I suggest the pacifier ones)
  • Baby book (if you’re nerdy like that…)
  • Developmentally appropriate toys (not very many are necessary – my niece’s favorite toy is a red rubber spatula)
  • Books (because even infants enjoy stories)
  • Baby monitor (for when you’re getting it on in the living room while the baby snoozes 😉 )

Parent Needs

  • Nursing bras (x8)
  • Nursing cover (make this myself)
  • Reuseable nursing pads (x16)
  • Scheduled dates (and gift cards if you can afford it) for after baby

I hope this was helpful! If I’ve left anything out, please let me know. Also it’s worth mentioning that I won’t be stocking up ahead of time on clothing and we have a washer and dryer. If you don’t have access to a washer and dryer and aren’t planning on hand-washing poopy diapers this list might be very different for you.

What did you need for your first baby?