I Graduated!

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Done! And I’m going to Disney World! Lol, I really am although that is not typically how I would reward myself for a goal acheived. But my sister and her family are coming down this week to visit the park and it will be fun to hang out with my nieces and watch them experience the park for the first time.

Can I just say, though, that I am SO HAPPY to be finished? I’m really, really glad that I went back to school and now I am ready to embark on the next step of my career. But first…a break. I’m taking August to recoup and restore some order before hopefully starting back to full-time employment.

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Popping In

dog in sweater progress

I got busy working on my final, FINAL projects for grad school (graduation in 2 weeks!!!) and stitching up some goodies for the important people who’ve helped me along on this journey. I’ll be back with more low-budget menu plans after graduation. 🙂

$30 A Week: Grocery List & Meal Plan #2

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Alright! We’re moving into week two and the reality of this meal plan’s limitations are setting in. There is going to be a whole lot of repitition and while that is what I end up doing for my regular meals (because I like it), somehow it seems rather stark when it’s laid out in these meal plans. I’ve also realized that $30 is a lot tighter than, say, $50, and it’s probably going to take me a bit longer to build up a pantry of reasonable depth than I first thought. While for the first four weeks I want to stick to the two stores I identified earlier, I think perhaps the four weeks after that I will change stores and see how I fare.

Grocery List: $30.60 (again – kind of random!)

  • Coconut Milk, $1 (DT)
  • Mayo, $1 (DT)
  • 3-oz dried minced onion, $1 (DT)
  • 20-oz bag popcorn kernels, $1 (DT)
  • Saltines, $.98
  • Italian dressing mix, $.98
  • Curry powder, $1.48
  • Eggs, 2 doz, $2.24
  • Shredded cheese, 8 oz, $1.48
  • Frozen spinach, 12 oz, $.98
  • Frozen broccoli cuts, 12 oz, $.84
  • Frozen peas, 12 oz, $.84
  • Mixed fruit, 2 cans, $1.88
  • Whole wheat bread, 1 loaf, $.92
  • Lentils, 1lb, $1.54
  • Tri-color slaw, 16 oz, $1.77
  • Classic iceberg salad, 12 oz, $.92
  • Tuna, 2 5-oz cans, $1.32
  • Enriched white rice, 5lb, $2.18
  • Pasta sauce, $.88
  • Grape jelly, 18 oz, $.94
  • Sweet relish, 12 oz, $.98
  • Carrots, 2lbs, $1.14
  • 1% Milk, $1.33
  • Bananas, 6 ct, $1.42

Meal Plan

Breakfast:

  1. Oatmeal made w/milk, sugar & cinnamon, half banana, tea w/sugar. 333 calories, 3x/week
    1. Uses: 3 cups rolled oats, 4 cups milk, 12 tsp. sugar, 1.5 tsp. cinnamon, 3 bananas, 6 tea bags
  2. Scrambled eggs made w/margarine, cheese, spinach, & onion, toast w/margarine, tea w/sugar. 352 calories, 3x/week
    1. Uses: 9 eggs (1.5 per person per day), 12 tsp. butter, 3/4 cup cheese, 2 cups spinach, 1 -2 T. minced onion, ketchup/hot sauce as desired, 6 slices of bread, 6 tea bags, 6 tsp sugar
  3. Surprise muffins w/jam (2 each), hard boiled eggs, tea w/sugar. 442 calories, 1x/week
    1. Uses: 1 3/4 cup. flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1 egg, 1/4 cup oil, 3/4 cup milk, 12 tsp. jelly, 2 eggs (yield is 12 muffins, so 8 left for snacks)

Lunch:

  1. Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, carrot sticks, half banana, water or iced tea. 395 calories, 3x/week
    1. Uses: 12 slices bread, 9 T. peanut butter, 6 T. jelly, 4-5 carrots, 3 bananas.
  2. Tuna & egg salad w/saltines, salad w/italian dressing, half cup mixed fruit, water or iced tea. 461 calories, 2x/week
    1. Uses: two cans tuna, 4 eggs, 5 T. mayo, 2 T. relish, 2 – 3 tsp. mustard, 24 saltines, 1/3 lettuce & coleslaw combo (mixed together), 6 T. Italian dressing (prepared — used 1 packet dressing mix, 1/2 cup oil, 1/4 cup vinegar), 1.5 cans mixed fruit
  3. Leftovers, 2x/week — choices described in dinner section

Dinner:

  1. Lentil Soup, Drop Biscuits, water or iced tea. 480 calories, 6 servings
    1. Uses lentils, water, 3 carrots, 2 T. minced onion, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 2 cups spinach, 1 c. flour, 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 T. sugar, 4 T. margarine, 1/2 cup + 2T. milk
  2. Chicken and Veggie Curry, Rice, water or iced tea. 460 calories, 6 servings
    1. Uses: 1lb chicken, 1lb broccoli, 1 cup frozen peas, 5 carrots, 2T. minced onion, 2T. oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, 2 cups uncooked rice
  3. Spaghetti w/Marinara Sauce, Salad, water or iced tea. 440 calories, 5 servings
    1. Uses: 10 oz spaghetti, jar of pasta sauce, 1/2 c. cheese, 1/2 lettuce & coleslaw mix, 7 T. prepared salad dressing
  4. Open-Faced Tuna Melts, Salad, water or iced tea. 509 calories, 2 servings
    1. Uses: 2 slices of bread, 2 servings tuna & egg salad, 1/4 cup cheese, remainder of salad mix, 3 T. prepared salad dressing

Leftover Choices for Lunch & Dinner (need 10):

  • 4 servings Lentil Soup
  • 4 servings Chicken Curry
  • 3 servings Spaghetti Meal

Snacks & Beverages:

  1. Cinnamon or Jam Toast. 167 calories, 4 servings (1 slice of bread, 1tsp. margarine, 1tsp. sugar, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon) or (1 slice of bread, 1 tsp. margarine, 1/2 T. jam)
  2. Hard Boiled Eggs. 70 calories, 10 servings (10 eggs)
  3. Popcorn. 200 calories, 8 servings (1 1/2 cups kernels, 6 T. margarine [air popped])
  4. Muffins. 186 calories, 8 servings
  5. Cinnamon Biscuits. 157 calories, 12 servings (2 cups flour, 1 T. baking powder, 2 tsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 cup margarine, cinnamon sugar)
  6. Milk. 2 servings, 100 calories (1 cup milk).
  7. Iced Tea, lightly sweetened. 76 calories, 16 servings (8 tea bags, 1.5 cups sugar)
  • 1500 with 2 snacks, water only
  • 1800 with 2 snacks, tea and milk for beverages

This week I feel like there was a bit more variety of flavor but that meant that there was very little overage for snacks and the calorie counts seemed a bit leaner over all. In the meals where there is a higher calorie count, it’s coming from the salad dressing. So the volume of food being consumed overall is pretty low, too. I’m also really starting to get that “the-cupboard-is-bare” feeling and know that I have to replace some of my staples in the next trip while also finding a reasonable variety of foods for meals and so on. I’ve pretty much run out of the following:

  • rolled oats
  • peanut butter
  • margarine
  • oil
  • possibly hot sauce (hard to tell on an “as desired” serving size)

Also, the I realized that I had been miscalculating the calories for the oatmeal — we usually use 1/3 cup when we make it here, but the serving size on the Great Value container is 1/2 cup. This means I also miscalculated the volume in each container — I corrected both the total used and my report of the total left. Because I do think the extra 50 calories are worth adding to the diet, plus it’s healthy fiber. I’ve gone back and corrected the count for the previous week’s breakfasts as well.

So what do I have left? In addition to most of my pantry items (excluding those listed above), I also go into next week with:

  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup dry pintos
  • 12-oz spaghetti
  • .5 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 bag frozen spinach
  • 1/2 bag frozen peas
  • 10.5 cups rice
  • 1/2 jar grape jelly
  • 1/2 cup cheese
  • a few carrots
  • lots of dried minced onion
  • 64 tea bags

Definitely a shorter list than last week! What do you think?

Hillbilly Housewife Grocery List, Updated Prices 2018

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After Anne mentioned the Hillbilly Housewife Emergency Menu, I spent some time looking at the various menus and recipes on her site. Her menus are designed for families of five or six and require a LOT of preparation. I think they would be really hard to implement if the cook is also working outside of the home. I also noticed that the grocery list on the site hadn’t been updated since 2009. And in fact the 2009 prices totaled $70, not the $45 she originally started with in 2006. I was curious to see what this list would cost today. She used Walmart and Dollar General prices; I used Walmart and Dollar Tree. I noted which items would be purchased at Dollar Tree (DT).

Hillbilly Housewife Grocery List Updated 2018

Somewhat surprisingly, today’s price for these items hasn’t increased much — and in some cases went down — since 2009. It wasn’t always clear to me the size of the item purchased in the earlier years, so I just used what I assumed is the most likely size based on prices then and now. Also, as I typed up the list I really had time to consider how likely I would be to follow this exact list. I think my answer is not likely at all. For one thing, I don’t think a $70 budget is by any means generous, but when you are buying for a larger number of people with a slightly higher budget, you reap the benefits of bulk pricing. Two four-pound bags of two different kinds of beans would be less expensive than four different kinds of beans in a smaller quantity and gives a very little bit of room to purchase seasonings which can have a greater impact on the flavor of meals than the kind of bean (in my opinion). I also don’t think I would use dry milk, although I recognize that it is being used in a lot of the baked goods recipes to up protein. Instead I would buy regular milk and focus on drinking more water, which is very healthy anyway! At current prices, liquid milk is cheaper than dry milk, too.

Also, if this was my regular budget for food as a family of five, there is the likelihood that at the very least my kids would qualify for the free or reduced lunch at school. I don’t know if I would feel comfortable seeking out SNAP benefits if we were able to sustain this grocery budget, but I do think I would swallow my pride and sign my kids up for free/reduced lunch. At $.40 per lunch per child at the reduced rate, I’d have to eliminate $7 from the $70 budget, but this would still give me $63 to work with each week. And I think that concerns related to stigma would be somewhat mitigated by the fact that each kid’s barcode is scanned at lunchtime, they don’t have to produce actual money. Probably the al a carte items are where things get sticky — I have worked primarily in Title 1 schools where ALL students receive free lunch, so I don’t have a clear idea of how it works in a more well-off school district. But I guess not every single variable can be accounted for in these menus!

Finally, probably the biggest thing I would do differently is have much less variety for breakfasts and lunches (for those who would be consuming them). I would focus my energy on creating interesting dinners and it would be oatmeal and eggs for breakfast, like it or lump it. I don’t personally care for many canned vegetables and I do think that you can get more for your money sometimes with frozen veggies, so that might be another area of change. Also, while I enjoy baking, I’m not sure I’d want or be able to do quite this much. I’m tempted to try out a grocery list and meal plan for 5 using this budget, actually!

What would you do differently? Did the food prices surprise you? And are they different in your area? I didn’t explore the cost of food in other cities, but I know that Florida/Jacksonville has a lower cost of living overall than many other areas of the U.S.

If you are interested, I made a second version of this list highlightling which prices increased or decreased since 2009. The items highlighted in green went down in price, the others went up. Sometimes the price change wasn’t very significant at all, but to me it’s all pretty interesting!

Hillbilly Houserwige Grocery List Updated 2018 with Price Change