Project: Food Budget, Week 17

Food Budget Piggybank

Actual $ spent this week:

Grocery: $320
Costco: $156
CSA: $34 (beef was sold out! Hope to get on the order next time.)
Eating out: $62

As simple as that, we were under budget overall, by $62. We ended up spending less at the grocery store because of planning, planning, planning, list making, and making menus. Of course, conversely, we ended up spending more at Costco because we put off shopping there (for weeks), and kept running out of our Costco staples. By the time I went last night, the list had gone from “bread, chocolate milk for lunches” to about 20 items.

It seems simplistic, but sometimes we run on auto-pilot when it comes to eating and feeding. I know as a busy, work-outside-the-home mom, this is particularly true. For a few months, I am sure I was shopping off the same list, throwing together the same meals, and wasting a bunch of food, especially produce — which is a particular shame, because I get some damn tasty produce from my CSA — and, as a result, stressing about feeding my family.

Joining this project has made me aware, again, of the importance of menu planning and using the food in my kitchen. I’ve become mindful of my shopping list again, mindful about what I want to teach my children about eating healthy food and liking it. I feel very fortunate to have kids who will try everything, and like almost anything (cabbage being the current exception to the rule!).

Let’s see how everyone else did!

* Emily Levenson
* Dairy-Free Cooking
* Test Kitchen Tuesday
* Acquired Tastes
* Fit Flexitarian
* Warm As Pie
* Katy Rank Lev
* My Inner Healthy
* Little Blue Hen
* xox, b
* What da Health?
* Project Food Budget 2.0
* Fresh…A New Chapter
* Chandeleah
* Two Eggs Over Easy
* That’s Just Me
* Eat Whole Be Vital
* Four Happy Violets
* Naturally {Un}refined
* Pgh Dad
* yogabeautylife
* Charmingly Modern
* NaMAMAste

Lost in the Supermarket, Take Two

After a pretty quiet and productive weekend (the children were next door with the ILs from Friday evening to Sunday morning, which I hope goes a long way to preventing more nightmares), Dan and I decided to do our grocery shopping on Sunday afternoon at the (still new) Robinson-area Market District.

The children were with us, too.

I was, given my last hellacious experience there, a little reluctant. At the same time, though, I could see a lot of advantages to going back into the breach.

First, both children could go into the Learning and Activity Center (LAC).
Second, my husband was with me.
Third, we could also have dinner there if we chose.
Fourth: Beer!

So after an internal debate, I decided we should go for it.

Compared to my last experience, it was a raging success. I still have some misgivings about shopping there, though.

The Good

Both girls went into the Learning and Activity Center. There was a brief delay while Kate was let in; they had to wait for one child to check out before they could take Flora. But it happened in the space that Dan went to go fetch a cart.

Child-free, for the time being, we set off.

The Bad

I didn’t have a very good list. I knew what we needed, but I hadn’t written every last thing down. My list went something like, “ingredients for potato chowder” and “stuff for girls’ lunches”. So there was still some searching involved. Granted, it was less stress because the girls weren’t with me. But that store is BIG. Nay, HUGE.

Shopping with Dan isn’t really shopping with Dan. He wandered off on his own agenda and spent a lot of time browsing.

And impulse buying.

The Ugly*

*Relatively speaking; it wasn’t that bad.

Dan needs to learn how to use the bulk foods dispensers a little better. We ended up with $12 worth of green lentils — about 6 to 8 pounds — because they came out really fast. Apparently, once the food is dispensed, they have to throw it out if it’s not purchased. We eat plenty of lentils, though, so I just said, “Let’s take them all.”

Prepared Foods still wasn’t that smooth an experience.

I went to pick up the girls. Actually, I went to pick up Flora; Kate had asked for her mommy about 15 minutes before we were done shopping, and we had to go get her — which took a while as we were clear on the other side of the store from the LAC; that added probably another 1/2 hour to our shopping trip, which was already running over an hour.

Dan checked out and packed the car.

The girls and I headed to Prepared Foods, and I really wish we had waited for Dan. I had too much to juggle (two trays, three plates, two children, and my purse). When I went to pay, there was only enough room to set down one tray, which made reaching for my wallet tricky. So, a further note to self: If you’re going to eat in the Market District cafe with the children, have another adult with you.

The single beer selection to drink with your dinner isn’t impressive (runs the gamut from Coors to Bud). I opted for a take-out six pack of Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA; Dan had a Yuegling. (Technically speaking, we could have each had two of the Racer 5s, since we were eating. I guess you can’t just go to the Market District to drink. Which, why would you want to?)

The rice that Flora and Dan got off the hot bar was undercooked, but everything else was good. I love the rosti they serve there with salad and apples. Delicious. I’m really going to have to try the Indian food bar some time.

Also, I do not understand the set up of paying for your food and drinks. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Can I walk into the Cold Drinks section (which includes non-alcoholic selections and beer) and pick out drinks and pay for my food and drinks there? If so, why have those little single cash registers in the Prepared Foods section? I end up juggling my trays, paying for my food, finding a table, picking out drinks and paying for them (while hoping my children don’t run around), and finally eating.

Cons: The store is just too big for “quick” shopping trips; and it’s going to take a lot of time to “memorize” where everything is. Even with an excellent, thorough list, shopping here would take well over an hour. I’m still against making this my go-to store. And I’m still not that crazy about the Prepared Foods section.

Pros: It was a much less traumatizing experience this time around. The kids were happily occupied for the most part. Having another person helping me out was vital (thanks, Dan!). The prepared food (except for the rice) was very good.

I’d go back, given the conditions listed above.

And OH YEAH: Since the kids went into the LAC — NO MINIVAN OF SHOPPING CARTS. That’s a big PRO in my book.

How to Turn a Shopping FAIL into a Shopping WIN

Take your 4-year-old along.

Saturday, although I had many, many errands to run, we elected to spend the first half of the day at home. Bun, newly diagnosed with an ear infection, was crabby and clingy. Plus she had ropes of wet, yellow mucous running out of her nose (sorry). It is amazing to me that such a little head can hold so much of that stuff. Well, obviously it couldn’t hold all of that stuff, hence the endless nose wiping Saturday morning.

I was scheduled for a massage at 4 p.m., the result of a gift card DearDR had bought me last Christmas. Personally, if I am going to a spa, my druthers would be to get a spa pedicure (and manicure) or a facial. Massages are not my favorite spa treatment. But they don’t suck, either.

After the massage, I had every intention of running several errands — notably grocery shopping — and going to church. I know that “running errands” is antithetical to “getting a massage”, but such is a mother’s life.

The massage was very pleasant, and energizing for about the first hour afterwards. Walking into the mall to exchange some pants Monkey had received for her birthday, I walked through a department store where EVERYTHING was on sale. For very reasonable prices. So I decided on my way back out to look around, maybe purchase one or two things, and then go to the grocery store.

This did not happen.

I found two wonderful sweaters, two sweaters that had RPM already written on their tags, two sweaters that were more than 50% off. I tried them on with pants, skirts, turtlenecks, crew necks, you name it. Aside from the sweaters — my sweaters, I’m telling you — nothing else fit right. The skirts made me look downright dumpy. Nevertheless, an hour and a half later, I was standing in line with one of the sweaters, and a couple of things that I thought were “close enough”, when I came to my senses and put everything back.

It wasn’t about the money, it was about the close enough. I hate when my clothes don’t fit right. Because then they don’t look right, and I’m self-conscious and uncomfortable for the rest of the day.

It hurt to put the gray sweater back.

At this time, it was 8:30 on Saturday. DearDR had had to take the children next door at 4 p.m. to sit with Nanny while Bella and Tadone went out to dinner and a movie for Bella’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Bella!) I knew that bringing them home to get them settled in bed and waiting for me to come home so that he could go back next door to Nanny-sit would be stressful for him. Plus, they have cable next door!

So I ditched grocery shopping (I had already missed Mass) and went home. I relieved DearDR so he could go back on Nanny duty, sang Monkey a couple of lullabies (“Where were you, Mommy?” she asks me) and finished my novel. DearDR and Nanny watched Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The next day, the morning was a flurry of church-going and grocery shopping (Bun stayed home with DearDR), cleaning, laundry, and a coupon in my mailbox from that department store that still had my sweaters. (Forgot to get the mail on Saturday.) Also, I was making dinner to take over to the in-laws.

But that coupon and the fact that Monkey had not been out the day before (going to Bella’s doesn’t count as out) were… fomenting.

“I could get those sweaters,” I was thinking. “For even less than they were yesterday. And Monkey could play at the kid mall.” DearDR was in a cleaning frenzy, which he is best left to by himself, and Bun was napping.

We went. Although I did not find pants or a turtleneck for the first of my sweaters, I did find pants (they were NOT THERE the night before, and I am willing to bet Monkey’s lip balm on that) for the second sweater. Plus earrings and a belt. And a scarf and gloves that will look great with the coat I have to ransom from the dry cleaners.

Monkey was an angel. She had been close to perfect all day. (Her least perfect behavior had taken place in church, of course, but even there she hadn’t been a nightmare.) She helped me pick out my scarf and gloves; we tried on hats; she picked out cereal-flavored lip balm (think Fruit Loops and Frosted Flakes); and she was patient while I tried on pants. She had fun at the kid mall and did not ask for candy or ice cream.

Then we went home and treated my in-laws and Nanny to dinner (new recipe!), got the kids in bed, and finished cleaning the house and folding laundry. It would have been a perfect weekend if Bun had been feeling better. And if she hadn’t woken up at 5:20 this morning. That hurt.

But my sweaters are ready-to-wear. Now I just have to find brown boots. Wonder what Monkey is up to this weekend?

Note to ClumberKim: T is for Tomorrow!