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How I Became a Costco Member.

30 Jan

Can a family of 4 shrink their monthly grocery spending from $600 to $400 and live to tell the tale?!

Stay tuned.

I have no idea where I got $400 from. I pulled it out of thin air. Actually that’s not entirely true. Here’s what happened.

We’re fans of the huge price club stores. Way back in the day we used to have a Sams Club membership and used it mostly to buy paper towels, toilet paper, disposable diapers (before I stumbled into the world of Cloth Diapers), and baby formula (my son was formula fed, my daughter was breastfed until her 2nd birthday. Side note: They’re both healthy, happy, appropriately attached children with similar brain function and immune system capabilities. If you’re reading this and are one of the people who made me feel like a rotten scoundrel for failing at breastfeeding my son…thanks a lot for the unnecessary anxiety.)

Anyway, those are the things we typically bought at Sam’s Club. Once we switched to cloth diapers and ditched the formula, we let the membership expire and started using Kroger 100% for grocery shopping. Sweet little Kroger, home of the expensive hormonal GMO meat. Birthplace of the football-sized chicken breast. Everytime I took one of these massive things out of its package I imagined the poor chicken as she lived, constant back pain from her enormous bosom, can’t find a decent bra, you know how it is when you’ve been genetically modified with growth hormone. I felt guilty for participating in her sad outcome.

Sure, Kroger has their Simple Truth organic meat, but it is astronomical in price. Which makes me crazy. Oh yeah, let’s make it completely unaffordable to eat real, clean foods and then wonder why America’s getting heavier and sicker every year. I actually don’t know the statistics on America’s progression as far as being heavy and sick, but it sounds right to say things are getting worse. This isn’t one of those blogs where I do research and present you with sound content.

Anyway, there I was, trying to go for the Simple Truth meats whenever I could, but sometimes slipping and grabbing the dirty meat because, well frankly, there were times I just wasn’t in the mood to pay eight dollars for a pound of ground beef. Considering $8 can get you 3 sacks full of ready to eat Taco Bell…again I ask why wouldn’t 74.1% of America be overweight?? (Oh yeah, I looked it up on Wikipedia! Nailed it.)

It's from Wikipedia, so it's true.

It’s from Wikipedia, so it’s true.

So I started limiting the amount of meat I would buy. I went from making some kind of meaty dinner 4 times a week, to 2 or maybe 3. I have a fair amount of good vegetarian recipes, so I simply added more of those into my dinner rotation. That worked pretty well for us, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I was overpaying for my meats. 

If you know me, you might be thinking that now’s about the time time my BFF Michelle should step in and stop this madness. Well that’s exactly what happened. She let me tag along with her on a random Costco trip (she definitely was NOT letting me purchase things for my son’s birthday party on her Costco card and then letting me pay her back later. That would be wrong, and against Costco’s policy. Wink!) So anyway, on that purely sightseeing trip to Costco, I witnessed Michelle buying all this organic meat in bulk; ground beef, pork, chicken, oh my! Dividing it out by pound, I realized it was cheaper than Kroger. Quite a bit cheaper. Oh wow. Even when we were members of Sam’s Club it never dawned on me that I could be buying meats there.

So that was months ago. My husband (do I call him “husband” in every blog post? I think I do. It’s Tyson. Blog audience, meet Tyson, if you haven’t already). Tyson and I have known for a while now that they’re building a Costco right by our house that will be open at the end of 2014, so we decided that while it made sense to get a Costco membership, it also made sense to wait for the close one to be built. The existing one is 40 minutes away from our house. So we tried to wait. I continued to do my shopping at Kroger, but cringed everytine I bought meat. Then recently I started looking for ways to cut our grocery budget. I was pretty convinced we were overspending in this column, and decided restructuring it would be my new project. After days of brainstorming, I had the plan.

Step one: get a Costco membership

Step two: shop at Costco for meat and other bulk items.

It’s a pretty simple plan.

So we went to Costco and laid down $55 for a year membership. Then we all ate a hot dog lunch for $6.49 total.

Three hours later we emerged, sporting that special family dynamic that can only be brought on by hours of lollipop bribery and 30 trips to the bathroom. It was exhilarating.

Now here’s how I arrived at the $400/month grocery budget.

We spent $213.94 at Costco that day getting basically everything we buy throughout the month all at once. From laundry detergent to PB&J to our beloved HBO. Minusing out the pack of Sofia the First panties I got for my daughter, and a shirt for Tyson, it was ballpark $200. Meat wise I got 3 pounds of ground beef, 3 pounds of chicken breast, 4 pounds of pork sirloin tip roast, and 2 pounds of salmon. I plugged the meats into a month long dinner list, evenly spaced so that we are having two meats and one fish per week. I had also picked up a bunch of pasta in bulk so I plugged that in too, one pasta dish per week. Our whole family is wild about breakfast (really, who isn’t?), so we’ll also have a breakfast for dinner once a week. PS-serving breakfast for dinner makes your family think you’re the coolest.

So, let’s cut to the chase. Here’s what my month long dinner list looks like:

Screenshot 2014-01-30 at 4.00.54 PM

The whole thing won’t fit on one page without scrolling (keep rockin’, Google Keep!), but you get the idea. You might see there are some dinners I haven’t completely fleshed out yet. I’ve gotten part of the ingredients from Costco on my monthly run, but will still need more to make it. That’s where the other $200 of the monthly budget comes in. Every Monday (grocery day), I’ll go to Kroger and get what I need to complete that week’s meals. I’ve done this two times already and both times it’s cost me around $50. Do that 4 times a month, and it should be $200 Hence, I should be able to put this show on for $400 a month.

There you go. Stay where you are now (on the edge of your seat) and I’ll let you know if I’m able to keep this up and stay in budget.

I leave you with a glorious picture of frozen meat:

Treat yo' self...to organic meats.

Treat yo’ self…to organic meats.

xoxo

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Pesto Pizza and Meal Planning

3 Jul

Since I’ve stopped wasting a good portion of my day working a job, I’ve gotten much more creative with meal preparation. I never really enjoyed the process of meal planning, shopping, and cooking before. It’s very hard to enjoy that stuff when you’re trying to cram it in around an already busy schedule. When I was working I would run to the store whenever I had the chance and do a mad dash grab. It was usually the same stuff every week. Box of Mac & Cheese, bag of frozen chicken nuggets, package of tortellini, jar of sauce for torts, box of jambalaya mix, sausage for jambalaya, ground beef, taco shells, salsa, milk, cereal. I’d leave the store thinking, “eh, good enough, we’ll eat out the rest of the nights”. Seriously, that was the extent of my meal planning.

Now it just so happens that my not working has somewhat dovetailed with our decision to live in a healthier way. Yes I stopped working a year ago, but we also had a newborn and no desire to make healthful choices. Simply preheating the oven and dumping a bag of frozen nuggets on a cookie sheet was a feat of culinary genius. While baby screams at the very idea of us doing something for ourselves, rather than her. These days I always have a meal plan and a list when I shop. I discovered where the organic section of Kroger is. No joke, I had no idea it was there. Also, just in case you didn’t know, the grocery store before noon on a weekday is a downright amazing experience. It slowly morphs into a nightmare the closer you get to 6pm.

Anyway, one of my favorite things in this world is pizza. Unfortunately commercial pizza is about as good for you as a kick in the face. That’s why I make my own. I came up with this little gem last night:

Image

I found this Afghani Roti flatbread in the bakery section. I’ll never buy regular pizza crust again! Basil pesto sauce, diced tomatoes, chicken that I shredded in my KitchenAid chopper, and 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese. It doesn’t look nearly as good in the picture as it did in real life. That’s because my knowledge of photography consists of “point, shoot, instagram”, and I didn’t even bother to run this one through instagram. Anyway, 390 calories, 13.9g of fat, and I ego-maniacally thought it tasted like something I’d get at California Pizza Kitchen.

Could it be? Am I beginning to enjoy…cooking?

Is there a sonographer in the house?

18 Aug

So we all remember Cabbage Patch Kids. The Tickle Me Elmo of the 1980’s. I’m pretty sure one or both of my parents fought the mad mall rush and laid down an inflated fee to get me my dear Elsa Louise for my 7th birthday. I raised my right hand and took my adoptive mother oath very seriously, and diligently took special care of her until I lost interest.

Anyway, I’ve been looking into getting a Cabbage Patch baby for Wilson. Remember when I blogged about that customer at work giving me the dirty look for saying I’d love Wil even if he was gay? Well this was the subject that led to my comment, that led to the look. So as you can see, it’s a pretty important subject. I want to get him a boy doll, and those seem to be kind of rare. I found something called the “Newborn Baby Surprise”. Observe:

01212-Cabbage-Patch-Kids-Surprise-New-Born

You have to wait until you get home and take off the green stuff to see if you got a girl or a boy. I’m not sure that was their best marketing plan though, because (being a former and sometimes current little girl myself) I’m thinking most little girls are going to want a girl baby, and will promptly pitch a fit if they unwrap a bald boy doll.

I’ve studied the doll in the packaging very carefully, and it looks like the girl dolls have a tuft of hair that you can see under the bonnet. I would imagine the boy dolls have a smooth bonnet since they’re bald. The problem is, out of the 3 stores I’ve been to, all the dolls clearly have something under the bonnet. The Hair. So maybe the CB people are marketing wizards after all. They made 99% girls and 1% boys.  Just my luck!

So if anyone reading this happens to be wandering through the dollie section at Target or Walmart or Babies r Us or whatever (as many of you do in your spare time for fun), look for a Newborn Surprise doll and take a look at the bonnet. Now I’m just curious…

Vera-licious

20 Jun

I’m in trouble. A Vera Bradley store just opened up in Southlake, which so happens to be right between my house and my place of part-time employment. This is bad. The one thing keeping me from going berzerk on some Vera was the fact that there were no VB stores in the vicinity. I know I said before that I am frugal, and I am, but this is a disease. I lose all control of my mind when I’m around all those beautiful colors. But with the trip coming up and all, I told myself (and my hubby) I would not buy anything, and I would remain at the controls of my mind.

So I walk into the store, and I just have to take a minute because it’s so amazing inside. My self-control starts to wane.  I ripped a pic from their Twitter, which does it no justice but just for the purpose of you being able to picture it, here it is:

vera

What is up with that wallpaper, right?? I love it. I want to wallpaper my whole house in that pattern. So anyway a lady meets me at the door (it may have been Vera herself) and says those 6 magical words to me: “Welcome, come get your free gift!”  She let me pick my favorite pattern and I ended up with this little gem:

P1070529

I’m still plotting its life purpose, but I’ll find something.

After the free gift incident, my comittment to not buy anything is a distant memory. I must repay their kindness for giving me the free gift! Especially since they offered me water while I shopped. It would be barbaric and rude not to at least buy something small.  So after much careful consideration, I settled on a flat iron cover in their newest pattern: Pirouette. I hadn’t really planned on ever getting a flat iron cover, but when I awoke to conciousness after paying and leaving the store, that’s what I had.  I am pleased with the newest addition to my Vera family, she fits in well. Just for good times sake, I decided to get all my babies together for a family photo.  Aw, they grow up so fast…

P1070527

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