Today I am very excited to introduce a special guest here on Tackling Our Debt. Her name is Tanya and through the magic of the Internet she has become a wonderful new friend. She shares some personal budgeting tips as well as a special treat at the end. Please welcome her, and please share out her post. Thank you!
I love food. It's partly why I started blogging. I stuff my face every day for the sake of my readers. :) It's a sacrifice I'm happy to make, minus the days I struggle to zip up my jeans. Those days I resolve to only eat celery sticks, until I remember that celery sticks are yucky and I need to make caramel brownies for my guest post at Tackling Our Debt.
You have to do what you have to do.
Like many of you, I'm trying to minimize my expenses, and one area that had plenty of room for improvement was my grocery bill. I am ashamed to admit that for a long time I had way too much food waste. And even worse, I didn't blink an eye over it.
Thankfully, I finally woke-up and realized my mistake. Since then, I have made significant strides to eliminate food waste and to get my grocery budget under control. I started with all the things you were supposed to do: meal plan, buy things on sale/cut coupons, don't go to the grocery store hungry, etc. But the one thing that made the biggest difference to curbing my waste and saving me money was—know thyself.
Yup, know thyself. This is not a self-help post, but understanding my relationship with food helped me make permanent changes. Let me explain.
Figure Out What Works for You
Initially, I tried to create a monthly meal plan. It seemed like a logical way to cutback on unneeded groceries and all the cool kids were doing it. As an added perk, I would spend less time in the grocery store, giving me fewer opportunities to add extra items to my cart. Yet it never worked for me. In fact, I probably ended up with more food waste and a higher monthly grocery bill.
Why? Because I assumed what worked for others would work for me.
Some people can plan out their meals a month in advance and religiously follow it. I can't. What sounds good on July 1st may not appeal to me on July 17th, and I will refuse to make it. Plus, I also have this weird habit of making a list or plan of action, then completely disregarding it because I don't want be a pawn of the man. Which is weird on many fronts because, first and foremost, I'm a woman and made the list myself. Eventually, I figured out these are small acts of rebellion since I tend to pretty laid back in real life.
Knowing that I do this has helped out tremendously. I shop on Sundays, so the week prior I start planning next week's meals, looking at grocery flyers as a guide. Doing this has allowed me to plan meals based on what's on sale and my schedule for the upcoming week (i.e. how crazy is my week and will I be eating any meals out). Now I actually look forward to making and eating my meals for the week and seeing how much I can come under budget.
If you've been faithfully following the conventional advice to lower your grocery bills with little success, stop and get to know thyself first. Sometimes we need to be more disciplined and sometimes we need to get to know thyself and accommodate our personalities instead.
My cousin introduced me to these brownies when we were teenagers, and I've been a big fan of them for years. They are unbelievably decadent and an affordable treat. I bought everything at Target and Walmart. I find that almost all pantry items are much higher priced at grocery stores. So these days, unless the grocery store has a great sale, I buy my pantry items at Target and occasionally Walmart. (Walmart had the best price on caramels, saved a $1 over Target).
- 50 to 60 caramels, unwrapped
- One box German Chocolate Cake Mix
- 1 cup evaporated milk, divided
- 3/4 cup butter, melted
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9x9-inch pan with non-stick spray.
- In a large bowl, add the dry cake mix, 2/3 cup evaporated milk and melted butter. Stir together until batter is smooth.
- Pour a little over half the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 8 minutes, then remove from the oven. Set aside.
- Melt caramels and 1/3 cup evaporated milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until caramels have melted and the caramel sauce is smooth.
- Sprinkle chocolate chips over the partially cooked brownie. Spoon caramel sauce over the chocolate chips. Drop spoonfuls of the remaining batter on top. You may not have enough to cover the caramel sauce completely.
- Return brownies to the oven and bake for an additional 18 to 20 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned and crisp. Cool brownies completely before cutting.
Makes 12 brownies
I used 50 caramels. There are approximately 35 caramels per bag and if you need/want to save some money, use only one bag of caramels. The brownies cost me $8.75. Caramels=$4; Cake mix=$1.50; Evaporated milk=$1; Chocolate chips=$1.25; Butter=$1.
Frugal but Not Fat-Free
Enjoy the caramel brownies! They are worth the calories and eating celery sticks for the rest of the day. Not that I would actually eat celery sticks. I just eat the brownies. After all, I am trying to avoid food waste! :)