Monday, July 30, 2018

how we spent $500 on groceries for our family of 5 in one month

When I talked about sticking to our grocery budget for July on Facebook, I got a lot of questions about how we managed. I figured I would share here as well for those curious.

To be honest, this just took a bit of discipline and not that much time. The biggest saving grace is probably the most obvious: meal planning. Every week when the Aldi ad came in the mail, I sat down and compared what was on sale to some of our go-to (and some new) recipes. I tried to pick meals that had different flavors but similar ingredients so that when I needed to buy something for one recipe, none of it would go to waste. Once I had my dinners planned (we usually do similar things for lunch - cheese quesadilla, grilled cheese, jelly sandwiches, etc.) I made my grocery list and then checked the pantry and fridge to ensure I wasn't buying duplicates. The last week of the month I actually went through the freezer and planned meals around that because we needed to make space for Elden's requested ice cream birthday cake.

Beyond meal planning, actually sticking to our list was huge.

Since Jon is vegan I don't cook meat often (only when the kids request my fried chicken or burgers, mostly). That means most of our protein comes from beans, pasta, and brown rice--way more affordable than meat. If you have a pressure cooker you can rehydrate dried beans and you would never know they had been dried to begin with. This permits bulk buying and saves even more money.

Sticking to our budget also meant getting creative a few times. Edith wanted a cheese quesadilla for dinner last night but our cheddar cheese block turned out to be moldy. Jon originally asked me to swing by the corner store on my way home from work but when he asked her if he could use Italian cheese we had instead she heartily agreed.

We also tried to only go to the grocery store once per week. The less we went, the less opportunity we had for impulse buys.

From the produce side (since that's such a huge part of Jon's diet and can get very expensive), he eats a lot of potatoes. He also eats a lot of bananas. Our Aldi used to sell bananas for 19 cents per pound but lately they've been closer to 50-70 cents per pound. To get around that, he looks for banana bags at the regular grocery store--you know, the ones with the rogue bananas that are 99 cents a bag. Jon weighed a bag once and I don't remember specifics but I do remember how excited he was (and continues to be, for that matter) to get such a steal on bananas. When there are banana bags he will buy several because he can eat through a bag in two days or less. He also largely buys what's on sale that week and finds ways to turn it into his lunch.

I've also stopped drinking coffee and decided to give up my sparkling water habit. We basically only drink water and the kids occasionally drink milk / we have non-dairy milk for cooking, so cutting out coffee cream, coffee pods and canned beverages helped us save as well.

In case you were wondering how we landed on our budget--we first made a budget pre-kids. I can't remember what the number was, but we basically tried to track what we were spending (the Mint app really helps with this now!) on groceries and cut it by a portion if we were going to be diligent about what we were actually buying. As our family grew we tracked the spending increase and increased our budget as well.

And lest you think we have this budgeting game locked down, we totally busted the budget in other areas thanks to the dining / living / foyer project we took on this month.

Friday, July 27, 2018

five on friday

 {1} This is the first month pretty much ever that we actually stuck to our $500 grocery budget. I can't even explain to you how excited I am about it. I'm going to write up a post about how we managed this month with just a little bit of discipline. 

{2} Since we are working on modernizing and beautifying the foyer of the house I have been daydreaming of also redoing the stair railings. I like this one but I'm not sure if it is too trendy and will feel dated in 5-10 years.

{3} Our town's homecoming parade is always amazing. The candy is insane (both the quality and the quantity) and the kids have a blast watching it (it lasts 45-60 minutes). This year the girls were most excited about the bags of chips they were handed. They immediately abandoned their candy bags and retreated to enjoy their salty snacks. They crack me up.

{4} We've had a lot of scattered storms this week. Last night was no exception and Elden quickly called me into his room because he was scared (Edith was in there too but she slept through it). Can't say I hated the extra cuddles I got!

{5} We continue to progress on the 'formal' living room! We moved our favorite Luke Stretar painting from the family room and we love it here!

Linking up with KatieAprilAndreaNarci and Erika! 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

what's up wednesday

Linking up with MelSheaffer, and Shay!

What we're eating this week:

You can check out this week's meal plan here.


I've also been making lots of bruschetta and my pizza this week was feta, caramelized onion and Brussels sprouts.

What I'm reminiscing about:

Etta's cute little Pebbles pony tail.

What I'm loving:

I've wanted a stand mixer for forever. There was a Target glitch a few weeks ago where you could stack multiple coupons. This beauty was on sale for $199 and with my coupons I got it for $100! I am SO HAPPY!

What we've been up to:

We've been harvesting from the garden.

We're also getting ready for back to school! Elden will start kindergarten and Edith will start preschool next month. I can't handle it!

What I'm dreading:

The fact that my oldest is officially school-age and I have to kiss him goodbye every single weekday for kindergarten.

What I'm working on:

We are slowly ticking away at the to do list for our dining room/living room/foyer makeover! Last night I painted all the trim and the front door. I still need to paint the closet door and all the floor moulding, which we still need to purchase. Jon needs to replace some outlets/light switches, put in a few transitions, put up the floor moulding, and then we are pretty much done! We are so happy with how this space is turning out.

What I'm excited about:

This little lady has changed dramatically over the past few weeks. Etta went from a stage 5 clinger and generally unhappy with everyone and everything to an overall sweet little giver of love. She has been filled with unprovoked hugs and kisses and she loves everything about her siblings all of a sudden. It's really endearing!

What I'm watching:

Jon and I started watching The Sinner season 1 on Netflix because we missed it when it aired. It's so weird and twisty but we are hooked!

What I'm listening to:

The Moana soundtrack, on repeat in the van with the kids and also on repeat in my head at all times.

What I'm wearing:

Ugh. I am in a major weight loss (or lack thereof) slump. I look really frumpy. It's not great.

What I'm doing:

Organizing. A few weekends ago Amazon had stacking coupon codes where you could get Honest diapers for free. I had to do a lot of moving around but I hope I never need to buy diapers for Etta again!

What I'm looking forward to next month:

Elden turns 6! I can't believe it! We aren't doing a friend party this year but he did ask if we could invite Ava to lunch at McDonald's for his birthday so I plan on doing that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

mixed diet aldi meal plan #4

This week our goal is to make more space in our freezer since Elden requested an ice cream cake for his birthday.

Dinner: Falafel (going to use Trader Joe's frozen falafel we have)
Groceries: hummus, pita, lettuce

Dinner: Gardein "chicken" parmesan and spaghetti (crispy real chicken for the kids)
Groceries: none (already have everything in the freezer/pantry/fridge)

Dinner: Tacos
Groceries: none (have everything required)

Dinner: Roasted potatoes with toppings (cheese for Edith, salt only for Elden, etc.)
Groceries: none (have everything required)

Dinner: Vegan burgers and hamburgers
Groceries: buns (we have frozen vegan burger patties and ground beef)

Lunch: Lemongrass stir fry using this simmer sauce and brown rice
Groceries: snap peas, mushrooms, bell peppers, red onions, broccoli

Monday, July 23, 2018


Have you ever had one of those weekends that was just so full and exhausting but also so rewarding? That was this weekend for us. Friday night the kids slept over our parents' houses so Jon and I got to hit up Bomba for date night. Bomba is definitely our favorite local restaurant and their happy hour was incredible.
pomegranate-ginger margarita

chips & fire-roasted tomato salsa


crispy avocado, Rio-style chicken and wild mushroom tacos
After dinner we walked over to get some Mitchell's ice cream. We both got junior scoops and left happy.

Since we finished dinner so early we needed to finish pulling up the layers of flooring and staples in anticipation of Jon's dad coming the next day to help us lay the new floor.

Saturday morning his dad came over and they got to work. While they did that I organized and purged some toys and ran to Goodwill to drop off some donations that I've had in my trunk for over a month.

Sunday was more of the same. I was in one of the Sunday school rooms at church but Jon's mom came over and stayed with the kids while his dad and Jon worked. Once the floors were laid we brought down the couch from our bedroom and rearranged some furniture. We still aren't done in here yet - we need to paint and install trim, hang curtains in the dining room, patch and paint the ceiling where the chandelier in the dining room used to be, replace outlets and light switches, and install a few transitions. 

As an aside - Etta has completely turned a corner. She went from barely smiling and very much disinterested in Elden and Edith to suddenly picking up words like crazy and wanting everything to do with them. She was all about Edith last night.

It does my heart so much good to see them love each other the way they do.

Friday, July 20, 2018

six on friday

{1} Last weekend Angela and Kaycee came to visit for the second year in a row and it was just as magical as the year prior. I am so grateful for their friendships and hope to visit them in Chicago next year!

{2} I scored this wreath from Target for half off. I'm not sure whether I love it or hate it yet.

 {3} The kids love when Jon takes them hiking in the forest. I got this photo from earlier in the week.

 {4} A few mornings back Edith ran into our room with great excitement to show me her outfit of the day--my childhood dance recital costume and a tiara. Love her spunk.

 {5} Jon and I made vegan BBQ chickpea salad with vegan rach dressing this week and it was so delicious and easy! This is a new staple of ours.

{6} The only favorite thing about this one is the fact that it is nearly done. Jon and I are getting ready to lay laminate in the foyer, front room and dining room since they are all connected with huge openings. There used to be two 80s railings separating the foyer and front room so we took those out. We also started removing the carpet from the dining and front rooms. Last night at 9 pm we discovered the laminate had cement board beneath it which had vinyl beneath it which had luan beneath it which had a million nails, staples and glue holding it to the subfloor. After 3 hours of intense labor all that remains is to the left of the stairs. We are very tired and sore today.

Linking up with KatieAprilAndreaNarci and Erika!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

garden update

There for a while it looked like our 2018 garden would be a big failure. Our yard is pretty shaded so it's very challenging for us to grow plants. Between the shade, deer, and insects our garden did nothing last year.

This year has been going better! Still not what we had hoped (we had cauliflower and broccoli that didn't make it, for instance) but leaps and bounds better than last year. Here's what we have growing so far:
This is a pumpkin plant that is straight up out of control. It's pretty funny because it resulted from me pushing Edith's rotting painted pumpkin off the porch last year and leaving it. This accidental pumpkin is the most thriving plant in our garden. This fact is extra ridiculous when considering this spot gets minimal sunlight and minimal rain. It is huge with many blossoms so we will see if we actually grow our own pumpkins this year.

 Last year our cucumber plants got attacked by cucumber beatles and died. We have a single cucumber plant this year but it's looking like we will get at least a few.

 These tomatoes...totally look like a scrotum. So there's that.

 We have a few hot pepper plants that are doing well!

 Jon transplanted our strawberry plants in front of our grape trellis and we have gotten a handful of fruit. They are small and sour but that's to be expected the first season of harvest.

Grapes! We planted three grape varities a few summers ago. It takes a few seasons to get fruit but one of our vines is producing this year! I'm pretty excited to try these.

The handful of strawberries I harvested yesterday.

We also harvested some raspberries, radishes and lettuce. We have a few zucchini and squash plants doing well also and we will be planting garlic, kale and Brussels sprouts when it gets a bit cooler. Given the fact this summer has been on and off hot and cold, I'm super excited about our harvest. Unfortunately our blueberry patch is worse for the wear and we lost at least 3 plants. I may try to relocate the survivors this fall.

Monday, July 16, 2018

our mixed diet aldi meal plan #3

Once again, some of these are repeats from last week because we had leftovers and haven't made them yet.

Dinner: Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower with Brown Rice and Peanuts
Groceries: none (bought last week)

Dinner: Vegan Black Bean Sweet Potato Soup with baguette
Groceries: none (we still haven't made this one but we have everything on hand!

Groceries: can of chickpeas, romaine lettuce, cucumber, corn, red onion, cherry tomatoes, barbecue sauce, non-dairy sour cream

Dinner: Small Group - bringing a salad
Groceries: kale, feta (I have everything else)

Dinner: Homemade Pizza
Groceries: spinach, artichoke hearts, pepperoni, shredded Italian cheese blend, yeast (Jon makes homemade dough), pasta sauce

Groceries: whole wheat macaroni, raw carrots

Lunch: Falafel
Groceries: dried chickpeas, pita, hummus

Friday, July 13, 2018

five on friday

 {1} We participated in our annual Dress Like a Cow tradition this week. I think I've blogged previous years but I honestly don't care to look for those right now. The kids had a blast and who doesn't love free dinner?

{2} This salad has been my jam lately. Rosemary sweet potatoes, red onion, bell pepper, radishes, sunflower seeds, avocado, and kale drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

 {3} Etta is really coming into her own. She loves seeing herself on the phone and is really starting to show interest in talking and repeating what we say. She's also been dramatically more affectionate and interested in us the past week or two.

 {4} I'm done painting the walls downstairs but I still need to paint the trim, front door, and chair rail in the dining room. I'm glad the bulk of it is done!

{5} The reason I'm in such a bummed mood is because yesterday afternoon we had to put our first baby to sleep. Marsala had been peeing all over the house the last several months and several expensive vet bills gave no indication why. Then she stopped eating almost entirely, lost a ton of weight, and started having bloody bowel movements. After a ton of back and forth and lots of phone calls with our vet we decided it was time to say goodbye. We estimated her to be about 14 or 15 so she certainly lived a full life but... it freaking sucks. I thought I was prepared for it but the reality hit super hard. All five of us were present during the process. The kids didn't really understand but once it was over Elden finally got it and the little guy is crushed. We will miss her so much and Jon and I both decided that we will not be getting any additional pets in the future because this was just way too hard.

Linking up with KatieAprilAndreaNarci and Erika!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

newborn shadow boxes

In spite of my efforts, I am not crafty. I always get visions for grandiose things but am disappointed in the execution 100% of the time.

Fortunately for me, my mom is the crafting queen. There is not a single craft project she can't tackle and make look downright amazing.

A few years (yes, years) ago I mentioned I wanted to make shadow boxes with the kids' hospital take-home outfits. I think I saw the idea on Pinterest and knew myself well enough to know nothing I did would look remotely cute. I asked my mom if she could do it and she happily agreed. I slowly trickled outfits and hospital mementos down to her and she got tired of waiting on me to pass along Etta's stuff so she did the other two. I got those about a week and a half ago and almost cried. She delivered above and beyond what I ever could have dreamed of. After seeing the first two I went home and gathered all of Etta's newborn items. When my parents were here on Sunday she finished Etta's box.

You guys. I seriously can't. Everything is so little. Elden darn near lost his mind when he saw his--going on and on about how cute the tiny clothes were. He even demanded I take them out so he could put them on his doll, Coco. When I vetoed that idea, he and Edith insisted I at least retrieve some newborn clothes for their babies so I got them each a little outfit out of storage that they've played with since. Jon and I decided to hang these in our dining room once we're done with that project. I can't wait to see them on the wall!