Wednesday, June 29, 2011

El Cheapo

In the process of considering buying a house (and yes, even the considering part is turning into a process) Handsome and I have been looking at our budget and trying to do some trimming. 

Now, in case you wonder what a budget is, I would like to direct you to is a free online budgeting tool that, once you link up your bank accounts & credit cards, will track your spending for you, catergorizing things as you wish.  You can set budgets and goals for savings.  Mint also has offers (I’m guessing they’re paid to put them on there, ergo making it free for you to use) for financial institutions and services that they recommend for you, based on your spending & banking habits. 

I find this website to be EXTREMELY helpful.  Also, I’m a nerd, and I like to go in and tweak the budgets and plan and dream and set goals and then delete them.  You don’t have to go that far, but in case you’re not sure where your paycheck is going, this is a way to find out with minimal effort on your part.  For all of you non-math types out there, it does all of the subtracting for you!  You don’t have to even pull up the calculator on your computer.  ChaChing!  That’s a jackpot, ladies and gentlemen.

So, we’ve used to track the moola that H. & I bring in each month, and also to see where it goes.  We’re looking at all of this, trying to figure out where we can cut and how much, trying to see how much room we have in our budget for things like a mortgage and homeowners insurance and cans of paint.  Truth is, there’s not a whole lot of room.

Enter THE CHALLENGE (challenge… challenge challenge…).

Handsome bet me that I can’t cut our grocery bill in half.  And at first I agreed with him.  Not because I’m convinced that I can’t, but because I don’t want to.  See, I like food (as you well know) and I like to try new recipes, and to bake a lot of unnecessary things.  And all of that would be greatly minimized if I wasn’t allowed to spend my $400 a month on groceries.  
ASIDE: I was debating on baring that number on here, but so many of you answered the quiz questions, that it gave me courage. 

Now, I don’t know that I can actually get down to $200.  That seems… close.  If we both ate from the dollar menu every night, we could probably manage, but we’d be supersized, and probably more-than-slightly sick.  So we’ve set some ground rules, that the one thing we won’t sacrifice is health.  That means we’re still going to have a lot of fruits and vegetables, but I’m probably going to really search out the cheapest place to buy them.  And I might check out the few Discount Grocery/Thrift stores around here. 

Yes, you heard me, Discount Grocer/Thrift stores.  That’s right.  You can buy expired tomato sauce and a 70 lb. microwave oven that may or may not have its glass plate, all in a one stop shop.  Truthfully, I don’t know what they sell in those stores because I’ve been afraid to go inside of them.  But no more!  Now, I am fearless, because I HAVE A CHALLENGE TO WIN!  So I’m going to check those places out and try to be strategic without going all overboard-champion-coupon-y on you.  
ASIDE: Want to know my theory on what happens to those people on that couponing show, after they’re done for the season?  Have you grown attached to them, do you begin to miss them?  Well, have no fear!  I am certain you will see some of them again, next time on Hoarders.  Seriously, if that’s not hoarding, I don’t know what is.  I have vowed (and have someone holding me accountable) that I will never have more than 3 jars of peanut butter (per type, I mean, If you’ve got 2 honey, 1 crunchy, a low-fat and a regular creamy, that’s okay) in my house.  Any more is just excessive.  Anybody remember those “starving children in china” your parents always told you about?  Anyone?

So, our new fiscal year begins on July first, for the Magagnotti household.  We’re going big so we can have a home.  If I can get down to $300 per month with groceries, even that would be cool.  So that’s my initial goal. 

If you’d like to help, please suggest some cheap, healthy dinners in the comment section.  I’ve got a list here of things we’ve already thought of, but I’m open to other options, as long as there are no beans.  I don’t like beans.  Can’t handle it.  Fish is okay, because I’ll just eat chicken and feed the fish to Handsome.  But no beans.  They’re tricky, and often hide in with the other food, so even if you try to pick them out, you end up eating one.  And then you lose your appetite for the entire meal.  Or maybe that’s just me.

2 picky 4 beans,


  1. 1. I love that you are getting your Barney Stinson on and accepting this legend - wait for it ... ary challenge.

    2. I don't share your aversion to beans, but once I get a bite of meat with gristle, fat, or blood vessels in it, I'm done. D-U-N, done. So I can sort of share your feelings there.

  2. I'll let you know if I come up with some cheap meals for you to serve. One thing I've found is that if I make a whole casserole, someone in my house, will eat it all. But if I make a whole casserole and split it between 2 8x8 pans, freeze one and bake one, we are just as satisfied. There are less left overs (usually none) but this way we also aren't wasting food and I feel like hero wife when I have a meal already made and in the freezer. One thing I will say is that I've found incredibly cheap frozen vegetables at Sharp Shopper that we really enjoy steamed and they only cost $1.99 for a 2 lb bag. I think you should brave the thrift store discount grocery store and see what they have to offer, maybe even find out what day of the week they get new deliveries.

  3. Oh another thing that I've found can really cut down on your food budget, trying to let your supply go down before going to the grocery store. Are there things in your cupboards that you have had in there for months? Why aren't you eating them? If it is because they are gross, get rid of them. If they aren't gross, eat them to get rid of them. :) Amazing what we can make that is already in our cupboards.

  4. Anonymous6/30/2011

    I agree with Cara, and I think that Jersey eats far too much casserole for her own good. Cara and I barely have enough to eat as it is, without the dog barging in and devouring an entire casserole by herself. Bad dog! Anyways, my suggestion (if you can stomach it) is to eat bachelor food. Leave it to a single guy to figure out the precise minimum that can be spent on food. The tradeoff is in taste, but you want money, right? Maybe I'll even lend you the recipe for my Hobo Chili, which I maintain is the piinnacle of survival food. Seriously, NASA wanted the recipe for the space station, but they wouldn't build me a moonbase, soooo...we got nowhere. Seriously though, see if there's a bachelor's cookbook out there. If it's in a cookbook, it's probably somewhat palatable to humans.

  5. Anonymous6/30/2011


  6. Anonymous6/30/2011

    Greetings from the great state of Pennsylvania! Here are some of my favorite cheap meal ideas:

    Pasta Salad

    Corn on the cob and tomato and cucumber salad- tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil and good seasonings Italian salad dressing mix (or whatever Italian seasonings you have) (unfortunately this is only cheap during parts of the summer)

    Pasta bake-1 lb rotini pasta, 1 large (32 oz) spaghetti sauce, 12 oz cottage cheese, 12 oz mozzarella cheese(shredded), 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/4 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon parsley, (sometimes I add oregano too)
    Preheat oven to 350
    Coat large casserole dish with PAM to evenly coat sides and bottom
    Make pasta and mix it with the sauce
    Mix remaining ingredients in a separate bowl
    Alternate pasta mixture and cheese mixture into dish
    Gently stir but don't over mix
    Cover and bake for 35-45 min or until bubbly

    Broccoli Pasta-1 head or 1 lb bag of broccoli, 1 lb pasta, 1 clove garlic, olive oil, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt
    Cook pasta and broccoli as you normally would
    While pasta is in the strainer coat the bottom of the pot with olive oil and brown your garlic
    Return pasta to pot and add remaining ingredients. Top with extra cheese and serve.

    This next one isn't the healthiest, but it's amazing if you like garlic and cheese. I serve it with a salad

    I bookmarked these sites before I left Clemson as some cheap food ideas, but they seemed to be too much food for just me so I never tried them. I'm not sure how good the recipes are, but I know you are a great cook and could modify the recipes to your liking.

    Hope this helps! Miss you tons :)


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