This month (January):
Years left: 5.16666667
P =$945.68, I = $268.72, Escrow = 613.58
This month (February):
P =$954.07, I = $260.34, Escrow = 613.58
One month’s prepayment savings: $4.64
Forget January New Years Resolutions. February is the best month for challenges because it is the shortest month!
#1 is doing a Cheap Eats Challenge. She was going to do it because it would have given her more wiggle room in her budget, but now that DH is re-employed, she’s just going to do it for fun. Because she can. And because she’d already done half the planning. So each Monday this month we’re going to have food-related money posts.
For simplicity’s sake, any menu planning is going to be for dinners only. Breakfasts you can assume are rolled oats, heated in the microwave with raisins or whatever other fruit bits we have available. Snacks will be pieces of fruit (not cheap, but also not too expensive, particularly the banana portion). Lunches will either be dinner the night before or you can pretend it will be a sandwich (which it would have been if I weren’t off the wheat thing… perhaps something tortilla-based instead).
Exceptions to the cheap eats rule: If we go into the city, we can eat out. If my colleagues are doing a working lunch out, I can eat out. If there’s catering for an event, I’m totally going to eat that. This is an intellectual challenge, not a necessary or moral challenge. No deprivation, just thinking about which meals we eat are healthy but less expensive than others and what makes meals healthy and cheap. Playing at frugality.
You will also see some wheat-based meals that I will only be partaking in slightly and DC2 won’t be eating at all. For those, you can assume we’re having leftovers from a previous meal or something corn-based or quinoa-based instead. If we do a direct substitution, I’ll make a note of it and the additional costs to make it less wheaty. If I don’t, you can assume we ate something else. (We won’t be completely gluten-free because DC2 has a mild wheat allergy and can totally handle the wheat in say, Worcestershire sauce, whereas someone with celiac wouldn’t necessarily be able to.)
Split pea soup. One package of peas ~$1.50, give or take. You can add carrots, onions, or leftover veggies, and ham or poultry bits, and spices, which will increase the price. But one package of peas still makes a meal for an entire family of four. Whenever I’m feeling broke, I buy a bag of split peas and feel virtuous after making it. (It’s also a comfort food for me, as are black bean soup and mac and cheese.)
Macaroni and cheese with tuna and peas. Mac and cheese comes in various prices. If you shop sales you can get a box for under 50 cents. The gluten-free variety comes in somewhere around $2.00 for a package. Cans of tuna vary, around $2.00. A bag of frozen peas, $1.50, double that if organic. You will use only a portion of the peas, and one or two boxes of macaroni, depending on your family composition. Cheapest: 50 + 200 + 75 = $3.25. Fanciest: $4 + 2 + 1.50 = $7.50. Organic and gluten free can get expensive! (Fortunately we’re still in the one box family size.)
Meat Chili. We’ll have veggie chili later. Ground beef prices vary, but it’s pretty cheap where we live. Let’s say $2 for regular and $6 for organic. I’ll take a pound. Beans also vary quite a bit in price. You can get a bag of dried beans for under $1, or a couple of cans of cooked beans for under $2. You’ll also need a can or two of tomatoes, and these are a little over a dollar each. And then there’s spices. Spices can get expensive, but you usually buy a package and only use a small portion. It’s hard to know how to price it. We use Penzy’s, which looks like it is going for $4/oz for its smallest size. But we don’t use an oz when making chili and we buy bigger bags. Let’s round up and say we use $1 of chili powder when making chili. Onions are optional, let’s put a big one in for ~$1. So cheap version: $2 + 1 + 1 + 1 =$5. Expensive: $6 + 2 + 2 + 1 +1 = $12.
Nachos. These use leftover chili from the night before. With store-brand shredded cheese from bulk shredded cheese over chips. Cheap chips are $1/bag. Expensive ones are $3.49. Cheese will depend a lot on how much you use and what brand you get and how much you buy. We get the big bags and stick it in the freezer and only use what we need. But let’s say you use a dollar of cheese. If you already have the chili leftover, then we’re talking a $2 meal, give or take.
Stirfry sweet and sour chicken with veggies and rice. This will be more expensive and the prices will vary tremendously. A simple sweet and sour sauce is just sugar and vinegar. Let’s go with $3 for chicken, $1 for the sauce, $2 for veggies (frozen mixed is about that), and $1 for rice (more if using fancy brown rice). ~$7.
Omelete. Eggs and frozen veggies. We’re talking $2, depending on what you put in.
What are your favorite cheap meals? Anything you recommend that we try?