Wednesday, May 4, 2011

April Meal Planning.... BUDGET CRASH and BURN

Although I still planned all of my monthly meals for April I went way over budget in the grocery and dining out categories this month. Since I am accountable for keeping up these meal planning posts I have to confess that I didn’t follow the #1 rule that has helped me stick to a budget and that is to be AWARE of your budget. It is paramount that you do this or else you will fail. That coupled with the fact that I had completely depleted my stockpile in March having to restock everything this month made it especially difficult. Top it all off with the fact that I am now watching that Extreme Couponing Show (making me constantly feel like I am paying too much for groceries) and you have a frustrating month for budgeting.

I have been reading Stephanie Hillberry’s Blog and keeping up with Janell’s articles on budgeting about using an all cash system, and I totally see the reason for it. If I had an all cash system for groceries and dining out I would have looked in those two envelopes and noticed NO CASH to spend and that would been all I had to do to be AWARE of my budget. So needless to say I am going to try harder this month to stick with my budget. Through this “failure” I noticed a few positives.

First, my mindset has changed when it comes to budgeting. The fact that I even feel bad about going over budget is a big improvement from last year. I could always justify why it was necessary to go over budget, but now that I have stuck to a budget for the past three months (or pretty close to it), I know it can be done.

Second, any amount we go over budget is an amount that doesn't get saved. I have made a goal this year of a number that I would like to keep in savings at all times so having to use that savings actually pains me. Last year we were at a point were we really tight with our finances. Without getting into to much detail I will just say that it was mostly due to overspending. And not overspending on things like TVs, boats, or extravagant vacations, but on things like groceries, dining out, home supplies, and kids stuff. Those things can really sneak up on you and unlike buying a boat they don’t invoke the guilt reflex which makes it easy to justify them so you have to be extra vigilant. It is also true sometimes that if you make more money you tend to spend more and not keep track of it. So whether you are on a tight budget or have some extra laying around, if you want to get any of it into savings you have really have to pay attention to where its going.

Third, I now realize that I have a lot more to learn about budgeting. One being that in order to compensate for those times when my stockpile is totally depleted maybe I need to set a quarterly budget and allow for over spending and under spending to average out over a few months? Or maybe I need to try shopping for meat on sale at the grocery store instead of always buying in bulk, especially since the prices at SAM'S have seemed to go up in the meat department. Maybe I could try to cut coupons (not be crazy about it - Come on who needs 70 bottles of Mustard?) but every little bit helps. Or I could be willing to shop somewhere other than King Soopers when other store have better sales. My point is that in the game of budgeting you need to be flexible and aware in order to succeed.

So yes I failed. I went way over budget and I could rationalize and tell you how it happened but instead of beating myself up about it or making excuses I hope to learn from it. Sticking to a budget is not easy. Good intentions do nothing if you don’t follow through. Budgeting can be compared to dieting, you may really want to eat healthy and lose weight but if you are not willing to eat right and be disciplined in exercise you probably won’t see the results you want. The same is true with budgeting, if you want to stick to a budget but are not aware of how much you are spending you will not succeed in it.

Here are some of the recipes I enjoyed this month:

1. Greek Beef Pasta in a Pot
2. Slow Cooker Thai Chicken
3. Pork Chops with Mango Salsa
4. Homemade Pizza with Leeks and Chicken Sausage
5. *Nachos with Lean Ground Beef, Homemade Fajita Seasoning, Homemade Beans
6. Shrimp Pad Thai (Really Good)
7. *Stuffed Shells filled with Ground Turkey and spinach
8. Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
9. * Indian Butter Chicken ( New Recipe - very good)
10.*Italian Pork Chops with Roasted Ginger and Honey Sweet Potatoes
11. Tacos Salad with Grilled Onions and Green Peppers
12. *Spicy Coconut Noodles, with Grilled Shrimp
13. Easy Baked Tilapia with Roasted Zucchini Chips
14. Thai Lettuce Wraps
15. Cabbage Pockets with Homemade Dough
16. *Red Pepper Cashew Chicken Stir-fry
17. Salad with Grilled Chicken Sausage

For the recipes that do not have links you can email me directly for the recipes, jessica_frank@comcast.net. The recipes that have the asterisks are the ones that were new this month.