What is your monthly grocery bill? USDA Food Costs and how do you compare?

About a week ago, I was agonizing about my budget for groceries. I cook from scratch and my family’s philosophy is that you don’t scrimp on food. Afterall, it’s always going to be cheaper than eating out!

While the latter is true, I intend to trim my food expenses until my finances are in good shape. So I looked over my expenses for the last 5 months and set what I thought was appropriate and doable.

Then I came across this article today and thought it might help you in planning your food budget for July! 😀

USDA Food Cost for May 2013

If you’re interested to see previous year’s numbers, you can access the link here.

Previous USDA Food Costs

I went back and looked at the year so far and this was how it was:

Jan: Liberal

Feb: Liberal

Mar: Under low cost

Apr: Under thrifty

May: Liberal

Looks like for the most part, I am on the liberal side for groceries. And I planned for a number that is fairly close to the low cost plan for July prior to seeing this data. We’ll see how it goes 🙂

Have you budgeted for July? If yes, how will seeing this change your figures?

If you haven’t budget for July, here are some of my thoughts.

– Don’t set yourself up for failure. Set a number that is realistic and yet stretch your restraint.

– Consider the envelope system for your grocery money and keep to a figure per week.

– Meal planning. The hardest part is starting. Once you have a system going, it will get easier.

Good luck!

Square foot gardening – First year and initial thoughts

After my huge success with growing my own basil last year, I decided to garden again this year. But a lot more seriously. In fact, I put down the money and effort to build my own raised beds and attempt square foot gardening. In case you haven’t heard, square foot gardening is a method revolutionized by Mel Bartholomew. It basically is a way of growing a lot of crops in a small space.

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As you can see, I don’t have alot of gardening space. This is pretty much what you get when you live in the city. My raised beds are also not as high as I would like them to be. However due to financial constraints, this is as best as I can do for this year. Hopefully I can eventually build something higher. 🙂

I went ahead and started planting before buying the book (updated version here) so I am not optimizing my space. Hey there is always another year 🙂

So why square foot gardening?

Pros

– Lots of crops in a small space (as opposed to row gardening)

– Able to do crop rotation in same space (spring & fall crops)

– Easy weeding (Mel’s mix which is the ‘soil’ for the raised beds is so light that you can easily pick out the weeds. In addition, anything growing that is not in the space that you know that you have planted is automatically a weed! That’s awesome for a newbie gardener who still cannot distinguish how the baby plants look like)

– Neat. LOL You gotta admit, it looks much neater than row gardening.

– A great way if your soil sucks. Afterall, you are making your own ‘soil’ so the current soil doesn’t really matter.

Cons

– Expensive. The first year is expensive for me with buying the various components to make Mel’s mix. Add to that the costs of building the bed, seeds, plants, etc, it all adds up pretty fast.

– Mel’s mix requires 5 different types of compost. Why? As this is an intensive way to garden, you want to provide a very nutrient rich environment. Unfortunately I was only able to procure 2 types of compost (mushroom and cow manure).

Conclusion

I love square foot gardening! You can see in the picture that 2 of my beds were not in the square foot format and I think they are not as productive. Next year, I’m converting them all to grid form. If you are on the fence regarding this, make a small 4 ft by 4 ft box and try it for a year. 🙂 Perhaps you will get hooked like I did!

Note: I made a modification of not having a screen at the bottom of the raised bed. I wanted the deeper root plants to be able to go deeper as my beds are only 6 inches high.

* Not affiliated to Mel Bartholomew and all opinions are my own.

Dave Ramsey – Have you started your budget for July?

If you are in total control of your money and am in an excellent financial situation, please go on and skip this post. Otherwise, read on! 🙂

 

Like many people, I dread the B word. Yes, budget. To me, it’s all about restraint and a life of lack. I went on my merry way and like so many others, am now in debt. Having heard of Dave Ramsey, I decided to order his book (second hand off ebay) and start reading. I got so inspired that I made a budget for July!

 

You can access a free pdf on how to get started here! It’s only 23 pages and it’s worth reading. In addition, you can get free budget and cash flow forms here.

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Here is my budget on a clip board at the fridge 🙂

We have a few more days till July and I urge you to create your July budget today! 🙂

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This will be my cash envelope for July. As you can see, I made my budget and set aside money for various categories (Groceries, Household, Eating out, Entertainment, Personal, Clothing and Gas). You can categorize however way you want 🙂 For example, although my tab says gas, parking comes from that envelope too. As for personal, I decided to loop beauty and toiletries as well as books in there.

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There comes a time when you have read all that is to know about a subject and it’s time to just do it. Plunge in. I’ll be there beside you!

 

* Found the last picture on the internet. Please let me know who it belongs to so I can credit it.

* My personal views.

 

Homemade Infused Vodka

Tonight, I finally got around to doing something that I had been meaning to do. Make my own infused vodka! This is something really simple and you can be the toast of the party when you show up with one of these in hand! 🙂

Steps:

1) Gather and wash the jars and fruits. I used mason jars and the flavors that I know I will like 🙂

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2) Dry the fruit and slice it into pieces.

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3) Fill up the jars with vodka and voila!

4) Wait. Expect to wait for 2 weeks. If you need to use it sooner, just open up the jar and taste! 🙂

5) Strain and serve.

If this is a success, I intend to infuse tequila next! 😀 Remember, you are only constrained by what you can imagine in terms of flavors!

* Caveat: I would recommend using a cheaper alcohol to experiment with before splurging on the top shelf stuff.

Enjoy and cheers!

DIY Compost Trash Bin

LOL this blog is starting to go off in a tangent! 😀 In line with my DIY posts, today I am embarking on a DIY compost bin. To be honest, this is one of the things I had been wanting to do but had been putting off. Why? Google anaerobic composting. I ended up doing a chicken wire compost bin, an Ikea compost bag as well as vermicomposting (composting with worms). The chicken wire bin and ikea compost bag were unsightly and didn’t work out too well. I ended up killing all my worms. But I still wanted to compost! I am trying to garden organically and compost will be a great addition! So here it is.

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32 gallon Trash bin costing about $13.

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Start drilling holes all around (bottom and sides). Wear eye protection! I didn’t drill my lid. Some advocate drilling the lid. I chose not to so that I can control the amount of water that goes into the bin.

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I bought three bricks (about $.40 each) from Menards so that my compost bin can stand on them (more air).

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Then I transfer the compost that is ‘cooking’ in my chicken wire bin as well as in my Ikea compost bag.

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Here it is completed. I will update after a few months as to how this turned out.

Enjoy!

DIY Giant Planter without breaking the bank!

Hello everyone! I got a maple tree on sale last fall and meant to re-pot it. I have limited yard space and I much rather grow stuff that I can eat. I started looking around and all the large planter pots are expensive! So what does a gal do? Repurpose a trash can!

I started with a galvanized trash can from Lowes (about $25). I also got casters as I wanted to be able to move the planter. This is important especially after the plants get huge!

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Place the caster on the bottom of the trash can. Use a sharpie pen to mark out the holes. Pre-drill. Be careful! Wear eye protection when drilling!

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Use screws and nuts to hold the casters in place.

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Here are all the casters attached.

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Then I added epoxy to the edges to secure it further.

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As you can see, the maple tree is root bound already. So just cut the bottom of the roots. Don’t worry about hurting the plant, the roots will regrow as long as you don’t cut too much.

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I used coffee filters to line the bottom so my ‘soil’ doesn’t fall out!

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Adding the ‘soil’. It’s not really soil. I mixed my potting media using Mel’s mix (square foot gardening).

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Here is it. A giant planter that is movable and will last for many years without breaking the bank!

Enjoy~

DIY Bird Bath

Recently I had been on a huge DIY kick so I decided to do a DIY birdbath. I have all the materials already so I can only give an estimate cost.

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Start with a plate and bowl that I got from Ikea (about $1.25 for set of 4 bowls/plates).

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Use epoxy to secure the bowl to the plate. Spent about $1.50 on the epoxy.

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Stick the bowl to the plate. I weighed it down with a bowl to allow it to cure. Total cure time is 24 hours but I was impatient and only allowed 15 mins cure time.

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Added some blue floral rocks to weigh down the plastic bowl and plate. Got the blue rocks from dollar tree.

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Set the bird bath on electric conduit that I spray painted black (electric conduit is about $2 for 10 ft, spray paint about $4.50).

There you go. I’m still not sure if the bird bath is weighted enough to withstand strong winds. I might end up gluing the bird bath to the conduit. We’ll see.

 

Enjoy!