Back on the Budget Again

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April 30, 2011 by Leah

I was doing pretty well on our budget (er, my allowance?) this week, even if I did buy 42 eggs, one dozen of which cost me $6.99. We were, of course, out of eggs by yesterday, so I located and totted up the receipts from our various shopping trips this week, which is harder than it sounded. This week was a pretty extreme departure from our usual shopping pattern – the one where we get most of our food from CSAs and farmers’ markets and fill in with the milk run to Vitamin City and a trip to Trader Joe’s for coffee, cheese, chocolate, and booze. I went to Whole Foods and Vitamin City once each and Aaron went to Trader Joe’s twice, which is highly unusual and resulted in some interesting new products in the house (like habanero lime salsa!).

We’ve been doing more shopping at stores lately. I haven’t made yogurt in weeks. My culture lost its oomph (or, more likely, the bacteria all died) and I decided a gallon of milk a week was too much for us to use (you know, because I buy the $12 kind). This means I now have two large containers of Greek-style yogurt in my fridge, plus this completely delicious goat’s milk yogurt that was $6 a pint – on sale. My homemade yogurt costs $3 per pint. I decided it’s time to go back up to a gallon a week and make and eat yogurt, which Aaron had finally discovered he quite liked. Plus, I won’t have to ration how much milk I drink (I usually run out after the weekend).

This wasn’t my best week ever, so I really appreciated Aaron’s helping out with shopping and whatnot. (He even bought me flowers!) I didn’t do a lot of leaving the house, or even eating of regular meals. Luckily we had enough leftovers to see us through and we had one nice sit-down dinner on Thursday when I thought I’d royally screwed up chicken cordon bleu but it turned out completely delicious. I don’t know what our problem is – it’s actually nice here at this time of year, but it’s so hard to leave the house. Literally. It takes forever to get off the hospital campus and as soon as we do we’re gobsmacked by traffic and people and noise and smells and insane intersections and that’s before we even hit the freeway. It’s no fun on foot, in a car, or on a bike. All of this is starting to weigh heavily, especially with the prospect of a move on the horizon. Thank goodness we’ve made some friends who insist on our getting out occasionally.

I’ve also got the garden, which is turning out to be a healthy habit to cultivate (fresh air, exercise, and homegrown lettuce can assuage a myriad of ills). It should also be a big help with grocery bills during May, while our urban farm is transitioning from winter to summer crops, which means no CSA for us. I think the collards are ready, and the squash, some tomatoes, and the hot peppers are all flowering. All the store shopping has made me realize that, while it seems expensive, buying organic, locally-grown produce from the people who grow it really is cheaper than buying the same stuff in a store. Our CSA, which keeps us in greens and other fun edibles for $12 a week, is an even better deal. And a packet of seeds is exponentially more economical than even the CSA.

I like the fact that this budget is more generous than the last one we put ourselves on in November ($150 vs. $100 per week), but this means that we can shop first and add later. This provides more flexibility in meal planning and allows for last-minute brainwaves (like the hot pepper I want to add to tonight’s ham and bean soup), but it also means I have to get and handle a bunch of receipts. Receipts covered in large amounts of BPA. This gives me the heebie jeebies. Still, I collected them and did some arithmetic.

At first it seemed like we had over $50 to spare, and I was feeling very self-congratulatory. Then I remembered the CSA fee and my midweek run to CVS for ice cream. Turned out we had $15 to spare. That was just enough for 30 eggs, two baking potatoes, a large yellow onion, and six or so organic Pink Lady apples at the farmers’ market yesterday.

Then my neighbor invited me over to watch the recorded live broadcast of the Royal Wedding. As we broke for lunch while they were all in signing the register, I decided I absolutely couldn’t come back without champagne cocktails with which to toast the happy couple. This means I went over budget for this week. I’ll just have to borrow from next week. Don’t tell Aaron.

Flowers from my sweetie.

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