Economic Shutdown: A Household Financial Cleanse With Eddie & Rebecca Goepp – Tackling The Meal Plan

Wela Economic Shutdown Part 2 Eddie:

Week two has now come and gone. The honest feeling of going through this exercise is really very positive. Understanding and being extra aware of where you’re spending each dollar makes you more cognizant of all the areas you let them slip away!

This week, I had to put gas in my truck, but that should “fuel me” through the end of the month. Rebecca’s car is an electric Nissan Leaf, so we only have to worry about gas for one! We donated to our church and supported a great organization called Trinity Community Ministries in the first annual Trinity Combine. It’s an athletic competition where teams compete across ten athletic events. We paid our utility bills, grocery bill and cell phone bill. Other than that, we spent no additional money.

On the topic of fundraising, I mentioned in the last post how volunteering your time is a great way to give back, be active in the community and save money. Coaching baseball has been one of the outlets I’ve gotten involved in. Our baseball team finished the season last week and despite having a great time, the final record was a bit disappointing. But, it kept me busy and didn’t cost a dime. This will be my first week since January with no baseball commitments, so I’ll be hitting the books preparing for my CFP Board exam in July. Another great way to be productive and save. We were sure to take our pup, EB, to the park almost every day last week. Rebecca is always diligent to get EB some outside playtime, and I join them from time to time. Typically, I am called in from the bullpen after these excursions…

EB Goepp gets messy during the family's Economic Shutdown

This weekend we spent time with family, attended a good friend’s wedding and volunteered at the aforementioned Trinity Combine. The event was a huge success and again, other than our donation, didn’t cost a thing. We ate home cooked meals with the exception of the wedding, which, by the way, is a great way to enjoy an evening with friends on the cheap!

As we so astutely observed as we began this Economic Shutdown, one of the greatest areas in which we need to “tighten our belts” is dining out/grocery shopping. (I’m hoping that figuratively tightening our belts will also present the added bonus of helping tighten our belts literally.) See what I did there?? All jokes aside, we have received numerous questions about meal plans and grocery shopping, so I wanted to take a look back at exactly that topic. This is an arena that my wife was really invested in taking on, so I will turn the rest of this post over to her. Take it away…

 

Rebecca:

Full disclosure: When I looked at our “typical month” break down… I was shocked by the “dining out” tab.  Mainly because, before looking at this, I would have probably told you all about how much Eddie and I both love to cook meals together, and how we really don’t go out to eat very much. I’m fairly confident I’ve had almost the exact conversation before with multiple people…

Some other person: Rebecca, have you tried {insert cool new trendy restaurant here}?

Me: Gosh no, you know Eddie and I really don’t go out to eat a ton. But it sounds awesome.

I kinda want to insert that lady yelling “LIAR!!!” from the Princess Bride here. (Well heck, I’m writing this post so here you go…)

Because, while of course I didn’t mean to be a “LIAR!!!!” I was… check this out… In March, this couple that “didn’t go out to eat a lot” spent $878.70 JUST on restaurants, bars, coffee shops, etc. That doesn’t include a single penny spent at a grocery store. Gross.

What we didn’t realize was that while we did love to cook together, we also loved to make Starbucks runs or getting out of the office for lunch, etc. etc. ALMOST EVERYDAY. Say we BOTH spent $8 at lunch every weekday… That’s $320 out the window. Breakfast or coffee out, even half the time tallies another quick $100 very easily. Throw in a couple of dinners out (I counted 3 in March…) and that very quickly adds up to close to $1,000 of easily trim-able cost.

I harp on this because it was eye opening to me! And such a no-brainer way to save. So what has our meal plan been the past two weeks? All the food we pay for has come from the grocery store. (I word it this way because we did take advantage of some free dinners, (i.e. the Cinco de Mayo neighborhood party that was FREE.99 and a reception for my W&L professor that we made our dinner for the evening. Economic Shutdown Participants LOVE free food.)

So let me show you our Economic Shutdown menu:

Weekly Meal Planner
May 1 - May 8
Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snack
Friday English Muffin & Yogurt PBJ & Baked Lays Slow Cooker Chili Hummus And Carrots Or Cherries
Saturday Bacon & Eggs With English Muffins Crawfish Boil At The Justices Dinner At Cochise With Mcraes (Free.99) Carrots Or Apples
Sunday Oatmeal With Frozen Berries Chili Leftovers Tin Lizzy's Reception (Fo Free) Hummus and Pretzel Chips Or Cherries
Monday English Muffin & Yogurt Fruit Smoothie Veggie Stir Fry And Brown Rice Carrots Or Apples
Tuesday Oatmeal With Frozen Berries PBJ & Baked Lays Or Leftovers Stuffed Peppers Hummus and Pretzel Chips Or Cherries
Wednesday English Muffin & Yogurt Banana And PB Smoothie Veggie & Bacon Quiche Carrots Or Apples
Thursday Oatmeal With Frozen Berries PBJ & Baked Lays Or Leftovers Burger On English Muffin With Roasted Veggies Hummus and Pretzel Chips Or Cherries

 

Here was our first week’s grocery list and total cost:

Weekly Grocery List
Item Store Total Comment
Bananas Costco $1.39
Whole Wheat Bread Costco $4.29
Eggs, Kirkland Signature Organic Large Brown Costco $6.99
English Muffins Costco $5.49
Gala Apples Costco $6.49
Kirkland Signature Normandy Vegetables Organic Costco $8.79
Cascade Advanced Dishwasher Gel Costco $7.49 coupon, $2 off
Organic Strawverry Jelly, Kirklands Costco $6.99
Organic Frozen Berry Blend Costco $10.89
Mixed Bell Peppers Costco $6.99
Organic Kirkland's Ground Beef Costco $21.99
Greenwise Oatmeal Publix $1.99
Chicken Broth Publix $3.99
Sharp Cheddar Publix $2.50
Chobani Yogurt (4) Publix $4.00 sale, $10 for 10
Pinto Beans (2) Publix $2.26
Black Beans (2) Publix $1.58
Diced Tomatoes Publix $1.27
Center Cut Bacon Publix $3.50 saved $2.49
Corn Yellow Publix $0.60 10 for $3.00
Kerrygold Unsalted Butter Publix $3.00 saved $0.59

 

One of the biggest challenges to me was making Costco work well for a household of two. I didn’t want to buy items in bulk that might go to waste, and so I found it very helpful to plan out the entire week’s worth of meals to see exactly where I could use the ingredients repeatedly. (For example, I bought the Organic Grass Fed Beef 3 pack at Costco, and used it in the chili, stuffed peppers, and burgers.)

I think as far as a first stab at a weekly meal plan, I feel pretty good about my efforts. It was important to me to still serve healthy meals and not skimp on variety. If Eddie were left to his own devices, we would have eaten brown rice, black beans and chicken every single night of the Economic Shutdown. I, on the other hand, really love thinking about my next meal. Breakfast is sometimes what gets me out of bed in the morning. Don’t judge. And the thought of having zero variety made me kinda sad and gloomy.

I also wanted to use organic produce as much as possible. It was important to me to demonstrate that you can eat healthy on a budget. The organic frozen veggies and berries at Costco were a huge win for me in this category. I don’t typically buy frozen produce, but was pleasantly surprised and would certainly purchase these again. (They’re going last us another week or two for sure!)

As far as accomplishing the goal of substantially tightening our belts in this category, I feel pretty good about week one! For example, the breakfast items above will actually carry us through week 2 for a total of $28.80. That’s about $1 each for breakfast for each of us. Win. Likewise, the dinner ingredients above came to $52.97. These ingredients lasted us the week, with the exception of some of the hamburger meat that I froze and will be using next week. That breaks down to be less than $4 a person for dinner for seven nights. Another win for sure.

Some areas of improvement I gleaned from week one: I needed some fresh greens in here. I was craving a salad for sure. I steered clear initially because sometimes salads can add up cost-wise with all the fixings, but for the next week I am going to see what I can do to creatively mix in some fresh produce. I also should have looked toward a leaner protein for a meal option. I think I got really caught up in trying to use all of the ground beef, and not wanting to spend additional money on something else. However, I ended up freezing some of the hamburger meat, and could have purchased chicken or fish from Publix rather than bulking it up on another Costco purchase. Lesson learned, and I will certainly be applying these thoughts to Week 2’s menu plan.

 

Economic Shutdown Part 3: Unexpected Expenses