Friday, July 8, 2011

Dehydrated

I went for another bike ride with my kids yesterday morning as well as this morning. Even though we go incredibly slow and it's a little stressful watching for cars (there are no sidewalks, so we have to ride in the road), I have so much fun. It's really relaxing and enjoyable. THAT is what I mean by living an active life. Not necessarily training for races and biking as fast as I can to get my heart rate up, but truly enjoying myself while doing something other than sitting on my ass!

I spent a good chunk of the afternoon preparing a budget. NOT fun--but because I'm a math nerd, I definitely was enjoying myself a little ;)  A few years ago when the economy got really bad, my husband's job cut his hours way back and we basically had to live off of a credit card for a while. We went from zero debt to about $15,000 in credit card debt over a period of about 18 months. We have since quit using the credit card, and my husbands hours are back to normal, but we haven't done much to pay it down--paying only slightly over the minimum every month. We don't have a lot of money; my husband is a laborer and I am a stay-at-home mom. But I am normally very frugal when it comes to spending money, so we manage okay. But I was reading some blogs yesterday about paying down debt, and it really inspired me to work on paying ours down.

I went through our previous 2 months of bank statements and figured out how much we spent and where it went. The majority of our spending is DEFINITELY on groceries. I was shocked to see that we spent about $1,000 per month on groceries! That doesn't include eating out, but we very, very rarely eat out. I can certainly cut that back to about $500 per month, possibly even less if I get really creative.

My older brother Brian is a pilot for Delta, and he is on call fairly often to go on last-minute trips. They can call him and give him just a few hours notice that he has to go on a trip somewhere, often for a few days at a time. Because of this, he realized that he was throwing away a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables because he could buy them one afternoon and then get called out on a trip shortly after. So he bought a food dehydrator and started dehydrating his fruits and veggies, making them easy to pack to take on trips with him. When I tried some of the dried fruit, I was really impressed with how good it was, so he bought a dehydrator for my family. I, also, tend to throw away a lot of fresh fruit because we just don't get around to eating it. So I'm going to make it a point to throw away as little food as possible. I raided the fridge today, and sliced up 6 bananas, half a package of strawberries, 4 kiwi fruits, a peach, and an apple and put it in the dehydrator. It takes a lot of time to prep everything, but it's worth it when you get to eat the dried fruits!
Here is what it looks like prepped and ready to dehydrate:
Layer #1

Layer #2

Layers 3 & 4

Layer #5
And this is what it looks like after dehydrating for about 5 hours:




This is a gallon-sized bag, and upright, it's only about 1/3 full
 See how much fruit it takes to make a small amount of dried fruit?! I could eat that whole bag in one or two sittings, I'm sure. It tastes SO MUCH BETTER than the dried fruit you buy at the grocery store. My favorite fruit to dehydrate is actually starfruit. It's kind of expensive, so I rarely buy it, but it tastes awesome and it looks cute in the shape of stars. So anyway, I'm going to be cutting way back on expenses and hopefully getting really creative in the kitchen.


What is one of your favorite super-cheap meals? Mine is probably my Taco Style Lentils & Brown Rice. It's easy, versatile and cheap, and my whole family loves it. Also, do you have any ideas for what to do with stale bread? I'm ALWAYS throwing away half a loaf of bread (or pitas or english muffins, etc.) Maybe I could make French toast once a week :)


18 comments:

  1. Said in the nicest voice possible... "Girl! You spend $1000 a month on groceries...for a family of 4?!" :) You can pay off your debt in no time with just a little trimming of your grocery budget. It will take some time though, don't expect that you'll cut your bill in half over the next 30 days. (and if you DO, pat yourself on the back) :) Good for you for getting serious about paying off your debt! We aren't debt free yet, but should be in about 6-8 months. We stopped using credit cards and starting paying down debt a little over 2 years ago. I can. not. wait to send in that last payment! :)

    As for that half loaf of bread... there are a few things that I do. I'll either make french toast, make Pioneer Woman's toast (SO not good for you but YUM!), or pop it in the freezer to make homemade bread crumbs. (I just save them until I have enough to actually do something with)

    I'm a little jealous of your dehydrator. My father-in-law has one. He only uses it maybe once a year. I usually buy him fruit for Christmas - just to give him a hard time b/c he doesn't use it. I'm dying to make my own pasta and put it in the dehydrator.

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  2. You should check out DaveRamsey.com. His 'Baby Steps' really work. Our family became debt free (except for our house) 3 yrs ago by following his plan. Good for you for taking the first step!

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  3. Do you keep your bread in the fridge? It lasts much longer that way.

    Good luck on the budget thing. We had to go through that about six years ago when we were living in small-town Wisconsin and my husband was out of a job for 9 months. It was rough, but eventually we made it out and now our only debts are house and school loans, so that's good. I hope you can get out from under it quickly!

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  4. I would take half of all your bread as soon as you buy it and stick it in the freezer. Then pull it out when you are done with the first part. Bread freezes very well for short periods of time.

    Eggs are always a super cheap meal. Frittatas look fancy and can be used to for any leftover veggies or meat bits.

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  5. Toast the bread in the oven, then food process it to make your own breadcrumbs! Or French toast always works - that freezes really well, too.

    I love dried fruit in my oatmeal! I have to be careful, though, cuz the calories add up much faster when the fruit is dehydrated and easier to snack on!

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  6. thats a good idea to dehydrate the fruit, I throw out a ton of fruit and veggies that we dont get around to eating. I will have to check one of those out.

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  7. A bunch of families in our neighborhood started a buying club, and once a month we do a huge bulk order. It's really good for things like: Oats, popcorn, lentils, etc. I am a huge fan of freezing fruit and veggies. We use Associated Buyers, but I'm sure there are other ones.

    Love the blog! Went running again this morning thanks to you.

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  8. I am not typically the most price conscious person but recently I have noticed that our food bill has gone WAY up. Yesterday I picked up a few things ($65) and when I got home and looked at the receipt a 2 lb bunch of green grapes(for a party)cost me $9.50! Holy sticker shock!! The large box of berries was only $5 and the chips were 2 bags for $5.

    I am a teacher and it made me think about school lunches, which my own kids don't eat. We really need to make them healthier bc I am sure there are many low income families who can't afford produce!

    Our go to budget meal is spaghetti and meatballs bc we can make a huge batch and eat it happily for 2-3 nights. :)

    Michelle

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  9. We have breakfast for dinner atleast once a week to use up bread. My husband works at the dollar tree and they carry bread there... the catch about it is that it has to be used within a few days. I put it in the freezer just for them days. I also make healthier grilled cheeses for my children. I use aunt millies bread up there but here there is natures own... Not as good as aunt millies though. I love to have sandwiches for dinner in the summer... Sounds strange but it is cheap, no heat is required and the boys love making their own. PS I tried your sweet potato wheels... OMG I am in LOVE!!!! I ate two whole servings by myself... gulp. I had a higher calorie day. Atleast it was with healthy food. UMMMMM banana chips. My family used to make jerky with ours. I always enjoyed the fruit. I really dont like meat too much like that.~vanillamama

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  10. That is a lot to spend on groceries. For sure our biggest expense is our house (mortgage payments). For our family of 4 I spend about $125 per week on groceries + $200 at Costco once a month.

    Leftove bread = bread pudding! Yum!

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  11. When we are really trying to save money, we do spaghetti (or penne, or any other fun shaped pasta) and marinara. I'll also make turkey meatballs which are SUPER easy to make. This really cuts costs when you do it 2-3 nights a week. You can switch it up by adding eggplant which is fairly inexpensive. Skin it, slice it, and cook it a million ways. You can do a fairly easy and healthy eggplant parmesean. Tons of recipes online for that. Taco night can be inexpensive as well. Breakfast for dinner - we do it pretty healthy. I make waffles with whole wheat flour, double the egg, add ground flax seed to the mix. SUPER cheap. Dinner for breakfast in general lowers the grocery bill....anything with eggs. OK, I'm rambling...just some ideas.

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  12. That fruit looks great. I throw out too much fruit too, and probably spend as much as you on groceries every month. There's only 3 of us, but I'm guessing my 25-year old son eats at least as much as your two little guys. Fruit and veggies are expensive! Son bought a dehydrator a year or so ago and uses it only to make jerky. I'm going to try some dehydrated fruit!
    Good luck with the budgeting, I have always struggled with money, there's never enough! I used to spend too much on fast food. Now I spend it on clothes!

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  13. i hate frozen bread when you pull it out of the freezer it gets all soggy. yuck! and then when it dries its hard and crusty.

    anyways we give leftover bread to feed the ducks at the lake down the road. its something fun jett likes to do when we ride the bike over that way! :)

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  14. I always freeze half the loaf of sliced bread as soon as I bring it home, then bring it out when the other half is finished.
    We make our own bread in a breadmaker too. MUCH cheaper than buying store bought, and SO much tastier. No preservatives though, so we freeze half the loaf as soon as it's cooled from the breadmaker. It's so easy to make. I'll bet you can find a free or nearly free one on craigslist.
    I try not to buy much ready-made food. I make all cookies from scratch and when my kids were smaller, I make them rice krispie treats and things like that instead of buying packaged stuff for their lunch boxes. I found cutting way back on prepared foods saved us lots. Also, stocking up at Costco for staples like toilet paper and pasta sauce saves us mucho dollars.

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  15. I second the post above from Anonymous. My dad listened to Dave Ramsey when I was younger & I used to hate it! THEN, it happened. I moved out on my own, bought my first house, & needed a plan. So, I started following the Dave Ramsey plan. I thought, Lord, I'm turning into my dad. (I think I truly am). That was 12 yrs. ago & I have been debt free since.
    Ideas for bread....freeze 1/2 of it, make bread crumbs, make croutons for salads, french toast, add to meatloaf, or make my favorite Bread pudding! (yeah, can't eat that often)

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  16. Totally delayed comment but I hope you see it! You can also take your produce and puree it before it goes bad. Then you can freeze it and later use it in oatmeal, smoothies, whatever!

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  17. I wanted to tell you about a site that my cousin recently turned me on to...It is a blog as well and I love it. My husband was laid off his job about 3 yrs ago (he was a machinist for 19yrs) and decided to go back to Nursing School. This meant that due to the demanding school schedule and studying (harder for a 40 yr to retain things than a 20 yr old..lol) I became our only income. YIKES! But because we had gotten debt free (Dave Ramsey is da man) it hasnt been as brutal. But we rarely eat out and spend about $100 wkly on groceries. But the blog is Budget Bytes. She breaks down what the meal will cost. Lots of great ideas on there. I have been on my own weight loss journey and find great stuff on there! Hope this helps you out. Thanks for your blog, really enjoying it. Since I am no techy person, I have no idea how to post this other than anonymously but my email is abrownie76@live.com.

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  18. I know this post is waaaay late - but like I said earlier, I'm working my way through. Me and my family were in debt about $30K 3 years ago so I started using www.budgetsimple.com and by the end of this year we will be debt-free. It's super user friendly and keeps me on track. I love it. As far as stale bread goes, I always freeze the ends (since no one eats them,) and any stale bread, and make homemade croutons whenever we are having salad. Also, I save all of my veggie scraps (and I mean EVERYTHING - onion peels, etc) in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Once the bag gets full, I throw everything into a huge soup pot and fill the pot with water. I boil it for about an hour, than strain it. You then get veggie and/or meat broth (because I save bones too) that you can use as a base to make any soup, you can use it as the water for rice, you can even use it instead of oil when pan frying. I save everything! Hope you see this post :)

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