Budgeting Feed

Turkey salad - VERY satisfying in every bite!

Chopped turkey
Making Turkey salad with leftover Thanksgiving turkey

By Mike Thayer

Of the meats, turkey is pound for pound a relatively inexpensive protein compared to the others and can be prepared in a number of delicious ways.  Turkey is actually an under-appreciated meat, being popular really, only during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.  But there are all those possibilities aside from the typical holiday leftovers, all kinds of tasty offerings that can include ground turkey, grilled turkey, roasted turkey, pan seared turkey, white meat, dark meat, the diversity of dishes is impressive!  Don't ignore the turkey next time you go grocery shopping, turkey is quite versatile and can be used in a number of food applications.

Today, it's turkey salad.  Needing only a five minute preparation - if that - you can make a quick turkey salad in the morning before work to be eaten for lunch, or make it the night before for a snack or lunch the next day, five minutes in the kitchen, that's it.

This salad only contains about 4 grams of carbs, most of those coming from the sweet pickle relish.  If you use dill relish, it's even lower in carbs.  The best part - besides being tasty - is turkey is PACKED with high quality protein, about 8 grams per ounce!

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces of leftover Thanksgiving turkey
  • One heaping Tablespoon of mayonnaise
  • One Tablespoon dried, minced onion
  • One Tablespoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite seasoning salt
  • 1 teaspoon of Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

This isn't rocket science, in a medium sized bowl, mix all ingredients together.   I like to make this hours ahead of time and refrigerate to give that dried minced onion time to absorb some moisture and let those flavors marry.

This quick turkey salad is great all by itself, slap it on a leaf of romaine lettuce, grab some Hawaiian rolls and make sliders.  You can change things up by sprinkling some shredded cheddar cheese on top.  Mozzarella cheese works well too.  Enjoy!   And enjoy the fact that all ingredients together costs around $1.50 - a savings bonus!  Turkey salad is delicious, low carb, high in protein and Bachelor on the Cheap wallet friendly!

Save


The best time to buy your Christmas turkey or ham is after Thanksgiving

By Mike Thayer

Kirkland Signature Spiral Ham off the smokerLooking to save a few bucks on that Christmas meal/party/shindig?

Don't put off buying the meat for the main course until a week before December 25th, look for the sales at your local grocery store just after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Here's why:

  • Grocery stores typically over-order what they truly need for Thanksgiving sales and a surplus at the meat displays is NOT a good thing for the store.
  • Grocery stores will discount hams, whole turkeys, turkey breasts, pork loins and even beef roasts in the days just past Thanksgiving.  They need to move product to make room for incoming shipments. 
  • Prices for hams, turkeys, pork roasts, beef roasts, etc., in the days leading up to Christmas will go up.  Stores WILL manipulate your procrastination.

Look for the sales at your favorite local store, but don't be too anxious!  Exercise a little patience.  Most stores will typically reduce prices by 10 - 25 percent in the first few days after Thanksgiving.  But that won't eliminate all the Thanksgiving surplus meats.  Stores will then reduce prices even further, 40 percent, 50 percent off, perhaps even more going into the first 10 days or so of December.  But if you don't take advantage of that, watch, as the prices for those main course meats start to go back UP in price for Christmas and New Years!

Don't procrastinate, save yourself a few bucks and get your Christmas ham, turkey or whatever, on sale after Thanksgiving!

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Buying in bulk is wallet friendly

By Mike Thayer

I've heard friends and co-workers over the years throw out a number of claims on why they don't buy in bulk to save money:

  • You really don't save much money doing that, it's not worth it
  • You have to buy so much stuff to get the savings
  • I can't afford the membership to places like Sam's Club or Costco
  • I don't have the freezer/fridge/cupboard space
  • I'm too busy, I don't have the time to repackage/re-wrap stuff for storage
  • I'll never eat a 5 pound bag of cheese

That's all horse manure.

Portioning out a 5 pound bag of mozzarellaIf you have time to watch an episode of Big Bang Theory, you have time to break down some meat, cheese and vegetables for the freezer and you'll be glad you did because you'll save a surprising amount of money.  And a side benefit, your food gets portioned out they way you like it.  That saves time in dinner preparation and your freezer will be more organized, easier to pull items from. 

Tonight I spent some time stocking up my freezer with pork chops and a couple roasts by breaking down a 10 pound boneless pork loin, portioning out shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheese, as well as a brick of sliced American cheese.  I'm doing this as I watched, you guessed it, Big Bang Theory.

Buy some food in bulk at a wholesale club, portion cheese out for example in smaller bags and stash them in the freezer until needed. It's WAY cheaper than paying $3 each or more for those 12 - 16 ounce bags at a standard grocery store or Walmart.

I portioned out a 5 pound Kirkland brand (Costco) shredded mozzarella bag into 6 smaller bags. Price per pound - $2.37. *Weigh* that (yes, pun intended) vs. the typical everyday price for a 12 - 16 ounce bag at the standard grocery store.... $3 and up.  By breaking down a bulk bag, I saved approximately $3.15 vs buying 5 separate 12 - 16 ounce bags.... In Cheech & Chong terms, that's like a free bag of cheese man!

Portioning out shredded cheddarI did the same thing with Kirkland Brand shredded mild cheddar, a twin pack of cheese, 2.5 pounds each.  I won't eat 2.5 pounds of cheddar cheese in a week, heck even two, and keeping that amount of cheese in its original bag runs the risk of spoilage before it's all eaten.  Hello freezer!  Bachelor on the cheap savings by shopping in bulk at Costco: $2.57 per pound for shredded cheddar vs. $3 and up for 12 - 16 ounce bags at your standard grocery store or Walmart.

The brick of sliced American cheese I bought contains 120 slices.  At $10, that's just over 8 cents a slice and this is deli quality sliced American cheese, not that processed, plastic wrapped singles stuff.  I portioned the brick out into 9 smaller 'bricks', wrapped them in heavy duty foil and put them in the freezer.  The same amount of deli quality cheese like in say, Kraft's Deli Deluxe American Cheese Slices will cost you about $18.

Giving you even more savings is becoming your own butcher and it's not hard to do at all!  My savings today by cutting up my own chops and pork roasts was getting all that meat for $1.89 per pound, vs. $2.49 a pound at a place like the local grocery store.    Buying in bulk - under $19.  Buying the same amount of meat at the local grocery store - $25.  

So to sum, I saved about $3 on portioning out mozzarella cheese, another $3 or so portioning out some cheddar, about $8 with the American cheese and saved about $6 being my own butcher....  All while enjoying an episode of the Big Bang Theory!   Now I've got $20 I can use for gas, or maybe a bottle of wine to share with a date on date night.

Being your own butcher

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

Save

Save


The key to smart budgeting is learning how to tell yourself, "No"

By Mike Thayer

BudgetBudgeting can mean a variety of different things to different people.....

For some folks, budgeting means pay yourself first by putting 10 or 15% away in savings every paycheck, leaving the rest for bills and living.

For others, budgeting means using an accordion file or the envelope system, putting dollars in segmented categories for bills, clothes, rent/mortgage, food, entertainment, etc.

For still others, budgeting can mean "I'm going to go on a diet of Ramen for awhile so I can afford to buy that new couch."

But there's something all these budget approaches have in common that make them work....

Discipline, the ability to tell yourself "No" when tempted to purchase that delivery pizza for dinner or buy that item of clothing just because it's trendy or on sale.

That's no easy task.  But as finance guru Dave Ramsey so aptly puts it, "When you see planning a budget as simply spending your money intentionally, you can actually find more freedom to spend! Once something has been budgeted for, you’ll be able to spend that money without feeling guilty."

It's a frame of mind.

Always keep your goals in mind when tempted by impromptu and/or frivolous satisfactions like a convenient fast food meal or buying a new fishing rod that you really don't need.

The ability to say "No" leads to success.  Never mind that telling yourself "No" is WAY better than saying, "Oh Shit, I don't have enough money for the electric bill!"

Once you've covered the basics in a monthly budget, food, transportation, utilities and shelter, it becomes easier to tell yourself "No" on other things, those feel good or impulse buys. 

Here's another way to look at it, ask yourself three things before buying something that really isn't in your budget or what you haven't saved up for:

What do you have?

What do you want?

What will you give up?

Asking yourself these three questions help you think through making a purchase you may regret later. 

If you have some food in your refrigerator, but you want to order that delivery pizza, are you willing to give up that $20 you need to put gas in your car to get back and forth to work next week?   Oooops, don't get the pizza, don't go digging in the couch cushions for gas money later....  Just don't....  Eat the leftovers in the fridge.

Or how about:

You have $1,000 in savings.

You love to fish and want to buy a fishing kayak.

Will you give up the comfort of having some money in the bank should some kind of emergency pops up?  What if you need some kind of car repair?

And don't think about putting a car repair bill on plastic, that only compounds your problem.

Learning how to tell yourself "No" is WAY better than accumulating debt.

Budgeting a.k.a. planning ahead, isn't a bad thing, it's simply smart money management.  Learning how to tell yourself "No" however is the hardest part of budgeting to master.  Once you get that down though, you'll enjoy financial success.   To quote Dave Ramsey again, "Once something has been budgeted for, you’ll be able to spend that money without feeling guilty."


Au Gratin Potato Battle: Name Brand vs. Store Brand, Betty Crocker vs. Kroger

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Potato, PotAto...

Who doesn't love potatoes?

I've always got a bag of potatoes in my pantry and an assortment of boxed potatoes to choose from as well.  The boxed versions are both convenient and tasty.  They can be rather inexpensive too, but do you focus on buying name brand foods when you grocery shop?

Why?

Even with most coupons, name brand foods are still more expensive than the store brand and a taste difference is non-existent, negligible perhaps.

Betty Crocker Au Gratin Potatoes
Au Gratin Potato Battle: Betty Crocker vs. Kroger

In another food battle, today I put Betty Crocker Au Gratin potatoes against a store brand, Kroger Au Gratin.  I compared price, weight, the look and most importantly, the taste.  I prepared each according to the package instructions, adding only black pepper and some chopped up ham.  Yes, Ham & Taters for dinner!

Au Gratin Potato #1, the name brand - Betty Crocker:

Betty Crocker has been a trusted name in food and recipes since 1921.

Price: $1.39 for a 4.7 ounce box

Note how much larger the Betty Crocker box is compared to the Kroger box, also 4.7 ounces.  It's a marketing gimmick, the name brand box is taller, thicker and wider.  Betty Crocker is betting you're like most people, who don't read the details of the labeling.  Some people think they're getting more value with a 'bigger box' of potatoes. 

Au Gratin Potato #2, the store brand - Kroger:

Price: $.79 for a 4.7 ounce box

Au Gratin Potato Battle
The look is the same

Look how much cheaper the store brand is, a savings of $.60 and remember, even though the Betty Crocker box is taller and wider making some folks think they're getting a better value, both boxes weighed in at 4.7 ounces.

So how does Kroger compare to Betty Crocker in look and taste?

Preparing and baking the potatoes in totally different baking dishes, I couldn't see or taste a difference.  The size and shape of all potatoes was virtually the same, the added ingredients the directions called for in measuring out water, butter and milk was the very same and the final products were equally Au Gratin cheesy.  The list of ingredients on the box had no remarkable differences either.  Each made for a tasty dinner and plenty of leftovers too!  If you have been a buyer of the name brand, there's really no reason to continue doing so. Save yourself some money and get the store brand.  The ONLY edge Betty Crocker had in this battle is marketing... and why pay a premium price for THAT?

Leftover Au Gratin potatoes make for a convenient microwaved lunch the next day.  They're also great for breakfast topped with an egg, over easy.  These leftover potatoes freeze well too!  You can also portion the potatoes out for future meals and/or the freezer by baking them in a jumbo muffin tin.  That's what I did on this occasion, giving each portion a nice crispy edge.  It was another dose of YUM!

Next Up:  A pizza roll battle!

Spend Wisely My Friends.....

 

 

 

 


Recording your expenses and tracking your spending

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

How do you keep track of your spending?  Do you reconcile your checking account or do you depend on the bank being accurate?  Do you know how much you spend on a given day?

There's a lot to track, the grocery budget, bill budget, vehicle budget, house/apartment budget, entertainment budget, savings goals and more.  

I use an excel spreadsheet to stay on top of my finances and spending, logging every expenditure, be it a cash, debit card or credit transaction.  On average, I know how much I spend every day, on what and how often.  My buying habits are documented and I don't ask myself, "Where did that $20 go?"

For example I try to keep my grocery budget between $200 - $300 per month.  For most of my home cooked meals, I can fix something that tastes great but costs just $2 or $3 to prepare and doing that allows me to splurge sometimes, maybe spending $10 for a 'Chef Mike' cooked meal once in awhile.  For a single guy that likes to play in the kitchen or at the grill, I eat pretty well. 

Truck Spread Sheet
Knowing how much your vehicle really costs to maintain

Another example in how tracking your spending can help you budget and more importantly plan for future expenses and savings goals, is a vehicle budget on a spread sheet.  Currently, my truck costs me an average of $104 a month to maintain.  I don't have a truck payment, so that $104 a month is oil changes, preventive maintenance, the occasional repair, etc....  That figure does not include gas or insurance.  But yes, all other costs, to include any accessories I might purchase - yep, even the air freshener dangling from the rear view mirror - is logged on a spreadsheet.  When the spending on my truck gets up to the $200 a month to maintain mark, it's time to start shopping for a new one.

Here's without question the best reason to track your spending, whether you do it with an excel spreadsheet, QuickBooks, an accordion file or a good old fashioned journal - Tracking your spending on a daily basis can help you avoid living paycheck to paycheck.  I've been there and done that and it sucks.

The best way to understand your spending habits, is to document them and doing so only takes maybe five minutes a day.  Decision making with the bold facts right there in front of you, becomes much easier. 

 


Put some gold or silver in your monthly budget

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Gold and silverYou budget for food, housing, utilities, a vehicle, etc., but are you including the purchase of gold or silver in your monthly budget?

You should.

It doesn't matter if your motive is retirement, a hedge against inflation, or just a defensive financial asset decision, the purchase of physical gold and/or silver is a prudent thing to do.

Owning physical gold or silver means you have a real asset, not a piece of paper or a digital certificate.  It's more practical to sell, there's no three-day waiting period for a transfer, there's no default risk and perhaps most importantly in today's world of digital transactions, there's no hacking.

You can go online and find 10 or more reasons to be buying physical gold and silver and only one of those is because the price will rise.  The key to remember is that physical gold and silver is the ultimate form of money. 

So if you haven't already done so, find yourself a local, reputable coin/precious metals dealer and start including the purchase of gold and/or silver in your monthly budget.

Spend Wisely My Friends.....


Mainstream Grocery vs. Discount Grocery: Dillon's (Kroger) vs. Aldi

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Are you interested in saving money without sacrificing on quality to do it?

AldiDo your regular grocery shopping at Aldi.  If you're not already familiar with the discount grocer, I'll show you why you should start shopping there. 

On my list of things to do today was grocery shopping, so after enjoying some bacon and eggs for breakfast (One never wants to grocery shop on an empty stomach) I headed out to my local Aldi to pick up a few eats.  It was business as usual, but on a whim while loading groceries into my truck, I decided to head over to Dillon's, THE mainstream grocery store in the Wichita area.  Pulling out my grocery list for a second time, I bought all the same stuff at the 'Top Dog' store for a cost comparison.

Dillon'sI focused on buying the store brand (Kroger) to make things fair.  I did that because I already suspected Aldi would come out cheaper, but I thought it would be close in an item-by-item comparison.  And if you didn't already know it, buying the name brand in most cases is like flushing money down the toilet.  No, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is not the best of its kind out there.  A box of off-brand toasted oats is just as good as a box of Cheerios.

Here was my shopping list:

  • Milk
  • Coffee Creamer
  • Pork Sausage
  • Steak
  • Little Smokies
  • Lunchmeat
  • Sliced Cheese
  • Baby Carrots
  • Bananas
  • Salad
  • Avocado
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Canned Mushrooms
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Tortilla Chips

Aldi Receipt (2)I didn't deviate from the list, I just needed some bare necessities this week to supplement what I already have at home in the pantry and fridge.  I bought 16 items at each store.

My cost at Aldi:  $30.46

My cost at Dillon's:  $43.19

HOLY COW!

The difference is $12.73 on just 16 items and I bought the store brand stuff (whenever possible) at Dillon's!  I really didn't think the total bills would have such a big gap, but there it is, in black and white.  Can you imagine how much larger that gap would have been if I had bought name brand products at Dillon's?  And here's the kicker, I used my Dillon's loyalty card which rewards the purchase of the store brand stuff with discounts!

"So Mike," you ask, "Were there any notable product/price differences?"

Yes there was, most all to Aldi's advantage.  Check out the following examples:

  • The garden salad at Aldi was 89 cents for 12 ounces.  The garden salad (remember, whenever possible, everything purchased at Dillon's was their in-store Kroger brand) at Dillon's was 99 cents for 12 ounces.
  • The ham lunch meat at Aldi was $2.39, the ham lunch meat at Dillon's was $2.69, same weight containers.
  • A 1/2 gallon of milk at Aldi was $1.13, a 1/2 gallon at Dillon's was $1.79.
  • The price for a large Haas avocado at Aldi was just 49 cents.  Dillon's offered medium Haas avocados at 99 cents each.  Check out the pic!

Dillon's ReceiptAll but three items purchased at Aldi were cheaper than the same but store brand item purchased at Dillon's.  The only real outlier was the steak, but only because of weight.  I bought a top sirloin cut at both stores.  The steak at Aldi, cost $6.97.  Now marinading in the fridge, it weighed in at 1.27 pounds, or $5.49 a pound.  The steak at Dillon's, also marinading in the fridge along with the Aldi steak, cost $11.83, and that's with the loyalty card discount!  It weighed in at 1.48 pounds, or $9.99 a pound.  How the two steaks, using the same preparation, will differ in taste is another story.....

The bottom line to this story is, I'm a fan of Aldi.  They offer quality products and significant savings over a traditional, mainstream, full-service grocery store.  I have no problem bagging my own groceries.  I enjoy saving money for virtually the same product and that allows me to budget those savings (significant savings) into other areas of life. I don't do any regular shopping at a mainstream, full-service grocery store and if/when I do shop at one, it's just to pick up a few items as a matter of convenience or to take advantage of a coupon deal.  The mainstream store in my neck of the woods just happens to be closer to where I live, than the Aldi's or the Club Membership store (Costco, my second favorite grocery store) is.  So there you have it, logistics, is pretty much the ONLY reason I would shop at a place like Dillon's. 

Spend Wisely My Friends.....

Dillon's vs. Aldi Avocados

Dillon's vs. Aldi Steaks

Dillon's vs. Aldi steak labels

 

 


Don't waste money on vitamins and supplements, eat better food instead

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Simple Truth:  If you eat a balanced diet, you don't need bottles of vitamins and supplements.

I'm not writing something you haven't already read..... getting the right amounts of vitamins, minerals, proteins and good carbs in a regular diet eliminates the need for pills, powders or those gosh-awful chewables.  Besides, your body is smart.  It flushes the excess intake of vitamins and supplements anyway (the water soluable ones).  Think about it logically, it makes no sense to virtually flush money spent on vitamins and supplements down the toilet.   If you are the taker of vitamins and supplements, you know what I'm talking about, look before you flush.  If it's yellow, your intake of whatever supplement is too high, your body is getting rid of it.

Replace those pills, powders and/or chewables with better food.  Enjoy the intake of vitamins and minerals with the real thing - FOOD!  You'll save money to boot!

Even if you have a condition you are trying to treat, look for foods that help out with that issue, rather than rely on a costly supplement.

Glucosamine is a typical example.  Marketed to manage joint pain, the manufacturers of the supplement largely target what group of people?  You guessed it, people suffering from arthritis.  The U.S. glucosamine market is expected to reach beyond $227 million in sales by 2022, according to a report by Grand View Research, Inc.  That's a lot of $8 - $25 bottles of supplement, depending on the brand.

I used to buy the stuff myself, I am an arthritis sufferer.  But instead of researching food and the treatment of arthritis, I went with the trend in 'managing' arthritis pain.  It was the 'easy' thing to do.

BroccoliAfter a period of time and tired of shelling out money for a bottle of pills I didn't want to take and not truly satisfied with what those pills were or weren't doing for me, I finally took the time to do some homework.    By increasing my intake of certain foods, establishing a regular exercise routine and simply drinking more water, I started feeling much better.  The glucosamine went into the trash can, there was no need for it and truthfully, never was.

The change in my routine, eating more broccoli, cabbage, fish, garlic and any fruit/veggie with vitamin C helped reduce my arthritis pain, along with exercise and drinking more water.  I put the money I was spending on glucosamine into the grocery budget.  And seeing the success in eliminating that supplement, I no longer buy multi-vitamins either.  There's no need for them!

Eating/enjoying a bowl of quality cereal with a 1/2 cup of berries is better for you than a multi-vitamin or some supplement.   And here's kind of a 'gross' fun fact:  Eating too much cereal and berries can make you pee yellow too.

Spend Wisely My Friends.....

 


Find the cheapest gas prices in town with Gas Buddy

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

A lot of folks use those grocery store and/or convenience store loyalty cards to buy gas at a discounted price.  Those cards do come in handy and depending on your shopping habits can benefit you with saving 10 cents a gallon on gas for example.

But that loyalty card gas discount doesn't guarantee you're getting the best possible price for gas.

If you aren't already familiar with Gas Buddy, you might want to consider doing so.

From the Gas Buddy website:  "GasBuddy is a smartphone app connecting drivers with their Perfect Pit Stop™. With nearly 70 million downloads, GasBuddy is the leader in crowdsourced information to help drivers find the best gas prices, closest stations, friendliest service, cleanest restrooms, tastiest coffee and much more. "

The app, easy to use, will bring up a list of gas prices in your area, searching by city or zip code, helping you determine the best price to buy gas, loyalty card or not.  Gas Buddy also comes in very handy when traveling and you can't use that loyalty card.  In fact, the app includes features such as gas price maps and a trip calculator.

Check out Gas Buddy, you'll be glad you did!