Binge on a Budget

Happy 5th of July, folks! It’s not just for hangovers anymore. Today’s the today when we American moms clean the paper streamers and party popper pieces from our yards, pick up the spent sparklers, toss the empty cans in the recycling, and inform our children that yes they WILL eat potato salad for dinner.

It’s not just the 5th of July, it’s Leftover Night.

If you have a family living on a shoestring, or happen to lively singly on a shoestring yourself, you are probably familiar with the concept of leftovers. When I was a kid this was a given. We didn’t have a “Leftover Night” per se like we had a Pizza Night every week for years (Wednesday! Brought to you by Pizza Hut!) but we did eat leftovers regularly, and without (or my mother can correct me) complaining about it.

I don’t know what the matter is with kids these days. One of my favorite dinners was my mom’s homemade meatloaf, because 1.) it was delicious, and 2.) leftover meatloaf sandwiches on white bread with ketchup are also delicious. It’s basically the homemade equivalent of a McHamburger.

Also, leftovers are incredibly helpful to the Family Food Budget.

Do you have a food budget? Many people apparently don’t. They just buy what they want and need at any given time, or so I’ve been told. I haven’t had that experience in years. I first had to put myself on a food budget as a young twenty-something trying to pay off a thousand dollars in debt before my father found out. (I hadn’t yet learned that, as a grown-up with my own job and bank account, I didn’t have to tell him.)

Most adults, I think, cement their budgeting or non-budgeting styles in their 20s. I had mine cemented in my 20s for sure, and so did Dr. Awesome. It’s taken me almost ten years to chip away at his cement and get us on the same budgeting style, so to speak.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The entire reason I’m writing about budgeting while I should be in the back yard collecting bottle caps is that I have been asked lately how we can afford Catholic school on a single income (or alternately, why my kids aren’t in summer camp), and it’s got me thinking about budgeting. It all comes down to family budgeting.

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Nothing spells free family fun like a neighborhood parade!

 

SO I have decided to explore this topic in a number of posts under the moniker Binge on a Budget, to offer some good advice I have gathered and to solicit yours.

And that brings us back to Leftover Night.

Because we don’t eat meat most Fridays leftover night is always a Thursday around here. It’s also not so much Leftover Night as it is Clean Out the Fridge Night. I don’t actually clean the fridge (because I hate that) but I do pull everything out that is need of finishing or in danger of spoiling and we eat that first.

The kids don’t always love this. Many a Leftover Night has someone crying or going on hunger strike. But my philosophy is, “If you want to go to bed hungry rather than eat your dinner, that’s up to you.” (Notice the contrast between this and Grandma’s philosophy, which is “If you don’t like what we’re serving, have some ice cream.”)

I do typically give them a choice from the leftovers buffet. They can be obstinate and ridiculous in their choices. Tonight it was 90 degrees out, yet they all chose to have hot leftover soup rather than that cold potato salad. Oh well; broth is hydrating, right?

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Some of my favorite leftovers…homemade Chicago-style stuffed spinach pizza. You’d think the kids were being tortured.

Fortunately, Dr. Awesome is a bit of a garbage disposal. He will eat most things without complaining, and if something is going to go to waste that no one else wants, Daddy takes one for the team. He takes leftovers for lunch about three days a week, so that saves this team a lot too. (More on bagged lunches for kids and adults another day.)

Besides the fact that not wasting food is better for your budget (if you actually eat everything you buy before it spoils, you never have to buy more to replace it), I also think that cooking “just a little more” of one entree to save for leftovers is cheaper than making two different entrees. Making chili that usually serves six, for example? If you threw an extra can of beans in the pot, would it now serve seven? One chili-loving kid fed on Leftover Night.

Also, planning for a Leftover Night gives this cook a break to look forward to, and that leads to less spontaneous eating out that is oh-so-expensive these days. If we’ve had a week where I’m burned out and Thursday rolls around but there aren’t enough leftovers to make everyone a meal, you can bet we’ll wind up at a restaurant or picking up food we didn’t otherwise budget for.

Do you have Leftover Night? Do your kids or spouse complain about it? How does it work for you?

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Binge on a Budget

  1. Oh goodness, your blog made me cringe. Because I SUCK at budgeting. Like epically suck at it. I didn’t learn in my 20s not to overspend (welcome to major hind-sight is 20-20 lesson now). Just recently has my husband introduced me to the concept….but it stinks. Like I get it. We need to do it. It’s “wise”. But UGH! It’s not easy. We do the leftover thing too. I cave-in too much to “I want chicken nuggets” from my 3-year old. Somewhere in heaven my grandpa is shaking his Depression Era finger at me in distaste. Do you have a particular method to your madness. We’re doing the Dave Ramsey Cash method, which frankly in my opinion is a last-ditch effort to get an overspender like me to BEND TO THE BUDET. Oye!

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  2. I’ve heard about that– is it the envelope thing? We don’t have a particular method but we use what comes free with our online banking to budget. I have a friend who loves mint.com. I do try to go all-cash on the grocery budget these days. That only works if you can keep a running tally in your head while managing your kids in the store (or can get away by yourself) and have the moxy to say, “You know what, nevermind on that item” at the checkout. Or, some friends of mine order all their groceries delivered and they swear it cuts down on impulse buys.

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  3. Hm…I never thought about delivered groceries, but that would make sense. It is the envelope thing. Basically each envelope is a category that has a certain amount you can spend from each month. It’s certainly has helped, but it’s hard because we still have a debit card that comes into play which makes it wayyyyy too easy to just swipe and buy more outside of the budget. I’ve heard good things about Mint as well. May need to try that…

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