It was with trepidation and excitement, for all of us, that we were gently shoved by father time into this next stage of life. Kindergarten.
It’s something you always know is coming and it’s exciting but HOLY COW didn’t we just find out I was pregnant with this child??? Not to worry, memory lane is closed. Back to the topic- but still it goes so fast! We have gone through the natural wave of preparation and emotion as well as expense, that comes along with the start of school.
As I sit here on a Friday evening I am trying to get back to basics with this new milestone. How does it all fit? What are the new numbers? The summer is really over for us, so what does that mean for fall planning? On paper I see a list of bills- regular monthly bills then adding in soccer leagues, hunting trips, business trips, birthdays, drs visits, etc. and in mind I just see $$$ from every direction. At this stage the prompt, is our childcare expense. Elementary school is at no cost for the regular school-day but when you add in lunches, gas, field trips, extracurriculars and that Madilyn now has to go to both BFS and AFS care-programs because of our work schedules, it’s a lot. There have been moments of regret that we do work so much that we can’t run the carpool or save her these long days, but honestly- it’s really no different. She is now at daycare 5 days a week for the same amount of time, so that is neither here nor there. It’s not so much these scheduling changes that have a direct financial impact as much as the miscellaneous; and it’s my/our experience that the miscellaneous expenditures are the ones that seem minimal and meaningless but will eat your budget and savings like the plague! My goal is to take a close look at all of it now, be proactive, make a plan and continue on our path of learning from our mistakes and attempting to make smart financial choices to better our family.
The biggest difference, again that may not seem like much, is the grocery aspect. Right now our wonderful DCP provides breakfast, lunch and snack. With Madilyn in school we have to provide these ourselves or provide the money for her to buy, but either way it’s coming from our budget. The first challenge to tackle is that of our grocery planning. Buying school lunches and snacks is not easy nor do I know if she’s actually going to eat it. I was in Target the other day and for a brief moment was inclined to ask an experienced school-mom, how to make a lunch for a child. Thankfully, I thought twice, followed my own rule, and walked away.
Could you imagine??
Me: Umm, I’m sorry I don’t mean to sound incompetent but my daughter is going to Kindergarten and I don’t know how to make her lunch? Do you have any pointers??
Her: :::dumbfounded:::: Why did anyone let you leave the hospital with that poor child?
Anyhow, I survived making my first lunchbox and the first grocery spree of snacks and preparation. However let it be known, that in the future these will be built into my twice a month shopping trips (1st and 15th-ONLY).
Bringing me to my next topic, groceries. I have actually had a lot of people ask about my grocery tips and tricks. To be honest I don’t have many, it’s all been trial and error but as a friendly reminder before everyone gets back-to-school shopping either for lunches, snacks or for general grocery tips. Remember a few of the following notes:
- Always make a list.
- Shop your pantry first. See what you have so you’re not stuck in the store texting your husband who isn’t answering his phone.
- Use sale flyers. Items go on sale in “seasons” you can slowly build a dry pantry this way. Remember it doesn’t always have to be full; and if you get items on clearance that don’t expire for a few years you could (in theory) stock up this end of fall for next school year.
- Select your meals based on the groceries purchased. Not vice versa. Of course the exception to this rule is a celebratory dinner but for your regular weeknights- keep your grocery bill low and then only make meals out of what you have. Leading me too…
- Leave what you don’t have at the store!! If you forgot it, chances are it wasn’t a priority. Or if it was a huge oversight there are always exceptions but more often than not Americans tend to do “random runs” to the grocery store. I’m sure you’re familiar with these, they usually sound like “oh, let’s have this I’ll pick up ___ or what can I grab for dinner on the way?” etc. etc. These do you no good! They waste your hard earned money and even more upsetting to me they waste the food going bad in your fridge from not being consumed
- Produce: This is always a big question I get. How do you buy your produce and make it last? First, I typically always get frozen vegetables (the ones on sale) for dinners. For fresh fruits and veggies I buy bananas (still slightly green and keep them in the fridge; they brown faster on the outside but last longer on the inside) I buy spinach, tomatoes and onions. The occasional fruits get eaten up in a snap, so they dont get wasted and occasionally a few spinach stems get icky and thrown out but for the most part they last at least a week.
- Ultimately, if you don’t have it, you don’t need it and it can wait until your next grocery run.
Okay enough about groceries, you get the jist and if you have other questions I’ll be more than happy to address them, just post in the comment section below but ultimately it’s all trial and error. Make a budget and stick to it; plan, coupon where you can and remember even if you wind up over budget a bit, food is a necessity- that pillowtop mattress cover that seemed so soft in the store can proobbaaably wait.
Last but not least I’d like to tie this before and after post together with a little, albeit obvious, tip I learned this week. It was a big “AHA” moment for myself. In trying to come up with healthy snacks without being taken to the bank on “individual size” this and that. I, at one point, found myself holding the 6 pack of mini applesauce containers. I thought, this seems ridiculous it’s not even going to get through two weeks of lunches?? And then I saw the regular jar of applesauce and I thought “umm, duh I could portion it myself” and it seriously saved me over $2 and will last much longer. #winner #winner
Until next time,