Category Archives: saving money

Retirement Frugality: Bread

My three strategies to save money are —

  1. Pay Less for the Same Product
  2. Find a Cheaper Substitute
  3. Do Without (and the cheat: Use Less)

Bread (bakery outlet, home made, supermarket)

Strategy #1:  I could find another bakery outlet. (The one I knew either moved or went out of business.) Here’s a link to a list of bakery outlets.

Strategy #2: I could buy bread only on sale. We wouldn’t have what we prefer most of the time, so I don’t.

We could make/buy cheaper types of bread: flat breads, corn bread, biscuits, etc.

For years we’ve baked our own Fall – Spring and bought it in Summer. A 10 lb bag of flour is about $10. If you use 1 lb per loaf and figure $1 for the salt, yeast, etc. then a home-baked loaf costs $2, not counting energy. A store-bought loaf close to the size, etc. of our home-made loaf is $4 or more.

Other ways I can think to make our home-made bread still cheaper are:

  • I could use coupons or sale shop for ingredients more often;
  • Make a sour dough starter/grow our own yeast, or
  • Grind our own flour, or
  • Bake more loaves at once.

I’m not sure how practical any of these are!

Strategy #3: I don’t really think this is possible — bread is called the “staff of life” for a reason!

Strategy #3/Cheat:  I could bake ahead and freeze bread to use in summer. I don’t have an easy way to do this.

Retirement Frugality: Budgeting Meat & Vegetables

MEAT

In general, chicken is the cheapest meat available, then pork, then beef, with veal being the most expensive. (When I figured this out from perusing years’ worth of USDA data, I stopped buying veal.)

I found a write-up about turning a 3 lb. pork loin into at least 4 meals for 2 people: a roast, sweet & sour, chow mein, and a pork chop meal.

That’s 8 meals. I researched a price per pound for natural pork loin, so I could figure how many meals I’d have to make to get to my magic .25/portion or more realistic .50 ?

I found a price, $3.99/lb. For a 3 lb loin, If I make 8 meals as in the write up, it’s $1.50 a portion. If I can do 12, it’s $1 a portion. And given what I found with the chicken as well as this research, I think an actual, realistic target price per portion is $1 for meat.

The only ways I can see around this are:

      • Abandon the idea of eating organic/natural meats, or
      • Do that (above) AND buy bargain meats only, or
      • Become vegetarian.

We eat “breakfast” one day a week, and lunches are left overs or catch as catch can. That makes 15 meals a week I need to budget for, and there are two of us, so 30 portions. We eat meat for 2 meals a week, so the cost of the protein for those days should be around $4. (We might, or might not, have sausage or bacon with our “breakfast” meal.)

How do  I use this to figure meats I can afford OR decide which meats I can’t?

The most realistic quantity I can come up with uses 1/4 lb of meat for 2 portions. At $1 per portion, that means:

 Any meat I buy has to cost $8/lb OR less!

The pork price I found fits ($3.99), so do the bulk chicken thighs ($2.49) I’ve been using. Ground beef at the local small green grocer, at $8.99/lb does NOT.

chicken-pig-cow


VEGETABLES

This year, I worked hard to find a way to reduce our vegetable cost, and managed to save about $100 by not buying a December share and full farm share, as we have in the past.

Instead, I bought a 1/2 share and a second share (at a different farm)  which starts earlier than the farm we’ve always used. This gives us fresh produce longer, but requires more work on my part retrieving it, meal planning, etc.

We spent approx. $600 this year for the farm veggies. That covers 8 months. Assuming there are 4 weeks per month, it’s $75/month, 18.75 per week, or .63 per portion (for 15 meals, 2 portions each).

This leaves us $125/month of our stated budget ($200 a month) for everything else: supplies, condiments, etc. And, as long as DH is working, that’s realistic. When he retires? I think I need to find ways to do better.

Meat & veggies aren’t going to be the answer! I don’t see how I can cut much more. As it is, we’re paying bulk prices for months’ worth of food up front, and retrieving it ourselves to avoid delivery fees.


I forgot Stew vegetables for winter! I run out of some, if not all of these every winter: carrot, celery, onion, parsnip & potato. What I have left right now are carrots & onions.

There was a huge quantity of carrots in last December’s share and I bought a 20 lb bag of onions from the farm sometime late fall.

I guess I need to do the same with all the stew veggies this year. Fifty lb bags of “chef” potatoes show up in the fall in some markets, I’ve never bought them as I want organic.  I need to ask the co-op about this or the farm(s)…

In general, we can’t use up wholesale quantities of perishables. I don’t have room to store them and we can’t eat them fast enough. But I hate going out midwinter for a 3 lb bag of onions!

Instead of making up 1/2 made casseroles, etc. like I did in 2019, maybe I need to make up/freeze stew veggies, like the stewed tomatoes and salsa verde I already make?


Assuming we will need to spend 1/2 of what we currently use? That will have to come from supplies and other foods, if possible. That’s another blog!

 

 

Finding the Cheat

See the previous post if you’re not sure what I’m talking about!

Here’s how I found all those “cheats” to use fewer supplies, whether they be lightbulbs, potting soil, toothpaste or frozen food.

What do you do automatically? If you become more aware of those choices, then you can try and change them. My frugal strategies apply:

  • Find a cheaper substitute.
  • Spend less for the same product.
  • Do without.

Figure out what you do automatically: How much oil or fat do you put in a pan — can you use less? Can you use a cheaper oil and have it work as well? Substituting margarine for butter in baked goods doesn’t work in my opinion. For me, it seems to be how much the fat determines the taste of the dish. YMMV!  How do you decide how much TP to use at once? Try delaminating 2-ply and see if it won’t cause you to use less? Worked for me! Pizza toppings: If you love a certain frozen pizza, but hate one topping (or your kid does) and automatically toss it? Can you find a way to use the tossed food? I’m not talking about allergies, of course you shouldn’t keep foods you or yours are allergic to, but preferences. You could use frozen bits of onion or peppers in soups or meatloaf, for example. Sausage pieces could be used in scrambled eggs.

Pay attention to your automatic behavior and the waste it causes. Then try to use what you’ve wasted before.

Use the internet or other resources to help: Try different routes on googlemaps is there a shorter route? Use gasbuddy to find the cheapest gas locally. Find new ways to use up leftovers. Try to make your own foods: bake bread, grow herbs, make gravy.

“If I was broke, what would I do differently?” Many times this shows me what I’m wasting or suggests ideas. I made sauted greens last night for dinner. I took the stems off because DH hates “stringy” greens. Instead of tossing them, I put them in the freezer for smoothies or to be added to soup.

Ask a pro! People who do things for work quickly find the easiest and fastest way to do things. They frequently know the cheapest way too. I found out about the shampoo concentrates at beauty supply shops by asking a hair stylist where the salon bought their shampoo? Another example: my dad, when looking for a new home refrigerator went to the biology department at the college where he worked and asked which refrigerator they’d recommend?

If this works with one thing in 5, it still counts! The idea that it has to save dollars right away or it doesn’t count is EXPENSIVE!

Every little cost-savings idea you use counts.

Each dollar is

100 pennies after all!

 

 

The 3 Strategies to Save Money: #3 Doing Without (& the Cheat for Supplies)

Remember my rant about saving money, here? I use my 3 money-saving strategies all the time. The third strategy is: do without.

Except, that there is a cheat for this strategy: you can use less instead. So, reusing coffee grounds fits if you do 1/2 reused and 1/2 new. I use the cheat a lot with many supplies:

  • With creme rinse (used as a detangler) a bottle lasts 2-3 years!
  • With our dinner napkins. We use linen ones I inherited as our everyday. If they aren’t stained, rather than washing them after every  meal, we use them twice and then wash them.
  • We feed our cats dry food during the day and only give them canned food at dinner. With the small cans, I was splitting it between the two cats. Then I started buying bigger cans so each cat gets 1/4 can. I store fewer cans, the cost per meal is less, and we generate less waste — all good!
  • I use my powered toothbrushes longer than the 90 days specified.
  • I drink coffee with about 1/2 a cup of milk. Milk is cheaper than coffee most of the time. I get my 3 cups of “coffee” and actually ingest a lot less caffeine and spend less too!
  • We mix expensive types cat litters with cheap ones.
  • We used to go to the dump 2-3 times a week, now we go only once. We use fewer trash bags, less gas and wear and tear on the car.
  • We figured out how to use the twigs the trees drop as kindling. Cheaper than fatwood or splitting firewood as it’s free.
  • I use the lunch bags and stems from drying herbs as fire starters. I also have used old newspapers and TP or paper towel cores.
  • I open the blinds in our bathroom and living room first thing in the morning instead of turning on lights. The sunlight is bright enough that I can see where I’m going. Want to read or do something needing more light? Turn on a light.
  • I use cold water to soap dishes or my hands while waiting for warm water. Then, rinse with warm or hot water as needed.
  • My window washing spray isn’t in a spray bottle! I use a combination of dish soap, water, and a little ammonia. I use two rags and a lot less cleaner than I was originally taught.
  • I use about 1/4″ toothpaste and a tiny amount of mouthwash. The rest of the time I’m brushing? I use water.
  • I wash my hair once weekly, instead of daily, like I used to. If we still lived in Florida or the desert, as we did, this wouldn’t have changed, probably. YMMV!
  • I use as many solid  or dry soaps, etc. as possible, esp. if I’m going to use them WITH water: shampoo, creme rinse, laundry detergent, etc.
  • I cut bar soap into pieces before I use it and allow it to air dry as long as  possible, so that it’s as dry as it can be.
  • I’ve been known to delaminate 2-ply toilet paper. I discovered long ago that the amount I want I judge by hand. Delaminating it uses less because my hand feels “full” sooner.
  • I’ve used cornmeal for facial scrub (get it damp with water to a paste, spread it over your face. Stand over a large bowl of clean water and rinse. The cornmeal wants to clog up drains, so do it outside or over a bowl.
  • If you don’t mind perfumes (I’m allergic.) or “aromatherapy,” buy shampoo concentrates instead of diluted shampoo and mix your own. The concentrates are available at beauty supply shops, usually in gallon containers.
  • Buy unscented products and share with your partner rather than having products for each of you.
  • Put a square of chamois next to your bathroom sink and shine the chrome as you go. No fancy cleaners needed.

Oven Meals — 400 Degree then 350 Degree — Menu Plan (and reality)

Not sure why I’d do this? See here for an explanation.

400:

  • Jacketed potatoes, for up to 2 hours.
  • Oven fried chicken, 400 for up to 1 hour.
  • Mexican Green peppers, 400 for 45 minutes.

350 for 30 minutes:

  • Ham slice, 25 minutes
  • Candied sweet potatoes, 30 minutes
  • spinach tart or tomato flan, 30 minutes

The 400 meal: The chicken usually works for 2 meals. The pepper recipe is for 5 peppers, although you could no doubt do 2 or 4 or 6 for that matter….

The 350 meal: The spinach tart uses a pie shell, the tomato flan does not. Also, spinach is available (here) first thing in the spring and in fall, the tomatoes are only available in summer, so that could easily affect why I’d choose one or the other.

Note:

I’d love to try doing this as an experiment!

However, I do NOT have the peppers, corn to stuff them with, the ham, cottage cheese (for the spinach tart), spinach or tomatoes. Given the current state of things, due to Corona, I have no idea when I will be able to just buy those again! When I can? I’ll be happy to do this as an experiment. If I do?

I’ll post a link to the write up here.


I’m going to do the 400 degree meal tonight. However, I didn’t find a ham slice yesterday at the market. The only sliced ham was sliced for sandwiches, not something I’d want to put in a 350 oven for 30 minutes!

I’ll have to modify the recipes to suit what I have, but I think I can manage! This is Friday, so my meal is supposed to be a double meat dish, that feeds us tonight and Sunday night too. I have 3 thighs in a freezer container, thawing. We’ll eat 2 tonight.

We’ll have dirty rice for lunch, it’s left over from earlier this week.

And I might make a burrito bowl from the last thigh on Sunday.


I tried this! I wrote about what worked and didn’t here.

Frugal Eating? Sat. & Sun. 2/29-3/1/20

Saturday we went to the natural food market. I bought a pound of their natural ground beef for $8.99/lb. I used 1/4 lb in a pot of chili, along with part of a pint of dry kidney beans I’d soaked and cooked. Also, 1/2 an onion, a pint container of HM tomato sauce, the last of the bell pepper I’d bought last week, cayenne, cilantro, cumin, broth, and chili powder. We had it with cornbread and cheese.

We’ll have cornbread and chili/cheese omlettes for dinner tonight. That will probably use up the end of the chili, the end of a block of cheddar, and the cornbread — or I hope so! If not, I’ll crumble the cornbread and freeze it to use on some future veggie. The chili if there’s a full serving left, will also get frozen, or I’ll have it for lunch tomorrow.

We have various older odds and ends to deal with too. The biggest is the other beans which need to be cooked (Cooked Sunday night.) and used. If I don’t have a whole serving of chili left? (I do.) I’ll probably buzz it and add it to the cooked beans — and we’ll have that, somehow.

Still to deal with? The rest of the left overs AND the other beans and meat. The beans I have plans for (see above), but the meat I do NOT.

Hmm.

btw, the cost of the meat in the chili is approx. $2.25. So far we’ve had 2 meals with it, or $1.12 each.  If we finish up the prepped chili tonight (We didn’t.) the cost will go down to .56 a meal. I’ll have to come up with 2 more portions if I’m going to get close to the .25 a meal for protein I talked about before! That will be difficult, I think. The only reason I didn’t “notice” how little meat was in the chili was that I used beef demiglace (what I use instead of bullion cubes) to flavor the broth. And, no I have no idea how much the chili I made actually cost!

The beans came from a bulk bin, somewhere. They had their bulk label on the jar, but no date or source or price. The tomato sauce I froze last summer. It had tomatoes, onion and bell pepper in it from the farm. I buy demiglace on sale or with a coupon. I have no idea when I bought the bottle I’m using. The onion came from extras I bought from the farm last fall. I don’t remember the price, I could figure it out, but haven’t. The spices were items I already had: the farm has cilantro and I dry some every year, cumin I bought a large bottle some time ago, exactly when or what I paid I don’t know, the chili powder came from the market, don’t know when/price, the peppers were the last 3 of a bag of mini peppers I bought last week. They were about $4.99 for 9 baby colored bell peppers, expensive but yummy, that makes them .54 each or $1.62 worth in the chili. Each portion already eaten is .81

.81+1.12 = 1.93

peppers + meat

If I assume that there’s at least $1 more worth of food in each meal, that makes it $2.93 each. Not outrageously expensive, but sure not all that cheap!

1.93+1.00= 2.93 each

peppers/meat + everything else (per person)

Well, I said I had a lot of work to do, right? I do! I thought this would be much better than it is, because I used 1/2 the meat I normally would. Obviously, I need to do more.


So, we didn’t use up the chili and there’s 1 portion or more remaining. The beans got cooked but not used otherwise. The obvious thing to do is to combine those two for a new batch of chili and put it in the freezer for future use! (Exactly what I did!)

This will successfully drive the price down to roughly $1.50 a meal per person. (half of the $2.93 above). I would like, as a target, to actually use about  .50 a meal, per person as my long-range goal.

And of course? If the (now frozen) food doesn’t get used, that is it gets wasted? Then the price per meal goes back up to the $2.93 per portion, as above! Wasting food has real costs!

Frugality: Why Food? Money-Saving Food Ideas

The three strategies I use to save money are:

  1. Finding a cheaper substitute.
  2. Paying less for the same product.
  3. Doing without.

Any or all of these will save you $. Frequently, when faced with economic stress, people do what I’ve been doing: concentrate on their food expense.

It’s one of the few areas left where the consumer controls everything they spend. You can’t suddenly decide to pay less for your mortgage, you can decide to give the bank less, but the amount you owe hasn’t changed. Also fuel for heat/cooking, insurance and most other regular expenses have costs set by others. But you CAN decide you’ll have mac & cheese for dinner, or soup, instead of going out or eating steak.

The only real problem is that food is 10% of an average American’s paycheck. If you cut it in 1/2, no mean feat, you’re still only saving 5%. The trick is to use that small saving to pay down debt or other set expenses, so the available cash/savings grows. That isn’t easy to do when it feels like you’re saving pennies instead of dollars!

The easiest way to reduce that 10%? Stop wasting food. Americans, on average, waste 40% of their food dollar. If you spend $10 a week and want to spend $5 instead? Stop throwing out food and you’ll save $4!

To this end, for some time, I’ve had a “flow” when I cook. Most of it is dealing with left over food in a way that resembles but is not exactly the same as the original. Also, much of it adds other foods for the second meal.

  • Cut bigger pieces down: cut meat from a cooked roast/bird and use it in another meal. Same with rough cut veggies: carrots, parsnips, onion, celery, etc.
  • Put previously cooked food in a thick sauce. This is what stew is, right? Also anything served with gravy over it. Make this a fairly bland dish. Make crepes and use this as a filling.
  • Dilute a thick sauce/gravy with water or stock — make soup or ? Transform whatever with gravy into something with a thin sauce  or soup. Make this more pungent.
  • The old trick of serving whatever with a starch: potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, grains or bread. Things with gravy can be served atop a starch or with the starch in them (like stew with potatoes).
  • Use the bits & pieces to make soup or stock: this reduces waste and the cost, while it increases nutritional value.

Using these ideas, I turn 1 lb of chicken thighs into 4 meals. The protein costs $2.49/lb. That’s about .62 per meal! I have a great source for chicken. I buy it in bulk and freeze it in 1 lb containers. Depending on what I’m cooking I may or may not serve 2 thighs as dinner, then salvage the scraps/bones and make stock with the 3rd thigh for the next meal.

The last time I did this, I made oven-roasted chicken: we ate 2 thighs, the next day I made stir fry, heavy on the garlic. One portion is left over, it’s in the freezer; someone will eat it for lunch, or it will get added to soup. That’s 5 meals from $2.49 worth of meat, or .50 each meal for the protein.

If you do the math, the extreme frugality menus I linked to last time are about .25 per meal, protein and all. I thought what I was doing was pretty extreme, obviously, I still need to work on it!

So, how much should you spend? Figure 6% of your take home pay, if you aren’t wasting food or 10% when you do. If you’re spending more than that? You’re probably stuck in a rut of making the same things over and over and at least when I do that, I throw out a lot!

I’ll have to see what I can do to cut my costs!

What comes to mind —

  • Making schmaltz and using it instead of bottled cooking oils, (Using less, #2 above).
  • Making yogurt. (Finding a cheaper substitute, #1 above).
  • Baking bread. (Also #1.) We’d found a cheap, acceptable bread, $2.99 a loaf, so we’ve been buying bread rather than baking. The market has hiked this brand up to $3.99 a loaf again. DH still makes biscuits and pancakes when needed. I make crepes.
  • Stop having dessert. (Doing without, #3.) We will have a piece of fruit or maybe ice cream, but we haven’t had dessert as a planned part of a meal for some time.
  • Get rid of more junk food. We don’t eat these all the time, but yes, we do eat some: crackers and chips mostly. (Do without #3.)
  • Find high-priced items we still use and use any of the three strategies to reduce costs!

The best other discussion I’ve found about how to save money on groceries is this one.