Tag Archives: frugality

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.

Intersections!

I find myself these days watching and reading things related to:

  • Permaculture
  • Minimalism
  • RV or van living

Permaculture started because David Holmgren was wondering what the interrelationships were between three things:

  1. landscape architecture
  2. ecology
  3. agriculture

After discovering that, it occurred to me that I’m not really interested only in any of the 3 things I first listed, but the intersections between THEM.

So, I made the chart below in an effort to understand what it was they have in common and what they do NOT!

Permaculture

Minimalism

RV/Van LIving

Mobile?

No

Possibly

Yes                         An emphasis of this life

Less Stuff?

Possibly             More reuse/eco friendly and multi- uses

Yes                         An emphasis of this life

Yes               Mandated by space limitations

DIY Food?

     Yes                   An emphasis of this life

Possibly

No                     Space limitations again

Less Commercial reliance?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Fewer Support Systems?

Possibly

Possibly

Possibly

Lower Costs?

Possibly

Possibly

Possibly

What does this mean, exactly? I guess I’m ready to become a hippy of some sort. As usual, the first step is to continue to get rid of a lot of “things.” And, considering the discussions we’ve been having about aging in place, it seems more likely we’ll end up permaculturists with a possible minimalist bent?

I don’t know of course, but it has been an interesting exploration, trying to find what it is that all of these have which appeals to me so!

tania-malrechauffe-SVeevsKjjuM-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Tania Malréchauffé on Unsplash

Inspirations and Data

There are various places I’ve been getting inspiration, my batteries “recharged,” and just getting useful information.

One of these is the website choosingvoluntarysimplicity.com, which is filled with common sense, realistic advice about living with less stuff, spending less money, and doing so more deliberately.

Another is the woman Lefie, on YouTube. (Link) Most YouTube folks who talk about simplicity or minimalism I find to be rather “holier than thou” an attitude I frankly want to watch about as much as I want someone to pull off my toenails!

Lefie is the only one I’ve found who’s human enough, informative enough, and entertaining enough to keep me interested. Not a lot of what she says is new to me, but it makes me think about whatever again and I don’t resent it. I don’t feel lectured at, and I don’t feel like it’s a preen job where she gets to show off how cool and accomplished she is.

I find most  lifestyle YouTube videos so bizarrely slick that I think it’s like bad TV, rather than other people talking to me about what works for them.  If I want to watch a production, I’ll get a movie, a TV show, etc. with professionals. Most YouTubers are not those things, and they do things like make up and manicures and very spiffed up houses, and then lecture.  (I call these “preen jobs.”)

They don’t have the presentational panache professionals do, their information isn’t fresh enough for me to be interested to watch the entire piece, and in the process, they’re for me, a bad infomercial. I started to watch one yesterday where the woman was doing a house tour. She moved the camera/phone around so much she made me dizzy and I stopped watching.

I’m not their intended audience, I know, but still. Did no one tell her that she can’t just pan around a room at normal walking speed for several minutes without making viewers kind of loopy?

There are a swathe of “frugal substitute” and “what we don’t use any more” YouTube videos, most of which I also find pretty silly or irritating. You can find 2 flavors of these: frugality/save money and minimalist.

I’m glad you use a bullnose clip instead of a chip clip. Terrific! But why use one at all? We use rubberbands, but chip-type snacks are rare here, because, doh, we’ll eat them and we don’t need the calories or salt or to spend the outrageous amount per pound for the snacks to begin with. So when such things make it into the house, they’re usually gone in 1 day, no need for a chip clip or bullnose clip or anything!

dollar sign from zazzle.com

My point there is that it’s MORE frugal and minimalist not to buy them to start with!

The other reason those videos irritate me is that I’ve been doing frugal paring down and substitutions for decades. I have tried 1000s of the ideas already. I keep hoping someone will find a new way to save money, but so far, I haven’t found one.

One way to save money: spend less.

Three strategies to do this: 1) Cheaper substitute. 2) Do without. 3) Use less.

What I’m really looking for these days and haven’t found yet, is the minimalist equivalent to the save money statement above.

That statement took a long time to crystalize from decades of reading, watching, trying, listening, etc.


I’m not a minimalist. I’m a recovering hoarder.

I’m not a frugalista. I’m a person trying to save money for a heating system, get ready for retirement, or just not waste money, because why would you want to waste a resource?

I’m not a YouTube fanatic. I only have subscribed to one channel, Lefie’s. It may be the only one I ever subscribe to!

I am not a 20-40 year old young professional or mom, looking for help, either.


I can come up with the blanket statement for minimalism, but not the detail. The detail requires the understanding that actual usage brings. I’m not a minimalist, right? But here’s the first piece:

One way to be minimalist, that is have less stuff is to get rid of stuff.

Revision: To be minimalist and have less stuff, get rid of stuff.

Revision 2: To become minimalist, remove excess.

It’s the same, obvious statement which can be overlooked amidst all the noise on the subject!


Extreme Food Planning: Part 1

Most Americans spend < 10% of their income on food. However, unlike mortgage interest, credit card minimum payments, utility costs, etc. it is one expense we all control.

Some of this is certainly dictated by location and available income. You can’t afford to buy $50 worth of bulk soap if you need to feed 3 people for $60 a week and you have a hard time doing that.

That said? I’m fortunate enough to be in the pool of people that can afford to use food planning to reduce our expenditures, at least for now.

So, along that line, I decided to do a category food plan. I’m not doing menu planning. When I did detailed menu planning, I hated cooking, it became a chore I had to get through, like scrubbing a toilet, just another chore. My idea here is to make a loose framework, not a menu plan.

There are two or three things going into this:
  1. I have to empty the freezer by the end of this month to be ready for the summer flood of veggies.
  2. I want to save every nickel I can.
  3. I want to use the above two items as a goad to both finally organize my cooking information and eliminate excess stuff.

What to do?

Convertible meals. One meal that becomes 2 or 3. Right now I have 2 lbs of cooked chicken and consommé in the fridge. That is easily 2 meals. I also have some cooked rice. Okay. Chicken and rice soup is one meal.

The others? The meat pulled off the bone can be made into chicken salad for lunch or dinner or lemon chicken. I have lemons and we’ve both been fighting colds for more than a month. I could add the chicken to the end of the salsa and we could have tacos, which would use up some of the tortillas, or….

Getting 3 meals from 2 lbs of chicken isn’t hard. I think I have 1 more lb of chicken, divided, in the freezer.

I also have a small pork roast, and some bacon. (I wanted pork while I still trusted it.)

I guess that’s another thing I can add to my learn-to-do-this list: learn to make a sausage substitute from chicken and grains…. it’s my observation that self-regulation never works. There are historical reasons why food regulations are so cumbersome. Go back and look at an old cookbook which talks about testing for chalk in flour, etc. before you buy it. I have those books, I have no desire to go back to arsenic in eye drops, chalk in flour, etc.

In my opinion? People are going to die and/or get very sick and then things will start the other way again. That’s a few years in the future yet… in the meantime, I can stop buying so much processed food and do more diy. I also sent a question to my local organic food organization asking about organic pork processing and how it differs from conventional?

Categories.
  • Egg. One egg meal per week. Quiche or omelette or just breakfast. Eggs, unless they get too warm are hard to adulterate and usually cheap protein.
  • Soup/Salad/Veg. Salad or soup or just a veggie plate night, maybe with hummus or other dip. Use up those bits & pieces!
  • Double Meals. One or more double meal nights or converted food nights. Any large piece of meat, large veg, casserole, etc.
  • Sandwich. Self-explanatory.
M -Veg enough for 2 meals
Tu -Soup or salad, using the uneaten and no plan for it bits and pieces
W – LO veg
Th – Egg
F – Meat meal enough for 2 meals
Sa – Sandwich
Su – LO meat

That should work. It’s broad enough that I probably won’t get bored. It also doesn’t give us meat 7 days a week, has a built-in left over day, and uses eggs to drastically lower food costs, as eggs are, after dried beans, almost the cheapest high protein source available. I’m not cooking complicated meals on the weekends, when DH and I tend to do home improvements.

Getting Ready for Retirement: Food & Fuel

We have been, slowly, trying to change our eating habits and others, preparatory to DH’s retirement, at some unknown future date. We don’t want him to retire particularly, but it will happen, and because he works on contract 1 or contract 2, if the company loses the contracts, he’s likely to lose the job he has supporting them, then. It’s entirely out of our control.

To that end, I’ve been for years slowly but surely moving us along a pathway towards lower monthly expenses as much as possible, and of course the easiest, first way to do that is almost always food.

You can’t really control what the bank charges for a mortgage. You can’t control what the oil man wants for heating oil or propane. You can control the cost of the food you buy, so that’s almost always the first place people start to cut down, including us. The only problem with this is that for many people, food is only 10% of their total expenditures, so even cutting the cost in 1/2 isn’t a significant saving overall. Of course it counts, but don’t kid yourself you’ll suddenly be awash in available funds if you cut your food bill in 1/2.

For us, this is complicated by the fact that we’re food snobs, and like it that way. There are traditional cheap foods we could use.

  • MAC & CHEESE: I don’t like mac and cheese, even homemade. I’m fairly certain they gave it to me, with orange soda (which I also abhor) one time I had stomach flu. DH likes it. I like cheese on pasta, but not baked and BROWNED, and not cheese food.
  • BEETS: DH hates them on principle. They are an economical food to grow because you eat all of the plant: roots and leaves. I can take them or leave them. Yellow beets I can sneak into stews sometimes. The greens I can add to soups & stews, sometimes.
  • HAMBURGERS: Unfortunately, I grew up eating prime beef. I like beef that tastes like beef. Much of the “beef” out there doesn’t taste like anything! Form without substance. (Also see ground beef, below.)
  • STEAK: See above comment about prime beef. My reaction to the insane price of beef these days is to buy very small hunks of steak, when I can find them on sale at the co-op and freeze them. I only buy and keep one. Steaks this size aren’t very efficient foodstuffs, it’s an expensive piece o’ protein and usually only one meal. I try to use it as a condiment rather than as a plate filler when I serve it.
  • BREAD: We bake our own. When a decent loaf of bread is as much as about 2/3- 1 lb of beef? I’ll bake it. I also buy enough flour between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 to last until about April. Why? Staples are cheapest between the holiday sales, prethanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. Because of that, the prices go up the MOST they do all year after New Year’s and during February. They level off by the end of March. Staples, like flour, go on sale again for Easter.
  • OTHER PROTEIN/FISH: I stopped eating fish long ago, because I heard something which indicated to me that we were overfishing. As someone who grew up on the Pacific Coast and dearly loves fish, this wasn’t easy. And, yes, I admit, I slip about once or twice a year. DH isn’t fond of fish, which helps.
  • OTHER PROTEIN/CHICKEN: We use bulk pack chicken thighs from the co-op, approx. $2.50 a lb. I buy a 5 lb bag and divvy it up into 3 piece portions, approx. 1 lb each. That’s 2 meals worth, a dinner and lunch the next day. This works for us. I no longer buy whole chickens, chicken breast in any form, etc. Chicken thighs are mostly white meat, some bone and for our household each piece is about 1 portion. It works and it’s cheap.
  • OTHER PROTEIN/GROUND BEEF: I’ve been known to buy meat from a friend who raises cattle, but mostly I buy a pound or two at the local natural food market. The stuff tastes great (see hamburgers, above) but it’s expensive. I get 2 meals from a pound of meat. We have friends who add black beans to ground beef and although this was yummy, I never remember that when it might be useful!
  • OTHER PROTEIN/VEGETABLE: I’ve been known to make lentil burgers. They weren’t bad, but not the success I’d hoped for. Let’s say this is a work in progress. My long-term notion for these is to combine lentils, black beans and ground beef, but it is, as I said, not finished. . . .

Other ideas:

Switch to wood heat, almost entirely. Why? Because we live on just under an acre of land. I can grow some of our fuel. Not enough to keep us warm all winter, but some of it. I can’t grow propane, fuel oil or pellets.

Along this line, we have registers to install between rooms to distribute the wood heat more evenly. We also will maybe buy an ecofan or other fans to help distribute the heat. We have one big fan on our staircase that in summer is used to pull the hot air up to the ceiling and in the winter to push down the hot air.

We’ve been concentrating on things we can do to stay warm and fed. That base layer of Maslow’s, right?

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Photo by Anna Popović on Unsplash

What’s New?

A few things. DH decided that he couldn’t “make due” even with all the work he’d done on the wallboard in the niche, so he’s in the process of tearing out the not-square, straight, or supported correctly wallboard, and replacing it, so it’s square and adequately supported.

This house is a weird mix. The guy who built it bought top-notch materials, like solid-wood doors, then did really bad workmanship, if there was any, with them. Why bother? This means every time we try to upgrade or just replace something, it becomes a demo/replace because the apparent, initial problem is only an indicator of what’s lurking under the surface. This place looked great ….

The other thing is that I finally decided I had to make the living room rug. I won’t spend the $500+ for a rug I like. I can find cheaper rugs, but they’re plastic and we’ve spent a lot of time/money taking plastic out of here because I’m allergic or sensitive to much of it. So, I’m knitting (that’s a shock, remember this and that?) a rug in 5′ long panels from old tshirts. I’ve made rugs from tshirts before (see pics below). The biggest one, in the laundry was 4 x 6 . I never took a pic.

The little one (the colorful one below) which had been in the bathroom got taken apart when I discovered I couldn’t get it the stains out of it. I dismantled it, then washed the strips, still couldn’t get them clean; they were trashed. The black and white one was made for someone and given away. The laundry room rug got mildewed when our old washer developed a leak, and I couldn’t remove the stench from the pieces, so most of it went to the dump too.

I’ve started other rugs, but the strips got mixed with the mildewed strips, before I realized how bad the mildew was (I’d washed them of course!) and 95% of the tarn I had prepared got trashed.

This was so discouraging I quit working with tarn completely.

The new living room rug, will be 5 x 8 feet, knitted from tarn. If all  the pieces are the same size as the piece I’ve been working on, I need to 17 strips,5′ long. I don’t think it will take that many as I intend to do something in between the knitted pieces. If it works? I won’t have to make 17. I hope!

The first piece has 15 tshirts worth of material in it.  I need to make the 2nd piece (or part of it) and try my joining idea. If the joining works, then I’ll refigure how many knitted strips, and tshirts needed.

Conservatively? If I just make the 17 pieces, at a shirt rate of 15 per 5′ strip? It’s 204 shirts, that’s all! Making the tarn actually takes longer than the knitting, no surprise.

Rug #1

1st rug

Rug #2

sarah's rug.JPG

Saving $$$

Because of the new porch and wanting to pay off the loan we got ASAP,  I’ve been looking for ways to save money.

Usually, this means that I find a lot of sites/data that I already know. However, pleasantly enough, I found one this morning which had info. new to me!

(here)

I get aarp’s emails regularly and from them and other sites, most of the ideas are those I know and have used for years:

  • Drink water at restaurants
  • DIY morning coffee/snack
  • Cook at home, from scratch
  • etc.

The saving $ ideas of mine which I’ve never seen elsewhere:

  • Buy the most concentrated form of soaps, or anything else that you can. If you use it with water, you can add it yourself.
  • Buy unscented products rather than buying “his” and “her” products.
  • Use tank tops as underwear, flipflops as slippers during the winter and other such so that you can buy less stuff to start with.
  • Have a set budget for restaurant meals and plan to eat at least one other set of meals from it, whenever possible. (Our budget for 2 adults = $20, and the 2nd meals make that $5/per meal, still expensive, but a lot more affordable than it might be!)
  • Shop your fridge/pantry and use what needs using first instead of sticking with a meal plan.
  • Use a chamois to “mop up” steam from glass and metal shower/bath rather than using glass or chrome cleaners. The steam is a free by product of bathing, use it!
  • Use “snow” from your freezer as sweeping compound to clean your hard floors.

Not unique to me:

  • Buy in bulk when you can afford to, items are on sale, and you have the space.
  • Have a price book.
  • Share and borrow, as needed.

 

 

dollar sign from zazzle.com