Tag Archives: lifestyle

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.

A Mild Rant

I’ve had the blahs. Usually by this time, I’ve made Christmas cards, designed the wrapping, bought gifts and am frantically wishing I had another month, had picked something easier to do, or at least less time consuming. . . .

But not this year. This year? I have done NONE of that. It feels like this is August or something. I mentioned this to my husband, so tonight I went to look at one of my inspiration blogs. I had 2 or 3 of these. One of them the woman instead of struggling to do what she was trying to do, well, she got there. I’m glad for her, but it got boring to read. The one I went to today? She’s a mother of 4 and a crafter, with a handy husband.

Nope, she’s redone her blog. It’s so commercial/slick now when I first found it I assumed it wasn’t her. I found it a second time and went looking. Not charming any more, just slick money maker.

Sigh.

Frankly put me off. This lady, in the past, had been someone who got my creative juices flowing. Her stuff was interesting, quirkily written, and I got inspired every single time. I doubt I’ll ever look at her blog again. She’s probably making loads more $, but. . . .

I need a HUMAN BEING!!! Not a slickly marketed product. I can find a product in anything I get these days, even movies. I do NOT need the people who I connect with, or want to, to become such good businesses that they stop connecting to their readers. And the reason that I put up with the pieces of her lifestyle which didn’t match mine (lots of kid pics, for example) was because it was charming: unassuming and fun. Now it’s competing with every commercial lifestyle blog/magazine out there. Bleh.

If I ever, ever do that will someone please come scream at me?

The internet is already people at arm’s length. When you find someone whose writing you like, whose issues are important enough to spend the time to read, you’d like them to at least keep the same style of writing. Or I do!

I’m really glad the lady turned farmer got to be successful at it, but she took the “exclamation points” out when she started teaching classes and it took off. The reason I read her blog was her, and then she became a sales brochure for the classes and her successful life-style farm, rather than the person I wanted to help and couldn’t read enough about.

The mom of 4 who made interesting clothes, did cheap but great decorating, had a husband who managed to build the things she really wanted on a shoestring, has become a lifestyle blog with a living room like almost everyone else’s, and as I said it’s now so “slick” I thought it wasn’t hers when I found it.

I have a conflict. I’d love to make money at this, but I love my anonymity too much to really pursue that. Beyond any other consideration, I want to remain human, not a marketing tool for google ads, or whatever.

I’ve sold advertising — and I was terrible at it. Worked for a great paper and a great magazine after that.  But at gut I never ever got to where I believed advertising works.

After 30 years in retail and decades of running ads with incredible deals for customers in them, my reaction is: no one reads them. They don’t read them in a paper, magazine, postcard, catalog or flyer. A 5% return is GREAT for a catalog, that is 5% of the people you send the catalog to buy something or respond.

I had a catalog I sent out. Had a freebie, if the customer sent something in. Had ONE person local to me do it. Got ONE order from a local customer who’d moved out of state. Two real responses. Aside from that I wasted a lot of time and money.

It isn’t that I hate advertising, people have to know a new shop opened, about a sale, whatever. But it never worked for my business.

There’s also something about always selling which gets in the way of relationship. If someone is selling to me I don’t trust a thing they say. If they’re a salesperson most of the time, they’re always selling or data mining. They may pay their bills, appear nice, etc. but everything they say is taken with a grain of salt. On the other hand, if someone is not selling something, but obsessed with money/value of stuff? I have the same reaction.

I’m about relationships — even on the internet. I don’t want to view email or blogs the same way I look at the mail. Almost every piece of mail we get is from a company we owe money to or they want us to buy something or do something which will give them some of our money. We get bills, fliers, and ads. Other people apparently really love our money.

The problem with the blog I went to today, now, is that she’s now anonymous. There’s the almost required sidebar: I’m Lala, mother of 32.3, I craft and do x, frugally, with <insert religion or quirky description here>. Gak! Do these people have a script? IS THERE A FINE IF YOU DO IT DIFFERENTLY???

wtf.

Of the 3 or 4 blogs I used to read who weren’t professional writers, I have maybe 2 I’ll read now. These are people I’ve known for a long time.

The problem with writers’ blogs? Those people write, okay? They know how to do it to be entertaining.  I know/knew of a LOT of writers.

I avoid writers’ blogs because I could use up my entire day being entertained.

Fun, but not very functional.

So, I’ve lost another blog. Blah.

No inspiration, no creative juices flowing, no Christmas progress. If you know me IRL, you may (or may not!) get a Christmas card/present or acknowledgement from us at all at the end of this year.

This baffles me because it’s usually my favorite time of year: designing cards, tags, wrapping styles, decorations. I’m not — and I don’t know why?