Tag Archives: saving $

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.

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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

10+ Ideas for Saving Money

We bought some garden supplies yesterday. A while back I discovered how and where to get the supplies cheaper than I had before. The regular retail price of what we bought was $12. I paid $4. The $8 difference isn’t huge, but do that 5 or 10 times a year? Yep, it’s significant.

frugality image

These  are my “secrets” although none of them are secret.

  1. Be willing to buy something that isn’t in pristine shape, frequently you can get it cheaper, maybe a lot cheaper. We’ve done this with all sorts of goods: luggage at the L.L. Bean outlet with the wrong initials on them, used diner dishes from a thrift shop, etc. I buy clothes, china/glass at thrift shops. I go to my local salvage (scratch & dent) market before I go to the supermarket. (See #2 below.)
  2. Go through sale items before you shop elsewhere in a store. True at L. L. Bean’s outlet, the supermarket, the salvage store, a consignment shop, thrift shops, etc. Most stores have a regular sale corner or shelf. If you learn where that is, or where the markdowns go and go through them first, you avoid buying 4 new rolls of paper towels instead of 3 and one with a rip in the plastic cover for 1/2 off.
  3. Don’t buy things just because they’re on sale. I wanted 2 things yesterday: cloth paint tarps and the garden materials. Got everything for just under $20. I know I can find the garden materials on sale, it’s just locating them, so if I hadn’t found them on sale, I would have passed. The paint tarps (not on sale, but usually smaller and cheaper than other tarps) are to put over the ever-larger leaf piles, so leaves aren’t blown back into the yard and to speed up composting.
  4. Be willing to walk away or have an alternate plan if what you want isn’t on sale. First time I looked for the garden materials this year I couldn’t find them on sale. The alternate plan for this is a lot of weeding. or using a home-grown substitute for what I bought, but it’s messier and doesn’t work as well.
  5. Be willing to do some work to get the bargain. I had to go look though the store for my bargain yesterday, then find someone to talk to. Needed help from the cashier too. If you’re always in a hurry, this will probably keep you from getting those bargains.
  6. Don’t damage items or try and bargain with the retailer, unless you know they’re okay with it. I had a retail store for years. I hated people who would pick up a $5 book and ask me to sell it to them for $3. Asking for a break at the end of the season is one thing. Or, if you truly need to buy a lot of something, talk to them beforehand. Don’t ask for extra discounts during sales.
  7. Buy in or out of season. In season for perishable items, like produce. Out of season for nonperishable items, like winter coats. The bargains in nonperishable items usually start as the seasons change, and get larger (with less selection) as time goes on.
  8. Know what customary retail is on an item before you go bargain hunting. If you’re paring down your food bill, frequently people make a “price book.” No one (or very few people) seem to do the same thing for durable goods they’re interested in: sofas, tires, prom dresses, etc.
  9. Find websites which will help you save time/money. I will tell you as a person who has spent a lot of time finding these, there are too many to review in any kind of timely way. If you want food coupons, there’s some really outstanding ones. If you want info re organization, same goes. If you want to save money in general, there’s a bunch of those too. If you go looking for general “save money” websites, you can quickly be overwhelmed. Be specific what you want help with before you go looking.
  10. Learn about cheaper substitutes: chicken thighs instead of breasts, for example.
  11. Limit what you’ll buy. For us, that’s six month’s worth of something which isn’t perishable, if I have the room. I bought shampoo a while back. I had coupons good for $2 off 2 and it was on sale as well. I had 3 coupons. I got 6 bottles. Normally, I’ll only buy 3 extra, max., but the shampoo won’t go bad, and my coupons were about to expire. Also, I’d just cleaned out the space where I’d store these, so I knew I had room.
  12. Be willing to comparison shop by phone if you’re buying either a large quantity or something that’s expensive. I just read an article by someone in the business who recommended this for caskets, etc. dealing with the death of a loved one. I’d never considered that, but why not? If it’s true of caskets, it’s certainly true about 4 dozen azalea plants or 1 tonne of gravel or 3 cases of tomatoes or 25 lbs of ground round. (See Jill Bond’s Mega Cooking if  you’re interested in strategies re food bulk buying.)

 

Cheap & Nonconsumer Holiday Season

My mom was a working mom. Because of that, for a few years, she was really broke and couldn’t buy into the whole consumer thing for her son (my older brother). She found ways to make it work.

At various times, for a lot of reasons, there have been periods when money was tight and a lot of stuff or spending a lot of money just wasn’t possible.

Given who we are, my husband and I, we have kept or discarded many of the usual “traditions” and do the following, not all of them, not all the time, but a mix and match as time and resources allow.

TREES & DECORATIONS:

  1. Buy your tree on Christmas Eve, they are usually 1/2 off.
  2. Or, if you have more space than money and can swing it, buy a good fake tree AFTER the holiday when they’re on sale, and use it forever after. You’ll save the gas, time, and money you’d have spent locating, buying, bringing home, and then discarding a tree.
  3. If you have land and the right sort of tree, then cut one of course!
  4. Make decorations and garland and keep them rather than buying glass or other fragile ornaments. Or, if you must buy them, get metal, plastic, wood or paper ornaments which will last, rather than fragile ones.
  5. Cut snowflakes for the tree from the end of last year’s wrapping paper, if you have any. We did that when I was a kid, but I don’t keep wrapping paper around any more.
  6. Make bead “icicles” (or buy permanent ones) rather than tinsel. Doesn’t take much room, costs less over time and there’s less waste.

TRADITIONS:

  1. Start traditions which are cheaper and less consumer oriented. The Aunt who hosts the largest family Christmas in our family has a “Yankee swap” where you gift a gag or nice gift, or several.
  2. Buying a tree on Christmas Eve fits here too.
  3. One year, DH was out of work. We just couldn’t afford to spend the $ we’d spent before making cookies etc. for the neighbors, so we made bread on Christmas Eve. Twenty plus years later, we’re still making bread. The recipe we make takes 1.5 hours start to finish and we’ve made up to 14 loaves on Christmas Eve,families with kids get 2 loaves, couples without kids get a single loaf. A fave memory of mine is going up and down the street with a bag of still-warm bread to give away on Christmas Eve. Everyone seems to like it and it costs us much less than the expensive cookies we used to make. (One of my acquaintances here made a large array of cookies every Christmas. She used the cheapest ingredients she could find — the cookies were awful. I refuse to do that. I’d rather make ONE cookie or something that’s decent than a plate full of unpalatable stuff.)
  4. Last year, I gifted my SIL, her husband and 2 kids with decorated cookie tins.  They aren’t all that large, but at my request, she sent the tins back to me after the holidays. During the year, I’ve put the little bits I found for everyone in their tin. Next week, I’ll mail them. It isn’t their large gift, but it’s a piece of it and it means that I don’t have to buy wrapping paper, boxes, and ribbons for these. I just have to tape them shut and put a tag on them. I might put ribbon on them, but that’s because I have a lot of ribbon and I’m trying to use it up.
  5. We put up the tree on Christmas Eve and take it down on New Year’s Eve. My family’s tradition was that we burned the tree in the fireplace on New Year’s. Since we heat with wood and the tree is almost always pine, we don’t do that. We adapted my family’s tradition: when we take down the tree, we cut a log off the bottom and tie a bow on it. It gets put in a bag and put away in the trunk with the ornaments. The following year on Christmas day, we burn the log. This costs us nothing but the space to store the log and it links us to our past in a nice way.

WRAPPING AND TAGS:

  1. Design your wrapping/gift tags to use (and use up) as much of what you already own as possible. I frequently use metallic or printed tissue for wrapping paper. It’s light, looks great over a layer of white tissue and it’s pretty cheap and takes little space to store.
  2. I’ve been whittling down my yarn/cord stash for some time with my Christmas wrapping. Last year I wrapped everything in black and white striped paper and then used a collection of blue, green and teal cords for “ribbon.” It worked. One year I used a ball or two of yarn I’d bought to make a sweater . You can, if you save them, make new tags out of last years’ Christmas cards. (I’m always afraid I’ll give the person back the card they sent me, so I’ve never done this.)
  3. Wax paper is great for making “snowy” cards.

A “Free” Mortgage Payment?

“Family Food Supply” is the name of a pamphlet I got a while ago. This one is from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., 1934.

Okay, I’m a sucker for publications like this, I’ve confessed that already. But my point about there’s not much new in the “How to save money” world is demonstrated, again, by this old publication.

In a section entitled “Further Guides to Food Thrift” it says: “It is the penny saved on a pound of butter, and the few cents saved on sugar, eggs, bread, which add up to a neat savings account, because these are the things most often purchased. (According to one inflation calculator, a penny in 1934 is equivalent to .18 in 2014 money.) It also says:

  • The most expensive food is not always the most nutritious.
  • Staple foods that keep should be bought in as large quantities as can be stored.
  • Spoiled food is usually a sign of poor marketing, careless meal-planning, or bad house-keeping.
  • Most families need to spend from one quarter to one third of their income for food.

All of which, with more modern framing are things you’ll find out there in the “how to save money on food” blogs, articles, etc.

The first one is still true exactly as stated. The second is the basis for people who stockpile. The third isn’t usually framed that way any more, as “poor marketing” and “bad house-keeping” are not viewed in the same fashion as previously. And the fourth? That’s the only one that’s actually really different.

The average  American, these days, spends  less than every other citizen in the world on food, or < 10% of their income for food.

See below.

http://www.ibtimes.com/us-spends-less-food-any-other-country-world-maps-1546945

But of the money we spend, we toss 25% of the food we buy! See below.

http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2013/04/02/how-much-food-does-the-average-american-waste

I admit that’s only .25 on the dollar. But if you add those  up, then the .25 you toss from every food dollar can be used for heat or clothes or ? It’s not a huge amount, but when was the last time someone told you something you could do to save .25 of every dollar you spend, without spending an extra dime to do so?

Want to know how much you could save? Take a rough estimate of your income, for every $1000 you make, you’d get back $25. ($1000/10 = food dollars, or $100. 25% of those food dollars = potential savings = $25.) In our case, this adds up to a chunk of change that doesn’t seem insigificant at all. I could make a mortgage payment from it! A “free” mortgage payment once a year sounds good to me! Maybe you could do the same?

Being Self-Sufficient & Not

It’s getting colder, thankfully, the furnace is finally fixed! We’ve been using the woodstove, a thing we’ve decided we’ll do much more of this winter. For one thing, it helps deal with the various downed wood on the property. For another, it uses the resources we’ve already paid for, like firewood, instead of incurring a bill with the local propane company.

We’ve wintered here without a furnace before and it isn’t fun to come into an absolutely frigid house, but it can be done.

I have for the first time put root veggies (carrots) in wet sand to store them overwinter. We’ll see how that goes. Being able to buy organic and then storing them without refrigeration sounds like the best of all possible worlds to me. Along that line, I found a Mother Earth News article (of course) about this. You can find that here;

http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/how-to-store-fresh-vegetables-zmaz04djzsel.aspx#axzz3Gn2iYEhy

Also, I’m making bread again. Making our bread all by itself saves us about $5 a week as we like hard crusted, “gourmet” type bread, not the supersoft cheap stuff. It ends up being about 2 loaves in a week. This time I cut up the end of the last loaf, to prepare it to become breadcrumbs.

I’ve been using a lot of breadcrumbs lately. I made stuffed mushrooms Sunday morning for both the political party my neighbor had and my writing group. Last week, I made a crustless quiche, why I’ve never heard of this technique before I don’t know, but I doubt I’ll ever make a quiche, at least for us, with a crust again! You just brush the inside of your quiche dish with olive oil, then spread a layer of breadcrumbs on that. Then add your quiche batter and bake. It was great, took WAY less time than a pie crust, was made with ingredients I almost always have at hand. Not to mention that it probably uses way less fat than traditional crusts too.

Otherwise, I did something I never thought I’d do. I gave up about cleaning the house. Last week I started to get really depressed, the house was a mess and no matter how much time I spent on it, it seemed it was still a mess. Or, I clean it up and then mess it up again. I finally asked 3 people to help. All of them know about my house, indeed two of them are neighbors. The other is one of my bosses (!). But I asked for help. I’m not getting it done on my own, I’m doing the same thing I’ve always done, fits and starts and forward & back.

I’ve had it. I’m stuck already. I asked for help, and thankfully, all 3 of them responded that they’d help. This is sort of scary for me, but I don’t really know what else to do. Professional help isn’t possible, it will make me panic AND we can’t afford it, so that’s out. And I’ve tried almost everything else I can think of, short of getting a dumpster, and that’s out for much the same reason the professional organizer is.

So, I swallowed my pride and asked for help where I needed it and otherwise, we’re working at being more self-sufficient.

The Plan

is to produce/put away enough produce in the spring/summer/fall that we don’t have to buy any in the winter.

I have potatoes that were sprouting in the bin, planted out in the yard growing. I intend to grow the red seed potatoes I bought yesterday for winter. I also got storage onion starts. Celery was planted, it’s not doing well, but I planted it. I bought 2 celeric bulbs last week, haven’t been able to find the seed or starts. Figure I’ll plant those, either use the stalks, get seed, have it for next year OR the bulbs will grow enough that I can harvest 1 and grow the other.

I have summer squash, red cabbage, brussel sprouts, peas, & beans coming up, home grown broccoli seed sprouting, asparagus making wonderful ferns, etc. The garden is trying hard to produce food. The problem is that my garden sits atop the septic field, all sand. All the nutriends I feed the garden just seep away. I’ve added compost, leaf litter, worms, potting soil, you name it. And, as long as I keep it up, the plants do okay, but stop for one week? And they go back to producing enough to keep us in salads throughout the summer.

Raised beds help, but they don’t entirely change the situation. A giant sponge sits under my yard. The other side of the house is the north side, and is heavily wooded, so that won’t work.

Arg. I’ll manage. But I’ll never have a spectacular garden here, because I have a spectacular leach field, all nearly 1/2 acre of it!