Category Archives: frugal living

NEW Coupons at Coupons.com

Coupons.com is always coming out with new coupons, and I wanted to share some with you!  I’m definitely excited about the tuna coupon, as it’s one I’ll definitely be able to use.

Here are the 6 new coupons:

 

And here are a bunch of other coupons for personal care products, if you are interested.  Just click on the link to print!

 

Do you coupon?

 

 

 

Special Diets on a Budget

As you have probably noticed, I am eating a “special” diet right now.  And by special, I mean that I’m NOT eating any of the following foods:

  • Dairy (including butter, cheese, yogurt, shortening, etc)
  • Eggs
  • Gluten (including wheat, oats, rye and barley)
  • Tomatoes (tomato sauces or anything else containing tomatoes)
  • Dehydrated Fruit
  • Rice, corn, potatoes
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee, black tea, and soda
  • Fruit juices
  • Iodized salt
  • Sugar and natural & artificial sweeteners (including honey, agave, coconut sugar, stevia)
  • Soy or any products containing soy
  • Peanuts
  • Beef, pork, shellfish, cold cuts, bacon, hot dogs, canned meat, sausage

ai_dietWhy?  I’m following an Anti-Inflammatory diet given to me by my holistic care doctor.  I’m currently on day 7 of this new diet, and I’ve found already that I’m not having to take my daily nap every day anymore.  I had 2 good days during this first week, and that’s more than I’d had in the previous month!  What a blessing.

It is, however, more expensive to eat this way….at least for me.  No matter how you look at it, sweet potatoes generally cost more than white potatoes.  Quinoa is WAY more expensive than rice.  It’s just how it is.

So, how do you eat a special diet on a budget?  Well, it’s something that I’m slowly figuring out, and I wanted to share what I’ve found so far with you:

 

 

  1. Shop the Sales (?)

This can be very hard when you are so limited in what you can eat.  For example, if you are allowed fresh veggies, but the veggies you are able to eat aren’t in season, well then what’s a girl to do?  Just this last week I went to pick up some bell peppers and the cheapest I could find them was $1.29 PER PEPPER.  Ridiculous!  So, I went without.  Instead, I ate other veggies that frankly, I’m not as fond of.  If you’re on a tight budget though, you’ll just have to learn to be less choosy (a lesson I’m currently learning).  Shop the sales.  It’s critical.

2.  Buy in bulk

indexBy “bulk”, I do not necessarily mean “buy a ton”.  Sure, Costco and other warehouse locations offer some great deals.  I’ve been very impressed with Costco’s selection of healthy foods.  The quinoa there is a great deal.  However, in addition to that type of shopping, try to shop the bulk sections at other stores – you know, when you bag your own stuff, tie it up and weigh it.  Winco is my favorite place to do that.  There are bulk bins at most health food stores as well, like Whole Foods and Sprouts.  That way, you’re not paying for the packaging.

3. Keep a price list

Oh my gosh, keep a price list.  If you find yourself trying new foods you’re not used to, I’m betting you’re not familiar with the average price for that food.  You’ll have NO idea if you’re getting a decent deal or not!  Ask friends and family what they pay, and when you make a purchase, write down the cost-per-ounce or pound and take that book with you when shopping future sales.  Know what a good deal looks like.

4.  Stick to the basics

I know.  It’s hard.  You want to try a new recipe because you are SO SICK of eating carrot sticks and baked chicken.  I feel you.  (really, I do.)  If your budget allows, try some new food ideas, but don’t plan a huge shopping spree to buy all new stuff.  What if you don’t like half of it?  It’ll go to waste, and you’ve lost that money.  Try a few new things at a time, and stick with the basic meals you already know for now.  As you slowly build up new recipes and items that you like, your menu will expand, but only do it as you can afford to.

5.  Give yourself an occasional break

Don’t expect that you’ll be perfect all the time.  When I first went gluten free, I refused to buy $5 frozen gf pizzas, because it would cost more money than making my own.  Then I would get a hankering for pizza and not have anything on hand, so I’d go out and spend $12 to get a freshly cooked one from a gf friendly restaurant.  If you have a weak spot and you know you’ll eventually cave, don’t be afraid to spend a little money buying some of those items pre-made and frozen.  If you truly have the time, then save even more $$ by pre-cooking and freezing some of your favorites.  Speaking of which…

6. PREPARE

I know life is busy, and not everyone will be able to do this.  If you have the time/energy, I’d highly suggest doing a freezer cooking session.  Make a double or triple batch of gluten free cookie dough, or of dairy free rolls, and freeze them.  Mix up a huge batch of turkey burgers, shape and freeze them.  This makes buying in bulk during the sales easier, and it makes your life a whole lot easier when you don’t feel you have time to make an involved meal.  If you don’t have an entire day to devote, you can do a mini 1-hour freezer cooking batch, like I do.

7. Stick with natural foods

10487226_10152495996751815_3535428456217654932_nAs much as possible, try to stick with foods that are naturally dairy free, or peanut free, or whatever your need may be.  Fresh fruits/veggies and unprocessed meats are generally allergen-safe (depending, of course, on the allergen you are avoiding).  Buying the gluten-free version of something generally is going to cost at least TWICE the money than it’s wheat-filled counterpart.  If you stick with the naturally safe foods, you’ll save.

I realize that not all of these tips will work for everyone.  Do what you can with what you can.  I’m sure there are a lot of other fantastic ideas.  Like I said, I’m new to this, and am still figuring things out.  I’ll happily share any other tips that I find as I go!  And hey, if you’ve got a great idea to save money on these types of meals, you’d better tell me! :)  Now let’s go save some moolah.

*Linked up at Thrifty Thursday!

Give Yourself a Raise

How many moms do we have here?  (Raise your hand, moms.)

I am a mom. I have two beautiful, healthy children.  When I was a child and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always answered without hesitation, “I want to be a mom – that or a brain surgeon.”  While I never made it to medical school, I am doing something just as important as “brain surgery” – I’m raising children.  I’m having sleepovers in my bedroom and reading silly books and dancing to Disney songs.  I’m making messes and inventing recipes and blowing bubbles and cleaning and cleaning and cleaning.

 

 

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This is what I was born to be.  There is nothing better.  I can’t deny that there are times it is downright exhausting, however.  I don’t sleep like I did before kids.  My life doesn’t belong simply to me anymore.  It is shared with these precious souls (as it should be).  And because of the amazing sacrifices I’m blessed to make, I sometimes like to splurge – on me.  To reward my awesome mom-ness, if you will.

 

What about you?  Do you enjoy a little “Raise” now and again?  What’s your favorite mom reward?

I confess that I love a long, hot bubble bath.  I enjoy a nice, adult dinner.  My favorite splurge?  A new cool outfit.

You see, I don’t buy myself clothes often – maybe once a year I’ll get a few “new” shirts from a local thrift store.  But man oh man, to buy an entire outfit – NEW – from a retailer, and to go shopping for the new outfit by myself…THAT would be a treat!  Of course, because that would indeed be a splurge, it’d be nice to find a away to do it frugally.

 

indexThere are definitely options out there…one in particular I’ve just recently learned about is Raise.com.  At Raise you can buy and sell gift cards – sell your unused cards, buy gift cards at a discount...and currently they are running a “Give Yourself a Raise” campaign, all about the importance of rewarding yourself for all the hard work you put in every day.  Fun stuff!  So hey, jump on in.  Share in the comments what it is you do to reward yourself.  Let’s all give ourselves a raise, because let’s face it, as moms, we are pretty darn special! :D

Save Money: Lower Your Food Budget

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I think one of the easiest ways for us to lower our household/family expenses is through food.  I may not be able to change the monthly cost of my mortgage, but I can actively make changes to my lifestyle to save money on food.

 

If you are looking to cut costs in your life, I’d suggest starting with food.  It’s one of the easiest things to adjust.  Of course, I’m not a financial adviser…just a mom on a tight budget!  Below are some things that have helped me to cut my grocery/food costs dramatically:

 

 

  • We eat a lot of rice, potatoes and dry beans.  Not very exciting, true, but you know what?  Those foods are all naturally gluten free, and having a severe gluten intolerance can be killer on the grocery budget, so we do what we’ve gotta do!

 

  • I grind my own rice flour.  Again, GF living can get expensive, so I grind whatever flours I can, and make my own flour blends to bake with.

 

  • Limit my meat purchases to $2/lb or less.

 

 

  • Buy fruits/veggies in season when they are cheapest.  We’ve been eating a LOT of apples and oranges lately.  Grapes, not so much.  Red peppers have been on sale for as little as 3 for $1, so we’ve been eating more of those.  Carrots and potatoes always seem to be decently priced year round, so we eat a lot of those.  As the weather warms we’ll be enjoying more strawberries, grapes, zucchini, and the like.

 

  • Grow a garden.  I’m not even close to being a master gardener, although it is an aspiration of mine.  Every year we grow peas, tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, carrots, cilantro, and zucchini.  We have apple, peach, cherry, and pear trees; grape vines, blackberry, raspberry, and bush cherry bushes.  We don’t always get a killer crop, but we happily take whatever we can get.  When we have excess, I break out the canner and we store our food.  We have fun making a year’s supply of salsa each summer, as well as applesauce, apple pie filling, and anything else we can think of!

 

  • Avoid pre-packaged processed food.  I know, $1 for a boxed pasta dinner seems tempting, but it’s really not cheaper than making your own, and making your own pasta and sauce is much healthier too!  Don’t pay for convenience if you don’t have to!

 

  • Shop the sales, and only the sales.  I don’t use coupons often, simply because with my dietary needs, there aren’t a ton of coupons that I can actually use.  That, and the fact that I work 2 part time jobs and don’t feel that I have the time.  I do shop the sales.  The three stores I shop at the most are Reams, Winco, and Sprouts.  Winco is great when I want to stock up on meat (they discount their meat every morning) and when I want to buy baking stuff and spices.  Their bulk section is incredible!  Sprouts is a health-food store that I shop at probably 2x a month.  Wednesdays they have their double ad day, which means the two weekly ads are overlapping and I can usually find twice the stuff on sale.  I typically only buy the produce at Sprouts…their deals can be awesome!  Reams has general low prices and is close by, so that is the store I shop at if I’m not going to the other two.

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  • Have breakfast for dinner every week.  One of the most frugal, simple meals we make each week is breakfast:  homemade pancakes, homemade hash browns (not those expensive frozen packages), fruit, etc.  The kids always like it, and it’s affordable.

 

  • Eat leftovers!  We have a leftover dinner night each week, in which we eat any leftovers we have.  A lot of the time, we’ll put it together into a soup, but not always.  It helps us clean out the fridge, and keeps food from going to waste.  I also tend to eat a lot of leftovers for lunch.

 

  • Eat at home.  I mean it!  Brown bag it to work.  I actually don’t eat at work at all.  I work until 1 in the afternoon, so I just head straight home and eat my lunch (usually a smoothie or leftovers) then.  My husband simply takes a banana to eat for his lunch, and then “supplements” later when he gets home since he doesn’t like to take leftovers to work.  I confess I wasn’t really good at this one until I discovered my intolerance to gluten.  There aren’t as many options to “eat out” anymore, and so I just don’t do it.  We probably go out to eat once a month as a family.  But never more often than that, and it’s been really helpful to our budget.

 

  • Use “fillers” for your meatloaf.  I usually add more bread crumbs/oats/pureed beans to my meatloaf than the typical recipe calls for, simply because it gives me more food for my $$.

 

Those are just a few things we do in my household to keep monthly food costs down.  What works for me may not work for or apply to you, but I hope it jogs some ideas for you.  What are some ways you save on food?

 

Fast and Frugal: Buy Discounted Meat

I have a rule that I almost never break when it comes to meat:  Don’t spend more than $2/lb on meat.  The only exceptions are that I allow myself to buy tilapia, salmon and steak once a year or so.  I wish I could afford the more expensive cuts, but it’s just not reality for me.

 

So…how do I find a deal?  Buy the discounted meats…you know, the stuff that is either close to a sell-by-date, or reduced just to make more room.  Finding these meats isn’t always easy, but it just got a lot easier for me, and I just have to share!

 

 

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If you have a Winco Foods grocery store near you, listen up.  Did you know that they discount their meat EVERY morning??  I went in the other day, hoping that I was early enough to avoid crowds, and was browsing through the meat, hoping to see something on sale.  Boy, oh boy…tons of options were on sale 50% off!   After talking to two employees at the store, I discovered that it’s something they do every morning, simply to make room for whatever else they have in the back.  Some days there is plenty of room, and they don’t need to discount much.  Other days they have way more meat than they have room for.  Here’s a sampling of what I got:

 

100_3570 - This Pork Carnita boneless meat pack was normally $1.98/lb, half off at $0.99/lb!

 

- I got a couple of packs of Hormel boneless pork chops on sale for $1.84/lb.

 

- One nice, big beef round roast for $1.94/lb.

 

- Pork sausage links from New York Style Sausage Company for $1.50/lb.

 

All in all, I was able to get 26.04 lbs of beef and pork (I didn’t buy chicken cause we already have a bunch, but there was chicken discounted as well) for $41.71.  This meat will last us for a few months.

 

That works out to only $1.60/lb!!

 

A lot of other stores discount their meats on specific days of the week.  Ask your local butcher what their schedule is to get an idea of when best to go so that you can stock up.  If you have room in your freezer, go for it and save yourself some money on meat.

 

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Frugal Tip: Use Your Library!!

Today’s Fast and Frugal tip is an obvious one, in my opinion:

 

USE YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY.  DON’T PAY FOR MOVIES/BOOKS IF YOU DON’T HAVE TO.

 

I have only bought ONE book in my adult life without having read it first for free.  I’m not willing to pay for a book unless I’ve first read it and know that it’s one I will use in the future.  It has been a great thing…every book in my personal library is a book that I treasure and enjoy, and I’ve saved SO much money not buying books that I don’t absolutely need.

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For organizational purposes, I keep one bookshelf dedicated specifically for things I’m borrowing from the library.

You can also borrow movies from most local libraries.   At my local library, I can borrow a movie for a week – longer if I renew it.  I NEVER rent movies, unless it’s with a free code so I don’t have to spend any money on it.  Do I get to see new releases immediately?  No.  But I don’t mind being patient.  If there’s a new movie coming out of DVD that I really want to see, I’ll put it on hold at the library as soon as I’m able, and it usually becomes available within a few months at most…sometimes sooner.

 

Again, NO need to spend money on these things if I’m not going to want to keep them!  So…don’t wait.  Visit your library today.

Frugal Tip: Warm/Cold Bags

Our house is not very well insulated.  I mean, we’ve added as much as possible, in the attic, in the walls, with calk and foam, and more.  The house itself, however, was just built kinda flimsy and thin.  All of the houses in my neighborhood were.  So when winter comes, man, the heat bill goes up.

 

We’ve always kept the heat at 64 degrees F during the day when we’re home, and at 59 at night when we’re sleeping, but this year we simply have turned the heat off completely at night.  To keep warm all night, we wear warm PJs, keep a lot of blankets on hand, and use our “warm bags”.

 

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Yes, Warm bags are essentially rice bags, but I don’t call them that because we actually use corn in ours.  The kernels are bigger, which tends to hold the heat longer, and so there you go!  If we happen to have a lot of rice on hand and not enough corn, however, we’ll certainly use rice to stuff these.

 

Kay, so the frugal tip:  Use “warm/cold” bags.  Heat them in the microwave in the winter to keep warm, and stick them in the freezer during the summer to cool off hot feet, to soothe injuries, etc.

 

They are very easy to make.  If you’ve got a sewing machine, all you need to do is sew yourself a square or rectangle in the size you want.  Sew up three of the sides, stuff with rice/corn, and sew the last side up.  If you want to make it even simpler, do what we do.  The result isn’t as pretty, but it works great!

 

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We just grab an old pillowcase, Christmas stocking, whatever, and stuff it.  Then we tie a nice knot to close it off.  You can see that the ones we use to keep overnight are pretty good sized.  They are made with the pillowcases.  We have a couple of smaller ones that we’ve made from old Christmas stockings.

Fast and Frugal Tip – Freeze Milk

Hopefully by now, after all these years of economic turndown, we as people have learned a few things about saving money.  I feel fairly confident that I have.

 

 

I feel even more confident that we’ve all probably learned DIFFERENT things; things that we had to learn in our individual situations…know what I mean?

 

And so, I’d like to start sharing simple, fast and frugal tips with you that I’ve learned along the way of my adult life’s journey.  If you have tips you’d like to share, please feel free to either post them in the comments below, or to email them to me at evelyn at betteronabudget.com.  If you send me a tip, I’d be more than happy to feature you HERE, along with the tip!

 

Today’s tip is all about milk.  Man, milk has been so…unpredictable!  For the most part, it’s gotten ridiculously expensive, but every once in awhile I’ll see a good deal and want to buy enough to last us awhile.  And sometimes I’ll buy enough to last awhile, and then I’ll see milk in an ad the next day for even cheaper than I’d bought it at.

 

I HATE when that happens. :-)

 

Anyway, did you know that you can freeze milk?  Oh, yes.  It’s quite easy.  You do need to prepare for it to expand.  A lot of milk gallons have a natural indentation (you know those circles in the middle of the gallon) in them.  Some do not.  If you buy a gazillion gallons of milk on sale, and they don’t have those indentations to allow for expansion, never fear.  It’s still REALLY easy to do.

 

100_3515Give you kids a glass of milk.  That’s it!  Suddenly you’ve got a little extra space in your container. :-)

Once you’ve emptied a bit out, squeeze the extra air out.  I’ve frozen milk without doing this, and it usually freezes just fine, but not always…and so I always squeeze it now. Put the cap on tightly, and stick it in your freezer!  It’ll last for a few months, usually until the next good sale. :-)

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Amazon Local

Have you tried out Amazon Local yet?

 

I absolutely love it.  For Christmas I bought my kids 2 passes each to a local pizza-activity place, and I also got myself a pass to go HANG GLIDING!!  I have a fear of heights, but to go hang gliding or paragliding is one of my bucket list items, so I’m going for it.  I was able to save 60%!

 

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There are always new local deals available, and they are so fun!  If you haven’t signed up yet, it might be worth looking into.

You can GO HERE to sign up for FREE.

November Wellness Update

How y’all doing on your challenge?  I’ve loved, LOVED reading the many comments, and I’m impressed…maybe I should make my challenges more challenging to keep up with you.:-)

 

Anyway, quick update:

 

The day I was to tackle the kids’ toys and bookshelves was one I was dreading.  I just knew I’d get rid of something and the next day my kid(s) would SUDDENLY want that item.  So, to solve the problem, I had them join in.  And it worked fabulously!

 

The kids cleaned out WAY MORE stuff than I would have doing it alone.  5-year old Buddy Boy was not too thrilled initially, but when we explained that we had to make room for new stuff for birthday and Christmas (both my kids birthdays are in December), he was more than happy to empty out the drawers.

 

He has one of these 3-drawer things in his bedroom, and he cleaned out half of it.  There were a lot of cheap toys that were not suitable to give away, but there were a lot of great items in good shape, too.

 

Munchkin, being older, perhaps, has a lot more stuff in her room.  She decided she is too old for a lot of toys that she’s not played with in years, and so she got rid of a ton, too.  She has two of those shelves in her room, and she emptied a full one!  In her cleaning out, she made the sweet decision to re-gift her legos for her little brother come Christmas time…he’ll love them, and I’m really proud of her for making that choice.

We also went through clothes, although we had done that just a month previously, and we filled a grocery sack full of clothes that we’ll be sending to our neighbor.  (We’ve got this awesome little system with a few neighbors.  My daughter gets hand-me-downs from 2 different girls.  Every time she gets something, she goes through the new stuff, and the stuff in her closet, and declutters.  She then creates two separate bags for two separate girls that are younger than her.  I don’t know where they go from there, but it works out for so many people!  We do the same thing with Buddy Boy, although the hand-me-downs are farther and fewer between with him.)

 

Anyway, all in all it was a successful event.  We got rid of more than 50 items that day, bringing our total to 73 items total gone this month!

 

Don’t forget that you can update me on how you’re doing HERE and get an entry in the giveaway for a $25 Amazon.com gift card.  You can post a comment/update every day!  There’s only 6 days left!