frugal living

Back to School Shopping Complete!! (August Budget Challenge Update)

IMG_20140814_111913I’m happy to say that we have completed our back-to-school shopping.  What a blast we had, too!
 
I am monitoring our spending very closely this month for the August Budget Challenge, and doing everything I can think of to save.
 
We took advantage of the Savers Club Member clearance day….50% off all summer clothing, and 50% off all silver tagged items.  Being a thrift store, Savers is already nice and cheap – to add an additional 50% discount makes me one happy lady!
 
Here’s how we did (these are the totals for ALL of our school/work shopping, not just this last trip):

  •  ALL of my purchases (thrift stores and yard sales) included 3 pairs of pants, 14 tops, 1 skirt, 1 belt, and 2 bras.  My entire total:  $42.19.

  • My husband in total purchased 6 shirts, 1 (new with tag) pair of pants, and 2 shoes.  His entire total:  $12.82.

  • IMG_20140815_145251Munchkin got 2 pairs of shorts, 4 pairs of pants, 9 tops, 4 pairs of shoes/boots, 1 bed sheet, 1 hair straightener, 4 bottles of lotion, a pack of underwear and socks, 2 pairs earrings, 3 bras, 2 dresses, 1 coat, a backpack, and school accessories (pencils, erasers, folders, notebooks, crayons, etc).   She also went shopping with her grandma and bought 1 pair of shoes, 2 shirts, a pack of underwear and 1 pair of pants.  Her entire total is:  $62.48.

  • IMG_20140815_144222Buddy Boy got 4 pairs of pants/shorts, 11 tops, 2 pairs of shoes, 1 backpack, 1 robe, 1 coat, 1 bed sheet, and 1 nightshirt.  He also went shopping with his grandma and bought 2 pairs pants, 2 shirts and a pack of underwear.  His total:  $45.92.

We also used some of this budgeted money to buy other things at the yard sales:  ribbon, Christmas decor, kitchen supplies, etc.  We spent another $35 on those.

 

We originally budgeted $300 to go towards our back to school shopping.  Our actual total ended up being $198.41.  Gasp:  We made it under budget!!  YAY! 

The $101 we did NOT spend that was budgeted is being divided between groceries for next month and our emergency fund.  September is usually the month that money is the most tight, as it is the 3rd and final month that we are living on just my husband’s income (I work at a school and don’t get paid in the summer).  It’ll be nice to have a head start on the grocery budget.

 
 

Are you done with your back-to-school shopping already?  Or do you wait until the last minute like me? ;)

 

How to Save Money: I’m Sure You’ve Seen These Tips!

 

Is it just me, or do you ever find a blog title:  Save $$ in these 10 simple steps!”, or “How we saved $20,000 in one year!”, or even “12 ways to save money that you never thought of!”

indexI always take the bait and head to the sites that make those claims.  A lot of the time, I leave disappointed, either because I already do all of the things suggested, or because the tips don’t apply.

 

I suppose that’s part of life, right?  All of our experiences are SO vastly different, it’s impossible to provide answers for everyone in every situation.  I suppose that’s why we bloggers share what works for US, whether it’s a common piece of advice or not….in the hopes that someone, not everyone, but SOMEONE will be able to take at least ONE thing away from the advice and be able to apply it.  And so with that in mind, I wanted to share some of my own personal tips.

These tips are some of the most common ones I see:

  • Take your own lunch to work. 
  • Use the library for your media.
  • Switch to Netflix.  Well, I don’t know, but if you’re using the library, I don’t think you even need Netflix.
  • Cancel your gym membership.  I’ve NEVER had a gym membership – this is one of those tips that don’t apply to me.
  • Get your nails/hair/massages done less often; trim your own hair.
  • Stop drinking bottled water.

 

 

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Just in case, I’ll share a few other things that we in my household do, although it is by no means an exhaustive list, and hey, maybe there will be something that is new for YOU.  Maybe none of them will be new, and you’ll be disappointed.   I’ll apologize in advance if that’s the case:

  1. Create a price book.  The idea is that you’ll have better knowledge by doing this, and you’ll be able to KNOW when a good deal is to be found.  I started doing this again recently as I’ve begun changing my diet.  It’s been quite helpful!  See how to make one HERE,  Or use this FREE printable.
  2. Buy our milk in bulk when on sale, and freeze.  Those little indentations on the sides of the gallons?  They are there in case of expansion.  So don’t be afraid to freeze your milk.  My husband doesn’t trust that there is enough space in the bottles, so he takes a drink out of each gallon before freezing it, lol.
  3. Have breakfast for dinner once a week.  Eggs and potatoes.  Cheap.  I found a 5 dozen package of eggs on sale for $3.99 last week.  That’s 7 cents per egg!  Make your own hashbrowns (out of REAL potatoes, not a frozen mix) and holy cow, you’ve hardly spent a thing for your dinner.
  4. Use “fillers” with our meats.  When making meatloaf or tacos, I always add a little something extra, just to stretch it.  You can add rice, oats, or even pureed beans.  Don’t go crazy if your family will hate it, but hey, every little bit helps, right?
  5. Bike or walk to work.  I know, for some people this is a “yeah, right” kinda thing.  I don’t live far from my work, so I walk.  It’s my daily exercise most days as well, so I don’t feel too guilty about the extra time I’m using “commuting”.
  6. Make our own homemade cleaners.  Homemade laundry detergent is actually kind of fun to make.  If it’s too much hassle, just use vinegar and water more for cleaning things.  Or baking soda.  If you’re feeling adventurous, try this all-purpose cleaner recipe, or this mattress stain remover.
  7. We keep the thermostat, like they suggest, at 78 degrees or higher in the summer.  I’m usually able to let it get to 80 before the kids start complaining.  We use a swamp cooler, which is less costly than central air, although admittedly, less effective.  In the winter, I keep the heat off while we’re at work/school, and then at 64 degrees when we’re home.  At night we lower it to 60 or so.  This isn’t something that I enjoy doing, but whenever I get our heating bill, I am suddenly re-motivated.  We wear sweaters and socks. :)
  8. Buy in the bulk sections.  If you have a Winco or health food stores near you, take advantage of the items in the bulk sections.  It’s awesome to be able to buy 2 oz of onion powder for $0.38 instead of having to buy a full package of the stuff for $1-$4.
  9. Buy thrift.  This is one we do a LOT of, not only because it’s cheaper, but because I feel like it’s helpful to the environment.  We actually just finished our back to school shopping today at Savers because they were having a 50% off sale!  It was so much fun and the kids are stoked.
  10. Drop the landline.  My husband works for a cell-phone provider, and so he gets a 50% discount on his cell phone(s).  Since we have cell phones, we dropped the landline that we weren’t using a whole lot anyway.
  11. Find and USE resources.  Does your mom have a peach tree?  Dang, then get over there and pick some peaches!  Got a neighbor who can’t keep up with her zucchini and is begging people to take it?  Well then, help her out and make yourself some zucchini bread!  Don’t be afraid to accept help when it’s offered, and don’t be unwilling to GIVE help when you are able either.    We are our own best resources.
  12. Learn a new skill.  My sewing machine sucks.  It knots every time I use it, blast.  So…I’ve been doing a lot of “hand” sewing.  My black slacks that have a hole in the thigh?  I’ve done a nice little (crappy) job of sewing them up.  They’ll last a little longer now. :) Maybe you can learn to bake bread.  Or to garden more efficiently.  There are thousands of online resources to help us learn more.
  13. Buy dry beans instead of canned.  Cook them in the slow cooker:   throw in a cup or two of dry beans, and then add 3 times the amount of water (1 cup beans + 3 cups water; 2 cups beans + 6 cups water).  Cook it on low for 8 hours, or on high for 4-5 hours.  Season as you like.
  14. Participate in the occasional “pantry eating” challenge.  Pick a month and try to eat food from your pantry the entire month.  If you don’t have much food there, feel free to do it for a week.  Try to only buy fresh foods during that time.  Or set up a spending challenge:  No going out to eat for XX number of days.  Whatever you like; it helps keep things more fun.
  15. Save those coins!  We have our little coin jar and always, ALWAYS immediately after going shopping (because we generally shop with cash) we drop the change into the jar.  Every few months I’ll roll those coins up to see where we’re at.  Great for saving for a trip or to cash in if you’re low on money, or even to save for Christmas stocking stuffers.
  16. Pick up odd jobs.  This year was the first that Munchkin had the opportunity to make some real money.  She had 3 pet-sitting jobs, 2 for neighbors, and 1 that she shared with her brother for her grandma.  That girl made $90 this summer!  Doing odd jobs can be fun, simply because they’re not the norm.  My mom was looking for someone she could pay to mow her lawn this summer, and we volunteered to do it for her (for free, but she insisted on paying us.)  I just finished being part of an online study that will pay me $75 for 1 total hour of participation.  Those jobs may be far and few between, but take them when you can get ‘em!
  17. Update the auto & homeowners insurance policies.  This was something I never thought to do until this summer, because the home insurance comes out of our mortgage so it’s not on our minds, and well, I figured since we’d never had an accident, we already had the best auto rate.  Not so.  Last month I called and looked into things, and we were able to shave $40/month off our auto and $200/year off our homeowners.  Every few years, get yourself a quote.  You may just end up pleasantly surprised.

 

Do YOU have any frugal tips that you don’t see posted everywhere?  Share them in the comments, because friends, I NEED new ideas! :D

 

 

 

August Budget Challenge – Grocery Update #2

I normally am not happy when I see that the month is nearly halfway over, because it means time is going too quickly, but today, I’m grateful.  This is because we only have half a month left to survive on not much money, ha ha!  We overspent this week again, although not as badly as the week previous.

Our grocery budget for the month is $220.  This includes non-food items as well, such as personal care, diapers, kitty food and liter, etc.

We did a couple of shopping trips to get the best prices on items:

Trip #1 – Smiths:

  • 4 boxes Chex cereal (back to school stock up item) – $1.99 each w/coupon, total $7.96
  • 1 can Kroger tomato sauce -  clearance for $0.19
  • 1 pkg cream cheese – $1.00
  • 8 Greek yogurts – clearance for $0.25 each, total $2
  • 1 cupcake (not pictured – treat for the kids for behaving) – clearance for $0.49
  • 6 pumpkin muffins (to freeze for snacks) – clearance for $1.99
  • 1 pkg Friskies cat food – $4.00
  • 1 loaf white bread – clearance for $0.59
  • 2 pkgs Hormel pepperoni – clearance for $1.49 each, total $2.98
  • 2 pkgs quart freezer bags – $1 each, total $2
  • 1 pkg brown rice – $1

Shopping total w/tax:  $25.21

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Trip #2:

  • 2 lb bag carrots – $1.09
  • 3.33 lbs Kiku apples – $0.79/lb, total $3.03
  • 6 limes – $1
  • 2 red bell peppers – $0.79/each, total $1.58
  • 10.57 lbs bananas (freeze for smoothies) – $0.39/lb, total $4.12
  • 1 bunch parsley – $0.79
  • 1 pack pencils – $1.19
  • 2 pkg canning lids – $1.86/each, total $3.72
  • 3 2-liters cherry coke (for the hubby) – $5

Total w/tax:  $22.35

I was feeling okay about this week, and then my husband decided to surprise me and take another shopping trip:

Trip 3:

  • 6 gallons milk – $2.65 each, total $15.87
  • 1 large pkg cat liter – $11.99

Total w/tax:  $29.16

 

Total for the week:  $76.72

 

That leaves us with $50 for the rest of the month.  Can we do it?  I don’t know.  We’ll see!

The bad news:  We’re way over budget so far this month.  I was not planning for that 3rd trip.

The good news:  I don’t think we need to stock up on anything else for the month.  We’ve got tons of cereal, snacks, frozen meat, and now milk available.

 

 

 

 

August Budget Challenge and Grocery Updates

How’s everyone doing on their budgeting?  I’m doing a great job of keeping track of everything, but I’ve already spent more on groceries than I would have liked this early in the month – doing a lot of stocking up for the school year.  I suppose it’s to be expected!

Here’s a rundown of our grocery purchases:

Shopping trip #1

  • 20 lbs boneless, skinless chicken tenders – $1.89/lb, total $35.80

  • 2.28 lbs red grapes – $1.39/lb, total $3.17

  • 2 avocados – $0.99 each, total $1.98

  • 2 red bell peppers – 2 for $1, total $1.00

  • 5.78 lbs bananas – $0.39/lb, total $2.25

  • 0.68 lb carrots – $0.89/lb, total $0.61

  • 1 lb strawberries – $1/lb , total $1.00

  • 2 12-pk toilet paper – $4.29 each ($0.36/roll), total $8.58

Shopping total w/tax:  $56.22

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Shopping trip #2

  • 2 whole chickens – $1.09/lb, total $10.45

  • 2.12 lbs boneless pork ribs – $2.49/lb, total $5.28

  • 1-lb package frozen corn – $0.88

  • 1 half-gallon almond milk – $2.98

  • 1.17 lbs fresh ground almond butter – $6.94/lb, total $8.12

  • 2 lb package corn tortillas – $2.68

  • 2.56 lbs red apples – $0.98/lb, total $2.51

  • 0.35 lb broccoli – $0.98/lb, total $0.34

  • 1 cucumber – $0.58

  • 1/2 lb bananas (cause we ran out) – $0.52/lb, total $0.25

  • 1/4 lb unsweetened coconut – $3.06/lb, total $0.77

  • 1 lb organic baby arugula - $2.98

Shopping trip total w/tax:  $37.82

Total for both:  $94.04

The GOAL was to spend about $55/week, and as you can see, I went way over that.  We had the cash, of course, but it was meant to last longer.

The bad news:  I’m bummed out about the pork deal, but I was required to add pork back into my diet this week and didn’t have any on hand, so I had to buy what was available, and it was not on sale.  The almond milk is ridiculously priced, but it’s the only milk I’m allowed right now.

The good news:  I’m glad that we’ve got 20 lbs of chicken, although I worry it won’t last long, as we don’t have a lot of other meat in the freezer.  Yay for stocking up!  I was thrilled with the toilet paper deal as well, and kinda wish I’d had more cash on hand to buy a few more. :)  I’m also happy with the discovery of the $.39/lb bananas, since they are “older”.  I take the majority of the bananas I buy and freeze them for smoothies, so it works well!

The plan:  This week I’m planning on stocking up a little more, this time on cereals for the kids.  I’m not a huge fan of the “cereal for breakfast” thing, but with my work schedule change, along with my husband’s schedule change, I want to have a bunch of easy, quick breakfasts on hand to take at least one stress off the table.  After that, we should be good and not need to buy much of anything except fresh produce for the rest of the month.

 

How are YOU doing with your shopping so far?  Are you kicking my trash?  Ha ha, it wouldn’t take much this week! Here’s to a better week – starting today!

August Budget Challenge – Back to School Shopping Update

We’ve done a bit of back to school shopping  this week, and I promised to share:

Saturday we went yard sale shopping.  We went to a lot of different sales, but there were two in particular that felt like the jackpot!  I love a good deal. :)

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  • I got 1 new pair of pants, 3 camisoles, and 2 new shirts, 1 (new with tags) bra, and a skirt.  I also got things not related to “back to school/work”, but I’m taking them out of the school budget anyway.  2 pairs of rubber cleaning gloves, 2 boxes of aluminum foil, 1 new Avon bubble bath bottle, 1 Bath & Body Works bath set, 1 bottle cleaning brush, 1 spool of ribbon, 2 rolls of scotch tape, 4 Ben-Gay pain bars, 4 sharpie markers, 1 decorative basket, 3 stackable paper holders, 1 indoor rug, 1 mattress cover, and an outdoor Christmas box decoration.  My total:  $11

  • My husband, who NEVER finds anything that fits, got 2 pairs of shoes, 1 (new with tags) pair of pants, and 5 shirts.  His total:  $11

  • Munchkin (11-year old daughter) got 1 camisole, 1 pair of shoes, 1 pair of boots, 2 pairs of earrings, 4 bottles of lotion, 1 purse, 1 Bath & Body bath set, 1 coat, 1 hair straightener, 3 shirts, and a candle.  Her total:  $8.50

  • Buddy Boy (7-year old son) got 2 pairs of shoes, 1 backpack, 3 shirts, 1 nightshirt, 1 coat, 1 small kitchen toy, 1 sandwich maker, and 1 large kitchen set.  His total:  $17

PicMonkey Collage1

Today we went to Dollar Tree.  We got 1 binder, 2 fashion folders, 2 t-shirts, 1 hair brush, 2 pk permanent markers, 3 pk fashion socks, and a 40 pk eraser tops.  Total:  $10

I feel like we’re doing pretty well with the back-to-school budget!  As I mentioned previously, the kids’ grandma took them shopping and got them each 2 new outfits.

Have you done any back-to-school shopping yet?

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.

 

 

Cox Family-9

 

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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