Tuesday, March 21, 2006

On Saving Money and Living Frugally

In the last week or so, there have been many blog postings regarding saving money, living frugally and living on one income. The discussions have been interesting and encouraging, so I thought that I would share some of my own ideas here. I hesitate to share too much on this sort of subject as I am younger and much less experienced than most of my readers. So as you read, keep in mind, that I am only sharing what I have learned as suggestions and ideas. This is not in any way Biblical truth other than trying to promote good stewardship of what God has given us to work with in terms of money and possessions.

I also realize that many of our family and close friends read here regularly, although many of you are "lurkers" and do not comment often or at all!:-)Please do not get the idea that we are poor and destitute. This is not intended to be Mary Ann's pity party at all. We have everything we need, in fact more than enough. I find it a great challenge to stretch our income as far as it will go.

This time I will focus on saving money on food. Later I will share some ideas for other areas.

Saving money on food:

1. I don't buy meat for over $2.00 a pound. I watch the specials and stock up and freeze plenty when the sales are good. I do pay more for fish and the occasional steaks, but still buying them when marked down.

2. We eat a lot of cooked oatmeal for breakfast which is certainly better for us than most cold cereals. I do buy a couple of boxes of cereal per month, but try to stay in the limit of $1-$2 per box.

3. We drink mostly water. Again, the health benefits are great. I keep some orange juice concentrate on hand and we always buy a big jug of cranberry juice each month.

4. I keep very little snack foods around the house. I do buy tortilla chips and a bag of pretzels every month. For snacks, we will make popcorn or eat fresh fruit which I try to keep on hand depending on the season and price.

5. I consider canned beans a convenience food. That being said, you can probably guess that I don't buy many prepared foods. I do buy boxed mac & cheese for a quick, easy meal.

6. I cook most of our meals from scratch. This saves a lot of $$!

7. I bake most of our bread, and I also buy marked down loaves at the local bread outlet for when I can't bake my own.

8. I try to keep most meals rather simple by planning menus such as soup and fresh bread, a casserole and a salad and so on. It depends on what we are having as to the amount of sides, but especially during the week, I keep it pretty simple.

9. Since there are just the two of us, I will make a whole batch of something and freeze the extras. When I make lasagna, I put it in two 8 or 9 inch square pans instead of one large pan. We can eat one that night and freeze the other for later. I often will cook double when making dinner and freeze the extras. I like this approach better than spending a whole day preparing food for the freezer, although I do that sometimes too.

10. I try not to waste food. Leftover oatmeal can go into muffins. I keep my veggie bin cleaned out by chopping up the leftovers and freezing them in small amounts for soups and casseroles. I also keep a large container in the freezer for any leftover cooked veggies, veggie broth and little bits of meat. When I get enough, I will make soup.

11. I keep my grocery budget at about $150 per month.Including paper products, cleaning supplies and personal care items, I spend $200 a month altogether. This gives me enough to stock my pantry a little at a time and we also have guests over for dinner several times a month. We eat out probably about 2-3 times per month. Otherwise, we eat at home and my husband takes a lunch to work. Our eating out money has its own category in our budget.

12. I read lots of cookbooks and am constantly finding new recipes online. I love to cook and bake and find lots of recipes that use cheap ingredients.

13. For most items, I buy the store brands. This saves quite a bit. There are a few brand name items I love, such as Kraft dressings and we have found that no matter how cheap the Food Lion mac and cheese is, we still do not like it. :-)

14. As you may have figured out, I grocery shop once a month. This works well for me. I keep a small amount of money back to use for sale items that come up through out the month. I like getting all my staples at once, then I plan my meals by looking at what I have in my pantry and freezer.

Please share your ideas for saving money on food!