(I want to be clear, the post below is not how I live my daily life. Some of it most definitely is, but this post was created for those families who are now either not eating due to gas prices or who are having to go to a food bank. Being frugal is not built-in. I am in no way suggesting this is the optimal plan for life, but just a few ways to shrink a grocery bill during an emergency situation.)
I've been seeing a lot on the news lately regarding the price of fuel meaning middle income families are now having to go to food banks or just skip meals, etc., to get by. I have a little experience living in poverty with children. (Thankfully, things have changed.) I know firsthand about having just a bit of money and four people to feed. Just a few years ago, I remember having only $25 for a full week of groceries and I thought for anyone not knowing how to cut grocery costs (I don't think it's built-in for all just as I cannot do algebra), I would start writing a few blogs giving tips on how to do just that. I'd love it if readers could also leave tips or ask for ways they could spend less on ____.
Here we go:
1.) Say good-bye to processed and pre-packaged foods/meats. Say good-bye to the deli and the bakery. This means junk food and soda as well. I'm always amazed when I see Doritos, Lay's, Coke, and candy in a cart where a person is paying using their food stamp card. These things are not a source of nutrition and will KILL your food budget. It's time to learn how to bake again and make a pitcher of iced tea from tea bags. A significant amount of money for the average American is spent on these things and it's just too expensive if you're living on a budget. (I realize I've said this before, but it needs repeating)
2.) Take out all the non-edible frivolities. No sprays or oils to make your house smell like it's an apple cinnamon palace, no paper towels, no napkins, etc. Unless it's toilet paper, you don't need it.
3.) Instead of sandwich bags and freezer bags, buy only generic plastic wrap. It will fill all of your storing needs for the time being.
4.) Find a neighborhood supermarket that has weekly meat sales (buy one get one free, $1.99 or less per pound). They are out there, but you must look and it may not be your favor market. So what? I buy the best cuts of meat (93% ground beef, steak, boneless chicken, you name it) and I never pay more than $1.99 a pound. One week boneless chicken breasts are $1.79 per pound and that's all I'll buy. I'll buy two large packages and when I get home, I'll separate these packages into 6 servings that I then freeze. Usually 2 breasts will do any one recipe. If I'm serving the chicken, I cut one breast in half so two pieces feed 4. This same thing can be done with ANY meat. Once you start doing this weekly, you build up a freezer full of different meats that you then create menus from, which brings us to ...
5.) MAKE A MENU. Do not guess what you will be eating and DO NOT shop daily. Plan ahead and stick to your list, go ONCE a week. I read an article once where it had statistics and doing just this, making a list (menu) and sticking to it, dropped a food budget by at least 30%.
6.) Make at least 3 meals in your week what I call "ghetto meals." Breakfast for dinner (french toast, whatever you like) because breakfast foods rely on eggs, which is still a cheap source of protein. A casserole. Usually made by leftover meats, a cheap carb (half a bag of egg noodles ... reserve other half for next week), a can of mushroom or celery soup, a can of green beans, mix and bake. Or toasted cheese and tomato soup. Plus, you can do the "twofer" meals which will be below.
7.) Good-bye fresh fruit/produce. I hate to say this, but once you're in a financial pinch, you'll need to know buy frozen (frozen spinach is a deal always as there is a LOT of it in one little frozen package) or canned. Fresh is normally twice as expensive. Once the warmer months hit, if you're craving fresh, you can hit a farmer's market or stand by the side of the road. Even better, grown your own in containers. Packets of seeds at Wal-Mart are only 10 cents!
8.) Au revoir to name brands. Staples should be bought at stores that cater to generic brands. Stores like Aldi's or Save A Lot, which are all over these 50 states. Here you can buy pasta, rice, oatmeal, canned soup, and a ton more for a fraction of what you would pay in a big supermarket. By fraction I mean a $1.50 box of name brand pasta in your favorite supermarket would be .39 cents in one of these stores.
9.) Cook once, eat twice. One night you have spaghetti and meatballs and the next night you take the reserved meatballs, add some sub rolls and have meatball subs. Steam some frozen broccoli tossed with your favorite dressing topped for a side. One night you have beef stew and the next (or two nights later) you have beef pot pie. You just add the crust, which is just butter (Crisco), flour, and salt, and costs all of about a buck to make. A buck to feed your family one more night, not a lot. Spareribs in the crock pot one night, pulled pork sandwiches two nights later. Just add the rolls and the vegetable.
10.) Downsize personal care products. One shampoo, one conditioner, one bar of soap for the ENTIRE family. Suave will help greatly in this area as their shampoos are a buck in lesser department stores. Pure and Natural soap is free from dyes, etc., and is good for kids and adults plus it's cheap. A buck for 3 bars. Come on, now. Hygiene is non-negotiable, but for $3 to have shampoo, conditioner, and soap, it doesn't need to be discussed.
Again, if anyone has any tips, let 'em rip. Or if you need help cutting costs in an area, throw it out there in the comments section.
UPDATE: Octopus Knits saved the day in a big way by re-writing the pattern and giving me a TON of advice/tips by e-m ail. Even if you don't knit, check out her blog, it is ABSOUTELY amazing, visually and creatively and all the rest of it. (if you love cats, you'll love it even more!) Thank you, Nell, for being my miracle!
Ahhhhh, I can see my husband in my mind's eye on the prow of his own sailing vessel. The sea's mist bouncing off his naturally water-retardant fisherman's knit wool sweater that his dutiful wife made for him. Nevermind that he doesn't actually have a boat. He wants one. I'm sure someday he'll have one and heck, if any person needed a boat to own a fisherman's knit sweater, well, then, there'd be a lot less of them in the world I'm sure. Actually, it's not a hot item here in the states I don't think, but anyhow ...
It took me a long time to find this particular pattern. I showed more than a few to my husband who shrugged, rolled his eyes, and even made fake vomiting sounds. This pattern was like the Holy Grail. His eyebrows perked up, he smiled, and then exclaimed, "That's IT! That's the one! When can I get it?" (No concept of just how long something like this takes to knit, that's for sure)
So, I ordered the wool and while I'm waiting went back to the pattern and read it over. One time, two times, three times ... hmmm. That's when it dawned on me. I can't figure out the pattern at all. It doesn't tell how many stitches to cast on with, when to switch to what, how many pieces it's in, etc.
Then it struck me ... I'll just put a shout out on the old blog. Call upon the charity and intelligence of others to help. Here I go:
Calling all knitters! Help! The pattern I'm trying to figure out needs to be a medium, which will give my husband a little space to move around. What size needles do I use? How many do I cast on originally or do I not cast on at all for a sweater? (this is my first)
Would any knitters out there be helpful enough to translate this pattern for me? Break it down into pieces and a pattern that makes sense? I don't usually knit from spring on to fall when gardening is in full swing, but my husband's birthday is in August and I'd like to be able to give him the one thing he's asked for since I first learned to knit -- the sweater in the above picture. It's a lot easier and cheaper than a sailboat.
Grant is leaving my home tomorrow. He has been physically hurting my son, it has escalated to the point where I asked his mother about taking him over vacation, and she said he will be leaving our home all together. She is afraid her son will "snap" and seriously injure my son or someone else. Apparently, there are things we know nothing about in his past and she now sees that he needs psychological help. We don't get a say, but to tell you the truth, I'm relieved.
I only hope this kid can stop blaming the rest of the world for his shit and take responsibility. One thing I know for sure -- I am not a miracle worker. One more -- I really love my family and am grateful for each and every one of them.