Sunday, February 23, 2020

My Frugal Week

Although Monday was a holiday this past week, I was scheduled to work every day, but then inclement weather came and school was cancelled for two days. Ugh. This next week I have three days scheduled, so we will see what happens. 

Good news for us, we won a free steak dinner from Fresh & Low this week. There was enough there to split it between the both of us and it was delicious. 

This week I also won a contest from Kroger and won $25 worth of free groceries. They applied the balance to my Kroger card and although we've not been there yet, I'll post about it when we do go. 

This week I worked on saving money on our prescription drugs. I don't order them all from the same place as some places offer better savings. 

It is hard to beat the 90 day prescription drugs for $7.50 from Publix, so we have some there. Another RX I  get from Food City, but learned that Walmart will beat their price and save me $15, so I will make the switch this week. 

Food Lion has Oscar Meyer beef hot dogs on sale for $1.99 this week when you buy five. So, I stopped in there on Friday and bought five. 

Food City has Hunt's pasta sauce on sale for 69¢ each when you buy ten. So, I stopped in there on Friday and bought ten. 

We stopped in at the bread outlet and stocked up on bread and hot dog buns for the upcoming week. 

Payday came this week and my check was actually correct and included those missed days from last month. So, all the bills were paid this week. My car registration is also due at the end of March, so I went ahead and paid it too. 

How was your week?

~ Living within our Means ~
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Friday, February 14, 2020

Frugal Friday ~ 2-14-2020

Good morning to all my frugal readers. I hope you've had a great week. 

On Monday I received a call to sub, which I was grateful for since I missed three days last week. 

The rain here has not let up though and on Monday students were let out at noon due to more flash flooding.  School was cancelled for Tuesday also, so I missed another day of work. 

On Monday we went to town to buy a pair of jumper cables. My daughter's car had a dead battery and since someone stole my Dad's battery charger, we didn't have one. So, we went and bought a new set.  

We also bought five packages of Royal ready to eat rice priced at $1.88. We used an Ibotta rebate for $1.50 off and paid only 38¢ each. Ibotta let us use the rebate five times. 

This week I earned a $10 Amazon gift card from Microsoft Rewards. 

On Wednesday I subbed in a classroom with no microwave, so I brought my Crock-Pot Lunch Crock to heat my lunch during the day. 

Family movie night this week consisted of homemade pizza and popcorn. We also watched the film The Blind Side, which is a family favorite. 

Since I had extra time this week I decided to work in my sewing room.

My daughter picked up a pair of jeans in her size recently, but someone hemmed them and she needed them to be longer. 

So, while I was off work this week I took my seam ripper to them and undid the hem. Now they are long enough for her to wear. 

She has been going through some of her inventory and getting rid of anything that hasn't sold. 

She gave me two dresses that I cut up for the material to make other things. On Thursday I used some of the material from one dress, which I upcycled into a cloth pad. 

I used my 2019 Susan Branch calendar and turned the pages into envelopes. 

I took the presser foot and plate off my sewing machine and cleaned out all the lint and dust and oiled the machine. Taking care of my equipment helps it last longer, which saves me money. 

After all of that was done, I ended up making three cloth pads. 

The one on top has Minions and Curious George.  The middle one used to be part of the dress. 

I also cleaned up and organized a little in there this week. 

How was your week?

~ Living within our Means ~
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Sunday, February 9, 2020

Are Your Family’s Grocery Expenses Thrifty or Liberal?

How can you figure out if your family’s grocery expenses are reasonable for the size of your family?

Every month, the  U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) releases four budgets, which results in a food purchase formula with four price ranges: 

Thrifty Plan, Low-Cost Plan, Moderate-Cost Plan and Liberal Plan, and these figures are updated monthly.

The U.S.D.A. has been doing this for years based on what Americans really eat and based on accepted nutrition recommendations.

Here is the latest chart for December 2019:

Using the December 2019 chart, with my family, I could expect to spend $75.90 per week or $328.70 a month on the “Thrifty” food plan.

But based on my records, I’m actually spending about $250 a month for two people in my home, which averages out to $125 a month per person. 

Now, how do we manage such a low grocery bill?

For starters we have a lot of frugal tips in our toolbox such as drinking water, and making tea or lemonade and koolaid to cut down on expensive soda pop. (I do keep Sprite on hand for medicinal purposes)

We make home baked cakes instead of commercially made ones, oatmeal made from old fashioned oats rather than instant packets. 

We shop the Crash and Burn sections of the grocery stores and will buy food with the yellow mark down stickers if it fits within my budget. 

We eat meatless meals, such as Bean & Cheese Enchiladas, or homemade Veggie Burgers, or Red Beans & Rice

We eat leftovers or reinvent them into a new dish. For example, we turned leftover mashed potatoes into Potato Pancakes.

We make soups, which can be very economical depending on what ingredients you use. 

We shop at discount grocery stores such as United Grocery Outlet, Save a Lot, and Aldi

We look for and buy discounted groceries at all the places we shop including the flea market. 

We peruse the sale ads online and make a list of items on sale and then stock up on those. We keep a price book to check prices. 

Another way you can save money on food is by using grocery rebate apps like IbottaCheckout 51, Dosh, and Just Google the grocery store app and read about them and do your research first.

We re-purpose food scraps to make other things like vegetable, chicken, or beef broth. 

We utilize The Pantry Principle, which you can read about here. We keep a well stocked pantry of food bought at the lowest price and we cook from scratch.

We search for recipes that are cost friendly. We scour yard sales, used book stores, and flea markets for economical cookbooks. 

One online resource you can use is the online cookbook located here:  Recipes and Tips for Frugal Healthy Meals. 

There are multiple ways you can reduce your grocery budget and I've only scratched the surface here. 

Your way of saving on groceries may contain other ideas I've not mentioned here such as growing some of your food in a garden. 

Let's share ideas with each other. 

~ Living within our Means ~
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Friday, February 7, 2020

Frugal Friday 2-7-2020

This week was going to be a good one financially as I was scheduled to work every day. Then on Tuesday the announcement came that school would be closed for the rest of the week due to illness, unfortunately. 

It then started raining on Tuesday and we received a months worth of rain in two days. Other school systems around us were closing because of all the flash flooding. I'm positive that school would have been called off anyway due to all the road closures. 

On Thursday we ran a few errands. My daughter wanted to coupon this week, so we did. 

We went to Publix where we bought multiple packages of Kotex for 50¢  per package. 

We picked up two bottles of Herbal Essence for 57¢ each. 

We also picked up multiple packages of Equal sweetener for free. We won't use those, so we donated them to The Little Free Pantry.  

You can see them here in the lower left hand of the photo. 

We also stopped at Walmart and found a box of Crackers for 58¢, one container of I Can't Believe it's Not Butter for free, and three packages of Cup Noodles Stir Fry Cups for 78¢ each. Ibotta is offering a rebate on those, so they were free.


We watched the movie Harriett for our movie night this week. Based on the true story of Harriett Tubman, we both really enjoyed the film. 

Gas is down to $1.88 per gallon here this week!

We went to the bread outlet this week and scored thirty hamburger buns for $1.99. 

I got a new book this week: 

Image Credit
The Berkeley Co-op food book: Eat better and spend less. I've not finished reading it yet, but I like what I see. 

We received multiple freebies this week. 

Yeast & some coupons:

One Bar of Soap:

Stickers from Stickermule:

Cottonelle Wipes from Freeosk:

How was your frugal week?

~ Living within our Means ~
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Saturday, February 1, 2020

My Frugal Week

Last week I didn't post a Frugal Friday blog as I was recovering from the flu. I'm feeling much better than I was then, but still have a lingering cough. 

This week I was able to work three days and made sure to rest the other two days. Of course, I packed lunches and drinks all week. 

We made it to the end of January and I'm happy to report that we did not eat out in January. My daughter also had a successful no spend month. 

This week we ended up pet sitting for a friend. She took Bailey out to eat as a treat when she picked up her dog. 

I had an abundance of oranges this week and made some fresh orange juice. It was delicious and a very rare treat. 

I took a package of hot chocolate mix that we were gifted for Christmas and mixed it up and put it in a pitcher in the fridge. We will drink it better being cold than we would hot. We've been making plenty of hot tea such as echinacea and elderberry as well with the sickness in the house.

We spent $157 on groceries in January, but mostly we ate from the pantry and freezer. We avoided any food waste. For breakfast several morning we served cinnamon raisin bread and blueberry bagels.

We put together a Mary Engelbreit puzzle this week for free entertainment. There was one piece of the puzzle missing if you can tell from the photo. If you look under the arm of the girl in the red sweater you'll see it. Clicking on the photo helps too. 

I sold a couple of items on eBay this week and reused packages for those rather than buy new ones. 

My bangs were getting too long for my taste, so I used my hair cutting scissors and trimmed them. 

We have some cold days and some warm days, so we've only had to turn the heat on an as needed basis. 

What did you do this week to save money?

~ Living within our Means ~
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Thursday, January 30, 2020

Frugality & Older Cookbooks, Plus a Great Resource

Items like old cookbooks might seem outdated and irrelevant in this day and age, but that simply isn't true.

Some of my favorite cookbooks are from the 1970s time period. To me cookbooks from that era have recipes that are based more on cooking from scratch than they are convenience or specialty foods. 

To that end I would like to share a great resource with you.

The Internet Archive is a great place for looking up old cookbooks. There are multiple cookbooks on thrifty cooking as well, such as this one for Most for your Money cookbook. 

Membership is free and you can even borrow books online for up to two weeks. 

Of course this resource offers much more than just cookbooks, so be sure to check it out when you have some extra time. 

~ Living within our Means ~
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Sunday, January 26, 2020

Frugal Strategies to Stretch Your Budget

Here are some of my favorite strategies for saving money. Since everyone's situation and resources are different, these may or may not work for you. But feel free to adapt any of these strategies to your own way of life. 

Frugal living is a tool, which you will want to tailor to the way you live. Use these tips as much or as little as you want, according to your needs.

Get it for Less ~ Find a cheaper source for things you already buy. Do your research and challenge yourself to always the lowest prices. Be on the lookout for new sources on a regular basis, you may be surprised at what you find. 

Make It Last ~ Take care of what you own to make the item last as long as possible. Maintain your tools both inside your home and in your garage. Learn to do your own home and car maintenance and repairs. There are many ways to stretch the life of the things you own. YouTube is a wealth of information on this topic. 

Use It Less ~ Conserve your time, energy and resources. If you plan out your shopping trips and only go once a week, hitting everything you need to, then you are using less gas, and causing less wear and tear on your car. If your home is properly insulated, you are using less electricity or natural gas to heat/air condition it. You can get longer use out of light bulbs by remembering to turn lights off when not in use. The same goes for items that use batteries. 

Use It Up ~ Use up those leftovers in your kitchen, use the food scraps to either make broth or compost them in your garden. Reuse items you would normally throw away. 

Plastic containers, glass jars, cereal boxes, peanut butter jars, and sour cream containers call all be reused in a variety of ways. Be resourceful and creative to use up those things you already own.

Wear it Out ~ Get the full use out of something before you toss it. Maintain, repair, repair again, and recycle. When those items get worn out, recycle them in your own craft room and garden.

Make It Do ~ If you don't have what you need, find something to fill the void until you can find an inexpensive alternative. 

Do Without ~ Ask yourself if you really have to have the item in question. When it comes down to it we don't need as much as we think we do. Frugal Queen mentioned on Facebook this week that they need very little to survive. Whenever possible, do without to save money. 

Make it Yourself - If the things you need are too expensive try and come up with ways you can make the item for less. Many of my readers know I upcycle scrub shirts to make my daughter's cloth pads with. There are multiple YouTube videos that will show you how to do just about anything you put your mind to. 

Grow Food ~ Shocked at the prices of food in the grocery stores these days? Have you thought about growing some of your own food to save money? You can grow herbs, tomatoes, leaf, iceberg, or romaine lettuce, greens, onions, brussel sprouts, etc. The possibilities are endless. 

Trade it ~ Barter your goods and skills for something you need.

Put The Word Out ~ You've heard the term networking? Not only is it good for your employment, but it can also work when you need something. Tell others when you need something in particular. 

On my personal Facebook page I've seen requests for glass jars and egg cartons from teachers and I've always been able to help them out. Oftentimes you can find exactly what you looking for at no cost. 

~ Living within our Means ~
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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Wants verses Needs

Which would you rather have? 

$25 Restaurant Meal 
 $25 Worth of Groceries 

We need food to survive, but it doesn't have to be a restaurant meal, so a restaurant meal can easily turn into a want. If I had my choice I might pick the restaurant meal, but if I'm looking to save money that I would choose the $25 worth of groceries. 

If you look at the food spending of an average American family you'll see that eating outside the home is one of the most common items to break the budget. 

Many Americans knowingly spend more than they can afford on dining out. Of course we say it all the time here, but one of the best ways to save money in this category is to eat at home. 

Wants verses needs. How do we decide? In the end it comes down to personal choices and lucky for us we have the freedom to choose what's right for us. 

If we are looking to save money how do we decide which is better for our budget? Let's take a look at some examples of basic needs turning into wants.

Water- To stay hydrated, all you need is water. However, this need can turn into a want with things like bottled water or fancier seltzer waters. Fiji water is a natural artesian water that has minerals that are good for you, but of course that makes it more expensive too.

The water that comes out of our faucets is cleaner than much of the water in third world countries. They have it so much harder than we do and so I'm grateful for the clean water we have.

Food - Food can come in many forms, and the healthier the better. But, going out to eat all the time turns this need into a want and can cause you to spend more than necessary.

Several of the frugal/personal finance people write about not eating out. Amy Dacyczyn of the Tightwad Gazette, Jaspreet Singh from Minority Mindset along with several others state that they do not eat out at all.

Food is a necessity and while a restaurant meal might be something we would like to have, we don't need it to survive. If you're careful, $25 worth of groceries can stretch much farther than a $25 restaurant meal.

Shelter - The place you decide to live doesn’t have to break your budget. You can rent a room from someone, live in an apartment, a tiny home, a mobile home, etc. But this need can become a want if you overspend or buy something above your means.

Clothing - Clothing needs include such things as pants, shirts, shoes and undergarments. You can get affordable clothing by shopping for items you know will fit within your budget.

This spending category can easily turn into a want, however. Expensive clothing and shoes can easily end up costing you thousands of dollars, and those things are not needed in order to survive.

Learning to differentiate between wants and needs will help you stay out of debt, which can help you reach financial freedom sooner. 

~ Living within our Means ~

Sunday, January 19, 2020

My Frugal Week ~

This week I was able to work four days and brought lunch and drinks all four days. I made egg salad over the weekend and took those for sandwiches this week. 

Payday came this week and again my check was shorted. ::sigh:: I've already texted the school secretary and she will look into it when we go back to school on Tuesday. 

In My Frugal Kitchen:

We went to the bread outlet in Chattanooga this week and found 12 pack of hamburger buns for 50¢, which was a great deal. 

We also went to Food City to pick up their 5 meat items for $14.99 deal. 

On Tuesday Bailey found two hams on markdown at 50% off at Aldi. She also picked up some red grapes and onions. 

Tuesday is our family movie night and we normally eat dinner while we watch a movie. This week we watched the film, Searching, which tells the story through the computer screen. It kept my attention the whole time. 

On Thursday we went to do some grocery shopping and stopped in at Chick-Fil-A to get in on their free 8 piece chicken nugget. It's a freebie on their app available to anyone who has a Chick-Fil-A in their area.

Somehow I got a slow leak in a tire this week. I took it to the place where I bought my tires and they found a small screw in it. They fixed it for me and didn't charge me anything for the repair. 

I hope you all have had a good frugal week. 

~ Living within our Means ~
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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The High Cost of Eating Out

Image Credit
Back when I was growing up going out to eat was considered a real treat.  Times have changed though and these days the number of people who eat out regularly has grown to the point that grocery store shopping is declining. 

According to Eddie Yoon of the Harvard Business Review, grocery shopping and cooking are in a long term decline.  He's conducted a survey that determined Americans fell into one of three categories:

- 10 percent said they love to cook
- 45 percent said they hate to cook
- 45 percent are ambivalent about cooking

These days it is easier than ever to not cook at home and simply eat out. In fact, the average household spent an average of $3,459 on dining out in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.

Yoon states that "even categories that can hardly be considered “cooking” — such as cold, ready-to-eat cereal — are losing sales as people buy breakfast at Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, or even Taco Bell". 

In response to this issue there are even companies today like Fresh Start Foods and Home Chef, which have have created prepared meal kits that include everything needed to cook a quick meal delivered straight to your door. 

Although some of these companies offer special low prices to new customers,  the regular prices can be prohibitive for many people.The downside to the food subscription services is that the you will pay dearly for the time you save in convenience with these services.

Meal kits can be cheaper than eating at a restaurant, but they are still more expensive than buying the ingredients and cooking yourself. 

And these calculations don’t account for the fact that grocery shopping can mean you’re left with extra food that you won't have when you use a meal delivery service. 

For those people with the means to spend money eating out regularly this might not be an issue. But the majority of Americans cannot afford to engage in such a costly habit. Especially when it comes to not having money to pay for everyday expenses like insurance, or an emergency, or having no money set aside for retirement.

Our food budget is one of our bigger expenses each month, which means that we’re very interested in ways to reduce our food spending while also adding variety to our meals. 

~ Living within our Means ~
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