Archive for the ‘Living Frugally’ Category

Frugal Friday


Last week, I posted about how stocking up can save you lots of money when you find great deals and also how important it is to shop the sales and check flyers

…well, I hit the Butter Jackpot!

By checking the sale flyers of local stores, I found out that Haggen was having an Easter weekend sale and was selling Tillamook Butter for $.99/pound!  Since Tillamook is a local and quality brand, Tillamook Butter is one of my “compromise foods” (foods that I would normally buy organic, but will skip the “organic” label if a quality brand is available cheaper).  Typically I find this particular brand at about $2.50/pound or about $1.70 or so if I find a great sale.  Needless to say, $.99/pound is phenomenal (better than even the really awful store brands!).  Of course, as with any good sale, the store limited you to 2 per customer per trip. 

Well, that didn’t stop me!  I went to Haggen once alone and picked up 2 pounds of butter.  Then Mark and I both went and picked up 2 pounds each….then Mark and I went again and picked up another 2 pounds each!  All totalled, we managed to get 10 pounds of butter for just shy of $10!  That is a savings of about $15 and now my freezer is completely stocked up with butter! 

Now, I fully admit that all of these trips took about 40 min to 1 hour of my time this week, but I think that, considering the savings, it was time well spent!

Yay for great sales!  Yay for freezer space!!  Yay for cooperative husbands!!!


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This is part two in a two-part series.  If you missed part one, check it out here!

6.  Eat Real Foods!

Ok, so this is a tip that can cause your budget to shrink or grow.  If you are not worried about consuming organic foods then this doesn’t necessary cause your budget to grow.  Real foods are simple foods in the more natural state.  Potatoes instead of potato chips…boneless, skinless chicken breasts rather than chicken nuggets…quick cooking oats rather than prepackaged sweetened oatmeal…

The basic idea here is that if you are buying processed or highly packaged foods, you are not only paying for the food, but the packaging, the workers at the factories, the physical building where the item is processed and the taxes the corporation must pay!  It all adds up and you end up paying way more than what the food is actually valued at! 

This tip also includes cutting out (or at least cutting back) things like soda and drink mixes.  Mark and I have stopped drinking soda (although he still gets one at work now and again) and this has definitely helped cut back our budget.

7.  Skip the meat!

We love meat and it is good for you too, but it can help your budget if you commit to just one or two meatless meals a week.  Typically, the meat in a dish is the most expensive item. 

We try to eat something like pasta with marinara sauce  or beans and rice at least once a week….it is simple and filling and you won’t even miss the meat if you use some yummy cheese or delicious vegetables!

 There are plenty of yummy vegetarian dishes out there!  I have a few on my recipes page like Black and White Bean ChiliSpinach, Brown Rice and Cheese CasseroleTortilla Casserole, and even my Beef and Veggie Soup with Lentils (just cut the beef)!  Have fun going vegetarian every once in a while!

8.  Stock up!

This is a really big budget saver!  There are so many things that can be easily frozen and stored for later that you really must take advantage of great deals!  Things like meat, tortillas and berries are things that I always stock up on and freeze when I see a great sale!  Thinks like canned goods and bottled beverages can always be stored in the garage or pantry for later use too!

I will use the example of seasonal berries…here in Oregon, you can pick no-spray blueberries for a buck a pound during the late summer months.  So last year, we picked close to 40 pounds of blueberries for a mere $40.  We use them in breads and, of course, Green Smoothies.  If I had bought the equivalent in blueberries at Costco (the best on-going price for frozen blueberries around here), I would have paid $10 for a 5 pound bag…that means I would have paid $80 for my blueberries rather than $40…that’s a savings of $40 just on blueberries for a year!

Also, when meat goes on sale, I clear out a shelf on the freezer and stock up big.  Recently New Seasons was having a sale on meat…they had Boneless Skinless Chicken for $4/pound, Ground Lean Sirloin for $3/lb and Ground Turkey for $3/lb.  I know that those sound like outrageous prices to pay for meat, but since switching to free-range, grass-fed, antibiotic free meats we normally pay $6-$7/lb for chicken and $5/lb for beef and turkey.  Anyway, since meat was so cheap (relatively speaking), I bought up about 40 pounds of chicken breasts and 10 pounds each of sirloin and turkey.  In order to have everything stay nice and fresh, I called the meat department and had them wrap it all in meal sized portions (1.5 lbs of chicken breasts/package and 1 pound of ground meat/package)!  If you aren’t particular about your meat, this might mean stocking up when chicken breasts are on sale at $1.90/pound or ground beef is at $1/pound (my old “stock up” prices).

When things like tomatoes are on sale, you can buy them up and make marinara sauce or salsa and can it to keep for the rest of the year!  If you don’t can (one of my goals for the year is to learn how to), you can easily freeze marinara sauce too (and someone once told me it is easy to freeze tomatoes whole!)!  Or make up a few lasagnas and freeze the whole lasagna for a hassle free meal on night!

9.  Make it Homemade!

You would be amazed at how much money you can save if you make your foods yourself!  Things like bread, tortillas, rolls, muffins, and waffles are SO easy to make yourself (and most freeze beautifully)!  If you want to challenge yourself, try making your own kefir, yogurt, or even cheese.

We make our own pizza dough for pizza night as well as our own “chicken tenders” from bread crumbs and boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

If you are the type of person who buys lots of frozen meals (lasagna, enchiladas, macaroni and cheese, etc.), try making those dishes homemade and freezing them for later use.  I tend to make a double batch of anything freezable.  Before cooking, I put anything that will not be eating that night into the freezer with instructions for how to cook and leave it for another night.  This allows me to save money by buying bulk ingredients when on sale as well as using homemade ingredients AND it saves me time later on!

Check out my Soaked Granola Recipe as well as my Basic Whole Wheat Bread Recipe for a few homemade recipes to help cut your budget!

10.  Never throw it out!

Ok…if it is rotten you can go ahead and thow it out…

However, if you have a jar of spaghetti sauce sitting in the fridge with a mere 1/4 of sauce left, don’t trash it-dump it into a container and stick it in the freezer.  Everytime you have some leftover tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, or tomato paste-add those to the container.  Next time you are making up some yummy marinara sauce (or a lasagna), just thaw your tomato “extras” and dump them into the pan with the rest of the sauce. 

If you have just a tiny amount of meat or beans left after dinner, save them and make up a quesadilla the next day!…Leftover cooked veggies??  Save them and add to your morning eggs!…You get the idea here right?

If you try a new product and don’t like it, first find out if your store will take it back…stores like Costco and Trader Joes (and I believe New Seasons) will gladly take a product back and let you find something different!  If your store doesn’t accept returns, try repurposing the product!  For example….I bought some BBQ sauce awhile back that wasn’t my cup of tea for baking chicken in, so I mixed it with a little tomato sauce and added a few spices and herbs and used it as my sauce on a BBQ chicken pizza….once there was some pineapple, chicken, and pepper on the pizza, the sauce was hardly noticed and the flavor was enjoyable!

Sometimes it simply isn’t possible to return OR repurpose a product.  In this case, I encourage you to see if any close friends or family would like it…if you can’t cut your budget back, might as well help a friends!


Aside from couponing (which can help ANY budget) and growing your own produce/raising your own meat & eggs, these are some simple steps to shrink your grocery budget!  I hope that they were helpful!

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This is Part One of a Two Part series.  Come back next Friday for Part Two!

Lately, I have been thinking about all of the ways that we have started saving money and cutting corners with regard to our food budget.  I thought I would share a few with you…keep in mind that some are really basic and might not be new news to you!

1.  Menu Plan!

This has been HUGE for me!  I can’t tell you how much easier it is to spend money when you are buying foods with no concrete idea of what you are going to do with them.  This is especially true with produce!  I can’t tell you how many peppers, bags of broccoli, or heads of lettuce were tossed after perishing because I thought that they sounded good, but never had a meal in mind for them! 

Menu planning also helps because it allows you to combine needs and shop once.  For example, if you are making three recipes that need slightly less than one onion each you might just buy three onions, BUT you could have bought two and used slightly less onion in each recipe (and even supplemented with dried onion or onion powder).

If you don’t menu plan- I encourage you to give it a try….just try for a few weeks (a month is best)!  For me, it has taken the stress off of “what’s for dinner” and allowed me no room for excuses to eat out or stop at Burgerville! 

2.  Limit Grocery Shopping to once (at most twice) a week

I wanted to leave the “at most twice” part off of this, but lately I have been doing a mid-week trip to get any great deals before stock runs out AND many people find it easier to split their week into two.  Who am I to judge!  The point here is to watch the everyday “I just need to pick up a few things for dinner” routine….it is dangerous….and a slippery slope!  Often that “quick stop” is after work and on the way home…which tends to be a time when you are HUNGRY!  Shopping while hungry is a BIG NO NO-watch yourself….before you know if your cart is full of snacks galore and three times what you planned to spend.  Even the very disciplined tend to pick up a candy bar or a soda pop from the cooler…..it adds up!

This also helps me when it comes to cravings!  There have been times when I watched Giada De Laurentiis make some heavenly pasta dish and JUST HAD TO HAVE IT…..so I made a trip to the store, bought all the special ingredients, grabbed a loaf of bread (who eats pasta without bread, really?), oops….don’t for get a bottle of wine and some veggies…we need a bag of salad and just the right dressing too…!  Bottom line-it gets out of hand quickly and it might just be better to make a note of the recipe for next week and hold off until the next shopping trip….

3.  Follow the sales!

This is a little trickier if you like to try lots of specific new recipes all the time, but for those who are flexible with what you are going to eat, try to plan your meals around the sales.  If chicken is on sale this week, make up three or four chicken dishes and just eat beef or fish once or twice.  If potatoes are on sale, try making twice baked potatoes or homemade fries to supplement a meal.  When freezable items are on sale, buy them and freeze them (more on this in Part Two).  I have general guidelines for grocery prices…If a particular item is much higher than my “good price”, then I will skip it that week and try again later.  This is true for things like apples, oranges, and avocados.  If organic apples are more than $1.50/pound, I will skip them that week and stick with another fruit…if avacados are more than approximately $1.50 each (depending on size)I will probably skip them and try again another week!

4.  Get creative with your pantry!

Leave the cookbook on the shelf for a week!  See what you can make without going to the store for a week.  Ok, you might need to pick up some milk, yogurt, fruits and veggies….but just that and nothing else!  We have had several “eat from the pantry” weeks…trust me, we didn’t starve and the world didn’t end!  Almost everyone has a few boxes of pasta, some rice, a few bags of frozen veggies, some frozen meat, and a few cans of soup or sauce.  It may not be a week full of the most exciting meals one could find, but they will be meals nonetheless! 

If this seems like a big undertaking to you OR you have a super small pantry and don’t really have much stocked up, maybe try just 2 or 3 days of “pantry eating”…it can be challenging at first, but really isn’t too tough once you get some ideas going! 

This is also a GREAT way to clear out your freezer or pantry…every once in a while, you should really get rid of all the random bags of veggies and cans of beans…this is a good way to make that happen!

Also, try to use up your partial bottles of sauces, dressings, marinades by getting creative!   For example, I made something that needed chili sauce awhile back, but chili sauce isn’t really something I use that often.  I used it for my recipe, then went onto allrecipes.com and used the ingredient search to find some more recipes to use it in.  When I still had about 3/4 C. left (after using it in three recipes), I decided to use it as the sauce for our pizza just to use it up and try something new-it was DELICIOUS! 

5.  Keep it simple!

I admit that it can be really fun to cooks a super special meal from a recipe that needs 20 specialty items….it just doesn’t have to happen everyday!  Try to make substitutions to use what you have OR try to find recipes that need some of the same items.  Keep the majority of your meals (75% or so) pretty simple…say less than 10 ingredients (preferably only 1-2 ingredients that you don’t use on a regular basis).

Also, try keeping your fridge cleared out of all the zillions of varieties of dressings…pick two or three that you like and only keep those.  Don’t go out and buy a new marinade every time you are grilling steak, instead pick a good one and supplement it with seasonings and spices from the spice cabinet!

Well, that’s all for now, but come back next week for the second part in the post!

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(picture taken from Moneysavingmom.com)

I came across a post about making your own gift bows from old magazines and I have to say, I am hooked!  I have had a blast making some beautiful bows from old magazines.  It is super easy to do and it is a fun way to personalize your gifts! It is not only a great way to use up some paper that might just get tossed in the trash, but is also a frugal tip for saving on gift wrapping…all you need is a box of brads, a hole punch, and some old papers!

 I actually took this idea and used it for my kiddos Christmas gifts to parents!  I had the kids color (bold markers seemed to produce the best results) on thin paper about 8.5″ X 9″ in size.  Then I used their work to make bows for the gifts!  The kids thought it was pretty cool and the parents LOVED it!  It was definitely one of my better ideas, which is exciting because there are plently of duds to balance it out! 

 Anyway, head over here  to check it out and prepare yourself for a bag full of bows!

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