Frugal Living

Best tips for saving money on groceries

  • Keep a stocked pantry and shop your pantry first
  • Watch grocery sales and only restock your pantry when prices are low
  • Plan your dinner menus in advance – when you know what is for dinner, you are less likely buy prepared foods
  • Your butcher is your friend - if roasts are cheaper than ground beef, ask the butcher to grind the roast for you
  • Shop discount grocers like Aldi and Trader Joe’s
  • Find less expensive spices – many Amish and Mennonite stores offer deeply discounted spices, and spices on on the ethnic food aisle are significantly less expensive than those on the spice aisle
  • If delivery is available in your area, take advantage of it - you won’t be tempted to add extras to your cart if you aren’t at the store
  • Plan your leftovers – food thrown away is money thrown away
  • Give our Frugal Mom Menus a try

Try the Frugal Mom Menu

The Frugal Mom Menu plans frugal dinner menus so you don’t even have to think about it. Just… Print. Shop. Cook. The menus enable you to…

  • Save time – We plan for you
  • Eat out less – You’ll know what’s for dinner each night
  • Feel like a good cook – Our recipes are tried ‘n true, have been tested and family-approved, and are fast and easy
  • Grocery shop with our list – Everything is already included for dinners for the week
  • Save money – No more trips back to the store when there’s nothing in the pantry for dinner despite a huge grocery bill
  • Take advantage of local sales – Because you control when you restock your pantry items, you can buy them when they are on sale

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Free Menu Planner Pages

Trying to keep your grocery bill on budget can be a challenge. There are many websites, articles, and books to give you ideas for your own meal planning on a budget. The most important thing to keep in mind when trying to come in within a grocery budget is that if you don’t have a plan, you will never make your budget goals. The Menus 4 Moms™ meal planner is an excellent tool for this.

The Secret to Saving on Spices

Menus4Moms: Save on Groceries I love to keep a nice variety of spices in my spice collection, but I don’t like paying the typical high prices for them. Keep reading to find out my favorite trick to save money on spices. I have several ways of saving on spices, starting with buying in bulk. Amish and Mennonite stores often have bulk foods that are available at significant savings, but only a few areas have the benefit of these type stores. Warehouse clubs are another great place to buy spices – I can get an enormous jar of Montreal Steak or Montreal Chicken seasoning at Costco for a fraction of the per ounce cost I pay at the grocery store. Since those are two of our favorite seasonings, they definitely don’t go to waste. Store brand spices are always less expensive than name brand, but many stores only carry basic seasonings and herbs in their private label so they usually aren’t much help when looking for anything beyond garlic salt or parsley. Target is one exception, and their Archer Farms brand is a full line of herbs and spices at savings compared to name brands. My favorite money saving strategy when buying spices is to go for the imports. Any locale that has a large enough Hispanic population for a grocery store to have an Hispanic section (not the Old El Paso section) will likely have imported spices. Imported spices are typically sold in bags rather than bottles, which is probably where part of the savings comes from. You can reuse your spice bottles or even use empty baby food jars to repackage bagged spices. Locally, Walmart carries a nice selection of imported spices on the Hispanic aisle a couple of aisles over from the spice aisle. Just within the last couple of weeks I have purchased cinnamon, poppy seeds, and paprika from the Hispanic aisle at a fraction of the cost of the leading national brand. Here are shots of the price labels comparing Great Value paprika (which is the least expensive version on the spice aisle) to the Hispanic bagged version: The imported paprika was only $.44/oz, compared to $.98/oz for the store brand. Compared to a national brand, the savings from the imported version are even more significant – one of the popular national brands was almost $2/oz – over 4 times the cost of the Hispanic version. All those dimes add up over time! [Read More...]

The New (Ab)normal

The New (Ab)normal “Portion sizes have been growing. So have we. The average restaurant meal today is more than four times larger than in the 1950s. And adults are, on average, 26 pounds heavier. If we want to eat healthy, there are a few things we can do for ourselves and our community: Order the smaller meals on the menu, split a meal with a friend, or, eat half and take the rest home.” Not only is all of this extra food adding to our bodies, it’s emptying our wallets. Combining reducing portion sizes with reducing waste, we can save a significant amount of money on our food budget. Drinking water instead of calorie-laden drinks also saves money and calories. Of course, eating at home instead of eating out is almost always healthier and saves money. [Read More...]

Top Ten Budget Busters

Many people make sincere attempts to set up a household budget and get themselves together financially, but too often these attempts fail. And for those with the most difficult financial circumstances, it may take several attempts to finally create a plan that works. We’ve talked a lot about how to get started with budgeting (and back on track), but let’s look at some of the budget busters that may be throwing us off track in the first place. 1. Living on Two Incomes When a couple first starts out, they often have two incomes and will set up their household budget based on that combined total. But as soon as the first financial crisis hits and one of those incomes is reduced or even wiped out, everything can fall apart. The solution: couples should make every effort to live on one income. Use the second income for savings and extras, many of which will be needed due to the additional job. 2. Not Enough Money in Savings – for Emergencies This should be obvious to everyone, and recent financial reports reveal that we’re finally starting to set more and more money aside in savings accounts. congratulations! However, there are still many of you out there who haven’t even opened an account yet. So, when your next paycheck arrives, just DO it! 3. Spending More Money than You Really Need To Ouch. I know that one hurts. The fact is, many of us are still spending too much money, even though we know better! There are lots of things you can do to control spending, if it’s a constant problem for you then make yourself some rules and stick to them. Some of your rules might include: "I won’t buy anything that isn’t on sale – at least 40% off" or, "I won’t buy anything the first time I see it, instead I’ll wait for at least 48 hours – or a week – to see if the ‘need’ passes," or even better, "I won’t buy anything that isn’t on my ‘need’ list!" And families can keep each other on track – "I won’t buy anything that (name of family member) doesn’t agree we should buy." That one will cut out a lot of extra spending, and remember, it goes both ways! 4. Not Keeping Track of the Extra Money You Do Spend If you haven’t ... [Read More...]

Frugal Living Websites

frugal-living-saving-money Great Depression Cooking – 93 year old cook and great grandmother, Clara, recounts her childhood during the Great Depression as she prepares meals from the era. Learn how to make simple yet delicious dishes while listening to stories from the Great Depression. The video featured is the most recent one made, so if you would like to start at the beginning, look for Episode 1. Fractured Frugal Friends – With both free and premium (but inexpensive) content, F3 is a tightknit community of members dedicated to frugal living with very active message boards. You will find articles about bulk cooking, frugal living, and a variety of other topics to help you save money. There is periodically an edition of their online magazine/newsletter in which all content is free; past content is only available to subscribers. Living on a Dime – No matter what your income level, this site will challenge you to think about how your money is spent. Founded by two women who each paid off an extraordinary amount of debt on income that is close to the poverty level, the site contains articles and a blog that will impact the way you think about spending any amount of money. Frugal recipes from Miserly Moms The Dollar Stretcher – TDS is one of the oldest and best frugal sites; be sure to check out their articles on how to save money on groceries and food. Miserly Moms – “Through the use of the tips I share and the other resources recommended, I hope that many people will be able to afford to cut back on working hours or quit altogether in order to spend more time with their family.” (Jonni McCoy) The Budget Decorator – Being on a budget doesn’t mean your home can’t be warm and inviting. Smart Spending Resources – Home of the Smart Spending Guide, this site is from Faye Prosser and offers a variety of articles and resources to help you save money and live frugally. About.com’s Frugal Living – A variety of resources from about.com Better Budgeting – Stretching your dollars and resources for a better life [Read More...]

Tablescaping Chic on the Cheap

Most of us who are decorating on a budget at some point decide to entertain in our homes, and would like to do so with a little pizzazz! Unfortunately, many TV shows and magazines would have you believe you must spend $100 and up (on a budget, they claim) to dress your table for an event. Nonsense! Here are some great ways to create a smashing tablescape using creativity, not cash! Choose a theme for your table. It could be a color theme, nature, sports, holiday, tea party or a celebration. Use your imagination. Now create a centerpiece. Remember to keep it low so that people can talk comfortably over it! This is where the most emphasis will be on your table, so put your effort and budget right here! Use cardboard boxes or upside down bowls or pans under a tablecloth to add height to the centerpiece. If you are really looking for drama, create one taller platform, and then several slightly shorter platforms for accent pieces. Now using your theme, search for things you own or can buy inexpensively to create your piece. Large and small vegetables from the supermarket, clean terra cotta pots filled with flowers, inexpensive glass balls in a bowl, even a football over a draped jersey! (Ok, make sure we’ve cleaned it well, here!) You can add smaller items to the lower platforms if you choose! Next step is to add candles. You can skip this step if young children will be attending. Candles can be bought quite inexpensively at the dollar store or on clearance. Don’t have any candleholders? No problem! Votives and tea lights can be popped into old teacups, apples can be cored to hold a taper candle, or you can just set pillars and votives on top of an old wall mirror or picture frame used as a tray! Finally, add some finishing touches. Sprinkle confetti all over the table (can be made with scissors and old colorful magazine pages), lay out pretty stones for a nature theme, print faux sports tickets out on the computer as place cards, wind leftover ribbon through your centerpiece, or sprinkle flower petals all around. Set out your place settings, tie ribbon around the napkins and chair backs, and fold cloth napkins you sew yourself out of scrap fabric to be placed prettily in the water glass. Most importantly, showcase your creativity, and have a great time with your friends and family! Copyright 2003 K. Wilson Kathleen Wilson is the author of Quick Decorating Ideas Under $20:The Budget Decorator’s Bible and Editor of the free ezine, The Budget Decorator. You can find thousands of budget decorating ideas and sign up for her free newsletter at http://www.TheBudgetDecorator.com. [Read More...]

Meals For Hard Times

This series from Dee Ann Guzman has been helpful to hundreds of moms suddenly finding themselves in hard times and needing to feed a family with the absolute minimum amount. The prices may be off due to rising grocery costs, but the overall plan is still helpful. I am writing this for Moms who sometimes have to feed several children on very little money. We all get to this place at one time or another. I don’t know where you live, but I live in Oklahoma. Here, Save-a- Lot foods is one of the best places to pick up deals. However on the West coast, I used to shop at Grocery Warehouse. If you have one of these nearby you are certainly blessed. Their logo has a rainbow on the building usually. Now, I am going to assume that all your husband can give you is $30. Maybe he can only give $20, and I’ll show you where to adjust. Here, chicken quarters are sometimes on special for .29/lb. So for two weeks I would probably buy 2-3 of those. If they are more expensive I would buy two, but at .29/lb. I would buy 3. Shop for sales with your news paper before going out. Plan your route in advance to save money on gas. Assuming that you bought 3 chicken quarters we’ve already spent $9. The next thing on the list is bacon, salt pork or very cheap ham. Now I am going to assume that you have dry beans in the house. If you don’t they must be purchased. The bacon can be bought in ends and pieces the cheapest, and this is perfect for using the ways I will suggest. If you spend $3 on the bacon, and $3 on the beans, we have spent $15. Now if you can,  pick up some ground turkey at Save-a-Lot. Try to get 4 chubs @ .69/chub. So you have spent $2.80 more or $17.80. Now here is where things get sticky. First of all you need two things more to get through – milk and eggs. Now milk and eggs is something I always have, due to my goats and chickens. In fact it has been awhile since I have been in a really desperate situation, because of homesteading. However I started homesteading to help prevent us getting into a bad spot (within the Lord’s will of course). So at this point, on $30 you should purchase: 1 gallon of milk and 3 dozen eggs. The milk is NOT for drinking. Use the milk for cooking. On $20 you should drop 10Lb of chicken to get your milk and buy 2 dozen eggs. Now on $20 you are done. On thirty dollars the balance should be made up with Ramen noodles, a can or 2 of tomato paste, a bag of potatoes, cornmeal, peanut butter and frozen vegetables. ... [Read More...]

These Hard Economic Times

I keep asking myself, “Has the world gone crazy?” What are people talking about when they say “these hard economic times?” I am so confused because I hear so many people say these are such hard economic times but, at the same time, what I see happening with my own eyes and hearing with my ears is a totally different story. Let me give you some examples what I mean. Are these examples of hard economic times? Last year we spent more at Christmas and all year shopping than the year before. Americans spend 500 million dollars a year to have their teeth whitened – not cleaned, just whitened to look nice. A single mom on welfare spends $350 on a cell phone– not on the calls, just the cell phone. On a home shopping show they were selling American Girl dolls for $135. The woman selling it said “Kit is our most popular doll.” The other woman said “That is probably because Kit represents the Depression Era and girls nowadays relate so well to that because they have to sacrifice and give up so many things in these hard economic times.” They sold out of the doll. This meant several thousand of these poor little girls who have had to give up so much received a $135 doll for Christmas. What was it they had to sacrifice? Maybe it was the $25 outfits that went with the doll. (I have never paid $25 for an outfit for myself let alone for a doll!!) A woman just lost one of her part time jobs. She was sobbing and crying because her family was going to have to sell their house, which they could no longer afford. For the past several years they have been making very good money but they have been spending it on everything including $150,000 for decorating their home, several trips a year for the whole family to travel across the country and to Canada for sports events their sons wanted to play in, buying a couple of new cars every year, eating out frequently and the so on. Even after she lost her job they still took another cross country trip to go to a game. After coming totally unglued about the thought of having to sell the house she was asked if they might be able to save the house if they would cut back on their spending a little. Her reply was, “No way. I hate to scrimp and save and do without. I won’t live like that.” As my son in law loves to say “Allllrighty then…” My brother just met a man who restores hot rods for a living. When asked if things are getting harder for him the man laughed and said “No, I’m doing better than I ever have and ... [Read More...]

How to Save Money on Groceries by Reducing Food Waste

Menus4Moms: Save on Groceries Most articles on maximizing your food dollars focus on buying food in bulk, buying food at warehouses, stocking up at sales and related tips. The theme is to always buy as much food as possible for the least amount of money. These tips do work, especially if you have a large family. However, one often overlooked aspect of saving money on food is to buy just the amount your family needs and avoid any waste. A study from a researcher at the University of Arizona concluded that American households dump $43 billion worth of food a year. This is approximately 14 percent of the food brought into the home, not including plate scrapings. This amounted to $590 worth of meat, fruits, vegetables and grain products being discarded per household annually. Over a ten year period, that amounts $5,900! If that money had been invested each year instead of being wasted on uneaten food, the ten year amount of potential dollar savings would have been even greater. If you think you could use an extra $5,900 ten years from now, here are some tips to get you started on preventing food waste. For more information, visit the Always Frugal web site for additional ideas on how to save money on food by preventing waste. 1. Always go to the store with a list and plan your meals carefully. Note that in general, the longer of a period you have to buy for, the more difficult it becomes to accurately estimate how much food your family will eat. 2. If you want to save time on grocery shopping, then going just once a week is a good idea. If you want to save money on food waste and you haven’t got your meal planning skills down to a science, try just shopping for a day or two in advance. As you get better at meal planning, you will be able to plan and buy foods more efficiently for longer periods. 2. Have periodic nights designated as “leftover nights”. Keep some staples on hand like pasta, spaghetti sauce, frozen ground beef and frozen broccoli in case you end up not having enough leftovers to make a complete meal. 3. Check the refrigerator each day, and eat or freeze anything that is nearing the end of its safe storage period. 4. Rotate your canned and boxed goods frequently so that the products in the back don’t get forgotten about before they get too old to eat. 5. Periodically use up all of the food in your freezer. Then restock it with food from warehouse and discount food stores. 6. Don’t just plan your shopping list, but plan when you are going to have time to make the food you are buying as well. Be realistic about how much time you really have in your schedule for cooking. One of the problems found in the University of Arizona study was that people would have good intentions at the grocery store and buy fresh produce, but then would not have time to prepare it. As a ... [Read More...]

Save Up to 50% on your grocery bill!

Menus4Moms: Save on Groceries I have discovered the secret of saving money feeding babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Well, I can’t take the credit for it. My mom taught it to me many years ago but I didn’t put it into practice until the first financial crisis we had when my husband was laid off. What I have been practicing now for many years has now become one of the new buzz phrases — “portion control”. Usually when we think of portion control it is in connection with dieters and not young children or saving money. Most American parents serve themselves and their children huge portions of food. Their families eat only part of it, and then they discard the rest. Next time you scrape those half eaten plates of food into the trash, think about this: 30% to 50% of the food and drinks we buy, whether we eat at home or out, get thrown away. If you don’t believe it’s true, observe your own family this week. How many half full bowls of soggy cereal do you throw away? What about half empty glasses of juice, milk or pop? It is easy to forget that children under the age of four have only about a quarter of an adult’s body weight. Often, we feed them adult portions and when we do give them smaller portions, each portion is usually only reduced to about half an adult portion. Do you use that large serving spoon and dump a full spoon of food on your child’s plate? Say you give yourself two spoons of green beans and your child one– That means that you have given yourself about 24 green beans and your child 12 when in reality, that child needs only about six. When deciding how much food to give your kids, start small and work your way up. Remember, if they eat what is on their plates you can always give them more. Use the same method for drinks. Even a small sippy cup should only be filled half full. This not only reduces the amount that you throw away, but also reduces the losses from spills. Another great way to save a lot of money is to give children more water. In addition to serving children overly large portions, failing to give them enough water leads to obesity. At this point, many parents point out that young children need lots of milk and juice. That is true to a degree, but consider this: The USDA recommends 12 oz of milk per day for children under 4. That is equal to two sippy cups. Don’t forget that kids get milk from other sources too, including milk with their cereal and cheese. We think the more juice and milk they get the better, but once kids have had as much as they need nutritionally, the rest just adds calories. If you are ready to cut the waste from your food budget, here are a few more tips to save money and make your life easier: Cut the crust off your child’s sandwich before ... [Read More...]

Saving On Your Grocery Budget When You’re Tired

Menus4Moms: Save on Groceries Robbi writes: I have fibromyalgia and a host of other ailments, most of them chronic. There are days when I just want to grab the first things I see and get out of the store and back home to rest. How do you get your shopping done for the week without killing yourself and destroying your budget in the process? Jill: I know it can be very hard to go to the grocery store when you are sick. My daughter Tawra and I both have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and once went, parked in the store parking lot and had to turn around and drive right back home because we were too exhausted after just making the short drive to get there. Boy, did we feel dumb. Here are a couple of ideas that may help a little. First, always keep a list. That may be hard because for me, by the time I find a pencil, I usually forget what I was going to write down. HA!HA! The list helps you not only to remember things, but also helps you decide what to buy. I am usually so sick at the store that nothing sounds good, so making myself buy just what is on my list helps. I also go to the smallest grocery store in my area. Walking up and down long isles just kills me. I like Aldi’s because it not only helps me save money but is smaller. You may find it easier to buy a month’s worth of staples all at once. Then, just go once a week to buy the fresh items. The fresh items are on the outside wall of most grocery stores so I can sometimes walk that distance if I don’t have to go up and down each isle where the staples are. Make a floor plan of your store. When you buy items that always seem hard to find (for me it is syrup), make a note of the location on your floor plan. Then you don’t have to wear yourself out wandering the isles aimlessly. Price Match. Some superstores will match the prices of their competitors ads.  I take my ads in and purchase all my loss leader sale items at one store.  Then I don’t have to go from store to store purchasing the exceptional deals. I can get the sale price all at one store. Ask if your store will do this and it can save time and money. To help save money, ask your butcher when he marks down the meat. The same goes for produce and bakery items. That way you can plan to do your shopping when the bargains are right there. You don’t have to go hunting for them. Keep you meals simple. Don’t feel guilty if you get to the grocery store and only have the energy to buy milk and cereal. Guilt drains you. Once I stopped fighting and feeling guilty about what I couldn’t do and what other people would think about what I wasn’t doing, I actually started ... [Read More...]

Save Money Being Polite

People often ask how I always get such good deals, like the excellent deal I got on my washer and dryer. One of the ways I am able to get better prices on things is just by being nice. A lot of times, if I have a problem and have to talk to customer service, I will get extra items on top of my original purchase just because when I called I was nice about my complaint (like additional formula coupons on top of free formula when I got a bad container). Because we sell products, we also have to deal with customers who have problems with their orders. Even after 10 years I am always amazed at how just plain rude some people are when they have a problem. What’s funny is that most of the time with rude people, the problem is their fault for not following directions. It is amazing how many people immediately assume you are trying to rip them off and don’t even give you the benefit of the doubt to ask nicely and try to get help first before being nasty. We get MANY emails like this each month. Yes, the nice ones still outweigh the nasty by a long way thankfully! If you are a person who immediately jumps to negative conclusions when you buy something, it could be costing you money, time and your health. People who immediately respond out of anger cause themselves stress when a problem is minor and easily solved and many customer service people will not try as hard to help if someone comes at them with guns blazing. So how do you get the best customer service from a company? (i.e. problem resolved, money back, discount on items) When dealing with companies start by asking nicely. Assume that the company will help you and that the problem you are having is just a simple mistake before getting nasty. Give the full details of the problem you are experiencing. When you contact customer service online or by phone, don’t simply say, "It doesn’t work". Explain what happens when it doesn’t work. If the customer service person can’t see your computer or the item in your hand, she won’t understand what you are talking about. State how it doesn’t work. Did the page on the computer give you an error message when it didn’t work? If it’s something like a flashlight, did it not work when you turned on the switch? If it has more than one component, does part of it not work? "The flashlight part works, but the laser pointer doesn”t…" Did you put in batteries? Give details of the problem and explain anything you might have tried to solve it before you contacted customer service. ("I changed the batteries", "It flashes on intermittently when I turn on the switch", etc.) Always keep your receipt. If it’s easy for the support person to look up the details of your order, you’ll get faster service. If you order things on-line keep a ... [Read More...]

Save on Groceries Before You Leave Home

One of the easiest ways to save money on your grocery bill starts before you even leave the house. It’s no extra work, you don’t have to deprive yourself of anything and you don’t have to clip any coupons. What is it? Stop wasting food. On average most families throw away 50% of the food they buy. If you have trouble believing that then watch your family’s eating habits for the next few days. How many times did your child eat only half of his lunch or dinner or drink only half of his glass of milk or juice? How much food gets thrown away when you wash dishes? How many fruits and vegetables have rotted and been tossed? How much meat have you thrown away because it is freezer burned? And what about those leftovers in the fridge or the cartons of sour milk? If this is you, do you realize if you spend $400 a month on groceries you are literally throwing $200 of it into the trash? What would you think if someone you knew took two $100 bills and threw them away?!? That would make dumpster divers out of the most genteel among us. Better planning keeps you from throwing away so much food, saving you money! Here are some ideas on how to help you to stop the waste: Only fill a child’s (or adult’s) glass half full if they normally don’t drink it all. You can always give them more when that is gone. If they do have left over milk or juice at the end of the meal put it in the fridge for them to finish at another time. When you get ready to cook a piece of meat like a roast or chicken, plan ahead. For example, when I take a roast out to thaw I don’t think, “Ok, we’ll have roast and mashed potatoes tonight.” But I think “I will have roast and mashed potatoes tonight, Bar-B-Q beef tomorrow and beef and noodles the next night.” That way you won’t find yourself three days later gazing guiltily at that dying leftover roast thinking, “I really should do something with this but what?” and then end up throwing it out a week later. Check your fridge the night before you go to the grocery store. That way you can plan your menus and choose what to buy based on the leftovers you have. If all else fails, make one night a week as leftover night. That’s when you set out all your odds and ends of leftovers for everyone to polish off. This is especially good if you do it the night before you buy groceries because this leaves your fridge empty for the new things you are buying tomorrow. Jill Cooper raised two teenagers alone on $500 a month income after becoming disabled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She is the co-author of Dinging On A Dime Cookbook. To read more of Jill’s articles and for ... [Read More...]

Save Money on Your Home Energy Costs this Winter

Approximately 40% of winter home energy bills involves heating.  Here are some simple tips for cutting back on your home energy costs this winter: Heating: Change furnace air filters regularly (once a month or according to manufacturer’s recommendations). Schedule a cleaning/maintenance call each year for your furnace. Install a programmable thermostat. Turn down the heat one degree during the day.  Lower the heat by ten degrees at night. Make sure your furniture and carpets don’t cover or block vents or air ducts. Insulating: Add weather-stripping around doors and windows. Install thermo-pane windows in your home. Insulate your top floor ceilings and attic. Replace window screens with storm windows. Close the damper on the chimney flue when not in use. Cover your windows with insulated blinds or curtains.  Or make window quilts for the winter months. Insulate yourself!  Wear a sweater and insulated slippers in the house.  Buy a down comforter for your bed. Lighting: Use compact florescent lights, especially in outside lighting like porch lights that are left on for long periods of time. Use photo-cells or motion sensors for outdoor lights. Open drapes when the sun is shining in your windows (helps to provide both light and passive heat), and be sure to remember to close the drapes at night to keep the heat in. Turn off lights when you leave a room. Appliances: Insulate your older water heater. General rule of thumb:  If you aren’t using it, turn it off! Unplug electronics and electric appliances when not in use (battery chargers, hair appliances, computers). Use a power strip as a central turn off point for electronics, videos games, and computers when not in use.. Use the right size pot on the stovetop. Cleaning: Always run full loads of both laundry and dishes. If you have a newer model dishwasher, don’t rinse dishes prior to putting them in the dishwasher. Install an energy efficient showerhead which will not only save on water usage, but also save money on water heating. Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. Hot water heating uses 90% of the electricity used to run your washing machine. Use the correct water level when washing clothes. Don’t over-dry your clothes.  Hang to dry — or to finish drying — whenever possible. Empty your lint trap before each load. © Deborah Taylor-Hough Used with permission. All rights reserved. About the Author: Deborah Taylor-Hough (wife and mother of three) is the author of several books including the bestselling Frozen Assets: Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month and Frugal Living for Dummies. For regular frugal tips and ... [Read More...]

Save on School Lunches

It’s August and that familiar time of year when yellow school buses fill the neighborhoods. You’re back to hectic mornings, finding everyone’s books and papers and trying to get them out of the door on time… and you now have 180 lunches to make over the next 9 months if you have 1 child and 720 if you have 4 — But hey, who’s counting? I can’t help you eliminate all of the hectic morning activity, but maybe I can help you with those 720 lunches.  Here are a few lunch and snack ideas from Dining On A Dime: Eat Better, Spend Less that will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. To keep drinks cold in lunch boxes, pour a small amount in the bottom of the container (not glass) and then set the cap loosely on top. Put it in the freezer overnight. The next day fill with the rest of the drink. The ice should slowly melt all day long, keeping the beverage cool. Have the kids pre-package chips and cookies in bags on the weekends. Store in a basket. Grab one out as needed for lunches. Make a large batch of puddings and gelatins on the weekends. Pour into individual containers and refrigerate. Save the catsup and mustard packets and napkins you don’t use from the fast food restaurants. Use them in lunch boxes. Puddings – sprinkle with marshmallows, coconut, nuts, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips or peanut butter chips (for chocolate pudding) or berries (in vanilla pudding) Banana, pumpkin or zucchini bread Tuna, egg or chicken salad sandwich Tuna salad and crackers Sandwiches made from last night’s dinner meat (ie. roast beef, chicken ,turkey) Pickles Ants on a log-celery with peanut butter inside and raisins on the peanut butter Hot dogs Canned fruit Carrot sticks, celery sticks or radishes with Ranch dressing Homemade granola bars or cookies Apple Oatmeal Bars Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the editors of http://www.LivingOnADime.com . As a single mother of two, Jill Cooper started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income. Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 debt in 5 years on $22,000 a year income. Tawra and Jill are the authors of several frugal living ebooks,including Dining On A Dime, Groceries On A Dime, and Penny Pinching Mama. [Read More...]

Saving Time and Money with Stashes

Gas is nearly $3.20 a gallon here in northeast Wisconsin. My husband and I are fortunate that we both work at home, so we don’t have commuting expenses. But there are still many places we have to go. With the nearest large city an hour away, we’re trying to conserve gas by combining trips there. For example, if I need to take someone to the doctor for a check-up, I think ahead to which stores I pass by on the way home, where I can pick up needed items as long as I’m in the neighborhood. I’m also being careful about how many short trips I make around our little town. I don’t go to the library unless I also need to stop by the bank, which is a few blocks over. I put book orders to be shipped in my bike basket and ride to the post office, unless I have a heavy box of books to ship. These activities help me save gas. But what’s really helped us limit the amount of driving we’re doing these days is something I’ve done for years: keeping stashes. Ever since my kids were little, I’ve stockpiled doubles or triples of items we use frequently. There’s nothing like the 3 am discovery that your baby has a high fever and you’ve run out of fever reducer to make you realize that it’s really smart to keep spares of such things on hand. I have a lot of stashes in my house (I describe them in detail in The Imperfect Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling), and they’ve made my life as a mom and homemaker much easier, while also saving money. But now that the price of gas is so high compared to just a few years ago, I find that the stash concept is saving me more money than ever. To start a stash, you buy two of every item you use regularly in your household. This means you always have a spare, and don’t waste gas or time running out for a last minute replacement. Besides, you’re going to use the same amount of gas going back and forth to the store whether you buy two bottles of ketchup or one. So why not buy two? (Take this concept a step further by only buying these items when they’re on sale, and you’re now reducing your grocery bills as well as the amount of gasoline that you use.) One important thing to remember about stashes is ... [Read More...]

Stop Eating Your Way Into Debt

At this time of year, there are usually 3 things people are panicking about: how to lose weight, how to save money, and how to get organized. We have already touched on losing weight so this week I would like to touch on saving money. Hopefully most of you realize that you can get into deep debt if you buy a house or a car you can’t afford. That seems to be pretty obvious, although a lot of people do it anyway. But that is not what I want to deal with today. The Bible talks about the little foxes that spoil the vine. What that is talking about is the little things that sneak into our lives without us realizing it. They start picking away at the vines in our lives until it destroys us. One of those “little foxes” is eating out. Eating out is among the of the top causes of personal debt. Most of us hunt for the best interest rates on our mortgages and we complain about the awful price of gas the whole time we are pumping it. Interestingly enough though, I have yet to hear one person groan about the awful prices they had to pay for lunch today or tell how they were “duped” into having to pay such high prices at their favorite restaurant. I mean really, the government should step in and make all restaurants take steak off of their menus so I won’t be tempted to order it. Of course then there are those fast food places. They shouldn’t be allowed to build so close to the road and make it so convenient for me to drive in there each day. They have a lot of nerve expecting me to be a responsible adult who knows what I can or can’t afford and should or shouldn’t do. Tut, tut. I had better behave or I will have to fire myself. HA! HA! But I do feel so much better for getting that off of my chest. Anyway where was I? Oh, yes — saving money and eating out. I know most of the excuses we use to justify eating out when it doesn’t really fit in the budget: “I don’t have time”, “I’m too busy”, “I don’t know how to cook”, and last but not least, “it’s so much easier to eat out”. I totally understand. I too don’t have time to do things. I don’t have time to take care of my yard, so I will hire a crew of gardeners to do it. I too don’t have time to clean my house so I will have a housekeeper come in every day and do it for me. I don’t know how to cook so I need a chef (the best French one, of course) and it is so much easier to hit my garage sales if I am chauffeur driven. Obviously my examples are tongue in cheek but, as ridiculous as that all sounds, that really is what a lot of us ... [Read More...]

Well Stocked Pantry: Freezer

Part 1: The well-stocked pantry Part 2: Pantry items Part 3: Refrigerator items Part 4: Freezer items Part 1: The well-stocked pantry Part 2: Pantry items Part 3: Refrigerator items Part 4: Freezer items [Read More...]

Well Stocked Pantry: Refrigerator & Produce

Part 1: The well-stocked pantry Part 2: Pantry items Part 3: Refrigerator items Part 4: Freezer items Part 1: The well-stocked pantry Part 2: Pantry items Part 3: Refrigerator items Part 4: Freezer items [Read More...]

Well Stocked Pantry: Non-perishables

chalkboardpaintjars18 Part 1: The well-stocked pantry Part 2: Pantry items Part 3: Refrigerator items Part 4: Freezer items Part 1: The well-stocked pantry Part 2: Pantry items Part 3: Refrigerator items Part 4: Freezer items [Read More...]

The Well Stocked Pantry

A well-stocked pantry can be the difference between mealtime crisis and a stress-free family dinner. No one cook’s pantry will look the same as another, but you can determine what should be in your pantry by what you use often. We break down our list into Pantry, Refrigerated, and Freezer Items in the Busy Mom Menu and Frugal Mom Menu because keeping the freezer and refrigerator well-stocked is just as important as keeping a stocked pantry. We do not suggest that you go out out and purchase everything you see on these lists. Purchase only what you use and stock up over time as you begin using the menus. A good primer on stocking your pantry is Saving Time and Money With Stashes. Many perishable items that you might think you can’t stock can actually be frozen until you need them. Lunch meat, cheese, pepperoni slices, and even milk can be frozen until needed. Many of us are used to thinking this way about fresh meat, but don’t apply the same reasoning to other perishable items. Once you get in the habit of keeping a stocked kitchen, you will find that your grocery bill decreases. It is not because you are buying less, but because you are paying less. If your pantry isn’t stocked, you have to pay whatever the current price is for basic items, but with a stocked pantry you simply refresh your supply when you find the items on sale. Discount grocers are a wonderful place to stock your pantry. Discount grocers are outlet type stores that sell overstocked items, dented cans, or out of date items (most of which, like cereal, are so preservative-filled that they will never go bad) for a discount. Many discount grocers can accept food stamps, but most will not accept coupons. Check with each store for their policy. Small chain stores like Aldi and Sharp Shopper offer good deals on select items, and there are many similar stores with a handful of locations across the country. Save-A-Lot is a chain that has over a thousand locations, although it does not offer discounts quite as deep as Aldi and Sharp Shopper. Dollar stores often carry groceries as well, but you have to price check carefully. Some items are a good deal and others may actually be cheaper elsewhere. Part 1: The well-stocked pantry Part 2: Pantry items Part 3: Refrigerator items Part 4: Freezer items [Read More...]

Seven Tips to Help With Household Budgeting

frugal-living-saving-money Do you frequently get cash from ATMs and then have no idea where it ends up? Do you end up paying late fees simply because you don’t have a good system in place for tracking and paying your bills? If you don’t have a good budget system in place, it is easy to lose track of your hard earned money. The tips below can help you to keep your finances under control. Keep your financial records organized and your filing up to date. Have a set of file folders for items such as receipts, bills, canceled checks, checking account statements, etc. Have a designated place where you keep or can easily assemble your master budget, your financial files, checkbook, etc. so it is all in one convenient location. Avoid spending cash, unless you are good at writing down cash expenses in a journal. It is all too easy to get $100 from the ATM and then have no idea where it all went at the end of the week. If you have trouble figuring out where your cash gets spent, keep a small amount of cash on hand for minor purchases. For everything else, try to pay by either a paper check, online checking or through credit cards so you have a record of your purchases. Credit cards are a good way to track purchases unless you have trouble controlling your spending. If this applies to you, then avoid credit card purchases and focus on keeping track of your expenses in a journal or by paying for items by check. Give your children a set allowance for things like movies, CDs, snacks and toys instead of just giving them money on as needed basis. Giving children an allowance teaches them to make wise spending choices at an early age. A twelve year old who spends all of his allowance right away on CDs and then doesn’t have enough money to go to the movies with his friends on the weekend has just learned a good lesson on the negative consequences of impulse spending. Have a system in place for handling the mail. If you are not in the habit of misplacing bills or checks, good for you. Keep on using whatever system you have in place now. However, if losing track of bills is an issue at your house, it may help to have a designated mail drop box inside the house. Each family member should be instructed that whoever brings in the mail that day should always put the mail in the designated mail box for later sorting. Then the family member who has responsibility for sorting the mail should do so near the financial folders. That way checks get put right away in the check folder, bills in the bill folder, etc. Avoid going to stores where you have had problems overspending in the past. Our neighbors stopped shopping at warehouse clubs and actually ended up saving money. They found they spent more money by not being able to resist all of the ... [Read More...]

How to Maximize Coupon Savings

In the past week there has been some discussion on the Menus4Moms™ Yahoo Group about the Grocery Game (http://www.thegrocerygame.com/). I thought I would take this opportunity to share some of my feelings on ways to grow your coupons savings while grocery shopping. First, let me say that I have also used the Grocery Game on and off for the past couple of years. I have recently returned to AVID coupon shopping and have saved $841 using coupons since mid-March (net savings – reduced by the cost of Grocery Game, additional newspapers and coupons I have purchased online). I like the Grocery Game because it reminds me of any sales I may have missed while doing my own research. However, I dislike that they only update the site on Sundays when the new coupon inserts come out, which only gives me 3 days to work with their list (as my local grocery store starts sales on Wednesday). I also dislike the fact that they consistently leave items off the list that are on sale; for example, this week Eggo waffles are on sale at my local grocery store but it is no where on the list. Like I said, I do not count on them for all the deals but merely for things I may have overlooked. My best couponing info now comes from http://www.hotcouponworld.com/ as it has forums that give advance notice of the sales at a variety of stores (grocery stores, drug stores, etc.) as well as regular discussion by other couponers on good deals they have received. They also have a coupon database where you can look up coupons to see when they were in an insert or where you might be able to find a printable coupon online. This site is also good for coupon newbies as there are LOTS of helps for getting started and how to maximize your savings with coupons!! I have learned much there!! Oh, and there is also an area to trade coupons. The other thing I have learned with couponing is that you need to have more than 1 coupon to truly maximize your savings. The trick is to buy several of an item that is on sale and store it away (aka stockpile) until you need it. If cereal goes on sale every other month, you should use coupons and buy as many as you can reasonably afford and will use until the next sale (use 7 boxes in 2 months, then buy 7 if you can afford it); otherwise, if you only buy 1 box of cereal when it is on sale but then have to buy 6 more at full price before the next sale you haven’t maximized your savings. To help with this, I have a couple of friends that give me their coupon inserts from their Sunday paper plus I have the my own paper that I get; I also purchase a couple of newspapers from Kansas City (the nearest big city to us) as they have more coupons ... [Read More...]

Saving Time and Money at the Grocery Store

Menus4Moms: Save on Groceries Most experts agree that customer loyalty in the grocery sector is virtually dead. Ten years ago it was somewhat unusual for a consumer to drive past the closest grocery store to shop at a competing store. Today, within a few mile radius, eight supercenters and chains can be fighting it out, in a market which the experts might say can only support three or four. So while the chains struggle to find their niche and battle on price, the price conscious shopper benefits. It’s a critical juncture for the grocers. Food price inflation has softened and along with flat demand, has caused profit margins to decrease in the supermarket channel. Many industry observers believe that the supermarket industry has failed to believe that the so-called “time-crunched” shopper will, in fact, travel to a number of stores to find the deals and products they are looking for. And gas prices be damned, they will do so even if it means extending the overall duration of their shopping trip. Today, the fragmentation of the grocery-shopping trip is an undeniable trend in the industry. So, today’s grocery shopper is prepared to use their feet and cars to save money but more than ever they are using their fingers, their laptops and even their handhelds to save significant dollars, every week. In general, today’s consumer has turned into the “pre-shopper extraordinaire”. Whether it’s clothing, electronics, automotive or computer, the consumer will do her homework first, on-line. Comparison shopping sites rule the internet allowing shoppers to learn more about the products they wish to purchase and then find the best price. With the growth of e-commerce, price comparison has become the dominant theme for on-line shoppers. So the comparison- shopping world has become the focus of a new breed of buyer, “the prosumer”, the proactive consumer. Now it’s time to welcome the grocery “prosumer” to the electronic age. For ions, the sharp grocery shopper has saved by comparing prices in the weekly flyers/circulars that arrive on your doorstep, via your daily newspapers. Flyer production is a multi-billion dollar business and research indicates that an amazing 67%(Newspaper Association of America) of female heads of households use the flyers to plan their shopping trips. Similarly, manufacturers across the United States offered $375 billion, that’s right billion, in paper coupons last year, everything from peanut butter to laundry detergent. Until recently, the planning component required effort to manually sift through the weekly circulars to identify the best deals and to prepare the shopping list. But things are changing and changing fast. Free on-line services are now available where weekly advertised deals are right at the consumers fingertips with the shopping list only a few keystrokes away. Consumers can select the stores they shop at, make a list of the products they want and then search for the best deals or they can simply skim the flyers by store, similar to the way they used to ... [Read More...]

Save on Groceries

Menus4Moms: Save on Groceries It seems like every time there is an increase in the price of fuel, the price of food goes up. With all of the food that is transported from far away this makes sense, except that the price of food never seems to go back down when gas prices return to lower levels. We’ve found several ways to help us save on groceries that can be applied for most people no matter where you live. Most of them integrate with the Busy Cook’s Pyramid, which can save you time as well as money. Don’t Shop on an Empty Stomach – We all know that everything looks better when you are hungry, so stave off that monster by eating before you shop. Shop Sales – When your local stores have specials on the most expensive items that you normally purchase, buy them on sale. For meats that you use in casseroles and other main dishes, the best way to save time and money is to buy it in bulk when it is on sale and cook it before freezing. Buying chicken at its lowest price and grilling it is our favorite way to stock the freezer with chicken to use in casseroles, soups, and stove top meals. The same is true for ground beef. Buying it on sale saves money, cooking it all at once saves time, and freezing it in its cooked form saves freezer space. Use Coupons – We are big fans of coupons but only for items that you usually buy or were wanting to try. Coupons that induce you to buy expensive items that you wouldn’t normally purchase are more of a hindrance than a help. Sites like The Coupon Mom and The Grocery Game can help you combine coupons in your local paper with sale items at nearby stores. Shop Discount Stores – Not everyone has a discount grocer nearby, but if you do, they can save you a lot of money. Discount grocers often carry foods at a deep discount that are out of expiration date or have damaged packaging. Keep in mind that expiration dates on boxed, canned, or frozen foods don’t mean that the food goes bad on that date, just that freshness may be compromised. Nutrition obviously peaks during the dates prior to expiration dates but these foods are edible (and often flavorful and nutritious) far beyond the expiration date. Shop Amish and Mennonite Stores – If you live in an area that has an Amish or Mennonite store, you can buy spices, pasta, grains, and many other items at bulk prices without having to buy enormous quantities. These stores buy large quantities of dry goods in bulk and repackage them in smaller quantities at prices far below what you will find in most grocery stores. Shop Local Farmer’s Markets – From fish and meat to vegetables, you will find good deals on fresh nutritious foods at your local farmer’s market. In addition to the high nutrient value due to the shortest distance from farm to table, you ... [Read More...]

6 Money Saving Tips for Hosting a Child’s Birthday Party

Kids love parties, but what they really love is when the party is for them. The process of planning and throwing the party can be a fun time for parents as well. But it can also become quite easy to go over budget as the ideas, creativity and excitement begin to grow. However, with some careful planning and frugal practices, you can learn to still have a wonderful party that will not leave you broke in the end. Tip #1: Bulk Foods Cost Less Preparing menu items which can be made in large quantities will in the end cost much less than purchasing or preparing multiple smaller dishes. Make sure the food item is something that kids generally enjoy like macaroni and cheese, or even pasta bakes, or pasta salads. Macaroni and cheese is best prepared the day of, however preparing a large pan of baked pasta or a large bowl of pasta salad can easily be made in advance. For the baked pasta, prepare it to the point of baking in the oven. This only takes 35-45 minutes and can be baking while the party is going on. Tip #2: Try a Pot Luck Menu If cooking is not your interest and the budget does not allow buying all premade food, you can consider asking guests to bring a menu item. For best results, delegate with those who you know will not be offended, and instead would be happy to contribute such as close friends or family. For example, you can ask a few people to bring sodas and chips, while asking another person to bring a salad or cupcakes. Tip #3: Timing Can be Everything There are instances when you may not want to have a lunch or dinner party and that is fine too. Instead, you can schedule the party in the afternoon between main meals. It is advisable however to still provide food items such as snacks and desserts. If you have the time and resources, you can even make your own ice cream. Kids will love to choose their own flavors to create, (give them a list of options), and then you can make each batch. This will only work well with machines that do not require any pre-freezing bowls, but can make a batch within 30 minutes. Tip #4: Reuse Decorations Another area where you can save money, is in the decorations department. Make it a habit to save any reusable ribbons or bows from previous parties or holidays. If the decorations are too holiday specific, you can use them along ... [Read More...]

Frugal Tips for A Cleaner Kitchen!

Everyone I know likes a sparkling clean kitchen…but no one I know is fond of spending a lot of time in the kitchen! With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you keep your kitchen shining with a minimum investment of time! 1. Before serving dinner, run a sink full of very hot soapy water. When everyone fnishes eating, they can each wash and rinse their own plate! 2. For easy cleanup, after using, fill your blender container with warm water, add a few drops of liquid detergent, and blend for 30 seconds; then rinse. 3. If food spills over and burns on the oven floor, sprinkle a handful of salt on the mess. The smoke will be reduced and the spill easier to clean after the oven cools. You can add some cinnamon to the salt to help reduce odors. 4. To avoid white watermarks in pans when boiling puddings, eggs etc., add a little vinegar to the water (cider vinegar is less potent if you don’t like the smell). 5. Clean one section of your kitchen a night. Maybe one refrigerator shelf or the fronts of all cabinets, etc. Pretty soon your kitchen will shine and you have only spent a little extra time per night. 6. To clean stains from plastic dishes or utensils, combine 3/4 cup chlorine bleach and 3/4 cup baking soda and let the mixture stay on the stained utensil for 5 minutes; then wash and rinse thoroughly. 7. Spray plastic-ware with nonstick cooking spray before pouring in tomato-based sauces and you won’t be stuck trying to clean off those stains! 8. Be sure to use a spoon rest on your stove top. You’ll be amazed at how much it helps in keeping your stove clean. 9. Soak cloudy drinking glasses in slightly warm white vinegar. Helping you live the good life…on a budget! Cyndi Roberts is the editor of the “1 Frugal Friend 2 Another” bi-weekly e-newsletter and founder of the website of the same name. Visit http://www.cynroberts.com to find creative tips, articles, and a free e-cooking book. Subscribe to the e-newsletter and receive the free e-course “Taming the Monster Grocery Bill”. [Read More...]

Feeding a Family for $400 a Month?

Tawra Kellam, editor of LivingOnADime.com, does something that most people think they can’t do today. She feeds her family of 6 for $400 a month. Most people say that’s an impossible feat but what’s even more impressive is that she does it without using coupons. [Read More...]

50 Ways to Save Big at the Grocery Store

Menus4Moms: Save on Groceries It is rewarding to learn new ways to save big at the grocery store.  Many of these tips to save money start in your home, before you ever get to the store.  Some involve careful planning and using what you already have to the fullest potential, so you won’t need to buy as much at the grocery store.  Remember, you only pay taxes on purchases made, so buying less means lower taxes for you.  I’ll give you some pointers, many of which I’m sure you are already putting into practice.  In that case, you might want to use this article as a checklist to prove to yourself how well you are doing.  But even if you happen to find only one or two new ideas, it would be worth implementing them as well to save even more. Plan your meals around each week’s grocery store sales.  Write up a sketchy menu plan, but be flexible. Take advantage of the markers for grocery store items giving the price per ounce or serving.  These are very helpful. The store brands are usually less expensive and have the same ingredients as higher costing brands.  Take advantage of that. Invest in a freezer.  You will be able to stock up on food that is on sale and freeze many meals ahead to make life easier. Prepare large batches of food ahead of time – casseroles, meat loaves, quiche, chile, meat dishes, vegetable dishes, quick breads, etc. and freeze them.  Load up your freezer with frozen vegetables when they go on sale at the rock bottom price.  Never buy them at full price.  Frozen vegetables are generally picked at the peak of ripeness and immediately flash frozen, which also correlates with greater nutritional value.  This is a healthy and economical option during in-season and off-season months. Pack lunches rather than buying lunch out.  Get the family involved in packing lunches to make it easier.  Include foods like individually wrapped frozen quick breads (from your freezer), nuts, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, yogurt and sandwiches. Eat out much less often and make it more special when you do.  If possible, when you do, use a coupon and drink water instead of ordering a drink of any kind.  In reality, restaurant meals should be added to your food budget.  Freezing meals ahead will help cut down on eating out.  Try copying and serving a few meals similar to those you’ve enjoyed while eating out at your favorite restaurant.  Then set a pretty table, get out the best dishes, light a candle, and put on some soothing music. When staple items are on sale, stock up, so you don’t run out.  By preventing extra trips to the grocery store, you will save on gas as well as extra purchases. One time it is worth a return trip to the store later in the week would be when a favorite fresh produce item is marked way down.  It may be worth an extra return trip – or ask your husband to stop by on his way home from work. Never pay full price for staple grocery items that keep over a long period of ... [Read More...]

For the Love of Money

One of the biggest factors in most of our money problems come from the fact that we deal with our money emotionally. If you don’t think money and emotions are tied together, think again. Take a serious look at all the ways your money and emotions are connected. Here is a list of questions to ask yourself to see if you deal with your money emotionally and if there are things you need to change. Are you an emotional shopper? Do you shop when you get upset? Do you buy more then you should because of what happened to you in your childhood or because there were things you had to do without? Do you think your children “deserve” more? Do you buy things hoping that these “things” will fill an emptiness or void in your life? Do you worry yourself sick over money? Do you think about it from the time you get up in the morning until you go to bed and night? Do you have trouble falling asleep because of money problems? Are you and your spouse and or children always fighting about money? Did you know that in over 50% of the divorce cases the #1 reason for the conflict is money? I’m not really surprised at this because so many people are having a love affair with their money. If you think I’m stretching things and that isn’t true then think about this. When you are in love, you have some tell-tale signs: The subject of your love is all you think about and you can’t get the one you love out of your mind. You can’t get enough of them. No matter how much you are with them it is never enough. The thought of being without them is devastating. Translate that into money: When you love money, money is all you think about. You can’t get enough of it and the thought of being without it is devastating. Many of us have got to get a reality check. Our love (or love affair) with money is tearing us and our families apart. We need to stop using money to satisfy our emotional and spiritual needs. I have used this example before, but I think it bears repeating: I am walking through the desert and dying of thirst. If someone comes up to me and gives me a new pair of shoes or a big screen TV, is that going to take care of my need? Of course not — I need water. In the same way, if someone’s spouse has just died you don’t generally say “here’s a glass of water.” She has an emotional need not a physical need. As silly as those examples seem, many of us do the same silly things all the time. Consider these real life situations: You have a bad day at work so you go buy something. Your boyfriend leaves you, so you go shopping. You’re deep in debt and stressed out, so go so you ... [Read More...]

Can You Afford to Stay Home?

Many families that have both parents working would like to be able to have one parent stay at home when their children are young, but are not sure if they can afford it financially. Below are some tips to see if living on one income might be the right choice for your family. For additional information, visit the web site Always Frugal for an article on tips for living on one income. Make a One Income and a Two Income Budget If you don’t already have a home budget, make one based your current two incomes now. Then make a second budget based on only one income and see if living on one income is feasible. In some cases you may actually come out ahead. Many families with two incomes are surprised to find out how little the second income actually brings in after deducting for expenses such as child care, taxes, work clothes and commute costs. Listed below are some adjustments to consider when making a budget for one income. Automatic reductions in expenditures 1. Federal, state and social security taxes will most likely be less than you are paying now. In the U.S., the more money you make, the higher rate you pay for federal income taxes. If your family income goes down by one half, your tax bill may go down by more than half as your household may end up in a lower tax bracket. Make sure when you do your one income budget you estimate your federal and any state tax expenses based on your new tax bracket. See your accountant for help if you need assistance in estimating taxes you would need to pay with only one income. 2. Not needing day care anymore will reduce childcare costs. The more children you have in day or after school care, the more cost effective it usually becomes for one parent to stay home. With more children the second spouse’s income stays fixed while child care expenses rise. Children not in day care also tend to get sick less often; so medical costs may be less with one parent staying home. 3. The stay at home parent won’t need to eat out for lunch, will not have commute costs, and will not have to spend money on work clothes so these expenses may be able to be reduced. Trade time for money 4. If both parents are working now and have help such as a housekeeping service or a gardener, these services can be discontinued if the tasks can be taken over by the stay at home parent. 5. Two working parents are usually ... [Read More...]

Back to school, or back to the poor house?

Back to school is a time when many moms witness their money sprout wings and take flight, finding their homes at retail stores across America. I know that consumer spending is good for the economy, but I don’t take it upon myself to keep the entire US economy propped up, so when my first-grade son announced that he wanted a backpack with rollers, I saw this as a wonderful financial teaching moment. His school is small, and he doesn’t walk to or from school. He didn’t need rollers. I told my son that I would give him $8 toward a backpack. I told him that if he wanted a fancier one, he could put up some of his allowance money for the difference. That’s the rule at our house. Mom and Dad buy the basics the kids buy the extras. It was amazing how my son’s perception of the need for rollers changed when his allowance was on the line. Yes, he has concluded, a regular backpack will do the trick this year. Thousands of parents are buying back-to-school supplies. From crayons and notebooks to calculators and lunch boxes, the list of what to buy can be as long as the list of your kids’ excuses. I know that you are anxious to get your kids back into school, but there is no need to take out a second mortgage just to get rid of them. Instead, use some of these money-saving tips from www.LivingOnADime.com and you can happily send your kids to school and keep some of the cash for mom’s back-to school celebration! Wait for the list to come out and stick to it, otherwise you might buy things you don’t need. Remember, the Bank of Mom doesn’t pay for frills. Any extras the kids want will have to be funded from their own cash reserves. I do understand that it is nice for kids to have “hip” back-to-school supplies. I look at yard sales and thrift stores for brand-name finds. For instance, I recently found a gently used Barbie backpack and a Barbie lunch box and no one would know that I paid $1.00 each instead of the $32 that Becky Johnson’s mom paid. Who says stay at home mom’s don’t make any money? Don’t buy back to school clothes. Children don’t need an entirely new wardrobe every fall. Some mom’s act as if aliens clothes-napped their kids’ clothes the night before school and the fashion police will come arrest them ... [Read More...]

Save $400 on School Lunches This Year!

These days in America, it seems that everyone is so busy that preparing school lunches is liable to push a typical mom right over the edge. When you have to choose between making school lunches or spending that extra 15 minutes in bed, it seems like buying ready made lunches at the store is a no-brainer, but your budget doesn’t agree. The average mom packs $2.00 worth of pre-packaged goodies into each lunch she sends to school with her kids. (That works out to $720 for 2 kids.) What mother hasn’t wondered if those lunches are even getting eaten? Here are some tips from LivingOnADime.com for things you can do in 30 minutes or less on the weekend to make those school lunches a snap! Those snack bags of munchies cost a lot! Make your own by pre-packaging chips, pretzels, animal crackers and other snack items into sandwich bags on the weekends. (Have the kids help!) Store them in a big container or basket and just throw them in the lunch box in the morning. Let the kids create their own Pizza lunch kits- Toast bread and cutout little circles with a biscuit cutter. Add small containers of pizza sauce, cheese, and other toppings. Make fruit gelatin and pudding and put in small plastic containers for the week. Make a large batch of granola bars, cookies, pumpkin bread, banana bread or muffins. Divide them into zip top sandwich bags and freeze so that you can grab one or two when needed. Brownie bites are simple to make.  Bake brownie mix in mini-muffin pans and put three “brownie bites” in a sandwich bag for each child’s lunch. They freeze well too! Fill thermos (not glass) half full with juice the night before and freeze. In the morning, remove from freezer and fill the rest of the way. The juice will be cold when the kids are ready to drink it and it keeps their food cold too. Clean vegetables, slice into pieces and bag. Preparing a weeks worth of veggies at a time for lunches and snacks saves money and time. Purchase cheese in blocks, cut into pieces and put in sandwich bags. Save napkins, catsup and mustard packets you get from take-out. Use in lunches. Before you make another peanut butter and jelly sandwich, check out www.LivingOnADime.com for more recipe ideas. Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the editors of http://www.LivingOnADime.com . As a single mother of two, Jill Cooper started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income. Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 debt in 5 years on $22,000 a year income. Tawra and Jill are the authors of several frugal ... [Read More...]

Shopping at Aldi

I spend $250-$300 a month on groceries for my family of five. One of the best things I do to keep my budget is to do most of my food shopping at Aldi. You can get a good price, get in and get out fast and you don’t have to mess with using coupons. Aldi is a small discount warehouse store. It is not an outlet store and does not sell outdated or rejected products. They offer a double your money back guarantee for all of their products. If you don’t like it, they will give you your money back plus a new item. The foods are mostly Aldi brand foods. The Aldi brand is usually very good quality. I have only had one or two items where my family preferred the name brand over the Aldi brand. The savings are significant. On a lot of items, I can save $1 or more over the price at a regular grocery store. Here’s an example: Chocolate chips at the local supermarket cost $1.99. Aldi’s regular price is .99. White bread in the supermarket costs $1. Aldi’s bread costs .59. Whole grain bread costs $2.59 in regular grocery store, but Aldi’s regular price is $1.29. Aldi stores are all over the world. Here is the link to the Aldi website to see if one is near you: http://www.aldi.com There are a few rules to follow that keep their prices low: They accept only cash, debit or food stamps. They don’t accept coupons. You have to pay a .25 deposit to get a shopping basket. There is a little quarter machine on the basket. When you return your basket, it gives you the quarter back. This keeps prices down because they don’t have to pay someone to get baskets. You bag your own groceries. Bring your own bags. Put all your extra plastic sacks in an empty tissue box and bring it with you. You can also use the boxes they have there for free. If they don’t have any boxes available and you forget your bags, they charge $.10 per bag for you to buy them. To get the freshest produce, ask when their truck comes and go shopping the next morning. Be prepared. The checkers check you out very fast. I have timed it and on average it’s 2-3 minutes check out time with a full basket of groceries. It may be a little awkward the first time getting used to a different way of shopping, but once you do it once or twice, the savings are addicting! By shopping at Aldi, I get two weeks worth of groceries for $100.00 (excluding meat — I buy it as a loss leader from other stores when it’s $2 or less a pound. ). I am in and out of the store in 30 minutes including bagging my groceries. Plan a little longer the first time or two as you learn your way around the store. Try it a couple of times and see if you grocery bill doesn’t go down! Jill ... [Read More...]

3 Tricks to Eat Healthy Even When Money Is Tight

There is an unfortunate fact of life that many high nutrient, low fat, low calorie foods are expensive, while many nutrient free, calorie dense foods are cheap. This can make buying and cooking healthy foods for yourself and your family quite a challenge, particularly when the food budget is limited. With some advance planning, however, it is still possible to create a week full of wonderful, nutritious meals, not matter how small your food budget. The key is to plan ahead, shop smart, and make the most out of the foods you buy. 1. Planning your meals In today’s busy world, meal planning often means calling out for a pizza or hitting the drive through on the way home. This type of lifestyle has helped to fuel the epidemic of obesity the country has been experiencing. There is a better way, however. Simply taking a few minutes a week to plan your family’s meals can make a lot of difference, both in money saved and nutrition gained. Advance meal planning is a must for any shopper on a budget. Writing down your meal plans, including the ingredients needed and expected preparation time, will help you plan what to buy and how to cook. For those with especially busy schedules, planning meals that can be cooked ahead of time and reheated is a huge time and money saver. Fortunately, many healthy meals, such as vegetable casseroles, pasta dishes, meat dishes, seafood entrees, fruit salads, etc. are great as leftovers. It is easy to see how advance meal planning can save you time. Many working mothers, for instance, will make an entire week’s worth of meals on the weekend, then heat each day’s meals up as the week unfolds. This is a great strategy for creating a healthy and varied menu the whole family will love. 2. Hitting the grocery store Now that you know what meals the coming week will bring, its time to hit the grocery store in search of the perfect and most healthy ingredients. Before you hit the grocery store, however, be sure to check the pantry. Keeping well stocked pantry, and restocking when staples such as canned vegetables and fruits go on sale, is the cornerstone of any healthy eating budget. After you have gone through the pantry and noted the items you need to buy, it is time to check the sales flyers for your local grocery stores. Most major grocery store chains include sales flyers in the local newspaper, so be sure to check there for sales on the items you need for your meals. Going to the grocery store armed with a shopping list is the best way to save both time and money. The grocery store contains many temptations, and most of them are both ... [Read More...]

Thirteen Ways To Reduce Your Food Budget

grocery-receipt When trying to cut expenses, food is a great place to start because there are so many opportunities to save. One way to watch your savings pile up and be able to use it for a goal, such as a vacation, down payment on a home or paying off debt, is to put the cash you saved from any purchase into an envelope or a jar until you get enough to make a bank savings deposit. Make a strict rule to not use the money for anything else but your goal. Here are thirteeen easy ways to reduce your food budget that will help you achieve this: If you don’t want to stop going out to eat, check your local newspaper, the back of grocery receipts and junk mail flyers for restaurant coupons. A lot of restaurants offer ‘buy 1 meal get 1 free’ on certain days of the week. If you want to cut back even more, cut back on the number of times you go out in a month or week. Shop grocery outlets. Every major city has them. Ours is called *The Canned Food Warehouse*. Not every item in the store is a deal; you have to know normal food prices to compare, but when you do find a deal, it is usually a great one. You will find enough of these deals to make your trip worth it. Be sure to comparison shop. Look at the sale tag on the item’s shelf and see how much per pound, ounce or whatever the item is sold as. Compare that to the other products to determine which is the best deal. Always check the weekly grocery ads for the good sales. If there is a really good deal on something, be sure to buy it in multiples. This will save you from paying full price later. Use coupons for food products. I have found the best way to use them is combined with a sale. Most of the time, if you use a coupon without combining it with a sale, you will still be paying more than other brands, so be sure to watch for this. Always use your leftovers. This saves a tremendous amount of money and time by extending your shopping trips. If you need ideas for using leftovers, check out *The Leftover Recipe E-book* that includes over 100 ideas and recipes for leftovers here: http://homemakersjournal.com/leftovers.htm Grow as much produce as you can to eat fresh and/or preserve for later. To save as much money as possible, start plants from seed. This can really add up quick and you will know how your food was grown rather than wondering what chemicals may have been applied to the plants of the produce you purchase. If you purchase organic produce to relieve this worry, it can be quite expensive. Stop buying junk food, sodas and prepared food. These are not only expensive, but unhealthy, therefore a waste of your hard-earned dollars. Always shop with a grocery list and stick to it so you don’t buy unnecessary or ... [Read More...]

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