Centsible Home Management
Getting Basic for Bedrooms
*The main way I can see someone saving money in this room is in the area of shoes/clothing. Try to get on the cycle of buying clothing a year ahead at the end of the season. Also, I can’t say enough to “put aside the pride” and check out used and consignment clothing stores! Did you know that the mark-ups on new clothing ranges from 50-700% (dependant on brand and availability)?! That’s why the Woolrich sweater may be marked $85 during fall and winter, but suddenly, come March, you pick up that sweater for $10 (sometimes less!). When you are able to wrap your mind around the enormity of the mark-up you are paying the store just to showcase the items, you will be much more willing to go pay a fraction of that price elsewhere to purchase those, or similar items. You wanna really save some money? I shop end of season sales at the consigment stores! That’s right-they need to make room for seasonal clothing, too. Alaskan Dames will have huge sales in February and Labor Day (25-50% off, as well as $1 clearance room), and Mommy ‘n Me has seasonal sales with $1 clearance racks and sometimes .25 clearance tables! Be sure to get on their mailing lists for them to email you additional coupons. One more plug for used clothes-I feel that for the money, my child is getting a much better product when I buy (for example) a pair of gently used Old Navy or Levi jeans versus paying for new, cheaply made ones at discount stores.
Again, when I’m buying clothing (mainly outdoor, winter gear) for my kids to wear next year, I do up a simple list on an excel spreadsheet w/ their names and the columns marked ‘Coat, Snowpants, Boots, Hat, Gloves, and then just check off each square as I purchase it. Then I store them all together in one place. That way I know that come next winter, I should not have to run out and pay full price during season for an article of clothing I thought I had, but didn’t.
* Save a lot of money on bed linens. If you want to save money on re-dressing
Your bed, then first, try to locate a new bedskirt or washable comforter used. If
Your existing comforter’s batting is in good shape, then try covering with a duvet.
A duvet is so simple to sew and can be put together very cheaply. For
My duvet, I used a nice damask flat sheet for the top, and backed it with a
another cheaper flat sheet underneath. You can use satin or grosgrain
ribbon (tied as draping Bows), velcro, buttons,etc. to close the opening. If
possible, try to keep your duvet neutral as just to change out the accessories for
new looks on occasion.
*Check your mattress. Often, you think that your mattress is bad, but it’s really
The boxes or frame that is bad. Before purchasing a new mattress, take
it off the foundation and put it on the floor. Sleep with it two nights that way. If
you don’t wake up achy and sore, then chances are, it is your box that’s the
culprit. If you don’t have the money to replace it right away, try just laying
sheets of plywood between the box and mattress. My family has always sworn
by this method as a way to get extra years out of your bed set.
Create a Living Room, Not a ‘Slave To Debt’ Room!
*So many people go into debt to buy basic furnishings for their living room. Gone
are the days where society expected newlyweds to have milk crate furniture
while living in a relatives’ basement. While, I foresee Americans trending back
to that scenario, you don’t have to live with milk-crate furniture forever!
Continuously scour the thrift shops for good finds. Join yahoo groups like
freecycle.org for free furniture which may or may not need refinishing. If you
find that sage green, overstuffed, microplush sofa of your dreams, then SAVE
some money each paycheck and buy it in cash! In the meantime, sew (or find
someone to help you) a custom slipcover to the sofa you already have to cover up where
the dog chewed. Don’t be intimidated at the idea of refinishing furniture. If you
don’t think you have the patience to strip and stain it, then try painting or white-
*Don’t waste your money on expensive home magazines for ideas. Instead,
subscribe to free catalogs from companies such as Pottery Barn, Crate&Barrel,
Hearth&Home, JCPenney Home, Williams Sonoma, etc. These offer great
decorating inspiration. However, don’t be tempted to buy their merchandise.
Often you can find items to recreate their look so much cheaper! Also a great idea for a ‘Mom Break’ is to go to the library and leisurely look at their mags for free!
*Learn to sew. Don’t be intimidated by the thought of ornate sewing projects with curving lines or intricate quilts. By just learning how to do a straight and zig zag stitch, you can make drapes, pillows, slipcovers, tablecloths, cloth napkins, placemats, etc. Request a machine through freecycle or hit up relatives for that one that’s been sitting unused for 20 years! Ask a friend to teach you to sew or take a class. It’s really simple and can pay huge dividends-even if you have to end up purchasing a machine.
*Repair worn furniture rather than replace it.
Recently my recliner was looking like a candidate for replacement. Since I
actually slept on it for months at a time during my pregnancies, the padding
had worn down, and you could feel the springs in your back. I ‘explored’ the
chair’s crevices and found out how I could access the guts of the thing without ripping into the fabric. I bought two high-density batting chair pads at Joann’s (with my 40% coupon!), and was able to slip one up the back between the fabric and springs, and one in the seat under the fabric. It feels good as new, and if it starts to flatten out in a few years, we can get more pads.
“Did you remember to turn the heat down before you went to bed?”
”It’s so cold in the morning when we first wake up!”
“ Why pay for heat/AC when we are at work or gone all day?”
Get a programmable thermostat! This will be the answer to all of those dilemmas! They are a huge budget saver, as well as a nice luxury! We have ours’ set to be cooler at night, come on gradually in the morning, be warm during the day, and start gradually cooling down again in the evening. When we were both out of the house working all day, we’d set it to be cooler during the day, and start warming up right before we got home. For around $20 on ebay, I’ve been able to pick up new Hunter programmable thermostats, and they have the added perk of a ‘weekend’ setting for those days where your schedule may be radically different than M-F. You will recoup the investment on these in no time!
*Beware of steam cleaning your carpets! A friend of mine comes from a family that owned flooring stores. She advised me that the worst thing you can do to your nice carpet is steam clean it. Why? Well, because when you do, you remove the scotch guard coating that is put on the carpet at the mill. If you get your carpets cleaned, be sure to pay for the extra scotch guard coating. You’re not really paying for an additional item, you’re paying to replace what has gotten stripped off. If you don’t, your carpet will need to be cleaned again sooner, and it will start to deteriorate overall. If you do your own cleaning, be sure to use a soap that includes a stain repellant in it. I have a Kirby Dry Cleaner, and their soaps do include scotch guard in the formula.
*Who says your curtain rod has to be pretty if it’s covered with fabric anyway? For my 8 ft. wide bedroom window, even a cheap curtain rod was going to be pricey. Instead, I got a set of two pretty “tie-backs” which are large metal hooks that you hang sideways on the side of your window to hook the fabric around. Then I purchased a 10ft. long piece of metal conduit for under $3. We used a little hacksaw to saw it to the proper length (they’re pretty thin aluminum), and threaded through the rod-pocket. We hung the tiebacks vertically instead of sideways above the top corners of the window and rested the conduit in the hooks. The look is still very nice, but it cost me under $10 instead of the $25+ I was seeing. I wouldn’t recommend this for tab-top panels unless you plan to spray paint the conduit first. Its natural color is dull gray aluminum (think chain-link fence post).
*Cut the cable. I can hear you now, protesting “Oh no-not the dreaded ‘Cut the cable’ line! I must have my Survivor and HGTV!”
Well, guess what: if you truly get intense with saving money, not only will you appreciate the monthly savings, but you’ll already be so busy with money-saving activities that you won’t even miss it. If you’re truly convinced that you’re going to die without CSI, then try just cutting back and get the $19 basic package (24.70 after taxes). You’ll still get all the networks and PBS for the kids. After that, cutting the cable completely may not seem so hard. Besides, between youtube.com and hulu.com, you can get a huge assortment of online shows. Also, nick jr. has full episodes online of Dora, Diego, wonderpets, etc. for the kiddos. Hasbro’s MonkeyBarTV.com has Transformers cartoons and many more-and don't forget HomeschoolChannel.TV of course! We were paying roughly $170 a month for the bundle through GCI of internet, cable, and phone. Then we went to $135 when we switched to the basic cable package. Now we pay $125 for phone and (a much better) internet package through ACS and Vonage. (Plus, by using a Vonage phone for our long distance carrier, we don’t pay the additional in-state tolls to call within Alaska. Those fees were in addition to the GCI package.) That’s a total monthly savings of at least $45/mo or $540/year! That’s more than one extra car payment, or for those of you Coastie wives-think of it as $2000 over the course of a 4 yr billet!
*Here are some of my favorite recipes to use in the living room (and other areas as
Linen Spray/Air Freshener
In a spray bottle, add 1c. Water to 15 drops essential oil of your choice. Shake and spray over furniture, drapes, carpet, in the air, etc. (Test fabric in obscure area first to make sure it doesn’t stain). I like cucumber or sweet pea for spring, lavendar for summer, orange for autumn, and evergreen or bayberry for winter.
In an empty bottle (I use an olive oil bottle) or jar, mix :
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 teaspoon lemon oil or juice(optional)
3/4 c. Mineral oil
Shake and put some on a rag and wipe onto wood.
(found these on internet a long time ago)
Saving ‘Dough’ in the Kitchen
*Keep dry, powdered milk handy. Not only is it used in a variety of mixes that we’ll look at in a bit, but it’s cheaper to cook with than fresh milk. I prefer to buy milk that is not treated with RBST. Fred Meyer’s house brand is 2.99/gallon. Walmart and Safeway both have milk at 3.99/gallon. If I buy the box of carnation powder milk at Costco for 12.99/5.5 gallon equivalent, the price per gallon works out to 2.36/gallon. To save even more, I actually buy the 5 gallon bucket of Morning Moo mix at costco. At $39 for 52 gallons, it works out to .75/gallon! This may not seem like much of a difference, but if you are someone who does a lot of baking, or it is nearing the holidays when everyone seems to bake more, it really is a cost savings. I try to keep some mixed up in the back of my fridge in a pitcher if I’m going through one of my baking sprees.
*For those of you who have milk or glutein issues, then check out this site:
*Mix/Replace ground beef in recipes with frozen ground turkey. Some good recipes for this are chili, tacos, meatballs, and meatloaf (for meatballs and loaf, I suggest doing a half beef/half turkey mixture for firmer texture). At Walmart, you can get a pound of Jennie-O ground turkey for 1.84 versus 80/20 ground beef for an average price of 2.59 lb. Also, Walmart sells a turkey sausage that is a fantastic substitute for pork sausage. It’s much leaner and has the same sage-y flavor.
*Another alternative to buying ground beef or sausage is to grind your own. Keep an eye out for a hand-crank grinder (or a good deal on an attachment for your mixer). I always see these at thrift stores and garage sales. Also, check with your relatives! While the hand grinder will be cheaper and easier to procur, it will take you much longer. Regardless, you can make the meat as lean as you want, and you will know exactly what's in your sausage! Here are a couple of blogs I did about our experience grinding meat, and the breakdown of the cost-savings.
I buy marked down meat at Fred’s, Safeway, and Walmart throughout the month, and freeze it. I have a small chest freezer to keep it in. When I’m planning next month’s menu, I plan it around the meat I’ve already bought discounted. In Miserly Mom’s, she talks about getting rid of her chest freezer because of the cost to run it. However, up here, we have such cheap hydro-electricity, that we figure it costs about $5 a month to run 8 year old freezer and about 30 cents to run my new one!. The savings (often on one piece of meat) more than make up for that! Also, down in the lower 48, many retail chains refuse to sell discounted meat in order for their stores to maintain the appearance of having the ultimate fresh food. They would rather donate the meat or toss it and take the hit on their P&L’s. However, up here, most stores would rather sell the meat at a loss to help cover the expensive freight associated with getting the perishable meat up here, so in that case, the consumer wins with a little planning!
**Note: There is some debate as to whether or not you need to cook meat that has been marked 'previously frozen' before freezing it again (usually seafood and poultry). According to the USDA at http://www.fsis.usda.gov :
“It is safe to refreeze it without cooking, although there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through thawing. After cooking raw foods which were previously frozen, it is safe to freeze the cooked foods. If previously cooked foods are thawed in the refrigerator, you may refreeze the unused portion. Freeze leftovers within 3-4 days. Do not refreeze any foods left outside the refrigerator longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in temperatures above 90 °F.”
As a cautionary move, I tend to only refreeze previously frozen chicken in it's original packaging (versus portioning the pieces into individual bags) to reduce handling. As for seafood, I tend to stock up on crab and halibut when it's on sale. If I'm buying it from a seafood counter at the store, I just ask the clerk for some that is still frozen. I pay a little extra for the weight of the frozen ice, but it makes me feel a little better.
*When buying family sized packages of ground beef or pork, I portion them out into appropriate meal sizes in zipper bags before freezing.
*Track produce seasons and can/freeze it while it’s marked down. For example, when granny smith apples are less than $1/lb in the fall, I buy tons of them. Then I put them on my peeler/corer/slicer, and portion them out in ziplocs equivalent to one pie worth. ( I take all the peelings or “apple snakes” as my kids call them, and put them in a big pot with water and some cinnamon. I put it on the back burner of my stove and let it simmer on low for wonderful, natural potpourri!) When I need a pie in a pinch, the apples can be thawed in a strainer, or microwaved and strained before seasoning. Note: Frozen apples can be a bit watery, so I add an extra 2 Tablespoons of flour to my pie filling before topping with crust. I’ve also got canned peaches and pears on hand, as well as jelly and jams. Don’t let the process of canning intimidate you. It’s quite simple once you learn the how’s and why’s. If you are unable to can for some reason, you can always make freezer jam that stays for months in the freezer or fridge. If you bought one of the 4lb. strawberry containers at Costco last year, and used one package of pectin, and 7 cups of sugar, your pint of fresh-tasting jam would cost you under $2.00. Not only is this much cheaper than smucker’s at the store, but the quality is incomparable to what you will have at home. There is no canning involved: just measure, boil, and freeze.
*Debbie Meyer green bags are amazing for storing produce! I have had packages of romaine lettuce heads from Costco that last a month in my fridge! The secret to making these bags work is to use them on items you do not open a lot. I take out one head at a time and put in my crisper. The others I leave in the bag with a twixit clip (Pampered Chef), and they stay good for so much longer. The same with carrots and celery; try not to open them daily, and if you do, then take a few out and clip the rest closed in a bag. Also, be sure to adjust the humidity control on your crisper drawers. It really does make a difference. The best I way I can figure how to adjust it is to recall where the item is in the store. Is it in a cooler being sprayed periodically with water? Then, it needs more humidity. Is it out in a bin on the floor? Then it needs less. Note: Never store tomatoes in the fridge. Because of the high acid content, refrigerating them accelerates their decay. Keep them on the counter-preferably still on the vine until ready to eat.
*The book Super Babyfood by Ruth Yaron includes an exhaustive index of produce in the back. It includes handy information such as when the item is in season, whether it can be frozen, and (for families with infants) at what age your child can have that particular food.
*Speaking of Babyfood, I learned to make it out of necessity! I had twins while living on one income in Alaska, and paying for Gerber or Earth’s Best was out of the question. After making one or two batches, I cannot emphasize how EASY and quick it is! Just get some produce, throw it in the microwave w/ some water and a cover to steam, puree it (adding the water it was steamed in to get the desired consistency) and freeze in ice cube trays. Once frozen, I popped them into a labeled freezer zipper bag, and viola! I had 1Tbsp. sized portions of fresh vegetables and fruits. I knew exactly what I was feeding my baby, and it was CHEAP! For meats, I would just brown burger or saute chicken and puree it with steamed potatoes or rice. Pour into ice cube trays and so on…
*Because of the high price of perishable produce in Alaska, look for recipes that mix canned and fresh produce. Here are two I like for salsa and fruit salad:
Fruit Salad (Yummy Yummy)
Put together a combination of canned peaches, pears, mandarin oranges, fruit cocktail, and fresh banana chunks (sprinkled w/ lemon juice first to prevent browing), strawberries, melon, kiwi, etc. Also, consider mixing in dried fruit that been soaked for a few minutes in water to soften (i.e. dried berries, raisins work well!) For the sauce use any of the following: a couple tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk, the syrup from the canned peaches, or a small container of orange flavored yogurt. Toss and mix.
15 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
½ onion, diced
½ green bell pepper, diced
Handful of fresh cilantro chopped fine, or 1 Tbsp dried
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 clove garlic minced
Combine. This can be served immediately, but it’s so much better if chilled for several hours or overnight. This recipe tastes very fresh, but by using canned tomatoes and tomato sauce it’s very friendly to Alaskan budgets! (Thanks to my big sister who thought of me up here and passed this one along!)
*Many of us put soap in our dishwashers by filling the open compartment as well as the one with the spring loaded lid. Did you know that the open compartment is only for if you do the extra pre-wash? If you’re just washing your dishes on the regular cycle, then just fill the spring loaded compartment, and you just cut your cost for dishwasher soap in half!
*Buy holiday m&m’s on closeout and freeze them to use as flavor for cookies in lieu of chocolate chips. The red and green Christmas ones are extra budget friendly; we pick out the reds for Valentines’ Day cookies, and leave the green to follow up for St. Patrick’s Day.
*Re-asses your budget for snack foods. Up here, it’s not just the junk food that’s expensive-produce can really add up, too! I couldn’t believe how fast I was blowing through our grocery budget until I realized I was spending $40 a month on apples (at least one Costco flat per week)! Great, cheap snack items include: pretzels (a huge bag at Costco for 6.99-portion out in gallon ziplocs to avoid getting stale), home-made granola bars, fruit leather, rice krispie treats, Cheerio clusters (recipes at end of handout), and tortilla chips (large bag for 4.99 at Costco).
*Did you know you can freeze tortilla chips? And most non-potato chips for that matter (i.e. Sunchips work well!) If you've been avoiding buying the huge, inexpensive bag of tortilla chips because they get stale before you can finish them, try portioning them out in gallon zipper bags and freezing them. They are perfect, and are completely edible right out of the freezer, although you may want to let them come to room temperature for 5 minutes or so if you don't like the feeling of a cold chip..
*Get freezer-grade zipper plastic bags in gallon and quart sizes. These bags are so much thicker which allows them to be washed and re-used over and over versus regular sandwich grade bags.
*Learn how to harvest and process native berries/fish. We are blessed with a wide variety of berries in our rainforest climate. Blueberries, Salmonberries, Nagoon berries, Lo-bush Cranberries, Thimbleberries are a few of the types here. The cooperative extension has wonderful resources and recipes for our local treasures. Visit their website at http://www.uaf.edu/ces/ or visit the local office. They are, also, great resources for becoming a master gardener in Alaska’s climates. Raised garden beds do very well here, and they can show you how to get one started. As for the salmon, well, can we agree it’s plentiful? What a great money saver! You may have some initial money invested in a rod, reel, and tackle, but you will get that money back quickly by cooking the fish for family, or giving it as valuable gifts to southerners!:) Even if you don’t particularly care for the strong flavor of salmon as I don’t, there are some recipes that tend to make it more palatable for me. Salmon patties, Soy Syrup Salmon, and Salmon Chowder are some of my family’s favorites, and the recipes are included at the end of the handout as well.
*Menu Planning/Once-A-Month Cooking are vital to an economical kitchen. They are both big savers of time, and (in their own way) huge savers of money! Let’s start with basic menu planning. I have found that the easiest way for me to plan is to get a blank calendar form and write in my dinners only. Many menu planners have lunch/breakfast plans, but those tend to be fairly routine. I am concerned with planning dinners ahead of time. I downloaded a blank calendar page from DonnaYoung.org (more on that fabulous site later) in .doc form. This allows me to go in and alter the headings. When I plan a menu, I have found it to be a big time-saver if I assign each day a type of food. Then I just go down each day and plug in the meals based on what meat and pantry items I already have on hand. A sample of my April menu follows. This is a huge timesaver, and it helps me to look at the meal for the next day in order to defrost what is frozen. This is the basis for planning my grocery list and for being sure to utilize ingredients that I already have on hand to avoid missing items in the back of the pantry shelves. Now, I don’t necessarily have to shop for a month’s worth of groceries at one time, but if you stick to your list and menu, you’ll see that your grocery budget will go much further just by eliminating those last minute, midweek trips when you’re tired and brain dead.
Now let’s look at Once-A-Month cooking (OAM). This has been a HUGE time/money saver for me! I cannot stress enough how important this has become to our family mealtimes being inexpensive and smooth. There are many books out there that tackle this method, and even food prep ‘stores’ have opened to facilitate this style of cooking. My favorite book is called Frozen Assets: Cook For a Day, Eat For a Month. by Deborah Taylor-Hough. In there, she has helpful tips for shopping and cooking day as well as sample 2 week and 4 week menu plans and recipes. I found her recipes to be more family friendly than some of the other books I read. After doing her plan and reading the content in the book, I was then able to adapt my own recipes to a OAM plan. The concept behind OAM cooking is that while you’ve got all the tools out to brown 1 lb. of ground beef, go ahead and brown 5. You’ll still only wash the pan and spoon once versus washing it 5x for each individual pound. If you’re going to chop one onion, get out the food processor (or keep using the knife/cutting board if no food processor) and chop 3! It’s all about efficiency. When you plan your menu out for the month, pick out 15 meals that your family will eat twice in one month. Then double each batch and freeze in 2 portions. In about 5-6 hours, I can have 30 meals pretty much made and ready to go. It sounds like a lot, but if you think about the hour (at least!) a person spends each day cooking and doing dishes that would be a minimum of 30 hours per month. When you look at it that way, 5-6 seems pretty minimal. Also, I am much less tempted to eat out when hurried or stressed because I know that I have something ready to warm up or pop in the oven!
*Analyze whether or not 'coupon-ing' is in your best interest. Yes, I know, you can save money on things when using them. The problem is, they are usually intended to get you to buy items that aren’t on your list at all. Usually, you can find a comparable generic item cheaper than the coupon, or it’s something that you don’t even need and you’re giving in to their marketing schemes. I have found that the best coupons for me are the ones on packaging to items I’m already using (i.e. cake mixes, pectin for canning, cereal, etc.) or the in-store coupons from Fred’s or Costco. The following excerpt was taken from Jonni McCoy’s Miserly Moms website:
“I have noticed that coupons usually are for a convenience food that I can make myself or do without. Rarely do you see a coupon for meat, bread, or milk. With a coupon, I am tempted to buy something that I normally would not buy–just because I have a coupon. When I am tempted by a coupon to buy an item, I ask myself three questions: 1) do I need it? 2) can I buy it cheaper in another brand? 3) can I make it cheaper?
…To illustrate this point, let me tell you about a shopping competition that I was in. I was invited to be a guest on The Gayle King Show, a TV talk show. I was there to compare my shopping style (pursue sales and cook from scratch) with another “grocery expert” (The Coupon King). The other expert was the creator of the Coup-O-Dex coupon filing system (a Rolodex made for coupons that rests on the grocery cart’s handle). He believed in using coupons for every thing that he could. I was assigned a family to plan and shop for, and he did the same. We both shopped and met at the checkout counter (with cameras following our every move). When he checked out, he had $46 worth of coupons taken off his bill, leaving him with a final food bill of $72.00. When I checked out, I had no coupons, but my food bill was only $49.00. The main difference was that he bought prepackaged items from name brand companies that he had a coupon for. I stuck to my philosophy of watching unit prices and making most of my meals from scratch.”
( Jonni McCoy, Miserlymoms.com, article titled “Coupons and Rebates”)”
Now, if you do find a coupon in the Sunday paper that is for something you already use, the coupon experts say to hold onto it for a month. Usually these coupons are a precurser to items that will be on sale from the vendors roughly a month later. If you wait to use the coupon until you see it’s on sale, it can be even more of a discount.
Finally, keep track of your time spent versus your savings to see if the hourly wage for this is truly worth your effort.
*Check out the bulk section at Fred Meyers’ and Safeway-especially the spices. While some dry goods are more expensive in the bulk areas because they are organic (i.e. flours and grains), the spices and oats are very inexpensive as compared to the little bottles on the spice aisle.
*Probably the biggest saver in my kitchen is ‘from scratch cooking’. You know all those great cans of cream soups, and those packets of rice and pasta mixes? Well, they haven’t been around forever. No! Say it isn’t so! It’s true. So, what did people do before Nabisco and Lipton? They made a lot of things from scratch. I first learned of this concept in Miserly Moms. It was so revolutionary to me! To think that I could make my own pancake syrup for pennies, and spice mixes didn’t have to come in cute little packets! Since then, clever women like Jonni McCoy and those featured on websites like Hillbillyhousewife.com and frugalabundance.com, have figured out how to recreate stuffing and rice mixes, and even cream soups that are bases for almost any casserole. I can make cream soup mix for less than $1, and get 9 cans worth of soup out of it! That’s .11/can! Now you tell me where I can buy cream of mushroom, chicken or celery soup for that price! Mix 1 c. sugar and 2 Tbsp. molasses with a fork, and what do you get? Brown sugar! By skipping the ‘convenience foods’ which are packaged kits and mixes, and spending the time to make the foods and ingedients from scratch, I’m not only saving loads of money, but I’m fully aware of what is going into each recipe I make. I’m not as worried about what chemicals and preservatives my family is ingesting since most of the final products stem off of me combining staple pantry items like flour, sugar, seasonings, rice, oats, etc. Because of that, many products like syrups have to be refrigerated rather than left in the cupboard due to the lack of preservatives which companies put into their products to make them shelf-stable at the store. On the ‘Recipes’ page, I have included some of my favorite recipes for the items mentioned above.
By combining scratch cooking, menu planning, and the other frugal kitchen tips I offered above, my grocery and toiletry budget (including diapers) is usually under $300/month for a family of 5! You can do this! It may seem like a lot to implement at first, but just pick one item of the above list and implement that this month. Next month add one more until they each become so routine that it’s ingrained in how you run your home. Honestly, my family has a little more flexibility now with our budget than we did 10 years ago when I first started researching this. But, because it’s such a part of how I do things, and I see so many other side-benefits, I continue to operate (and train my children) in this manner.
Bringing It All Home
*There are so many areas that you can look to save money that are specific to your family’s situations. I am hopeful that you have been inspired and encouraged to look beyond the traditional ‘clipping coupons’ and ‘rice & beans’ to see how to simplify your families’ financial choices. Again, it all boils down to the old adage “Time Is Money”. By prioritizing some time for planning and preparing, you can save your family a bundle of money.
Now, I’ve given you so much information, and I want to end with a fantastic site to help you organize that info. DonnaYoung.org is a FABULOUS Website with free planner pages of all kinds. Most of them can be downloaded as .doc or .pdf in a full page size or a half page (for a “Classic” sized daytimer/dayplanner). Because of all of her efforts, I was able to put together a custom Mom-planner that has just the sheets in there that I specfically need. I found that I prefer to download the .doc, so I can go into Microsoft Word or Wordpad and alter the headings for my subjects. I have a calendar for events in the front of my notebook. Then I have a divided section for my monthly menus. Next is a divider for a section where I can put my coupons and shopping list form. (I LOVE the shopping list. Again, I was able to go into M.Word and take off the items I never buy and add the ones I do, so that it is a personalized checklist that is grouped by category.) Following that is my section for frugal living articles that I want to save and keep handy, followed by a section with project planning forms for big tasks that we may be undertaking. Last is my homeschooling section for lesson plans and the daily prepared cutouts/worksheets that go into corresponding daily folders. By having all of this in one place, I can cross reference my calendar when making out my lesson plans and menus. As I’m making my menu, I can be checking items on my grocery list. These forms are all on the computer, so I don’t have to worry about if something should happen to my planner. While it could be inconvenient, I can still print off new forms rather than have to re-order new inserts from a company or purchase a new palm device. I really encourage you to have fun organizing your planners and use them to help you manage your homes. Flylady calls them a “Control Journal”, and when I was in retail management I referred to it as my “brain”.
I truly hope that the few tools and tidbits I’ve shared with you will help guide you in more purposeful home management. As the adults of the home, we are the ones who navigate and steer the ship to reach our various goals for our families. Sometimes the water is choppy because the wind of past financial mistakes is blowing, and we must adjust our sails to correct for that. Large rocks may jet out of the waters to warn us of coming circumstances that we need to prepare for. Heed that rock, lest you deny its existence and crash into it, bringing stress and tragedy. Beware the island paradise that lures you off course by it’s glossy looks and temporal satisfaction . Our attitudes and habits are being modelled to our children who will one day be the adults of their own homes. We must prioritize our family’s course to be one that will set our kids up for successful living down the road, as well as garner their cooperation while they are still in our home. By implementing a lifestyle of simplified wants, resourcefulness, earning, saving, and consumptive humility, we are reinforcing to our families and ourselves that material wealth is not what builds a family or a legacy. It’s ‘what you do with what you have’ that counts.