Frugal Food

I cannot believe how long it has been since I have consistently posted on this site. It feels like just yesterday I was trying to figure out what direction I wanted to go with with this blog and now it makes me a little sad to think that four months could go by that quickly. Regardless, I hope to be back to being consistent within the next few weeks. My internship will be over in two weeks and after that I am going to feel like I have all the time in the world! The drive alone was about 13 hours per week – together that is 53 hours of (unpaid) time I cannot be cooking or blogging. However, such is life and it needed to be done so that I can become a registered dietitian…this is the last I will mention it 🙂

Over the past two months I have spent little time cooking. The internship provides lunch, which is a help with the budget, and we have been spending a lot of time away from the apartment on the weekends. This allowed me to get by with only making about two real meals a week. I have been looking for ways to save money since right now we only have one part-time income coming in and we could use any extra quarter we can get. In trying to research ways to cut back I looking up blogs that talk about being frugal or financially savvy and realized we already do most of the things they were talking about.

I decided to post on what we do to save money. At first I thought this didn’t fit with the blog but then I realized it is all part of the name…nutrition information (i.e. recipes, random facts), health (from the nutrition information) and life (all things related, included saving money). Right now we are doing a cash challenge for the month where we will pay for everything with cash (except gas – that uses the debt card because it is just easier than going inside) and are recording every item we buy – not just $54.26 from Aldis, but every item and its price. We are hoping to get a better idea of what we are actually spending and where.

When we first were married and started grocery shopping I was amazed at how much we spent. I didn’t know what a good price was for lunch meat or ground turkey because I never bought that food on my own (I could tell you what a good price for lettuce or carrots was, however). To aid in the process I made a Grocery Costs excel sheet. It has each item and what its ounce price is. After a month I was pretty familiar with the prices and could go to one of three grocery stores and tell you if I was going to wait to buy it until I went to Jewel or if it was okay to buy at Walmart. I also started pricing out meals to see if some things we were eating were costing us too much, but I lost interest and didn’t pursue that any further.

Together, these two tasks have really helped us see how to find the best deal on groceries and have allowed us to determine where our money is really going. Here are some other things that I find useful for saving money:

1. Always look at the ounce price. The bigger or bulk item is not always cheaper. For instance, the large size of natural peanut butter at Walmart is actually more expensive per ounce than the small size. Instead of buying one large jar I just buy two small jars now.

2. Make a list before you go and organize it by area/type. This will make the trip faster and more efficient. Before I really knew my grocery stores I would make one trip down the store and realize I missed ten things before and would have to snake back through.

3. Be flexible with fruits and vegetables. For these I usually denote on my list how many fruits and vegetables I want to buy but not the exact kinds. This goes a little against number two, but it allows me to decide there when I see what is on sale. In season is usually cheaper, but now always (apples will always be cheaper than blackberries).

4. Buy frozen and canned foods when you can. I despise canned vegetables, but don’t mind frozen vegetables, so we often stock up on frozen veggies once a month. For fruit, we usually buy some frozen and some canned. If you are buying canned fruit choose the kind packed in its own juice or in light syrup. Pineapple, for instance, tastes just fine out of the can and is extremely cheaper than buying a whole pineapple. If we live in Hawaii I would just buy it fresh, but “fresh” in IL is not quite the same 😉

5. Plan out meals and snacks. Every week I make a menu for the week. This allows me to see how much I really need and of what. I usually look at what we have first to try to use that up first. For snacks, I just started a rotating snack menu. I wrote out four weeks with four snacks each(i.e veggies and dip, nuts, crackers, pudding) and will reuse this list each month. Before I would just buy the same thing every week and sometimes food wouldn’t get eaten as quickly as I would have liked, or we would get sick of the same snack. I think this new way will help us eat a variety of foods, save money, and not get bored. I should add that when I say snacks, I don’t mean store bought chips and cookies. I try to always make the snacks if I can, so if cookies are the snack they will be homemade not Chips Ahoy. Not only does homemade taste better but it is better for your and saves money.

I could probably go one for hours about this, so I think I will call it quits for now. I’ll be back soon!

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