Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Frugal Tips -- posted by Sarah Grace

Even though it may be a short-lived trend, I'm glad there's a renewed interest in frugality since it is an essential part of wholesome living. It's a virtue that has sadly been missing from our culture. I appreciate those who lived through the depression; they are typically industrious and thrifty. We've learned a lot from various websites that have pooled this kind of wisdom.

My mother never appreciated these principles while growing up, but she has purposed herself to learn and teach me how to "tighten my belt to the size of my ring finger." You never know when you'll go through tight times, and I want my future husband to be able safely trust in me.

Mom and I are going to brainstorm and list the things we do in our family to save money. We've found that some frugal advice sacrifices good nutrition, as well as being downright cheap. Some frugalites are stingy and don't give with a cheerful heart. We would never diminish Daddy by scrounging as if he can't provide for his family, so we'll share what works for us.

Some things are such habit that they seem common knowledge and we've forgotten that we didn't always practice them, but we'll risk sounding green to the subject in hopes of helping frugal newbies.

As we think of new things, we'll add to this topic. Look for the label "frugal tips" on the right sidebar.

1. USE IT UP! This is the single best piece of advice we can give, and it saves us a bundle! For example, we have conquered the bad habit of pouring too much drink or having "eyes bigger than your stomach." It took a while, but we trained the children to take small portions with permission to get seconds if needed. Another example is to save vegetable scraps (such as the ends of onions, celery, carrots, etc.) from the week, to make delicious broth for soup. We stay on top of what is in the refrigerator so nothing goes bad, and we've collected recipes to use up the slightest leftovers. We will give more examples throughout the list but, in the meantime, you can get the mindset of USE IT UP! Mom and I have made a game of it and we marvel at some of our "saves."

2. Keep a price book. Actually, we're using big index cards as they fit in the purse better. Keep up with the latest prices of products you use. Break the prices down to unit prices as that is easier while standing in the store. List the product, date, store, unit price, and whether it is the regular or sale price. That way, when you are shopping, you can tell if something is a bargain. You can also tell if it is a super bargain to stock up on. Also, you can get a feel for the sale cycles of various stores.

3. Shop Aldi. Mom was a little uncomfortable shopping in a store that looked so cold and European but she got used to it when she saw our grocery bill reduce by nearly half. Aldi only takes debit or cash so be prepared for that. They also don't take coupons. And take your own grocery bags, or get a banana box from inside the store to tote your groceries. They have bags (for a fee) but it's unnecessary. They don't carry everything that a regular supermarket carries, but it is a great place for staples, fruit, vegetables, and bread, when we buy bread. It is obviously much cheaper and healthier to bake your own. For good nutrition, much of our food is made from scratch so we no longer buy their prepackaged food, but we used to get good prices on cookies, cereal, cake mixes, chips, etc. Oh, and you must rent the carts by putting a quarter in them, but you get your money back when you return the cart. Beware, when Mom went to retrieve her quarter the first time, out popped a pfennig! I'm kidding.

4. Shop loss-leaders. Before we go shopping we check the circulars for loss-leaders, especially on meat. Still though, we keep an open mind and are prepared to change our week's menu on the spot if we stumble upon an unadvertised clearance. Wednesday we got $141.89 worth for $69.03 and that was just ordinary savings for us.

5. Eat out less. Actually, this is the single most important practice for us if you can measure what NOT to do. Some say that this advice doesn't necessarily apply to singles or couples who dine out frugally with coupons and take-out containers, etc., but for our family of ten it is a no-brainer. Even cheap fast food runs at least $40 for supper without drinks, so we try to reserve eating out for special occasions to places we truly enjoy. At home, we average $10 a night for a delicious and nutritious homemade supper. Of course, that is an average, as some nights we have pricey steaks or seafood, but that is balanced by meatless nights such as vegetable soups, bean dishes, baked potatoes, Mexican meatless, whole wheat pasta with sauce and cheeses, or stewed tomatoes on whole grain rice. We know this is easier said than done when take-out is such an easy option, especially on hectic days when your best laid plans fall apart. That's why we have certain "crisis meals" tucked away in our minds, pantry, and freezer. We have things like several cans of stewed tomatoes, corn bread mix, pasta and sauce. Things that don't have to be thawed and aren't a mental hassle. It may not be what you're hankerin' for, but a big part of frugal living is discipline.

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