Category: Savings


Craving this every time I try to go low carb

Oatmeal Pancakes and sausages

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I’ve been thinking lately that the name I have given this challenge may be misleading to some so I am taking a moment to clear up any misconceptions. Even though the label states groceries, I’m feeding a family of three and two dogs and two cats. In addition, this small outlay of cash, in comparison to an average monthly budget for such expenses, is providing all personal, cleaning, and paper products for our family. I am challenging myself to be more mindful of my spending and while I envy the extreme couponers who seem to get a lot more for a lot less, I feel I’ll definitely be challenged by this goal and it will keep me focused.

What are some of my strategies for making this possible?

Once or twice a month I shop Aldi for several items that I know I can’t get cheaper elsewhere. I know in advance what the prices will be. This allows me to budget without a lot of effort of searching and clipping. On my most recent trip $21.33 was spent.

Here are a few examples:

10# white potatoes $3.99

Mac n cheese $.39

3 pk scrubber sponges $.99

Condensed soups $.59

There is a slight possibility I could do better with coupons. My daughter likes the mac and cheese occasionally for something different for her lunch. We’ve tried name brand, which is supposed to be soooo good. She prefers the Aldi brand and found there is even more in the box. It seems to make more for the same size as the name brand. Maybe it’s our imagination? We also tried other store brands. Aldi won on both taste and price.

A recent trip to CVS scored me $5 extrabucks that I can use on a future purchase. I stocked up on shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, body wash, and even got two cans of tuna for $.38 per can. Total spent $11.51 Total saved $24.77 + remember I get $5 to use in the future. If you’ve been keeping track of my shampoo purchases you’ve probably noticed that I have quite the stock pile. The key is to buy when it costs the least so you will never have to pay full price.

Giant and Aldi are very close together, so we almost always hit Giant after Aldi. I always take cash into Aldi so we use the leftover cash at Giant and try to get all we need with what is left. It’s fun to try to do this. It really makes you price compare and consider each purchase carefully. I know many use the cash envelope system. It does work. I find it more difficult to track expenditures when using cash but there probably isn’t an excuse to not use cash exclusively for groceries. When we get through the check out line we always use the cash first and then our bank card. Some may justify that since they do not have enough cash to cover the amount that they would rather pay with only one source and use their bank card or write a check, etc. It would then be tempting to squander that cash in your pocket. You can pay however you like in whichever combination though, at least at our store. Check which kinds of payments are accepted and the policies of your store before setting out to do this. Total spent $29.85 ($20 cash and $9.85 check card) Total saved $12.76

A few deals and strategies worth mentioning:

BBQ sauce was on sale and combined with a coupon was FREE.

Two Zone Perfect bars with coupons were FREE.

A B1G1 free deal on laundry detergent turned out to be the best deal even without a coupon, and I have a lot of detergent coupons. Always check! Sometimes using a coupon is not the best deal. Also make sure to compare cost per load. I noticed a lot of variations at the store that day, especially with the new pods. Does anyone have any experience with the pods? I noticed you get less loads per package, but you don’t have to measure, so could you actually use less maybe? I’ve gotten a few samples in the mail and feel the pods work fabulously, even one pod to a washer full of clothes, lightly soiled clothes. This is something to look into in the future.

Check out the store brand. This isn’t always the case, but most often the store brand is just as good as name brand without the inflated price. We saved approximately two dollars by buying store brand cream cheese and o.j.  If you’d do this every other week for a year it would total $52 in savings. That equals four trips to a movie matinée for us.

We decided on Wegmans for our meat purchases this go round. Earlier in the year I was really trying to strive for all organic meat and dairy purchases. Evidently this is not the season of my life to undertake such a goal. We still do buy only organic milk, other organic dairy items when I find sales and/or coupons, and organic meat on occasion. In the meantime, as long as my ground beef does not contain that “pink slime” I am content with non organic. We are eating less meat too. Here are a few ideas on how to make that work for your family.
We purchased ground beef, boneless and skinless chicken thighs and pork country style spareribs in family size packs to divide and freeze at home. Total spent $34.48

Total spent so far this month $179.84

We are into the first two weeks of August and are right on track. Expenditures so far total $82.67.

My most recent trip to Target looked like this…

I know it looks like quite the hodgepodge, but my method is to buy what you can while it’s cheap or free and you won’t need it when it’s not.

This haul contained:

2 bags of dog food (not pictured, that scored us a $5 gift card to use in the future)

10 cans of cat food

A Ritter Sport bar (a once in a while indulgence)

Fruit snacks

Bugles (husband’s indulgence)

4 bags of frozen veggies

Cleaning/disinfecting wipes

Comet stainless steel

Pens

Scotch tape

Pantene shampoo and conditioner

Garnier shampoo and conditioner

$43.98 spent

$22.97 saved

Ducked into Walmart on the way home because someone remembered they broke a boot lace. I happened to have coupons for tissues they carry and someone also decided they wanted a candy bar. Here’s a hint. Someone isn’t me.

$2.24 spent

$1.50 saved

Earlier in the week we made a trip to Wegmans because it’s our closest organic milk source. Also, daughter had a hankering for chocolate so I picked up a couple of Ritter Sport bars. This is where I noticed how much cheaper they are at Target and is why I grabbed one to keep back the next time we shopped there. I don’t eat candy bars often, but when I do, I find this European chocolate to be worth the calories. They seem pricey, but you have to keep in mind that each bar contains three servings. Remember to keep that in mind while you’re eating it too. 😉

$10.77 spent

We also ran into Giant for ingredients for pasta salad that we needed to make for a picnic. While there I spotted a B1G1 free deal on bread and another store deal that scored me some rock bottom prices on cat litter and feminine products, even without coupons, so we stocked up.

$25.68 spent

$16.11 saved

Remember: In order to reach a goal you need to set one first!

Our Frugal Beach Vacation

Our family of three and daughter’s friend recently embarked on what most would call a low-budget beach vacation. I shared a recent post about how we save money on vacation here. We had a blast despite our limited funds.

The ocean has a different personality each day it seems. I don’t ever remember it being the same day by day for as long as I’ve been going there, and that’s been since I was a small child. This year it was calm the day we arrived. The water was warm and peaceful with high tide arriving right around lunchtime. We arrived at our hotel around 11 a.m., got the parking pass from the office and walked up on the beach. Our motel is about a block from the beach and boardwalk. We ate our picnic lunch and stayed on the beach until around 4 p.m. After heading back to the hotel, checking in and cleaning up, we made our way up to the boardwalk.

Our first night there we enjoyed a delicious and mostly frugal and healthful meal. It’s my favorite boardwalk treat. Pizza. Well, actually it’s a Maruca’s Tomato Pie.

A perfect masterpiece of just right crisp crust, delicious sauce and yummy cheese that was just enough for the four of us. Even with a couple of drinks it was very affordable. You can watch the pizzas being made right in front of you while you dine in air-conditioned comfort right on the boardwalk. Everyone is always smiling and friendly too. We love it and make a beeline for it every year. It’s all the way down at the end of the boardwalk and worth every step.

Our second day on the beach started out very windy. There was a yellow flag at the beach patrol station which warned us about the moderately rough surf, and they weren’t kidding. The sun came out later in the day and we did end up braving the waves, but not without a few near casualties and near losses of bathing suits. It’s pretty bad when you have to choose between modesty and breathing. I’ve made a note to only wear one-piece bathing suits to the beach from now on. 😉

You can see how the rough surf carved out a chunk of beach.

It was more than a 2 ft drop, but just a little bit fun sliding down to get to the water. Once you made it to the water that was an obstacle in itself.

On our second night we went to a local family Italian restaurant for dinner. We found a coupon in the Beach Comber magazine we found in the hotel lobby. It was the buy one entrée get one free variety. The portions were huge and the food was delicious. I noticed many left with doggie bags. We had a frig and microwave in our room so we were able to do this too. We didn’t realize it when we entered the restaurant, but the cast of the TV show Jersey Shore was dining in the back. Although we are not fans, it was exciting to watch the interested patrons and their anticipation of maybe getting a glimpse of one of the cast.

We were welcomed by calmer water on our third and final day on the beach and spent a great deal of time in the water jumping the gentle waves. It was just enough days on the beach. Even with reapplication of sunblock, with all of that sun and sea spray, you start to get a little crispy around the edges. We left the beach with a promise to the ocean to return next year. Our third and final night was spent on the boardwalk taking in all of the sights and sounds, everyone choosing their favorite boardwalk foods to eat and riding go-carts. The boardwalk is a mile long. We more than walked off our supper walking up and down.

Our vacation came to a crescendo on the way home when we stopped at The Cheesecake Factory to spend some of the extra money that we did not need for the trip. It was neither frugal nor healthful, but a welcomed once a year treat. I opted for a more healthful chicken and shrimp dish with brown rice. We ordered the cheesecake to go and packed it away in a cooler to keep it safe on the rest of the trip home.

We had a fantastic time for what most would certainly feel was just a little bit of money as far as vacations are concerned.

How do you vacation?

Yard Sales

This week we are preparing for a yard sale at the frugal and healthful house.

 

While I’m not one to recommend running to every yard sale in the general vicinity on a Saturday morning just to buy whatever, I am into finding specific items that one may need. If you grab whichever Friday night or Saturday morning paper that lists your local yard sales, you will find that many will place specific items in the ad. If you are in need of a large item, such as a dresser, you’ll save a ton if you pick one up at a yard sale, even if you have to refurbish it a little. You can also have your own sale and clean out that attic or garage. I’m itching to do just that. I find if you set a purpose for the money you’ll make ahead of time you always do better because you have a goal to work towards. Our earnings this year will go towards our budget category of truck repairs/tires. In the past we have used our yard sale profit for the summer vacation fund.

Tips For Hosting Your Own Yard Sale

Check to see if your community has any laws regarding yard sales and follow the rules.

Decide what to sell. You can have someone help you with this process if you are sentimental.

Clean up any items that might need it. A lot of times you can get more for an item if it’s spiffed up a little.

Price your items. If you haven’t had a sale in a while you may want to browse a few sales in your area to make sure you aren’t under or overpricing your items.

Figure out a display strategy. Hang clothing on hangers from a clothesline. Plan to borrow tables if necessary. Have an outlet and extension cord available to test electric items. Make sure customers have a safe path to walk around and look at items. As you place items on your tables keep the box under the table for large purchases or for easier cleanup after the sale. Figure out how you will cover your items in case of bad weather.

Save grocery bags to use for customers’ purchases.

Ask friends and neighbors if they would like to join in before you place an ad so you can split the cost.

Set one price for pants, another for shirts, etc. and write it on a sign instead of having to mark every item.

If you make and post signs in the high traffic areas of your neighborhood, which I highly recommend, make sure to take them down when your sale is over. They can create quite an eyesore.

Make sure to get change the day before your sale starts. Decide who is in charge of the cash box and keep a close eye on it at all times, or wear a cash belt or fanny pack. Have a pen and paper nearby or a calculator for quick adding.

What kinds of items have you scored at yard sales that saved you a bundle?

A trip to Walmart, local butcher, and Wegman’s added a little bit to the tally.

Walmart

2 Lysol bowl cleaner, store brand Magic Eraser 2 pk, and Pond’s make-up removing towelettes

$8.67

Local Butcher

1 lb each of beef cubes and loose sausage

$7.11

Wegmans

1 gal organic 1% milk, celery, 6 lb ground beef, and puff n corn (hmmm, who put that in the cart?)

$23.33

Free garden produce

A huge cabbage, with which I intend to make a freezer full of cabbage rolls. We’ll also make fried cabbage and potatoes with hot peppers with the inside leaves that will be too small to wrap rolls.

Three bulbs fresh garlic

A nice size zucchini

A cuke to slice into salad

Total: $39.11

That leaves $59.49 left to spend for the month. Scary isn’t it? You’d be amazed at what can be accomplished when you set a goal.

Today was our first shopping trip after coming home from vacation. If you’ve been following along you know how I’ll be challenging myself to spend under $200 a month for our family of three and our four pets while also utilizing what we already have in our pantry and freezer.

We scored big at the bread outlet. I rarely eat bread from a loaf, and if I do I prefer 100% whole wheat. Have you seen what a loaf of bread, pitas, and English muffins are going for lately? If you buy three of these items you’ve spent ten dollars already, but not if you shop at the bread outlet.

We found…

2 pkg of Thomas’s High Fiber Honey Wheat English Muffins and a pkg of Honey Oatmeal Bagels for $4.00

2 pkg of Weight Watchers Pita Pockets and a pkg of Weight Watchers Bagels for $3.00 (These appealed to us because daughter and I are looking to consume more fiber and these contained 9 g of fiber per serving.)

1 pkg Multigrain sandwich thins for $.89

1 pkg Maier’s Italian bread (for husband) for $.89

1 pkg Entenmann’s coconut mini donuts (for daughter) for $.50

The grand total was $9.28 and we’ll end up stretching some of these items into next month. We’ll store most of it in the freezer and get individual items out to toast or defrost as we use them. This works really well for bagels, muffins and things you end up toasting anyway. I’ve also had good luck with pitas from the freezer.

My regular shopping trip was at Giant. I spent $92.12 and saved $36.40. I typically save around 50%, so not great savings this go ’round. I suppose it’s good if you think about the $127.77 I would have spent with no savings at all. 🙂

The total so far is $101.40 and I still have a trip to the butcher this week. Because husband is paid twice a week we try to only shop that often and some items last into the next month and even beyond. I recently read a post by a once a month shopper. I’m not sure her list showed enough variety for my family, but I’m still considering it because I love the simplicity of it. More about that later.

Our Giant trip consisted of a little of everything, from produce to diary to pet food. My menu is planned through to the next pay date, and I have all of the bases covered, plus some. It’s always a good idea to leave a little wiggle room in your budget for unadvertised specials and stock up items for which you have coupons. For instance, one of our favorite pastas was on sale and I combined it with a coupon to get it at $.50 a box. Our favorite jarred sauce was also on special for $.99, so I grabbed more than one.

We’ll use our fresh produce the first week and rely on frozen or canned during the second. We have strawberries and peaches for fresh fruit choices. Buying ten lbs ($4.99) of potatoes was cheaper than buying two separate five lb bags ($3.49) in two separate weeks, and potatoes keep for awhile, as do onions. I opted for hearts of romaine instead of the clam shell of baby lettuces or the bagged stuff because I find they keep longer. They are also very easy to wash. Don’t forget about the farmers’ market as a great place to look for produce deals. If you have a garden it’s practically like going out and picking free food. I’m really looking forward to roasted garden veggie stuffed pitas for lunch.

What do you do to save money on groceries?

First and foremost, set goals to save up. It’s certainly the norm to use a credit card to book a room, and some establishments even require it, but pay in cash when you arrive. Don’t forget to get a receipt. Paying cash saves you all of that interest!

Divide each aspect of the vacation into chunks and “raise” the money little by little.

We save our aluminum cans and use the money to pay for tolls. Anything left over can be used for games on the boardwalk. Have a yard sale, or sell items online on Ebay, Craigslist, or Facebook to pay for your accommodations. Save your Christmas money and birthday money gifts to pay for meals. My daughter graciously donated a small chunk of her high school graduation money gifts to the vacation fund this year. It doesn’t take as long to save if everyone in the family contributes. There certainly isn’t anything wrong with working age teenagers learning how far one of their hard-earned dollars stretches. 😉

You can see how you could come up with quite a sum without even delving into your regular income.

Location, Location, Location

Do your research and locate a beach close to home to save on gas. The beach itself provides plenty of entertainment. If you’re looking for other amenities, such as a fantastic boardwalk, simple internet searches should help you find what you are looking for within the closest distance. If you drive a gas hog of a vehicle, consider renting a car. The money saved in gas may pay for the entire rental fee plus some, depending upon your situation and deals available. Additional benefits would be saving wear and tear on your car, and not having to worry about breakdowns. Our beach vacation destination is about 4 hours away.

Choose your season wisely.

Off-season rates are incredibly cheaper. Depending on which activities you like to pursue, off season could be a perfect time for a beach vacation. Our New Jersey beach’s water doesn’t really warm up until July. September is still a good month though, and prices do drop, but we have always had to contend with school starting. We search the rates for different hotels on the internet and stay away from pricier times such as holidays and weekends. If you have vacation time coming why not do it midweek for better prices and most likely less traffic.

Check and recheck when you pack.

Make sure you have all of your essentials to cut down on shopping trips when you arrive. Even though we have a very convenient CVS close by things can get pricey in tourist spots, and shopping trips on vacation can turn into a free for all just because it’s vacation time. I always make sure I have some CVS extra bucks saved up for such emergencies.

Pack your own food.

Getting to go to the beach and see the ocean once a year is a big deal for us. We absolutely love it and look forward to it so much that it becomes no big deal at all to pack a few simple breakfast, lunch, and snack options, including beverages. We eat our suppertime meal out, on the boardwalk or at a restaurant, so the trip has more of a vacationlike feel without breaking the bank.

Our hotel now includes a limited menu breakfast for its guests, which is an added bonus. You have to stick to the plan, though, and only order from the limited menu. If you think there is any chance you will falter and go over budget, plan to bring your own breakfast items. In the past with four kids we’ve been successful with milk and cereal bars and individual cereal boxes that you can tear open, add milk and eat right out of the box. If you require more substantial protein like I do, try hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter bagels, yogurt and granola, or store-bought or homemade protein bars. You can add a piece of fresh fruit or a 100% fruit juice mini juice box and there’s breakfast.

We make our lunch in the room and pack it in a cooler to take to the beach. Our traditional beach lunch is a wrap. I was so excited last year when my “just turned into an adult” daughter went to the beach with her best friend and asked me about the components of the wraps because that’s what she wanted to take to the beach for lunch. We get flavored wraps, turkey or ham, and baby lettuces because they roll better. I get a squeeze mayo. In all of the years we’ve gone, no one has become ill because we used mayo. I make up the wraps, cut them in half and store them in a large zip top bag in the cooler. We also take fruit cups or fresh fruit, granola bars and plenty of water. If you go to the beach all day like we do, be sure to pack enough snacks and water. Playing in the ocean helps you work up a voracious appetite. We are not beach loungers. We are wave jumpers. 🙂

Be sure to check your beach’s information regarding cooler sizes, beverage container materials, such as no glass, no alcoholic beverages, etc. Our beach does check coolers.

Be frugal with suppertime choices.

Even though we’ve found the boardwalk is a cheaper destination for suppertime than a restaurant, there are so many options, one could go overboard. We allot an amount for each person for the evening. Once your money is gone, you’re done. One of the more frugal and even more nutritious boardwalk options at many beaches is pizza. We look forward to one particular pizza joint so one evening we order a large tomato pie and some drinks. It’s very economical, filling and healthful compared to other boardwalk foods. We have a favorite restaurant we love there that offers early bird specials. It includes a limited list of meals, a salad, and a dessert. Keep your eyes open for this sort of deal to save you a ton of money.

When we check in to our hotel we’re often offered a booklet that lists local eateries and any specials or coupons. Check out your hotel lobby. They often have several different directories of that sort and even maps to help you navigate your area. Don’t forget to just ask. The hotel managers understand. They know what this economy has done to families, and they want to help you save money so you’ll want to come back next year. They live there or spend a lot of time in the area too, so they know all of the economical places to eat. Some hotels at our beach even host family pizza nights by the pool, to save you money, and of course to make their hotel more appealing.

Fun and Games

As I mentioned before, the beach in itself is entertaining, and many families, especially those with young children may be content to relax in their hotel room, or lounge around the pool during the evenings after supper. You may be able to convince older children that this will be the plan too. If not, simply walking the boardwalk and sightseeing can be entertaining. If you have a rowdier bunch, pick one thing to do each night and once the money is gone, that’s it. Do your research and see if activities such as amusement rides are discounted on certain nights of the week and plan your vacation around those nights, if that is something you know your family will want to do.

Make sure to have a family discussion during the planning process and before you leave to make sure everyone knows about the budget. My family has never complained about any limitations. When we started going to the beach as a family of six the kids were ages 10, 8, 7, and 6. They have always been thankful to get the opportunity to go, play in the ocean and appreciate the sights and sounds of a different environment. We’ve always had a limited vacation budget. They always have been able to ride the go carts, a few amusement rides and play a few games. The trick is to be picky and spend the money on something you know you will really enjoy. One year as teenagers they splurged for temporary tattoos. They were soon faded after we returned home, but it was what they wanted at the time and they were happy to have them and give up another activity to get them.

Souvenirs

We rarely buy them and never miss them. Our favorite souvenirs are often photos, memories, or a few interesting sea shells.

Don’t forget emergency money.

The unexpected happens sometimes. You could misplace your money, incorrectly calculate an expense, have a rainy day and go to the movies, etc. Always include a little extra in your calculations. When we under spend, which is usually the case, we celebrate by enjoying a nice meal on the way home at a favorite restaurant that we do not have in our immediate vicinity. It’s the perfect ending to the vacation too, because when we leave our vacation destination we know that the “entertainment” is not completely over.

Happy Planning!

What do you do to save money on vacation?

There’s nothing like knowing what you will be eating for the main meal of the day. It helps me stay organized and save money.

Sunday:  Cheeseburgers, Potato salad and Beans

This was a celebratory meal and was neither frugal nor healthful. We even got out the peanut butter pie for later.

Monday: Leftovers from Ham Dinner

Tuesday: White Spaghetti, Salad, Garlic bread

The inspiration for this meal came from the beautiful bulbs of fresh garlic my dad just gave us out of his garden.

You might want to skip the garlic bread if you don’t want carb overload. I might have just a little piece to soak up the oil and vinegar dressing I use on the salad.

Wednesday: Grilled chicken, Baked potatoes, Salad, Peas

This is that comparison meal I did last week. It was enjoyed so much we are having it again. I added the peas.

Thursday: Weiny Roast Pool Party with extended family

We are in need of some frugal yet more healthful suggestions to feed a crowd when we have company over to swim and it happens to be suppertime. We turn to hotdogs because they are cheap, quick, and easy. Cleanup is easy too. I’m sure if I brainstorm I’ll be able to think of a few alternatives so they don’t become a weekly habit.

Friday: Pizza

Saturday: Leftovers to clear out the frig to prepare for our graduation party on Sunday

Eating away from home is supposed to be a treat and not a staple, right? Each time I hear that families turn to fast food as a supposed cheaper alternative to a home cooked meal I shake my head in disbelief. Yesterday while browsing on one of those social sites I saw a comparison made involving a fast food meal, homemade chicken and potato meal, and a beans and rice meal.

A chicken and potato meal was on the menu for supper last night so I decided to do a cost analysis of the foods I had on hand. This meal took me 30 minutes to prepare, and that included thawing the chicken in the microwave. The only advance prep I did was to pound the boneless, skinless chicken breasts before freezing. I prepared the meal for a family of three but did the cost analysis for a family of four. I could have added carrots as an additional vegetable for minimal additional cost.

I prepared my “French” chicken, microbaked potatoes with chives, and a romaine salad with an oil and vinegar dressing. I even had a fancy garnish of chive flowers for the salad. We drink water or iced tea with our suppertime meal. Even if serving children a glass of milk with this meal, it still would be really frugal. If we were meant to drink soda or pop, it would fall from the sky. I can feel the daggers, soft drink lovers. My husband is a Mt. Dew fan.

Put a little olive oil in your pan and start to cook your thawed chicken.

Season your chicken with a little onion powder and tarragon. Remember to season both sides. No one likes one-sided tasting food. 😉

When your chicken is almost done you can make a sauce right in the same pan.

Put the Dijon mustard, to taste, in the pan. Add a little cream or milk to thin it out and stir. Finish cooking the chicken in the sauce. Young children may prefer honey mustard.

While your chicken is cooking, scrub and prick your potatoes and microwave them for about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on size. Wash your greens and dress with a little olive oil and vinegar.

Dinner is served. My piece of chicken looks a little skimpy, but you have to remember that a serving size of meat is the size of a deck of cards. I’m trying to cut back on calories so I gave my husband the larger piece and half of my potato. He had leftovers to take to work as we only have a family of three. I filled up on a second helping of salad.

$2.50     2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded to even thickness $1.99/lb

$1.26     3 medium organic, yukon gold potatoes

$.67       1 romaine heart

$.25       olive oil

$.08       vinegar

$.05        onion powder

$.10        dried tarragon

$.07        Dijon mustard

$.04        organic 1% milk

$.08        4 tsp butter

$.00        chives from herb garden

$5.10      Total

We spend $15 to $25 on a fast food meal for a family of four, depending on if we happen to have high value coupons. Fast food is an option, not a necessary choice to save money or time.

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