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Saving Money in the New Year

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Since starting my full-time job this past summer, I’ve had a really tough time keeping on top of some household tasks. The biggest of which was meal planning and food prepping. It’s lead to a large increase in our overall grocery spending as I’ve been buying more prepared foods, not buying items on sale, and making more last minute trips to the store for “one item for dinner” (which inevitably leads to over-spending on additional items). Just not a great situation overall.

So one of the things I’m trying to be more mindful about this year is to do some better planning and try to save more on groceries.

Toward that end, I recently came across this article in Cooking Light titled 18 Foods You Can Scrimp On At The Grocery Store.

I hate when articles force you to click through screen by screen, so let me summarize the main points for you (content from Cooking Light)

Buy these foods generic:

  • Sugar
  • Whole and Ground Spices
  • Block Cheese
  • Tomato paste
  • Milk
  • Canned beans
  • Bagged lettuce
  • Table salt
  • Panko
  • Neutral cooking oils (e.g., canola, vegetable, safflower)
  • Cooking spray
  • White vinegar

Save money on:

  • Buying whole produce (as opposed to pre-washed/pre-cut)
  • Nuts, by buying in bulk
  • Brown rice & whole grains, by buying in bulk
  • Dried beans and lentils, by buying bulk
  • Popcorn, by buying in bulk
  • Herbs. Instead of buying lots of individual kinds of herbs, buy blends that can be used more frequently to reduce waste.

Your thoughts? Any items you disagree with? Any other items you’d add that you’ve saved on?

I don’t agree with the idea of buying generic/cheap cooking spray. I used to do that, but noticed that the thing always clogged up or broke before the spray was actually gone. I switched to a name brand and have never had an issue since (update:  I actually started using Kirkland brand from Costco so it’s technically a generic/store brand, but it’s awesome! Costco for the win again!)

I’ll also mention that some of these suggestions are tough with busy schedules. I used to buy bulk pinto beans that I’d soak overnight and then cook all day. We’d use them whole (as pinto beans, duh!) or mashed up (as refried beans). Yes, it cost literal pennies compared to canned stuff in the grocery store. But ain’t nobody got time for cooking foods that take all day when you’re not home to make it! Yes, crock pots can work, but not being present just adds an element of difficulty that wasn’t there when I worked from home.

I’d love to hear other ideas of areas where you save on your food budget!


No Spend Month – Wrap Up

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So if you will remember, due to my job lay off and being on the edge financially I committed to No Spend November. I have to admit, it has been a very pleasant month.  I did ALOT of cooking and really enjoyed every morning getting up and searching through my cookbooks to find new recipes to try out.  In fact today, I have a hearty vegetable soup going in the crockpot which will be perfect for this cold winter night!

But on the spending side…

We did GREAT with no spend November.  But I did cheat…exactly twice.  Once during the weekend of Little Gymnast meet.  At the end of the meet, we were both starving and while I did have dinner at home in the crockpot, I knew I couldn’t make the 3 hour drive without something so when we stopped to get gas, we each got a little snack…$13.59.  And then last night, the last night of the month, I just couldn’t resist a celebratory meal out for the kids and I to the tune of $42.  I immediately regretted this second one especially in light of how tight this next month will be, but boy it was good!

Otherwise, I stayed right on track with absolutely NO SPENDING!  Go me, go me!

Now, on the income side…

As I previously wrote, I have gotten a decent part time job which will start in January, but thus far have found no other work. However, I have been very blessed this week by two friends.  One had surgery and the little ones and I volunteered to go help her out for a few days while she was home recovering; she has a 10 month old and 2 year old at home.  It truly was a friend helping a friend.  Then I went to clean out my purse this weekend and there was an envelope in my purse with a check from them.  I called immediately and she said she knew I wouldn’t have taken it but they wanted to help me out.  I couldn’t help but cry.

And then another friend whose son is in three of my classes, unexpectedly paid me most of next semester’s tuition a month early.  What a blessing that was!

The kids and I had a great low key Thanksgiving.  We actually cooked a full meal including a turkey our neighbor gave us!  And better yet, we set up our 6 ft plastic table in the middle of the living room and ate together as a family…the first time we’ve sat together at a table in our tiny living space…and one of the things I miss the most.

2015-11-26 14.16.26

So in a nutshell, my No Spend November went great!  And I am looking forward to Do Good December!

 


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