Friday, June 12, 2009

Frugal Made Simple

These are just some accumulated tips I've gathered for saving money. Because I'm not out there earning an income, I try my darndest to not waste what he makes.


Make a list and stick to it! For me, I find I'm much better able to stick to my list if I go grocery shopping without the kids. I'm too susceptible to "Mom, please?!" I also don't go when I'm tired or hungry.

Before making your list, "shop" at home first. Look through your pantry, fridge and cupboards. There is little sense in buying something you already have.

We don't have an Aldi's here in Upper LandoftheLost Michigan- just one of the great tragedies of moving to this frozen tundra. Otherwise, I'd so be there. They are cheap, cheap, cheap!

I know everyone says coupons, coupons, coupons! And if you're a name-brand buyer, I'd also be saying that. But I've never really noticed any benefit to coupons because I hardly ever buy name-brand. Maybe I should pay more attention to comparing the cost of name-brand with a coupon vs. the price of generic. Somehow, I'm thinking I'd break even at best, but maybe not.

But use grocery store savings cards, read the flyers, watch for sales and make a plan of attack. That may involve going to more than one grocery store to get the best savings.

Buy in bulk when possible and break things up into serving size, though be careful not to "over buy" and end up with things that will go bad before you can get to them.

Be reasonable about your needs. We live a good 30 miles from where we shop, so, in an effort to cut down on gas use, I try and do at least a 2 to 3 week menu for groceries. However, buying 2 or 3 weeks worth of produce turned out not to work because some of it would be icky before we ate it. Therefore, though the produce is more expensive, it works out better for us to buy produce from our little local grocer as we need it.

On that note- check out Farmer's Markets and CSA's for produce.

Buy leaner (and cheaper!) cuts of meat and learn how to cook them. Also, you don't have to commit to vegetarianism to go meatless. Have a meal or three with no meat and save on your grocery bill. Meat tends to be more expensive than fruits and veggies and there are some terrific meatless recipes out there!

"Shop the perimeter". The *food*? The real food food? Is generally on the outside aisles. If you do foray into the center, look up and look down. The pricier items are placed at eye level. Those stores are sneaky devils.

Watch the cash register. Sometimes the sale price doesn't make it to the checkout. Keep an eagle eye on the scanner!

Take a day and make up some meals to pop in the freezer. You'll be less tempted to go the fast food route when you're too tired to cook. (A simple meal of delivered pizza to feed our family of 5 is never under $60- and usually closer to $75. Totally a waste of money! Subway, even if we all get the $5 footlongs, no drinks or chips, is $30 with tax, and there are no leftovers. I can buy deli meat and all the trimmings, make buns and have enough food left for a couple of lunches for that price.)

Electric/gas bill:

Making meals in bulk will also cut down on how much it costs to use your oven. You'll use less electricity/gas by running your oven for one 5 hour cooking spree than using it for 5 days for an hour or so each time. Though using a slow cooker is even cheaper than using an oven.

You can shave a chunk off your electric bill if you unplug appliances when not in use. Computers, tv's, microwave, etc. They all suck power even when they aren't turned on. (I'm still trying to remember to unplug them at night myself)

Service your appliances if they need it. Though it's painful to pay that repair man, you'll end up paying more through higher bills for a badly running refrigerator.

Clean underneath your fridge. All that dust mucking up your coils makes it run more.

If your freezer is empty, stuff it with something. Anything. Water bottles, empty tupperware, wadded up newspaper. Opening the door of an empty freezer sends your cold air rushing out. Less so if it's full.

Try running appliances during off-peak hours for lower rates.

Energy efficient lightbulbs. Though they are more expensive to purchase, they are worth it in the long run.

I wash almost everything in cold water and never run the washer if it isn't full. If using your dryer, set it to low heat. It's better for your fabric and your bill. If clothes are damp, promptly hang them up to finish drying.

If hanging clothes out on a clothesline is an option, use it. You'll save tons.

I also never run the dishwasher until it's full and I turn off the drying option. The dishes air dry for free. (of course I could hand wash them for even more savings, but shhh. Let's pretend that option doesn't exist!)

Make a household "One item at a time" rule. If the kids are on the 'net, shut off the TV or radio. For little kids, appoint one as the day's "Electric Slasher". Make it his/her "job" to race through the house shutting off lights and appliances that nobody is using. It's fun, makes them feel important and teaches good habits!


Brown bag your lunch. Get a travel mug and take your own coffee with you (at sometimes TWENTY times the savings of buying a cup). Grab a piece of fruit for breakfast-to-go instead of a Sausage McStroke (savings and healthier!).

Create your own 100-calorie packs by buying in bulk and dividing your large packs into smaller ones yourself.

I don't buy any cleaning supplies beyond vinegar and baking soda (well, hardly any. Sometimes I splurge on some Comet). The homemade laundry soap is a huge savings, of course.

I stopped buying Swiffer stuff without giving up the convenience of it by refilling the (supposedly non-refillable) bottle with vinegar and water and using either a washable, reusable towel or microfiber cloth for the pad. Just bore a hole in the bottom of the bottle and use a funnel to pour in the vinegar. The velcro strips on the bottom of the Swiffer make attaching a cloth super easy.

Cut your dryer sheets in half. They last twice as long and work just as well.

Use cloth napkins for dinner and rags/microfiber cloths for cleaning. Save a tree and stop buying paper towels.

I'm a huge fan of craigslist, freecycle, rummage sales, thrift shops- anywhere I can get a bargain, I'm there. I hardly ever buy new items, especially clothes, other than underwear cuz used underwear is just gross.

Cancel what you aren't using/don't need-

Do you really need that magazine or newspaper subscription? Almost all of what you read can be found online- for free.

Aren't watching the HBO that came with your cable promotion? Cancel it.

Have both a landline and a cell phone? Pick one.

Bundle your internet/cable packages when possible.

Sign up for free samples wherever you can.

Stop using disposable items. For a little more effort, you can rack up savings on razors, coffee filters, bottled water, etc.

If you do go out to eat, order water to drink (usually free) over soda/wine, and skip the appetizers and desserts. Let's face it, with the size of entrees these days, do you need those extra food items? It'll cut your final bill down significantly.

Have more money-saving ideas? Add them in the comments! We can all use hints and tips to stretch the almighty dollar.


  1. It is a rare occasion when I find a name brand item cheaper then the store brand. But I usually bring the coupon along - just in case. I also use it for things that we use name brand - like toilet paper, shampoo, shower gel, deodorant and such. I usually find the coupons make a good difference on those type of items.

    We don't have aldi's here either. :(

    Good tips! I will think about it and see if I can add any to it.

  2. My freezer is my best friend. The day before yesterday I made stroganoff (heh - pretty much like you make gravy, actually!) and boiled two pounds of brown rice. Stuck all of that in the freezer, in portion sizes.

    Yesterday, I fried somewhere around five pounds of ground meat, and make a gallon of bolognese. Stuck that in the freezer too.

    All that meat? Left overs, that I had in the freezer. I often buy four-five pound packs of ground beef, portion it, wrap it in some plastic, and stuff it in the freezer. It freezes into small, beef-bricks. I also came over eight pounds of CHEAP (like... 75% off) sausage, that I cut up, put in a bag and froze. The stroganoff was made of about half of that.

    I KNOW myself. When it's 28*C and above in our apartment, I'm just not going to be arsed to cook. So I cook beforehand. That'll be enough food to keep me for a few weeks, if not the entire summer! ;) All I need to do is thaw that, and possibly boil pasta.

    Our freezer also keeps pitabread, toast bread, bangers, sausages, hotdogs, hot dog breads, cheap cuts of beef, chicken... It's always full. That way I can buy when really cheap and eat when expencive.

    Saves me tons of money, as long as I remember to vacuum the underside and back of the freezer, as well as defrosting it when needed.

  3. Meg posted this over on my blog but she wanted them here on this post so I am posting them for her...

    Wow... awesome tips. Here are a few more:

    *Cook in the crock pot! Not only can you make something great out of a cheap piece of meat, but you can also cook without heating up the kitchen in the summertime, so you have to run the fan or the a/c less, saving money there as well.

    *Make sure you know all the promotions and policies of your grocery store. At ours, if they ring up an item at the wrong (higher) price, we let them, and pay for it... then take it to the service desk, where their policy is to refund the difference AND the cost of the item! We've gotten several things for free this way.

    *Write down the price each item is supposed to be (esp. if sale priced) next to that item on the grocery list. This makes it easier to know if you've been overcharged for something.

    *Use coupons along with store sales to get the most savings--retain your coupons until you can get a double discount: the coupon AND the sale price at the same time.

    *Consider "going in on" larger packages or bulk amounts of items like meat with another family or some friends if you don't have the storage space or the need for such quantities, but you still want to get good deals.

    *See if your grocery store has little 'marked down' sections. Ours has a manager's special meat section, and an area where deli items are clearanced out when they are still good, but need to be sold soon.

    *Growing your own veggies, like tomatoes and green peppers can be easy, fun, and much more affordable than purchasing them at the store.

    *Compare prices on personal care items... they seem to vary greatly from store to store. Using coupons on these products can be very profitable.

    *Doing all of your shopping at one main store can earn you rewards through a loyalty program. For example, for every $100.00 we spend, we get a discounted fill-up at the gas station and 20 free minutes on the prepaid cell phone service we have through the store.

    *Keep snack foods you actually like in the house. They may not be the healthiest, but having them on hand might keep you from doing a splurge fast food run which could end up costing much more.

    *Wash and re-use water bottles. The same one can be good for months!

    *Use plastic grocery store bags as trash bags for small trash containers, such as people often have in their bathrooms or offices. Not having to buy bags for this size trash receptacle can save lots of money, and is also a way to recycle!

    *Use old bananas for banana bread or muffins.

    *Clear out leftover veggies and meats by making a stew or soup dish.

    *Try take-and-bake pizza instead of ordering from a traditional pizza place, or make your own dough from scratch.

    *Avoid convenience items... they are usually much more expensive, and not as good.

    *Stretch meat and veggie dishes to last longer by adding rice--it's cheap, healthy, and filling.

    I hope these might help someone.

    ~Meg :-)

  4. Some of these I think kaya mentioned...

    Grocery list/menu making - saves money because I stick to the list and don't buy what we don't need.

    Skip Rice and Pasta mixes - like Rice-a-roni - you can make your own using herbs, stock, cheeses. They are less calories and sodium.

    Freeze - When I find a good deal on foods, I buy them and freeze. I just make sure it is something we will really use/eat. Butter, nuts, breads, flour, veggies freeze good - and are on sale often.

    Go meatless - even one dinner a week will save money. Use rice, beans, whole grain pasta, polenta that are nutritional but also not that expensive.

    Meat - Food prep is a big thing that helps me save money. Buy bigger value packs of meat - usually is cheaper then the the smaller 1 lb packs. Then when I get it home, I divide it up into meal portions and freeze.

    Most super markets have a clearance meat section. I have gotten some great deals on meat just looking through that section. Good cuts of steak there cheap - and usually the only way I buy a good cut of steak.

    Cheaper meat cuts don't necessarily mean a bad meal. A slow cooker usually does great things with cheap cuts of meat. So don't rule them out just because they are a less expensive cut of meat. Also cooking with a slow cooker saves money by not using the oven.

    Cheese - shredded cheese is again something that I divide. We get a big 5 lb bag at Sam's then I divide it into 2 cup portions in quart freezer bags. And freeze.

    Pre-mixed/pre-packaged - Although buying the different types of greens individually and washing up and mixing together myself would be cheaper because we salad every night, it really isn't for us in the long run. Doing that isn't something I am good at so the greens go bad before we can eat it. But getting a big thing of pre-mixed organic greens at Sam's is cheaper then pre-mixed that grocery store and it lasts and we eat it all before it goes bad so for us it saves money to do pre-mixed. At times that is the case so I say go for it. I mean is buying that pre-packaged dinner really a bad deal compared to buying fast food. Because if you didn't have it in the freezer would you go get fast food for lunch instead? I don't like turning to pre-packaged but every once in a while if it helps me not turn to fast food - I don't think it is bad deal.

    Baking Bread - it is cheaper. This book makes it easy to keep dough in the fridge and bake daily if need be.

    If baking bread isn't your thing - usually again grocery stores have a clearance bakery section. I have gotten artisan whole grain breads for less then 70 cents. And sandwich breads for under 50 cents.

    Cleaning supplies - vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, tea tree oil are pretty much my staple cleaning supplies and cheap! The most expensive thing I use is tea tree oil and I have had the same little little bottle for 3 years and not even 1/8 of it used. By the time I get through with it - it will have cost me maybe a penny a year.

    Use micro-fiber cloths and rags and those odd socks that don't match up for cleaning not paper towels. And cloth napkins instead of paper.

    Recycle and repurpose - Instead of buying a tin at Christmas to package up baked good for my neighbor - I take the big cans of nuts we get at Sam's. I clean them up, paint and decorate them for the holiday - fill them with goodies.

    I take oatmeal containers and cover them with recycled wrapping paper again for goodies or to use as an organizer in my studio.

  5. I just found this blog via danae's other blog and all I can say is "Upper LandoftheLost Michigan"! I don't know where that is precisely, but since I just moved to "Lower Wheretheheckiseverything Michigan", I feel your pain. I just know I'm going to be a regular reader here.



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