Showing posts with label grocery shopping. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grocery shopping. Show all posts

Friday, January 18, 2019

16 Ways To Not Waste Food (and Use Up The Leftovers)


One of the biggest problems facing the world today is food. Particularly how much food is wasted when there are so many people who would be happy to eat it. Grocery stores throw out perfectly good food every day and lock it into dumpsters. Restaurants scape tons of food into the trash every day because people do not finish their meals and don't wish to take it home.

In other words, food waste is a real problem! The problem isn't limited to just businesses. The problem also happens in the home more than we care to think about. We waste a lot of food in our homes without a thought to our hard earned money to purchase/grow the food and the hours we put into the food.

This really needs to stop! Fortunately, I have some things you can do to combat food waste in your home. Unfortunately, I have learned some of these things the hard way and have done my fair share of not caring as much as I should about our food. I don't want you to make the same mistakes!

16 Ways To Not Waste Food (and Use Up The Leftovers)

1. Have some leftover raw vegetables from a veggie tray? Saute them in butter or oil to soften. You can then add them to omelets, frittatas, soups, stews, and casseroles. You can also roast them in the oven for a delicious meal or side dish.

2. Having trouble with eating up leftovers before they go to waste? Make a list on your fridge of what needs to be used up. Plan meals and snacks around the leftovers. I know a lot of people who keep a whiteboard on the side of their fridge just for this reason.

3. Freeze your leftovers. A lot of food can be frozen and will taste fine when reheated. I love to do this cooked meat especially because it makes a quick addition to casseroles. You can also do this with chili for a quick lunch for work or home.

4. Can your leftovers. Yes, you can preserve your leftovers by canning them. This works especially well with soups, stews, and chili.

5. Dehydrate your leftovers. You would be amazed at what you can dehydrate and store.

6. Leftover fruit and fruit salad can be frozen, used in desserts, topping on ice cream, or in smoothies. You can make leftover fruit into jam or jellies and can it.

7. Repurpose your leftovers. Of course, you will be bored eating the same food day in and day out while trying to use up those leftovers. You can turn them into another meal. Have leftover chicken and rice? Turn it into a casserole with vegetables, cheese, and cream soup.

8. Stick to portion sizes. If you have people in your life or you yourself are opposed to leftovers, you will want to stick to portion sizes so you do not have any extra food leftover. You will want to make exactly the amount of food you need to eat for a meal and not any more than that.

9. If you have small children eating, you can certainly have a lot of food go to waste! There are a few tricks you can use to keep food from going to waste:
  • Use small plates and bowls for young children. I especially like the ones that grip the table or high chair tray. 
  • Just give them small amounts of food at a time and only one food at a time if needed. We often like to think they can eat more than they really can, but often we give too much at a time. Just give them a little bit and when they finish that, give them more.
  • If they do not finish their meal, put it in the fridge and warm it up for the next day. Teach them early to like leftovers.
  • A lot of kids go through stages of picky eating or only wanting to eat one thing. Indulge them a little bit and serve that. You should encourage other foods, but do not waste a lot of food when they will not eat it.
10. If you like to shop in bulk, learn to store food properly. One of the biggest problems I see (and used to have) was that food would go to waste when purchased in bulk. While I encourage bulk shopping, you should have a plan to break down the bulk packages into more user-friendly packages.
  • You can freeze bulk boneless, skinless chicken breasts in portion sizes appropriate for yourself or your family. You can also do simple freezer meals with them such as freezing them in marinade or sauce. 
  • You can take a bulk bag of oats, beans, flour, sugar, and other grains/legumes/baking supplies and break them down into smaller packages. You can use canning or storage jars for grains and legumes. You can store flour and other baking items into resealable bags and freeze them for a day or two. Then you can seal them in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers to keep them fresh.
  • Bulk produce can be frozen and used in smoothies. You can also preserve bulk fruit as jam, sauce, or as is. 
11. Do you have food in your pantry that appears to be expired or needs to be used before you forget about it again? I feel your pain. By them you remember it again, you are not sure it is still good or you find out the bugs have gotten into it (good-bye cornmeal...). Been there, done that. I like to pull those foods out of my pantry and set them on the counter where I will see them. Then I make them part of the meals for the week to use it up. I have also seen where people use a basket for anything they want to use up quickly and will pull from that basket first.

12. Once a year, do a freezer clean out. Figure out what you need to use up in the freezer and make it part of your meals for the week or the month. Do you have some freezer meals that have been in there for a year? Do you have meat that has spent more time in your freezer than alive? Make a concentrated effort to eat these things up that week or that month. I usually spread my freezer clean out over a month.

13. Inventory your freezers and pantries. One of the reasons food goes to waste is because we simply have lost track of what we have on hand. Since I am a hardcore believer in food storage, this can really be the enemy of your food storage. Inventory your pantry, food storage, and freezers to have a better idea of what you have on hand and what you should be using.

14. Compost what cannot be eaten. Whether you have peels, tea leaves, coffee grounds, and more, you should really try to compost these items. Some cities are now setting up compost stations you can take your food scraps too as well as your yard waste in return for some free compost. Otherwise, you can search online for a great way to start your own compost pile or purchase a compost barrel.

15. Make your own broth and stocks from leftover bones and vegetable scraps. You can make delicious stocks and broths from many different poultry bones and vegetable scraps. You can cook them together or separate for chicken broth or vegetable broth. You can then freeze or can the broth for later use. (If you have chickens, you can feed the scraps from the broth to them!)

16. If you are constantly finding yourself making too much food and not using the leftovers up as quickly as you want, invite friends over for supper to help you eat those bigger meals. Otherwise, find a family who needs a meal and bring them one (Nice to do when there is a new baby or a death in the family. Or when the family is just in a busy season of life). You can also take a meal to an elderly person who may have trouble getting a good meal together for themselves. 

What tips or suggestions do you have for using up leftovers and not wasting food? I would love to read your tips and suggestions in the comments!

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts:
25 Crazy Simple and Easy Ways To Save Money
Small Batch Canning: Saving Time, Money, and Sanity!


Thursday, January 17, 2019

25 Crazy Simple and Easy Ways To Save Money


This is a new year and you need some money motivation. I totally get it. If Christmas didn't scare you into complete money saving mode, your daily finances might have. However, maybe you just need some new ideas or a reminder of some good old ones.

This has some easy ideas and some crazy simple ideas to save money. Some of these might seem like they are not so simple, but they really are. 

25 Crazy Simple and Easy Ways To Save Money

1. Simply don't spend it. We are always buying things we "think" we might need, but truly don't. If money is that tight, don't spend it. Start a spending freeze.

2. Have some change in your pocket? Throw it in a can or a piggy bank to save towards Christmas or a rainy day. You can do the same with your one and five dollar bills. Tuck them into a drawer or a box to save for a special day.

3. Look for the discounted produce at the grocery store or your favorite mass merchandiser. The produce is usually still good for another week or so. You can take it home and use it right away, freeze it, dehydrate it, or can it to use later. You can save a lot of money this way!

4. Buy greeting cards at a dollar store. If you are spending more than a dollar on a card, you spent too much!

5. Didn't like that shampoo? Use it as a body wash. You can do the same with face wash too.

6. Conditioner not working for you? Use it for shaving or as an in-shower lotion.

7. Lost a sock? Use the other sock for a dusting cloth or a washcloth. Just slide on your hand and go!

8. Use handkerchiefs instead of facial tissues. You can use the ones you have in the bottom of your sock or underwear drawer, buy some (the small investment is worth it), or just use cut up old shirts with or without the edges hemmed. The money you save will be worth it and you can just wash them and reuse them constantly. You can also replace napkins this way too.

9. Reuse, reuse, reuse. Even if an item seems disposable, find a way to reuse it. Sometimes you might spend a little more on reusable items, but the cost, in the long run, is much cheaper.

10. Carry your drinks and food with you - for work, play, ball games, and car rides - to save a lot of money. It takes very little time to fill up the water bottles, pack a few drink packets, granola bars, and apples to have in the vehicle with you for your family's and your hunger attacks.

11. Stop eating out. That right there will save you a load of money. If you really like the steak at a certain place, learn to make yourself. Brown bag your lunches for work and get to know your fellow employees (or read a book).

12. Cook from scratch. You may hear this one all the time, but seriously it is a budget saver. I can make a loaf of bread (or two) and a pan of granola bars for less than a decent loaf of bread at the store. Plus, I know what is in both of those things and can pronounce all the ingredients. Bonus.

13. Simply say no to yourself (and to your kids and significant other). That word "no" will be the easiest way to save money. Most of the requests you get from them are extras and not necessities so saying no should be easy. However, don't be a jerk and say no all the time. Sometimes their requests are justified. And no, you don't need that candy bar either. Put it back.

14. Use up your products until the last drop. Add a little water to the soap to get the last bits out. If the pump on the soap doesn't pump anymore, take the pump out and dump it out that way. Cut the container open to get to the product on the bottom. Open up the tube to get the last of the good stuff out. Use it all up!

15. Stop buying the already cut-up produce at the store and cut up your own. The mark-ups on that stuff are crazy expensive! Buy the whole pepper or watermelon and do your own labor.

16. Turn the thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer. Sure we want to be comfortable, but our pocketbooks say we need to be a little conservative. Put on another layer in the winter. Do things to keep you cooler in the summer. Save money.

17. Stay out of the money traps. Do you have some favorite stores that you know, no matter what, you will be dropping some cash in? You may tell yourself that you are only getting one thing or the thing you have a coupon for. Then you walk out $50 or $100 poorer. We all have trigger stores - Bath & Body Works, The Body Shop, Ulta, Harbor Freight, Target - and we need to just stay away!

18. Don't go anywhere. That's right. Stay home. If you don't have work, school, church, or family commitments, say home. If you stay home and enjoy being home with your family and things, you don't spend money. That also means enjoying your home without being on Amazon. Enjoy the things and entertainment you already have. Do not get online and buy more!

19. Grocery shop from the sales flyers. If it is on the front page of the sales flyer and your family eats it, you should be considering purchasing it. The items on the front page of a sales flyer are considered a loss leader and is generally a good stock-up price. However, show some wisdom here. If you don't eat it or don't have money in the budget for it, don't buy it.

20. Do not purchase meat that is over $2.00 a pound at the store. Meat has been crazy high-priced lately, but I still find a lot of good deals for under $2.00 a pound. Most chicken is under this price as well as a lot of pork. We eat a fair amount of both so I will buy these because they are under $2.00. The only exception is ground beef. We have a local store that will discount their ground beef after 6:00 pm and it will be $1.99-2.99 in price per pound. Otherwise, I will substitute ground pork or turkey in a lot of recipes to make the dish cheaper and save money.

21. For goodness sakes, unless it is an emergency, stop buying your coffee and tea away from home. You can literally make it at home (or work) for as little as $.30 a cup. Even you make it a little fancy and add creamer or want to froth it, you are still saving money. A $2.00 cup of coffee adds up. Getting those fancy coffees and teas adds up even more!

22. Shop from home first. We usually think we need new things or need to make a trip to the store and we probably already have something that works at home. If you feel like you need something, check at home to see if you already have something that works or you can make work. Because once you walk into the store, you will rarely just buy that one thing.

23. Go to your local library. I can not say this enough! I don't even use mine as well as I should, but my kids have no problems borrowing movies and books from them. It is a great way to see new movies and read the latest books. A lot of libraries are even giving you options for borrowing e-books from them. This is a real money saver!

24. Pay your bills on time. I know this may be difficult for some of you and I totally get that. I have been on the deep end of the broke pool before and paying bills has been hard. I have gotten behind. I have also paid a lot of money in interest and fees instead of getting my ducks in rows to pay my bills on time. Do what you can to get them paid on time and save yourself the money!

25. Eliminate subscriptions and delivery services. Really, these are the handiest things around. Sign up and pay for something to be delivered to your home instead of you having to go to the store. Sounds amazing, right? Right. Right up until you can't afford it anymore. Those meal delivery kits and more are expensive. You will probably spend way more than you would at the grocery store. There are a few that are worth the money like Dollar Shave Club (for razors only), but mostly they are the same price or more than the store. You are also probably paying for memberships and subscriptions you don't use. Cancel them now and save money! 

This isn't every way to save money simply and easily. However, this will get you started in the right direction. I hear so many people say they want to save money as they are buying alcohol, lottery tickets, and other personal pleasures. I usually bite my tongue, but there are many, many ways to save money if you make up your mind to do it.

While I may have sounded a little harsh or showed a little tough love in my tips, I am not sorry for it. I had to learn the hard way to save money and I was shown a little tough love in some of my financial mishaps. I learned more from that than anything else.

What crazy simple and easy ways do you use to save money?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts:
My 10 Favorite Frugal Living/Financial Books To Read and To Give
Is It Time For A Financial Reset? 15 Tips For You To Reset Your Finances


Monday, September 17, 2018

10 Non-Perishable Food Preps You Should Be Buying Every Month


New preppers wonder what they should be buying for their preps every month. More experienced preppers wonder what holes they should be plugging in their food storage to be better prepared. We all know we should be constantly adding and rotating our food storage every month in order to have a good supply.

Since I have written the 10 Preparedness Items You Should Be Buying Every Month and Top Ten Items You Need For Your Food Storage, I have found my preparedness mindset changing a little bit. I think they are things you should be buying every month that are perishable items and non-perishable items. This list will concentrate on the non-perishable items because those are the ones most important to your food storage.

To explain what I have included on this list, I will give you the criteria. I am making this list as basic as possible. Meaning that you can go to the grocery store and buy these items right off the shelf which means the items are shelf-stable. They will not expire or go bad easily. Most of these items will last beyond their sell-by or expired date if you wish. This list is simple and for beginning preppers. However, the more experienced preppers should take a look at this list too and see if they have holes they should fill in their food storage.

If you want to, you can purchase these items in whatever manner suits you. If you wish to can them yourself, buy them in bulk, freeze-dried, dried, or whatever, you can certainly do that. If there is an item on this list you or your family does not eat, then replace it with something they do eat.

Because the #1 rule in food storage is: Do Not Buy Food You or Your Family Will Not Eat!

I don't care if you think "If we are hungry enough, we will eat it." That may be true, but why would you do that to yourself when you can simply purchase food that you will eat ahead of time!

The quantity of each item to purchase each month is your choice also. Depending on my budget, I will only purchase 1-2 items each or I will purchase a case or flat of that item. I also have a continuous grocery list where I write down when I use up one item so I can replace it right away on the next grocery trip. For example, I use up a bottle of olive oil. I write it down on my list and purchase it on the next trip to the grocery store. If I find myself getting low on an item, I will do the same thing.

10 Non-Perishable Food Preps You Should Be Buying Every Month

1. Salt and Pepper. Food without seasoning, bleh. You need at least salt and pepper to liven up your food. You can also stock up on other seasonings too. You might have ones you think you can't live without like garlic salt at my house.

2. Honey and/or Sugar. If you can live without these things, great. However, most of us cannot live without something to sweeten our drinks with. I also use sugar and honey in canning jams. Honey is also great for sore throats.

3. Beans. Dried or canned whichever you prefer. I like to use both, but in a hurry or being lazy, I will grab a can of beans first. So I stock up on canned beans. Beans are a meal unto themselves but are better with soups, chilis, casseroles, and one pot meals. They also help to fill people up and give energy.

4. Peanut Butter. This is packed with protein and fat which will help give you energy in a crisis. Beyond that, most kids and adults like it and will eat it plain or with bread/crackers. If you are allergic to nuts, look for a substitute like a sunflower butter or coconut butter.

5. Canned meats. As much as we would like to think we can raise our own meat or hunt your own meat when a crisis or situation happens, this may not be a possibility. Again, canned meat such as tuna, salmon, chicken, turkey, and ham will provide a good source of protein which helps give you energy in a crisis.

6. Canned tomatoes, fruits, and vegetables. While the nutritional value of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables is better than canned, eating canned fruits and vegetables is better than eating junk. You can use these in casseroles and salads too.

7. Canned soups, broths, and meals. Sometimes when you have an emergency or crisis, the easiest thing you can do is open a can and heat up the contents. Even if you are in a hurry at night and need a meal, you can save money by opening a can of soup, heating it up, and have a quick meal.

8. Crackers and cereal. Many of you will not think this is necessary, but I have teenagers. Kids like cereal and they love crackers. My kids think saltine crackers and soup go together like peanut butter and jelly. Cereal can range from cold cereal to hot cereal. I like to eat oatmeal and will make it from scratch, but when I am in a hurry or just plain tired, the little packets are awesome.

9. Pasta and rice. Let's face it. There is very little nutritional value in pasta and rice. They are just carbs even if you buy the veggie pasta. However, they help to fill up the hungry stomachs and keep the teenagers from completely taking over the kitchen. They help to keep the meals budget-friendly. They are great to have on hand to make casseroles, soups, and one pot meals. They help to feed a large crowd during a crisis.

10. Coffee and Tea. Water is great for hydration, but it is boring. Most people drink coffee or tea in some way, shape, or form. I like to have a stockpile of coffee, various kinds of teas, and even some instant packets of coffee and tea. If coffee or tea is not your thing, look at getting some drink packets and/or mixes to liven up the water.

Honorable Mention: 

1. Oil. Whether you use olive, vegetable, coconut or other oils, they are good to have on hand and keep a good stock of.
2. Protein and cereal bars. 
3. Pasta sauces.
4. Ethnic sauces and seasonings (salsa, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce,etc.)
5. Chocolate.

Like I mentioned before, you can switch out items and customize this list for your household. Some things listed may not be something you would ever eat while some people could not store enough of that item because they eat it so much. This is a general guideline I use when I go to the store. This is so I can put a meal on the table whenever I need to without completely stressing out over the meal no matter what is going on. The meal may not be very exciting, but the consumers of the meal will not walk away hungry.

Some of you will notice that I did not include such items as ramen noodles, various meals in a box, and macaroni and cheese. You can purchase these, but most of them have very little nutritional value, exceptionally high sodium levels, and feed very few adult people at one time. I don't usually include them in my food storage list for those reasons. However, if you want them in yours, you can certainly do that.

What do you like to store in your food storage?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts:
10 Ways To Prep When Real Life Gets In The Way
What Are You Prepared To Live Without?


Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Best Way To Freeze Zucchini (And What To Do With It Afterwards!)


Zucchini is one of those rare garden plants. Almost anyone can grow it! Zucchini is also (normally) very prolific meaning that it will produce very well for weeks if not months. We love here at Living Life in Rural Iowa so I like to put it up for use in the winter.

You can use zucchini in place of cucumber in relishes and pickles to preserve and use up the bounty. We like to eat it straight from the garden on the grill. However, we eat a good deal of it in baked goods with the idea that the end result might be healthier!

In order to use it over the winter, I have learned how to freeze it. I went through many trials and errors trying to find the best way to do this. One of the things I had learned right away is that you can easily freezer burn zucchini. The second thing I learned is that the texture of the zucchini changes considerably when frozen and thawed.

With that in mind, I had to find a way to do this so that I could use it again in the winter. The best way to freeze and preserve zucchini is to shred and then freeze it.

The Best Way To Freeze Zucchini

1. Pick zucchini from the garden that is medium size. The medium size zucchini is easier to handle, to shred, and don't have a lot of seeds in them. If you do happen to find a large or extra large zucchini that you inadvertently missed, cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, and cut them into manageable pieces. They are still edible and completely usable.


2. Wash the zucchini thoroughly and cut off the ends. Most of the zucchini I find in my garden is on the ground. They always need to be washed. You can choose to cut them into more manageable pieces for shredding. I think they are easier to handle when broken down into 2-3 pieces.

3. At this point, you can decide to peel them or not. I choose not to peel them because my family doesn't care if they see green specks in their food and they all like zucchini. However, if you have young ones (or old ones) who are picky eaters, you can choose to peel them. You will be able to hide the zucchini in sauces and baked easier if they are peeled.


4. Grab a big bowl and start shredding. By using a big bowl, you will not end up with shredded zucchini everywhere. If you don't use a big bowl, I suggest using a lipped baking sheet for holding all the goodness in. As for shredding the zucchini, I prefer to use a mandoline with a shredding attachment that sits on top of the bowl. You can also use a handheld shredder, a box shredded (grater), or a food processor with the shredding blade.


5. Portion out into bags and freeze. You can use zip-top freezer bags for this. I portion the shredded zucchini into two cup portions and put into the bag. If you are using freezer bags, push as much air out as possible, and seal the bag. Flatten the contents inside the bag and label them. You can then put them in the freezer. You could use a baking sheet under the bags to ensure they stay flat until they are frozen. You can then store them how you like in the freezer.

However, I love using my Food Saver. It is a rock star in my house! I put the two cup portions on zucchini in quart-size Food Saver bags. I flatten the bags the best I can, lay them on a baking sheet, and let them freeze. Then I vacuum seal the bags. With zucchini, if you try to seal them while the zucchini is fresh, the Food Saver will try to suck up the zucchini juices and will never seal. If you freeze them first, the Food Saver can suck all the air out and seal the bags just fine. Remember to label and date them!


Now that you have all this frozen zucchini, what can you do with it?

You can add it to sauces, one pot meals, and baked good. I also know people that add it to smoothies. However, you will find out quickly that thawed zucchini is far different than fresh zucchini. You will need to drain the excess liquid off first (or use the liquid in a soup or add to a vegetable broth). The best way to do this is to line a fine mesh strainer with a double layer of paper towels or cheesecloth. You will put the thawed zucchini in the strainer and let the excess liquid pour out. The paper towels or cheesecloth will hold the zucchini in. You can then squeeze more excess liquid out if you wish. If you are using the thawed zucchini in baked goods, you will want to squeeze more liquid out or it will affect your final baked goods.

What do you like to do with zucchini?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts:
Preserving The Bounty: How To Freeze Sweet Corn
Fajita Vegetable Packets: A Great Way To Use Up The Garden Bounty! 



Thursday, March 17, 2016

50 Ways You Are Not Being Frugal


Being frugal is not hard, but many people make mistakes in their frugal journey in life. Saving money, making smart decisions, choosing used over new, choosing quality over cheap, and being conscious where your money goes is time-consuming and somewhat exhausting.

However, most people believe they are being frugal without even realizing that they aren't being frugal at all. We all like to think we are frugal until we make these mistakes:

1. Grocery shopping without a meal plan or a list.

2. Letting food go to waste in the refrigerator.

3. Eating lunch out instead of eating up the leftovers.

4. Buying brand new clothes when used will do.

5. Refusing to use coupon codes when shopping.

6. Buying store bought cookies and cakes instead of making them yourself.

7. Buying cleaners you can easily make yourself.

8. Holding on to things that no longer have any use to you.

9. Not taking care of your things.

10. Throwing away broken items instead of fixing them.

11. Buying new clothes instead of mending clothes

12. Buying a new car every year or so instead of driving your perfectly good 10 year old car.

13. Paying for insurance without shopping around.

14. Buying coffee instead of making your own and filling a thermos.

15. Paying someone to mow when you are physically able to do so yourself.

16. Paying the mechanic to change your windshield wipers.

17. Buying new when used will do.

18. Not taking care of your vehicle with regular oil changes and tire checks.

19. Ignoring free samples

20. Paying for something that you can get for free.

21. Shopping because you are bored

22. Buying materials instead of repurposing what you have.

23. Buying a item you will only need once for a project instead of borrowing or renting the item.

24. Paying for services you don't use.

25. Subscribing to monthly overpriced boxes or subscription services.

26. Not taking advantage of employee benefits like clothing allowance and tuition assistance.

27. Using credit cards and not paying them off every month.

28. Buying name brand OTC medicine and almost anything else when generic will do just fine.

29. Keeping unwanted or ill-fitting items instead of returning them for a refund.

30. Going out to the bars and eating out every weekend instead of enjoying a beer and a good meal at home.

31. Throwing an item away when a component breaks instead just buying the component and making the item usable again.

32. Leaving the furnace or air conditioner run when you have windows and doors open.

33. Driving around town wasting time and gas for one errand instead of running all your errands in one day and with a plan.

34. Buying an expensive pair of glasses when reading glasses from the store will do.

35. Paying daily to go to the gym, YMCA, or the pool instead of buying a season/year pass.

36. Buying a season/year pass for the gym, YMCA, or the pool and not using it enough to make it pay.

37. Buying brand new egg cartons for selling eggs when friends and family have a ton of used ones to give you.

38. Buying plants for the garden instead of trying to start your own seeds.

39. Being a "short order" cook at mealtime and making everyone their own meal instead of making one meal to serve everyone.

40. Creating a higher garbage bill by throwing recyclables in the trash.

41. Using single use coffee cups and water bottles instead of carrying a thermos or water bottle with you to refill.

42. Ignoring bills and letting the interest rack up instead of making payments and staying in touch with the creditor.

43. Continuing bad habits when you cannot afford to do.

44. Failing to plan ahead for emergencies by not having a savings account or things with you to care of the emergency.

45. Borrowing money instead of saving money for vehicles, campers, and recreational vehicles.

46. Having every light in the house on instead of just in the rooms you are using.

47. Forgetting to use gift cards and discount cards.

48. Blowing your budget just to impress your friends and family.

49. Going into debt during the holidays just to give your kids everything they wanted.

50. Using credit cards instead of cash to pay for vacations and gifts.

Recognize yourself in any of these?

I am not perfect either. I have written most of these knowing that I have committed these frugality sins. However, I have lived and learned and you can too.

A mistake is a mistake. It shouldn't rule your life and you should be able to forget about it. Next time, you do a little better at being frugal and being conscious about how to spend your money. You don't forget about what is free and you don't forget to take advantage of that online discount. Being frugal takes practice!

What frugal mistakes have you made?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Once A Month Shopping Challenge: Month 3 and 4 Update!


So...I am being a bit of slacker on keeping you all updated on this shopping challenge.

Probably because I didn't want to admit I was a complete failure.

Month 3 went smashingly. As I predicted, I made one small trip to the store right before Christmas for apples and Texas toast bread for our traditional apple fritters, French toast, and bacon on Christmas morning. What I took to my parent's house on Christmas Eve, I had all the ingredients for - cavatini and banana bread.

I was well pleased with myself about Month 3. Month 4 has proven to be more difficult.

I started out making my monthly trip to the grocery store and Walmart a few days early due to my schedule. I spent $200 between the two stores for groceries at Aldi's and pet food at Walmart. This was a little high in my opinion, but doable.




I also decided to take delivery of my Amazon Subscribe and Save for January because I had a lot of things on there that we needed. I had stuff on there for school lunches, pet treats, and some health and beauty items. I also placed a small order on Amazon for a few other needed things for the house.



Here is where the rest of the month went downhill quickly.

Did I explain what was going on in January? Rob was moving in. In fact, he did 2-1/2 weeks ago. He is not the reason or the excuse for my downfall. I had to adjust my food budget a little bit and prepare food for one more person which is not at all difficult. I did make another trip to the grocery store.

My downfall? I have been cleaning and purging, organizing and reorganizing, and generally tearing my house apart to make room for him. (I was not entirely successful.) The house also really needed an overhaul. There is a lot more work to do with bedrooms being moved and some repairs needing to be made. 

Taking on a whole house purge, organization, and reorganization is not conducive to a Once A Month shopping challenge. Not at all. I have been buying totes, baskets, small organization tools like hooks, and stuff to fix the broken things that I have finding. I have been trying to make do with what I have and have come up with good solutions that cost me nothing. 

I have no idea how much money I spent in month 4. I am pretty sure I busted my budget which is not okay, but life is goes on. I know I probably spent closer to $300-350 for the month. I try to keep the household expenses to under $300. 

In the process of this, I have lost my groove in meal planning and grocery shopping. I am hoping to get back on track in month five. At the very least, I want to keep the grocery trips down to twice a month. I haven't been buying a lot of personal items because we are pretty well stocked up on those things. I did only shop for pet food once and only had to buy one more bag of cat food ($70 for pet food). I did take my Subscribe and Save for this month also totaling $54. So month five is looking a bit more promising.

How are you doing in the Once A Month Shopping Challenge? My friend Daisy at The Organic Prepper gives her update here. I want to hear about yours!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, December 14, 2015

Once A Month Shopping Challenge: Month 2 Update & Month 3 Beginning


Month 2 Update:

November started out with really great intentions. I was set up for the month with one grocery trip and two trips to other stores. I was hosting Thanksgiving and thought I knew how many people were coming. 

Then two days before Thanksgiving hit. We made a trip to the store when I figured I did not have enough food (I was wrong, of course). We had more people coming along with bad weather and I started to panic a wee bit about having enough food. So I went to the store and spent another $50 I should not have spent. 

If that was not bad enough, I went back the next day too! However, I am not sure I am counting that since it was Rob's food I was buying and being reimbursed for. He just couldn't make to the store after he got off work (he's a trucker).

I also made a trip to Dollar General. I had a $30 gift card that I had earned a while ago for trying a product and taking a survey. It wasn't a specific card to Dollar General, but could only be spent in certain stores and Dollar General was the only one close to me. I had this card for awhile and realized it expired the end of November! Eek! No matter what the experiment is, I cannot throw away free money! I did, however, make it into another experiment that I hope to blog about this month yet. 

I did cancel my Amazon Subscribe and Save this month. I didn't feel right about taking it and I didn't really need anything that was being shipped. My kids might argue with that, but they will live.

Month 3 Beginning:

Month 3 actually began last week. I did grocery shop a few days early and without a detailed list, but I was driving by an Aldi's. I do not pass up an Aldi's when I drive by one because they are usually cheaper than my regular grocery stores. 



Case in point: This month I spent $120 on groceries for almost the same stuff that I bought last month for $175. I was able to get a half-gallon of Paige's milk for $2.79 each versus paying $3.99 at our local stores. Almond milk is about the same. Produce is almost always cheaper as is spices. 

I am almost in love with Aldi's and try to do all my grocery shopping there. And with some big changes happening at my house in January, shopping cheaper will become even more important. Rob is moving in with me at the end of January! Yeah (like jumping over the moon yeah!)!

Like I mentioned, I did not have a list. I really hope that doesn't end up being a disaster. I do keep a list on my phone of things I run out of so I know I need to get those things. I also don't have a specific meal plan for December. I am trying to use up expired and soon to expire food in the pantry right now so meals are being based around that.

I also made a trip to K-Mart to get two bags of dog food, six cans of wet dog food (I had 2 - B2G1 Free coupons), two bags of treats (B1G1 Free coupon), three small bags of cat food, and 1 bottle of conditioner. I spent $64 there after coupons and discounts.

I made a trip to Target also to get under eye concealer (K-Mart doesn't carry my favorite brand), two bags of whole wheat flour, and some Christmas cards. I spent $20 there with coupons and discounts. 

I think this month will go better. I am still Christmas shopping, but hope to get that done soon. I also usually make French toast, bacon, and Apple Fritters for Christmas brunch. I did not buy any Texas Toast Bread for the French toast because Aldi's did not have any. I might try my hand at making French Bread for French toast. Otherwise I will be making a very short trip to the store for that and more apples if they supply doesn't hold out. Dane eats 1-2 apples a day so that is a distinct possibility!

I also don't know what I am bringing to my parents for Christmas there. Most of our family meals are potluck, but those bringing food are usually assigned a food group like bread, vegetables, salad, and whatnot. I should probably ask my mom what she wants me to bring! Hopefully that won't mean a trip to the store either!

As you can see, I am not perfect. I try and I do love this challenge because it is keeping me out of the stores and on budget. I will have some new challenges coming up with this challenge, but Rob knows about this so he won't be surprised. If he wants something, he will just go get it himself. 

How did your month go? What surprises are you anticipating for this month?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Once A Month Shopping Challenge: Month 2 and November's Meal Plans


Here we are, Month 2 of the Once A Month Shopping Challenge!

I tried to be a little more prepared for this month. I have officially made my three planned stops as of yesterday. The first stop was to K-Mart to get:

2 bags of dog food
2 bags of cat food (grain-free for the cat with a sensitive stomach)
1 bag of cat litter
1 bottle of shampoo (for me)
1 bottle of shampoo/conditioner (for Dane)
2 bottles of conditioner (1 for me, 1 for Paige)
2 bottles of Vitamin C gummies (buy 1, get 1 free)

I cannot find the receipt right now, but I know I spent $76 with taxes and we saved $25 with coupons and discounts. Some things like cat litter have gone up a bit and that surprised me. 

The second stop was to Menards. I have this receipt! At Menards, I bought:

1 Plastic Window Kit to cover my inside windows
1 Plastic Door Kit to cover my back door until I get a new storm door
1 Garden Hand Shovel to replace the one the dog chewed up
2 different size drill bits because the ones I had were dull
1 set of sticky mouse traps
1 bag of Fast Set Repair Mortar for the basement drain. We have caught snakes coming up through the sides of it where the cement has crumbled. 

I had a Menards rebate check for $10. My total after that was $19. Not too bad! I also got another rebate to mail in when I bought the window kit. 

The third stop was to Fareway. This trip was for groceries and this one hurt! I won't list everything because this was a big grocery shopping trip that included Thanksgiving. I am hosting it this year!



The highlights and deals:
Frozen vegetables for $.77 (I bought 6 bags)
Shredded cheese - 8 oz. packages for $.99 each (limit 3)
Pork Sausage for $1.99 a pound (I got 3 - 1 lb. packages)
10 pound roll of 85% ground beef on sale for $2.99 a pound (I got one roll)
Store pasta on sale for 10/$10.00
A lot of produce 

I spent $174.00. I am still in shock, but I am trying to step back and realize if this is for the whole month, that is not bad at all. I shopped a lot of deals and saved quite a bit that way. I did have to buy meat which always kills me. I bought two roasts in addition to the meat listed which were $18 total. That is just expensive, but both roasts will provide two meals and 2-3 days of leftovers afterwards. That is not bad.

I already have the turkey and ham in my freezer for Thanksgiving. I bought potatoes, stuffing, apple cider, cranberries, and fried onions for the green bean casserole. I have a lot of food in my pantry already for side dishes. Plus our holiday meals are potluck so many other people will be bringing more food. 

The November Meal Plan is going to look similar to October's meal plans. I will be incorporating more slow cooker meals that are low carb for me. The kids will probably have rice with them, but I need to be more diligent about sticking to eating better. I have my freezer meals for the slow cooker and we are also trying Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef and Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja. I can't wait to try them!

November Meal Plan
Chili (slow cooker)
Beef Stew (slow cooker)
Mongolian Beef (slow cooker)
Ropa Vieja (slow cooker)
Chicken Noodle Soup
Cavatini (for sports banquet)
Pork Chops and Roasted Vegetables
Homemade Pizza
Fajitas
Tacos (2 times)
Baked Rigatoni
Taco Chili Mac
Turkey Pot Pie
Spaghetti
Slow Cooker Roast Chicken and vegetables
Chicken Loaf, rice, and vegetables
Fritatta
2-3 Freezer Meals
Thanksgiving 
Thanksgiving Leftovers
Leftovers from slow cooker meals

I realize the leftovers are a tentative thing. I usually make a lot when I make slow cooker meals so we have plenty of leftovers. However, I am living with the joy of a growing boy. If he is hungry and even remotely likes the meal, he can eat a lot! Holy moly! Paige can also eat a lot too which makes for an interesting meal time some nights. 

As always, I make my own bread and snacks for myself and the kids. We have chickens that produce eggs which is my breakfast almost every morning. This month, I am going to try to make my own tortillas (those are more expensive than ever!). 

How is your shopping challenge going? What are you planning for meals for November?

Thanks for reading,
Erica



Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Once A Month Shopping Challenge: Month One Update


My first month's Once A Month Shopping Challenge will be done in just a few days. I will probably go grocery shopping a few days early due to how my budget works and when I get paid. However, I wanted to give you an update so you can see how it is going so far. 

The successes:

I feel like I have been freed from shopping. Really! We have found so many creative solutions to problems like Paige's Halloween costume. The kids have been on board with this challenge and they like it so far. They even went grocery shopping with me for the month. They thought about things I had forgotten to write down and what I had not fully planned out (cold lunches).

For the first three weeks, this challenge went smashingly. We are naturally frugal as a family so this challenge didn't hit us too bad. We had a lot in food storage and full freezers which helped greatly. We made a good dent in the upstairs freezer and hope to get more done there in the next month. 

We made bread like usual, brownies, molasses cookies, and energy balls for snacking on and to add to cold lunches. 

Like I thought in the original challenge, we did not need to purchase any personal items like shampoo, conditioner, and whatnot. I know we will need to this next month, but I need to take inventory today.

I actually don't like shopping so this was a win for me. I just need to plan a little better!

The failures:

This last week was the failure. Rob came down for the weekend, Paige had a sleepover, and Halloween happened in one weekend. I went to the grocery store and Kmart twice each! 

The truth of this was I didn't have these things on my radar when the month started. I also believe in having things that the guests would like on hand. Rob is not exactly a guest, but his morning beverage of choice is Diet Coke and I got him some. We got some ice cream that Paige could have for her sleepover. Dane conned me into buying more Go-Gurt that was on a really good sale because 11 year olds are good at spotting those things. We also got pumpkins for carving and garlic bread for lunch. 

Kmart runs involved a new phone charger, face paint for a Halloween costume, a tiara for Paige's costume, make-up remover wipes, pots for replanting herbs, and more potting soil. 

I was bummed that I had to place an order on Amazon today. However, we need fish filters and weekend feeders for the goldfish and I got some more gifts for the holidays so the hit on my budget will not be so bad by Christmas. The fish filters are $16.00 cheaper on Amazon then buying at our local store. I also got an eight pack of stainless steel earrings ($8.00) since I have really sensitive ears. The only jewerly I were is earrings so this is important to me. Some of the sizes are not ones I would wear, but I will turn those into stocking stuffers. 

And then there is the matter of the Halloween costume. I bought one off of Ebay for cheaper than I could find it otherwise. Dane insisted on being the Joker and we had nothing we could make work for that. Grrr...but he was a good Joker!



However, it will only be one order for Amazon and one order for Ebay. Nothing else left to buy for this month. I hope. 

What I had already planned on:

I did stop at Walmart one weekend and pick up dog food. I had that already figured in for a shopping trip, but I am already thinking I should have bought a bigger bag. I ordered chicken feed through my work and that should last us two months by my last calculations.

What I forgot about:

My Amazon Subscribe and Save order. I won't actually receive it until the new month starts, but I am not sure where that falls into this challenge. I use this to get things I use a lot cheaper. This month's order included protein powder, cod liver oil soft-gels, vitamin D gummies, green tea, ground cinnamon, dog treats, and face wash

Coming up for next month:

We will need cat food and dog food next month. I also need to pick up a bag of cat litter since our current bag will probably not last another month. I will probably pick up a chicken feed block too to help combat boredom and fighting in the chicken coop.

I am still planning my grocery list. I have kept a careful list of what we ran out of so I would remember to get those things again. I am not sure where we are having Thanksgiving yet, but I have two whole turkey breasts and two hams in my freezer that can be used if at my house. No matter where we have Thanksgiving, it will be a potluck affair so I just need to have the basics. I have plenty of things on hand for desserts. 

I will probably do some more Christmas shopping during the month so I am not doing it all in December. I will have to also do some birthday shopping for Paige since her birthday also falls in December. 

How are you doing in your challenge?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Shared on the From The Farm Blog Hop

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Want To Save Money? Learn To Live On Just Cash.



Money is necessary. It is not evil and it is not good, but it keeps gas in your car, heat in your home, and clothes on your back. Most people need to have money for one reason or another. We would all like to believe that we don't need money, but we would be lying to ourselves. 

However, money is not the problem. The way you use money can be a problem. 

Many people rely on credit cards, floating checks, and not paying bills to pay for groceries. I know all about these tricks because I have been guilty of doing all three at one time or another. Most people have done that or worse. 

In fact, my budget went bust in September due to a high rise in school expenses. I did not have that much money budgeted for school expenses (budgeted $100, actual cost $250). In addition to higher school cost in August (budgeted $125, actual $225). These were not my kids' faults and the expenses needed to be paid. High school is a little more expensive at this school. However, it didn't help my checking account.

So I started going back to some tricks to get me by when my budget goes bust and my bank account needs a break.

The first thing I did was join the Once A Month Shopping Challenge. Only shopping, especially grocery shopping, once a month will help my budget greatly. My spending was halted immediately. I had been making 2-3 shopping trips a month to just the grocery store. That is done. 

The second thing was to pledge to use cash for any other miscellaneous expenses this month. However, I am not withdrawing cash from my checking account. Like I said before, that account needs a break. I will pay bills, gas for my vehicle, one grocery trip this month, and any other major incidentals from my checking account. 

However, I am still using cash first before using my bank account except for bills.

How am I living on cash this month? 

1. I am having an online garage sale. I am selling our unwanted things on Facebook garage sale pages and Craigslist. I already have a seller account on Ebay and some things have been listed and sold there too. 

2. I am taking cans and bottles back to the redemption center. In Iowa, you can get five cents back for every redeemable bottle or can. We do not drink a lot of pop or alcohol, but we had enough to get rid of all the same. Plus we get cans and bottles thrown into the ditch in front of our house. That is not cool, but it ends up being our gain.

3. I am selling the excess eggs from my chickens. 

I could also make things to sell, but I am not very crafty and do not have a lot of materials on hand. I could also pick up some writing jobs, but a lot of times I do not get paid for a few months. However, I am always looking for new ways to make some extra cash.

If you do have these options available to you, be creative. You can only withdraw a certain amount of money from your bank account to use. You can also pick up some small side jobs like mowing, raking leaves, or shoveling snow. 

What has this "living on the cash that I have been earning" done for me? 

1. I am not just spending recklessly. Every spending decision is weighed carefully. Will I need that money for admission to an event at school, dog food, gas for the car, or something else? Will the kids need something? I don't always know so I try not to spend the cash. 

2. No more extra spending. I had to buy dog food on Sunday. I walked into the store, grabbed the dog food, paid for it, and walked right back out of the store. Before this month, I might have grabbed a few other things that we didn't need right away. Now that is not an option.

3. I use cash first before using my debit card or check book. If I have cash, that is what I use. The other two things are only to be used in emergency situations.

4. I enjoy free things even more. I have always taken a lot of joy from the free things in life. However, this has amped it up a bit more. I love free! I also appreciate when sudden surprises show up like a friend bringing me a soda today, just because. 

5. I have been trying really hard to waste less. I am actually working on becoming a zero waste household, but we still have a few obstacles to overcome. I am a naturally frugal person who doesn't like to waste anything, but I find myself unconsciously wasting food or things we have. I am working harder on being better at not being wasteful. 

Life really is easier living on cash. I know a lot of people say if they have cash in their pocket, they feel like they should spend more freely. In that case, those people need more self-discipline and an alignment of their priorities. 

Cash, on the other hand, can help your frugal tendencies because you don't want to spend it. I talk myself out of a lot of purchases when I have to spend just the cash I have on hand. 

I am also enjoying this challenge. I will probably continue it as long as I can. I have four kids so I have a lot of things to get rid of!

What is your feelings on cash? Are you a cash only household? 

Thanks for reading,
Erica



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

October Monthly Meal Plan - A First In My World!



In junction with my once a month shopping trip to the grocery store, I needed to work out a month of meals to make. This was actually pretty easy for me because we have a lot of the same meals from month to month. I usually try 2-3 new meals a month as well, but I don't always get it done.

From October 8th, when we went grocery shopping, this what I have made so far:

Thursday: Frugal Refrigerator Clean-out Frittata

Friday: Slow Cooker Roast Chicken with Rice and Peas

I put the carcass of the chicken back into the slow cooker, filled it with water, added 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, and left it on low to cook all weekend.

Saturday: Breakfast and Lunch were find your own or leftovers. Paige and I were at State Marching Band Contest. Supper was Chicken Broccoli Casserole using chicken leftover from Friday's meal and broth from the slow cooker.

Sunday: Baked Oatmeal for breakfast, Chicken and Noodles for lunch using chicken from Friday night and broth from the slow cooker. Whatever broth was left in the slow cooker was canned Sunday night. Dane and I had popcorn for supper while Paige had supper at youth group.

I am not planning out the meals specifically by the day for the rest of month because I want some freedom to use up leftovers or for a change in our plans. For example, last night I made some chicken thighs that I had used a half package of for a meal last Wednesday. They needed to be used up as well as the extra rice from Friday night's meal. I added a can of green beans to it to round out the meal.

The same will go for tonight's meal. I have two Italian sausages that need to be eaten up before they become dog food. Paige will be at a cross country meet so this will be perfect for Dane and I. We had some renegade potato chips make it into our house that I cannot have, but I will have Dane eat some with his meal. I will have leftover rice again if there is any left.

For the rest of the month, this is the list:

One-pot Chicken Lo Mein
Crazy Crust Pizza
Homemade Pizza
Roast in the Slow Cooker with Potatoes, Carrots, and Onions
Homemade Mac and Cheese
Chicken Noodle Soup
Spaghetti
Corn Casserole
Pork Chops and Roasted Vegetables
Tacos (most Saturday lunches)
Chicken Loaf, Rice, and a Vegetable
Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, and Corn
Beef Stew
Ham Steaks and Eggs
3-4 Freezer Meals - these are mostly soups or stews
Chicken Fajitas

This may not seem like enough meals, but we will be gone two weekends. I am also allowing space for leftovers that we may need to eat. If we have the whole family home (five people plus boyfriends and friends), I have everything to make lasagna or chili and will do so to feed a large crowd. Some nights we are really busy and will have just fried eggs with toast, sandwiches, or quesadillas.

For breakfast on the weekends, I usually make overnight oatmeal, baked oatmeal, pancakes, or eggs and toast. On special occasions we will have French toast or apple fritters. If I am not feeling so great or it is a weekday, the kids can eat muffins, granola, yogurt, cold cereal, and oatmeal packets. I usually eat leftover breakfast from the weekend or eggs and toast. Some times I will fry up a bunch of bacon to eat during the week too.

If you are curious about any of the recipes, I can do a blog post on them if they are mine or I can put a link to them below.

Do you do a monthly meal plan?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


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