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Archive for the ‘Things We Can Do’ Category

This is the second in a Things You Can Do series that I am experimenting with.

There are a lot of things that you can do to keep your grocery bill down, but one thing, done in any area involving money, will help you save your pennies.

Get organized!

There is a reason why frugal people have budgets. As Dave Ramsey says, every dollar should have a name and this holds true in your food budget as well. If you are tired of getting out of the grocery store will a huge bill and little to show for it, here are a few things to help you get organized and spend less. Yes, these require some energy on your part and we are all busy, but being a responsible adult was never advertised as easy.

Make a realistic meal plan. You should make this plan with the weekly add to your local stores or favorite store in hand. Plan meals using the meats, fruits, and vegetables that are on sale. Do not plan elaborate meals for days when you have late activities or other things that will make you too tired to cook. Plan on having leftovers at least twice a week. If you cook a whole chicken in the crock pot (a great easy and cheap meal), plan on making chicken tacos or chicken salad the next night. Be creative!

If you do not want to assign certain meals to particular days, just make a list of meals and then decide each day what you will make. This will give you some flexibility. Just make sure that if you are making a meal with a delicate ingredient, like cilantro for instance, that you make it early in the week, before your cilantro gets sad and wilty.

Make a list. Make your list for the store using the meal plan you have proudly displayed on the fridge. Add items to the list that are standard needs in your house. When you go to the store, do not forget your list. Try to only buy things that are on the list. This will cut doen on impulse shopping and thus a larger bill. Exceptions would include staple items that you keep in the pantry that are unexpectedly on sale.

Have an ace in the hole. This one may be the most important. For many people, their meal plan goes awry because they are too tired to cook that day or they do not want what is on the list. They end up going to the store for things to make a different meal, buying things not on sale, and spending a lot more than they intended or they go out to eat instead, again spending more. While going out to eat is fine (as long as it is in the budget), you should have a simple to prepare meal always in your pantry. A well stocked pantry can save your budget.

Besides the usual staples, (flour, bread, etc) a well stocked pantry will have the ingredients of two or three of your family’s favorite, simple meals. At our house, those meals sometimes include frozen pizza, soft tacos, or spaghetti. On days when I am too tired or do not feel like making whatever is on the list, I bust out one of these ace in the hole meals. Everyone is happy and I did not have to work hard to feed us. I do not often put these meals on the actual meal list unless we have not had them for awhile.

Other ace in the hole things to keep are things like frozen vegetables or black beans for a quick side and chocolate chips. You never know when a batch of cookies will be needed.

These are the big things we do, but there are a ton of small things that can reduce your budget as well. Small things can go in a later post. For our small family, we spend, including cleaning supplies but not including beer, about $300 a month on groceries. I do not use coupons so I think we do great.

How do you save money on groceries?

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It seems that everywhere you look, people are telling you that we need to be more green, act more Earth friendly. It is a great abstract idea, but the soundbites on the radio and TV do not give much practical advice. Here are some practical and easy things every family can do to make a big impact.

Pack a trash free lunch. Chances are good that there is someone in your family who takes a lunch with them everyday. A lot of preparation goes into packing a lunch and a lot of little plastic baggies are part of the preparation. There is a baggie for the sandwich, a baggie for the snack, perhaps one for chips, and on and on. Throw in a paper napkin and you have a large amount of trash generated for one meal for one person.

Consider using either a sandwich size plastic container or a reusable sandwich bag for your sandwich. Not only will this help the environment, but it will also help your pocketbook since you will not have to buy so many plastic baggies. For lunch snacks, we use small reusable plastic ware from glad or ziploc. They are cheap and can be thrown into the dishwasher. If you pack a napkin everyday, try using cloth napkins and toss it in the wash at the end of the day.

We have been packing trash free lunches for a few months now and I have heard no complaints. I am fairly certain the sandwiches and snacks still taste the same.

Reusable grocery sacks. They are everywhere now and nearly impossible not to spot. The high cost and damage of plastic bags is real. Many countries require a tax or have banned plastic bags altogether. Using a cloth bag is easy, they hold more than a plastic sack, and they are better for the environment. You probably even have a couple canvas bags you could be using for purchases hiding in your closet. I found about 5 in mine!

The loudest argument I have heard for not using cloth bags is that they are often forgotten at home. That is easy to solve. Gather all your cloth bags, fold the bags, put them into the largest bag, and put them in the trunk or back of your car. When you go into the store, grab the bag with all the other bags inside it. When you get home, unload the bags, and place them in a designated area. Ours go in a small closet off the kitchen. Next time you go to the car, peek in the designated area, and throw those bags back with the others in the car. Viola.

If you really want to reduce your plastic use, get about 8 small mesh bags and use them as produce bags at the grocery store. I take my cloth and mesh bags everywhere, not just the grocery store.

Recycle already. This one is an absolute no brainer, but the majority of people I know are still not recycling. If you are not recycling there are only two reasons for not doing so, laziness and stupidity, neither of which are good reasons.

Most metropolitan areas have curbside recycling and if you live in Texas, they probably do not even require you to sort your recycling trash. Just throw it in the bin and take it to the curb just like your trashcan. How hard is that? Not at all.

Even if there is not curb recycling in your area, there is usually some place you can drop off recyclables. Go buy a $5 tub at Target or Wal-Mart and chuck stuff in there. When it gets full, go drop it off.

This is not hard.

Our curb recycling does not take glass, but we gather it separately and take it to the center. Since we have started recycling, our trash volume has dropped by more than half. We put our trashcan out maybe once every other week and it is rarely full. We recycle everything we can, break down boxes, and collect all those beer bottles we let our kid play with.

I could go on and on about how incredibly foolish it is not to recycle, but that would be an entire post full of sputtering and diatribe. I will spare you.

What does your family do to help take care of this beautiful Earth God has given us?

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