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10 ways I save money on food

February 5th, 2007 at 10:09 am

None of these items are new ideas or rocket-science, but maybe they will help someone, or stir up other ideas.

10 ways I save money on food (in no particular order)

1. Meal planning – I plan my meals a month at a time. This is a bit time consuming when I do this at the end of the month, but I think in the end it does save me time. I have been doing this for 4 months now and it seems to be getting faster since I use a few of the same meals each month. Of course the monthly meals are flexible depending on what comes up during the month and what may be on sale that week. This saves me money by not going to the store every few days – instead I go once a week. I would like to stretch that to one big trip every two weeks, but I haven’t got myself that organized yet.
2. Watch weekly store ads. I watch the weekly ads for sale items and stock up on stuff I use often.
3. I normally buy the store brand (with a few exceptions)– not name brands so coupons don’t do me much good. I will use an occasional coupon if I come across something I normally buy, but I don’t go out of my way to get a Sunday paper to stock up on coupons I won’t use anyway.
4. I don’t buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts. If I need a chicken breast I will buy the pieces with the bone and skin. I don’t really enjoy taking the bone and skin off (yuck!), but there is a huge price difference between the two types – especially if it is on sale. I also try to use dark meat pieces in some recipes – even cheaper.
5. I get my beef for free. My family (who are farmers) gives us a side of beef every Christmas. This is great for the budget, but not so good for the waistline since we end up eating red meat for dinner 3-5 times a week.
6. Eat leftovers! I try not to throw out any food - It feels like I am just throwing money away if I have to do this. I can normally finish up leftovers by bringing my lunch to work.
7. Soup. Once a week I make a big pot of soup. Soup is very economical to begin with and usually pretty healthy. On Saturday I made a vegetable beef soup using free beef (steaks that had been sitting in our freezer for a year), leftover veggies, leftover V8 tomato juice, and a few other items I had on-hand. It was wonderful! I freeze individual portions for my DH’s lunches – a lot cheaper than buying a packaged soup, meal or eating out.
8. Freeze meals – I don’t do the extreme once-a-month or once-a-week cooking. I tried it and it just didn’t work with two little ones running around the kitchen all day. However, I will try to make a little extra of my casserole or whatever I am making to put a meal in the freezer. Last night we had meatloaf. The recipe stated it would make 8 servings – we have 2 adults and 2 kids that don’t each much. Instead of making one loaf I split it into two and froze the second one. I now have 1 meal for March ready to go without much more additional expense – all I need is a side dish. I also freeze individual cookie-dough balls for quick fresh baked cookies – much cheaper than the pre-packaged stuff. (This also doesn’t help my waistline since I end up eating the cookie balls straight from the freezer)
9. Drinks – I try not to spend a lot of money on drinks. We don’t buy popsoda unless it is super-cheap. I also buy the girls frozen concentrated juice instead of the ready-made juice.
10. Make more things from scratch. This is a new one for me this year – I have been making brownies or cakes from scratch instead of a mix. I have also made a few quick breads, biscuits and muffins. I need to research how to make things a little healthier – maybe using whole wheat flour.

That’s my list – hopefully it will help someone. Any other tips?

Month End - Budget Figures

January 31st, 2007 at 02:09 pm

Month end is finaly here! I have actually been looking forward to looking at my budget figures since I have been following the budget all month long (yes I am nerdy).

I have been trying to use the pearbudget to track my budget. It has been a little of an adjustment since before I was trying to budget by payperiod (every two weeks) instead of for the entire month. I have had to add a few additional spreadsheets to the workbook to track other items like the breakdown of my savings account, but otherwise I think it is working pretty good.

January Stats:
My income exceeded my expenses by 38.10, which I was pretty pleased about since I did got over in a few of my categories.

I went over in my 'Household' category by $60, but I still have over $50 cash in my bilfold, so I am not going to stress about that one too much.

My low point in my checking account was just over $500. Hopefully that will get larger as I go.

I paid an extra $260 to my car loan (Yea!).

No money went to savings this month, but I didn't expect it to since I am focusing on my car loan right now.


Credit Report and Score

January 24th, 2007 at 12:24 pm

Last night I went to www.annualcreditreport.com to get my free credit report - I believe it has been 2 years since I have actually looked at one. I selected Equifax for the report (no specific reason - just random).

The site said I could get my score for just under $8 - I didn't really plan on getting my score, but I figured $8 was worth a piece of mind.

I haven't fully dug into the report yet - just skimmed a few items, but here were some things I noticed and some thoughts.

1. My credit score is 789 - Excellent rating. At first I was pissed for wasting the $8 when my score is good, but now I am glad I did it. Since I am a numbers person, my score makes me think - Why not 800? Should I try to improve it? Does it really matter if it is already "excellent"?

2. The name displayed on my report is my last name on my first marriage. I thought that was very strange - That marriage only lasted 1 year and I changed my name back to my maiden name once the divorce was over. I haven't used that name on anything since 1998.

3. I have 16 revolving accounts listed on the report. YIKES! most of them were opened for a 1 time charge for a discount or some other promotion. I will definately think twice about doing this in the future.

4. Negative factors affecting my score.
a. The time since your most recent account opening is very recent. This is probalby true - no arguements.
b. You have no recent revolving balance information being reported. If I am reading this correctly - since I do not have any credit card balances - it negatively affects my score? hmmm... I don't think I am going to work on this one.
c. You have a relatively high number of consumer finance company accounts being reported. I agree - I probably need to close a lot of these accounts, but will closing them also negatively affect my score? I thought I read somewhere that it would.
d. The length of time your accounts have been establised is relatively short. I have two credit cards and one business card account - all of them I have opened in the last year or two. These will be the ones I keep "open".

This next year since I am buckling down to pay off my car loan I do not want to use credit cards at all - only pay for items I have the money for. Is that wise? Should I use them occasionally?

I plan on digging into the report more the next few days - just by glancing at the report it seems a little confusing.

My other gripe about the credit report thing is why can I only have one free copy a year? This is information about ME. I should be able to access it (with out paying) whenever I want. And why is the score such a secret? This is something that affects what kind of interest rates I qualify for - why should I have to pay to receive my own score?


Gas at $1.97 and other gas ramblings

January 19th, 2007 at 06:27 am

I noticed the gas stations around my area were under $2/gallon this week. Of course my tank is half full so I don't need gas right now since I normally wait until my tank is almost completely empty. Hopefully it will stay under the $2 mark for a while. I only drive about 15 miles a day so I only need to put in about $20 once a week or so.

On another gas subject - I do budget billing for my natural gas for the house. November was the end of my budget billing period and I had paid nearly $400 over the amount of my actual expenses. Don't get me wrong - I have been enjoying having 4 months with no gas bill - especially this time of year. Where the heck do they come up with that monthly amount - they actually INCREASED the amount I am supposed to pay once my credit is gone. A part of me thinks I should stop the budget billing and just pay actual costs, but the other part of me knows I am bad at planning ahaead and would just blow the extra money I would have during the warmer months/low bill periods. We actually just got new insulation installed last month also so I am pretty sure my bills will be lower this coming year.

I won't bore you with my DHs gas problems ... it's not related to money anyway Smile

Picky Eaters and Vacation Delima

January 17th, 2007 at 06:55 am

My 3 1/2 year old has been picky since she started eating solid foods. I am not sure why or how this happened - we don't eat anything too strange and we have never made seperate meals for her to encourage her to want something different (the exception is when we make something spicey). Now our 18 month old - who used to eat everything in site - is starting to follow in her footsteps. It is getting really frustrating. I don't want to eat chicken or noodles or blueberry pancakes every night! Last night we had cheeseburger soup - one of my hubby's favorite. We also made grilled cheese sandwiches because we knew the girls would probably not eat the soup. There is nothing in this soup that is offensive to a kid - hamburger, potatoes, a few carrots, valveeda cheese and topped with bacon. I put a small amount in front of each girl to have them try it. After a lot of persuasion (and a little bribery - chocolate cake) My 3 year old finally put a bite in her mouth. She started gagging at the first taste of it. My hubby was so pissed! where does a 3 year old learn to gag?

We also got a email from some friends of our asking us to go on a small vacation with them in May. Since I started working on paying off my debt the last few months I have pretty much cleared my savings acct (except for $1500) and used any extra money I have at the end of the month to go towards my car loan. We really do want to go - we haven't been on any type of vacation with the girs yet. I think we will try to go, even though the timing sucks. I don't want to interrupt paying on my car, so I hope I can shave a little money off my household budget (currently at $600 a month) to make it work. I know we can spend less in that category - I just need to do better planning (and quit buying crap we don't need).

The Grapefruit

January 15th, 2007 at 07:41 am

Grapefruits have been on sale the last few weeks so I have picked a few up each time I go to the grocery store. I am the only one that eats them, so I only pick up 2-3 each time. I like them, but I don't always have the time to cut one up in the morning. My mom saw them sitting on the counter and suggested I try eating them warm. What? are you crazy? Here is her method:
Cut one in half and cut the sections out like normal. Top with a little butter, brown sugar and cinnamon and place in the microwave for 45 seconds or so.

At first I thought it was pretty sad to put butter on such a heathly fruit, but I gave it a try anyway. Yumm-O! It was super juicy, sour and sweet. I will definately do it again.

The weekend was pretty good spending wise. I picked up my weeks worth of groceries and a few things at Sam's. Saturday my mom and I went to a wedding and I treated her to a latte on the ride down. She spent a lot of money taking my kids to Seasame Street Live last week, so I figured I should at least pay for the lattes. Sunday I had a no-spend and no-drive day. In fact I stayed in my pj pants all day. I love those days!

I am hoping to eat in for lunch every day this week. I have already said no to the bagel run this morning so I am starting off good.

I updated my budget spreadsheet up to the end of June. I was hopeing to have most of my car paid off my then, but I think realistically I will just be at the half way point of what is left. September/October is when I think it will be paid off. I really can't wait to have that payment out of my monthly budget each month. It will be like getting a raise!

Car Loans - they don't make it easy to payoff early...

January 9th, 2007 at 02:05 pm

I have my car loan through ford credit. From day 1 it has been set up to be automatically deducted from my account (like almost all my bills are). I don't have to worry about paying late, hunting down a stamp or anything.

This car loan is my next debt to tackle. I logged on to the ford credit website to find out how to make extra payments - can I do it online, or what address to send it to. I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for so I sent an email to customer service. They replied that the only way to make extra payments is to stop my automatic deductions and make payments manually. What I wanted to do is keep my regular payment and when I had extra money in my budget to put it towards the loan. Now I have to remember to do my regular monthly payment each month. I guess I should be happy I can at least do this online.

The debt snowball is beginning to roll

January 3rd, 2007 at 09:34 am

The last two weeks I have:

Paid off my school loan - $630
Paid off the little bit of christmas I charged from internet shopping - $200
Paid off my medical bill - $368

Now I should be able to concentrate on my car loan. I have about $6,000 left to pay. I am hoping to have it paid off by September by paying an extra $300 a month. This will pay off the loan a year early. I did a spreadsheet on how much I will save by paying off early and unfortunately it is only about $100 (I should have started this 3 years ago...), but I guess just having the debt gone is the most important at this point.

On another note - I have not spent any money (other than bills, debt payments...) in 2007! Yea!

Baby Step #1 - Completed

December 27th, 2006 at 11:15 am

I have started reading Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover this past week and I think I am going to give it a try.

Step #1 involved making a budget and saving $1000 in a small emergency fund.

I had already started working on a budget the past few months. This morning I did a little tweaking to it to make sure every dollar is accounted for (this is what he recommends). I have a little wiggle room in some of the categories so if something unplanned for comes up I should still be OK.

I also already have about $2000 in a savings account. I plan on taking $1000 of that and put it into a new savings account so it will be seperate from the rest of my money. I have already setup an account for irreguar bills (registration, insurance...). I am thinking of setting up a third for Christmas/Birthdays... how many savings account does a person need? Maybe I will just use my exising account at my credit union for this.

The next chapter I am going to read is about snowballing debt - which I pretty much know the concept of anyway. When doing my budget I realized I will be able to put more towards debt than I originally thought I would. So maybe this won't take as long as I had thought.

Also today I went online and paid my credit cards for the few christmas presents I purchased online. I wanted to start 2007 with nothing on my CCs and keep it that way.

I also took the leap and paid off my school loan - just over $600. I recieved a little extra money for christmas through presents and my xmas bonus so I just decided to go for it.

I am on my way!

Good intentions...

December 14th, 2006 at 11:13 am

I failed at having 4 no-spend days in a row this week.

Tuesday (day #1 of my no-spend goal) I was able to not spend any money.

Wednesday I was talked into going out for lunch with some co-workers. lunch is my social time, so I have a problem saying no. On the up side I just ordered a bowl of soup so it cost me under $5.

Today I had a dr appt (which I forgot about earlier this week). I had a $20 co pay there. Then I decided to pick up my gift cert since I was already out and about - $20. Then I went to JoAnns and picked up a few tins for christmas goodies - $8. Finally I put gas in my car $20. I am hoping this tank lasts me until we leave on christmas eve.

I hope the only other thing I will need to buy this next week is groceries - as long as I plan well, I shouldn't go over budget.

Homemade Christmas Gifts

December 12th, 2006 at 01:01 pm

I started the fleece blanket I am going to make for my neice today during my lunch hour. I spent about $18 on fleese a month or so ago (I probably could have gotten it cheaper if I would have waited for a coupon). Our gift exchange is between $20-$25 so I feel pretty good about being under (hey, my labor has to be worth something, right?).

I made a little calendar magnet for my youngest daughter's daycare provider. I think I will also give her some goodies I plan on making this week. I am still toying with the idea of also giving her a gift certificate - just not as much as last year - maybe $20.

So far today has been a no-spend day. Working on my blanket over the lunch hour helped to not be tempted to leave the office - So I saved by bringing my lunch, not driving anywhere, and not being tempted by any other impulse shopping.

This week's goal - 4 no spend days

December 11th, 2006 at 01:30 pm

I have pretty much blown my budget this past week. Our kiddos were at grandma's on Saturday and my hubby insisted we finish Christmas shopping.

The good news is we are totally finished except for 1 gift certificate for our daycare provider (I am not sure why we need to gift somone that already takes a good chunk of our money, but whatever...). Also good is that our kitchen is pretty well stocked so I do not need a big shopping trip this week - I will just pick up a few odds and ends tonight afterwork.

I have also picked up most of my christmas baking ingredients so I can start on those without any added expense.

My goal is once I pick up my groceries is to not spend any money until the end of the week - Tuesday through Friday. I think I should be able to do it unless I need to put gas in my car.

wish me luck!

$1 left in my wallet

December 4th, 2006 at 01:00 pm

I have been using cash to pay for household items the last few weeks. It has really been working for me. I take out $150 (or $300 per pay period) from the ATM each week - when it is gone, it is gone.

I decided with my last paycheck I would cut that back to $250 a pay period to get a little more cusion in my checking account. On payday I took out $150 because I knew I needed a big grocery shopping trip. That was friday - 3 days later and after
*Groceries
*$40 in prescriptions (I am switching to mail order after this month to save $$)
*Gas for the car

I now have $1 left. Granted if I need money - I can get the remainder of my $250 allowance out and just make that stretch out a week and half.

Where, oh where does all my money go?

December 4th, 2006 at 10:12 am

Total monthly income: $2800

College savings/529 plan: $50 ($25 each girl)

Monthly Bills
Daycare: $1000 (YIKES)
Gas (budget billing) $95
Elect/Water (budget billing) $139
Phone: $24 - No extras
Garbage: $18

Debt payments
My school loan: $61
DH School loan: $200
Ford Credit: $330

DH pays the mortgage (we have seperate accounts).
Total of bills, savings and debt payments: $1917.
This leaves me with $890 a month for household/other items.

Other nonrecurring bills:
Auto Registration $210/year
Auto Insurance $400/6 months

Emergency Fund: $2000 (savings account)

I also have two bills that will be paid off at the next statement.
CC - used for online christmas shopping: $200
Medical - my portion of the girl's well child visit $100