Saturday, July 24, 2010

Living Frugally (Lauren's Top Tips)

Hello! I don't often write about really personal things like money on here, but I thought this might be something that we might like to look back on one day, so I would like to document it. And since I consider this blog kind of like a diary of what's happening at a particular moment in our lives, here goes! I did write a bit last time about how we are going to be needing to budget ourselves very carefully. Basically, my maternity leave ran out at the end of April, and since then we have entirely spent all of my savings (even though we thought we were being pretty frugal.) Now, since I don't really have a job to go back to, and there is no child care available anywhere in town, we are trying to live off of the money the government sends out to people with young kids, at least until I can (hopefully) get my photography business off the ground. Jai's salary covers all the bills, and the mortgage, but there's not enough left over to pay for anything else. In other words, our shopping budget for the month is about $340. It cuts what we were spending by about half. But still... should be possible, right? Here's what I've learned so far (a top ten of tips, shall we say?)

1.) Make up a menu. We try and do our grocery shopping every two weeks, so we have been making menus for two weeks at a time. This step alone can cut your grocery bill drastically. Partly because we try to
2.) Use Meat wisely. For example, we figure we could buy two chicken breasts, or a whole chicken for about the same price. We roast the chicken one night, make stock from the bones, use the leftovers in quesadillas the next night, then use the stock for soup the night after that. One chicken, three meals.
3.) Use your local farm market. Buy as much as possible at the local market, it's better, fresher, and cheaper. No down side.

4.) Stick to the list when you are in the grocery store (or market.) If you aren't going to use it in the next two weeks, you don't need to buy it. Look at the flyers when you make up your menu, so you can take advantage of sales, and then Stick to the List.
And 4b.) Don't go grocery shopping when you're hungry! This is just asking for trouble.
5.) Get to know your local librarian. We go to the library a lot. Griffin is entertained by the colouring centre, and I get to hang out and browse, guilt free.
6.) Stop buying magazines. See 5 - the library has a great selection of magazines, for free, for anyone to borrow - and there's no guilt factor if you read through the whole thing right there, then put it back on the shelf (unlike at Pharmasave, where you can get a couple of dirty looks from the clerks.) And, as an added bonus, when you're done with them, you just bring them back, so they don't build up in piles around the house.
7.) Watch t.v. on-line. Most stations now have many of their shows posted on-line as streaming video. There's way less commercials, and you can watch them when it's convenient for you, and cancel your cable.
8.) Buy toys at your local flea-market. Just because we're broke, doesn't mean I don't want Griffin to have lots of fun toys. But it's not an issue when you can buy awesome wood toys for 75 cents (see below), or a paddington bear stuffie for $1.25. Last week we picked up some stocking stuffers - seven Hot Wheel trucks for $1.00!

9.) Hooray for popcorn in the hot air popper! Seriously, it's ridiculously cheap to make up a giant bowl of popcorn, and it's just as tasty as any bag of chips, any day.
10.) Bake your own treats. I've been trying to do this at night (it's just too hot during the day right now.) It's totally worth it. I make enough to freeze some, and we can snack on delicious treats like cheese biscuits and peanut butter cookies all day long.
And, why stop at ten,
11.) Use your local U-Pick. Pick it yourself and pay about half price. This means you can get twice as much, and have enough to preserve (our favourite way to keep fruit is to turn it into fruit roll-ups in the dehydrator, but most things freeze really well, too.)
12.) Hang stuff to dry. I'm one of those people who love the idea of the laundry line, but not so much the reality. I never think of it early enough, and I find the whole thing a little awkward. But that doesn't mean I don't want to stop using my dryer! Jai and I found an antique drying rack at a local garage sale. It's perfect for me, I can put it wherever I want (out in the sun on hot sunny days, or inside by the stove on wet days), and if I need to, I can hang stuff before we go to bed at night, which is usually when I think about laundry.

And, the surprisingly effective,
13.) Bring water with you wherever you go. I'm one of those people who often doesn't drink enough water. As a consequence, I don't notice that I'm thirsty until I am really thirsty. Like, I need a drink right now, or I feel like I might die, kind of thirsty. Which used to mean stopping at the nearest store and buying something to drink, or the nearest cafe or restaurant, where we might end up buying food, too. If you have water with you, not only can you avoid places where you will be tempted to buy a four dollar drink, you can probably wait until you get home to eat, too (which will help you stick to your menu.) We've been using a jar, filled with water. It's glass, so you don't have any of the icki-ness associated with plastic bottles, and it's got a lid that seals (no spills), plus Griffin can drink out of it, too (he has trouble with bottles still.) And you can't beat free for the price - some of those aluminum water carriers are pricey.
Last, but not least,
14.) Say Thank You. If someone offers you something - gas money, dinner, or some kind of help - don't turn them down, just say Thanks.

All right, now I know there's more stuff out there that we could be doing, so if you would like to add anything to the list, please leave me a comment. These are all pretty basic things, that make it relatively easy to maintain the sort of lifestyle that we're used to. I'll try and share some more next month, maybe, when we've been at this for a little longer!


sherrieg said...

Thanks for sharing, Lauren. I love your tips! For bread that's past being fresh, I whiz it up in the blender or food processor and pop it into the freezer - bread crumbs! And Freecycle is great if you're looking for something particular that someone else might be wanting to get rid of. I hope that it goes well for you - I'm excited to see what other tips you discover. :)

Anonymous said...

We buy lots of the basic main ingredients rather than already made. Ground beef rather than ready made burgers or meat balls... that way we can turn it into anything depending on what we fancy.. even just bolognaise! Plain flour rather than self raising so it can become pizza bases, biscuits or play dough or adding baking powder for cake.

Rather than wet wipes for the kids I use small flannels and just wash them with the rest of the laundry.

If we're heading out we also always fill up the water bottles before we go and take a snack or 2 for them too like a few slices of cold buttered toast cut into small squares, some raisins and an apple or banana or something.

We also try to pick up clothes where possible in the sales when we see them.. for the next year sizes.. they'll grow into them eventually! I've bought some great second hand clothes off ebay too.. I set myself an upper limit of bidding and NEVER go past it as there'll always be something else to try for another time.

It's amazing how much you can avoid spending if you really have too. We don't have cable anymore and after a while you don't miss it either!

Oh and for the hot weather... make your own ice lollies. Our re-usable lolly molds must have saved us heaps over the last few years!

At least with you having a great size garden you could grow your own veg and maybe even get some chickens for eggs if you needed. We're still stuck in our flat and dreaming about being able to do al that...
love to you all

Katie said...

I like clothing swaps (good for kids but also adults). Get a few friends of varying sizes together. Something "new" perks up my wardrobe right away and delays my new clothes craving.

TI said...

So refreshing to have this kind of thing talked about! Thank you!

I'm trying to bike or walk more places, make coffee at home instead of buying it out, and often just taking a deep breath and realizing there are some things we can do without.

Valerie said...

Hi Lauren,
I work with your Mom and she was telling us about your blog. Here's my suggestion.I use it all the time for coupons etc.

LethaColleen said...

Super post...I love the idea of checking out magazines from the library (or stopping by for a quick read). I may never, no matter how strapped, stop buying the books I read but magazines are a different story!

Anonymous said...

Great Blog Lauren!! There's a book called Thrifty by Marjorie Harris that I think you might enjoy. Take a peak next time you find yourself at the library. Another great tip re-invent old clothing. I recently made an old pair of jeans(that were sitting in the back of my closet) into a fun purse. It didn't take long and it was fun to make.

Heather Martin