Showing posts with label money saver. Show all posts
Showing posts with label money saver. Show all posts

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Grocery Savings



One of the largest portions of our budget as a family is groceries. The price of groceries can add up very quickly especially due to the fact that we are fairly conscientious about trying to purchase organic products whenever possible. This in itself is a financial investment because paying a little more for our fruits and veggies should cost less than potential health problems later due to health hazards related to pesticides and potentially harmful GMOs.



My wife does a majority of the shopping during the school year and I hit the store some more during the summer due to my profession as a teacher. One thing that she has done is she has made a spreadsheet with prices of common items we purchase and where they are cheapest. The main businesses that we shop at which are included on the list are Costco, Meijer, Aldi, and a co-op of Country Life Natural foods. Please note that these shopping options are in the Grand Rapids, MI area. A great idea for a family trying to save money is to make their own spreadsheet with the stores they commonly shop. Then you can easily update prices at each place as you shop using a smart phone.

Here is the spreadsheet that she uses! Feel free to print it off and use it too!
http://goo.gl/1JN2pR

Here is a screen shot example of the spreadsheet but the link is the only way to get a great view.






Of course nothing beats a sale price so double check the sale price against your spreadsheet! You may notice that there is not a lot of animal product options on this list. This is due to the fact that we try to have a whole food/plant based diet for personal health reasons. We also will spend more if an organic option is available. This spreadsheet may be a great starting point for a family to save some money on common everyday items.

Before going shopping she also checks for coupons on  Meijer's M Perks and looks for deals on Saving Addiction http://goo.gl/TFg8Aa.


For more information about Country Life Natural foods check out this link: http://goo.gl/nhh0VI




Another resource that I have heard folks have success with but have not tried myself is the Retail me Not app: http://goo.gl/fL7Fs0



Look forward to reading more about how to save even more money when grocery shopping!

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the blog please subscribe by entering your email into the email update box on the right column.

FFF

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Quick Tip Tuesday: How to Freeze Avocados

A regular staple in our diet is avocado. It is creamy, versatile and has really healthy fats. What is a problem is that we are frugal and avocados can be pretty expensive for a small amount of food. A great way to stretch your budget and have avocado more often is to buy them on sale (usually between $0.50 a piece and $1.00 a piece) and freeze them!


Now, this won't work very well if you are looking to use slices of avocado. It is much better for using avocado in recipes or dips. According to an article at Huffington Post http://goo.gl/KWfvTp you can either half the avocados, remove the skin and then freeze or mash them, add a little lemon juice and freeze (we like to put them in quart sized bags). We have never tried the halving methods but have tried the mash with some success!

Make sure to check out the Huffington Post link for recipe ideas for those avocados!

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the blog please subscribe by entering your email into the email update box on the right column.

FFF

Friday, January 30, 2015

Saving Money on Ground Beef - Taco Meat Recipe






Meat is often the most expensive part of any meal, especially if you try to buy high quality organic grass fed ground beef like us. Even after shopping around we still pay $4.99/lb at Costco, but we looking into buying part of a cow from a local farmer (post to come!).  An easy way we have found to save money on meat is simply to use less with each meal. Meals with meat as an ingredient such as chicken noodle soup, lasagna, or enchiladas use a lot less meat than a meat centered dish such as steak, pork chops, or marinated chicken. You can easily decreased your grocery bill by replacing one meat-centered meal a week with a vegetable or bean-centered dish.

Another method to reduce your meat budget is to stretch your meat! Not with artificial fillers like many fast food restaurants, but instead with wholesome legumes such as lentils. The easiest example of this is with taco meat. After cooking our ground beef we add cooked lentils and then season them both with taco seasoning. Most people can hardly tell the difference which we observed when we cook tacos for a group of young adults at a weekend retreat. Cooking for 40 people on a small non-profit budget teaches you to be frugal!



The ratio of meat to lentils is up to you and can easily be adjusted. For those that are not used to lentils we recommend starting with 75% meat to 25% lentils and transitioning to 50/50 (we go even further and usually use 75% lentils to only 25% meat). With anything, change can be hard so gradually transitioning to more lentils is usually better. When you first start eating more beans and lentils you may notice increased flatulence (farting! lol). The good news is that your body adjusts within two weeks. So that old saying schoolyard saying - Beans, beans...



.. is only half true! Even if you only cut your meat from 100% to 75% your price will be greatly reduced.



For those that need proof: Let’s figure a family of 4 (two adults and two children) are going to be eating tacos for dinner. To be generous we will estimate that each person will eat 1/2lb of taco meat.
4 people X ½ lb =2 lbs
2lb meat x $5/lb= $10 meat


If you replace 50% of the meat with lentils which usually cost less than $2 for a 1lb bag (5 cups cooked) you can cut your cost by $4.20.
50% meat= 2 cups (1lb)
50% lentils= 2 cups cooked lentils


with lentils being $2 for 1lb bag or 5 cups cooked
$2/5 cups= $0.40/cup


Total total of “taco meat” (50% meat 50% lentils)= $5.80
Total Savings using 50/50 “taco meat”= $4.20
(Of course bigger families would save even more!)


Still not convinced? Let’s pretend you make our “taco meat” once a month you would save $50.40/year. That is not including using lentils in enchiladas, burritos, spaghetti sauce, meatballs, sloppy Joe's, Shepard's pie, etc.


  1. Rinse lentils in a strainer
  2. Cover with water in a saucepan or pot (use the same one you plan to cook them in to save dishes)
  3. Soak overnight on the counter
  4. Drain and cover with water again
  5. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20- 30 minutes or until soft. Drain any remaining water.
No time to soak or forgot to plan ahead: Follow the same directions but increase cook time to 30-45 minutes.


How to Cook Lentils (Dry and NOT Soaked)
  1. Rinse lentils in a strainer
  2. Cover with water in a saucepan or pot
  3. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30-45 minutes or until soft. Drain any remaining water.


Time Saving Tips (Time is Money!)
When cooking lentils you can cooked the whole bag and freeze in two cup portions for using later. Two cups of frozen lentils quickly thaw when placed in the pan with cooked ground beef. Make sure you have enough seasoning (link) for both the lentils and beef after they are mix together. If it becomes too dry add some water you saved after draining cooked lentils.


Save even more money by making your own taco seasoning. I make a triple batch of the spicy version and save it in an airtight container. Here is the recipe for homemade taco seasoning(link):




Taco Seasoning


2 TBSP chili powder (spicy version: 2 1/2 TBSP)
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp crushed red pepper or cayenne (spicy version: ½ tsp cayenne)


Directions: Mix together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months. If you want a spicy version add more of the chili powder and cayenne pepper. Those that do not like spicy feel free to reduce chili powder and cayenne or completely leave out.  To make a smoky version add smoked paprika instead of sweet paprika.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the blog please subscribe by entering your email into the email update box on the right column.

FFF

Make Your Own Taco Seasoning



Taco Seasoning

2 TBSP chili powder (spicy version: 2 1/2 TBSP)
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp crushed red pepper or cayenne (spicy version: ½ tsp cayenne)

Directions: Mix together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months. If you want a spicy version add more of the chili powder and cayenne pepper. Those that do not like spicy feel free to reduce chili powder and cayenne or completely leave out.  To make a smoky version add smoked paprika instead of sweet paprika.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the blog please subscribe by entering your email into the email update box on the right column.

FFF

How to Cook Dry Lentils


How to Cook Lentils (Soaked) - Recommended for better nutrients and digestion
  1. Rinse lentils in a strainer
  2. Cover with water in a saucepan or pot (use the same one you plan to cook them in to save dishes)
  3. Soak overnight on the counter
  4. Drain and cover with water again
  5. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20- 30 minutes or until soft. Drain any remaining water.
No time to soak or forgot to plan ahead: Follow the same directions but increase cook time to 30-45 minutes.

How to Cook Lentils (Dry and NOT Soaked)
  1. Rinse lentils in a strainer
  2. Cover with water in a saucepan or pot
  3. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30-45 minutes or until soft. Drain any remaining water.



Time Saving Tips (Time is Money!)
When cooking lentils you can cooked the whole bag and freeze in two cup portions for using later. Two cups of frozen lentils quickly thaw when placed in the pan with cooked ground beef. Make sure you have enough seasoning (link) for both the lentils and beef after they are mix together. If it becomes too dry add some water you saved after draining cooked lentils.


Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the blog please subscribe by entering your email into the email update box on the right column.


FFF

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Save Money by Using an Egg Substitute...Flax Meal

This post is somewhat inspired by this morning's breakfast, oatmeal raisin pancakes.

As a family we try to limit our consumption of animal products. This is not only for health reasons, but it is also a money saver. We do eat eggs from time to time but when we do we usually spend a little more for higher quality organic eggs from Costco for about $0.28 an egg. Most people pay closer to $2.00 a dozen or $0.166 an egg.



You can easily get that price per "egg" down to $0.036 (between 3 and 4 cents) per egg by using a simple and effective flax meal substitute. I came to that price per egg by taking the price of a regular bag of organic flax meal and dividing by the number of servings. I guess you could round up to 4 cents to account for the price of the water you will use, but it wouldn't even equal that four thousandths of a dollar.



Anyway, here's how you do it for one egg!

In a small bowl mix a tablespoon of flax meal with three tablespoons of warm water.
Let it sit for about 3 minutes.

Stick a fork in it because it's done! (don't actually stick a fork in it).

It will look like this.



We use this as a substitute in all kinds of recipes that include baking, cooking etc.

We have also used a hybrid for some things that need that super strong binding ability of eggs in which we will use one flax meal substitute egg and an actual egg. However, we find that this quick trick works really well for daily uses and it saves us money while givings us a wider range on nutrients.

The health benefits of flax meal are wonderful as it is very high in fiber and in essential fatty acids.

Here is a great blog with much more information about flax in general by Kitchen Stewardship: http://goo.gl/GKukmR

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the blog please subscribe by entering your email into the email update box on the right column.

FFF

Friday, January 23, 2015

Get Yourself a Cooler for Traveling!

So here's a quick money saving trick that saves us hundreds of dollars annually; using a cooler when traveling or staying somewhere over night!

My wife and I tend to travel often. Both for short family vacations and traveling to see family members. We don't live in the same areas as our parents so we seem to be on the road frequently.

When I was growing up we would always stop at fast food or a gas station to load up of drinks and snacks whenever we were on the road, even if it was just a hour drive to where we were going. As we started our own family we decided that was way too expensive and impractical.

We now have a little travel cooler that goes with us whenever we travel. Here is a link to the one we have (although we did not pay this much for it): http://goo.gl/xsl0Ox . When heading out on the road some things that are often packed are, but are not limited to...



Apples
Bananas
Soups in Containers (can heat with microwaves at gas stations)
Pre made pasta dishes (can heat with microwaves at gas stations)
Water (in reusable bottle that you can fill at gas stations)
Homemade Iced Tea
Sandwiches (Canned tuna or salmon mixed with avocado are our favorite for the road)
Salsa for chips and salsa
Hummus and Veggies

and many more...

It costs less than $10 to fill that cooler with enough food for a meal and snacks easily and we are not spending money on needless drinks at the gas station.

If on a longer vacation make sure to hit up a grocery store when possible to replenish. When we're traveling we really like finding a Trader Joe's to stock back up on our fruit and veggies. Also, we've had some great luck getting free ice when stopping because we show the cooler to gas station attendants and tell them we'd be wasting a lot of ice if we have to purchase a bag. In the worst of cases they'll charge 50 cents.

All of the ways we've used the cooler to save money:
Overnight at the hospital
On the road
Overnight at a family or friend's home
To the park
Running errands all day
All day sporting event
Overnight in a hotel without a fridge

Make sure to check out this LINK for tips on packing and some great road-trip recipes. 

You can also use it to incubate your homemade yogurt (look for how to in a later post)

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the blog please subscribe by entering your email into the email update box on the right column.

FFF



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Plastic Debate...



So as a money saver I do enjoy catching Dave Ramsey on the radio from time to time to hear what he has to say. Obviously, this guy has some aspects of his program that really work for people. If you do not know who he is you can check him out here: http://www.daveramsey.com/home/. He's all about becoming debt free, and in general, I agree with his message!





One aspect I have heard of his program on the radio is to have people stay away from plastic, i.e. credit cards and debit cards. There is a ton of research that states that people do tend to spend more compulsively when using plastic and I believe it in terms of the general public. However, there are some great advantages to using plastic as well.


Advantages:


1) Instead of cayring a bunch of cash around it is much safer to carry around a card or two. If stolen or lost you can deactivate them and they are widely accepted.

2) Many credit cards and debit cards offer reward programs. For me, I make around $50/month in credit card rewards depending on what type of promotion is offered for the particular month. Right now the 5% cash back with my Chase card is for groceries and I am going to buy those regardless. The Chase Freedom card has worked very well for us



3) If you have a disputed charge with a credit card you can simply call the company and they are likely to work with you. For example, friends of ours bought furniture from Ashley furniture that arrived damaged. They returned the furniture Ashley wouldn't work for them on a full refund After calling Chase our friend's payment was stopped and they were not charged.

4) It is really the only safe way to make purchases online and there are vast savings to be had on the world wide web.



5) With some rewards programs you can get gift certificates worth more than the cash back would be worth which are great for when you need to eat out when traveling or giving as gifts.

6) It builds credit if you use them responsibly.

7) It is easy to save purchase information by just checking your account on-line or on an app on your phone. For me this organizational ability great.

Some tips for not overspending using credit cards.

1) NEVER CARRY A BALANCE!!! I went all caps there on purpose. It defeats the whole purpose if you are using it as a payday loan.

2) Move cash from one account to another as you make purchases. Have the second account set up as the automatic payment account for your credit card and then you are only spending cash that you do have.

3) Pay monthly bills that have to be paid anyway automatically with credit cards. Heat and electricity are prime examples. You might as well take the kick back that you would not get if paying out of your checking account.

4)Do not keep it in your wallet if you are a super compulsive shopper. Bring it with you for outings to the grocery store and only buy items that are on your list.

5) Have only a couple of credit cards that are different. Do not get two different Visa cards as they may not both be accepted everywhere. I personally break this rule a little as I have two credit cards that are Visas and two debit cards that are Master Card (more to come on the debit cards later).


All in all, for the right user credit cards are great secure ways to make purchases. Like anything, they do take some will power. For me personally, I feel it just as much if I swipe the card as if I pay cash because I know and understand that they are all coming from the same pot of money. If your self control is in place credit cards can actually be a way to save money and work on becoming more frugal!

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the blog please subscribe by entering your email into the email update box on the right column.

FFF
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