I don’t think I’m the only one who has been hit by the recession, and we definitely have not been hurt harder than other families. This month is especially rough because the Army decided not to pay us about ¼ of our paycheck, and we emptied our savings last month to pay for our deposit and first month’s rent. Our Army BAH (Housing allowance) was $1300 in San Antonio and $2100 here, and our deposit was $3150, so that emptied about $4,000 out of our personal savings. Our housing allowance was supposed to be adjusted, along with some other allowances, by the 1st of September, but it wasn’t. The Army also hasn’t reimbursed us for travel pay. It’s a lot of paper work and words, but short version, we were ripped off.
So this month was about creativity about food. There are 5 easy things you can do to save money.
1. Make your own laundry detergent.
I have an entire blog about this and it is “popular” by my terms. Meaning five people have looked at it. And those people don’t include my parents, so that’s popular in my book. You can find that here:
Savings per month: (initially) 13 dollars
But over 3 months: $54
Savings over 1 year: $216
2. Cut the amount of meat you serve.
For the 9 months of being married I was making 1 pound of beef for a family of 4. I also was using three chicken breasts when cooking anything for dinner. We did do well because the kids and I would eat leftovers for lunch, so there was little to no waste.
I’ve cut my chicken and use only two chicken breast, and use ¼ less of beef or turkey per month. Look for turkey deals and try substituting half of your beef for turkey. Here, it is cheaper (at times) to use turkey instead of beef. Turkey is a lean mean 93% lean while the cheapest of beef can be 70% lean. I only purchase beef leaner than 90% because we are watching our waistlines. My husband is the only one shrinking, but mine isn’t growing! J
Beef equals 2.99/lb here and I purchase it in bulk. Let’s do some math here. I have about 38 meals (dinner every night and lunch on the weekends) that I need to figure out a recipe for. Like I said earlier, my kids and I eat leftovers for lunch. 4 of those will be fish, 12 of those will be chicken, 8 of those will be meat free. So 14 of those meals will be beef or turkey.
14 lbs of beef at 2.99/lb = $41.86
10.5 lbs of beef at 2.99/lb = 31.40
Savings per month: $10.46
Savings per year: 125.52
3. Go meatless!
In my home going meatless was BLASPHAMY to my husband. You would have thought I told him I was going to buy generic Captain Crunch Peanut Butter cereal or something. That’s funny because he’s in love with that cereal. But going meatless is a great alternative to purchasing meat. Eight of our meals now are meatless. There are great and hearty recipes that you can do like:
The first recipe my husband LOVES I mean he asks for it at least once a week. This past week I had 1 left over chicken breast, I shredded it and added it to the food. The recipe is filling and healthy and dirt cheap. Soup is a great meatless option, especially soup made in the crock pot because you don’t have to do anything. Unless you’re like my sister-in-law and don’t like things plugged in while you’re not at the house. She’s strange, but she’s our strange. Lastly, the casserole is a HUGE dish and I didn’t know how much it made. I suggest making this if you’re going to have a house party and you need a vegetarian option. It is very good, and sneaks vegetables into it for kids. My kids personally love it, but my husband knows better. J
Average meat per meal is $2 and I make 8 meatless meals per month.
Savings per month: $16
Savings per year: $192
4. Stop feeding your children sugary cereal junk for breakfast
This is probably my biggest pet peeve of them all. My first month having my step children here I went crazy and bought TONS of cereal, it lasted us three months. We used it for breakfast, snacks, even dinner when I was too lazy to cook. Don’t judge, breakfast for dinner is perfectly acceptable. Then I started READING the labels. My mind was blown, how could I been feeding this junk to the kids. And I was getting the “healthy” stuff for the most part. Now I feed the kids oatmeal with sugar and cinnamon. I was one of those parents with blinders on. There are so many commercials, and cute kids that tell me that cereal is good for them. The cereal is on their backpacks watching them at school, so they must be healthy. They aren’t.
Here goes my crunchy rant.
Stop feeding your children chocolate covered cereal because they asked for it and think that you have no control over their actions for today. If you feed your children junk food, you are going to get junk behavior. That’s it broken down to the basics. Now don’t get me wrong, we will buy Count Chocula cereal and eat it on Halloween but that is ONE day of the month that they get to splurge. Switch to granola, which can get expensive (unless you make your own which isn’t too expensive) or go like me and do oatmeal. I do cinnamon sugar because I have them prepackaged in the cupboard and my kids haven’t gotten tired of it.
Here’s a link to my breakfast “recipe”:
I spend 6 dollars a month on breakfast a month, not including pancake Sundays. Cheerios, which I LOVE, let’s say the large box is about $4 without coupons, sales or whatever. We go through two boxes per month; again we like to use it for snack. We use about ½ a cup of milk per child with their cereal, so we are purchasing 2 gallons of milk per month JUST FOR CEREAL and milk here is over 3 dollars.
Cereal total: 14 dollars per month
Savings per month: $8
Savings per year: $96
But your sanity that you’re saving is a lot more when you see your children’s attitude change with less sugar in their system.
5. Clip coupons or build your food around what’s on sale. Just shop the sales.
Don’t go out and be an extreme couponer. That is NOT what I’m saying. But if there’s a sale for corn that makes it .30 off a can, then buy the corn, and make some recipes with it. Black bean quesadillas need corn, cough. If you need spaghetti noodles, and an off brand is on sale, then just buy the other brand. There are very few things that we are brand specific to. If you see that there is a coupon in the circular for your diaper brand, clip it. It’s going to save you money. Don’t feel bad to use coupons; there is NO SHAME in saving money. The money you save in groceries can go towards clothes, movies, heck even a date night. Every dollar counts. I have saved up to $75 dollars off my bill just by shopping the sales, and not using coupons. When I was extreme couponing, I was saving minimum 70% of my grocery bill, but I felt really limited in what I could make. I have also walked out saving 30 dollars. But shop the sales, clearance, and buy what you need. Always ask “is this a necessity”. Just because it’s a good sale on toothpaste, doesn’t mean you need it. Especially which you still have 9 boxes still at home.
Savings per month: $50 (on average, sometimes it’s MUCH more)
Savings per year: $600
With these 5 simple and easy things, you could save over $1,229 a year! I have gotten our grocery bill for a family of 4 living in New Jersey, eating pretty healthy under 250 dollars per month. That includes all my toiletries, dog food, and any cleaning products I need. My entire household goods bill is 250 dollars. I probably only spend 200 dollars on food, the other 50 is tax, dog food, sponges, toilet bowl brushes, spray bottles, Ziploc bags, etc. I feed my family on 50 dollars a week. That’s pretty darn good because while living in Texas (and food is a lot cheaper there) my first month having the kids I was spending close to $600 a month on everything. I’ve cut over $3,000 a year in household goods! This included making my own cleaners, making my own bread and tortillas, but that’s not something this blog with discuss.
It feels good knowing every month that my few hours of food conservations are really money in the bank.