This blog was started in 2008 when we did IVF for the first time to build our family after 5 1/2 years of infertility. We now have 8 and 2 year old boys (thanks to modern medicine) and we are enjoying our blessed life as parents ♥ In the summer of 2016 we took another huge step and moved across the country from Oklahoma to New York! This blog is about life and everything in between

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Frugal Living: Food

Today on this category of my Frugal Living Series I am going to cover the subject of food! We all need it, we all spend money on it. Some like to cook, some don't know how to cook, some hate cooking and eat out for almost every meal. Some are food snobs and only buy name brand, some don't care and buy whatever will get them out of the store the fastest.

To give you some background and how my food selections have evolved into where I'm at today, I will give you a little look into the past. In 2003 when Nick and I got married, we were very young, very poor, but very in love! I had never had an interest in cooking before that, but with saying "I do" that made me want to learn to be the best cook I could be. Those first few years were filled with a LOT of hamburger helper, casseroles, mac and cheese, and spaghetti.

After I finished college and began my career as a nurse, we got more settled in life and I became more experienced in the kitchen. I continued to be limited by our income and mostly purchased generic brands but made the most out of what I could afford.

  1. Couponing--In March 2010 I attended a free coupon class that taught the basic principles of how to stack coupons and get the best deals on food and hygiene items. Since then I have built up a great stockpile of pantry items and baking goods--mostly name brand--as well as occasional deals on bread, dairy products, and meat. I am by no means an extreme couponer. I get the inserts from my mom and I stick to 2 stores for coupon deals. I go to the grocery store once per week, and the drug store 1-2 times per month. I used to go to Walmart for everything, but now that I coupon I only go there about every other month for just a few things. I have definitely reduced my monthly grocery/toiletry budget and I pay less now per month for 3 people (name brand items!) than I was before for 2 people (generic items). Total monthly grocery savings = $400/month down to $175/month.
  2. Brands--They are important to some people, and sometimes they taste better than generic. But ALL of the time you are paying for the fancy labeling, commercials, and advertisements that the companies use to draw your interest. So much goes into attracting a customer to a brand that we don't think about. I agree there are a few instances where a generic brand may be inferior, but mostly not. If you are not interested in couponing but want to reduce your monthly grocery budget, you should definitely consider buying generic! I am a huge fan of the grocery store Aldi. They have amazing deals on food as well as fresh produce. They have their own store brand that is quite good. I get probably 50-70% of my ingredients here. Estimated savings from brand name to generic = 25% off your total.
  3. Homemade--This is obviously the more involved option to cutting costs, yet it is almost always the cheapest, healthiest, and educational. I say educational because you really learn how much hard work goes into making a nice meal! There are a lot of things I try to make from scratch at least once, just to see how much it costs and how much I like it. Sometimes I hate it and won't do it ever again--but I'm glad that I did it at least once for the experience. Sometimes it costs more for homemade and I only do it for special occasions. Examples of homemade items include bread, butter, cakes, chicken stock, mashed potatoes and beans. For dried beans you can spend a couple dollars on a bag and end up with a huge amount of cooked beans that you can freeze for future use, versus a dollar on one can of beans.
  4. Eating out--It gets expensive! It should NOT be an everyday thing unless of course you are made of money and don't have a kitchen. Eating out is and should be an occasional treat realistically once a week or so. At a sit-down restaurant the average meal for 2 people is about $30. If you need to feed more than that or want to get an appetizer the price only goes up! Fast food restaurants are cheaper, but you pay the price with your health and waistline. Keep some easy frozen food or quick dinners on hand for those evenings when you are too worn out to cook, and save a night out for something special. I do  however keep the local restaurant coupons from the mail so that when we do decide to go out, I have a nice variety of free meals/appetizers to choose from! Totals savings for 2 people eating out = $120/week (for 4 nights / week) down to $30/week (for 1 night / week).
Thank you for reading! Feel free to comment with any questions or comments, and check back soon for another post.

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