Sunday, June 16, 2013
I cut flowers from the garden for two small arrangements in the house; one was delphinium, roses, and larkspur; the second was sunflowers. I never did plant the two types of sunflower seeds that I bought this year; my garden has been overrun with sunflowers that self-seeded from last year's sunflowers. The ones I cut were the smallest heads.
My parents are retiring, so they are closing their picture framing/home décor business. My mom invited me to come over to pick out some things that I would like to have. I was able to bring home many things for free, including several framed pictures (we will keep some of the pictures and some we will change out), some small picture frames (one of which will be a wedding gift for an upcoming wedding that I am attending), some wool shawls, some lamps, and the table you see above. I actually had another place in mind for this table, and it didn't work quite right. It was only after trying out the table in a few spots that I remembered that years ago I had wanted a small round table in my entryway, right under our light (I will have to photograph it from the other direction another time so that you can see how it goes right under our light). It's a few inches shorter than I would have picked for the table there, but the price was perfect (free!) and the color is just right, too.
When I imagined a table in this spot years ago, I imagined it with flowers on the table. My mom had a piece of glass on the table, too, which makes it perfect for a vase. I am so delighted with this table and the flowers there. I plan on making sure that I have even more flowers planted in the garden so that I can keep some flowers on this table all of the time.
On Monday, I planted more Armenian cucumbers and red noodle beans using seeds I already had. I also planted more Genovese basil (from the seeds that I had bought in bulk earlier this year).
I picked more red noodle beans. Their weren't enough for dinner, so I mixed in a can of green beans to make enough for our family. I seasoned them with some bacon grease that I had saved. (I don't cook bacon very often; it's a treat when I find it under $2 a pound and freeze it to use on occasion). I save the grease in the fridge to flavor other things; bacon grease can be safely saved 6 months or more in the fridge).
I picked Genovese basil, green onions, Early Girl and Yellow Pear tomatoes, Mission figs, blackberries, Royal apricots, Green Gage plums, and Dorsett Golden apples.
I put a bucket in the shower to catch water while I waited for it to warm up, and I used it to water my potted plants and to clean. I taught my oldest to do the same thing. If you don't have a bucket for each bathroom, consider asking for buckets at your grocery store bakery (they're often free or around .50; you may need to wash them first), or use a plastic container that had food in it (a large bucket of ice cream has a handle).
I added water to a lotion bottle to get the rest of the lotion out from the bottom of the bottle. I shook it up and was able to get the rest out.
We used Liberty's tiny fish that she caught last week to do a dissecting experiment. I looked up how to dissect a fish online, and we learned about it with her fish.
I was asked to teach a photography class at the last minute at someone's house. Before I left, I was asked if I wanted to pick some apricots from the tree that had just ripened there. I took home apricots to my family.
I used a $10 off $10 coupon and a 20% coupon, combined with a 60% off sale, to get two shirts for Wren for no money out of pocket.
I watched a show for free on Hulu.
I made press cookies using my grandmother's vintage cookie press.
I made caprese salad a couple of times last week. I also made barbecue chicken pizza, lots of sandwiches, pasta salad, bean and rice burritos, pancakes, potato salad, spaghetti, and smoothies.
I did not buy any food again last week.
What did you do to save money last week?
Friday, June 14, 2013
I met my in-laws a few days before our wedding. My husband had found an apartment for us, which was mine alone for a month (he stayed with his brother) until we were married. We moved all of both of our things into it before we were married.
My in-laws asked to see the apartment that we had set up a couple of nights before the wedding.
"Tell me about your bust," my future mother-in-law said as we walked into one room.
I paused. WHAT had she just said? How was I supposed to answer that?
Thankfully, my husband was able to come to the rescue. "I made that," he said, looking at the bust of a woman's head that he had cast for himself as part of his work before he met me.
I sighed with relief.
That is how we met.
A few years later, they moved to Las Vegas permanently.
When my oldest was just 20 months old and my second child was just a month old, she taught me how to can peaches. I was amazed at how fast she canned. I still cannot can that fast! She set a high standard for me. That was 10 years ago.
She understood food storage; her own family lived on it for a year, too, when her husband was out of a job and my husband was a child. She was a frugal person.
She was always, always serving someone.
My mother-in-law passed away last night.
Goodbye, Mom. We sure love you.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Buying in bulk saves me a lot of money. On most items, it saves me more than I can save on an item with coupons--plus I end up with a whole lot more of it. It's one of the fastest and least expensive ways to build your pantry.
There are lots of ways to buy items in bulk, but the simplest way is the way I go on most items:
Buy your food in 20, 25, and 50 pound bags.
If you have a large family, your family will eat through that food quickly. If you have a small family, your bulk purchases will just last you longer. If you're single, a single bulk purchase of an item can last you a year or two, or you can split bulk items with another single person so that you can get the lower price.
I had a roommate in college who used to buy a 25 pound bag of flour every few weeks. During that time, she would go through the entire thing, making her own bread, cinnamon rolls, cookies, etc. She had enough to feed herself and deliver to friends, and it didn't cost her much at all. Prices have changed since then, so chances are, she only spent $5 to make herself and her friends several weeks worth of bread and treats. Today, I can buy a 25 pound bag of all-purpose flour for $7.78, or bread flour for $7.94.
What items are easy to purchase in 20, 25 pound and/or 50 pound bags?
Rolled Oats (aka Old-Fashioned Oats)
Quick Oats (aka Instant Oats)
White Winter Wheat
Red Winter Wheat
And the list goes on, but the ones I mention here are some of the easiest for most people in the United States to find locally.
(I know that I have readers all over the world, and buying bulk isn't always an easy thing to do in other places, so if you live outside the U.S., I would love it if you would leave bulk sources in other countries in the comments.)
If you are struggling to put food on the table, buying a 25 pound bag of rice and a 25 pound bag of beans will provide several meals for your family right away, give you a start on building your pantry, and be very little out of pocket. The next time you are able to go to the store, you could buy a 25 pound bag of flour and start making your own bread (or start with the flour, or just the rice, depending on how much you can spend). Make that bulk item your main grocery purchase for that time period, and build your meals from that. You will start to build up your pantry for very little in this way, and still have food to eat.
|Can on the left is a #10 can of tomato sauce; the can on the right is a #303 can; a "standard size" can. As of today, the price for the can of tomato sauce in the #10 can is $2.72.|
There are other kinds of bulk supplies as well, that come in smaller amounts. Many come in #10 cans (#10 refers to a size).
Here are some that I buy:
brown sugar (4 pound bag)
105 ounce can of tomato sauce
yeast (2 pounds)
chocolate chips (3 pound and 5 pound bags)
salt (4 pound box)
dried onions (#10 can)
dried celery (#10 can)
pearled barley (#10 can)
oil (gallon or 3 liter bottle)
vinegar (liter or gallon)
cheese (5 pound blocks or 5 pounds shredded)
carrots (5 pound, 10 pound, and 25 pound bags)
spices (in all sorts of sizes)
oil (1 gallon or 3 liter)
vinegar (1 gallon or 1 liter, depending on type)
There is another way to buy in bulk as well, but the packages are smaller. When you see a great sale on something at the lowest possible price, stock up.
pasta (.50 to $1 box)
butter ($2 a pound or under; I buy this in a 4 pound package)
Fruits and vegetables (price depends on the the item and seasonality)
Where you can buy in bulk?
You can buy in bulk at your local grocery store. Really.
Most stores carry 20 or 25 pound bags of flour, rice, pinto beans, and sugar. It's on the bottom shelf, right in the same section as the regular item that you normally buy in a smaller package.
Most grocery stores in the U.S. carry vinegar in a gallon size, and carrots in at least a 5 pound bag, with many carrying them in a 25 pound bag (labeled "for juicing", usually).
Some Super-Walmarts have bulk items in both the regular section and they have another bulk section, which also carries items such as huge jars of pickles (for around $4), #10 cans of fruit salad, #10 cans of other items, and bulk sauces and vinegars.
Sam's Club, Costco, and BJ's are bulk sellers in the U.S. While they don't have everything I listed above, they carry a lot of those items at fantastic prices. I find that the flour in bulk at my Sam's Club is fresher than at my grocery store, and it lasts longer. The turnover for bulk goods is higher there, and the flour comes in a thicker package as well. You can read my Sam's Club list here.
Winco carries lots of the bulk dry goods that I mentioned. Some items they have in bins, and some are in bags. Most items that come in bins also have a bag size and the price listed on the tags; you just have to ask an employee to get the bags from the back for you. They have some items that are harder to find in other places, such as lentils, long-grain rice, and mung beans. The great thing about the bins is that you can also buy a small quantity at the bulk price if you want; there are other stores that have bulk bins as well.
Amish and Mennonite stores are great sources for bulk items, especially if you live east of the Mississippi River.
Then there are a whole slew of places that sell items in bulk online. Some places send out trucks, some you order with others through a co-op (and they send a truck), some ship UPS, etc. Some places are just for herbs, some for other smaller bulk items, and some sell tons of items, including organic options and lots of freeze-dried options.
|Traditional size spice containers on the left; bulk sizes on the right|
For these, I have a list on my website here, but it is far from inclusive. There are a lot of options out there.
|The container on the left is 1.6 ounces. For almost the same price as that container at Walmart of poppy seeds, mustard seeds, and cream of tartar, I can buy a pound (the bag) of the same spice from San Francisco Herb Company. As of today, 1 pound of mustard seed is $2.40, 1 pound of poppy seeds is $3.90, and 1 pound of cream of tartar is $5.85.|
When it comes to buying in bulk, it works like any other item--you have to know your prices. Shop around and compare prices, including shipping if you are ordering online. Just because it is bulk doesn't mean it is automatically less expensive. Some bulk places are less expensive than others, and prices change all the time. Some bulk suppliers also have sales, which will bring your costs lower.
How do you store all this stuff to keep it from going bad?
Food-grade buckets, #10 cans, and jars are easy options. Remember that giant jar of pickles that I mentioned you can get at Walmart? Wash it out with bleach a few times, and also with soap, and the pickle smell will dissipate, leaving a great place to store beans. Bulk spices can be stored in large glass jars. Many items can be bought in bulk in the buckets from different bulk companies, and then you can refill them with bags of items after you have emptied them. You can also purchase buckets online through bulk suppliers, at Winco, and from your local grocery store bakery (ask the bakery department for their old buckets. You will probably have to wash them; they usually come filled with icing. They may even give them to you for free!)
A bucket lid opener is important for opening buckets that are closed. For items that you are getting into on a regular basis, I highly recommend having gamma lids, which are screw-off lids that can go on your buckets. These can be expensive, so like the other items, shop around for the best price.
I store several bulk items inside in my kitchen, but I also built a large insulated pantry in my garage (a great blessing when you cannot buy food for a year).
What are your favorite sources for bulk items? If you know of a local (to you) store, please list the store name (with city and state) or city, region/province/canton, and country, if outside the U.S, in the comments.
Other posts in this series:
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Introduction
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part One: Eat More Meatless Meals
Monday, June 10, 2013
I picked apricots, blackberries, Green Gage plums, Dorsett Golden apples, and figs from the garden. I froze some blackberries to use in smoothies later in the year, and I dried figs in the oven on low for fig sauce. (The dried figs will last a few years).
I cut chives, green onions, and Swiss chard from the garden.
I picked a few tomatoes from the garden. This is the main month I harvest tomatoes in the year, and they are already ripening quite small because of the heat (it was 110º this week at my house). We ate all of the tomatoes that I picked.
I covered the top of my blackberry bushes with sheets to keep the berries from completely burning in the sun. The ones in the sun turn brown and hard instead of ripening (they are dead and dry--just the berries, not the leaves) in the heat, and they ripen quite small at the top of the plants (the ones in the shade at the bottom are bigger and they are not dried looking). This is my first year covering them; I will be trying this from now on, and next year I will start earlier, right after the flowers are gone, to help prevent so many berries from being burnt.
|Homemade Greek yogurt with homemade granola and blackberries from the garden|
I made granola, barley soup, pasta salad, steak sauce (to go on the black bean burgers that I also made), brownies, popsicles (several times; I used figs, apricots, whey leftover from making yogurt, and blackberries, and blended it, and then poured it into popsicle molds), lentil tacos, potato salad.
I traded two trashcans full of gone to seed parsnips (these had self-seeded) and bolted Swiss chard, along with some garden weeds and grape leaves, for 1 dozen eggs from a friend of mine who has chickens.
I picked red noodle beans from the garden.
For fun this week we went to the free fishing day at Floyd Lamb State park (no license required, and they handed out rods to rent for free). Of all of the people there (well over 100), only 2 caught fish--and one was Liberty! They declared her fish to be the bigger of the two, so she won a medal and a Barbie fishing rod. The fish was a very small blue gill.
|Fish shown actual size|
As we live in the desert, there really aren't a lot of opportunities to go fishing, and from the comments we heard from other people there, most people don't catch anything at this park usually (I'm wondering how few fish are actually there, because they would have to be stocking them in order to have any). The normal entrance fee is $6 per car. The boys were able to earn the requirement for their fishing belt loop from Cub Scouts.
Ivory had lots of fun following around a duckling (not a tiny baby, but smaller than full-grown). She said, "duck, duck, duck" while she followed him around, finally succeeding in grabbing the duck's bill once, and petting it once. She wasn't much bigger than the duck and it was really entertaining to watch her.
We watched some movies from the library this week. I watched one with my husband as a date and we popped popcorn on the stove.
|Wren hula hooped and walked around the stage backwards and forwards at the same time.|
|Ezrom did several things, including this magic trick, a performance with his brother, and he displayed his giant origami.|
|Winter played "Hedwig's Theme".|
My husband cut his own hair. He also trimmed the boys' hair. (Cyrus had it covered before I took the photo above for another part of his performance, so it's messy in that picture, but it looks great normally!)
I discovered that Education.com has changed their website since I last used it to limit a person to 10 free worksheets a month. I wanted more worksheets this month for my kindergarten student, so I considered signing up for just one month. I ended up delaying my decision a few days, and when I was on another website, tracking cookies brought up an ad for Education.com (on an adsense ad on another blogger's site) that included a free one month trial to Education.com (coupon code TRIAL). I signed up for the trial so that I could print the worksheets that I need. I made a note on a post-it and stuck it to my computer monitor so that I can remember to cancel it before the trial is over.
I bought no food or toiletries this week.
I paid my utility bills online to save the money on stamps. I have not been diligent about this and I added it up; it is about $27 a year in stamps if I mail in all of my utility bills. I would rather have the $27! With that, I could buy 10 gallons of milk, or 50 pounds of oats, or something else! (Or I could just have the money to pay the higher utility rates that we keep seeing!) I have been paying some of my utility bills online but not all of them, so this will save me some more money each month, for which I am very grateful.
I rolled up towels to put by the front door, since the air conditioner is running about 13 hours a day now, and that area has trouble with air leaking through. I noticed an immediate difference in the temperature by the door when I did that, just like I do in the winter, so I plan to keep towels there (2 towels because it is a double door).
What did you do to save money last week?
Monday, June 3, 2013
1. Eat more meatless meals
"But my husband won't eat meatless meals!" you say.
If he isn't bringing home the bacon, you can't cook it.
I know that sounds harsh, and it isn't meant to be. I've talked with a lot of women who say that they drastically have to cut their food budget, and their husbands are insisting on meat at every meal.
If your income has been cut, you're going to need to talk to your husband about the grocery budget. You're going to have to be frank about what you can and cannot afford to eat. Meat is a huge and very expensive part of a grocery budget.
Some meals are easy to make meatless: Chili, pizza, pasta dishes (think meatless spaghetti or fettuccine alfredo), baked potato bar, and bean burritos. My husband is the one who introduced me to bean burritos. They were a staple meal for us when we were first married, and the first time I stocked up on something in bulk, it was canned refried beans at .33 a can (the grocery manager ordered them for me while they were on sale) so that I could make these. Since then, I've learned to cook beans from scratch and make my own refried beans (my children like the beans whole in burritos) and I've made some changes to make them even tastier.
You can also substitute for the real thing. No one will think black bean burgers are meat, but they're quite tasty and still fulfill nutritional needs.
Lentil tacos are another way to go. When we have tacos now, they're always made with lentils.
If you need to fool the family, however, my meatless chicken fried steak recipe has fooled a lot of readers husband's and teen aged sons. I receive a lot of emails about this recipe. They all say, "I served this recipe to my family and my husband/teen aged sons loved it! Afterwards, I told them it was meatless, and they didn't believe me! We will be making this recipe again."
When I do buy meat, I have a strict limit on price. I don't purchase meat over $2 a pound. Keeping my bill below $100 a month, however, has meant keeping that amount lower whenever possible, which means that I usually aim to keep my meat costs below .79 a pound.
Rather than buying meat all the time, I look for when the sales are super low, and I stock up and freeze the meat to use at other times.
What meat can you buy for under .79 a pound? This depends a great deal on where you live, as prices vary widely across the U.S. and certainly around the world, but where I live, I've found that I can usually buy:
Whole chickens for .69 to .79 a pound on sale throughout the year (I get the biggest chickens I can find, usually 4-5 pounds).
Ham goes on sale at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and at Easter. (I find the lowest prices at Christmas and Easter).
Turkey in November for Thanksgiving sales (they also go on sale at Easter, but they are usually a bit higher-priced per pound). I will buy as many as I can in November, as these have made up the bulk of our meat supplies for the last several years. I usually cook a turkey every 4-5 weeks.
We then work to stretch our meat purchases as much as possible.
If I cook a whole chicken, we'll have a little chicken the first night, use the majority of the rest the second night in something, such as enchiladas or stir fry, and I'll cook the carcass with any remaining meat attached for soup after that. The meat portions are small, but we each get some, and then it isn't another meatless meal.
I should mention that I plate out our meals. With many small children, we learned it was easier to cut everything up ahead of time. The bonus is that I can give them lots of vegetables, so I don't have to worry about anyone not dishing up a vegetable for himself on his plate. Anyone can have seconds after he has eaten what is on his plate, but there are not usually seconds of meat.
We usually slice up our hams on our meat slicer for sandwiches. We'll have a few meals of ham, some of ham and eggs, and then the rest will be used on pizza (where you don't need a lot of meat to make everyone happy), for sandwiches (we don't stuff the meat on sandwiches), and in crepes with cheese.
Turkeys are easy. I use them anywhere I would use chicken. Cooked turkey can be portioned out into freezer bags and used to throw in a lemon dill sauce over rice, in curry, in stir fry, in soups, in enchiladas, in cacciatore, etc. I have also sliced the turkey on my slicer to use for sandwiches, or we have shredded it to use for sandwiches. Lunchmeat at .67 a pound is wonderful!
I like other meats, too, but when ground beef and chuck roast rose from $1.99 a pound on sale to $3.49 a pound on sale, they priced themselves out of my budget. I did not buy any ground beef in 201,1 and I only bought in once in 2012 when a friend pointed out a sale for $1.99 a pound (I was also able to use $10 off on the purchase of it as well thanks to store coupons). I haven't bought chuck roast since 2010. Pork roast is still on sale here for $1.89 to $1.99 a pound, but much less often than it used to be; I see it that price only about 3 times a year now. It is a much rarer treat for us to cook a pork roast, or to buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts (also on sale for $1.99) because they are more than double the price of the meats I mentioned above.
In general, I cook 12 turkeys a year, 6-8 hams a year, 8-10 whole chickens a year, a few pork roasts, and some boneless skinless chicken breasts a few times a year. We have meat every week with that, but not every day.
This year I only have had 8 turkeys to work with, but we found some amazing deals on chicken (.19 a pound! ) so we have still had plenty of meat, for even less!
When I do have meals with meat, it makes my cost for meals for the day over $3 (My goal is to keep the cost for 3 meals a day plus a snack to $3 total for all 9 of us). I can serve meals with meat that are over $3, as long as other days in the month I can feed us all for $1 to $2 a day. Having lots of meatless meals makes the meat meals possible.
Simply using less meat in a recipe (such a meat sauce for spaghetti) will also cut your costs. Combine that with several meatless meals a week and you'll see a huge difference in your grocery bill!
Previous posts in this series: Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Introduction
Sunday, June 2, 2013
I picked blackberries from the garden.
I also cut Swiss chard and green onions from the garden this week.
I harvested 2 small Early Girl tomatoes. They are already quite small because of the intense heat. Usually they are bigger at this time of year, so I don't know if my other ones will be smaller, but I am grateful for them. I also picked 2 Yellow Pear tomatoes and 2 Sweet 100 (cherry) tomatoes.
My husband and I had a couple of dates at home. One night we watched a movie that my husband found at the library. Another night we played a game together.
My mother bought a slip for me at a garage sale that fits perfectly.
We were able to haul the old concrete, rocks, tree roots, sod, and old stuff away from the front yard in a friend's dump truck to the dump, saving us the cost of renting a dumpster from the trash company for disposing of all of that (we did pay him for the gas and time, but it was much, much less than the huge expense of a dumpster!)
I picked up two free benches from the neighbor's curb (that he had put out for the trash). They were exactly what I needed to repair our bench. I will have a separate post on this when I am finished with this project.
I used a $20 off coupon at the nursery to purchase my lemon trees for the front yard. They were on sale for $5 off each. Between the coupon and the sale, I saved $35 on them!
Our front hose sustained a leak this week. My husband purchased a piece to repair the hose, rather than replace the hose.
My children signed up for the library's summer reading program. The reward is a library discard book for every 5 books read. Ezrom decided to sit and read 5 books before we left the library, so that he could pick out a book right then!
I did not purchase any food this week.
My electric bill came this week. I found that I had used 4 kilowatts less per day this last month compared to the same month last year. I have been diligently doing several things to reduce my electric bill, including turning off the a/c at night while that is still possible (it is between 79º and 81º at night in the house; we have ceiling fans in all the rooms), being extra-vigilant about turning off lights and fans when someone leaves a room, making sure the door is closed to the backyard when the children go out to play while the air conditioner is on, shutting down my computer at night--and not just before I go to bed, but before I sit down to watch a movie with my husband, as there is no sense in keeping it on for two more hours, and putting the computer into sleep mode if I know I will be back on in a bit but I have to step away for a little while (I also turn off the monitor). I turn the air conditioner back on around 8:30 a.m. each day and I have it set at 79º F.
The children had fun camping in the backyard. There was no gas expense to drive somewhere, or special food to purchase, but they still were able to sleep outside and have fun.
Winter, Cyrus, and Ezrom did a science experiment that I had ordered a year ago, using credit that was part of a bonus gift given as a gift certificate after a Christmas purchase of a microscope a couple of years ago. My grandmother purchased the microscope (she had me order it for them). The company had a special at the time that allowed me to also end up with $40 in gift certificates. Months later, I used those to buy 2 different experiments (with no cost out of pocket). I have been saving them since about the time Ivory was born.
This week, they took apart owl pellets and had fun reconstructing the skeletons of mice from the pellets. Winter enjoyed it so much that she wants to dissect a frog now!
What did you do to save money last week?