Monday, August 27, 2012

Doing Without: What I Don't Buy

 

Parsley from the garden
Sometimes I feel like the un-normal American. It seems that wherever women are gathered, they love to talk about their shopping habits. Considering that shopping is our responsibility, and it takes up so much of our time (as does cooking) I think we cannot help but talk about food.

The trouble is that I have no idea what these women are discussing. I've never heard of some of these foods. I don't even know what section of the store two women at church were discussing the other day. I've been in that store, but I've never paid any attention to the section where all of the convience foods are located. I admit that I wouldn't know where to find it. The women were discussing a delicious salad that one had brought to a meeting. "After all," reasoned the first, "why make something when you can just buy it?"

This is exactly the opposite of the way I think. Why buy something when you can make it?

Cooking from scratch, especially from bulk and home-grown ingredients, saves me quite a lot of money.

My way of shopping has changed much over the last six years. There are things that I used to buy that just aren't in my budget anymore. Some of them have never been in my budget. (Some of them would never be, as they are not things that I eat or drink anyway, but that many people do).

I've had a lot of comments recently from readers, wondering how I've cut our food budget to $0.40 a day per person. While I've shown you what we are eating, and I've written about how we're eating for less,  I think an important part of our budget is what we aren't eating and what we aren't buying.

Grapes from the garden

Use It Up

Wear It Out

Make It Do

Or Do Without


If you've ever wondered what you could cut from your food budget, and you just aren't sure what else you could live without, these lists may give you some food(s) for thought.

Here are some things I never buy:

Fruit snacks
Granola bars
Potato chips
Pretzels
Crackers. I make my own.
Juice boxes
Powdered drink mixes
Flavored water
Cold cereal. It doesn't matter how inexpensive it is. I will never go back. The children are no longer hungry an hour after breakfast, and a cooked breakfast is so much less money!
Coffee
Coffee creamer
Tea
Alcohol
Grapes. I grow my own and eat them in season
Apricots. I grow my own and glean apricots.
Figs. I grow my own and glean figs.
Pomegranates: Again, home-grown and gleaned.
Cherries, artichokes, zucchini, sugar snap peas. I grow all of these. If they do poorly, we go without.
Fresh Herbs: I grow lots of fresh herbs. They are easy to grow and there's no need to buy tiny packages of them at the store. Most of my herbs are perennials, so they are not a recurring expense.
Exotic fruits and vegetables
Cake mix
Icing
Meat above $2 a pound. In general, I stick to only buying meat that is $1 a pound or less. This usually is hams and turkeys bought on holiday sales, frozen, and used all year-round.
Deli meat. Instead, we cook hams and turkeys and slice them for sandwiches
Cookies. I make my own instead.
Applesauce: I make my own, usually with gleaned apples or apples I've bought for .50 a pound.
Bread: I make my own for .25 a loaf.
Bottled salad dressing. I make my own dressing for pennies.
Jelly. Store bought is cheaper (sometimes) but homemade tastes better.
Green Onions. I bought starts for my garden years ago. I harvest the side shoots, and every year they reseed themselves. They grow all year-round here. I've never had to buy them since!
Lunch meat. We make sandwiches from turkey and hams bought under $1 a pound instead.
Popsicles. These are so easy to make and so inexpensive to make! I have several recipes here.
Pasta sauce. I buy a #10 can of tomato sauce and make my own instead.
Bean Sprouts. In 2005 I bought mung beans in bulk for sprouting. 2 Tbsp will fill a quart canning jar once sprouted. I still have lots of mung beans left.
Alfalfa sprouts. Ditto for what I said about mung beans!
Baby food. I haven't bought baby food since my third baby. It's really easy and much less money to make my own.
Canned beans. I used to buy these, but prices went up, our family grew, and I learned to cook whole beans. Now I buy beans in a 25 pound bag. I cook up a big batch and freeze bags of beans to use later.
Pasta/Rice a Roni mixes. I make my own instead.
Individually packaged anything.
Organic food. Really. It's too expensive.

Yes, I know that there are coupons for many of those items. I still don't buy them.

Homemade popsicles and cherries from our tree

Here are some things I almost never buy:

Tomatoes (fresh). We eat the ones that grow from our garden. Once or twice a year I will buy tomatoes if I see a really great sale on them when they're our of season. By "really great sale" I mean .50 a pound or less, and it still depends on whether or not I can afford to buy them when I see them at that price, as well as how nice they look.

Lettuce. We eat lettuce from our garden. With a packet of 750 lettuce seeds costing under $4, I can plant lettuce for a couple of years for very little. However, it does not grow in the hot months. I will buy lettuce a few times in the hot months, but not very often. I usually buy Romaine hearts at Sam's Club because they are the cheapest lettuce I can find. I only buy lettuce around 5 times a year.

Candy: I limit buying candy to a couple of holidays a year. I make sure to combine coupons and sales whenever possible when I buy candy.

Eggs over .99 a dozen. I will, occasionally splurge and buy eggs at $1.25 a dozen, perhaps 3 dozen eggs a year at that price. Otherwise I hold out until eggs are .99 a dozen, I buy 13 dozen, and I make them last until the next sale comes along. (According to the American Egg Board, eggs are good for 4-6 weeks past their expiration date. I have to ration them out to get 13 dozen to last that long, since we can eat 18 for breakfast if we have scrambled eggs).

Yogurt: I only buy a small container of Greek yogurt on a rare basis when needed as a yogurt starter for making my own yogurt. So far I have only bought one and I have been using my own yogurt as the starter for new batches. If at some point it no longer works, I will get new yogurt to use as a starter, and will then make that one last as long as possible.

Fruits and vegetables that are more than $1 a pound (those that are sold by the pound). I will very, very rarely pay more than $1 a pound for produce. I buy in season at the lowest price, which usually means .25 a pound to .79 a pound for most things. If I make an exception, it is not much more than $1 a pound, and it is a special treat. (Exceptions happen 1-2 times a year).

Out of season produce.

Juice: I have bought apple juice to use in cooking to make fig sauce. This year I will be experimenting with using homemade grape juice from our grapes instead of apple juice, so that I can cut this expense completely.

Soda: Very, very rarely, I will buy a 2-liter bottle of root beer (on sale) for me and my husband for a date. We will have a little bit and make it last for months.

Tortilla Chips: This is the only kind of chips I buy, and it's rare. I will occasionally have them on taco soup, and rarely for a date night at home with my husband.

Restaurant Meals: We don't eat out but once or twice a year, and then it is only because my mom gave us money for my husband and I to go out for our anniversary or our birthdays (usually not both). We do not take the children with us, so we never go out to eat as a family. This year we went out once on a date for my husband's birthday.
Borage and chamomile in my garden

I'm sure there are more things that I don't buy that are on the "typical" shopping list, but since I don't buy them, they aren't even things I think about!

What are you currently buying that you could cut from your grocery bill?

156 comments:

  1. I wish I had the ability to stick to my list of what not to buy! Your list is great, and you have a big advantage of a long growing season. Some of us not so much, so produce from the store is the only way we'll get it 9 months of the year. :) Also it has been a long time since I've seen any quality meat for $1 a pound, so my limit is $2 a pound.

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  2. Thank you for the inspiration! I do a lot of the same things as you do. I am pretty frugal too, but I could be a lot more!

    I just quit buying pop and coffee again. I didn't buy it for almost 6 years, but then started back up again. I am done now.

    I need to learn how to make my own yogurt because I can eat a 48oz. container every week myself at work.

    Right now, I am using up (slowly) a lot of the convenience foods I had on hand, but I am not replacing them. I also taught my daughters to make cakes and brownies from scratch and they love it! I am not sure if I will give up tea, but I buy a 100ct. package from Aldi's for $1.79 and that lasts me quite awhile.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Erica, before we went completely off dairy, I used to make yogurt in a crock pot and it worked great. It needs to be unpasteurized and unhomogenized whole milk(we got ours from a local dairy farm). Do a search on the internet for crock pot yogurt recipes, no need for fancy equipment.

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    2. Anonymous, you don't have to have raw milk to make yogurt. I make mine with pasteurized, homogonized milk without a problem!

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    3. Rhoda has some good advice on making yoghurt

      http://down---to---earth.blogspot.fi/#uds-search-results

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    4. The Prudent Homemaker- can you tell us how you make your own yogurt. I'd love to make mine since we eat a lot of it. That is one thing I can cut from our grocery budget! Thank you so much.

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    5. Jeanette, check out this post here: http://food52.com/blog/3593_yogurt_at_home

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    6. www.makeyourownyogurt.com

      I used his instructions on making yogurt and now its the only way I make it. No crockpot needed.. Just a cooler.....

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  3. I must admit that I am not as good at this as you are. I constantly wish that you would have been around when my children were at home. For the two of us,I do many of the things you mentioned but do like some store bought things so I do incorporate coupons and sales for them.
    I do make detergent to wash my clothes and many home cleaning products on an ongoing basis.
    The savings there are pretty incredible. I love the crock pot to cook so many economical foods like beans,yogurt,cheaper meats and vegetables.There are oh so many frugal,nutritional and time saving recipies available. Bought extra breadmaker and crockpot at the thrift store and have many of the dry ingredients for breads and sauces in baggies so that I can assemble recipies quickly and conveniently. I love cheap,easy,nutritional and quick.

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  4. I love that your frugal living is such an encouragement to so many to remember what's really important in life. I believe that many people find it easier to 'buy something', i.e. go shopping, than dealing with matters at hand. I love that you 'live in the moment' and find Joy at home, in your family, and knowing what's really important.

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  5. I wish I had all the fruit trees and the successful garden that you have. Could you share more about your gardening expenses, such as watering and soil amendments? I live in central OH and have soil made totally from clay. It's so thick you can barely dig in it and many things grow poorly. We've spent plenty of money trying to improve our garden area with little to show for it. I have a worm farm and at the compost and tea and the soil is still thick. We've added peat, manure, sand also. Some years I've had a handful of snap peas grow. Another year I had a nice amount of tomatoes. But most of the time, I get zilch for my efforts. I have a small city lot that already has large trees on it so no room for more trees.

    Things we don't buy:
    pre-made pies, cookies, cakes, frosting
    alcohol
    baby food
    prepared frozen entrees
    pre-cut fruits and veggies

    I will buy some baking mixes, such as I just bought macadamia nut baking mix as it was less expensive than purchasing the nuts. I buy applesauce because it is cheaper at Sam's Club than buying bulk apples and canning them. I haven't been able to get apples for under $.99 per pound in several years. I buy pop for birthdays and keep 7up around for belly aches. I buy yogurt and a lot of it. I have tried so many granola bar recipes that were all huge fails. It doesn't save you money if you don't eat it! I make my own granola though, in lieu of cereal.

    My family of 2 adults (I'm pregnant), 2 kids and 2 cats spends $75 weekly on food, toiletries, hygiene and cleaning items.

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    Replies
    1. Build raised beds with purchased soil.

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    2. We have a lot of red clay in our ground here, too. I've tried to lighten it up last year by adding in shredded papers that were headed to recycling anyway. Of course, consider the inks/dyes in what you shred. I intend to add more this year.

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    3. Google "Lasagna Gardening" or look for the book about it in the library. You layer your ingredients for good soil on top of the ground. We have had great success this year (our first) with this method and we really didn't even try very hard - just stuck the plants in the layers on the first day we put them down. Lots of zucchini, squash, hundreds of tomatoes, cukes, etc. from 4 "grave" size plots. Now that we've seen the results, we are going to do a better job of layering all year long in preparation for next spring.

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    4. I second raised flower beds, pots any container (tires) that holds soil. Here use a mixture of both but double height flower beds 12-18 inches tall do great for tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumers, onions. Containers work well for controlling herbs, rosemary chives, celery (trying to grow organic from store, takes forever but fun) and a few flowers for looks, but I may try camomile and borgue that brandy has in her pictures. You can also try digging pots onto the ground so u have soil from area with amendments and bagged soil and see if that helps, the container may help keep soil under it from compacting so it my stay looser...This
      Is my second year having a small garden and I am still working out the kinks of what didn't work, what did and how muh more or less of something do I need for next time.

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    5. I'm trying to figure out why your soil is so different. I live in Central Ohio and pretty much anything we stick in the dirt grows and grows well.
      The parks near the dam on the north side of town have many, many apple trees. You can't eat them but they are great for sauce and jelly. I was going down Rt. 3 today and saw a church with 2 loaded apple tree too.....

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    6. Arden -- soil varies greatly in different parts of a state (or even in a county), especially if fill has been used. Sediment from the Ohio River could make a big difference, but there are a lot of other factors.

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    7. We are doing a new gardening method this year called "Back to Eden" It is amazing the difference we have experienced so far. Our soil looks richer, we've only weeded 3 times total, we use much less water and we are getting a better yield than ever. Our kids are happily helping and it is great!! The main idea is to cover your ground with organic material, don't till ever again and let nature do its job better than we ever could. Check it out!!

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    8. I live in the midlands in South Carolina and we have hard red clay and limestone. It is awful! My husband built three raised beds and they have made gardening possible. They are wonderful! Container gardening is another option. I read in Southern Living magazine that you can grow tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets. I tried and it didn't work for me, but my neighbor did it too and her tomatoes were amazing. Not sure where I went wrong!

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    9. I have heavy clay soil too, so whenever I plant something I mix in gypsum (clay breaker) and some organic matter to give my plants a headstart

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  6. I love your list. Our list of stuff we don't buy is very similar. However, I do buy many of our veggies from our CSA, we own our condo but don't own the yard so my gardening is very limited. Our CSA is around $14 a week during growing season but there are times we get to pick up unlimited veggies and fruits. I preserve during growing season and enjoy year around.

    We try to eat organic meat and I've been able to find a wonderful resource for organic meats. We generally spend between $1-$3 a pound depending on what cuts we get and how much we buy in bulk.

    I have been trying to get more creative with my date night meals. For our anniversary, instead of going out we did Alice Springs Chicken at home. I splurged on some candy I bought on sale at the store to jazz up some homemade sundaes.

    We have decided to cut out fresh milk from our grocery trips to save money. Do you have a powdered milk brand that you like the most?

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    1. We LOVE the LDS Cannery brand powdered milk. It's by far the best! $8.60 for a #10 can and if I am not mistaken it will make 5 gallons of milk. :)

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    2. My husband won't drink powdered milk of any sort. Instead, I buy whole milk and add 50% water when I get home---lower fat and cheaper and he will drink that.

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    3. Thanks, Amanda!

      Linden, I do that now with our whole milk, it works but I would also like to find a decent shelf stable alternative:)

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    4. In Australia powdered milk costs more per litre than fresh milk. Which makes sense I guess as it needs more processing.

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  7. Boy, that root beer must be pretty flat by the time you finish it! ;)

    Love this list. You are so inspiring to me. I don't buy many of these things either, but I do opt for a few convenience items simply to save me time because I'm a full time RN student. When that part of my life is completed, I can go back to greater savings in those areas.

    Thanks for keeping this blog! I (politely) hounded you for a long time for it! I love it so much!

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    Replies
    1. My husband prefers it flat! Since we have it so rarely, it is really weird to have the carbonation when we first open it. I've grown to prefer it close to flat.

      I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. For a long time I didn't know what I was going to write!

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  8. I totally agree with you on everything!! I think most of society thinks the way the ladies at church were thinking at the opening of this post. I am 37 and I was little it was the big thing to have convenience food and small portioned packets. Consumers have gotten away from cooking and using real food. I am so glad there are women out there like you, I don't feel so alone when my kids take homemade frozen smoothies, bread, crackers, etc to school in their lunches. Thanks for the great post!!

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    Replies
    1. Julene, I am 35 and I understand what you mean. When I start talking about bread baking, or canning or things like that around other moms I know they think I am wierd. My own sister thinks I am completely wasting my time and am doing my children a huge injustice by not keeping them up to date on the latest gadget or by not letting my children eat Pop-Tarts. My children pack their lunches with homemade items and they have had some of their lunchmates ask them why they are eating "that". So yes, it is nice being around likeminded people.

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    2. Isn't it fun when family members give their opinions?? You sound like you are doing your family a great service. Keep at it!!

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    3. Oh...and when I was little I was the kid who did not get poptarts or current gadgets....that was in the 80's and all my friends had them. We didn't even have a television!!! Guess what...I turned out normal and well adjusted. I do remember really wanting my mom to buy "wagon wheels" but she would not give in :)

      There really is no way to keep up with others without tons of debt, plain and simple.

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  9. The thing we are doing that we could cut is EATING OUT! While we have significantly cut it down, the fact that you only go out a couple times a year is inspirational! When I was a kid, eating out was a rare, special treat. Now, it is no biggie to my kids. It is such a waste of money. Recently we spent a lot of money on a dinner date for our anniversary, and it was HORRIBLE! The service, and food were so bad and I wanted to cry thinking about the money we wasted. We are doing really good by going out less than we used to, but this post makes me want to eliminate it all together.THANK YOU!

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    1. One of my readers commented three posts ago about this. She said she was feeding her family of 6 for around $30 each time they ate out. That's a great price for eating out for that many. However, she decided that instead of just eating out because she didn't feel like cooking last week, she would try cooking at home all week. Last week she saved $100 in just one week by staying home and cooking!

      Two years ago we went out for our anniversary, and it was horrible. When you only go out to eat 1 or 2 times a year, and it's bad, it makes you think differently about where you go and what you get.

      This year we went out only once for my husband's birthday and stayed home for our anniversary.

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    2. I am SO excited that you are going to try to stop eating out! (The food is better at home, too!)

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    3. I agree that eating at home saves money and the food is better. Our son told his friends that he likes eating at home. His friend said yeah I would too if my mom could cook. I felt so sorry for our son's friend but proud that our son likes to eat at home.

      Thanks for the post. I'm so inspired by how you are willing to share your talents with the rest of us. I'm thankful to know that I'm not the only one that is wanting to eat healthy but not go broke doing it.

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    4. I would encourage any of you who have a bad experience in a restaurant to later call the manager and politely tell them what happened, or what was wrong with the food. They need to know, and it may well get you a free meal out!

      My husband and I don't eat out nearly as often as in years past. We are retired and have less money. We do always go out for birthdays and anniversaries. This year we went to Red Lobster, a favorite, for our fortieth anniversary. My husband has Parkinson's Disease and has had a slight stroke on one side, and cutting meat is extremely difficult for him now. He ordered steak as part of his meal and asked that it be cut in the kitchen. The waitress came back and said the kitchen staff said they didn't do that. We let it go and I cut the food on both plates, as I do at home.

      Later at home, the longer I thought about what happened, the unwillingness to do this small thing for someone paying a good bit of money to eat there, I did a slow burn, and on Monday morning called the manager. She was horrified and said if anything like that ever happened again, to ask for the manager on duty, and there WOULD be meat cutting in the kitchen. She also sent us a gift card large enough for a free meal.
      I know this discussion is old, but it has been on my mind since I read it a few days ago. We as consumers need to politely but firmly let people know we expect value for our money and not let poor service or poor quality just pass without any complaint.

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  10. Now I am curious as to what the women at church were discussing! I love these posts! I get so much inspiration out of reading these. The one major thing we have given up completely buying is Lysol wipes, I used to use these to wipe down our toilets everyday. But then thought this is stupid buying these. So I started just using vinegar and an old rag (that can be re-washed). I think what made me see what a waste this was, was when I was at my sister's and she uses disposable wipes to dust with, and Lysol wipes to clean her entire bathroom and counters down after meals, she litterally uses a disposable wipe for everything. She even buys disposable wipes to clean the inside of her car with, and windows. The one thing I wish I could completely give up is buying paper towels. But honestly, I don't see that happening anytime soon, although I try hard not to use them.

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    Replies
    1. We stopped using paper towels completely---all rags and if it is something disgusting (dog vomit, for example) I throw the rag away instead of washing it. I looked back at old receipts and that one change saved us over $10 per month. That is A LOT to me.

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    2. It was broccoli salad. My sister in law makes broccoli salad from scratch. It tastes similar--but oh so much better than the store-bought!

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    3. I ran into a dirt cheap cut of flannel and cut it up into paper towel size squares. . . ew, ugly colors, must be why it was on clearance. I use those instead of paper, except when the cat has a hairball. Can't get past splurging on a paper towel there.

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    4. Rags deff help! Also for "gross" messes or your glass, use newspaper to pick it up. Then you can just throw it out and not have to look at it twice.

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    5. I use rags for anything cleaning-related but paper towels to soak up the fat from bacon and other food that is fried. Is there any way around that? I just wouldn't trust it to rags - my rags are old cut-up flannel diapers and I just have visions of the 'fuzz' sticking to the food - and newspaper doesn't sound appealing either (wouldn't the newsprint transfer?)

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    6. I really really want a delicious recipe for broccoli salad, and one from scratch would be great. How could I get that?

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    7. Heather, you just have to ask nicely :)

      Broccoli Salad

      8 cups chopped broccoli

      1 cup chopped red onion

      1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

      16 slices bacon (cooked and crumbled) (1 lb.)


      Dressing:

      1 1/2 cups Mayo

      3/4 cup sugar

      1/4 cup red wine vinegar


      Mix first four ingredients in a large bowl, toss until well blended. Mix dressing and pour over broccoli mixture. Toss until evenly coated.

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  11. Brandy, If you don't buy things like cookies and pretzels, then what do your children eat for snacks? I'm sure they eat fruits and veggies as do mine, but sometimes they want some pretzels or something like that. And I make my own cookies too. Was just wondering if I could try a couple of weeks of not buying any of that stuff. Actually, the biggest snacker and junk enthusiast in my family is my hubby. He's way worse that the children. He buys candy bars and hides them. Which is fine cuz I really don't want the children eating candy bars.

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    Replies
    1. I have 4 1/2 months of menus on the website with snacks listed on them for every day.

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  12. Brandy,

    In addition to being prudent remember that you and your family are doing a great service to the environment by creating less waste and pollution. Because you grow so much of your own food and cook from scratch no pollution is created by transporting it and you create less waste beause your food doesn't come in packages.

    And it goes without saying that your family is more food secure because of your garden.

    You go! I love these posts.

    Eleanor.

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  13. We don't buy eggs anymore! We now have some ex-battery hens that lay about 4 eggs per day, which gives us a nice egg-based meal a couple times a week. Usually egg sandwiches, but I need to branch out.

    I love being able to harvest or glean my own foods. I am kicking myself because someone brought extra produce from their allotment to church on Sunday and I forgot to grab some! D'oh.

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  14. When you mention buying meat, are you talking about grass-fed/no anti-biotics/organic meat or are you talking bulk USDA? If it is grass-fed, I'd love to find out where you get it for $1-2/pound.

    Great list. We just bought a house and hopefully soon, I'll be able to start gardening/figure out how to garden :) We're in Southern California so we shouldn't have any problem growing food all year long (as long as I don't kill it first. :)

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    Replies
    1. I'm talking mostly about buying hams and turkeys on sale in November/December. Nothing organic, grass-fed, etc. That's way too expensive for me.

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    2. Last year a food processing place near us was getting rid of two tons - yes tons - of processed meat loaf. We took about 45 pounds. It's not the best-tasting stuff but it works well as a ground-beef substitute in things like chili, lasagne, etc. When we picked up our 45 pounds they kept trying to give us more; but we thought that was plenty. I use it for about two meals a week (just so we don't get tired of it). I still have enough to last pretty much through to the end of the year but I'm really hoping they have more to get rid of this year, as it's saved us quite a bit of money. I also live in hope that the chocolate factory in town will have to get rid of 2 tons of chocolate one of these days.

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    3. Kelly,

      I am able to get grass fed beef and pork for under $2 a pound. I would ask around wherever you live. We get ours from a friend's mother in law's, neighbor, so we get the "friends and family discount" We do buy it in bulk. Also, I buy conventional hams/turkeys on sale when they are $1 per lb.

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  15. That is a hard question... hhhmmmm. It is so much easier to share what I do buy lately. The one thing we (I) are trying to cut is any sort of eating out on Saturday as it really isn't in the budget. My husband likes to make things easier for me for dinner that day since we try to fit so much work in on that day, so 2-3 times a month we'll get a pizza or something else. I tried to just make pizza at home, but I had stopped buying cheese and my husband likes meat on his pizza, which I had stopped buying as well. Perhaps a little investment in some pizza supplies again would reduce this going out.

    As to what I never or rarely buy looks much like your list. But those things, if in the budget and useful for something specific becomes fair game.

    Penelope

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    1. It is not the cheapest option but if you buy the case of pizza crust dough balls (frozen) from Sam's pizza is easy enough for the kids to make. Spray the inside of the bag that the dough ball is in with PAM and twistie it up and leave it on the kitchen counter all day to thaw and rise. It will make 2 12 inch pizzas. You can buy pepperoni in a 3 pound bag at Sam's and keep it on the freezer for months. Then of course the cheese comes in 5 pound bags too. This makes pizza making a cinch.

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    2. Check with your Sam's though, I just found out that my region doesn't carry the bags of pepperoni or the #10 can of tomato paste:( I have to check at some other local stores because I really want to reduce the cost of sauce and pepperoni

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    3. Shannon, I don't buy a can of tomato paste that big. I buy a can of tomato SAUCE that big.

      But, every Sam's IS a litle different. There is another Sam's Club in town that carries a 5 lb block of Monterrey Jack Cheese. Ours doesn't carry that variety. I wish they did!

      What a bummer for you on the pepperoni!

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  16. There are recipes online for homemade rootbeer.

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  17. There are several things I don't buy anymore: biscuits, bread, tortillas, hamburger buns, pancake mix, instant oatmeal, instant grits, those small plastic containers of fruit that children are eating all the time, baby food, potato chips(I will occasionally buy these for a birthday party), baked beans, granola, and yogurt. These are all things that I make from scratch. I have given up soda, but my husband still buys them occasionally around the holidays when they have the 12 packs on sale. I also NEVER pay more than $2 pound for meat,with the exception on bacon. My husband loves it and sometimes when I find it for around $2.50 a pound I will buy several packs to have in the freezer. I have also pretty much stopped buying deli lunch meat because of the cost. My children love fried bologna sandwiches, so I will buy that sometimes when I see it for $1 pound. I know it is not healthy, but we do enjoy it sometimes:) I have to have my coffee though, that would be really hard to give up!! Alot of things that you are able to make like applesauce, etc...it is cheaper for me to buy in the large containers because I have never seen some of the sales prices on produce that you find in your area. We are in another state, so our prices must be higher on certain things. I am going to try making homemade pancake syrup and pop-tarts, as well as cookies for my son's lunchbox. It is amazing how fast prices are rising at the grocery store lately. I love reading your posts, it makes me feel like I am not alone.

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  18. I love your posts! I, too, have quit buying most convenience foods just because I like to cook and collect "vintage" cookbooks which give recipes for most of them anyway. When you realize it only takes a minute to make a cake from scratch, you wonder why you buy a cake mix. I make all cake, cookies, and other desserts from scratch. I make our own yogurt in the crockpot. Our meals are usually from the garden along with some meat and beans (which I make from dry). I try to only use or buy vegetables and fruits in season, thus saving the costs of transporting them from across the world. I have many more foods I do need to try to make from scratch such as salad dressings, breads, and crackers and other snacks. I just try new recipes one at a time so I don't become overwhelmed.
    I do not associate shopping with "fun"... so, like you, I don't see the point in many purchases. Right now I am looking at the ads for office supplies and realize we do not need anything .... even if it is 1 Cent!! I made my son clean out all of our office/school/craft supplies and we came up with so much we don't need it all. In fact, some of my "free" ink pens had dried up (packages I got last year with coupons). Just because you can get it cheap or free, doesn't mean you NEED to. It wastes your gas and time to go to the store.
    And I don't buy specialty clothing (like college name t-shirts or holiday sweaters). I'll take a sweater in a solid "school" color and wear that and maybe knit a scarf in school colors (if I find the yarn while thrifting) or add jewelry to make a sweater special for a holiday.
    We need to remember that advertisers/businesses are using us to make money - and it is up to us to refuse to follow the crowd.

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  19. We don't buy home cleaners. I learned how to make surface cleaner out of vinegar and water and have never gone back. Don't even notice the smell anymore. We also have been cutting back on processed foods, and cook mostly from scratch. And of course jelly! I can ours when everything is in season, sooo much better and costs a fraction of the price

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    1. Jelly! I thought about that one and forgot to add it to my list. Homemade jelly isn't cheaper, but I don't make it because of the price. I make it at home because of the taste! (Besides, try finding aprciot vanilla or rosemary fig jam at the store. It'snot going to happen!)

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  20. Brandy, I can totally relate to the church ladies story. I try to help out at my children's schools and end up not saying much because I have nothing in common with those women. II live in a pretty affluent area where you are expected to have money. I suppose if we had 2 incomes we would have more money but I refuse to put my children in someone else's care just so we could have more stuff. That's why I like coming here, reading about what other like-minded women are doing. It makes me feel like I'm not alone or crazy!

    I loved your list of what you're not buying and I would love to strive for the same standards. Everyone's circumstances are different and everyone's lists will differ because of that. But, I do think that the main issue most of us have is that while there is still money in our pocket, we are going to choose convenience more times than not. If I were forced into the same situation as you, I would no doubt share your list as I do realize that your way is the better option but it's hard for most of us to have the same self discipline despite the differing situations. For example, last Saturday my son had a football game. We were gone nearly all day and it was very hot out. I brought a bunch of snacks for my younger children so we wouldn't be tempted to buy food at the snack stand but what I didn't plan for, was how hungry we were all going to be when we finally arrived home. I was planning on making turkey soup with leftover turkey but since circumstances got away from me, we ended up ordering pizza to the tune of $56. I kicked myself afterwards at the thought of what I could have purchased with that money but what was done, was done. If my circumstances were indeed different, I wouldn't have had the choice at all and turkey soup would have been what we ate, no matter how tired or hot we were.

    Sometimes I think it would be easier to be in your shoes. With few options come even fewer choices. Thats why I asked you a few months back if given the choice, would you change your circumstances? I think most of us that visit you here, on your website, and Facebook envy you. You live that story book life we read about. You are raising a beautiful family, are a very talented homemaker, gardener, seamstress, etc. etc. and I truly wish I had an ounce of your grateful attitude towards life. I truly believe that God doesn't give one person everything. What you are lacking in income is heavily outweighed by all of the assets you already possess. I could only wish to be as blessed as you are. :)

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    1. Well said! I told my hubby not long ago that I was dreading the holidays bc our children literally do not even know what to ask for bc they have everything a child could possibly want. I feel like they don't even look forward to getting gifts. I know people are going to tell me to take them to a shelter or take gifts to under privileged children, which we do each year. It's not that they are ungrateful, it just doesn't seem to me like they get really excited about much anymore. Not to mention we have too much stuff!!

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    2. Anonymous, most children today have too much "stuff" and not enough of what they really want-us! Your time and attention mean much more to your children than you think. I have four, and they are always pinning for my attention. So, this year I think I'm going to use Brandy's idea with the coupons. I'm not sure what activities we'll do, but I'm pretty sure it won't matter since they'll be happy with my undivided attention.

      Also, I started making some Christmas gifts for my nieces-embroidered monogram pillows using supplies I have on hand, and my girls were loving them. I was surprised that something as simple as a pillow with an initial on it would appeal to them-but it truly is the simple things. And, I think it means more when you are the one making it-it's more special that way. I'm going to make some for my girls and am thinking about other handmade items I can make. :)

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  21. Hrmmmm, this made me think.

    I guess I choose to spend money at the grocery store (though we rarely buy things like chips, pretzels, baked goods, pre-packaged foods, etc.) rather than elsewhere.

    We don't eat out much (Hubby and I have one date out each month, with it only sometimes being a full meal). We don't buy alcohol or tobacco products. We go to maybe one movie a year (though we did find that for the money the drive-in theater is the best deal around and we can bring our own snacks!) - and friends of ours have a "movie night" in their backyard about once a month during the summer. I don't buy exotic fruits or veggies because once they get here, they taste terrible. We recently got rid of cable TV. We don't spend money on electronics, cars, hair, nails, and a whole lot of other things so that I can spend a little more at the store. We rarely go out with friends. If we get together we have them over here for dinner, or desert or something. I make most household cleaners and use cloth napkins and towels. I do buy laundry soap on sale with a coupon and I very occasionally buy paper towels (mostly to drain bacon and deal with really gross clean up).

    I have to say, Brandy, I'm rather envious of your veggie prices you've listed both here and on facebook - if we have anything less than $1/lb its quite rare. Oranges are probably the only regular exception and then only in January/February.

    Thanks for making me think about this today!
    Lea

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    1. Lea, carrots in bulk are the cheapest veggie around (buy them in a big bag, not cut and peeled), save perhaps onions and potatoes on sale. The key is to buy IN-season. I know we see everything at the store all year-round, but that doesn't mean it's in season.

      Yes, oranges are a great price in those months--and that's when you should buy them. During the other months, you should buy what's in-season then. You'll get lower prices AND better-tasting food.

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    2. Thanks Brandy!

      Our prices here do seem to be higher than yours even seasonally though. Current sale prices from the fliers this week:
      Pears $1.29/lb
      Local tomatoes (non-organic) $1.99/lb
      These are the cheapest (by a long shot) between the two grocery stores near us. Carrots are consistently $1.49/lb though I can occasionally buy the 1lb "baby" carrots or 1 lb regular carrots for 89 or 99 cents - one bag only with store coupon. We had grapes for 99cents/lb last week (first time all year) and bananas here are 45 cents/lb right now. Apples, even local and non-organic, are consistently $1.49-$2.29/lb right now. They will drop later but we're definitely not buying apples right now. Appricots and peaches under $1 didn't happen this summer - we usually get a week or two of 99cent/lb but not this year.

      We have been getting wonderful cantaloupe from our CSA and are supplimenting with whatever is on sale for 99cents/lb at the store. Right now we have grapes and some gleaned raspberries. I'm not buying veggies except onions and potatoes at the store right now because we are getting the rest from the CSA. I have blanched and frozen enough that I probably won't buy much in terms of veggies this winter.

      My prices are higher than yours and my parents (in San Antonio) are almost double ours. I think it just depends on the part of the country you're in! We have a shorter growing season than you do (June-Oct) and San Antonio is in the middle of a terrible drought so maybe that accounts for some of it.

      Even though I do already try to buy in-season, I'm going to review to see if I can do better!

      Thanks again for the inspiration!
      Lea

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    3. The carrots in the 1-2 pound bags are a rip-off. Do you have a Sam's Club? I don't normally find the best prices on produce at Sam's, but their carrots come in a 5lb bag and they are .39 a pound. Check out some other sources for carrots in a bigger bag.

      Apples are not in-season yet.

      Tomatoes at that price are too high. I see them here for that price all the time. You just have to wait and buy something else instead when you see prices like that.

      Sounds like your CSA is a big help!

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    4. Lea,

      Our CSA saves our budget as well. I second the Sams club recommendation as well as Aldi if you have one near you. I've been able to get baby carrots for 19 cents a pound at Aldi. if I find a good deal, I'll freeze what we can't eat in a timely fashion. Then I'll roast the frozen carrots with a little bit of oil, salt and pepper for a quick side dish on a busy night.

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    5. I'm with Lea. I am in Ontario(Canada) and our in season fruits have never been more expensive. Peaches never went lower than .99 cents a pound. The cheapest fruit I have consistently found this summer were cherries. Cherries in Canada are usually crazy expensive so it was a nice treat.

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    6. The apple orchards near me open this weekend, so apple season will be here very soon!

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    7. So may comments here!

      The price per pound for carrots at our Sam's club is 57 cents/lb. I do shop there for some things but honestly it would take us all year to eat a 5lb bag of carrots plus what we get from our CSA, so 1lb at a time is better for our family. Bulk isn't always beter if you have to throw it out before you use it!

      "Our" Aldi has terrible produce - moldy or rotten the day or two after we take it home. I've stopped shopping there altogether since I can meet or beat the prices at our local store without having to drive 30 minutes in the wrong direction to get to an Aldi!

      And the apple orchards are open here too - our hot summer made things come into season early. We even have pumpkins that are ripe right now! Totally crazy but that's what's happening here.

      I guess this has been along way to say, that prices aren't the same all over the country and we have to do the best we can with what we have!

      I love all the ideas listed here and will definitely be double-checking my price book again soon!

      Have a great day everyone!
      Lea

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    8. Pumpkins can ripen early depending on variety and planting season. I've had them ripen in July.

      We have a store that often has poor produce. It's 20 minutes away, so I have priced-matched their ad with the nearby Walmart a couple of times.

      I just got the ads in the mail today. There is certainly a range between stores on the same items. One store has tomatoes on the vine for $1.49. One has them for $1.99. Another has a 20 oz. package for .99 (regular $2.49). That's .792 cents per pound. If I were planning on buying tomatoes this week, I would certainly be buying them at the store that sells the 20 oz. packages! It's worth the time to compare the prices where you live. I often find some of the lowest prices on produce advertised as loss leaders (where the store takes a cut on the produce to get you in the store) at the highest priced grocery stores. The best prices are usually on the front and back pages on the ad. If you watch your ads, you should be able to track the lowest prices for in-season produce.

      Right now a couple of stores have grapes for .99 a pound. One has them for $1.49/lb. One has them for $2.49 a pound! That makes it pretty easy to choose.

      I generally find that I can say, I'll only buy produce under $1 a pound, and I can stick with that. This week I see that my choices at that price or lower are grapes, nectarines, tomatoes, corn, watermelon, and pears. Then I'll chose from those.

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  22. I also used to feel sort of "left out" when the women at church talked about shopping when we lived in Idaho, raising our children. We had a garden & raised our food & planted fruit trees, & the attitude of most of my neighbors, was bewilderment as to why I wanted "messy" fruit trees & why I would grow a garden & can all that food when it was cheaper to buy it? They did not understand, & they did not know how to garden, or to can. Some of them learned, when adversity struck & they were forced to cope. Others never did.

    When we relocated to Utah County, after a year of my husband being out of work, the 4 things we "required" in a house were 1) 4 bedrooms, 2) a garage (not a carport), 3) space for a garden, & 4) space for my canning jars. It took us a year & a half to find those 4 things in a house we could afford. We went through 2 realtors who simply could not understand that a carport was not a garage - a garage has a door that goes up & down, & walls all around. My husband works on our vehicles, & needs an enclosed space to do that in the winter. My new neighbors here questioned why I wanted "messy" fruit trees, and in particular, my "messy" English walnut tree in the front yard. As the economy has worsened,tho, more of them are learning to can & planting their own gardens & fruit trees.

    I really love reading the comments and the frugal lists each week. It gives me faith that there are others out there, using the frugal skills of our mothers & grandmothers, & passing them on to their children. Years ago in General Conference, Marion G. Romney said "We will see the day when we will live on what we produce". When I heard him, I thought of some type of disaster. But for us, the fulfillment of that statement was when I worked 2 part-time jobs while my husband was out of work, to pay the bills. We literally lived on what our garden & our trees produced. The money I earned paid our tithing & the bills. We didn't buy groceries & we didn't buy clothes. Christmas that year was either homemade, or things we had already purchased ahead for it.

    Thanks for sharing your blog with us. - Marivene

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    1. Marivene,

      You need a blog! I love reading your posts.

      Allison

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  23. Great list Brandy! I know food is one of the areas we spend most of our income on. We live on a lot less than most people with our family size & we don't spend a lot of many on things outside of food.

    I splurged today on a beautiful owl nightlight at Cracker Barrel. It was $7.99 which is a lot for me, but I knew it would be enjoyed hopefully for years to come. But I do know that this wouldn't have been a splurge for some families as it was for mine. We realize how different families have different needs. I don't have the right to say that my way is right or your way is wrong.( Not that you are saying that) We will all go through many seasons. Whether we are going through the lean or the plentiful,we choose how we go through it. And that can truly be the greatest choice for us all. Have a great day Brandy. ((Hugs)) Vida

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  24. When our three boys were young I had two crockpots and two bread machines. I would cook breakfast in one crockpot and dinner in the other. I also made milk from powdered milk. Other women would tell me that they couldn't cook from scratch because it was too time consuming, however these women typically stayed home or worked part time. I worked full time, had sons involved in sports activities after school, with a husband that worked out of town during the week and I was still able to prepare most of our meals from scratch. It's about priorities and setting up a system that works.
    We have grown and canned our own fruit for thirty years now, apples, peaches, plums, apricots, almonds and blackberries. We have a friend that has a walnut orchard (1000 acres)and pecans,so fortunately I get all I want for free, that's a blessing considering the cost of them per pound in the store. The two things I wish I could grow 1) pears, blithe kills them, I order them from a guy in Oregon 80lbs a year 2) avocados, too cold here in N.Ca in the winter. Great work you're doing Brandy!

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    1. I used to use a crock pot every Sunday to cook dinner, because Steven was the ward clerk & we were a one-car family, so he brought us home, then had 20 minutes before he had to go back. If dinner was in the crock pot, & the table was set, we could eat Sunday dinner as a family. Otherwise, it didn't happen. That was important to both of us, so we made it happen. I agree - its all about priorities. - Marivene

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    2. Marivene, My husband's name is Steven and is currently the
      ward clerk. Dar

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  25. "Organic food. Really."

    What's wrong with organic food? I prefer it over conventional as I know I'm not ingesting toxic chemicals. And, there really is a taste difference. I can't always afford it, but when I can I buy it.

    Lacey

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    1. Nothing is wrong with organic food. I don't buy it because it's not in my budget. I do practice organic practices (including organic fertilizers and sprays) for the things that I grow in my garden. I grow a lot of the things that are on the dirty dozen list, including peaches and lettuce.

      Don't think that organic food isn't sprayed, though; it is. It's a common myth that it isn't sprayed. It is sprayed with organic sprays. Bugs and fungi destroy crops otherwise.

      My list is just the things that I don't buy. Most of them keep my costs down, but not all of them. I could buy jam for less, but homemade tastes better :) Homemade cookies aren't any cheaper, but I prefer the way they taste.

      I keep getting a lot of comments of, "I just don't understand how you could cut your bill so low." I hope this list helps to show where my money is NOT going. For example, my menus don't show drinks, so you might assume that I buy drinks, instead of drinking water all day. Even after reading my entire website, people still think I go out to eat and that I have a separate budget for that--but I don't. What I show on the meus is really what we're eating. I plan my meals from those based on what we have.

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    2. Organic or natural doesn't automatically mean 'good for you'. In our grandparents' day arsenic was used as a spray on fruits and vegetables - it's organic and entirely natural, but you still don't want to eat it. Unless you're growing your own, you can't really know what is used on your fruits and vegetables.

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    3. I try not to judge another person's food choices because you never know their circumstances. We eat 90% local/organic for a multitude of reasons, one being that I'm a cancer survivor and my health is really important to me. We also happen to have some food allergies so we can't buy things like cream of mushroom soup. I make almost everything we eat from scratch and shop smart. We spend less than many of our friends who eat a %100 conventional diet. But I don't judge them for their food choices. I have one friend who works full time and is a caretaker to her 50 year old mother, who suffered a stroke. She doesn't have the time to shop like I do. I think we could all stand to judge each other less and thank God more for the blessings he has given us.

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    4. Nora, I don't think anyone is judging. I think perhaps because I had a list that included a lot of junk food and also included organic food that caused her to ask why.

      My list isn't intended as a judgement. It's simply a list of what I don't buy, that I know many people do buy. My mom buys completely different food that I do. Her purse is filled with coupons and store cards--to restaurants. I didn't grow up eating that way, but then, my parents had a budget almost as tight as mine when I was little, and they don't now.

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    5. I'm glad you said the cookies aren't cheaper to make at home. I ALWAYS make any cookies we eat here at home, but sometimes I'm asked to bring a dessert to a big Church get together. I discovered, years ago when one time I had agreed to bring some cookies and ran out of time... I purchased 3 or 4 packages of cheap store bought cookies, arranged them attractively on a big platter and Every One got eaten! The children loved them! LOL So much for making cookies for other people!

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    6. From a chemistry standpoint, arsenic is inorganic. Yes, it occurs naturally, but it isn't organic. Use of organic *compounds* containing arsenic (not straight arsenic) is currently allowed on non-food crops such as cotton and on golf courses and lawns, and possibly on fruit trees. That is being phased out, however.

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    7. Arsenic is, however, a common additive to chicken feed, & the legal amount is currently unregulated. However, a family in Utah County had 2 children with high levels of arsenic, & the Utah County Health Department determined it was from the eggs, through commercial mash feed given to the chickens. The additive is still legal, so if you have your own chickens, it would be safer to feed them scraps, "bugs & sunshine", or cracked grain feeds only, rather than the mash chicken feed. - Marivene

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    8. Marivene, can you share a little more info? I need to know if this is in feed for local commercial eggs or feed from places like IFA, or both. This makes me very worried, as I rely heavily on eggs for protein for a number of reasons. Maybe you could point me to information?

      Penelope

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    9. Penelope, the arsenic is only added to "mash" feeds - the powdered ones, usually labeled as chick feed or laying mash. Antibiotics are usually also added. Mash is sold under a wide variety of brand names, but I just recently learned myself that arsenic was a legal additive, due to the health dept issue. The family in question raised their own eggs, & I suspect, altho I do not know, that they were feeding their chickens WAY more feed than what is necessary. Commercial producers never over-feed the chickens, so it is not as big a concern. If you are getting your eggs from another home-producer, it would be wise to trade garden weeds, over-sized zucchini etc, to be sure your producer feeds things other than just grain mash. If you raise your own chickens, just feed them cracked grains or whole grains instead of the mash, & you bypass both the arsenic & the antibiotics issues. I read about the issue in the Forgotten Skills of Self Sufficiency used by the Mormon Pioneers, by Caleb Warnock, then because I am an RN, I checked general facts with the UCHD. The feed store where the family purchased the feed was not identified. - Marivene

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    10. Marivene, Thank you SO much for replying. My neighbor raises chickens, and my SIL raises chickens and I was concerned for them and for ourselves. I get eggs commercially, so I suppose I don't need to worry for my own children too much.

      One day we might raise our own chickens and I'm very glad to have this information. Perhaps I should think a little harder about this as a possibility.

      I really appreciate this response.

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    11. So interesting Marivene. Thank you for sharing!

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    12. The name of the arsenic-based additive is roxarsone. You can read about the story here: http://grist.org/article/food-arsenic-found-in-utah-kids-urine-traced-to-their-pet-chickens-fe/ One of the reasons I do not have chickens is that my city will not allow them to be "free-range", they have to be in the coop at all times. I think it is hard to raise healthy chickens if they are ALWAYS confined, & on less than 1/4 acre, there isn't a lot of space for a coop.
      -Marivene

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    13. Commercial produced chickens do nothing but stand around and eat feed all day! I have several friends with chicken barns, and all the chickens do is stand around eat feed and peck one another. They are definitely over fed. A commercial fed chicken is at killing weight in six weeks, they don't get there by being fed limited amounts of feed believe me, plus all the steriods they consume Ive seen the insides of a chicken barn. I would definitely trust my friends yard eggs over the grocery store any day! I know around here we all free range our chickens, and prefer not to feed them any grain, and if we have to its very little and like Marivene said cracked grain or our own mix! Straight from the farmer is always better than straight from the store.

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    14. I am sure that chickens raised for slaughter are fed as much as they will eat, but layers have to be fed a little differently. For instance, commercial layer feed would have calcium added to the feed for the shell strength, where those raised for meat would not need that at all, so the producer would not waste money on that. Laying hens are fed only what is needed to keep the bottom line productive. - Marivene

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  26. Well, a little bit off-topic (food) I'd like to share one memory... I had commented on another blog (2 years ago) how I won't buy washing detergent ever more - and, a little later, a 2 night trip to another country ended up to last 2 weeks. Yes, I did eat my word, I bought something to wash our clothes with. It was cheaper than buying new clothes...

    So, I am very careful to say I am not buying something anymore.

    But I DO LOVE to make things even if you can buy them for less. Everybody thinks I am weird. 'What's the point to stand in your kitchen all day' asked my friend. Well, I happen to love it! And if you cook/garden/etc you know exactly what you get, as somebody already said.

    I HOPE whipping cream is the only thing I am going to buy this week.

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    1. Sometimes when I've been overseas I've used shampoo or even bar soap to wash my clothes - it generally works best if you're travelling on your own or with just one other person (I wouldn't want to do our family's laundry by hand!) and if you're in a warm enough country, or have a warm enough room, that it will dry fairly quickly. Last year in Cambodia we had to do some laundry and were going to do it ourselves but after checking the prices at the sidewalk laundromat (literally, two washing machines outside a shop) we discovered it was cheaper to get the hotel to do it for us. I loved that and told my husband that was it, I was moving to Cambodia. He felt us having paying jobs and good schools for the kids was more important than it being cheaper to pay someone else to do the laundry than for us to do it ourselves. When will men get their priorities straight?

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  27. I love the list and grocery shop and garden very similar to you! My husband does not :-). He was born with a "fat tooth" (not a sweet tooth) and truly likes the taste of things like frozen pizza and corn dogs!! I don't buy them, he does. And he buys coffee at starbucks every morning. But, there are many things i make that he has come to love like pesto, jam, pizza sauce, etc. I am a damn good cook, and he will come to realize this some day.
    Christie

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    1. "I am a damn good cook, and he will come to realize this some day."

      Ha! That's great! I hope he knows now! Maybe you should invite some people over for dinner so he can hear it from others :)

      My husband was single for 37 years. I just found out last week that he HATES to cook.

      But he loves my cooking!

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    2. That's so funny. :) We've been married for 41 years, and I STILL find out things about my husband I didn't know!

      I used to used a "baby-food grinder" when mine were little. That was the greatest invention for mom back then. And it lasted through 6 children and I passed it along to someone else! I think I had to replace the rubber gasket only once or twice at the most.

      Like you, I don't buy things. I buy ingredients and grow as much as possible. We live in Zone 5 and have an unheated hoop house where I grow onions, little rooty things and green items that we eat all winter. So, even in a colder climate, it's possible to eat from your garden in most areas of the country, and you don't have to have a hoop house. A simple cold frame will do the same thing. Some people even make them out of hay or straw bales in a square, covered with heavy clear plastic.

      I wrote about it here: http://blog.greenhousemegastore.com/2012/08/15/you-can-have-fresh-home-grown-vegetables-all-year-with-a-hoop-house/

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    3. He probably loves those foods from childhood. Another reason I suppose to make sure children are used to enjoying real food. Those early food associations can be tough to reprogram.

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  28. Interesting that I read this post today as I woke up this morning looking forward to further savings from not buying soda. That's not to say that I don't ever buy it, but it shouldn't be coming out of the grocery budget. I've already been saving by cutting out caffeine--now I don't have to buy it based on addiction. However, I still enjoy caffeine-free sodas, but being middle-aged (ouch!) and sedentary, I haven't been enjoying the way my waistline is going so now I've basically limited sodas to when we eat out (a different item in our budget).

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  29. I have tried my best to cut out soda I have gotten better at making food at home to save our budget. We love pizza crust but I can't seem to find a good recipe. I have bought meat for around $2.00's a pound but had coupons were it took a $1.00 off of meat. I wish I could grow most of my produce maybe someday I just might be able to. Thanks for you post and your blog I enjoy it alot.

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    1. Lindy, there are a lot of great pizza dough recipes out there! "Tammy's Recipes" has a really tasty thin crust dough that my family loves. :)

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    2. The basic recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book makes excellent pizza dough. It is cheap to make too :) Similar to Brandy's bread it only cost about 25 cents per loaf or pizza crust to make! One of the keys is to bake in HOT oven (about 500 degrees) on a baking stone. There are lots ideas online for low cost stones. I found a used one at the goodwill. When baked on a preheated stone it makes a wonderful chewy crust like you get a pizzeria.

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    3. You do know I have a pizza recipe, right?

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  30. I've been thinking of this post since I read it yesterday, and I keep coming back to read the comments. :) I think it is great that you can feed your family with such healthy ingredients for so little. The position you have (amount of land, growing season) greatly contribute to that, but it seems if you were in a different position you'd find a way to work with it too. :)

    Something I read in a book recently really stood out to me - the author was interviewing a person who "foraged" for food items (in a large city) and this person said that she didn't consider the items she got as "free" but as "moneyless". Because it took her a considerable amount of time to get what she was getting, it was a cost of her time. I know that for myself there have been times when I've been shorter on time than on money.

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  31. Tammy, Brandy has less than a quarter of an acre! And I do agree with you-time is money! It's amazing what one can get done without outside distractions like television, shopping, etc. I always find that the more time I spend at home, the more I get done! :)

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  32. Just curious, I don't see any soy products in your menu. Like tofu which they say is even safe for babies in moderation. Also not much in the line of seafood (canned like tuna or salmon) is this something you don't like or based on costs?

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    1. See, I didn't even think of those things, becuase I don't buy them.

      We don't care for tofu, but we love seafood. With the exception of tuna, seafood is currently above my price point. It's pretty impossible to find fish (freshwater or saltwater) under $2 a pound.

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  33. I LOVE that you don't buy meat over $2/lb- it makes me feel less crazy. I buy boneless meat for $2/lb or less and bone-in for $1/lb or less....if I do (like 2x year) it better be a very special occasion.
    Occasionally, my husband will buy meat for $2.50/lb if he's shopping. Meat has drastically gone up here but I can buy chicken at Sam's or on sale for that price. Can't wait for turkey season- there are only 3 adults (my sister lives here too) and one baby very soon, so I cook a bird, then process the meat for the freezer either plain or in meals.

    Great post.

    I do want to say though, that some soy products have saved our lives. When we couldn't afford meat at all, I would often buy tofu in bulk at an Asian grocery much cheaper and cooked with that. Textured vegetable protein (TVP) is a lifesaver. I add that to burgers to stretch meat, and use it as "meat" in pasta sauce, etc. Very cheap around here if bought in bulk. Seitan is also something that before gluten intolerance, we ate with a vengeance. Very expensive premade, but you can make it quite easily and very cheaply. I used to make a whole recipe, which would be 4-6 meals. It is referred to as "wheat meat."

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    1. I know how to make wheat meat, also called gluten. I have done that as well. I also have several meatless meals listed on my website, with plenty of beans for some and no beans for others.

      No one liked tvp here, and my husband and I don't like tofu, but if you do, you can buy soy nuts in bulk and make your own soy milk and tofu.

      I can't find a great place for cheap Asian ingredients that keeps our meals low enough. I've heard about a place in the city, but it's about 45 minutes away on the opposite end of the valley. I did ask for prices there, and they aren't much lower than here, so it's not worth the gas. My goal is to feed our family (8 people plus a baby) for $3 a day for 3 meals plus a snack, so I have to keep it really low.

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  34. I just wanted to say that I have so much respect for the way that you provide for your family!!! You do an awesome job with what you have!!!!
    I am using some of the things that I learn from your website to help cut expenses in our household. I have had breast cancer for 7 years and the medical bills are taking a toll. I am greatly encouraged because of how you handle your situation. God says he will take care of our needs!!! You definitely use what He has given you to the best of your ability!! Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!!!

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  35. Oh I forgot to answer the question that you asked. I have been buying frozen pot pies, lasagnas, etc. Last week was my off week from chemo and I fixed a whole chicken in my crockpot. It fed us several meals and was just as easy as fixing a frozen dinner in the oven. I need to quit buying convenience foods and fix things that are easier to cook at home. On my next off week I am going to try doing some freezer cooking again to help save on our groceries and not eating out and in the meantime I will try to come up with some easy meals for us for the next 2 weeks. I am blessed that my family loves peas and beans and is quite satisfied to not have meat with every meal. I see lots of veggie meals in our future.

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  36. I love this! I just finished a blog series about how my own personal grocery budget is $27 every two weeks. As a single professional, that's pretty unheard of! But my favorite mantra is definitely "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!" You're a major source of inspiration in my frugal ways.

    With the exception of fruits and veggies (since I moved and don't have a garden this year, but I will next year!) I don't buy anything on that list either. :)

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  37. You don't buy coffee????? I couldn't get past that...

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    1. Katie,

      I gave up coffee years ago when I decided to be baptized in my current faith, where coffee and tea are prohibited. Coffee was the easy one. I was used to iced tea every day. I gave up both when I was 15.

      I start the morning with a 12 oz. glass of cold water. After sleeping all night, your body gets dehydrated. Drinking water first thing in the morning refreshes you (plus, it doesn't have any calories, like juice). I usually have one full glass and often 1/2 of a second glass.

      I keep the water in 2 liter cotainers on my kitchen door. We don't have a water dispenser. I prefer this way, anyway, since allowing the water to sit and cool allows the chlorine to dissapate from the water, improving the taste. I also never have to wait for cold water from the tap (which doesn't happen in summer; you could wait forever). It's also cold without ice, which is awesome.

      So, yep, I don't buy coffee!

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    2. I like the water bottles in the fridge! How many do you keep in there? Is it because of the caffeine that coffee and tea are prohibited? Just Curious.

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    3. I keep 5 64-ounce containers in the fridge. I actually like the taste of the water better this way than from a refrigerator dispenser, because it has the chance for the chlorine to dissapate.

      No, it is not because of the caffeine. We abstain fron coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco, and harmful drugs. We are also to eat things which are good for our bodies. It is called The Word of Wisdom. You can read more about it here: http://www.lds.org/topics/word-of-wisdom?lang=eng

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  38. I was at Costco today, and looked at their house brand lunch meat, which is roasted and sliced turkey. It was $6.79 a pound!!!! I didn't buy it, that's just a crazy price. We usually eat pb & j sandwiches anyway. I like your idea of using turkey/ham that you've cooked yourself, so much cheaper.

    Store bought cookies are usually cheaper than making your own, especially if you're using ingredients like chocolate chips. But they aren't as good. Sometimes there is nothing like a homemade cookie.

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    1. I grew up with store bought cookies. With the exception of Oreos and Girl Scout cookies, I think homemade tastes better!

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    2. Brandy,
      Wow your list is amazing and right on with what we do as well except we do buy tortilla chips and organics when we can. What do you do about doctor visits and over the counter meds and prescriptions? Also, do you think you would be able to feed your family for .40 a person if one in your family had special dietary needs?
      Leanne

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    3. Leanne, we pay out of pocket for those, but we treat sicknesses at home unless it is really serious. I use coupons to buy over-the counter medicine on sale whenever possible, and I buy store brands as well.

      As far as allergies--it really depends on the allergies, but I think it would be harder.

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  39. Brandy, are the light yellow popsicles in the picture made with the mandarin orange juice? - Marivene

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  40. I'm going to show this post to my husband. We're not able to grow our own fruits and vegetables, at this time but there's many things I can make at home.

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    1. Rona, you could grow some herbs indoors, and some lettuce and/or Swiss chard in a pot.

      I'm hoping I'll get to meet you the next time I have a garden tour! Sometime in October . . .

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  41. is buying jam really cheaper even if you get the fruit for free? im not the best at it and have alot of other things to do am i wasting time by doing it at home instead of buying it I was also given a bunch of pectin for free so the only cost is sugar I may have to figure out if its cheaper to buy as I have alot to do :(

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    1. It's not necessarily cheaper, but it's sure tastier! Plus that way you know what goes into it.

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  42. true I'm going to continue I looked at the cost of sugar which is the only thing I really buy for it and sugars cheap here so I think that its cheaper for me :)

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  43. Wow! To live in a place where produce grows in abundance sounds wonderful! Here in MN, we get berries in June, veggies in July and August and apples in September. That's it. Produce is expensive year-around. Fruit occasionally hits $.99/lb, but that is mostly apples, and occasionally grapes. If we know someone with an apple orchard, we may be able to get 2nds for less for making applesauce. Our own two backyard trees are starting to produce a bushel or so per year now, so we have hope for the future!

    How do you store 13 dozen eggs? When they go down in price, I'll buy four dozen or so, but more than that and I won't have room for them in the fridge.

    What do your kids put in their school lunches for a beverage? I look for good sales on juice boxes and send those, but would love an alternative that doesn't include a $20 thermos that they will lose.

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    1. I don't have a side by side fridge, so I can fit 12 dozen on one shelf.

      Make sure you check out my post The Garden In September. YO ucan grow year-round there, and you can grow more than you think. It's too hot for most berries here (they requitre zone 7 and below). Are you planting a fall garden? You can grow cool season vegetables now, like lettuce, leeks, spinach, arugula, etc.

      Can you plant grapes at your house? A sunny wall or fence, or a pergola or arbor would be great for growing grapes.

      I homeschool my children, so they eat leftovers and soup most days. We drink water for lunch. You can see 4 1/2 months worth of menus on my website. Drinks at my house are usually water.

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  44. brandy do you know if you can grow any veggies in the house in the winter? I heard someone the other day saying you can grow lettuce inside but dont know how to go about it

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    1. I have not been able to do it successfully, but look up Hydroponic gardening and learn about it!

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  45. I have a question that may seem a little out of place on this particular post. I really want to try to start making food from scratch but my husband is convinced that doing that for just the two of us is more expensive than buying already prepared meals. Do you have any advice or tips on how to help him see it would be more cost effective to make our own food and not rely so much on prepared meals, like frozen pizzas and the like? Also, in a small apartment do you have any storage tips especially for frozen food? We only have a basic fridge and freezer. My husband is also convinced that we don't have room for food storage.

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    1. Do the math and show him the numbers!

      You can keep bulk items in food-grade buckets in an apartment, such as rice, oats, flour, and sugar.

      When it was just my husband and I, I used to spend $200 a month for the two of us. Now I feed 9 for $100 a month. If I had known then how to do the things I do now, it would have been a lot less money. Just the money I spent on Rice a Roni alone would have been a huge savings! It cost me .79 a packet (I believe it's $1 on sale for a box now) which we would have as part of our dinner. Now I can make it for .40, and it's the equivalent of about 5-6 boxes/packets.

      Your freezer can be well stocked with turkey, hams, chicken, and vegetables. Turkey and ham at less than a dollar a pound is much cheaper lunch meat than the $7-$10 a pound for lunch meat that you pay at the deli. For two people it will last even longer! You can cook turkeys and freeze the meat; it takes up a lot less space. I throw turkey in meals instead of chicken, as it costs me less.

      I make French bread for .25 a loaf. You can half the recipe and have 2 loaves for the two of you, and use it with meals, for sandwiches, to make bread crumbs, etc.

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    2. I can get 3 whole turkeys in my freezer, and then I can cook 4 more and freeze the meat in the same freezer.

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  46. I saw a woman on tv that said she could make eggs last 7-9 mos. by coating them in mineral oil as soon as she brought them home.

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  47. Well, this is a pretty impressive list. I've made a lot of changes over the years. I make several foods from scratch: meatballs, meatloaf, dinner rolls, banana bread, bread, yogurt, soups, chili, BBQ baked beans, rice dishes, etc. I coupon and buy a lot of foods, but only when I can get them for less than $1. My less than a dollar list includes: coffee creamer, fruit snacks, instant potatoes, pasta sides, pasta, cereal, Pop Tarts, salad dressing, etc. A lot of these items I get for free or close to it. We rarely eat out, but I do splurge and get take out McDs for the kids every so often. I make my own homemade pizza that we love. I use my bread machine to make the dough for pennies. With the cheese and all the toppings, it costs less than $6 for 3 pizzas. I flash freeze extra slices and then stick them in a freezer bag for lunches later on. As for meat, I often buy ground beef for a little over $2 per/lb and chicken legs/thighs for 59 cents per/lb. I also stock up on turkeys. We occasionally buy manager's special pork and beef, but mostly we have chicken. I also buy chicken nuggets a few times a year when they go BOGO with coupons and I buy hot dogs with coupons if they are 60 cents per pack or less. We like bacon so I buy that when it goes on sale for $2.50 or less. This gives us plenty of variety and plenty of healthy and unhealthy options.
    -Amie

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  48. This is such a motivational blog. I thought that I was living frugally until I came across you.

    if you would like some ideas for crafting with junk please check out my blog. I have a saying here in Middlesbrough 'There is no such thing as rubbish'.

    http://downinfairydell.blogspot.co.uk/

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  49. Have you ever checked out the website Cultures for Health? We make yogurt, buttermilk, sour cream, and even greek yogurt from their cultures. You only save a small amount from each batch to make the next and you never have to buy it from the store again. I know we have saved so much money! Just wanted to share the idea.

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  50. Your garden is absolutely amazing! We have a small garden each year plus one bed of edible plants. However, the climate here in Canada greatly limits our growing season.

    Thank you for all the ideas that you share on your blog- I really appreciate them!

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  51. You can freeze eggs, just crack them out of the shells and into zipper baggies. Squeeze the air out and squish the yolk to blend the eggs. Lay the bags flat in a rimmed baking pan and freeze until solid. I store the baggies in a gallon size freezer bag to protect them from freezer burn and to keep them in one place. To keep track of the number of eggs in a baggie I use a sharpie marker and write it on each individual bag, like 2 or 3 eggs. An easy way to fill the baggies is to open them and stick them into a coffee mug, fold down the zipper portion around the cup, then fill it with your eggs. To thaw the eggs just pop them out of the baggie and into a bowl, cover it and refrigerate overnight.

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  52. Well, I thought there really wasn't much more for me to cut or creatively change but alas I am wrong. So I have some questions:

    Potato chips & Pretzels - what do you serve your children on the side of a sandwhich? We normally have those and pickles.

    Juice boxes - Do your kids have little thermos??? Basically how do you address the on the go drink? For instance our friends have a lake house and they let us use the boat what would you take out on the boat? Do you buy bottled water?

    Powdered drink mixes- The only one I buy is gatorade because our kiddos play sports and we live in Texas (100+). Do you make your own mixes or is this just something you do not bother with.

    Lunch meat. We make sandwiches from turkey and hams bought under $1 a pound instead. - where did you get your slicer? I haven't seen one at goodwill or any place like that.

    It looks like I need to learn to make yogurt!

    thanks for the encouragement it's always easier to walk a path when you aren't alone.

    Blessings my friend!
    Kyle


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    1. Kyle,

      I will serve pickles as well (homemade) with sandwiches, and fruit.

      I live in Las Vegas. It was 118º all week last week. We drink water. Water from the tap does not get cold. I fill plastic bottles and put them in the fridge, and then I pour from those. The chlorine will dissipate that way, and then the water is cold. We drink a lot of water. Juice is a luxury and a very rare treat.

      We are not on the go a lot, as that would require a gas expenditure. If we were, I would get some thermoses or insulated water bottles for everyone. I do have one insulated water bottle and one larger thermos that I have taken on occasion.

      I got my sliver from Amazon. I have a post planned on sandwiches where I will show you what I am using. I had bought one at a garage sale but the motor died out. We decided to go with a nicer one and it has been holding up well. I am making ham sandwiches this week after I cook a ham and make some bread, so I'll try to get that post up this week!

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  53. Have you looked into the living conditions of the chickens that lay egg that you buy for .99?

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    1. I don't have the income to pay more money for food. I do the best I can with what I have. I am grateful for the times when we can afford to buy eggs on sale for .99. Right now I cannot even afford to buy those.

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  54. Wow! what a great list. I thought I was very frugal, but you have given me lots more great ideas! One note on furniture-- we have trash picked some great things: bunk beds, chairs, and bedside tables. The rest of our furniture was donated to us by friends and family when they decided to upgrade and get new furniture.

    We drink cold water from glass jars stored in the fridge, and the girls drink milk with dinner. As an occasional treat, I make "grape soda." Pour a 2 liter bottle of cold unflavored sparkling water into a pitcher, and add a defrosted can of grape juice concentrate. Stir gently. We make it last longer by serving it over ice.

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  55. Does anyone know how to make homemade cottage cheese, and would it be cheaper than buying the store brand? My stepson LOVES cottage cheese, and we go through a lot of it.

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  56. I don't know how to make cottage cheese, but I wonder if others have trouble finding the large curd variety. For years, I've only seen the small curd.

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  57. We also live very frugally, but cant't cut everything on that list because we have a very short growing season, although I do can and freeze a lot for winter use. We also save money in a lot of other ways as well. We are vegetable farmers and sell produce at the farmers market and the income has been very small the last four years, well below the poverty level. The only thing I have to say is that if we sold our produce for the prices you are willing to pay we would not be able to continue farming. If you really need to eat this cheaply that is fine, but I would recommend people who can afford a little more to spend a little bit more and support local farmers and businesses. Just my two cents :)

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    1. I know that it is impossible to grow things and sell them for those prices. For example, the cost of raising chickens is MUCH more than what I pay for eggs. Since we are in Real Estate and the market here leads the nation--and had a major drop in sales and prices--we have lived with a 70% income loss for several years. Our budget for 9 people for groceries has been $100 a month. In order to feed 9 people for $25 a week, it's important for me to keep my prices as low as possible. I have that budget because that is all that we've had to spend.

      That said--I have a reader in North Dakota with a garden roughly the same size as mine. Thought she can easily have 6 months of snow, she also has an unheated greenhouse that she uses to extend her growing season. She easily harvests much more than I do, because our summer temperatures cause most prolific crops (tomatoes, beans, zucchini) to stop producing flowers, as it is just too hot. It can (and has) been 90º in March (2004 last time). We have 5-6 months above 90º each year, and summers are 116º on average, and do get hotter. This means there are a lot of things I cannot grow in summer.

      I recommend checking out Eliot Coleman's books on gardening year-round, which he does in Maine. If gardening is your source of income, I would certainly want to extend that time to allow me to grow year-round.

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    2. In all fairness, when you buy an item in season it's often cheaper because it is being harvested in abundance. Brandy mentions store sales prices...this means the store has decided the price, not the customer. People often stock up on items when the price is low...this makes sense, and is an honest way to save.

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  58. Celeste, I agree with you. We need to remember that everyone has a right to make a living, not just ourselves. I believe in supporting the local business in my small town. I only shop in the city when we have to go there for appointments, never driving there just to shop. If I have no business in the city, I buy out here where we live.

    If everyone ALWAYS did EVERYTHING as cheaply as possible with no exceptions, wages would be driven even further down than they have been the last few years, and then where would we all be?

    I limit how much of my business I give to "the world's largest retailer" because the drive to the lowest possible price has driven jobs overseas and things are being manufactured by people who make a couple of dollars a day working for people who are allowed to pollute at will, and where the standard of living for working people is deplorable.

    It's good to be frugal and reduce our cost of living to be in line with out incomes, but we need to use a balanced approach, or in the long run, there are fewer jobs and less money for everyone.

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  59. We have cut the amount of drive thru foods tremendously since I am home full time. However, I have severe fibromyalgia and often my family gets sandwiches, frozen, or leftovers from my parents. I would really like some suggestions on how to better incorporate home cooked meals, while dealing with flair ups and pain caused by my disability. I look forward to reading the posts from Brandy and followers of the blog. I have learned so much.

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  60. I often feel left out of similar conversations at work when my coworkers talk about things they do like going golfing, jet skiing, vacationing, going on cruises, weekend trips, and buying every imaginable gadget and electronic. Being a single mother we live pretty slim compared to my group of peers at work but otherwise compared to many people I know we really live in abundance and I'm grateful for that.

    One thing I just about never buy anymore are cleaners. I make my own cleaner with amonia. The amonia is cheap and lasts forever. I bought two jugs at Target a few years ago with coupons and still haven't gone through even one yet. It cleans great.

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