In todays world, the value of our money is ever depleting. Gas is now outragous for a single gallon, produce is getting more expensive, meat is getting more expensive, dairy is getting more expensive, all while our wages are staying the same. It used to be that what we earned from working was used to pay rent or a mortgage payment and to pay any bills. Now, our wages need to be divided amongst, rent/mortgage, gas, food, bills, not necessarily in that order.
Many would probably agree that gas is sucking up their income now, we have to get to work so we can make money, and we need to use the money we make to fuel our cars in order to get to work, it’s a vicious cycle with little signs of a break happening anytime soon. That’s not what this article is about however, sure I could rant on and on about how ridiculous gas prices are, but I’m not. I’m here to talk about ways to be frugal in an economy that is doing everything possible to make sure we barely have enough for our required expenses. Focus will be on how to cut back on unnecessary food expenses.
We all have done grocery shopping at some point so, we all know how quickly we can spend $100 and have little to show for it. I used to have my son and I on food stamps for the longest time, I quickly became and expert on how to make the most of the money you had to work with, and $50 a month was hardly anything to work with. Here are my money saving tips, mostly acquired through personal experience.
1. Cut out coupons. Take the couple hours, weed through coupons, cut out everything you know you will use and even things you’re not sure you will use or not. It’s better to have your bases covered. You will be amazed at how much coupons can save collectively, especially when you have a couple of the same coupon. A grocery bill that reaches $110 can easily be cut back to $80 or $90 if you have the right coupons on your side. I used to always feel like I was cheap, showing up with a handful of coupons each time I stepped into a store, now I just know it’s smart. As a double bonus, people who tend to purchase things without rhyme or reason, coupons can serve as an unspecified grocery list. You go in with the coupons you plan on using, and bam, you’re setting a plan on what you will be buying and what you won’t be buying.
2. Buy in bulk. If you have a Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s membership, put it to use! Pay attention to items you buy the most of and go through the quickest, then, upgrade to buying in bulk. If you are a big paper product person, love the convenience of paper plates and cups and plastic silverware, it’s senseless to pay out the nose for those things you go through like water. Take a trip to your nearest Costco and buy plates, cups, and silverware in bulk. It will not only last you a lot longer than the smaller pack sizes standard stores offer, but it will be a one time expense that earns you longer time in between re-stocking. While you’re at it, get toilet paper, paper towels, trash bags, cases of water, snacks(chips, cookies etc), and food(milk, bread, cheese, macaroni and cheese, pasta etc) that is popular in your household.
Pinching pennies and living frugally is a way of life, as is smart shopping. Just Remember these five tips and use them to shop smart and save money through buying in bulk.
It might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to skip the list making when we shop at Sam’s Club. It is way too easy to spend more than planned if I don’t have a list. I try to alphabetize the list or write it in order of the store’s layout. This just makes it easier for me to not skip anything.
Most of the prices I find at Sam’s Club are moneysaving, but some aren’t. In some instances, buying in bulk doesn’t really save money, but I only know this because I research prices at other stores. While a multi-pack of name-brand toilet paper may seem like a great bargain, if I break down the cost per roll, I can usually save money buying a store brand elsewhere or using coupons to buy the name brand.
Researching prices helps me know exactly what items are the best bargain to buy in bulk and which are not.
–Condense Shopping Trips
Bulk shopping saves our family money in more than one way and one of those is buy saving us gas. Because I can buy larger quantities at lower costs on certain items when I buy in bulk at Sam’s Club, I don’t have to make as many shopping trips.
–Stock Up and Save
Stocking up on items in bulk sizes helps us save money because it means we don’t have to make special trips or buy when the price is high. We keep extras of feminine products, household products, shampoo, deodorant, soap, food, and other items on hand and we try to replenish before we run out.
–Allow Plenty of Time
One thing that you can’t do if you want to save money and shop at a bulk store: Rush. Plan your shopping trip and allow plenty of time to get everything you need. You may need to double check the prices and savings (so don’t forget a calculator) and adjust your list as you shop.
Using these tips, we generally save anywhere from a few dollars a month to several. Granted, the savings doesn’t mean we can take a grand vacation every month, but it does mean we can meet our budget and once in awhile splurge for a trip to get ice cream.
3. Conserve your gas. Try to keep car useage on an essential only basis. Trips to and from work and school and other mandatory places. With gas prices on the up and up, there is no sense running unnecessary errands. Try some gas treatments and Fuel injector’s if your trips are lengthy. They might seem like a waste of money, but the $5 you spend on them may gain you an extra 20-40 miles per tank, and that could be a whole day worth of driving, depending of course on the mileage of your trips. You hear all these commercials on the radio and Tv stressing to care for your car, but past their subliminal attempts to bring in business, they have a point. Keep up with your car, get oil changes, check your spark plugs and wires, keep your tires properly inflated, get a tune up if you have an older car, keep your belts new and taught, make sure your fuel pump is working properly and so on. They all may seem to have nothing to do with the mileage you get from the gas you put into your car, but look at it this way, anything that may be wrong with you car requires your car to work harder than normal, in turn, you consume more gas to keep up with its appetite to work harder to compensate for anything that may be wrong.
4. Become a leftover chef. When cooking, think about foods that preserve well after a couple days of being cooked and think about foods that produce a lot. There is nothing wrong with leftovers. If you went to college, I’m sure you’ve had more times than you would like to admit where, week or two week old pizza was like a gourmet meal. Well we’re all adults now, so pizza isn’t the default choice of food for the week. Foods like spaghetti are capable of producing a lot, enough to last a whole week and still not begin to taste stale. Generally, the meat something requires, the cheaper it will be to make. Also, foods that require more preparation than the ready made products, will also be cheaper. Most frozen meals are unbelievable expensive, when you’re buying frozen meals and things that require the least amount of preparation and effort, all you’re doing by that point is buying convenience. Don’t be afraid to cook, soup and chilli mixes, spaghetti, tuna or hamburger helpers, chicken, pork chops, and even taco kits are all things that are cheap to buy and should last at least a couple days as good leftovers.
5. Look into assistance programs. If you live off of a low income, look into assistance programs, you never know what you may qualify for if you don’t look. I was ashamed and embarassed of being on food stamps and having my son on medicaid for the longest time, until i changed my mindset about it. The way I began to see it was, food and insurance are things my son needs, I can only help the fact that I am in a rough spot and not making as much as I know I could be. I make enough for daycare, gas to work and bills, it’s not like I’m not being irresponsible with the money I do make, It’s just not enough for food and insurance, so, why not use the programs out there that are made and established to help people in the same situation as myself. The programs have been established for a reason, they’re not going to invite you to come and apply, it’s your responsibility to accept when you need help and use the resources available that are meant to do just that.
Our economy is less than favorable right now, still in the relatively early stages of a downward spiral, but if we begin to be smart with our money, where it goes and how much we spend, we will still have something to hold onto while our economy tries to suck us down to the pits it’s diving into. It’s hard to do and it will only get harder, but we have to at least try, giving up before the game is over is the easy way out. No one ever gets anywhere in life without fighting tooth and nail to get there, fight against the inflation of necessities and you just might be able to beat the system and walk away with some money you saved in the process.