Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Saving Money: Part Four - Galvanized Action

Dear simple livers,

It was not my intent to refer to you as a blood-filtering organ, but that's how it came out!  With this propitious start let us continue on to the final and fourth part of our money-saving series.  

Part one covered the Guiding Principles, part two laid the Ground Rules, part three introduced some General Ideas to put in place in your kitchen, and part four will now put the rubber of idea to the pavement of Galvanized Action with some practical can-dos! 

Saving Money: Part Four - Put it into practice

Buy and serve Real Food, not empty calories ... a hunk of twelve-grain bread with a slab of cheese and a glass of hot tea is far more filling than three cheeseburgers!  You'll be satisfied for longer on real food, and you'll find you don't need to eat as much.  

Split bulk buysIf you want to buy a fifty pound bag of oatmeal because it's so much cheaper per pound but you have nowhere to store fifty pounds of oatmeal and you'd rather not spend that much all at once, ask a friend (or two) if she wants to split the purchase with you.

If you have gym access: take your shower at the gym, and skip the hot-water bill at home!  Truthfully, the entire eight weeks Mr H was in boot camp I only took three showers at home.

If you have to pay for laundry machines, give it a try and handwash a load or two (not really my favorite task, but it can be done).

If you also have to pay for dryers, dry things in the sun or with a fan.  You don't have to spend a lot on a clothes rack - I used a mop and a shower rod that were in the apartment when we moved in!

With the help of a fan, even on a cool day the clothes can be dry in about two hours (I sometimes go in and rotate them halfway through).

Save on dry cleaning: either check the labels when you buy and choose clothes that aren't dry clean, or use Dryel or another home dry-cleaning product (coupons here!).

Make tortillas, breads, muffins, buns, rolls, and other baked goods at home from inexpensive dry goods, instead of running to the store for tortillas so we can make quesadillas for dinner!

Have fun with what you can make at home, and give yourself grace if it doesn't turn out quite as you (or everyone else) expected! 

Make imitation maple syrup at home.  Some syrup comes in handy glass jars, and can be refilled with the homemade version as I did here.  I would not recommend reusing plastic bottles, however.

Use empty or old (too scratched to can with) jars for candle holders.  As illustrated in the picture below with the Classico spaghetti sauce jar, you can also use old glass jars for handily capped water bottles, gatorade bottles, or non-insulated coffee thermoses.

Learn to use your crock-pot - make it your best friend!  Crock pot dinners are surprisingly simple and shockingly inexpensive, but above all perfectly delicious.  Reference a cookbook for ideas, but don't be glued to the recipes - use them as a baseline for inspiration, and avoid a trip to the store!

If you are in the mood for new recipes, do an online search for a few excellent cooking blogs, websites or recipes, or check out cookbooks from the library instead of buying new books.  Do a cookbook swap with a friend who has a different library than your own!

Bike or walk as much as possible to save gas and - burn calories!

Hit estate sales over garage sales - owners are usually very eager to get rid of items very quickly, and often don't have the anxiety of "But I paid twenty dollars for that when it was new!"

When you go to a garage or estate sale to shop for your house, make a pile of things and then bid an offer on the lump as a whole - you can get items cheaper this way than by haggling for them one by one.

Save money and space by learning (practice and YouTube videos will be your friends here) how to chop, mince, dice, julienne, and prepare foods by hand that would otherwise need a food processor.  Food processors are convenient and wonderful but if it's not in the budget, don't sweat it - sharpen it!  Buy your chicken whole and learn how to piece or bone it by hand (again, YouTube!) - and use the bones for broth so that not an ounce goes to waste!

Keep a jar of cookies ready at all times to stave off hungry hands that wander into the kitchen.  I like to bake large batches and freeze a few bags at a time so that I am well supplied with a variety of cookies on hand.

Have four kids at once instead of one at a time!  Just kidding ...

Scour clearance racks regularly for items you may need.  And the key is regularly (my favorite is Bed Bath and Beyond) because they don't keep things in stock there.  I keep a running list of items we need in our house (coffee grinder, bowls, curtains, to name a few!) and when I get the chance, I peruse the sale shelves for any of said items.  The worst way to save money is to go out hunting for a specific item, so I try to keep my eyes peeled all the time.  I bought this shower curtain ($50), liner ($3), hooks ($5), and a soap dispenser ($4) for all around $20, just by keeping my eye on the sale racks and saving coupons!  (And I used store credit from returning a previous item to pay, so I didn't actually spend any money at all!)

As I mentioned in part three, this loaf of bread cost less than a dollar to make, and it was fragrant and delicious!  Keep hearty artisan breads on hand for dipping, sopping, spreading, and crumbling into dinners.  A loaf of bread can dress up a simple stew most marvelously, and take dinner from mediocre to rustic-heaven in no time!  And cooks since the early years of the world have known that grains fill up the belly so that everybody doesn't need to fill up on the more expensive items, like meat dishes.

Buy loose tea leaves or grow mint and dry your own herbal tea.  Replace expensive store-bought drinks with homemade teas and sweet tea.

Be patient when you want or need something.  I was looking for long, floor-length curtains.  But I only wanted to spend a few bucks!  So I waited for a month, hitting the clearance shelves whenever I passed them and skimming through garage sales.  I finally found these four panels in a garage sale, still packaged.  She asked for eight, I offered six, and the deal was made.  Mr H helped me hang them and now ... we have curtains!

Whenever you visit garage sales, if you like candles, look for them in and out of season and pay pennies on the dollar!  I paid $0.30 apiece for these brand new babies and I am quite content with them.  Candles can be pricey to buy new but if you like them as an accent, it's worth it to stock up at sales (and people are almost always selling them).  We don't have any lamps yet, so these candles come in especially handy!

Wear socks or a fuzzy cap or a sweater if the house is chilly - don't laugh, sometimes we just don't think about it! But this really will warm you up, no duh, and you won't have to fire up the furnace as much.

If you're desperate in the kitchen, you can make a baking pan out of foil!

Research long and hard before you buy an appliance, tool, or kitchen gadget. Use the time to it takes to research the product instead of going back to return, replace, and retry.  I like to read the reviews at Amazon, and look online for other comments, reviews, and Consumer Reports.  And when you are narrowing down your list of options, it is usually better to invest in the more expensive, well-made model (this is not always the rule).  Paying a few extra dollars for a longer-lasting better-rated item is more satisfying than buying five cheap editions over the years.

Buy dried beans instead of canned -  As some examples, at Costco you can buy seven pounds of dried pinto beans for $7.29, or 5 pounds of dried organic black beans from Azure for $7.  While already eliminating the troublesome problem of where to store many space-consuming cans of beans, you also save a lot of money: a 16 oz can of black beans can cost anywhere from $1 to $3, and using rough guesstimates of weight (different brands have different amounts of liquid in the can), if you were to buy the beans dried you can assume you'd be spending between $0.25 to $0.45 for the same amount (and that is being generous!).  Buying canned beans, no matter how much they are on sale, is never really a bargain - be sure to check the ingredients list for added sodium, too.  And the can for insidious chemicals that leach into the beans!  (This is where our general ideas of "make your own ingredients" and "plan ahead when you can" come into play!)  You can quickly cook a pan of pinto beans by boiling them for two hours, and black beans can be cooked in even less time; watch the blog for a pending recipe on canning beans at home, too (so you can have the pre-cooked convenience and none of the wasted money!).

Beans on standby: since they are such a handy ingredient for just about any evening casserole, I usually keep a quart jar of cooked beans in my fridge (when I am cooking up a batch for some specific meal during the week, I throw in an extra cup to set aside) so that on those days that I don't have time to can ahead or start cooking them earlier in the day, I have some nearby.  Toss in a few chunky vegetables and you have filling, nutritious stew!  I frequently use beans instead of meat because they are significantly cheaper!

And our final and probably most pointed Useful Tip comes from the whimsical Mamakawa, my cousin.  This one will, I know, cut every Home Cook to the core with guilt (I hang my head in shame!).  Do not, she says, suffer from food waste!  "I occasionally forget that I have something and remember a few days past any possible redemption.  *sniff*  Goodbye, pluots.  You looked delicious."  Women, women, above all we must be masters (mistresses?) of our kitchens.  I have been guilty far too many times of putting off re-calibrating some leftovers or using up a sprig of this or that, and finally shoving it down the drain - or horror of horrors even discarding whole boxes of produce that I neglected to tend to.  SIN!  You'll have to come up with your own system, but do whatever it takes to make sure nothing is forgotten and rotten! (Keeping the fridge clean helps - here's a handy-dandy household download that might help.)

When you have little brothers
as big as this, you have to be
ready with Big Food all the
Hopefully some of these tips come in handy for you, and I know you have many, many more to share - so include your additional ideas and improvements in the comments below!

Mrs H

Free Internet Resources! 

Money Saving Mom
Group-Buy Girl
Coupon Mom
Simple Living Media
Simple Mom (hosted by Simple Living Media network)
Simple Organic (hosted by Simple Living Media network)
American Family
Azure Standard
Azure Almanac
LocalHarvest (find farms & CSAs)
Reusable Canning Lids (my review)
Dryel (coupons are on their site)

More on breadmaking, baking, and cooking... 

King Arthur Flour's blog
Food in Jars
Mennonite Girls Can Cook
Thai Food by SheSimmers
The Fresh Loaf
The Pioneer Woman
Pioneer Woman's recommended sites
Northwest Sourdough
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day (This is a book but it is the best so I am including it here!)

Extras (not the kind they have on a movie set)
The Handy-Dandy Household Download (monthly chore chart)
"Menu"-Keeping Idea (one way to cook according to your cupboard!)
Time and Kitchen Management Idea



Related Posts with Thumbnails