Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cutting Costs

We recently ordered the book The Total Money Makeover. I have read the first few chapters and so far, so good. I am inspired. We need to get out of debt, cut spending and start saving. How do we do this on one income? This is tricky, especially with the economy the way it is today.

I have decided that the easiest way to cut spending in our home is with the grocery budget. And probably signing up for DTV was not a good choice, budget wise.

I don't have a lot of experience in bargain shopping, although I am getting better. I have learned a lot in the last year, thanks to my friends. I've noticed how my shopping habits have changed.

Phase one: Newlyweds. I moved from my parents' comfortable home to our apartment when I was 19. I believed food needed to be brand name or it was garbage. I also was really into pretending to be Martha Stewart and bought expensive ingredients to make fancy meals. When we ate out it was usually nice restaurants.

Phase two: First child. I realized that the expense of having a child was catching up with us. I started cutting back on the fancy meals, and found there were some store brands that were ok to substitute. I began using coupons at times. We started eating at more family friendly locations and fast food restaurants.

Phase three: Second child. Our second baby came 18 months after our first, and life was a whirlwind. We were so busy, I can't remember many details. I did resort to having our first child's second birthday party at McDonalds. He loved it. I still bought what was needed, when we needed it, and used the occasional coupon. I didn't pay a lot of attention to sales nor did I do any comparison shopping.

Phase four: Moved to a more expensive city with two children. My husband got a new, much higher paying job. We moved across the state to a much more pricier town. Even with the higher paychecks, the budget got tighter. We were renting, and trying to save to buy a house. We also carried some debt from the move and our lifestyle. Tried to eat out less, cook more from scratch, and buy more foods on sale.

Phase five: Homeowners and Third child. We tried to keep up with the Jones's in our brand new house with new neighbors. Thankfully I had some good role models and learned some budget friendly recipes and tips. The town we lived in had a high population of Dutch descendants. I learned "dutch" was also another word for cheap. I began to follow suit! I learned the thrill of consignment shopping for children's clothes. I looked at the store's ads and tried to plan meals around what was on sale.

Phase six: Moved again and added another child. We moved to our country home AND started the adoption process, which took our savings and more. We buckled down. Even if I wanted to work outside the home we wouldn't be able to afford child care. Gas prices skyrocketed. I learned the joys of bargain grocery shopping from a good friend. She took me to all the local discount stores. I learned to scan the sell buy dates at the discount stores and find boxes of cereal for $1.50. We were given a large chest freezer and began searching for meat sales to fill the freezer. I also froze in season fruit for later. I started shopping at thrift stores more often for clothes and accessories. I tried to plan a menu for the week, and also set a food budget.

Phase seven: Another adoption and poor economy. I am not as picky. I make due with what we have in the pantry, sometimes buy expired food at the discount store, and try hard to make things from scratch. I avoid many prepackaged foods unless they are a deal. I started a garden and learned a bit about canning. We went berry picking this summer and froze berries in our freezer. Also went apple picking and made fresh applesauce and apple crisp. I love buying fruits and veggies in season and from local farms, and u pick! Even got free apples from friend's trees and blackberries from our yard. Our garden produced lettuce, zucchini, strawberries, carrots, and beets. I made some plans and changes for next spring. We planted some pear trees. I received a nice bread machine for Christmas.

Now...I feel after all the phases and growing I have gone through I am up for the challenge. I am going to try to feed my family of 6 for $75 a week. Think I can do it? Any advise? For the record, we have 2 adults (my hubby is on a bicycle most of the day), an almost 12 year old boy, a 10 year old girl, a six year old girl, and a one year old boy (drinking whole milk). I think the most challenging part is with my husbands spending. He still enjoys eating out during work, or stopping for a treat. Sometimes he makes his lunch, sometimes I pack it, but sometimes he is rushed out the door and buys something during the day on the road.

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