Archive | February 2014

Being Frugal and still have fun!

Last month, my family went and bought Season passes to Walt Disney World.

WHOA! What! Wait a minute! I know I have been posting on being frugal and then I just went and dropped a ton of money on Disney passes! How can that be? Well let me tell ya!

Back in the good ol’ days I could swipe a credit card and buy our passes and not even blink about. No biggie right? I’ll just pay it later or should I say Hubby would. Well then the economy apocalypse came and I didn’t have credit cards to rely on. All I had was cash. I knew our Disney days were numbered. I had been a passholder religiously since I was 13 years old. What was I going to do?

I ran across this website called Couponing to Disney  and I started reading about her ways of saving for Disney vacations. I thought I can do this. So the year my son was born I started a Disney fund. I would put all of the change we got when we would pay for something in a container. I also would have yard sales and sell items on craigslist. When those items sold, it went into the Disney fund. It took me a year to save up for passes and a weekend getaway. As soon as I cashed in a bought the passes we would start our next fund. Now the following year we got lucky, one of hubby’s distributors real screwed up an order of cabinet doors. Hubby sold the customer on them anyway but complained to the manufacturer. The manufacturer then issued us a refund and it was just enough to cover Disney passes.

This pass year I started adding more ways to save. When I would get gift cards, instead of going on a shopping spree for more things I didn’t need I put them toward groceries and put cash to equal the same amount into the fund. I also started using paid email websites to earn a little here and there. Any mail in rebates went in along with any random cash settlement checks from a lawsuit here and there. You know $2-$3 will add up over time. By the time Christmas and my birthday came around, I was only $300 short so hubby said take the cash as you present.

We also went out on a limb and planned a 5 day vacation. The kids and I pulled all of our gift cards together and have saved about $900 towards it. That is just from Christmas, birthdays and an awesome site called Mypoints.

This website gives you points per dollar you spend at well know retailers when you shop online. I did most of my Christmas shopping online this year and was able to rake up 15,000 points. Enough for about a $100 Walmart gift card.

These are just a few ways to be frugal but still have fun.

Our vacation is coming up in a week and 2 days (but who’s counting?). If you want to follow our trip, you can follow me on twitter  or instagram.

Back to Basics~Grocery shopping

We covered how to make a menu. Now lets cover how to grocery shop cheaply.

Shopping List~
After you have a menu plan, you will want to make a list. Gather all of those recipes and make a list of every ingredient you would need. Even if you know you have it, write it down. If you need the same item for different recipes write down how many or how much. Nothing will throw you off your meal making stride like needing 2 eggs and only having 1. Now go through your kitchen and mark off all the items that you have already. While you are doing this, write down any items that are essentials that you might be getting low on. For us that would be flour, sugar, milk, eggs and Hubby’s coffee, just to name a few.
Now time for our sale ads. Go through and write down any deals you see that would be beneficial to your family. Maybe there is a deal on toilet paper or razors. Stock up!
Coupons~
I use to be one of those mom’s who couldn’t buy anything without coupons. This was before the TV show made us look like freaks. Why did we need 20 bags of dog food when I don’t have a dog?  BECAUSE IT’S FREE!!! Then I saw the show and thought WOW I am spending a lot of time on couponing and coming home with a lot of junk I didn’t need just because it was cheap or free. It can be a double edge sword. You want to save money but you don’t want it to take away from your family time or become an obsession.
I still stockpile certain items using coupons. But everything I buy in excessive amounts is things that we use. Razors, shaving cream, body wash, shampoo, toliet paper and toothpaste are just a few items I keep a look out for deals and coupons. But I have 3 teenage daughters. If it was just me and my hubby, probably not.
Also having 4 kids, I keep a lot of snacks in the home. I always look for Buy one Get one (BOGOS) deals and coupons to match. This keeps my grocery bill down significantly. Once you get familiar with you store of choices sales, clipping coupons will be easy. I can go through a coupon book and know which coupons are good to clip based on what my store puts on sale. I also only clip coupons I know I will use.
But if your not into couponing, I have gone weeks by just making a list of what I need and sticking to it and never touching a coupon. It works just as well, you just have to resist those extra deals you might see in the store.
Now if you like the idea of coupons but don’t have time, try looking for a blog specific to the store of your choice. There are tons of bloggers out there that are doing the work for you. Just do a search for <Insert store name here> ad match ups. They will have all the deals listed with coupons for that item listed as well. They also show you the best deals of the week with a special symbol.
Prices~
I have been doing this for a while, so I have gotten pretty good at knowing my prices at the stores I like to shop at. Like I know for $14 I am going to get a little over 3 pounds of hamburger. But if I go to BJs, I will get over 6 pounds for around $15! Having a large family of predominant meat eaters this can be our most expensive category on the shopping list. But knowing where to get the most bang for you buck is the key. For me that would be a warehouse store. Again if it was just me and the Hubby, most likely not. You have to go what works for your family. Now if we were vegetarians, I would shop mostly at our local farmers market.
Which is another option, for fruits and vegetables, shop locally. If you are lucky enough to have a local farmers market then take advantage of the straight from farm approach. I have gotten some amazing deals shopping here.
For me the key, is to stick to a few stores and get to know them like the back of your hand.

Back to Basics~ Menu Planning

This week I am starting our living frugally posts. I took this month to get back into a routine of school and normal life after the holidays. Now we are living on a budget and saving.

But before then there are a few things that  I have started doing just to get into the mind frame of saving.

Gather your family’s favorite recipes~

I have gone through countless cookbooks to make an easy to find list of our favorite recipes, where to find them and what page number. My list is broken down by Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Desserts. This is truly a life saver. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to sit and go through all 14 years worth of cookbooks to find what I am looking for. This is a time saver, but also gives you a starting point for menu planning.

Menu Planning~
Organization is the key to saving money especially at meal times. The best way to be organize is to menu plan. Pick a day, mine is usually Sunday, to make a menu for a week. Look at your families favorite recipes, what you have on hand and what is on sale at your local grocery stores. As a homeschooling mom, I have to serve 3 meals to at least 4 people (most days it is 6), but I try to at least have a solid plan for breakfast and dinner because those are our family meal times. Lunch I plan sometimes based on what leftovers I have, but mostly it’s a fly by the seat of your pants meal. If your kids are at school or you work out of the home then only menu plan for the meals ate at home as a family. I like to leave my weekends open for trying new recipes.
In the end, we are trying to eliminate the drive thru solution to dinner. So start small, look at what meals are ate most from fast food establishments and make that your meal goal. Plan a weeks worth of meals for that time. Then plan two weeks. Now I am not saying don’t treat yourself once in awhile or look at your menu as the bible. Life happens! But even if this helps you get dinner on the table easier 4 nights out of the week, then it’s a winner.