We are entering our final days of the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month Challenge and it has been a great refresher for us to get back into our frugal habits. I am finally caught up on all of the emails and they really made us think […]
I have been asked quite a bit lately where the name Oscoey came from. For some reason it always catches me by surprise and I have to wing a response that is short and somehow makes sense and doesn’t turn into an awkward conversation so […]
Well dear readers, week 2 of the Uber Frugal Month Challenge went off the rails a little bit. We had a busy week with sick kids and another family member was ill so I have not done the last 4 or 5 daily tasks from the UFM challenge. I skimmed the emails, but I did not have time to go through and read all of the articles. My goal this week is to catch back up on the reading and sit down with my husband and talk some more about the challenge and complete our tasks.
We did a decent job at keeping our spending down this week. We ran out of coffee though so I had to make a quick trip to Costco (our favorite place to shop) to pick some up. In an effort to prevent a second trip over the weekend I spent some time looking over our supplies and made a bare bones list. Although it may look like we bought a ton, we were basically out of everything. I bought three bunches of bananas so I can replenish our dried banana chip supply (recipe here), raisins (sometimes the only fruit my picky eater will eat), greens, gluten-free bread, fresh fruit, peanuts (a great protein snack), applesauce pouches for lunches and of course diapers. I also bought some vitamin D since we are almost out and they were on sale. I was hoping to buy some pears to make pear sauce out of in a couple of weeks but they were out. The only “extra” I bought was the broccoli and that was only because my son insisted on buying it and who can say no to a kid that wants broccoli?
We did end up having to stop at the store over the weekend to pick up some vegan cheese for the kids and their milk was on sale so we grabbed a bottle of that as well. Our splurge purchase of the week was a pack of popsicles ($4.00) that we ended up getting for the kids. They have been basically sick for three weeks straight and we have been making popsicles out of the juice we have on hand that they never drink but our kids rebelled and we gave in and bought them “real” popsicles. Sometimes you just have to give in to your kids when they are sick so they will get enough fluids. We ended up spending about $145 on groceries for the week but that included high ticket items such as diapers, vitamins and coffee so we did pretty good. We are still under our grocery budget for the month and we should be able to avoid buying groceries for at least another week (although as I was typing this my husband informed me we are almost out of toilet paper).
I will say that you should make your own applesauce and put it in reusable pouches if you can. It is super easy and homemade applesauce tastes so much better (here is my pear sauce recipe). I usually have a supply of both apple and pear sauce in my freezer as well as some in jars in the pantry but this year was not a good year for apples and my usual source of free apples had none to spare. We were super busy this fall with back to school shenanigans and applesauce making did not happen. Needless to say I am not happy about our applesauce pouch habit but sometimes when life gets hectic you have to find small ways to make it easier and buying applesauce pouches so that my kids will have something in their lunches that they will actually eat is one of the ways I am doing that right now.
We did however this week do an excellent job of eating things out of the pantry and the freezer. We pulled these corn tortillas out of the freezer to make both quesadillas and burritos this week and they were delicious! My husband also made homemade chicken stock and made a baked potato soup out of it that was delicious. We used up some sweet potatoes and the last of the Brussels sprouts, found some real (as in cow milk, not non-dairy) ice cream in the freezer to make Banana’s Foster after the kids went to bed. My husband also made bagels from scratch instead of going to the store to buy them and the kids loved eating them toasted with their non-dairy cream cheese. I think next week will be a challenge for us not to run to the store. I did not buy meat at Costco when I went because we had a bunch of turkey that needed to be eaten so next week’s meals will probably lean towards the vegetarian side. We do have a freezer meal stashed away that could last a couple of meals if we stretch it with rice or something similar. It will be interesting to see what meals we come up with in the next week.
We did have a couple of major expenses come up this week. The first being the leak I discovered in my car. I parked it outside in the rain for the first time in a while and when I got back in water was dripping from the lights over my head. We are still under warranty and I am hoping the repair will be covered but I anticipate being without a car for a while since they will have to dry it out. I can’t get the car in for a couple of weeks though and still get a loaner car so I am parking it indoors as much as possible. The other major expense that came up is our hot water heater needs to be replaced. We knew when we moved in two years ago that it only had 2-3 years of life left before we would need to replace it. It is on our short list of repairs that we will be doing this year and I was planning on having it done sometime in March but when I went to do laundry yesterday we discovered it was leaking all over the laundry room floor. Needless to say we will be taking care of that ASAP. We have the repairman scheduled for this week and luckily since we were planning on replacing it soon we have the money set aside for it.
So far I have really enjoyed the UFM Challenge. It has made us rethink our purchases and we have definitely paused before buying something and thought about whether or not we really need it. One of the things that has stood out to me is how expensive it is to feed our kids. I am looking forward to when our garden is in full production and we will have nearly free fresh produce every day!
How are you being frugal this week?
When my oldest daughter turned one many years ago she was inundated with so many gifts they filled a small kiddie pool. She was the first grand kid on my side and her dad has a large family plus being the first child of our […]
I was given the opportunity this week to check out a new retirement planning tool by AceYourRetirement.org and although I was not paid for this article it does contain promotional material. I would never post about something I have not tried myself and I always give my honest opinion about any product I recommend.
One of our biggest goals over the past 10 years as a couple has been to maximize the amount we are able to put into retirement savings. It is really easy for families to get sidetracked with everyday expenses and short-term goals such as upcoming vacations or maybe the kids have extra-curricular activities that need paying for and lose sight of the bigger picture. We have been focusing on retirement and ever so slowly our small nest egg has begun to grow. I am really glad we have been focusing on retirement too because my parents did not and now they are struggling to find ways to support themselves after some medical issues popped up. I do not want to put my children through the same kind of stress so by maximizing our retirement savings I am hoping to prevent it.
The fact that 2 out of 5 households do not save for retirement is very worrying. Even small savings steps can pay off in the long run. Our family went from struggling to save 4% to get our full employee match eight years ago to reaching our goal of 10% this year and I am super proud of us. It took a lot of hard work, determination and some aggressive debt repayment but I am finally feeling a little bit more secure about our future. Some of our savings tips can be found here on the blog:
- A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 1: Using Quicken to Build a Buffer
- A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 2: Adjusting our Grocery Spending
- A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 3: Reducing our Clothing Spending
Understanding your exact retirement needs can be confusing sometimes since there are so many ideas on what is the best approach. Here are some simple tips for helping you get started with easy-to-understand resources at AceYourRetirement.org. We follow many of these steps and I found a few more great ideas when I went through the AceYourRetirement.org website. It only took a few minutes too!
5 things to consider to help you maximize your retirement savings.
- Minimize debt – but not at the expense of paying into your 401k or other retirement accounts. The less debt-load you have during your retirement, the more you’ll be able to make your retirement dollars stretch.
- Don’t rely solely on Social Security – in fact people are often recommended to wait until up to age 70 to collect Social Security to allow benefits to grow more.
- Consider whether downsizing your living quarters makes sense once children are grown and out of the house.
- Make sure your beneficiary designations are up-to-date and talk to your spouse to make sure everyone is on the same page.
- If you’ve been divorced but not remarried you may be eligible to Social Security benefits from your ex-spouse.
- Enroll in a retirement savings plan. Even a little bit held out from each paycheck can really add up.
- Never contribute less to your 401k account than your employer matches if they offer a matching program. Save more if possible and increase your savings by 1% per year whenever possible.
This time of year can often get pretty hectic with all financial goals flying out the window. Winter clothes, Christmas presents, and so on. But this year I’m already looking ahead at next year’s goals. The retirement calculator and tool at AceYourRetirement.org was great for personalized, simple tips on how to jumpstart my retirement savings. It was so helpful to me to see a couple areas that I could adjust to help improve the financial situation of our family. Now that we have hit our goal of saving 10% we are looking to increase our retirement savings by 1% every year and try and eventually maximize our contributions. One of the ideas that AceYourRetirement.org mentioned for us was for me to start working again to maximize our Social Security benefits. I have been thinking of going back to work part-time and this has motivated me to start looking for a job! I also love that they recommend you find a hobby to earn extra income during retirement. Just because you retire doesn’t mean you can’t earn extra income!
Taking steps to take control of your retirement planning could have a positive impact in many areas of your life. Many times families save for their kids’ college and leave nothing for themselves to retire on. This puts extra pressure on the kids to support their parents later on in life, something that many young adults may not be prepared both financially and emotionally to do. More than half of people in their 40s and 50s say that feeling more confident about saving for retirement would help them feel less stressed (54%). And 46% would be happier knowing they are taking care of their family’s future. I know I feel better about our retirement path after working through the AARP website AceYourRetirement.org. You should check it out and see what easy steps they have for you!
One of the easiest, cheapest and healthiest snacks I make my kids is dried banana chips. My son absolutely loves them! We buy a couple of bunches of bananas at Costco for $1.39, slice them up and put them into the dehydrator and at the […]
Baking chocolate chip cookies with the kids is one of my favorite family activities. When we had to go dairy and gluten free I was a little upset but I found a way to make chocolate chip cookies with some easy substitutions. Back when we […]
A little while ago I wrote about how we have been working on our budget and how I use Quicken to track our finances. I love the Savings Goals category and it has helped us tremendously the last few months to keep track of how much we have available for our bigger expenses that happen a few times a year. Another way we have been trying to wrangle our budget is by cutting back on our food spending. We rarely eat out. We stopped many years ago when we first started looking at our budget and now that we have food allergies it is nearly impossible to find something that works for everyone. Mr. Oscoey is also an excellent cook and usually when we eat out we are left with the feeling that the money was not worth eating food that we could have made better at home so now we just eat out maybe 5 or six times a year for special occasions.
When we first started looking at our expenses many years ago about the time of the recession of 2008 we did what most people were typically doing around that time. All of our focus went towards paying down debt and getting ahead in our careers. We cut out many things. All of our remodeling plans were on indefinite hold, vacations had to be done on the cheap and we brought our own food for lunch, new clothing was something that required great discussion and personal reflection as to whether it was necessary and we rarely spent money on family activities. We kept our grocery budget tight and managed to spend about $400 for three people and two small dogs. Our food got a little predictable but we got really good at making meals out of whatever was in the fridge. We followed these simple rules to keep our grocery budget in check.
Frugal Food Spending Basics
- Eating out should be saved for a few special occasions a year. (Birthdays do not necessarily count)
- Shop sales and buy frequently used items in bulk.
- Plan you meals around what you have in the house.
- Buy produce that is in season and buy a lot of it to can, freeze or dehydrate.
- Buy meat that has not been cut into convenience sized pieces and cut it yourself. (whole pork loin, pork shoulder, bone-in/skin on chicken thighs)
- Spend a limited amount of money on junk food and cook/bake the rest.
- Going out for coffee counts as one of your rare “eating out” times and should be avoided if at all possible.
- Learn how to cook your own food, believe me it is worth it!
- Keep portion sizes under control.
- Pack your lunch every day.
- Planned leftover dinner nights help prevent food waste.
I look back on that time with my husband with fondness. We really worked together as a family to make things work. Our oldest daughter swam competitively and we spent our family time in the cheapest hotel room we could find wherever her competitions were located. The three of us spent a lot of time hanging out at home and going on walks with the dogs. Life was pretty simple and even though we didn’t have a lot of wiggle room with our finances we still had a bunch of fun.
Everything changed when we had our second daughter. Our grocery budget doubled when she started solid foods and we were still buying whatever was on sale, mostly non-organic foods that were not processed. Slowly our super tight budget began to slip as our expenses grew. We moved a couple of years ago and then promptly had our son who was super high needs as a baby. Let me tell you when you are up all night with a screaming child and then trying to stay awake all day with kids that do not nap (even your six month old) it is really easy to give in and buy whatever you can microwave for the kids to eat. By the time dinner rolled around I was too exhausted to cook and since our kids needed to eat before Mr. Oscoey came home from work he could not cook dinner either. Needless to say our grocery budget went out the window and one day after the one year old started sleeping through the night I looked over our budget and was shocked by how much we were spending.
The first thing I did was to focus on what we were eating and when we were buying our food. It turned out that we were not really paying attention at all to what we actually needed but buying things willy-nilly when we were in the mood for them which resulted in a lot of uneaten food and things being buried in the back of the pantry. We were going to the grocery store almost every day to pick up one or two items and ending up with a basket of food. This my friends is not a good way to keep your grocery budget in check!
Once I figured out why we were spending so much I started to try and figure out how to fix it. I spent some time on Pinterest building up my Frugal Living board where I got some great tips, started paying attention to prices when I went to the store and started working on a grocery list every week. We buy most of our groceries at Costco so I when I pre-entered my scheduled transactions every month in Quicken I started adding my weekly grocery budget in there as well. This way I had a rough idea of how much we could spend every week and I definitely adjust it based on the previous week. Some weeks we only buy meat and a starch and others we stock up on most of our basics so it really varies but it is ok as long as we stay within our monthly budget.
What has worked for us so far is to have a rough idea of what we are eating for dinner that week and I try to buy as little as possible and make it work. If something is on sale I will stock up and most of our grocery money will go towards that item. We are mostly dairy and gluten free and the kids can’t have nuts packed in their school lunches so it gets a little tricky when I am trying to figure out what to send. I am required to send milk with the littlest one and he will only drink chocolate soy milk so I have been watching the prices on the individual Silk Soy Milk cartons and when they are below $1.00 each I buy as many as possible. Fred Meyers had them on sale a few weeks ago for $4.49 for a pack of 6 when you bought four so I bought four of them and got an excellent deal! I would have bought another four but I bought the last four they had. We also base what we are going to eat off of what is on sale. This week we bought a whole pork loin at Costco because they had them on coupon. It is much cheaper to buy the whole loin and cut it up yourself than to buy the pre-cut pieces. We have done this for many years and it is a great way to save money on meat!
Once I figured where our money was going I spent a couple of more months slowly building up our pantry so that we had items on hand when we could not go to the store due to either time constraints or when we had reached the end of our budget. This readily available stash of basics also serves as our emergency food supply. Everyone should have a couple of weeks worth of necessities stocked up! Here in the Pacific Northwest we worry about earthquakes and windstorms primarily but your emergency food supply can also be used in times of financial stress such as if you lose your job or are injured and paying large amounts of money for medical care. I buy one or two items a week to add to the pantry for leaner times. This week we bought some pre-made Spanish rice packets on clearance at Target. They were about $1.50 each and we bought three of them so our total was about $5.00. We also bought some sardines on sale at Costco which my husband and kids love to eat for lunch with avocados. To stock up we just bought two packs instead of one. They should last until the next sale and we can use them if the power ever goes out for a quick meal. It is really important that you stock your emergency food supply with items you will actually eat in every day life otherwise you will end up with a lot of food you will never eat. If we happen to buy something that we don’t end up eating I usually donate it to the local food bank or to someone in need on our Buy Nothing group.
When figuring out our monthly food budget I also looked at what type of things we were eating and tried to add more cheap carbs such as potatoes, cereal, beans and rice to make our dollar stretch farther. We now do a vegetarian/low meat meal at least once a week and usually it consists of a soup (lentil, bean, or noodle based) with vegetables that are needing to be eaten and home made chicken broth from leftover chicken bones, spaghetti with leftover meat and extra veggies added to the sauce or burritos made with rice, beans and leftover meat. I try and have the kids eat cereal or oatmeal a few times a week and they eat eggs almost every day for breakfast as well. We stopped buying junk food and are all eating healthier as a result.
Another way we tried to save money on our grocery bill was to grow a garden. This year was our first year so we had to buy a lot of gardening supplies such as plant boxes, soil, trellises and hoses so we definitely spent more than we saved but I think over time our costs will go down and we may begin to save a little money. It was well worth it for us to see the magic in our kids eyes when they eat the food they helped grow and we are eating more organic foods because we do not use pesticides. Every day my kids ask to pick ground cherries and that is their afternoon snack. All of our ground cherry plants are freeloaders that sprouted from last year’s $3.00 plant sale find so that was definitely money well spent! We haven’t really had to buy vegetables for a few weeks and we are overrun with tomatoes at the moment so I have really been enjoying the savings on our grocery bill! I would recommend starting out small if you haven’t ever grown a garden before and be mindful of how much water you will be using since that is a hidden cost of gardening.
Overall our quest to reduce our groceries has mostly been about awareness and working on not overspending. Every time we go to the store we ask ourselves if we really need whatever item or if we could just use something on hand. We are really working hard at not wasting our food and building our weekly shopping trip off of what we already have, not what we would fancy at the moment. Our bill has gone down a little and we still need to work on that but we are headed in the right direction and now that we are more aware it is becoming so much easier to keep track! My focus over the next few months is to reduce our grocery bill by about 25% which is a lot going though the holiday season. We host Thanksgiving, birthdays and events for our friends over the next few months so not going overboard with the cooking will be a welcomed challenge.
How are you cutting back on your grocery bill?
We have had a super busy summer and I was really bummed that we missed the July blueberry picking season. Our bushes are only a couple of years old and don’t produce anywhere near enough berries for us to freeze. They were eagerly eaten every […]