I get 2-3 emails a week asking how I get so much done & for tips. So here’s the way I do it…
I had a serious problem with over-working and just had to schedule stuff. Tommy Lanham once told me that time isn’t manageable but priorities are. The very first thing I did was cut out TV and learned to not answer the phone unless I really had time to talk for a minute. It’s amazing how much extra time I had when i turned off the TV. I now watch about 2 hours per week. I plan EVERYTHING…
Food / Menus / Cooking – I have a menu plan that has a shopping list on the back – I go through my cabinets & see what I have left. Then I try to use those things in the next week’s menu. After I plan the menu (I plan 7 breakfasts, 3 lunches & 3 dinners), I make my shopping list on the back of the same paper. Then I go through my coupons & see what I’ve got to work with. I let the kids help me once we get to the grocery store (they each have their list & coupons to match up) – it also counts as a homeschool math lesson AND quality time w/ Mommy instead of a chore. I also keep a running list on the fridge for stuff I think of during the week that I need. EVERY trip to the grocery store costs money so I stay out as much as possible. I typically can feed a family of 4 for around $60 per week. Including paper stuff, toiletries, HBA stuff, I budget $100 per week and at the end of the month, I usually have $50 left over. I never throw anything away: my grandma used to take the inside bag from a box of cereal & tear it open, wipe it down and use it for wax paper. She was quite a wealthy woman… I learned a lot from her.
As for cooking, I typically cook 2-3 big things at once & put it in the fridge for the week. This week, I made chili and lasagna. I only need to make sandwiches or salad to go with it and dinner is done each night. Meal planning is a must if you’re going to save money on the grocery bill. I shop the loss leaders (those things on the front page of the ads that the store actually loses money on) and I don’t buy anything that isn’t on my grocery list. I buy generic toilet paper, I stock up on stuff when I find a good sale. I make a LOT of stuff from scratch – yes, I know most don’t have time to cook from scratch but with a little planning, it’s very easy. Keep reading. I make everything from scratch – it’s hard the first 2 weeks. Then you have the hang of it & the stuff on hand to do it. Buy a whole chicken – cut the breasts off for a recipe, pull the pieces off for the freezer or another recipe, boil the bones & add the stuff to make your own chicken stock. Feed the bones to the dog. A whole chicken is less than $4 and you’ve just gotten 3 meals and a day’s worth of dogfood out of it! I haven’t gone through a drive-thru in 10 months. I made that commitment this year and have stuck with it. It’s made a HUGE difference in our grocery budget (we hardly EVER eat out anymore, unless it’s a special occasion).
Never Waste – I don’t throw away any foods. At the end of the week, if we have some cereal at the bottom of the box, a few raisins left, throw in a few peanuts and we make our own trail mix. Each night, as my children finish their dinners, anything left on their plate goes into a small divided microwaveable plate and in a day or two, we re-heat what was left & they make another meal out of it. Leftover spaghetti, I put it in a 8×8 dish, put the leftover sauce on top, sprinkle some cheese and you have baked spaghetti!
Cleaning – I clean the house as I go – I typically have one big cleaning day every 2-3 weeks but every night after everyone’s in bed, I go through the house and pick up stuff for about 10 minutes. I’ve heard some people suggest setting a timer and making yourself stop after a certain amout of minutes. I do all the laundry up once on the weekend and once mid-week. I make my own laundry detergent – that saves a bundle and it lets the kids be involved in making stuff from scratch. I’m passing on the thrifty tradition! Laundry Detergent Link: http://tipnut.com/10-homemade-laundry-soap-detergent-recipes/ (I’ve had success with liquid recipe #8 and powdered recipe #9.)
Coupons – Coupons are fantastic. If you use them correctly and get in the habit of using them, they are easy money in your pocket. Find them in your local Sunday paper, ask your neighbors & friends to save the coupon section out of their papers for you. There are tons of coupon sites online, too. Always wait until the item is on sale to get the maximum savings. Look for manager’s specials or items that are about to expire and are marked down. Then use your coupon on that item. Make it a priority to eat or freeze these things first.
Stack coupons – that’s when you use a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon on the same item. Keep your coupons organized and up to date. I recently switched from an index card file box to a 3-ring binder with baseball card dividers and page protectors. It helps tremendously! No more digging through my box to find that one coupon I need.
WARNING: Coupons don’t work miracles – it’s thinking about your purchases, deciding what’s essential and changing the way you eat and cook.
Don’t buy frozen foods. It’s a HUGE money waster!
Potatoes – I buy a 5 pound bag of potatoes ($3) at Kroger. I put a few potatoes in the food processor and make some french fries to put in a a couple of ziploc bags to freeze. 1 Bag of Orieda French Fries – $2.71 at Kroger. I put a few in the cheese grater of my food processor (you can also hand grate) and make 2 bags of hash browns to freeze. 1 Bag of Orieda Hash Browns – $2.71 at Kroger. I keep 4 of the larger ones for baking. Baking potatoes (individually wrapped) are $1.19 each at Kroger. I dice up a few to make potato soup and freeze those in my Ziploc baggies. Orieda Diced potatoes = $2.71 at Kroger. That $3 bag of potatoes has made me the equivalent of over $18 worth of stuff I could’ve bought frozen ($2.71 x 5 + 1.19 x 4). And I get the convenience of frozen stuff to throw in the oven for dinner!
Ice Cream – I can buy the ingredients for ice cream (milk, cream, sugar, vanilla and eggs) and make my own ice cream from scratch (no preservatives or additives) in my ice cream maker for about $1.79 per gallon – NOT 1/2 gallon, GALLON. Have the kids help and it becomes a family night activity. MUCH cheaper than stopping at DQ, Baskin Robbins or the local ice cream shop.
Frozen Waffles – I do buy frozen waffles ($1.79 for 8 at Kroger) from time to time but I’ve found a much cheaper way to do this amazing portable breakfast food. There is a Belgian Waffle Mix ($3.00) in the pancake syrup aisle that is just fantastic! We found a waffle maker at a yardsale for $3 and we make our waffles in that maker. Then we freeze them in Ziploc baggies. The kids can go to the freezer, grab a waffle & pop them in the toaster for a quick on-the-go breakfast or snack. The box of waffle mix makes about 32 waffles.
Chicken – You can buy an entire fresh chicken for about $3.00 – put that little guy in a roaster, cut off the breasts for sandwiches and entrees, then pick the pieces off for tops of salads or to use in cassaroles, use the juice as broth. Then boil the carcus and make your own chicken stock to which you can season & add milk for cream of chicken soup.
THINK – I went to the local grocery store yesterday to pick up some bananas & a loaf of bread. They had an entire shelf of bread that had been squished (1/2 the size of what it was supposed to be) and it was marked down to 10 cents per loaf. 10 CENTS!! I bought 6 loaves, came home, toasted all 6 loaves, put into the food chopper and made 3 gallons of breadcrumbs to freeze. Do you know how much Stove Top that is??? Add some seasoning & I’m ready for dressing, use it in meatloaf… And for 10 cents per loaf! THINK about your purchases & options when you find a good deal.
Let me stress the point (here comes the soapbox lecture) that if you are willing to do the work, stay focused and disciplined, you can do this. Groceries is a good place where you can shave some serious dollars off the budget. Your monthly house payment doesn’t change, your internet & phone bill doesn’t fluctuate often… your grocery bill is a place where you can save serious money! If you’re reading this thinking “I could never do this” then stop wasting your time now and go ahead & surf facebook. If you’re already coming up with excuses, it’s not going to work for you. If, however, you are getting excited & intrigued about really doing this, there are some wonderful resources out there. One of my favorites is a book called The $5.00 Dinner Mom Cookbook by Erin Chase and it’s amazing! It tells you how to make a lot of stuff from scratch and how to plan a good, balanced meal for a family of four for under $5.00.
Take an Off Day – One day a week, I take off from work (I work from home so this is kind of hard) & household duties and just play. This is really important and probably the hardest thing for me to do. BUT my productivity soars the rest of the week. There’s a reason God designed a day of rest… Even if you don’t have any other jobs besides running your home, you need a day off, too! If the demands of the household are too much for you to handle being around, leave the house! Go outside, to the park… I used to leave my off days open. Then they would fill up with stupid stuff – spending the morning on facebook, watching TV all afternoon & the day would be gone. Now, I schedule stuff I enjoy so the day won’t get away from me. I schedule scrapbooking days, writing days, art activities with the kids, shopping days, picnic days… There’s nothing wrong with scheduling your off day!! Scheduling time with your kids or spouse is one sure way to work them into your schedule. No, it doesn’t make you a bad parent to have to schedule your kids or hubby into your day… it makes you a proactive spouse and parent! If you think time with your loved ones should come natural, you’re wrong. When my husband comes home, no matter what I’m doing, I stop and greet him at the door. Helps me to focus on him and give him priroity, even if only for a few minutes.
I teach this stuff – if you’re interested in me coming to your organization, church or group to teach these & lots more techniques, contact me.
So there it is… the way I do stuff…. Hope some of it helps!