Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Budgets, Frugality, and Sacrifice

I guess I expected more questions about our lifestyle when I offered. Perhaps it's been very obvious to the people in our church lately (who are on the thicker wallet side of things) that we're skimpers cheap frugal thrifty. But with what I was asked, I'll give a few details.

We spend under $100/wk on groceries (that's less than $75-80 in USD). That's with Havalah in the house. I think the things that we find absolutely necessary are starches, milk, and coffee. I wish it was a healthier list, but it's not, so... oh well. Matt and I drink a lot of coffee. We probably don't have the healthiest eating habits, but it's what works for us. Because of the coffee drinking we go through milk really quickly. Oceana's not big into cereal, so most of the milk goes into baking or coffee. More so coffee. When a recipe calls for milk I use (at least) half and half with water, or almost all water, depending on what the recipe is like. With milk at $5.80 for 4 litres (1 gallon) we really try not to drink it/use it up quickly. We try our best to use only 4 litres a week. We've run out early this week, but that's because we're getting used to having a 3rd adult in the house still. Anyone done that change? Where you go from one to two or three adults in the house? It's funny the things we run out of quicker. Coffee, bread, and milk. :)

We've simply learned to cut foods out. We barely ever buy cheese because when it's on sale it's about $11 for 2lbs of cheese. It was only $5-6 last year on sale, so we've stopped eating cheese almost entirely. Milk went up to, but cheese has been the worst. Matt went on a diet last year (and lost 30+ pounds) and so we've cut out almost all of our junk foods.Once in a while we get a bag of chips, but it's rare. We pop our own popcorn (limits the oil/butter intake) and it's cheap. When popcorn is cents/ounce or cents/100 grams, it's just a simply snack! We barely ever buy soda/fizzy drink. We did buy Raro/KoolAid for a few months, but we drink water instead these days. When we cut out the junk food, we cut about $10 out of our weekly budget, and now we spend that on veges and meat instead.

We are very strict about turning off the lights and we've slowly changing over to low watt bulbs. Honestly, low watt bulbs annoy me, because they're never bright enough. I think I may insist on a few high watt bulbs for reading at night or things like that. High watt bulbs will still be cheaper than visits to the optometrist because we've strained our eyes! :)

I hate my big energy zappers. I don't use a drier at all, obviously, since we don't own one. This saves TONS of money. I can only guess how much it saves us, but driers are big big big energy zappers. We try to do cold water wash if possible. Your hot water cylinder is your MOST EXPENSIVE appliance. Our hot water is on a separate metre and it uses the same amount of energy as the rest of our house in a month! I know that some stuff just NEEDS to be washed in hot water or at least warm, but I've found that most every day stuff doesn't need warm water. This also saves me the time of sorting out the laundry or waiting for a white/colour load to fill up. We don't have a dishwasher now, but when we did, we still didn't use it. It's a BEZ too.

I don't run out to the store for something if I don't have it. This takes a bit more control now, since we live so close to a big supermarket now. But this saves some serious money! The exception to this being a few nights ago when Oceana painted the rental carpet and her clothes and her feet with nail polish and I didn't have enough remover to deal with the situation. (But that was a heart in my throat moment!) It's so easy to think, oh I could make X and then be tempted to run out and get the item. I've learned to hodge-podge my recipes at times. It's all about creativity. And sometimes we have a boring dinner because of it, but we saved money, and we didn't starve.

I'm a brand snob about a few things. Like: Palmolive dish soap. Matt bought me a the cheap version a few weeks ago and I'm more convinced than ever that it's a waste. I use to much more because it doesn't do the job that it doesn't save us any money! I usually buy whatever in terms of hair products, because my hair reacts pretty well. But I do need good conditioner, or else I don't want to leave the house. None of us have sensitive skin, so I buy whatever laundry detergent is on sale, even the Budget brand (yes, NZ has an official "BUDGET" brand). :) We almost always buy Pam's Peanut Butter (but it's still one of the cheap brands), because it's the best tasting (at the store we go to). And anyways, NZ PB has something to be desired, so it's only going to be so great. Sorry NZ, but I miss my PB with sugar in it. Hehehe.

I cook with what's on sale. If pork is on sale, we eat pork. One week we ate shrimp, because it was cheap (We won't do that again soon, Oceana wasn't thrilled, and I wasn't happy about peeling them either). We try to buy two meats a week, and I alternate them by nights. I don't cook vegetarian, simply because I can't think what to make. I get totally confused when I try to cook without meat. I wish I didn't, because I know it would save us money. I know we could eat more beans, but Matt's not to happy about the pinto, navy, chickpea idea. Haha. We have a joke in our house that I don't know how to cook without meat. And it's pretty well true.

I bake/cook, instead of buy. Cookies, rolls, french bread, etc. These are little costs, until you realize how much money you've spent on a little bit of this, a little bit of that. We eat chips (french fries in newspaper) once a week or so. That's a good, cheap meal for us. $4 feeds 4 people a good (fatty) lunch. I don't buy prepared stuff, TV dinners, box foods, or mix and cook stuff. These may be time saves, but they're not money saves most of the time. And most of them aren't that healthy.

If we run out. We run out. Simple as that. If we run out of peanut butter before Friday (shopping day) we don't go out and get more. We eat something else until Friday. The exception to this is milk. Matt and I can't go days without coffee. But the milk shortage only happens about once every two months.

We don't drive around. With petrol prices where they are, we can't run into town for the heck of it. We consolidate trips. Matt and I walk or bike to work occasionally. We'll drop each other off if the other is doing errands. This makes life a bit complicated at times, but we try really hard to keep our petrol spending to a bare minimum. Some weeks it works, others it doesn't. But if you aim for nothing, you're sure to hit it every time.

Matt does the shopping. I know, rare, huh? Matt's the analytical one, like I've said before. He can go shopping with a number in his head and make it home under that number. I usually say, 'Well, I'm sort of close to that number....'. He saves us money by shopping. Sometimes I go, sometimes I don't. I've let go of that "control" thing in that department, and I'm fine with it. Sometimes I'm not thrilled with what comes home, but it's never been a disaster. We work it out. No big deal.

So that's part of how we save money. I hope this is helpful to some of you. Please, don't do it all at once. Your head will explode. And there are DOZENS of frugal momma blogs out there, search them, they have fantastic ideas!


  1. I know you are going to get solicited with a heap of offers, but I have a bunch of vegetarian recipes I've come up with out of pure necesity. (I can't spell that word) If you want, I could e-mail them to you. They are really yummy, and I have ridiculously picky children, and they eat it all.

  2. Thank you for this. I think that I needed to read something like this. Im so famous for going out and getting something we don't have rather then just make something else. I have been bad the last 10 weeks because I have gone back to school full time so we eat like college students. I looked at my account today and figured out that most of our money going out is because we eat out alot. Im going to take what you put in mind and try to work on it. I know that I can do it with a bit of motivation. If someone else can do it why can't I. I do plan my outtings because of the price of gas. Its awful and yes milk here is getting up there. Its over 4 dollars a gallon. YUCK!

  3. I totally do the baking my own bread and making as much as I can from scratch thing too. We also have a garden and can/freeze alot which helps in the winter, and I really think it tastes better too. :) I love that you buy the "budget" brands. I totally do that too...although I agree that there are definitely some things that its just not worth it to skimp on. For me it is diapers. I am a bit of a diaper snob. My daughter got diaper rash from anything but pampers when she was little and once we found something that worked, I just stuck with it. :) Does NZ have discount grocery stores? I grocery shop almost exclusively at the discount store and that helps alot. We also have a scratch and dent store that sometimes has some really good prices.

    Well thanks for the great post on being thrifty! Have a great day :)

  4. I'm curious as to how Oceanna manages to get into so much stuff...nail polish, markers, eyeliner, hair gel, etc. You've certainly had some "colorful" pictures of her in the past!

  5. I know exactly how you feel. My little- no-...he's so big now...-my younger brother just came to live with us.
    He's 17 and 6+ ft tall. We love having him, but teenage boys eat a LOT! My biggest issue is getting time to cook at home. We're always so busy in the evenings. Saving is getting harder, but I see that changing in about three weeks.

  6. Thanks for sharing this and your recipes and grocery list earlier. I feel more motivated to stick to my budget.
    Kudos to Matt for shopping. When my loving husband goes shopping, he comes home with ice cream, donuts and cheese, haha :)

    I'm wondering, if you don't mind, what are your thought on cloth diapers? I have 2 in diapers and am switching over to cloth this month, but I worry about the cost of washing more and in hot (now, we do like you in cold). Do you use cloth?

    Thanks! I appreciate your honesty and openness. We miss you on BF!

  7. Lol, your bit about Matt doing the shopping rang true to me. When we only need a few things, I send my husband if he happens to be around (we are lucky to live 30 seconds from the commissary). When I go, I never come home with just those few things. He always comes home with exactly what I sent him for, nothing else.

  8. lol - i remember that first week of living with you guys back in 06 - Matt bought exactly what he always did and 2-3 days before grocery days, everything was gone - quite funny actually! I have to say , you guys are better than students!

  9. Hehehe to the poster above who wants to know how Oceana gets into so much, my guess is you don't have a toddler. It's amazing how much they can find (and destroy) in about 15 seconds!

    Thank you for the tips, they are good ones! :-) My veg recipes usually involve cheese, which you avoid, so I apologize that I'm no help :-(

  10. Excellent thriftiness! I wish I could trust my dear husband at the store but he's like a kid at a toy store and comes home with 40 cheese because he thought the wrapper was neat. Yikes. that and I love me some food shopping, its acceptable spending in my book!

    I too am a brand snob on somethings and palmolive is one of them. I keep trying to explain that if it doesnt work as well what does it matter that its cheaper. And lets face it with little ones the soap better work!

  11. Two vegetarian options that can never be denied: Stuffed shells (Jumbo shells, ricotta cheese in the middle, pour marinara sauce on top and bake) And fried rice (rice, two scrambled eggs, onion and peas, tossed in a wok with soy sauce and/or hot sauce) I'm telling you, the fried rice is a LIFE SAVER!

  12. Since we're sharing frugality tips, have you considered using compact fluorescent light bulbs? Yes, they are an expense up front but they have cut our electric bill in half and they last 10 times longer and they don't emit heat so they are safe around small children (I too have a very busy toddler who gets into EVERYTHING). Also, there's a so-called "european" washer-dryer that washes and dries in the same machine. They don't cost as much as you might think. Consider that your time is also worth $$ and going through all the motions of hanging your laundry in and out repeatedly in order to avoid the rain is costing you a lot to that end.

  13. Yep, I'm with ya...we do similar things, but I was laughing because I'm the same way about Palmolive dish soap. The cheap stuff just doesn't work as well or last as long because you have to use more! We stopped driving as much as possible, and I shop at farmer's markets all summer, so I get organic & cheap because of the area we live! Anyway. Thanks. I love reading your blog. It makes my day many times...I never realized how much we think similarly until I started reading what you write...!

  14. Loved reading that... thanks for sharing. :)