Guest post from Lisa of Cooking Up A Sale
I can feed my family of 6 for $10 a week! It’s really not very much work. I hardly spend any time at all hunting down deals! And you can do it too!
Okay, not really. I wrote the above tongue-in-cheek, because I’ve never heard anyone claim that.
But reading stories like this can be frustrating as you work to lower the number at the cash register. To avoid frustration when trying to cut grocery and household expenditures, keep it real… by keeping these things in mind:
There is no magic, one-size-fits-all formula.
It’s easy to read those “How I Feed my Family of X on $X Per Month” and get frustrated, discouraged, and even annoyed. “I’ll never get my grocery bill that low, because my daughter has a food allergy/my husband won’t eat meatless dinners/we eat all organic/my store doesn’t double coupons/I don’t have a garden.”
Maybe you’re right. Maybe your monthly grocery bill won’t ever be as low as the author’s. But remember that you will never find another family exactly like yours with all the same ages, appetites, allergies, taste preferences, access to discount stores, and so forth. This means that your approach to saving money on grocery and household items won’t be identical to anyone else’s.
Instead of getting frustrated, take what you can from the article or blog post and move on. And then read another article or blog post and take what you can from that one. Pick and choose your savings strategies to create your customized cost-cutting plan.
The savings will not fall in your lap.
If you want to see that dollar amount drop, it’s going to take some work.
There are so many free resources available, from coupon classes and food trucks to deal-matching websites and frugal-living blogs. But you have to make the effort to find them!
Likewise, any advice you read will not do you any good if you don’t put it into practice. You can read one article after another about how to menu-plan, clip coupons, find good deals on produce, can and freeze in season, and get your toiletries for free, but if you don’t follow through on what you’ve learned, you won’t see the savings.
Time is money.
I’ll never forget that important lesson taught by my high school economics teacher! Not only do you have to put the effort into following through on money-saving advice and strategies, but all that follow-through takes time.
Matching up sales with coupons, making all your kids’ snacks from scratch, planting a garden… those are all great ways to save money, but each requires a time commitment.
You can’t expect to shave your expenditures very much if you’re not willing to commit at least a small amount of time to money-saving tasks. Stated positively, this means that, in general, the more time you spend working on ways to save money, the more money you’ll save.
It’s all about making choices… and compromises.
For example: because of my time and space constraints (and my brown thumb!) I paid to join a CSA instead of planting a garden. Secondly, although I know that eating rice and beans for supper one or more nights each week would save us money on food, I decided to try to stretch our meat a little further rather than serving meatless meals.
- Maybe eating all organic produce is important to you.
- Maybe you have multiple small children, so you decide you aren’t going to play the drugstore game.
- Maybe you really need to tighten your belt, so you decide you’re going to have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch (or supper!) all month.
- Maybe baking isn’t your strong suit, so you decide to purchase snacks instead of make them from scratch.
All of these are choices that will affect the grocery line item of your budget. Some choices make it go up, and some choices make it go down.
Decide what’s important to you and your family, and then plan accordingly. And remember, different things are important to different people and this means that we all choose to spend (and save!) our money differently. Instead of getting frustrated with bloggers or commenters who make different choices than you, strive to appreciate the fact that there are so many different ways to save money.
There’s nothing new under the sun.
Well, maybe there is once in awhile. If you’re a newbie to frugal living, there’s probably a lot of new-to-you information available. But if you’re an experienced coupon-clipper/sale-shopper/
Sure, it’s fun to discover a new way to save money on food and household items, but as a rule, the same basics (coupons, discounted produce, menu-planning, stockpiling) are preached by everyone for good reason: they work.
Don’t get frustrated when bloggers or others don’t constantly spoon-feed you new information. Instead, challenge yourself to think outside the box all on your own — and then have fun passing your own money-saving idea on to others!
It’s important to be realistic about our savings efforts so that we don’t get frustrated and decide to quit trying. Let’s all remember to encourage each other in our savings endeavors!
Lisa is a Michigan wife and mother who loves to spend time in the kitchen. She enjoys the challenges of menu-planning around grocery sales and creating delicious food using on-sale ingredients. Lisa blogs about two of her favorite topics – food and saving money on groceries – at www.cookingupasale.blogspot.
Omw thanks so much for writing this….there were times I have read those how I feed my family on X per month…and think I am such a bad wife and Mom I am spending much more than that. I have struggled with it. So much so I almost stopped reading the blog for awhile then the Lord reminded me my kids go to a school where they have to have their lunch packed each day so we have to spend more buying bottled water/juice, bread for sanwhiches every day and items to go in lunch sacs, anf also I have three boys, and a husband, and work part time outside the home and can’t spend thd entire weekend making meals and so on….when a person stood comparing their lives to others lives the frustration has a way if dissipating. Thank you for validating my thoughts whatever a person can do to save $ do, but don’t compare your life to someone else’s that often leads to stress, frustration, and discontentment.
My biggest money-loser is not using it up before it needs to go to the compost! We have 4-5 adults in the house, two are volunteer ff/EMTs, and we do not have a single “normal” day when we know we will have people home for the meals!!
I fix a pot of oatmeal for breakfast 9 months of the year (unless I have that rare urge to do French toast or pancakes from scratch.) I try to fix a pot of rice at least once a week, put part in the fridge and freeze a bag flattened and ‘scored’ so I can break off the number of servings I need, have lentils or canned beans ready to mix in along with some chopped veggies and either chutney, korma, or salsa. It is almost soup season here, where I make a big pot and hope it will last for two days!
The ordinary everyday ingredients are good. It’s things like cilantro, limes or lemons, lettuce, and the occasional apple or banana or tomato that don’t make it. I think my only choice is to buy them only when I am going to go directly home and make that recipe the same day. With a small fridge and lots of produce, leftovers get put in ziplocks and often end up missing in action until the science experiment emerges a week or two later. Boo and hiss.
Well, writing this out helped. I’m heading to the fridge to pull out the cilantro and red peppers and lime and making some cowboy caviar!
Yes! With 5 small children and a husband w a crazy law enforcement work schedule, I don’t have time to hit multiple grocery stores or drug stores for deals. Sometimes I don’t even know im going to be able to run to the store till the last minute. And I’ve even had groceries delivered to my home-shudder! What I do have time to do is work from hm to supplement our income and balance out the finances that way. Definite take away-every family is different, don’t try to carbon copy someone else’s family, do what works for you in your particular season of life and be willing to be flexible and rethink things as seasons and circumstances change.
I agree! Always take the “grocery cart approach” – Just pick up what you need and leave the rest! Brings such peace that way.
I loved your post! I agree: take a little bit from each person’s ideas and make your own plan! I have to share my experience. I recently switched shopping at the local store and started going to a sprawling discount store in the suburbs. It involves a little more drive time (10-15 minutes each way) but, without doing anything else, I have cut my weekly bill by about 40 dollars! It is a significant savings to me, well worth the extra time and the little bit of gas. It might not be right for you, but I’m putting it out there to help jog your creative juices!
Like real estate, it depends on location. If the blogger lives in the mid-west, they are definitely going to spend less money than me to feed their families BEFORE coupons. I live in an expensive state where a tube of toothpaste for $1 after using 2 coupons is considered cheap. Free toothpaste is a myth from my point of view.
In addition, some of these bloggers are SAHM where they have more time at home than a working mom. Not that a SAHM is not working, but they have more control over their schedule to clip coupons and schedule chores, etc. For me, all the home chores could only be done on the weekends. And with a toddler, there is no way I have time to take advantage of certain frugal deals and activities.
Knowing something about the background of the blogger helps put things in perspective.
Do you have a Target nearby? If so, you should be able to get free toothpaste there:
Toothpaste on sale is about $2.50 a tube. Even with a $1 off manufacturer coupon and a $0.50 to $1 Target coupon, I would still have to pay $0.50 to $1 a tube. Then when you add in the 8% sales tax, I still have to pay$0.70 to $1.20 for toothpaste. I tried, but I’ve never gotten free toothpaste!
Did you check on the particular toothpaste I just linked to above? You should be able to get it free with the coupons linked in the post as the price listed is what it is priced at most Target stores nationwide (at least it was last week). And Target frequently has similar deals.
You may have to pay $0.15 or so for tax (we have a similar tax rate as yours here, so I know how that goes!), but that’s still better than paying $1 for a tube of toothpaste!
Keep your eyes peeled; there are deals out there for free or almost-free toothpaste in almost every single area of the country!
Also, I’m not sure if you have any drug stores in your area, but Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens often have toothpaste that’s free or more-than-free after the instant rebate.
I thought I was immune but the truth is I get crazy when I read posts from folks that can garden year round. I suppose I’m a little jealous.
Leah Ingram says
I love your tip about the CSA–it’s money well spent. I tried doing my own garden for the past few years, and all it led to was sunburn and frustration, and not a lot of produce. I should have rejoined the CSA this year!
With so many desl sites and couponing television shows sharing examples of how yet another person got $157 worth of groceries for $0.01…it can become overwhelming. I always suggest that people subscribe to and folliw sites that inspire and motivate them rather than those that frustrate.
The Deal Mommy says
LOVE this post! I feel the same way about travel. I hear from so many people “I wish I could travel like you”. YOU CAN, you just don’t! The info is out there, we bloggers can lead you to it, but YOU are the one who has to step up and make it happen.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I quit reading a number of frugal blogs months ago for this very reason. Every family, every community, and every situation are all very different. I work full-time during the school year and I have learned that I have to focus on what is most important: taking care of my family. Spending time with my husband and children, keeping a (somewhat) clean home, making a decent dinner, keeping everyone in clothes, getting organized for the next day. I am also working on cutting out processed foods. The more I study, the more uncomfortable I become with the unrecognizable ingredient lists. Coupons are rare for many basic food items. I make a lot of food (but not all) from scratch, bake, and make some of my own cleaning supplies. I don’t feel that we spend all that much on food. I try to keep a decent stockpile and well organized pantry and that really limits my trips to the store, which ultimately helps save money. All in all, I have learned to show myself grace and to think about what is really best for my family versus what works for everyone else.
I enjoyed reading your post. You articulated many things I was thinking. I’m new to frugal living (well, since graduating from college 15 yrs ago) and yes, I get a little annoyed with the bloggers who claim they pay so little for groceries and know how to work those coupons to do so. For example, one blogger I read claimed that the she could buy her diapers for $3 bucks or even get them free on a consistent basis. As a mom of 3, I find that pretty hard to believe unless using cloth diapers. I’ve never been able to find free diapers even with coupons & sales. I don’t compare myself to these people; I simply think that they are very misleading to their reading audience to make such claims: there seems to be some omisions made on how they live on “next to nothing” & with little explaining. So, I shy away from even visiting blogs such as these.
What has helped me more than anything is learning about menu planning for a month at a time & batch cooking/baking for the freezer. Money saving mom has been a true blessing to inspire me as to what I can do better for my family. I was spending about $200 per week for groceries & houshold items/diapers, but have been able to cut almost in half since I’ve created simple menus for the month, shopping at Costco for bulk items to fulfill the menu items, and baking & cooking up triple batches for the freezer. I’ve also learned that our outdoor produce market has better prices than in our grocery store, so I shop there as well. As far as coupons…I use them if it something we already buy or use, but I’m not one to “chase” these super deals if I have to burn gas to get one item from one store. Time (and gas) are money. Maybe some day I’ll be able to grow my garden and do more, but I feel accomplished & come a long way that I can make these small efforts to stretch our dollar more. Thanks for the post! 🙂
This article is awesome and a great reminder.
Lisa I agree with your statement Time is Money and would push this concept further by looking at the big picture. To get the actual cost savings on groceries you have to subtract the value of your time spent on couponing activities, shopping, prep, cooking, clean up, cost of non-food supplies and storage space, mileage, cost of energy to run appliances. Looking at the big picture will id the true cost savings if any and areas where we may be able to save further.
Thank-you all for the kind, positive comments! I love reading through these comments because so many of you have great things to add about this topic. See, we *all* have good ideas to share 🙂 As some of you have already said, let’s just keep doing the best we can with what we have in the place God has put us.
Loved reading your article, Lisa! great job as always 🙂 I enjoyed reading a lot of the comments too; lots of good advice for me b/c i have gotten frustrated too and have kinda just quit w/ my coupons and have tried saving money in other places. I really need to start again though! How encouraging to read so many nice comments on here!
Very intelligent, well-written, and encouraging posts. I agree w/ the post above . . . one of the best articles on this site! Thx for writing Lisa, and thx for posting MSM!
Marie Riley says
This was one of the best articles I’ve ever read on this site. I spend just about every penny of my much larger grocery budget, but I’m so much happier than I was when I was obsessed with getting bargains! I did it with gusto when we were trying to get out of debt, but now that we are debt free I really like the freedom to spend more on food.
J in VA says
I enjoyed reading everyone’s responses to the post. I don’t read that many frugal blogs but had the response described by many of you when I went to afrugal meals talk that a local mom gave.
We are very particular about food ingredients, and the source of our food. I can’t/won’t just go to any store and pick up X. I make many things from scratch and won’t buy meat at the grocery store. I’m not being elitist–that is what my husband wants and we feel better eating this way.
We also discovered, for us, eating this way has virtually eliminated medical bills–so when you take that out of the budget–there is a lot more for good food.
Jenny in UT says
The title alone won me over! And the ideas in the article were icing on the cake. Thanks for sharing.
I’ve been meaning to comment because this post really resonates. I enjoy deal hunting, but if I’m honest with myself I’m only willing to spend so much time on it and sometimes I like to indulge.
I shop sales, clip coupons, shop the produce, meat, and bread outlets in our area, and yet a $50 weekly grocery budget for my family of 4 + 1 pet has eluded me.
Then I got real and acknowledged to myself:
1. I include toiletries and paper products in my grocery budget. Some weeks we do eat on $50 a week, but still spend $30 on non food items because I don’t have time for the drugstore game to save on toiletries and we use a lot of paper towels.
2. I’ve managed to sneak in a few meatless meals (my Dad was a vegetarian and I grew up that way) but my husband (who grew up with meat at every meal) would never be satisfied with meatless meals every day.
3. We have a cat and we are brand loyal for her food. Our vet said we should feed her the same brand consistently so we only feed her Iams. We used to feed her Hills Science Diet but switched to Iams because it has more coupons and sales and is available at almost any grocery story – whereas we had to make special trips to pet and garden stores just to get Hills Science Diet.
4. Most of the time we aren’t brand loyal, but there are some exceptions: I will only eat Hienz Ketchup, and my husband will only use Colgate toothpaste. He hates the taste of Crest for some reason. Luckily Colgate is often on sale and gives out a lot of coupons.
5. My toddler is still in diapers. Once he’s out of diapers both of my kids will eat more so I don’t expect any savings once he’s potty trained.
6. We live in the high-cost of living New England area.
Due to the above, I am happy if we can keep our weekly grocery budget under $100, which we can – often. But other weeks when the stockpile gets low it gets up to $120 every few weeks and I’m fine with that.
Christy Carden says
As far as the brand loyal. We are brand loyal on few things too. One is Dove sensitive skin soap for my husband (excema) – he will use Publix and CVS version. Stock up when it is on sale. When I can score a great deal on another brand of soap, I use it. So, if you can get Crest or Aquafresh or something free or almost free, maybe you can use it and let your husband keep using the Colgate. That stretches out the Colgate’s life more (or in our case Dove’s life). Only saves a little but every little bit helps!
We have a 15 year old cat that we buy cat food for $1.50 at Walmart. She hasn’t seen a vet in 10 years. 🙂
Thank you Crystal for posting this article! Articles like this are the very reason I keep coming back to MSM daily instead for the other money saving/deal sites.
Carrie Beth says
I also thank you for this article!!! So, so true- most of us can figure out how to be thriftier in the place God has put us if we are willing- reading the same advice over and over can sometimes only bring us to a point of condemnation or give us reasons to make excuses.
Such an encouraging post and a good reminder to take what is APPLICABLE to you and your situation.
SUCH an encouraging post. Thank you so much for the ideas and advice.:-)
These are all great tips Thank you for sharing
I really like this post. I do the best I can on the foods I need for my family. Our family needs to eat dairy free and that is more expensive on certain items. I enjoy trying to find the best deals I can.
I want to live in a state of grace or harmony as often as possible. I can’t seem to coupon/double coupon/rebate/store card and feel how I want to feel. I can feel content and peaceful when I am baking. I think we need to consider how things make us feel, when choosing our own path to daily spending. IF you love to garden, then do that. Share with others. For those that love to coupon, do that. Share with others. I would gladly trade some garden veggies for something a Coupon Queen picked up cheaply or free.
I know that some folks feel that they do not have the luxury of choosing which methods to follow. To them, I would gently ask if they are open to Receiving. We need to share, give and receive. I have learned how hard it can be to receive. But, the time may come where you Need to utilize a food pantry, food stamps or other assistance. I know that this is hard but do it anyway. There are people who want to help you. Let them.
I love this comment. I don’t enjoy couponing, but I do like to browse the sales flyer each week and make my list from that.
This is one of the best articles I’ve read on MSM! The author has said many of the things I have thought many times, especially that my family situation is unlike anyone else’s. Feeding five adults, which is what I did until recently (and one of those adults ate a lot of snacks in an attempt to – yes – gain weight), is a lot different than feeding two adults and one or two young children. Honestly, the biggest help for my grocery budget has been the loss of two of those adults when they moved into their own place. Still, I need to remember that we are probably spending less than many of the families we know because we shop only at discount stores (Aldi, PriceRite, Walmart as opposed to Wegmans). Budgeting is, after all, an individual thing, based on where you live, family size, and one’s values. For instance, we continue to pay for cable, primarily because my husband is medically disabled from cancer and often, all he can do, especially in the evenings, is sit in front of the TV and watch documentaries or old movies. In return, for example, we do not go on vacations (probably couldn’t anyway with his health). From the comments I read, it seems like many of need to be continually reminded to do the best we can and stop comparing ourselves to others!
The Prudent Homemaker says
When a friend of mine from high school left home to serve a mission, his mother said it cost less each month to pay for his mission than it did to feed him at home!
Ginny, I wish your husband well. It cannot be easy to be going through such challenges.
I would agree that sometimes keeping the cable is a good thing. When one is ill sometimes just having t.v. gets your mind off of being sick and having pain.
God bless! 🙂
Excellent article. Thank you!
Favorite article yet! Thanks.
Frankly, the Web is oversaturated with saving money, couponing and frugal living blogs that at times it can be overwhelming. So I try to stick to local blogs and the money-saving blogs that also offer different things like MSM does such as her Freezer Cooking and Educational Freebie posts. I really hate that some blogs that are supposed to save you money end up posting numerous daily deal site offers or other online deals. As someone who just recently got out of major credit card debt, the last thing I want to do is add more debt to my credit card. That’s not exactly saving money or being frugal.
Thanks for the reminders that comparison gets you nowhere. I’m reminded of something I read recently–don’t compare yourself to others, but compare yourself to yourself. Are you doing better or worse than YOU were a year ago or three years ago? If you’re happy with the progress that you’ve made, super! If you still see room for improvement, then go for it. And if you’re doing your personal best at this season of your life, then don’t guilt yourself into thinking you should do more or better.
I really appreciated the choices/compromises paragraph, too. Thanks, Lisa!
I like this post. I used to, at times, be jealous of other posts for some of the same reasons… my store doesn’t take that competitor, I never get X off XX coupons, my regional coupons aren’t as good, etc. It was a passing gggrrr and I moved on. I actually felt a pinch when a lot of the great drug store deals dried up. I used to make money shopping at Rite Aid and hardly ever paid more than a few dollars for diapers. I was actually able to spend $50 per week for a family of 4, with two in diapers, and pets. My spending jumped to around $65-70. I started looking for other ways to save. I cook more from scratch, use reward programs to earn gift cards, and transfer prescriptions to get gift cards. It helps some, but I think my $50 days are gone unless I am willing to give up some things I really enjoy… at this point, I am unwilling to do that so I’ll pay a little more and be grateful for what I have.
A Mom says
I really appreciate this post. I don’t get discouraged when I read blog posts where authors are feeding there children for dollars a day, but I do find that I follow fewer and fewer of them when it seems they are somewhat misleading with those figures whether intentional or not. While it may be true that someone spent X amount of dollars to feed their family of Y, you really have to look at the individuals to make a true comparison because let’s face it….a mom trying to spend $30-40 a week on her groceries while feeding teenage boys is much different than a mom of littles, like me, because they simply don’t eat as much.
I would also add that you have to be careful with these comparisons when you are talking about percentages or dollars saved at the grocery store. Knowing that Kroger, Dillons, or CVS in my area is significantly higher than Walmart, I would be careful to say that I saved 60% off my grocery bill because in reality if I had been shopping at Walmart to begin with where the prices are lower that percentage might have been 40% (to use an arbitrary number). So sometimes the savings aren’t really as big as they might appear on various blogs.
I say all of this to encourage others to not make the comparison and to not let yourselves feel defeated when you don’t have the same results as others. Don’t waste precious time comparing apples to oranges. Track your own spending and see what kind of improvements you are making in your own budgets and goals and not worry about what someone else is doing. At the end of the day we are each accountable for what we do with what the Lord has blessed us with. If you are struggling in an area, I encourage you to commit it to prayer and let the Lord lead and guide you in the matter.
Good points. Usually when I see post where 95% or greater savings occur, there are several money making vitamins and only a few items that I would actually want or use. I don’t mean that people shouldn’t be happy to get overages with vitamins or whatever, only that items I would really use rarely give 95% savings.
I also agree with the percentage comparisons! I usually shop at the military commissary which is (supposedly…although I do believe it!) 30% cheaper than the grocery store. I am pretty happy to save about 10% or so at the commissary. I think the highest it has ever been was around 15%. I do spend a lot more on groceries than these frugal bloggers, but I’m ok with that.
I’m not sure that it’s wise for everyone to get your grocery spending rock-bottom low, UNLESS you must because your overall budget is very tight.
I lived in Europe for a while, and attitudes towards food are quite different there. Food is enjoyed and valued! A meal is something to be enjoyed with others, not bolted down so that kids can rush off to other activities. It’s been 10 years, so perhaps things have changed, but I observed that people were willing to spend a greater portion of their incomes on quality groceries.
For example, if a person is making a dish, she will make it so that is the best that it can be – proper cooking techniques (no frozen pizza or canned cream soups), quality ingredients, and no subbing in applesauce to make it low fat.
On a side note, their waistlines are much, much smaller. Not a coincidence.
Anyway, there are some major cultural differences at play here, and I am not naive enough to think we will all live the French way here in America. But I do try to keep some of the things I learned in mind as I go about my meal planning.
Thank you for adding this.
Marie Riley says
We were on a tight grocery budget while we were paying off our debt, but we spend a lot more on groceries now and I just couldn’t be happier. I’m enjoying cooking new and different foods, I’m so much LESS stressed out about what I’m going to make for dinner and life is just so much easier.
Our food and medical bills are astronomical due to my lung issues plus the medications are sending my blood sugar through the roof so processed foods/sugar are gone and that is just how it is right now. There is nothing to be done about it so we cut from other areas. Luckily, the two little ones are not picky and will happily eat nut butter sandwiches and veggie sticks for lunch as many days as we will allow. I can’t garden this year so we ran the numbers and joined a CSA, it should still run significantly cheaper than the grocery store/farmers market. We are planning trips to pick your own fruit farms as family outings and I cook from scratch when I am feeling well- today I started kimchi. Comparing myself to anyone else is pointless and setting up discontent, overall life is pretty good even if our food budget is ridiculous. We all do the best we can with what we have and I think that is all anyone can realistically expect.
Christy Carden says
I agree! I have fallen off the coupon bandwagon because of time constraints (full time teacher, 2 kids). Now that it is summer, I am hoping to get back into a little. I have tried to cut back on processed food (not 100%, but cut back drastically) and so I don’t even see that many deals and coupons I want to use anymore. I do sometimes get frustrated with posts about how you can feed your family of 4 for $40/week and feed them healthy food. I have friends that post their couponing journeys on facebook. Come to find out, when I ask them if they buy meat or produce (because it is never in their pictures), they say oh, at Sam’s once a month or at the Farmer’s Market. So, your facebook life leads everyone to believe you are only spending $30/week on groceries, but you are also spending $500/month at Sam’s and/or $40/wk at the Farmer’s Market. So, bottom line is –don’t compare. Set a budget you can live with for your family. Also any little you can save adds up. Occasionally there is a coupon on produce or milk or something we buy, even though most are for processed food and we can always save on toiletries and paper products!
Erica @ Just Call Me Cheap says
My comparing myself to others ended when I had my third child. Something about the pure chaos of having three kids (age 5, 3 and 7 months) makes me not give a hoot what anyone else is doing. I try to be frugal but when I’m not I don’t let it get me down- I’m too busy trying to make sure my kids don’t destroy the house!
KATE@Confections of a Cheapskate says
This really is a great post. I think so many people also watch the dreaded show Extreme Couponing and this also leads to unrealistic views. Frugal living is great, extremes are always just that EXTREME!
I do get worn out by the “competitive frugalizing” found in some blogs and comments. It makes me throw up my hands and say “I give; you win; I will never be able to feed/clothe/house my family on -$.25/day!”
I’m finding that more and more of frugal advice I read I either 1) already do, 2) already decided not to do, or 3) might do sometime but isn’t a good fit right now. I would SO love even just 10 new frugal ideas I hadn’t read a zillion times before.
Siobhan @MoneyDearest says
How about this- sometimes its cheaper to buy something already made then to make it yourself. If you were making a nice fresh pizza the dough, cheese and tomatoes might cost more in the store than picking up a $5 pizza.
Or if you are buying chinese takeout- buy it at lunch time because it is half the price for the same amount of food that you would get during dinner hours.
Great post. 🙂
I have found that I do not (cannot) state an amount that I spend per week. That’s because I don’t shop with weekly money – instead, I shop with monthly money. I have X dollars for the month for all groceries, household and health & beauty products that we need (so I might spend $100 one week and $20 the next…that is just how I roll!).
Shopping with a weekly amount didn’t work for me b/c we live in a rural area and I don’t shop on a consistent basis.
As Crystal has said, “Comparison is the thief of joy!” – and that is oh-so-true!
Amen. Everyone has to find their own grove. The important part is to do what is good for your family and not hold yourself to the standard of others.
another saving mom says
I like this article very. I pick and choice the saving for my family. Some saving is helpful and not other. As for my family, I used some coupon only on things we need but not other. Just like, buy daily use thing only just enough or little extra but not too much. Do buy thing you don’t used normally even is on sale or great deal. Why waste the money on thing you don’t used normally. However, in the begin I made many mistakes, end up waste money than save, like bought thing that I used one or twice, even never. As you learn you became better saver.
Well said, thank you! It’s so easy to compare ourselves, but our families are all so unique.
Tiff W says
Really a great article! Thank you for this. You have a new follower (me).
When, thanks to the advice at Money Saving Mom, I started trying to bring our grocery budget down earlier this year, I had a new understranding of old Franklin’s adage that: ‘A penny saved is a penny earned.’
Yes, in the end, none of this really matters (being concerned about not getting your grocery bill so low, etc.), so don’t compare yourself to anyone period. It’s wasted energy and time!
Focus on what you can do with what you have. If you don’t like your circumstances, you can try to change them. With my husband being unemployed, we are striving to be content where we are. Stressing out about everything will not help the situation. (I was stressed at first, but gave that up, because it wasn’t changing a thing!)
We all make decisions on what career to have (or not have), how to spend our money, where we live, the size of our home/apartment, the size of our family, etc. One can only embrace where they are at – or change the circumstances. Stay positive and don’t give up. 🙂
Everyone has three things to choose from: time, money, resources. If you want to save $$, you have to spend more time or gain certain skills and resources. It is all a balance and all different for each of us. Having said that, I have been feeling down as I survey all that I “want” and “need to do” to reach the standard of living I desire. Being older, we are paying for college, getting ready to retire soon, and everything in our house is falling apart or needs to be replaced soon. I know it is a stage we are going through and we will survive, but it does get frustrating!! It is reassuring to hear others say the same thing instead of only seeing those who seem to “have it all together”.
Love this post. I often feel like I am failing bc I can’t get my grocery budget lower. I hv finally given myself a break from “extreme couponing” for awhile bc this is a very hectic time in our lives (we hv a 15 mo old and a baby due Mon and we both work FT). I am learning to give myself Grace when I can’t do “it all.”
Jen @ LovingMeSomeBaby says
Great post! Thanks for sharing, Lisa 🙂
Love this post. It’s so true!
So true! feeding 6 for $x.xx…these bloggers don’t post what their mortgage pmts are, car payments, or any frivolous spending they do that isn’t on food.
Spending X amount food..does not! show an entire picture.
It also doesn’t mean spending less if by choice or lack of..means these people have their lives fully together. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.
Doing the best you can, in the season you’re having is all you can do. NEVER compare yourself or doubt yourself when someone online prides their feeding 6 for $60/weekly etc. (Maybe they have food hand-outs from family they don’t post, etc. etc.) 🙂 Stay strong, ladies !!
I completely agree with you! =)
You bring up a good point. There are bloggers that receive freebies or free coupons for food, as well as gifts of food from family or friends, etc. Such things make a big difference if one doesn’t have to pay for them.
I gave up trying to make the numbers really low a long time ago. Having food allergies and sensitivities, as well as an inability to garden due to health and living in a high-cost area just doesn’t make it possible.
In the end it’s all okay because there are many areas we don’t spend money on. We have lower expenses and no debt because of the choices we have made purposely. We don’t spend a ton of money on food, but we are not spending $30/week either. I’m just thankful that through unemployment we can still afford our own food – that’s a blessing in and of itself. 🙂
We are a family of 6 and I continue to feel so defeated! Thanks for keeping it real
Johanna @ My Home Tableau says
Time is money! Yes, yes, yes. We are in a very busy season with my husband in full-time seminary while working several part-time jobs. We also only have one car, which means that when I get the car, I have to get in and get out. I don’t do a lot of deal shopping because I don’t have the time to do it. However, since we are on a limited budget, my menu is simple with lots of rice and beans and I buy whatever produce is on sale when I am at the grocery store.
I still have a very small grocery budget and because I am not in and out of stores all that much it works. Choices…it’s all about choices. Do what is right for your family in your particular situation. Don’t feel pressured by others! Great post!
Time spent being envious. (or jealous) of others is time wasted on negativity. Never compare you and yours to other people is my motto! Every one is an individual, and the bottom line is you have to do as best you can for the individuals entrusted to your care. What works for family A may be disastrous for family B: the same is true of advice from blogs/books/experts/etc. As they say,”take what you need and leave the rest”
Love the encouragement in this post and most of all, the balance. As Brandy (Prudent Homemaker) stated above, some people have to live on pennies a day because that is all they have. It’s nice to read stories from families in a variety of circumstances because we’re all different and can learn lessons from folks in all situations.
I definitely think the blogs help but by no means a rule for every person to follow. I pick and choose the information that is beneficial to me and my circumstances. Through a very difficult year I’ve had to understand the season of life I’m in right now. It means I coupon less and don’t do the drugstore games but still feed my family within our budget and since Jan. our $220 a month budget we’ve come under each month!!! Praise the Lord.
Thank you for sharing this encouraging testimony.
Kate R. says
Cost of living is huge. I live in an area that is one and a half times the national average, and we’re here because of circumstances, not choice. So if it’s the same with you, you have to remember that when your looking at the blog of an Arkansas (for example) resident.
This is SO true! I’ve ready many blog comments where the readers are discouraged because they can’t get their grocery bill as low as the blog poster does. It’s easy for some to forget that even though we may be employing the same shopping strategies, we’re not comparing apples to apples.
I’ve lived in several different areas of the US, and boy do grocery costs vary! Even within a limited geographical area prices can be different. If I drive 15 minutes to the east, the grocery prices on some basics are quite a bit lower than if I drive 15 minutes to the west.
(Also, and I know that this is not the case for every blogger, but when a blog states how much they spend on groceries, but fails to mention that 2 meals were eaten out or were potlucks, etc. were again not comparing apples to apples. )
The Prudent Homemaker says
Food prices really do vary by area! I’ve seen comments on here that have been amazing to me, because we never see prices that low.
I grew up in California, and most of our grocery stores bring in California produce. I still don’t know how avacados can be cheaper in the midwest than they were in California, less than a hour from where they are grown!
The first time I was asked to speak in town, I was given a box of oranges. At that time, the lowest price I usually saw on oranges was .98 a pound. I was very grateful for the oranges, as we hadn’t been grocery shopping for a year then. I was surprised that they gave me so many. The woman then told me that they were only .20 a pound at a local store! I had never seen oranges so low. It’s at the other side of town, so not worth the drive, usually, but there are some stores in that part of town that have some unbelievable produce deals!
I really don’t understand some of the cost differences too. Here in Hawaii, grocery prices are super expensive. And in places like Target, there is a 25% mark up. I emailed asking why, and they said because of the additional shipping costs. I replied that we were much closer to China, where all there junk comes from, so we should get a discount. 😉 They didn’t respond. A lot of it doesn’t make sense to me. But then I remind myself there is an extra price to pay to live in paradise. 🙂
We were married on Maui, and you’re right… it’s paradise! We loved it so much we plan to retire there.
I will say that I was SHOCKED at the grocery store to see a gallon of milk priced at $6.99 (and it was out of stock), and a package of 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts at $12. This was 2006, so groceries are probably more now. We stopped on the way from the airport to our condo to pick up a few basics. Those basics cost about $100! Crazy grocery prices. 🙂
Maui is higher than Oahu, where we live. And Kauai is even higher than that! We’re military, so we’re lucky enough to shop at the Commissary. When I first moved here as a single twenty something and had to shop out in town, groceries were killer on my budget. The military aspect definitely helps, and for what it doesn’t help with, I still think it’s totally worth it. I hope your retirement dreams come true! I know I never want to leave here. 🙂
Your comment about China is too funny. It gave me a good laugh for today. They probably couldn’t answer because you’re right. 🙂
Hear, hear. When reading about someone else’s numbers think about where they live, how old the family members are, and what they do (a 3 yo will have a different appetite than a 14yo basketball player).
Also add to the “basics that work” list: make your own, notably cleaning supplies.
Kim Mozdzen says
That is what I was going to say after I got finished reading all the replies….Only stick with the blogs that are local. I have a whole lot of them saved as “likes” on facebook, but there are only several that I read on a daily basis. I’m in central pa, a little over the MD border…….there is no sense in me reading a blog from someone that has dillons, fry’s, vons, food4less, pathmark, a&P or superfresh, shaws and Acme, because we don’t have them here. I stick with Giant MD, GiantPA, Weis and shoprite……Shoprites about an hour away, but if they have enough things on sale, its worth the trip.
Or to a store you frequent. I like msm because she is constantly at Target, Aldi, and sometimes Walmart. Those are the only stores I go to. Granted prices can be different but the sales run the same so I can get similar deals.
karen b says
Thanks for all the encourgement!!!!! I have thought about quitting my efforts. To be honest I am getting tried of seeing all these posts for how cheap people can feed their family. We have most of all our own meat (dairy farmers), our own eggs from chickens, grow gobs of stuff in a garden, starting to grow fruit(some we had are unaviable now) well you get the picture. We can’t get our household bills that low. The reason is we don’t have most of these places avaiable to shop @. We have Kroger & a Foodlion close to us & a CVS so thats where we shop. Also our coupons are not as high as most of the areas I read about. I have always had a budget so that’s helpful. Not trying to sound ugly just stating facts.
I totally get what you are saying. Location, location, location! My parents live in a more rural area than I do, and they cannot get the deals that I do. Coupons in their paper are a joke, and stores are very limited.
Just keep doing the best that you can do for your area!
Big D & Me says
THANK YOU! I sometimes feel badly when I read frugal blogs and this is a good reminder that I can still consider myself a saver and a good provider if I don’t spend $10 on groceries for the month.
Loved this post!
Love this post because it encourages.
Alison Bayne says
Saving money in our household has become a kind of full time job for me (I’m a UK SAHM) and it does take time and effort. It doesn’t happen by osmosis. Frugality is not absorbed just cos we’re reading about it online!
It’s good to be reminded to be grateful for what we DO have and to share our knowledge and successes without passing judgement. We all have different needs and priorities and we act accordingly. Balance in all things.
Thank you so much for this.
I live with two picky eaters (my DH and 5.5yo DD) and one big eater (my almost 2yo DS), and I’m pregnant and having severe nausea and food aversions.
Another way I think of this is that there is a seasonality to it. A few years ago, when the drugstore deals were superb and I just had 1 child, I spent more time doing the drugstore game and bargain shopping.
This spring and summer, I’m not doing the drugstore game, can barely cook and can barely keep any food or liquids in my stomach due to my morning sickness. Instead, I’m saving money by preparing very simple meals such as pancakes and sausage, grilled cheese or tacos.
I also try to maximize my time out of the house. I carefully plan my shopping trip, organize my coupons by how I walk through the supermarket and bring my copy of the ad with me to verify the size that is on sale. I go early in the morning on Sunday before the after church crowd gets there, while everything is in stock and while my DH is home so I don’t have to drag the kids. Then when I get home, I recruit my DH and DD to help unload and put things away.
When I’m feeling better I’ll pick up the heavier couponing again.
On the few mornings I’ve felt okay for an hour or two, I have taken my kids to a few rummage sales. There we were able to get some bargains on fabric for sewing, other craft supplies and clothing for the fall. My kids enjoy looking at all the interesting things and I can get things crossed off my “need” list all in one single stop. And save money at the same time while supporting missions.
What a great article and so true! I don’t do a lot of saving at the grocery store – I choose to just shop at Aldi and make relatively frugal meals. Instead, every few weeks I do a drugstore, and I try to get all our shampoo, lotion, soap, cleaning supplies almost free. This keeps me in my scrapbooking supplies, and also, it’s fun, because I don’t let it get overwhelming!
I rarely get frustrated reading about frugality and one reason may be that my blog is one of the frugal blogs. Life is all about balance though. I read, read, read, and a lot of savings habits become second nature, such as knowing a rock bottom price when you see one or whether a coupon is worth clipping.
The Prudent Homemaker says
I fed my family of 8 for $.40 per person last year–because THAT’S ALL I HAD. Our income has been cut so much that we NEED to eats of meatless meals, lots of soups, have homemade bread, grow as much food as possible, and do without lots of things I would like to have.
I’ve often been asked if my income changed, would I eat differently? You bet I would! I would love to be able to afford to buy different things–like milk, ice cream, cheese, and more meat. Instead, I look for more meatless meals, new bean recipes, opportunities to glean food (I’m going to pick some fruit somewhere today, in fact), and I work really hard in my garden.
This year, my husband has only made in 5 1/2 months what he used to make in 2 weeks. Toliet paper has been a higher priority in my spending than food.
Not every “I’m spending less than you do on food” story is as pretty as it appears. My husband would love to never eat soup again. He eats meatless meals because it’s what we have.
If you have more to spend, and you can feed your family well, be grateful, not jealous. Some of us are spending all day cooking because we need to. I might have a miniscule (and more often than not, $0, budget), but I also have a MOUNTAIN of pots and pans to wash every day.
The Prudent Homemaker says
That should read, .40 per person per day, not for the whole year 🙂
What is your husband’s profession? My Dad lost his job in an auto parts manufacturing plant 2.5 years ago and just finally found fulltime employment as a group aide in a home for the mentally ill. My Mom still works at the (non-union) auto plant but gets laid off a lot, meaning they lose health insurance.
When my Dad lost his job, he had been there for 32 years and only earned $10.25 per hour. My Mom now has 27 years and earns $9.75 per hour. They take care of my severely handicapped 29 year old sister in addition to working, meaning that many times their family of 3 lives at or below the poverty level.
Jessica, I feel for your parents. There are a lot of people in that kind of situation who never made very much their whole life and who work very hard nonetheless.
My husband has been laid off a few months now. I’ve learned there is always someone who is worse off than us. No use trying to feel pity or compare in any situation. We can only do the best with what we have.
Some people have jobs but make less, and some people don’t have jobs at all. Sometimes it’s just having perspective with what you do have. Some people have nice homes, some live in small apartments or trailers. It’s all perspective.
Compared to 3rd world countries most of us are still rich. Many of us may be broke, but we are truly not poor.
Deborah Auen says
I love how you worded your answer……god bless you!!!!!and prayers to your family Jessica. I lost my job a few years ago and still no work….then seen a story on the nightly news of a country going through a terrible drought,boiling leaves in water for meals because there was nothing else,children malnutrion severly and papers being used for baby blankets……so very sad.
Deborah, I pray that you’ll be able to find a job. Being unemployed for so long cannot be easy at all. You seem to have a great attitude in spite of life’s challenges. God bless. 🙂
Nora@ The Dollar Holllering Homemaker says
Yes, we all have different circumstances that dictate our budget:)
For us, health care and food are some of our biggest expenses. We spend more on organic food and doctor’s visits because of cancer diagnosis two years ago. We don’t spend money on cable. vacations, gas expenses (take the bus), etc because in this season of life, health care and good food are more important. We eat a lot of meatless meals, garden, barter for goods, make many things homemade, etc. If we had more money I would love to eat more chicken, fish and dairy but that’s not in our budget. I don’t see the point in complaining because I just see this as the season we are in.
I think as a society, we need to learn contentment instead of envy and jealously.
Amen to that last sentence Nora! It’s something I’m working on personally every day – a challenge indeed!
Good reminders! (And probably not for you, since you’re not doing it, but we’re using cloth wipes to cut back on toilet paper use). You’re working hard to take care of your family with what you’ve been given and you’re right, it looks different for every family.
I understand where you are coming from! I grew up Amish & we never had much money & we grew up, eating off the garden & farm & making do with what we had. Meat was a rarity! Also good toilet paper. We even had to go as far as using telephone book paper sometimes for that.
I’m married now & even tho we can afford toilet paper, I chose to cut up old worn out clothes & use that, so that we can pay off our loan faster. I pray that your husband’s work situation gets better soon!!
Christy Carden says
I really commend you for raising 6 kids and being able to maintain that garden (I’ve looked at pictures on your blog). I also read the article on here recently about how everyone can garden, no matter their limited space. Well, we live in a townhome so cannot plant in the “yard.” We do grow some herbs in a pot, but only have so much space we could even container garden. We have a screened in porch, but it has become mostly storage for bikes, strollers, outdoor toys, recycling bin (no garage or yard to put a shed in–when we bought this childless, we had no idea the market would tank and we’d still be here 2 kids later). There is a small, concrete area off the screened porch, where we have a sandbox (a.k.a. rubbermaid with sand and toys) and a grill that takes up most of this space. And yes, a grill is neccessary when you live on a fault line in a hurricane prone area (in the event of loss of power for weeks at a time). So, I don’t think I could grow enough food to feed us all on 40 cents a day, even if I had to!
The Prudent Homemaker says
I was just reading this blog post over at Foodess earlier today; check out what she grows in pots in a space about as big as yours: http://www.foodess.com/2012/06/lemon-buttermilk-dressing/#more-4477 (it’s pretty funny, too!) She has fruit, too.
Just because you don’t have a lot of space doesn’t mean you can’t get food, though. I would encourage you to look for opportunities to glean. Just tonight I gleaned figs and apricots. While I grow both of those things, I don’t grow that many (my trees are young and small). I have a TON of apricots now that didn’t grow at my house; enough to fill my kitchen table, which seats 10-12). Apricots are an abundant fruit, and people are usually VERY willing to let you come pick their excess. One of my readers gleans enormous amounts of fruit every year and cans it; she sent me a list before and I was stunned at how much she gleans (I thought I had a lot, but she had hundreds of pounds of gleaned fruit). She looks for free fruit on Craigslist, and she also puts out ads on Craigslist that she will come pick fruit that people don’t want. If people aren’t going to use the fruit, they’re real happy to have someone else use it, and to help them keep the mess out of their yard.
I glean a LOT more than I have ever planted. Just today I was out hand-pollinating my ONE zucchini plant; I can’t get them to grow well here (it’s so hot that they can be quite a challenge here, plus a lack of bees in my area means little to no pollination; I’ve had 6 female flowers so far and not one was pollinated, so no zukes). We get 2 inches of rain a year and temperatures of 116º; we have 5 months of above 90º temperatures (tomatoes don’t set fruit above 90º, nor do green beans, and rarely zucchini). The dirt here is so hard that you have to jackhammer holes to plant fruit trees, and it is white like concrete, and about as dead, too. Everywhere has challenges. If you put a grape vine in a pot along your fence or at the base of your porch, you could grow grapes.
Check out Garden Girl’s site as well: http://www.gardengirltv.com/ Her photos are really neat. She has a bit more space than you, but you might find a few things you could use.
And I agree; your grill is VERY helpful for emergency cooking. I lived through a major earthquake; we went back to school and no one had running water still after a week. And if you glean and can some fruit, you can always open up some jars of canned fruit to eat during hurricane season!
The Prudent Homemaker says
Christy, I mentioned grapes in a pot, and Garden Girl’s site. I just went over there and found this that you might like:
The cloth family wipe is an option. Large flannel sheets cut up and disposed of in a container with plastic bags (they kind they give you free from the store) We use them for pee. Cuts toliet paper cost massively and then just wash them with underware and cloth diapers.
It really is fairly easy. Basically we have a can like a trash can full of clean bags and then one where you put the bag with the used item in it after your done going to the restroom. It does work and it’s not that bad.
Well, I just wanted to tell you that I read a comment you made a while ago when you mentioned edible landscaping. I checked out your blog and you have really inspired me. I started a square foot garden this year to give my boys something to do and it has actually done well for my first serious attempt at gardening. I’m really excited and plan to expand. I love the idea of growing my own produce and I want to plant some fruit trees this fall. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live on such a tight budget. It can’t be easy. You are AMAZING!
The Prudent Homemaker says
I’m so excited to hear that you are going to plant fruit trees this fall! I hope that more people do. They are so wonderful to have, and they just keep on giving! Berries and grapes do the same.
It’s not easy, Amie. The hardest words for me to hear from someone are, “It’s only $——” ($20, $5, even $2). It doesn’t matter how “little” the amount is to that other person; it’s huge to me. It’s hard for people to fathom that $2 is a huge deal to someone, but it is. Even “free” things usually involve the cost of gas to get there.
I’ve learned to read frugal blogs and look for the ways to save and make do that I haven’t heard or tried before. I read every list of ways to save that I see to see if there is something I haven’t thought of, and then I have to see if it truly works out to be cheaper for us or not. And even when we think we can’t cut anything else, we still find ways to save, so I’m thankful to all of the frugal bloggers out there who share their great ideas!
My 3 year-old son planted one strawberry plant and had a blast picking and eating his strawberries. I want to do more with that. We have wild blackberries that grow behind our fence and this year we harvested them and froze a few quarts. I want to look into grapes as well. I’m not a native Georgian and I still haven’t figured out how to deal with all the clay and hot sun, but I will. I do understand (to a degree) what you mean about people saying, “its only $x for such and such.” I’m a teacher and on our last day, everyone was going out to lunch and invited me along. When I said I really wanted to stick to my budget and just eat what I’d brought for lunch, they were like, “come on, being in debt’s the American way.” I politely declined, expressed that I would love to spend time with them, but explained I that I have some goals that mean a lot to me. My income should be sufficient to go for lunch outings, but I am working hard to get out of debt. My son’s asthma and allergy issues cost a lot last year (ER visits, admissions, specialists, etc.) and I didn’t really reduce my debt at all. I want to really make a dent in my debt so I choose to coupon, cook from scratch, make my own laundry detergent, enjoy free activities, and now plant my own food.
Melinda Countess says
Good for you Amie!! It takes alot of courage to say no to co-workers. I hope they were encouraged by you, if not their loss. Being out of debt is so freeing. My prayer is that everyone would know that and feeling it deeply. Hope your son is completely healed. Keep up the budget to get out debt. Reach for your goals. Hope this encourages you!!
I worked outside the home full-time when my husband was laid off. He was home with the kids so we saved on day care. They liked staying with him more than me! We made the best of it and he had some great bonding time with the kids he usually missed out on during the day. We still but our budget quite a bit and cut lots of coupons but I saw no reason not to work while he was home during the day. When he went back to work I switched my hours to nights. We were able to pay cash for our desperately needed reliable car and and lots of other things with the extra income
Fantastic advice! Thanks for sharing it! And I think it applies to all the crafty blogs too. I don’t get frustrated reading frugal blogs, but I do get a little jealous reading the crafty ones! lol