Who wants to save some $$$? Is everyone's hand raised? Come on, get it up there! As the holiday season of spending approaches, wouldn't it be delightful to actually have some extra cash in hand? It's not a far-fetched dream. With application of a few frugal steps, you can pocket some of the money you usually bestow to grocery stores and restaurants.
The food bill is one area responsive to change. We can't do much to change our phone or cable fees, and cutting back on utilities, while beneficial, doesn't seem to line the pocketbook with anything substantial. You may feel leery about changing old habits and the amount of time it takes to be frugal, but I encourage you to give it a chance. Frugality is about simplifying your life, and with the right recipes you'll not only save money, but also time.
If you are currently far from frugal, you may want to implement just one step at a time. This will keep you from getting too overwhelmed and giving up before the savings add up. In this case, the December deadline mightn't be a realistic goal. But think how much money you'll have accumulated by January or February. Then you can pay off those December bills!
BALANCE IN ALL THINGS
You Are What You Eat
After reading a book on cutting costs that I'd recommended, my friend cornered me and said, "I think if you fed your family the cheap foods suggested in this book's recipes that you'd spend more money later to pay for the consequences of poor nutrition." I thought that was an outstanding observation.
The recipes in the book suggested saving money with recipes featuring hot dogs, fried foods, and casseroles laden with margarine or oils, and lots of sweets. While these recipes were cheap to make, some were also just plain CHEAP. Good nutrition should never be sacrificed to save money. Just because food has a low price tag doesn't necessarily mean it's a bargain.
Keep this in mind when you're at the meat counter contemplating that bag of fatty chicken thighs priced at 10-cents/lb. Likewise, a 50-cent package of hot dogs or 20-cent package of oriental noodles won't damage you nutritionally if eaten sparingly. Moderation, balance, and variety continue to be the keys to good nutrition. For example, slicing those hot dogs into a crock of baked beans that add fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein boosts their nutritional potential. And those oriental noodles tossed into a popular salad containing cancer-fighting cabbage, almonds, and seasoned chicken help your family devour vegetables they might not otherwise eat.
One of the many great advantages about frugal eating is the control it gives you in the kitchen. Often cooking from scratch enables you to eat fresh, 'preserving' you from those preservatives lurking in ingredient lists on food labels. It also helps you avoid the restaurant mystery. Do you really know what they are putting in your food back behind those closed swinging doors?
Here are some yummy, thrifty meal ideas to get you started:
Waste not, Want Not
Pioneers lived by this favorite adage, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." In their times of colonizing, they didn't enjoy the ease of running to the store to pick up that one missing ingredient or to get a new gallon of milk because the old one is rotting in the 'fridge. Applying this principle to the kitchen produces economy and creativity. As a side note, I think the word "creative" should be found next to the word "frugal" in a thesaurus.
When I'm in the kitchen, I try to look at food as money. If I don't find a way to use up that extra gravy or hot cereal, then I wince as I dump it down the disposal and pulverize my husband's hard-earned dollars. My mom dumped extra porridge into her bread dough. Gravy can be used in pot pies or on breakfast biscuits-n-gravy. One reader sent in a tip about pickle juice. She puts it into her bread in place of the water, and it adds delicious flavor. Can you see creativity at work here? Very few things, if any, get thrown out in a thrifty kitchen because frugal minds come up with ways to turn the edible into delectable . . . most of the time!
Recently I emptied a shampoo bottle into my shower dispenser. As the last drops of shampoo bubbled out of the squeezed container, I felt tempted to throw out the bottle. However, shampoo still coated the entire inner side. I decided to let it drain by turning the bottle upside down. The remaining shampoo, that I almost discarded, has kept my hair clean for an additional eight washings. I have yet to touch the dispenser.
While this example is not food related, it reminded me of those times when I've thrown out the ketchup or mayonnaise bottles prematurely. With a bit more effort, could I get another week's worth of food? Again, seeing those final squirts as money helps me to utilize every drop I can remove with my handy spatula. You paid for it-down to that last drop! Don't throw out your money.
This may be a bit on the fanatic side; after all , how much can a tablespoon of ketchup be worth? I think the underlying goal here is to cultivate a habit of economy. True, the ketchup saved is probably not worth a penny, but the "waste-not" habit, applied to all areas of living can add up to thousands of dollars. A lack of balance in this area can turn you from thrifty to miserly.
Live It Up
Do you "work to live or live to work?" Life is meant for living! We could spend our lives economizing in our kitchens to save a pretty penny, making sacrifices for no purpose, and then die. What becomes of our efforts and money then? So we get a nice casket to rot in! Or, we could spend moments economizing in our kitchens so we can afford that New York Steak to share by candlelight in commemoration of a special event.
On a simpler scale, my children love balloons and often ask for them when we walk past the floral department at the grocery store. I hesitate, wondering if I should "waste" my hard-saved money on these 50-cent-to-be-popped floaters. Then I remember moments with my dad, when he'd buy each of his five kids a 50-cent candybar after spending an hour analyzing price tags to get the best buy on groceries. Now, whenever I go past the candy aisle, memories of my Dad engulf my heart. I hope my kids will remember me when they see balloons.
What are you living for? What are you saving for? How about for Life!
* DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *