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Thursday, April 16, 2015

More Nifty Tips

We're still using our expense journal. Slowly, we're getting used to naturally spending less because now we know where our spending weaknesses are. Last month (and so far this month), grocery shopping was way below budget. As a matter of fact, every category was below the limit. Tracking our expenses is working!

Being aware is a priority, but we also look for ways to stretch our money when we can.
Copyright: <a href=''> / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo
Here are some more tips from my frugalista vault.

• I'm not a stranger to buying clearance-marked meats, but I just started buying bakery rolls and bread. I freeze them immediately and thaw what I need on those nights when we really want garlic bread, but as usual, forgot to put it on the grocery list.

• The quietest day to grocery shop is Sunday.

• The best-stocked day to grocery shop is Wednesday--at least in the states.

• Shop an hour before the store closes. That's usually past my bedtime, but the few times I've been out, the store was giving away bakery goods and rotisserie chickens. It's happened to me several times, so this is standard practice for some stores.

• Is your milk nearing its expiration date? Freeze it in ice cube trays. Once frozen, you can move them to freezer bags. You can do this with juice too.

• Cilantro always goes bad on me before I can use it a second time. A friend showed me to clip the stems of the remaining cilantro and stick it in a jar with water. Cover with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.

• Weigh pre-bagged fruits and vegetables. You'd be surprised how much a five-pound bag of potatoes can vary.

How's your budget so far this year? Have you had any surprise expenses come up? We've had a few, most notably Maggie's large vet bill, but we managed to absorb it. As long as no one else gets sick for a couple more months, we'll be sitting pretty. :)


Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

so what do you do with frozen cubes of milk?

Maria Zannini said...

Mac: We're not milk drinkers in this household, so all milk is used for baking or cooking. Freezing it a cube at a time means I can use what I need 3 tablespoons at a time.

Ice cube molds differ in size, but mine holds 3 tablespoons.

Stacy McKitrick said...

I don't know...Monday morning is pretty quiet at my supermarket. Heck, any weekday morning is. I try to avoid going on the weekend anymore. Crazy!!!

betty said...

That is interesting that the most quiet day is Sunday, but I can see that; we used to shop Sundays now we do Saturday since I wanted to keep Sundays free in case we wanted to explore or be lazy ;)

Great tips you listed here. My mom would always go and buy "day old" meat and bread items. They were 50% off and still perfectly fine to use. I've started to look at the marked down meat at the store and get some to stockpile.

We're still adjusting to moving and catching up on some stuff we didn't do when we didn't have the income we now have with hubby's new job so our budgeting is not as good as it should be, but I'm thinking things will be leveling off in the next few months and then we'll be able to start saving money :)


Angela Brown said...

I'm using the expense journal as well. The first three months have been so ridiculous because of my move, then my birthday, then spring break. I'm being much more aware since I have the black and white evidence in front of me declaring my spending debacle lol!

Danielle L Zecher said...

We had some makjor bathroom repairs we weren't reall expectiong, and some extra vet bills with Emma, but fortunately my M-I-L is helping out with Emma. I love getting clearance stuff at the grocerty store and freezing things for later. We finally invested in a chest freezer and it has been wonderful being able to freeze more things.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

A new dishwasher wasn't in our budget and my college daughter is going to the Middle East again this summer so we'll have to help her out some with expenses since she'll miss 6 weeks of work. It's a good experience for on her resume but really bad on my heart.

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: Mine is 'relatively' quiet on Mondays. It's biggest drawback is that anything on the shelves is days old since most stores don't take deliveries on the weekend.

Maria Zannini said...

Betty: There was only one time I've shopped on a Sunday and found it crowded. It was Superbowl Sunday and the store was mobbed by men looking for snacks and meat.

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: Aren't you glad when things finally calm down?

Every time we make a trip to south Texas, it's a minimum of $175 for gas alone. It makes a deep hole in our wallets. I'll be glad when those obligatory trips are over.

Maria Zannini said...

Danielle: Vet bills are way higher than they used to be. I don't mind on principle but some charges are just gouging. You can't tell me a blood test should run over $100.

Glad you had some help with Emma.

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: I can imagine. There are some things money can't buy. Hope she comes home again soon.

Diane Carlisle said...

I'm making note of stopping by Publix Deli at closing. I can't do it at Walmart because they stay open 24/7.

Rotisserie chicken is good for making chicken salad!

Maria Zannini said...

Diane: I think Walmart does it too, but it must vary between stores. Usually around 9pm I start seeing the giveaways.

It doesn't hurt to ask the people behind the deli counter to see when they start emptying their shelves.

Raelyn Barclay said...

Some very interesting tips there. I'll have to investigate the timing of things at my store. I do go to an outlet store for our baked goods and, like you, stick it all in the freezer.

As for major bills, that would be the tax bill. Glad that's off to the IRS. We'll plan better this year. Lesson learned :)

Lynn Viehl said...

When the price of thyme shot up to $4.50 for a teeny bottle I started growing my own herbs. It's not difficult, and if you use a lot of herbs and spices with your cooking you'll appreciate the fresh herbs versus the old/dried stuff they sell in the market.

I don't like the taste of store-bought baked goods so I make most of what we eat from scratch. The cost is usually about a third of what I'd pay at the store or less. I also make homemade pizza whenever I can, and because I make my own pizza sauce this costs about a quarter of what I'd pay Domino's, and it's healthier. Ice tea I can make for pennies versus the couple of bucks they want for a half-gallon of the premade stuff.

Some store-bought things are cheaper, though. A rotisserie chicken from the deli here costs a dollar or two less than a raw chicken I'd have to cook, so I usually buy those. Same with pasta; it's cheaper to buy than make if I stock up during buy-1-get-1 sales.

My latest experiment: Keeping a small stack of hand towels by the sink and asking everyone to use them instead of paper towels to dry their hands, dishes, wipe up spills, etc. The family was using half a roll of paper towels every day before this, now a roll lasts almost a week. I'm considering getting rid of the paper towels altogether; we really don't need them.

Maria Zannini said...

Raelyn: Ouch. I know what you mean. But look at it this way. At least the money you paid was in your bank earning interest instead of theirs.

I know, interest rates today suck, but it's better than nothing.

Maria Zannini said...

Lynn: I'm not a baker. (Wish I were.) I'll bake the occasional cake or cookies, but bread is something that takes extreme planning on my part.

But you're right, nothing beats the taste of homemade.

Re: towels
Huzzah! Another convert! We've been using cloth over paper towels for many years. I still use paper on really greasy stains though.

Mike Keyton said...

I'm not as organisised as you, Maria, though I sometimes snaffle sell-by-date bargains. One thing I am proud of though is my recycling of a stale chili. I planted the seeds and I now have seven healthy chili plants which will soon - I'll give it another year - be fruiting with fresh chilies. Carne Carne here we come!

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: A year to harvest chiles? What kind are you growing?

We may have to trade chili con carne recipes. :)