Ways to Save, Part III

This is part III of a series on how to save money for Christmas.

Part III: In the Kitchen

1.) Stop eating out so often. It’s healthier to eat at home, it’s cheaper to eat at home, and it’s more fulfilling to make it/bake it/cook it yourself.

2.) Get started on eMeals right away! Emeals is a program Dave Ramsey endorses that sends you a weekly shopping list and menu based on what’s on sale at the grocery stores this week. You can choose where you shop – Wal-Mart or Kroger, for instance – and other options, like Clean Eating or Low-Carb, etc. It tries to get your grocery budget (for 7 dinner-type meals) for that week at or around $60. Go to www.emeals.com to sign up now! They have a free trial offer.

3.) Make as much as you can from scratch. I have the time (what a valuable resource, I’m discovering!) to make things like breads and home-cooked meals, so that is one way I can decrease our living expenses. Stay away from convenient, pre-packaged foods, which are often full of sodium and saturated fats. Also, there are lots of accessible homemade seasonings recipes on the Internet these days. I make my own dry Ranch dressing mix, taco seasoning, and Italian seasoning. (Plus, it’s a lot healthier for you since you can control the amount of salt you put in.)

4.) Buy in bulk as you can. I bought a box of 5 dozen eggs at the beginning of this month, which was like paying under $1.00 per dozen. If you buy each dozen separately, you spend as much as $3 per carton! Sam’s Club is a good resource for us.

5.) Use your freezer. Instead of throwing away leftovers, freeze what is freezable for later in the month. Here’s a list of freezable foods: http://www.simpleorganizedliving.com/2011/02/10/freezable-foods/.

6.) Do the couponing thing, if that’s what you love to do. I don’t love the goose-chase of it all, and plus, I don’t buy a lot of brand name stuff because the store brand is often cheaper.

7.) Make your own dishwasher detergent. Yep – it’s super easy and only uses 4 ingredients. Recipe here: http://www.diynatural.com/homemade-dishwasher-detergent-soap/.

8.) Stop buying cokes, candy, ice cream, and other things that eat up your food money and aren’t good for you anyway. Just because Dr. Pepper is 3 for $10 at Albertsons doesn’t mean it’s any better for your body. Water is free!

9.) Do your oven cooking in the coolest parts of the day so your A/C doesn’t have to work as hard to keep your house cool.

10.) Keep a log of all the food you throw away. This will give you an idea of what you need to cut back on next trip to the store. One news special kept a hidden camera on the trash can to see the amount of food one family threw away. I think in a month’s time, approximately $1500 of food was wasted.

11.) Designate a day or a week for “Eating Whatever Is In The Pantry/Freezer/Fridge.” It may not look like much, but once you start pulling it out and putting ingredients next to each other, you may actually come up with a masterpiece! I love the option from Kraft Foods where you input the ingredients on hand and it finds recipes for you with those ingredients. I remember one time, when my cousin and family were moving from one house to another, she posted on her facebook wall that she was pulling everything out of the freezer, throwing it into a pot, and calling it “soup.” (She also included her apologies to her family.) So what’s in your freezer right now? Could you live off of that for a week? A couple of days? How about the pantry? College kids, Ramen noodles can be done lots of different ways! Just get creative!

12.) Use just your “tried and true” recipes, the ones that are easy to make and use few ingredients. Sure, I love this Chocolate Harvest Fruit-Topped Cake, but look at that ingredients list! It’s time consuming to make, it’s expensive to make, and, I know from experience, that it doesn’t last very long before spoiling.

13.) Skip those hard-to-find (read: expensive) ingredients, substituting them with something else. One time, I even substituted almond extract for vanilla in my husband’s favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I thought I was going to be in trouble…but he loved it!

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Ways to Save, Part I

(For my facebook friends, I wrote a note about this last October.  Most of this information is repeated.)

You all know I LOVE Christmas.  I love the baking, the music, the lights, the festivities, the smells in the air, and the time with family and feeling like nothing matters – it’s Christmas!

But in order to get to this utopian mindset, I’ve discovered I must take care of my finances first.  As Dave Ramsey mentions in his FPU class on budgeting, we women have a gland related to money.  When money is short, or when there are money problems of any kind, the gland starts acting up and makes our faces squish up, making us look like we ate a lemon!  And then, what it does to our rhetoric to our husbands???  Oh wait, I’m not speaking theoretically anymore… :/

So I want to share with you, in a series of several posts, ways we save money to prepare to celebrate this wonderful season (that is less than 4 months away now) with no worries of money issues invading our happiness.

Part I: Around the House

1.) Put your tv/entertainment system and Internet power supplies on power strips.  TURN THEM OFF when not in use (including overnight).  We saw nearly a $50 savings in one month from this alone.

2.) UNPLUG YOUR CELL PHONE/COMPUTER/NOTEBOOK CHARGERS and other device chargers when not charging the device.  They draw power even if nothing is plugged in.

3.) Open the windows as much as possible to save on heating/cooling bills.  Again, we saw huge savings.

4.) If you must use the heater or A/C, use a programmable thermostat, and turn it up/down when there’s no one home.

5.) Instead of reaching for the thermostat, change your clothes or turn on a fan.  In warmer weather, keep the A/C at or above 74*, turn on fans, and keep the kids from running in and out.  In the cooler weather, put on sweats, socks, or even a stocking cap to keep warm and keep the heater down (like 68*).  Plus, you can cuddle under blankets on the couch with your sweetie or a mug of hot chocolate to stay warm!

6.) Unplug fans, Scentsy warmers, and anything else drawing power while not in use.

7.) Drop the expensive Smart Phone plan for your 10-year-old.  Ok, I’m exaggerating, but smart phones are literally causing some families to go hungry because of poor money management.  Read the article here: http://theweek.com/article/index/233979/are-smartphones-wrecking-family-budgets.

8.) Sell old clothes to a consignment store or use an auction site, like eBay.

9.) Have a garage sale (weather-permitting).  Literally pull stuff off the walls and get rid of things you don’t need.  If you haven’t used it in the last year, chances are you don’t need it!

10.) Clean out closets and the attic.  Use whatever you have for gift wrap, foregoing the wasteful, expensive bags and paper that are all going to get thrown away!  We were given some baskets by someone else who was cleaning out closets.  You can bet those will make an appearance at our Christmas gatherings!

Try doing just one of these and see how much money you can find to spend on Christmas.  Remember, no credit cards!  Christmas IS coming, and it’s on the same day as it was last year, so don’t get surprised by it!  Plan your work and work your plan.

More to come.  Until, then, glory to Him who is able to bless you exceedingly abundantly more than you could ever ask or imagine! ~Ephesians 3:20-21