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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Living well on less

I wrote how I was doing the 31 day challenge spending freeze for the month of January. I am proud to say that we have not spent any money this month, other than our bills...okay its only day eleven but that's truly saying a lot for this family!

I must confess I have a true affinity for handbags, shoes & fashion. I won't lie and say that we don't spend money on frivolous or what some may classify as luxury items. But I do strive to live on our budget without making it feel as if we are "suffering."

I may not have mentioned this in the past, I have five amazing children. Feeding seven of us can be a challenge.

I belong to a lovely group of women who are all taking part of this spending freeze & striving to live well on less. We share our ideas & what we do that helps us keep to our budgets. I was flabbergasted by how much some of these women save on their grocery bills & it made me feel like I am definitely not up to their standards. Many of them coupon, stockpile & prepare once a month meals.

I want to live well. Who doesn't?

Once you mention budget or finances things get shaky. It can be scary that is why I LOVE my group.
I shared how I save in the group & had several comments about how I should write a blog. Funny! I know I don't utilize my blog like I should but never thought that I should write about how I live frugally.
So bare with me as I post just a few of my tips for feeding my "big" family & our  "small zoo" of animals on a budget.

I don't stockpile. I sometimes wish I could but living in a 100+ year old cottage proves challenging since there is little storage.  We eat Paleo so not really anything to stockpile anyway. I do have HUGE fridge/freezer. Commercial grade...takes up what two refrigerators in a typical home would. I buy my meat at a local restaurant supply store. I  cut the meat myself into steaks, chops, etc...but Angus grass fed top sirloin only costs me $3.05 lb as compared to $6-7 at grocery store. I cut it, bag it in cuts, date & freeze what I am not going to use in the first few days. I also buy some of my fruit & veggies there but try to head to the farmers market ( or local stand on Sundays when they have sales).

I belong & shop at Costco. I just compare prices.  Restaurant supply store is much like Costco where you buy in bulk so I plan ALL our meals out for two weeks. We plan on & eat leftovers for lunches or I use them to make a "new" meal so it cuts down on prep time. I do use freezer bags for this.
I make my own meat & veggie stocks for soup. I place in canning jars, seal & freeze.
 I make my own laundry detergent (started this several months ago & really enjoy it....need to figure out the cost per load still).

I do still need to go to the grocery store for some items, where I don't need enough to buy in bulk. Example: I needed some fresh rosemary for a recipe or knew that we won't eat a gallon of olives on the rare occasion we eat them. I have a favorite grocery store that I shop regularly & have for years. I belong to their rewards program & load electronic coupons onto that card. I seldom clip coupons anymore since I quit receiving the newspaper as one of my first "cut backs."

We do not eat/buy grains or dairy (other than eggs) so that saves money. Since we no longer eat processed foods that helped dramatically. I do buy good olive oil & balsamic vinegar to make salad dressings.

I belong to local CO-OP farm supply where I purchase pet food. I buy it middle of the month when it is typically on sale. I also signed up for IAMS reward program when we buy 8 bags of dog & 8 bags cat food we get the 9th bag free. We buy cockatiel bird food by the 25lb bag for the same price as two 10 lb bags of what we would get at the pet store. This lasts 6 months & we store it in airtight containers plus we feed them fresh veggie & fruit scraps.

We use cloth napkins &  bar towels for clean ups.

We do indulge in coffee (I have a keurig, grind our own & use a reusable cup). My biggest issue....Shame on me..is....Diet Coke!

I typically  budget Starbucks into my shopping & errand days. I know its an indulgence. I keep it in check especially since it was a daily habit when I was in the office every day.

We are strictly now a cash only family so we no longer have credit cards or car loans. We have been credit debt free for 5 years (other than our house...which we moved to a 15 year mortgage in 2003 & will have it paid off in 4 years which is 11 years ahead of our original 30 year mortgage.

Hope this gives you some ideas...I know I can use some improvement still but figure I am a work in progress.

What are some of your frugal or Living well on Less tips?