How Much do You Spend on Groceries?

In the past I’ve created posts explaining the USDA Food Plan Costs so you can get an idea of how much people spend for food individually and as a family. While I do know a few people who spend less than the thrifty food plan, this seems to be spot on most weeks for me.

I do aspire to the thrifty food plan, which was $38.00 February 2019, but sometimes I go above, spending closer to the low-cost plan of $47.20 a week. Mind you, I do buy some organic, non-gmo items, and I’m still learning to do this in the most affordable way possible. I want to point out that I do a stock up trip with my tax refund where I spend an additional $100 to $150 in one trip, but the food lasts a long time.

During years when my parents grow food, my overall average has gone down significantly. When I have a place where I can garden I plan to grow most of my own produce and herbs, but I am not there yet.

Here are some ways I save money on food:

  • I grow some of my own organic herbs and dry or freeze them for later use. Parsley and mint are two of them.
  • I have chives growing out at my mothers. When I visit, I cut some and bring it home to freeze. This is an absolute freebie for me.
  • I make some things from scratch, such as Paleo pizza crusts, muffins, and tortillas, as well as the occasional dessert.
  • I make my own fruit sauces.
  • I coupon minimally. It’s hard to find coupons for most of what I buy.
  • I try to buy when on sale.
  • I accept fresh produce and eggs from anyone who wants to give them to me.
  • I freeze small bits of food to add to smoothies, soups, and other things later on.
  • I snag good buys at farmer’s markets at the end of the day/season.
  • I comparison shop. Sometimes, but not always, I can find better deals online.

What I don’t mind spending extra money on.

  • Organic, Maine-made honey.
  • Organic, Maine or Vermont-made maple syrup and cream.
  • Organic, locally canned pickled beets when my parents don’t make them.
  • Organic olive oil, coconut oil, and ghee.
  • Almond and coconut flours.
  • Enjoy Life chocolate chips.

I don’t buy a lot of these more expensive items, but I do like to have them on hand once in a while. Sometimes I like to make something special.

How does your spending compare to the amounts given for February?

Shannon

End of the Week Lunches

What do you do for lunches at the end of the week, when your food items are getting low? I use leftovers to make new meals. I also try to keep it simple.

In the picture above you see yesterday’s lunch. I used some leftover beef roast at the center of the plate. Not a lot; just a few slices. Around it, I’ve placed a half of a pear, chopped, carrot rounds, cucumber slices, broccoli, and raw string beans.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, copyright February 2017. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/shannonbuck

For to today’s lunch, I again had a few slices of beef, surrounding it with lots of cabbage, broccoli stems, and carrot rounds. Both meals were tasty and healthy, and left me feeling satisfied. And lemon water was my drink of choice at both meals.

Because everything was leftover from other meals, their costs already counted, these two meals were free.

I try to use up food from the fridge before it goes bad, even if there isn’t much of a particular ingredient. This helps me to save money on my overall grocery bill.

How do you use leftovers?

Shannon

Using After Christmas Sales, Closing Sales, and Thrift Stores to Score Items for the Kitchen

Yesterday I posted on Single Mom Family: Loving Life Together about a girls day the bestest and I had last Thursday. The article, called¬† A Much Needed Girls Day, covers the reasons we needed the girls day, as well as what we did: Lunch at Governor’s and shopping!

Because I live in a room, my kitchen belongings are few. All my pictures for this blog use pretty much the same dishes, bowls, etc, and I’ve wanted to switch things up for a while. I’m looking to incorporate different colors and styles, and various size items.

This means some things are going to have to go, which is fine. I don’t have enough space now for everything. My plan is to give away/donate items as I clear them from the shelves, so I know they wont be going to waste. I’m looking for interesting pieces at great deals so I can photograph food with different place settings and whatnot. And I’m allowing myself to mix and match.

I think experimentation is creative, and want that creativeness to show through in my photographs.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, copyright January 15, 2017. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/shannonbuckI love the Pioneer Woman line. While the bestest and I were at Wal-Mart we checked out the clearance section. A four-pack of the Pioneer Woman Adeline Snow 10 ounce embossed sundae cups goes for $13.72. That is $3.43 each. By purchasing a single cup at $3.00, I saved $.43 on it. I only need the one cup, so it would have been wasteful to buy more.

I also found a Pioneer Woman Adeline Snow 13 ounce embossed bowl. Sold in four-packs, these cost $17.52, so one bowl would be $4.38. I paid only $3.00 for my bowl, saving $1.38.

You can somewhat see the design in the picture. They are so pretty! I’ve needed another bowl, and have wanted a sundae cup for photographing upcoming parfait recipes. Watch for the recipes to be posted this coming June.

These will help me to prettify my photographs, for sure. I’ve learned a little more about food photography, and want my photographs to reflect that learning. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised in the coming months.

I’d say my walmart shopping venture was a huge success based solely on those two purchases, and I found other wonderful deals as well.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, copyright January 14, 2017. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/shannonbuckThe Macy’s in our area has already started its closing sales, so I took advantage of the deals to get a couple of small plates. These are saucer-size plates, not full size. I think they’ll make great dessert plates.

You can’t really tell by the photo, but the plates are slightly different shades of white. The Cellar White Ware Square plate is interesting, likely because I don’t have much for square items. It caught my eye right away. The plate is usually $3.00, but with the 30% discount I paid $2.10. A $.90 savings.

The round one is a White Elementals Plate. Originally $1.00, I paid $.70, a $.30 savings. Not a bad deal.

I want a number of white items so I can put them in place settings with colored items. The white will stand out from the colored pleasingly, I believe. I’m trying to use a mix of white and colors, hoping for more interesting table settings, and you’ll see me experimenting with this through my photography throughout the year.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, January 14, 2017. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/shannonbuckOur last stop was the Goodwill thrift store, and I found a few items I liked while perusing the aisles.

The soup bowl is amazing and, yes, it says “SOUP” right on the front. It cost $2.00 and is well worth the price. A very sturdy bowl, it will hold a good amount of soup. I have another, not exactly the same, that I paid $5.00. The estimated savings on this item would be $3.00.

I love the square bowl, though I’m not entirely sure if it is a bowl or bakeware. Notice the size in relation to the size of the saucer; it isn’t really much bigger. I paid only $1.00 for it, but have no idea how much one would cost normally. If anyone knows if this is just a serving bowl or if it is bakeware, please let me know. For now I’m going to use it for serving.

The small bowl will add some color to a place setting. I paid $1.00 for it, and I think it is the perfect size for cereal or ice cream.

And the saucer is so pretty. The back says Vintage Fine China. I paid $1.00 for this item as well. The saucer will add a splash of color to an otherwise white setting, and I think the round white plate from above will fit over it nicely and still allow for seeing the artwork.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, copyright January 14, 2017. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/shannonbuckThe mug has a more interesting design. I like the blue and white, and you can see the yellow ring near the top. This is not a full size mug by any means, but it will be perfect for a little hot cocoa or tea on a cold evening. This mug cost $1.00.

If you look closely at the pictures, you’ll see the burgundy napkins have a design cut out around the edges. Fancy! While these can obviously be used as napkins, I think they would also make good placemats for the place settings that I’ll be creating with the smaller plates, bowls, and cups. The two napkins cost $1.00.

The holiday napkins came as a three-pack, and can also be used as placemats if I want to get fancy at the holidays. The three napkins were $1.00, but I only had to pay $.50.

I can’t tell you exactly how much I saved on these items because I don’t know the regular prices for most of the items I bought at Goodwill, but I can tell you the savings on the items I do know the regular prices for. That savings would be $6.01. But I’m sure I saved quite a bit more by shopping at the thrift store.

Have you found any good deals for kitchen needs since the new year? We’d love to hear about them.

Happy shopping!

Shannon

 

 

Freezer Mix-Ups

What are mix-ups?  Well, to make a mix-up, all you do slice or chop fruits and/or vegetables for freezing. These will likely be different each time you freeze, depending on the available produce and the amounts. They are easy to throw together and place in the freezer for later use.

This is a good way to use up produce that may be a little less than fresh, and to use those odd pieces not used in recipes or eaten with meals.

Here is how I make a vegetable mix-up:

  • Take out a large mixing bowl, and a cooking spoon for mixing.
  • Get out your cutting board and a sharp knife.
  • Take the vegetables you are worrying about going to waste out of your refrigerator. Produce that may not be the freshest, but could be used in a stew or something else.
  • Look at the counter produce to see if any of it needs to be used.
  • Rinse everything and wipe dry with a towel.
  • Chop all the vegetables and throw them into the bowl.
  • Throw out the trash (or compost it!), and then mix up what is in the bowl.
  • Judge how many freezer containers you will need, get them ready, and label them veggie mix-up and put a use-by date on the label. (Six months would work)
  • Spoon the vegetables into the container(s), cover, and freeze.

Use these mix-ups for:

To make fruit mix-ups, take the same steps above and use the fruit mix-ups for smoothies or homemade ice cream.

These are great ways to help you save money. It is frugal to also use leftovers in the same manner, adding even as little as a teaspoon of corn or pees to a freezer mix-up will allow you to save money in the long run.

How do you save money in the kitchen? Get a copy of my eBook Frugal Ways to Save Money in the Kitchen + Frugal Recipes for the Health Conscious. It is FREE!

Shannon

Quick Tip: Reuse Tea Bags

When I was a young(er) adult, I remember sitting in my mother’s kitchen with my Nan. We were talking about little things, mainly, while making tea. She told me she always uses her tea bags at least twice. She explained that after one use, a tea bag still has plenty of flavor.

This made complete sense, and I started doing the same. I can actually get two-and-a-half decent uses out of a tea bag in a big mug. This also means I’m saving money, an important thing for this frugal momma.

Even when I go to Aroma Joe’s to write or work on a project, I have them reuse the tea bags from my first cup of tea for a second cup. This means my second tea is free.

Spend less, enjoy more, and save money in the process.

Shannon

New Year Goal: Organize

Yesterday I posted a New Year goal about how I’m getting back to eating healthy after getting off track during the holidays. Today I want to let you know about another goal, and my theme word for the year.

ORGANIZE

Yup, by the end of the new year, I intend to be far more organized.

And not just in the kitchen or with cooking. I’m going to be organizing most aspects of my life. This is huge for me, as I’m not an organized person. But it is necessary, especially when living in such a small space.

You see, I rent a room. In that one room, I have sections: Bedroom, living room, office, pantry, kitchen. I’ve started the process, but still have a long way to go.

For the kitchen/cooking/pantry part of the organization goal, I’m looking to streamline some things, and to get things in order.

  • I’m turning my closet into a pantry. This closet is not huge, but it’ll hold cleaning products, personal hygiene needs, and food items.
  • I would also like to get a cabinet to put next to my door that will be a party of the pantry system.
  • I’m looking for a way to organize my spices and cooking/baking utensils so they don’t take up cupboard or counter space. Any ideas?
  • I want a couple of drawer units and a cupboard unit for dishes, cookware, etc. It can’t be too tall, because my toaster oven needs to sit atop the units. I’m thinking cube units will be the most efficient way to go.
  • I also want a new dorm-size fridge. One with a separate freezer. The little freezer in my current refrigerator holds next to nothing, and doesn’t keep food frozen well. The freezer in the fridge that I want is a little bigger. I’ve already learned I don’t need much refrigerator space. This will save me money in my future home. I wont need to buy a huge refrigerator, and a small one doesn’t use a much energy. I’ll keep a spare in the pantry for holiday use.
  • Putting together a system for tracking the recipes I want to try, and the recipes and tips I want to keep, is necessary. Any tips for these projects will be greatly appreciated!

Are you looking to organize your kitchen and recipes this year? What are your plans? Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Take inventory of the kinds of things you put in your kitchen and pantry. Is there a better way to organize things that will help to streamline your meal prep activities? What do you need to get to most often? And what do you need only occasionally? Make a list of how you might better organize these areas. Or draw a sketch.
  • Do you need organizers for the cupboards, drawers, pantry, and refrigerator? What might work in these areas? Make a list of things you can pick up to help get your space organized.
  • Print off a Master Inventory List.
  • Print off a Master Pantry Shopping List.
  • Go through all those loose recipes you have stashed here and there, and decide which ones you will really be trying. Organize them, and get rid of the rest.
  • Start organizing! Don’t wait, or you might not get to it. Plan to do something each week until you’re done, or plan a weekend to do everything.

Save money on organizers by:

  • Shopping yard and garage sales.
  • Utilizing clearance and other sales.
  • Checking out local thrift stores.
  • Shopping at the local dollar stores.

Happy New Year!

Shannon

New Year Goal: Getting Back to Eating Healthy

I must have gained 15 pounds this month, and I feel crappy to boot. I can’t claim to eat healthy 100% of the time, but usually I eat far healthier than I have in the past couple of months.

The holidays are rough, that’s for sure. All the delicious foods are so hard to say no to.

What is healthier for me? A mostly Paleo diet. Mainly vegetables, protein, and healthy fat, with a little fruit thrown into the mix. This is not a diet as many people use the term, but a lifestyle. Remember, a diet isn’t something you go on. It is how you eat daily.

Now, a Paleo lifestyle is not cheap, but I am trying and learning new things to help me save money when possible. Usually my hours are cut back during the winter months, meaning my food budget is next to nothing, but this year my boss tells me I’ll be working 40 hours each week. If this is true, I’ll have more money for groceries. Thank goodness! More money for experimenting with recipes. More money for regular meals. More money for healthy food, and not having to eat all the grains, sugars, and other stuff that causes me to gain weight.

My parents gave me $100.00 for Christmas, and I intend to put that money toward stock-ups for healthy eating this winter. After all, we all like pancakes and muffins sometimes. It’s just a matter of what ingredients are used when making them. So I want to stock up on things like:

  • almond flour
  • coconut flour
  • cocoa bliss
  • coconut oil
  • canned tomatoes
  • tomato paste
  • bakers cocoa
  • canned full-fat coconut milk
  • canned coconut cream
  • unsweetened coconut flakes

I lose weight and feel so much better when I’m following a Paleo lifestyle more closely.

What is healthy for you and your family? That depends on your health concerns and other things. Your doctor or a nutritionist should be able to help you figure it out. You owe it to yourself and your family to figure out what healthy is for you, and to change your recipes and menus up accordingly.

You don’t have to make one big change at the beginning of the year, especially if that means you wont stick to it. Why not try something new each month, continuing throughout the year with each one. You will make each a habit to carry with you into every year from here on out. Here are some suggestions:

January: Do you really need a bunch of fruit every single day? With the Paleo lifestyle, and a need to lose weight, I’ll only be having one fruit a day. Fruit has plenty of natural sugars, and I don’t need that much sugar when I’m trying to lose weight – natural or otherwise. If you’re not trying to lose weight, then more fruit is likely fine.

February: Are you getting enough vegetables? Even if you get two vegetables at the three meals every day, adding a side salad to lunch and dinner will give you a nutritional punch. These don’t have to be huge salads, and will help to make sure you’re getting enough produce.

March: Water is so important! Try drinking a lemon water each morning. Then a water with lunch, and one in between lunch and dinner. This may enough for you. A good rule of thumb with water is that you should be able to get all your food in throughout the day. If you’re drinking a lot of water each day and not feeling hungry enough at all three of the basic meals, you are likely drinking too much water. Eight glasses of water a day is not for everyone. Keep in mind, you’ll need more water during hot months.

April: Is juice necessary? No. It’s far better to have the fruit than the juice. If you really think you need the juice, be sure it has no added sugars. One-hundred percent juice is the way to go.

May: Is dairy really your friend? Being on the Paelo diet, you eliminate a lot of foods from your diet. Then you can reintroduce some things. During this process, I learned that milk and yogurt are not my friends, but I can tolerate cheese. However, cheese is not really part of the Paleo lifestyle Let’s just say I haven’t given cheese up completely, but I limit it. I rarely ever have it.

June: Did you take milk out of your diet and want to replace it with something else? I didn’t think I would like them, but I now drink almond, coconut, and cashew milks. Try one. One serving a day is good.

July: Cut out processed sugars, for the most part. I do use organic honey, maple syrup, and molasses (on rare occasion). I don’t use sweeteners a lot by any means.

August: Corn is not a vegetable. Not really. It is a grain. Please treat it as such.

September: Rethink grains, particularly if you’re trying to lose weight. And don’t be fooled by wheat products. They may not be as healthy for you as they are supposed to be. Still want pasta, breads, and brownies? Think almond and coconut flours. There are non-grain options that taste great.

October: While my favorite dessert item is not 100% Paleo/healthy, it is tasty and easy to make. If you have the money you can get healthier versions of chocolate chips, but I don’t have that kind of money. This treat keeps me from eating a whole slew of very-bad-for-me desserts, so I’m keeping it.

No-Bakes: Melt chocolate chips with a tablespoon of organic coconut oil. Chop almond slivers up a little finer, and give some dried fruit a chopping as well. Add these two ingredients along with unsweetened coconut flakes to the melted chocolate. Make sure all the goodies are coated, then drop by the tablespoon on to parchment paper and allow the no-bakes to set up. Yum! Store in a container in the fridge. I’m sorry, I don’t measure these ingredients.

November: Be sure each meal and snack has a vegetable, some protein, and a little healthy fat. A good snack might be a carrot or celery, a hard-boiled egg, and a tablespoon of cocoa bliss.

December: Make sure each get-together includes a vegetable platter or two!

Tips for saving money while eating healthier:

  • If you are cutting back on fruit intake, you’re saving a little money.
  • You’re also saving money on processed foods that can go toward healthier foods.
  • I can’t afford all organic foods, by any means, but I do buy organic when I can.
  • I rarely ever am able to afford organic meats. I don’t let it bother me. I’ll still be eating healthier than when I’m consuming all the dairy, sugar, and grains.
  • Peanuts are not nuts. They are legumes. If you are on the Paleo diet, you aren’t allowed legumes. You’ll save money by not buying peanut butter, beans, etc.
  • Figure out what healthy brands of foods are sold at the stores you frequent, then go online to look up their websites. Sign up for coupons. Use coupons only when it will save you money.
  • Combining coupons with sales saves even more money.
  • Wal-Mart has organic herbs in pots. Place them on a windowsill and use them in place of dried herbs. This will save you a lot.
  • Start an organic garden in the spring.
  • Save leftovers, even if it is only a tablespoon or two of something. Freeze what you wont use right off.

Happy New Year!

Shannon

Quick Tip: Now is the Time for Thanksgiving Savings

Gather the sales fliers and clip those coupons. It is time to be looking for deals on Thanksgiving and autumn related items such as foods, candles, and other kitchen needs.

Saving money on these items now is a great way to stock your pantry for the coming winter and next year. Look for cans of pumpkin, spices, paper plates, cups, and bowls. Table cloths, napkins, dish towels, platters, and more items will be found. Take advantage if you can. Anything on sale this time of year is fair game.

While many things can be put away to use while decorating the kitchen and table for Thanksgiving next year, the food items can be used throughout the winter.

First year doing this? Keep track of how many of each item you buy, what the regular price for each item was, the sale price, and the coupon discount. How much did you save overall?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Shannon

Small Kitchen Appliances Save You Money

I live in a room, so small appliances are a necessity. I’m thinking that even when I do get my small house, smaller appliances may be the way to go. Why?

Because they cost less to run.

Right now, I have a toaster oven, 2 (3-quart) crock pots, a dorm-size refrigerator, a 2 burner hot plate and a 1 burner backup, a hand mixer, and a single-serve blender. That’s it, and I live pretty comfortably this way. For the most part, they are all I need.

Of course it’s just me living in my little space. But it would be just me in a small house as well, for the most part. The cost of living being as high as it is these days, I know I’ll be looking to save money wherever possible and, by living in a room, I’ve learned what I can and can’t live without. What I miss and what I don’t.

  1. I don’t need a full size refrigerator. It’s wasteful not having a refrigerator filled all the time, so why get a big one just for me. A dorm-size refrigerator is perfect, but I want to replace the old one with a newer model that has a separate freezer. The one in the fridge I have doesn’t work well, and I feel that one with a separate opening for the freezer will be better and hold a little more. I’d want a second one for the house, to use during family gatherings for extra storage. I’ve also seen smaller, glass-door refrigerators that fit snug at the end of a kitchen island, under the counter. This might look better in the kitchen of the small house I want.
  2. Instead of a full stove, I want just a range top and hood. I don’t need a full size oven for every day use. I do want a double wall oven for holiday use with a drawer below for bake ware, because I love to bake. A lot.
  3. The right toaster oven will allow for baking, toasting, roasting, and making rotisserie meats. I have one of these, so I don’t need a separate toaster.
  4. I’ve learned that I don’t need a microwave at all.
  5. I do want a freezer, and will be looking at what types are the best value for my buck. I want one that will cost the least to run. (Any advice here is welcome!)
  6. And I definitely want a dishwasher. I wonder if they have smaller size ones. Dishes are one of the worst chores ever, in my opinion.

What do you consider to be essential for your household? Your items may be different from mine. For me, a woman living alone, I don’t need much. I want to save money on utilities, and space in the kitchen the small home I want. If you really desired or needed to cut back on expenses, what appliances would you choose to keep, downgrade, or let go of all together?

Shannon

5 Laws of Being a Frugal Kitchen Goddess

Being a Kitchen Goddess is one thing. Being a Frugal Kitchen Goddess is something else. I’m a Frugal Kitchen Goddess, and darn proud of it. How about you?

In order to be a frugal Goddess in the kitchen, you must know and/or do things that help to save money. What they are will depend on your cooking style and just how much money you wish not to spend. My Frugal Kitchen Goddess laws are:

  1. Know the truth about eggs. That’s right, most of the time all size eggs are created equal. There are only a few types of recipes out there that wouldn’t come out right if I did not use, say, three large eggs, and I don’t make those recipes. While large eggs are sometimes the better value, this is not always the case. Just last week I bought a dozen medium eggs because they were the best value where I was shopping. I used two medium eggs in my homemade brownie recipe and the brownies came out perfect, even though the recipe called for two large. No difference. I have also used small eggs in this manner. It is way more economical, most of the time, to use small eggs in smoothies as well. Also, when tripling and quadrupling recipes, I leave out an egg. The food comes out just fine. I have even been known to use duck eggs (given to me by a friend) in different recipes. They are amazing.
  2. Grow your own food. Even though I rent a room right now, and can’t garden outside, I still grow a little of my own food. For instance, my mother grew kale and chives in her garden last year and, at the end of the growing season these greens were still growing strong. I took two of each plant, put them in a pot with soil, watered when necessary, and used the greens in salads and smoothies until after the holidays. Every time I’d take a leaf or two off, more would grow. It was great. Right now I’m trying my hand at growing herbs on at the back of my desk, right in front of a huge window. So far the cilantro and parsley are growing well, and I can see the beginnings of some oregano. Yum. I’m doing it all organically, and it will save a good amount of money.
  3. Cook from scratch. It’s much more frugal, and healthier, than using so many processed foods when you’re trying to eat healthy. I don’t do a lot of baking any more, as far as cakes, breads, and such. But I do take squash from the garden to roast, filling it with other fresh produce and a little meat. I also make other foods in my toaster oven.
  4. Accept whatever people offer. From duck eggs to fresh produce to food plants, I take whatever anyone wants to offer. This saves me a bunch of money each year, and provides food to experiment with allowing me to create new recipes. Fun! You’ll figure out a way to use each item. Duck eggs are great in smoothies, omelets, and more. The plants can be placed outside or in a sunny window. And the fresh produce can be used in all manner of things, from smoothies, to omelets, to nachos.
  5. Utilize the slow cooker when possible. Make everything from roasts to chili to soups, and so much more. Use of the cheapest cuts of meat, and the ugliest produce, wont even matter. No one will notice. And you’ll make the most amazing meals!

Now, I realize each frugalista has her own laws of being a Frugal Kitchen Goddess. What are your yours? Do any of them match up to mine? Are they different?

Shannon