#1) Cook from scratch. I really like to cook and bake so this one is pretty easy. I like doing the whole "domestic" thing and really don't like buying things that I can make myself at home from scratch for next to nothing. This goes for loaf bread, tortillas, pita bread (though I really need to improve this), yogurt, pizza, muffins, and syrup (okay, I don't make syrup anymore since we switched to REAL maple syrup, but I did before then because I wasn't paying $3 for a bottle of sugar water). I cook dinner at home almost every night. This is not only better for our wallets but better for our health as I know exactly what is in what we are eating and can cater it towards our health needs and taste preferences.
#2) Plan. Plan. Plan. Menu planning is key to sticking to a budget. Whether you menu plan weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or just the night before it is so important. Not only does it minimize (or eliminate) out food waste this way, but it saves us from resorting to processed junk or going out to eat. I always try to plan ahead if we are going to be out one day and bring a snack with us so we don't go out to eat or buy something quick to cook at the store because we are too hungry to wait for a nice meal once we get home. I also try to at least have an idea of what I want to buy at the store when I go. When I have a list (in some form) it helps to keep me from impulse buys (like those yummy looking items in the bulk bins at the grocery store).
#3) Be flexible. Sometimes I have my entire menu written out for the week along with a detailed shopping list. I am dashing through the store getting just what I need until I happen upon some great deal that makes me stop. Most recently it was a cart full of organic lentils for $1/pound. When I find a good deal on something I stock up. I may spend more that week but it will save me money in the long run. Sometimes I might find some produce marked down for quick sale and snatch it up. I will have to cook/eat/freeze it that day or soon after, but with some foods it is worth it. That is where flexibilty also comes into play. I may not have mushrooms on the menu at all that week, but if I find them cheap we will be having them for sure that night!
#4) Eat less meat. We already don't eat as much meat as I am sure the average American does, but my goal this year is to cut that back even more. One reason is that we are switching to only organic, free-range poultry (we don't really eat red meat, but if we did, we would only buy grass fed) with a hefty price tag, The other is that meat has a large impact on our environment. I am not ready to switch to becoming vegan or even just vegetarian, but I will do my part to lessen the environmental waste.
#5) Eat organic. Not only will I be keeping many of those nasty pesticides out of my family's bodies, but I will also be helping to keep some of those toxic killers out of the environment. Are you a #3 person? Read this to see why organics are so important. Are you a #2 person? One of my favorite blogs, PhD in Parenting, has a list of 10 ways you can afford organics. She covers everything I have and would say much better than I can so I will only add my own comments to a couple of her points.
- Since I am on a budget I do selectively buy organic produce depending on the pesticide level. I am not going to pay twice as much for organic bananas, but I will pay more for organic lettuce. I feel every little bit helps and one day maybe everything will be organic.
- I do not have a garden. I want a garden. I dream of a garden filled with lettuce, eggplants, zucchini, tomatoes, and more plants than I can name. I dream of picking cherries, blueberries, apples, grapes, pears, and strawberries from my own backyard. Am I delusional? Just a bit. But I do plan on having at least a modest garden of lettuce, zucchini, and tomatoes this spring.
- I am not a member of a CSA. But I am desperately trying to find one that isn't already all filled up for the spring (and that will email me back!).
#7) Cloth diaper.* I know there are a lot of people who think this is gross, but I think toxins, such as the carcinogen dioxin, sitting next to the Kid's most sensitive areas all day is much grosser.
#8) Reduce paper usage.* We do not use paper towels or paper napkins. We have cloth napkins and dishrags that work great as cleaning rags. I don't use toilet paper for #1 and am working up the courage to do it for #2. No amount of money could convince the Husband to give up toilet paper, though.
#9) Homemade cleaning products.* Vinegar, baking soda, and castile oil soap go a long way when it comes to cleaning my house and my body. Combine those with just a few other ingredients and I never need to buy traditional toxins and poisons again.
#10) Recycle. Okay, this one doesn't really save us very much money. But we do save because we do not have to buy nearly as many trash bags. We take off our own trash because we live in a rural area, but if we lived in the city limits, we would save because we would not have to pay to have so much garbage hauled off. And of course their are the environmental benefits, but I am sure everyone knows those ;)
* These topics will be covered individually in later posts.