Frugality. Paying down debt. Saving money. They have all be incredibly elusive to me throughout my marriage. I walked away from the marriage, divorced, and with a gigantic mound of debt looming over my head. Hospital bills, unpaid college loans, a car payment, and a house which I may or may not get to keep. Not to mention, our joint bank account had been wiped out with our savings leaving me with absolutely nothing since I was a stay at home mom prior to the divorce. I knew that I had to take care of me and the kiddo. I couldn’t just curl up in a ball and sleep like I wanted to. So, I immediately started applying for jobs. Every job you could think of, I applied for. I am a certified teacher, but I was applying for other jobs too, like cashier, restaurants, driver, job coach. I finally got a job as a substitute paraprofessional. But it took about six months. I lived virtually by occasional money from the ex and selling as much household stuff as I could. Here is what I did in the mean time so we didn’t like…… starve or live in a house with no lights.
- Meal Plan– I would plan out meals, write a list, and stick exclusively to the list I made. This meant sometimes toting a grouchy kid through the store, who simply could not understand why we couldn’t buy Oreos. But I stuck to it, and would make a mental note to try to budget for the generic ones the following week……maybe.
- I made peace with not shopping organic– For produce, I would not buy organic unless it was something the kiddo ate every day and was on the Dirty Dozen list, like baby spinach.
- I shopped produce mostly in season. The fruits and vegetables that are in season are generally on sale or at a lower price than the ones that aren’t currently growing. Watermelon in winter is much more expensive than watermelon in the summer.
- Couponing can save you money! But I only use coupons on the things I would normally buy or the things I might use and can get heavily discounted or for free!
- We went meatless more often. Meatless meals generally cost less and can be just as filling! We love tortellini and mushroom soup and sweet potato and black bean burritos!
- Reinvent leftovers! My kiddo is a picky pants when it comes to eating! It started every since he got to school, but it sometimes makes meal time a battle. We would have a roasted chicken one night, then something like chicken enchiladas the next.
- Freeze! When we make meatballs, we buy the meat on sale, and we make a big batch and freeze the extras. Not only does this save us cooking time, but we get to make a staple for the lowest price.We also freeze extra left overs to pull out at another time instead of letting them sit in the fridge to go bad! Lastly, whenever I buy meat I portion it out immediately into freezer bags so that we don’t waste a thing!
- Look for reduced produce, bakery, meat! Reduced produce is usually just produce that they think might go bad soon. I’ve watched them and they simply walk around picking random fruit to add to the bags. It is also when they get a surplus item. Usually I will use it within a few days or cut it up and put it in the freezer. I’ve gotten a bunch of bananas for as low as twenty cents. They were turning brown and I made them into banana bread and put them in the freezer for smoothies. Bakery and meat also discount their items. If you can use them within a day or two, nab it when you see it. If not, if you can freeze it it is just as good!
These are just a handful of things that I did to save on food! Be on the lookout for other ways I learned to cut costs in future posts!