You Gonna Eat That?

We all want to save money. We are working hard at our jobs and taking care of our families, and most of us are stressed out with a whole lot of stuff on our plate. Many of us, especially those of us who read (and write) blogs like this one have turned to budgets to help us reign in spending and give our money a purpose. While most line items have little room for negotiation, we often have some flexibility in our grocery budget.

If you are reading this post, you are probably already doing lots of things to save money on your groceries: coupons, sales, bulk when able, and shopping multiple stores. We do all of that, but one easy thing to do that saves a lot of money is simply not letting what you buy go to waste.

Saving money on groceries is a major budget focus in many households here in the United States and around the world. According to the USDA, 41 million Americans are food insecure which is defined as not having consistent access to enough food to lead an active and healthy life. The average food costs for a family of 4 with 2 young children on the low cost food plan spent $725.50 per month. That adds up to well over $7,000 dollars a year, which is a lot of money for most families. It is important not to waste the money that you worked to buy the food with or the time spent shopping for it.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1.3 billion tons of food is being throw away each year globally. I don’t know about you, but this number is an incomprehensible to me! A number we can all better relate to comes from a 2018 study published in PLOS One. It estimates that every American throws away approximately one pound of food per day. We may reflect upon our day and think, “there is no way that I have thrown away a pound of food”, but when you get around to that horrid task of cleaning out the fridge, pay attention to what is being dumped into the trash; it can be quite eye opening.

One day while cleaning out my own refrigerator, I realized that number wasn’t far off. I was horrified at the sheer volume of my good intentions that were being tossed to go out to the curb for the next day’s trash pick-up. I knew I could do better, but I had to make a plan to eliminate or at least minimize the amount of food that was being wasted. As the old saying goes, waste not, want not.

Food waste prevention needs to starts before you leave the house. Be sure to plan your trip for the day so that the grocery store or farmers market is the last stop on your outing. We do this even when the cold weather sets in as we often prefer to have the heat on during the drive home.

Keep Your Cool

Not only should you plan your driving route, you should plan your route through the store so that you hit the frozen and refrigerated sections last. Doing this will limit the amount time your cold groceries sit in the cart warming. Also, be sure to place all of your cold items together in the cart as well as when you place them on the check out belt. Even if you don’t bag your own groceries, keeping these items together will help make sure they get bagged together. The more they are packed together, the less heat they’ll absorb over time.

Once you’re done in the store, you have several options for preserving your cold items until you get home. Cooler bags can be purchased in many stores and, if you remember to bring them in with you, you can put your goodies in the bag as soon cashier rings them up. If you don’t want to haul your cooler bags around the store, you can keep them (or a chest cooler) in your vehicle and simply put your cold goods in as you unload the cart. If you don’t have bags or a cooler, you can just pack those items together and cover them with a heavy blanket or two for insulation on the trip home. If you have air conditioning, running it on your drive home is also beneficial during the summer.

Afer you make it back to the homestead, time is once again of the essence; unload and store your cold groceries first. Your canned goods will last for years, so they can certainly wait a few minutes while you work to keep your ice cream from melting or your salmon from thawing. Speaking of planning, did you remember to clear space in your freezer and refrigerator to have room when you get home? This is a trick I often forget, and end up in front of the fridge with the door open while I shuffle things around, potentially harming what I just brought home as well as the food already in there.

Don’t Sweat It

Now that your refrigerator and freezer doors have been shut for the last time, you can deal with the fruits and vegetables you just brought home. In the heat, single items like cucumbers, apples and even potatoes can start to sweat pretty quickly if they were previously stored cold. It is important to get them out of the bags and dry them off before storing them to prolong their shelf life. During our humid summers, we’ve had mold growing on cucumbers in less than 24 hours if we forget to do this.

If you purchase greens in a plastic container it is helpful to open it and add a paper towel on top to help absorb extra moisture. Store these items so that the paper towel is on the bottom ; it may need to be changed every few days.

Now that you have properly stored your perishables, make it a priority to eat them before they go bad. For my family, if any fruit or veggies look as if they are about to go bad, I cut them up and freeze them to use later. Frozen fruit can be used in smoothies and breads, lemons and limes can be added to water for flavor, and vegetables can be frozen and added to soups and casseroles. Bread can be frozen to extend it’s life and so can cheese, although it will need to be used in cooking as it changes it texture and is not pleasant to eat alone. Milk and juices can also be frozen, just make sure the plastic jugs are not completely full so they have room to expand as they freeze.

Make a List; Check it Twice

Once food is prepared and the leftovers go into fridge, take a moment to write down what you just put inside so you don’t lose track. We keep a small white board with a magnetic back on our refrigerator door just for this purpose. It’s a good idea to put the date you stored the food so you’re sure to use it before it has a chance to go bad. Be sure to include things like half-full jars of pasta sauce or apple sauce on your list (it’s amazing how quickly these things can get pushed to the back). In fact, you may want to keep a Sharpie nearby so you can write the date they were opened directly on the jars or their lids; we’ve had more than one open jar of the same thing in our refrigerator more than I care to admit. It’s always good to check the list, and the fridge, before opening a new container. Also, don’t forget to have everyone erase items from the list as you use them, otherwise you might have a frustrating (and fridge warming) search for that elusive bowl of casserole your husband ate after you fell asleep last night.

Life is certainly busy, and the suggestions above may just sound like adding more work. Rest assured, with just these few steps you can save a lot of money over the long run by simply avoiding waste. There is no reason you should be throwing away your money over expired food!

We hope you find these tips helpful and would love for you to share your tips for making your food last and avoiding waste. Please take a moment to share in the comment section.

You are already paying for it – use it!

What is it that, at least here in the U.S., you are already paying for and, in my opinion, is one of the most underutlilized resources for saving money?

Your local library!

While there are books a-plenty to be sure, there is so much more on hand at your local library.

I worked for a large library system for two years and now live in a small mid-western town where I use our library frequently. Even after all that experience, it still surprises me what can be found at a library. What amazes me even more is that most people don’t have any idea just how much is available at no cost, beyond any taxes you’ve already paid, of course.

By merely walking into a library, you probably wouldn’t be aware of even half the possibilities. It can take some time to truly learn what all they have through exploration, research, and talking to the library staff. To help you save time and, hopefully, some money, I wanted to share what is available to my family and neighbors at our local branch so you’ll have an idea what you may be missing.

Before you even walk through the door at our library there is a US mail box, a paper recycling dumpster, a donation drop box for a local charity, and an after hours drop box to return your library items. The mailbox has saved me, on numerous occasions, a trip to the post office and being able to drop off checked out items after hours can save you from late fees.

Upon entering, there is a small used bookstore with a variety of items including books, DVDs, and magazines for very low prices. Everything sells for less than $1.50 and sometimes items are simply free.

The following can be borrowed FREE of charge:

  • Books
  • DVDs
  • CDs
  • Audiobooks
  • Play – Aways
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Video games
  • State museum tickets
  • Heritage museum tickets
  • board & yard games
  • cookie cutters
  • baking molds & pans
  • WiFi hot spots
  • portable device chargers
  • virtual reality glasses
  • toys
  • knife sharpener
  • telescope
  • umbrellas
  • check engine diagnostic tool

Services available free of charge are:

  • notary
  • faxing
  • computer lab
  • teen room
  • toddler/kids play area
  • kids computers
  • private meeting rooms
  • Local Ancestry room w/assistance
  • Study tables with phone charging stations
  • craft activities for kids
  • Inter-library loan
  • Tablets for in-house use
  • variety of classes
  • WiFi
  • MyLibraryRewards

Through the library’s website, with your library card you are also able to access:

  • e-books
  • audio-books
  • e-comics & graphic novels
  • streaming movies & tv shows
  • digital music
  • practice driving and test manuals
  • business and legal databases
  • Rosetta Stone
  • Cyprus Resume
  • legal forms
  • American Fact Finder
  • Education apps
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library
  • Britannica Library
  • Teen Book Cloud

As you can see, libraries can offer a multitude of ways for you to save money, and all you need is a free library card.

Take some time out of your busy schedule to stop by your local library and check it out. Please leave a comment to let us know how it went and what cool resources you discover.

Happy Veterans Day

The FrugalSource would like to take a moment to thank our brave men and women in uniform for all they do for our country.  I, Mrs.FrugalSource spent several years working at VA Hospital and it was the best job I ever had. I was deeply touched by the many sacrifices and stories that I was honored to witness during my time there and it has forever changed the way I view the world and those that work tirelessly to protect our part of it. We are extremely grateful.

Below are a few links to sites listing numerous discounts and freebies that our offered for these brave men and women.  We hope all veterans will take advantage of as many as possible.

Veterans Day Freebies

Veterans Day Discounts

Veterans Day Sales, Deals, and Free Meals.

Celebrating Christmas on a Budget

It’s not about the money we spend…

Budget.  That is not a word that most people like to use when they discuss their holiday plans.  Our society constantly shows us that the holidays are meant for excess in every single way; gifts, meals, celebrations, excursions, decorations, desserts and adult beverages just to name a few.

We have come to a point in our society that we need to step back and take a good look at why we are taking a religious holiday and turning into a circus. The holy days are such a beautiful time in the year and can be enjoyed while creating wonderful memories, even on a budget.

While raising our kids, we have always been on a budget, trying to dig ourselves out of medical debt and now our mortgage. So, over the years, I’ve needed to be creative and come up with ways to enjoy the season without breaking the bank.

I have shared many of the ways that we celebrated the Christmas season with our family in our new book, “Frugal Seeds Christmas Edition: 101 Ways to Celebrate the Holiday Season on a Budget”.  It is available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook and can be read for FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

Wishing you a happy and budget friendly holiday season.

who doesn’t love a list?

“Failing to plan is planning to fail”
– Unknown

There is something about lists that make me intrinsically happy. I actually enjoy writing down what I hope to accomplish over a specific period of time, be it that day or 5 years from now.

These lists allow me to plan and to dump all the thoughts bouncing around in my mind and free up space. But what I enjoy doing even more than writing out a list is crossing things off. Yep, I actually get a small rush of happiness each time I take my pen and make a horizontal line through the achievement written on my index card, which is now my preferred way to write out my lists (using both sides, of course). Sure, I could create a list on my phone but then that would deprive me of drawing a line, and that is more than half the fun of creating a list in the first place.

What does creating list have to do with finances? Quite a lot, actually.  In order to reach our goals, we need to have a plan.  You can try to walk around all day with all of your goals rattling around in your head, or you can write them down.  Just the act of writing down your goals makes them more real.  According to a 2016 study by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, you are 42% more likely to reach your goals and dreams if you write them down on a regular basis.

Should you be a slave to your lists? Absolutely not, but they give us the framework of what we find important, our priorities for the day.  And it is in our daily activities and consistent behaviors they allow us to win with our money.

I have found the following lists helpful while digging out of debt:

  • grocery lists – stay focused in the store so we purchase only what is needed
  • book lists – keeps me focused on what I want and need to read instead of getting off track with something with a catchy title
  • daily lists – what i would like to accomplish that day in order to keep moving toward my goals
  • financial lists – lists of goals for 1, 5 and 10 years; without these goals you have no idea what you are trying to accomplish with your finances
  • personal lists – areas that I would like to enhance in my life, such as learning new skills
  • spiritual goals – it is my firm belief that we are all spiritual beings and our highest calling is to help others in their life’s journey
  • house list – similar to a grocery list, but helps Mr. Frugal Source stay focused when surrounded by all the tools he didn’t know he needed at the local big box store

Lists make the world, at least my small world, a much better place as they free my mind to think about the most important things in life.

As always, we want to hear from you. We’d love it if you’d take a moment to comment about what you do to keep yourself focused and stay on track to your goals.

Home Again, Home Again (and Again, and Again)

Home is where the heart (and most of the expense) is.

Of our many mistakes with money, one that is particularly ironic has to do with housing. The irony is due to the fact that our mortgages have been, by far, our largest debts in our lifetime. Yet, by having had so many of them — each with a break in between — we’ve been temporarily debt free several times.

By the time we had been married for 20 years, we had purchased our fourth house with our fourth 30 year mortgage. It’s not like we’ve ever had to move due to some compelling outside reason like a job transfer or being closer to an ailing loved one. In fact, none of our homes has ever been outside a ten-mile radius from our first. Each time, we had different reasons that prompted us to leave. They were generally the wrong reasons and, being honest with ourselves, they generally shared a common theme.

Continue reading “Home Again, Home Again (and Again, and Again)”

It Never Looks the Same Twice

When you look at an intricate painting, you tend to notice different things, depending upon your present perspective and what element currently holds your focus. I’ve learned that hindsight is very similar; events look very different as the lens through which you view them evolves. When I started sharing my experience leaving a pension behind, I ended with the question “would I do it again?”. In that post, I was focused on the long-term financial impact. I do realize even pensions aren’t guaranteed; in fact, the one I left had already ended as a benefit for new hires, though it is still in force to this day for those who were already covered. This knowledge made gauging the financial impact of leaving pretty straightforward. Even though financial ramifications are certainly of great import and, likely of great interest to those reading this blog, they are just one piece of the puzzle.

Continue reading “It Never Looks the Same Twice”

Unintended Consequences

While cashing in the 401k was probably the most blatantly stupid financial decision, another decision Mr. Frugal Source made for the wrong reasons is in competition for the greatest negative impact on our ability to retire “early”, and possibly eclipses it.

When I was a relative youngster (mid 20s), I found a secure job writing software for a bank. This was the same job I left just before cashing out the 401k. The cash-out notwithstanding, the decision to leave that employer, in it’s own right, hugely impacted our retirement timeline. Why is that? One word. Pension.

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That thing you should never do? Yeah, we did it.

We have made TONS of financial mistakes over the years; so many, in fact, that when we reflect upon our past, it is a miracle that we are free from consumer debt and continue to pay additional principal on our mortgage every month.

Over the next several months we will be sharing our biggest mistakes. We aren’t doing this because we want to beat ourselves up and relive the decisions we wish we could take back, but because we sincerely hope we can help someone else from making the same mistakes.

Neither of us was raised in a family where financial matters were discussed, let alone healthy financial attitudes and strategies encouraged. This is not to lay blame, but to set the stage that we have, for the most part, been figuring this out on our own. In most cases, we failed to seek — and when we did seek, we often did not find — wise counsel. We find ourselves reflecting on our past and say, what if?  It is not helpful, but when we think about retirement, which is creeping up much faster than we would like to admit, it sometimes can’t be avoided.

If you’ve not already “been there and done that” allow us to present our own experiences as cautionary tales.

Continue reading “That thing you should never do? Yeah, we did it.”

Low-cost Fall Activities

Autumn is my favorite time of year, and if you spend any time on social media, it seems many feel the same way. The sights, sounds, and smells of the season are a delight to the senses and the weather is perfection in my book.

This is the time of year when I feel at my best, and I appreciate being able to spend more time outside. I love having the windows open and being able to cook without worrying about running up the electric bill while the AC beats back the heat from the kitchen.

Without further ado, here are some of my favorite low cost fall activities:

Continue reading “Low-cost Fall Activities”