Frugal is NOT a Bad Word.

Are you really about the frugal life? Often people are frustrated by even the thought of being “frugal.” To some, frugal and thrifty are associated with lack, cheap, time-consuming tasks, and other negative stereotypes. Many who frown upon being thrifty also struggle to save money and stay organized. Given the way the word has been portrayed in the media, I can certainly understand the negativity. The extreme tactics that some people choose (i.e. dumpster diving for dinner and saving used noodle water to bathe with), are just that…EXTREME. Most people who consider themselves frugal would never consider going to such extremes (myself included). These extreme tactics add more problems than they solve!

Frugal living is really about setting goals and meeting them efficiently. It is to be a good steward of precious resources.

We all have a limited amount of time, money and energy. My goal is to show people how to use these resources in order to add value to their lives. Here are a few things that being thrifty has added to my life:

 

Frugal Simplicity   

Thinking positively about being thrifty inspires me to keep clutter, excess and impulses to a minimum. My positive frugal mindset inspires me to have an organized home so that I can quickly assess what I have, and what I need.

 

Time Savings 

How much time do you spend looking for things like keys, or that jar of salsa (which you are sure you bought last week and shoved in the back of your overflowing cabinet)? A HUGE part of being frugal is ORGANIZATION, which saves time. Another aspect of being frugal is mindfully planning to accomplish tasks (i.e. prepping and freezing multiple meals at once) so that you can ultimately save time in the future.

 

Awareness 

Thinking positively about being thrifty goes hand in hand with awareness of your household needs. With that awareness, you can look for opportunities to meet needs your family’s needs in better and more economical ways. For example, if you have a daughter who has skin sensitivities, you could research ways to make laundry detergent that gets the job done for pennies.

 

Knowledge 

The knowledge and wisdom you gain from learning to do tasks in and around your own home is invaluable. You will still need to pay someone else to do or make some things. However, many times, you can put your own knowledge and labor to work for yourself. Knowledge truly is power. Learning to cook, grow a garden, and sew (just to name a few) are all PRICELESS skills that I am learning on my journey of being frugal.

If you view this word from a positive vantage point, one in which you ultimately GAIN something of value, you will easily see that frugal is not such a bad word after all.

What do you think? Why does the term frugal have a negative stereotype? Leave your comment below.

5 Steps for Successful Menu Planning

Creating a menu plan (or meal plan) is simply writing out the meals that you plan to eat over a given timeframe. Menu plans are typically weekly or monthly and can be as detailed as every breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and dessert. Alternatively (and preferably for a newbie), a menu plan can be as simple as a week’s work of dinner menus. Menu planning is a great way to save money, and eat much healthier because it puts YOU in control of what you are consuming. Menu planning can work well regardless of your skill level (if you are willing to learn), and even without using coupons, you can often save over 80% of what you would have spent eating the same meal at a restaurant. If you have never planned your meals for a week, here are some steps to getting started, and TODAY is a great day to begin!

1. Start With What You Have

Do you have a jar of salsa, a package of frozen chicken drumsticks, and half of a box of lasagna noodles in your kitchen right now? Congratulations, that sounds like a great foundation for 3 meals for you and/or your family this week!! Don’t look at the odds and ends of you kitchen as useless. Look at them as money that was already spent, so make them WORK FOR YOU!! With a little planning and effort, those three ingredients can be used in 3 or more healthy meals, such as tacos, veggie lasagna, barbeque chicken,  enchiladas, soups, the list goes on.

2. First Plan to Cook Meals that You are Familiar With

If you are creating your first menu plan, create a simple 5 day Dinner Menu with 3-4 meals you are familiar with. Then add in 1 or 2 simple new meals that you can learn from watching a video online, or from a recipe. Do not attempt to start menu planning with all new recipes and exotic/hard to find ingredients. Start with what you are familiar with and keep it simple. As you get the hang of planning your meals, you can easily add in more elaborate meals.

3. Use Ingredients that Serve Multiple Roles

Menu planning is much smoother (and often less expensive) when you plan meals that share ingredients. You can use spinach in both salad and veggie lasagna, or chicken for both enchiladas and barbeque chicken. It will make planning go much easier, and will help you to avoid having produce that spoils before being used.

4.  Put it On Paper

Set aside time to write out the meals on a calendar or piece of paper that is kept on the fridge. Then write out a grocery list of the items you need to purchase for each recipe. Add on any spices or condiments that you need.

5. Shop & Execute

After you shop for and purchase all of the items on your list for the week, set aside the time to prep your meals for the week. For many people, the weekend is the perfect time to do this because it is often less busy. Thaw any frozen meat that you will cook within 2 days, chop the veggies for the next day (be mindful of what veggies are ok to chop the day before).

Sample Dinner Menu Plan & Grocery List (Family of 2)

Monday’s Dinner Meal:

  • BBQ Chicken with Steamed Corn & Peas, Tossed Salad and Rolls

Grocery Items:
BBQ Sauce
Corn
Peas
Spinach
Mushrooms
Carrots
Cucumber
Tomatoes
Green Peppers
Green Onion
Broccoli
Shredded Cheese
Croutons
Rolls

Tuesday’s Dinner Meal :

  • Veggie Lasagna with Honey Glazed Carrots and Tossed Salad

Additional Grocery Items:

Zucchini

Parmesan Cheese

Oregano

Tomato Sauce

Wednesday’s Dinner Meal:

  • Pan-Seared Salmon with Steamed Broccoli and Brown Rice

Additional Grocery Items:

Brown Rice

Salmon

Thursday’s Dinner Meal:

  • Chicken Enchiladas with Mexican Rice

Additional Grocery Items:

Tortilla Shells

Sour Cream

 

Friday’s Dinner Meal:

  • Tomato Soup, Grilled Cheese & Turkey Sandwich and Salad

Additional Grocery Item:

Turkey

Sample Grocery List (Prices are approximations):

BBQ Sauce $1.50

Corn $1.00

Peas $1.00

Spinach $2.50

Mushrooms $1.00

Carrots $1.00

Cucumber $1.00

Tomatoes $2.00

Green Peppers $2.00

Green Onion $0.99

Broccoli $2.00

Shredded Cheese $3.50

Croutons $0.99

Rolls $1.00

Zucchini $2.00

Parmesan Cheese $2.50

Oregano $0.99

Tomato Sauce $2.00

Brown Rice $2.00

Salmon $9.99

Tortilla Shells $1.29

Sour Cream $0.99

Turkey $2.00

Total : $45.24

Many people will spend this amount for a dinner out for two people this very weekend, but do you see how far $45 could go with a plan??

Keep In Mind:

Menu planning is not going to be perfect, and there will be days you are exhausted and may simply want to order a pizza! Also, since it is YOUR plan, you can even plan for a “take-out meal” whenever you so choose. The key to menu planning and the motivation for me is the awareness of what we are consuming, the savings is just the icing on the cake.  Just as with anything in life, with practice you will get better and it will get easier. As you master the weekly dinner menu planning and implementation, you can add in plans for lunches, snacks, breakfasts, etc., all according to the needs of you and your family. This can be as basic or complex as you like, the idea is just to start. Leftovers make PERFECT lunches for the next day 🙂 Happy planning, and for more tips, check out Calculate Your Savings available on www.amazon.com today!

What’s on you menu for next week? Please comment below.

11 Ways to be Fit AND Frugal

 

Who doesn’t want to be more fit and healthy?? Most do, and many find the costs to be a turn-off. Luckily, there are many ways that you can be fit without breaking the bank. Yes, it is true that you may eventually have to invest financially in your health and fitness goals, but there are tons of things that you can do WITHOUT spending hundreds of dollars a month. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Drink water and herbal tea instead of soda. This will save both money, and is infinitely more healthy.
  2. Track food intake. This can be done easily using a smartphone or a notebook, and it will give you a clear picture of how you can make better food choices.
  3. Use DVDs and online workout videos. These are great because you can set your own schedule.
  4. Plan meals. This will help you to stay on track and reduce the temptation for fast, unhealthy or expensive food purchases.
  5. Aim for 10,000 steps per day. Using a simple or super fancy pedometer, you should make sure that you are getting some movement throughout the day, especially if you have a sedentary job.
  6. Set micro-goals and reward success. After you’ve accomplished a fitness goal (i.e. lost 5 pounds), reward yourself to stay motivated.
  7. Be active everyday. Even if this is simply jogging in place for a few minutes, or taking a walk, make it a point to do something active each day.
  8. Dance! This is one of the BEST free ways to exercise. Turn on your jam and let loose!
  9. Turn housework into workouts. Not only does housework leave you with a clean home, all of the lifting, scrubbing, polishing can help burn a few calories as well.
  10. Play. Why not involve family and friends in the fun? Look for ways to make active play a family affair by doing fun activities like bike riding and playing softball together.
  11. Choose active dates/group activities: If you have chosen to go on a date or outing, why not make it an active one? Activities like bowling, dancing, hiking, laser tag, rock-climbing, can not only be lots of fun, but will burn some calories as well.

These tips are virtually free, and they will help you to live a more healthy and active life. Try some today! What are your frugal fitness tips?

 

4 Grocery Hacks That Make Saving Simple

These simple hacks can be used to save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. These hacks, or habits, work best when they are automatic, and require very little thought. Some people may have these skills, while others will have to cultivate them. All can benefit from them, and once in place, you will wonder why you weren’t doing them sooner!

1. Keep Ingredients to Make At Least 2 Dinner Meals On Hand 

 

Once you start planning meals and shopping according to your meal plan, this step becomes simple. Most meals purchased outside of the home range in price from $5.00 – $25.00 per serving, so this strategy will potentially save you at least $15.00 per serving.

2. Maintain a Running Grocery List as They Come To Mind

 

Use a whiteboard in your kitchen or an app on your phone to jot down items as they come to your attention. Do not wait until 5 minutes before you go to the grocery store to write out a list for an entire upcoming week. Inevitably, something will be forgotten, which will lead to duplicate purchases and food waste. This strategy will also eliminate the need for those last minute store trips later in the week to purchase forgotten items.

3. Use the Freezer to Store Leftovers

 

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, up to 31% of food is wasted by consumers in this country every year (https://www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/faqs.htm). So basically, if you are like the typical U.S. citizen who may spend $500 a month on groceries, $155 worth of that food gets wasted. This is over $1800 a year! How often do you have leftovers that sit in the fridge uneaten for days, and then spoil and get thrown out? Do you know that many common foods can be safely frozen for months? Freezing food for later consumption, or use in another meal can easily save you hundreds of dollars if not thousands of dollars in a year.

4. Always Check to See What You Have Before Shopping

 

Before purchasing more food, always do a scan to see what you have on hand in the refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Incorporate those soon to expire items in meals before you create meals with all new items so that those older items do not go to waste.

These four hacks, if used routinely will greatly decrease the amount of money that you spend on food. Put them to use today! What are your favorite grocery shopping hacks?  

Which Money Saving Strategies are Worth It?

All frugal strategies are not created equal. There is no shortage of tips and hacks that we can explore for saving money. HOWEVER, not all of these strategies are worth the time and effort required to implement them. Many people jump too quickly into using strategies that seem to work well for others, but then quickly discover that the very strategy that saved someone else $1000 in two weeks is not having the same impact for them. This may lead to regret, hopelessness and defeat.

For me, prior to becoming a parent, I spent lots of time gathering coupons, researching sales, and traveling to different stores to get great deals. I was able to literally save thousands of dollars using coupons. After my son was born and I returned to work full-time, I did not have the time or the ENERGY for using coupons. I changed my strategies and saved money in other ways.

The key is to be introspective, and look for strategies that will simplify your life, NOT drive you crazy! It is ok to accept that everything is not going to work for everyone at every time. Simply figure out what works best for you at the present moment and dedicate yourself to making it work.