Saturday, December 24

The Freezer: Cooking For One

Cooking for one adds an extra dimension to the difficulty of being frugal. While you want to eat fresh and healthy food you simply can't justify going shopping every single day. However, buying in any quantity forces you to risk throwing out food because you haven't used it all.

One of the best solutions to this problem is the freezer. Meat is one of the few products that can't sit around for week waiting to be cooked and eaten, unless it is frozen. In order to make my life easier in this respect I've bought some of those reusable Ziploc containers.

Now, when I bring home a huge package of ground beef, pork, chicken, turkey or whatever, I simply break it into serving sized pieces and drop them into a bowl. If necessary you can use an erasable marker to write on the bowls, so that you know what each one contains.

This strategy gives you meal sized portions of food in a microwave ready container, so that you can take advantage of larger meat purchases. Obviously, you can also use these bowls for leftovers, which is handy since they can be popped in the microwave anytime. Finally, because every bowl comes with a lid, say goodbye to plastic bags and wraps!

Friday, December 16

Cheap and Easy Hot Meal

Food is easily one of the fastest ways to blow money when you are trying to be frugal. In my quest for cheap eating I ran across this simple and tasty meal that costs very little but remains healthy.

After cooking several sausages, chop them into chunks. Then, open a can of roasted garlic and basil tomotoes. Dump the sausages and tomatoes in a frying pan. Simmer over a low heat until much of the water has boiled off. Personally, I've been using English Banger sausages, as they seem to have a peppery nature as opposed to a hot nature.

There you go. A very healthy treat with loads of flavor. Try it, you'll thank me.

Tags: , ,

Monday, December 5

Throwing Away Money

How many people out there use kitchen sized garbage bags for small wastebaskets in various rooms? C'mon, put up your hand if you use them, I can't read minds. Yeah, that's better, quite a few people by the look of it.

When it is time to take out the garbage do you replace the bag? If so, stop wasting your money. Just make sure you don't put anything that will leak or stick into the garbage. Generally it is quite easy to do this, though perhaps you will need to designate one or two bins for extremely toxic items.

Anyway, if you do manage your trash in this way, you can just pour your trash out of the smaller baskets into a larger container or bag before taking it out. The individual bags can be reused almost indefinitely. For further savings, if you are so inclined, don't buy any of the smaller garbage bags, simply use the paper or plastic bags available when you purchase groceries for garbage disposal.

Hey, this is a frugality blog, not an environmental blog. Make your own choices about paper versus plastic and keep it to yourself.

Saturday, November 19

Kool-Aid vs Crystal Lite

It is now official. I've been drinking Kool-Aid and uber cheap no-name brand drink mix for a while now. Yes, I'm adding artificial sweetener, but buying it in bulk let's me do so for a much lower price than presweetened drink mix.

I'm haven't grown an extra antenna or anything like that yet.

The real trick appears to be finding flavors that don't require a large amount of sweetener to make them reasonable for consumption. So far, grape or fruit punch seem to be the best bets. Cherry is a recipe for heartburn while lemon lime does rude things to the throat.

Tags: Kool-Aid, Crystal Light, Frugality

Saturday, November 12

Go Big or Go Home

Today was a shopping day. When buying cooking staples, things that won't go bad, then buy big. You have to check the prices to be sure, but it is almost always true that a larger package of something will cost less per unit than a smaller one.

For example, if a 2lb jar of peanut butter costs $2.50, but a 4lb jar costs $3.50, you are only paying $1.00 for that extra 2 lbs. I know this is second nature to many people out there. However, you'd be surprised how many people just don't give a seconds thought to issues like this.

There is a catch though. If you are going to splurge and overconsume the product, because you have so much of it, then you aren't necessarily going to save any money. You can combat this "splurge during times of plenty" mindset just by actively reminding yourself that times are tough and it has to last. That way, when you spread peanut butter on your bagel or toast, you won't load up the knife just because the jar has so much in it.

This frugal mindset combined with volume purchases will spread your dollar a long ways, as long as you stay strict.

Tags: Frugality, Buying In Bulk

Thursday, November 10

Frugality Confession

This is going to be tough. As much as I am trying to be frugal, I simply cannot follow my own advice. I really prefer that I drink something with a bit of flavor instead of plain water. Sigh.

One way to do this is the buy frozen juice and then use more water than suggested when mixing it. However, something I am currently experimenting with is unsweetened Kool Aid. Generally, I'll make some green tea, then mix in whatever flavor of Crystal Light I am using.

However, Crystal Light is very expensive. I can't justify the cost of a packet given that I'm now an authority on frugal living. The unsweetened Kool Aid isn't bad, but I am going to visit the health food store and see if they don't have some bulk calorie free sweetener that I can buy. For example, maybe a teaspoon of stevia per pitcher would do the trick?

I'll let you know.

Wednesday, November 9

Frugal Meats

Everyone knows that hamburger is a fairly cheap source of meat. However, for about the same price you can buy other quality foods.

For example, sausages come in many different varieties and flavors. Just today I picked up some mild Italian and some English banger sausages. Yeah baby! Talk about good food. However, because sausages and other thriftier meats often have a lot of fat in them, you do have to make sure you know how to combine macronutrients so that you are eating healthy.

In a nutshell, try not to consume large amounts of carbohydrates and fats at the same time. So, if you want to eat meats with higher fat content, eat carbohydrate sources such as vegetables. Most vegetables provide carbohydrates either as fiber, which is not absorbed anyway, or digest slowly so that a spike in insulin is avoided. It is the insulin spike combined with fat consumption that has to be watched carefully if you have health concerns.

Anyway, all that talk of macronutrients is a different subject.

Another meat that I bought today, cheaper than prime cuts of beef and a bit more expensive than sausages, was a slab of pork. Rolled in peameal corn and often sold as slices, you can instead pick up a pound or two of this slab for a very good price compared to most meats.

Eating cheap doesn't mean you want to eat unhealthy. You need to keep an eye on your calories, fats, macronutrient profiles and so on. However, and just as importantly, it doesn't mean that you can't enjoy a wide variety of healthy and satisfying foods.

Tuesday, November 8

Water, Water Everywhere

What the hell are you drinking?

If you are living a little lower on the totem pole these days, you need to make sure you aren't wasting your money just because of habits. Sure, water isn't the most exciting drink on the planet, but it certainly has to be one of the cheapest. Drinking soda, beer, mixed drinks, coffee or any type of juice will cost you a relative fortune.

Save your money and be healthier, drink water.

Sunday, November 6

Healthy & Cheap

One of the biggest problems with trying to eat cheaply is to make sure that you are eating nutritious foods. My secret weapon is oatmeal. Not the flavored crap sold in little packets! You want the type of oatmeal that comes in large flakes and that takes a long time to cook. It is possible that your local supermarket won't even carry it.

Personally, I go to the nearby health food store for my oatmeal. I get large flake rolled oats. You can also find steel cut oats in places. Either way, you are buying food that hasn't had a lot of processing. Oats, when unprocessed like this, are very good for you.

When money is scarce, a bag of oatmeal costs under $2 and will last for a week or more. You can have it for breakfast every day with a bit of milk or yogurt. I don't even bother to cook my oatmeal, just mixing it with yogurt or putting in some milk. If you find a cheaper meal which has the same level of convenience, please let me know.

Finally, it may be obvious, but canned food is generally loaded with salt, sugar and other useless ingredients while at the same time containing highly processed food that is degraded nutritionally. If you are having to be frugal then you should put a bit more time into your own food preparation, so that you can eat better and eat cheaper. For example, buy very large bags of beans and rice. You won't find wholesome food any cheaper than this.

What is Frugal Living?

Everyone knows what frugal living is, don't they? A while ago I was unemployed and learned a lot about living very lean. For example, if I had two things to do I would only do one, so that I had something to do the next day -- a reason to get out of the house and interact with the outside world.

Of course frugality is not really about scheduling, but it just goes to show how low my life had been for a while. When you don't have a job and nobody is interested in hiring you, even if it is because you are very overqualified, you not only run short on money, but self-esteem and motivation.

Now, I've just chosen to change my career path to focus on a direction that will have me living lean for a while. I'm going to have to dig back into my bag of tricks, developed during my period of unemployment, in order to stretch my dollars as far as possible. I'm going to blog about various ideas or strategies in case it might be helpful for someone out there -- maybe someone who is unemployed, looking for a job, and facing adversity.

I don't know if it will truly help, but this is all I can do to let you know that someone out here understands and to make your dollar go further.