Frugal Tips for your Kitchen and Cupboard

What is frugal living? We all have our ideas of what it means. You might envision a picture of someone living in a home that has newspaper placemats and see-through toilet paper. But that's not exactly how it works.

Frugal living is not about living without money. It's also not about buying cheap products to save a few bucks. Quite the contrary; frugal living is as much a state of mind as anything it is else. It's getting the best out of your life while at the same time getting the most out of your money.

Frugal living involves smart thinking. Someone who lives frugally takes the time to think about purchases before making them. They avoid impulse buying because they know that it will affect some other area of their lives. As a result, people who live frugally can often afford to take trips to Europe and cruises with their families. They can do this because they've learned how to both spend and save for the things that they want.

Frugal people typically set a series of priorities for their lives and for their finances. Saving money now means fulfilling their dreams of a better life in the long run. To do this, they don't have to eat beans every night or wear the same clothes all week long. By using a budget and some well-thought-out tips, they’ve learned to live on less money and save the rest.

Indeed, frugal living is smart living. Few people ever consider possible alternatives to the way that they normally do things. For instance, you can go to the store and buy a bag of rice for less than two dollars. But, if you had a discount coupon, you could get it for considerably less than that – perhaps even two for the normal single price. And, if you shop at a store that has a discount card, you might be able to get the same bag of rice with a coupon for less than a dollar. You've lost absolutely no quality and gained an extra dollar in your pocket.

By using the principles of frugal living, you can also learn to live a more eco-friendly existence. Utilizing the items that we would normally throw away means less garbage dumped in the local landfill. Less garbage in the landfill means less non-biodegradable waste in our midst for the next hundred years. You see, everyone wins.

The best part of this whole equation is that everyone can live frugally. It really doesn't matter whether you have only a little money or a lot of it. Frugal living can produce favorable results for anyone who decides to try it – if they're serious about making a difference in their lives.

We all can resist the urge to be a society of wasters and change our ways. Discovering the frugalness within you can be fun; you can even turn it into a project that the entire family can get involved in. You might be surprised at what you're able to do by embracing a frugal lifestyle. That family vacation you've wanted to take for the last five years will suddenly become an activity that you can afford. Listed here are some tips to get you started.

Groceries

This is one area that people often have trouble with. One of the many pleasures in life is the enjoyment of good food. We want to enjoy every meal and not have to suffer through tasteless fare. More than a few people are under the mistaken impression that to be good, food must be expensive. But you can shave an amazing amount from your grocery bill and still have tasty, high-quality meals. Here's how:

  • Don't shop when you're hungry. How many times have we heard that statement? Well, it's true. If you shop for groceries when you're hungry, you're more likely to pick up items that you want but really don't need. For instance, the family needs a pack of pork chops but you want ice cream because your belly is empty. You could easily double the price of your food bill solely due to hunger. If you must grocery shop before you've curbed your hunger with a good meal, grab a light snack or a piece of fruit. All you need is enough to keep the hunger at bay while you shop.
  • Use a shopping list. Lists are helpful tools. They ensure that you won't forget anything, and then have to make another trip to the store, where you could be tempted to pick up a few other ancillary items along with what you initially forgot. No one wants to make an additional trip, especially when you have to contend with long lines. To get the most out of a grocery list, begin by grabbing your notepad and walking throughout the house while jotting down everything you need. You can organize the list later if you need to, but the important thing is to get all of the necessary items on the list in the first place.
  • Read the sale papers. Most grocery stores publish a circular each week. Compare these papers to see where you can find the lowest prices on the items that you need. It's okay to shop at more than one store if the savings make it worthwhile. Circle the items you need to buy in the store circular and carry it and your grocery list with you to the store.
  • Get serious about coupons. They're made available to help make your trips to the grocery store less painful – and it doesn't hurt that the manufacturer gets a plug. Make no mistake, coupons are big business. At various times of the month, some stores double or even triple coupon values to save you more. Often, they can also be combined with store discounts for extra savings. But don't 'clip them and then forget them.' Solve that common problem by keeping them in a pouch or small plastic bag in your car or purse. As soon as you finish snipping them out of the paper, put them in your holding spot right away.
  • Develop a coupon strategy. For example, if the store brand is cheaper than the name brand item even with a coupon, save your coupon for another time and purchase the cheaper-priced store brand. Many cereal coupons offer savings when you buy more than one box. The savings may not be as great with multiple boxes, so wait until the cereal has a "Buy One, Get One Free" offer in effect. You can save an extra dollar or more on both boxes of cereal. Higher-priced items that you always wanted to try can add extra dollars to your grocery bill. Buy them when you do so with the aid of a coupon.
  • Use coupons on trial-size items. Some coupons state that they exclude trial sizes, but most do not. If the trial size is an option, use your coupon to save more money. Trial-size items are good for your pocket or purse, backpack, or suitcase when traveling. You won't waste your coupon or your money by purchasing them.
  • Find more coupons online. You can find and print a plethora of money-saving coupons online these days. Many frugal living and 'work-at-home-mom' forums offer places to gather and trade coupons.
  • Pick up a Sunday newspaper when you travel; most weekend papers typically contain whole sections comprised of coupons of all types for hundreds of different products. You can also find unusual coupons in other locations. Use them to take advantage of savings on items you don't usually see coupons for in your area.
  • If possible, try going by yourself to the grocery store. Kids can be a constant distraction by what they continually want to add to the cart that's not on your list. Also, they can hound you about leaving once they get bored, making you more susceptible to forgetting something along the way.
  • Buy staples instead of prepared foods. Because of the time constraints that most families experience, preparing meals from scratch isn't always an option. Manufacturers know this and offer more time-friendly foods. But these options are also more expensive than buying each ingredient separately and making the dish yourself at home. Consider this carefully the next time you're in the grocery store. In a year's time it can save you a bundle.
  • Bring your calculator. You can get a small pocket calculator at the local dollar store. Carry this with you to tabulate the total food bill as you shop. It can also help you to remember prices and which store has the best deals. It's less likely that you'll go over your budgeted amount if you keep track of the total as you add items to your shopping cart.
  • Shop early in the morning on the weekend. Most people are typically tired after work. The last thing they want to do then is to go food shopping. In that situation, you're more likely to shop without a list and rush through to get home and relax. These circumstances can easily equate to a higher food bill and more frequent trips to the store for forgotten items. But on a weekend, you're likely to be more alert, and early in the morning you're more likely to be alone when you shop. You can take all the time you need to complete the task.

Meal ideas

Everyone wants to know what to expect at the dinner table, even before they get home. Planning ahead for meals means less time in the kitchen and it can even save money on weekly food bills. Some ideas for economical and efficient meal preparation:

  • Cook from scratch. Given today's 'microwave' society, this sounds like something our grandmothers did, but it can save money and is actually a time-saver as well. A pound of hamburger can be turned into four or five patties, a moist meatloaf, or meatballs for spaghetti. Buy a value pack of hamburger at the store and you have the makings of three meal ideas in one package. Each one is different enough that your family won't mind having hamburger in some form three times in that one week. And if they do mind, well, they'll probably get over it.
  • Plan a menu. This will stop the family from asking "What's for dinner?" each evening, and take the guesswork out of meal-planning. Ask the family for their input, as well. A menu list can also form the basis of your grocery list.
  • Keep it simple. Elaborate meals are for dinner parties and special occasions. If you want a change from the ordinary, use add-ins. These are spices and foods that can complement your meal in such a way that you'll get a new taste sensation. Take lasagna, for example. It's most commonly made with ground beef, cheeses and sauce. For a different taste, substitute chicken or sausage for the beef. As added filler, dice a few vegetables – onions, carrots or zucchini. These types of add-ins can be used for almost any kind of meal to give it a new twist.
  • Keep your cupboard stocked with the basics. Which items do you use for more than just one meal? Stock up on these when they're on sale. For example, it's usually a good idea to have barbeque sauce, ketchup, bread crumbs, chicken broth, rice, pasta of all kinds, and crackers on hand at all times. Of course, this should also include the most common spices that you use – salt, pepper, garlic, parsley; whatever you use regularly.
  • Make as many things as you can ahead of time. Anything that can be prepared without going bad decreases your time in the kitchen. Part of being frugal also means saving time. Thaw your meat for the week in the refrigerator so that it's ready whenever you decide to use it. Make a pot of rice on Monday and heat up what you need for meals throughout that week.

For more money-saving ideas, be sure to read the article Frugal Tips for your Household.

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