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  • Lesson 10: Frugal and DIY Halloween Costumes

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    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    When I grew up, Halloween costumes were made from "scratch" around the house.  Today, however, costumes can cost upwards of $50 each just for the kids!  This is just silly.  They're worn for a couple of hours then tossed in a bin to donate next year when they've been outgrown.  Now, I realize there are those kiddos that wear their costumes night and day for months—we have had a couple of those around here, however, I still cannot justify the $50 price tag.  So with this in mind, I thought I'd share a few DIY costume ideas from around the web.  I hope you find something here that will save you a few bucks.

    Tip Junkie has a slew of great Halloween DIY ideas, everything from food, to decor, to costumes.

    Real Simple has a photo slide show with 16 DIY Costumes for Kids.  They're really cute too!  I especially love these because most of the costumes are from your kiddos' gear that they already have at home!


     Safari Costume
    Photo Credit: Real Simple


    Of course we can't forget Pinterest, especially when DIY is in mind.  Check out this Halloween Costume board over on Pinterest for some great costume ideas for all ages.

    I'd love to hear from you.  What are some of your frugal, tried-and-true costumes?  Has your child ever won a "Best Costume" award and you were grinning from ear-to-ear because you knew it cost you practically nothing?  Leave a comment on our Facebook post and let us know what your best costume was!

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  • Lesson 8: Save Money by Freezing Your Food

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    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    We talked very briefly last month about freezing your food as a method to saving money each month. Well I want to elaborate because in my opinion this is one of the MAIN ways you can save BIG each month. The key is stocking up when the prices are low, but if your food goes to waste so does your money. So you need to be prepared to freeze your goods. For quite some time I used the affordable over the counter Ziploc Vacuum Starter and Bags to freeze various food. However recently we upgraded to a FoodSaver from Costco, we bought the lower end model for $64 (after an instant $20 rebate). I’m so happy we did this, it’s made the process so much quicker and easier! However the Ziploc Vacuum works very well too!


    Frozen Food


    Here is a list of many food staples that freeze well. Of course, this isn't an extensive end-all list, but it's a great place to start!

    Milk and Cheese - Cheese is simple, just toss it in the freezer that includes shredded cheese too! However with your milk, you'll need to take the cap off and pour out about a 1/2 cup to leave room for the jug to expand. Often times you can find milk on clearance but if it expires in just a few days, you may not consider buying 4 gallons, unless of course you freeze them! When you thaw out your milk (in the fridge) you may need to give it a good shake before serving, but that's it.

    Eggs - Yes, surprisingly eggs freeze very well! You'll just need to take them out of their shells first and scramble them (you don't have to, but I find it's much easier this way). Place the scrambled eggs in ice cube trays to freeze them initially, then I combine them in a Ziploc bag to save space. You could also just place 6 scrambled eggs directly into a ziploc bag if you plan to use them all at once.


    Veggies, Herbs, and Fruit - These are one of my favorites to freeze because it means that even when produce isn't in season I can still enjoy it. Recently I stocked up on asparagus. Here’s a tip when freezing asparagus (and brussels sprouts), the key is to blanch them first. Drop them into boiling water for 2-3 minutes then immediately place them into a cold water ice bath. Blanching stops enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture. Until vegetables are harvested, the enzymes cause them to grow and develop their color and flavor. By blanching them you stop that process, keeping them as fresh as possible.

    Bread, Cake, Pies, Dough - All forms of pastries freeze well, you just need to make sure that you prep it well using wax paper and a good freezer bag (or freezing system). Bread goes on sale from time to time and if I can find a good hearty whole wheat loaf for $1.00, that's when I buy 8-10 loaves and stick them in the freezer. We have 4 kids and we easily go through a loaf every 2-3 days so stocking up is essential for us.

    Fully Prepared or Fully Cooked Meals - This won't just save you money it will save you a lot of time too! If you can cook a meal or two in bulk and then freeze the rest you'll be very thankful when a busy day rolls around. Just grab that extra pan of enchiladas out of the freezer and stick in the oven! Maybe you'd like to organize a group of friends and create a Freezer Meal Exchange Group on Facebook!

    You may also be interested in using this Free Printable Freezer Inventory Form to keep track of what you have in the freezer. After all, you've gone through all the effort to score a deal and prep it for the freezer you wouldn't want it to go to waste because you forgot you had it!

    Frozen Food



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  • Lesson 7: Could You Feed Your Family on $4 a Day?

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    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    Could you feed your family on a $4 per person per day budget?  For some, that might seem impossible; for others, that would be an increase in their current budget.  I'll share our personal budget in a bit more detail shortly, but I wanted to touch on what the Grocery Outlet executive team is doing this month.  They're each adopting the $4/day challenge for themselves personally and sharing their stories here on the Bargainista Blog.


    Four $1 Bills


    So when Grocery Outlet asked me to take on this challenge—as serious as it is—Mr. Frugal and I did chuckle a bit.  We wondered who would be sending us the extra $93 for that week's budget.  You see, for our family of 6 (2 adults and 4 elementary-aged children) our budget is $75 - $100 per week.  That is right around $2 per person per day.  I'm sure you're wondering just how we're able to accomplish this.  You may assume we eat processed food, indulge on the $1 menu at fast food joints, and subside on the cheapest white bread we can find.  However, it's actually quite the opposite here in our home. Let me try to explain how we manage this budget but giving you a peek into 6 different ways we save money on a weekly basis.

    1. Stock up when prices are low. I practice the stock pile method of buying several weeks/months worth of an item when it’s at it’s rock bottom price so I never have to pay retail. While also always staying within our weekly grocery budget. The way we shop means that we may not have a certain item in the house for a long time, if it’s not on sale – but when I find it at my “Buy It Now” price I’ll stock up.

    Shopping List

    2. Meal plan and cook from scratch. Ingredients are cheap and they go a lot farther than processed food. Quite frankly it's much healthier to make your own beef stroganoff than it would be to buy a box of Hamburger Helper. I recently shared how I stretched one rotisserie chicken between 3 meals. I paid $5 for the chicken—it could have been a bit less if I roasted it at home, but time is also a factor in our weekly budget. That breaks down to about $1.66 per meal for the protein or $0.28 per person.

    Here are a few other Meal Planning Resources for you…
    Free Printable Freezer Inventory Form
    Meal plan for the YEAR in one weekend!
    Sample Weekly Grocery Shopping Trip for a Family of 6 – $78.70 Spent

    3. Eat in season fruit and veggies. When produce is in season, it’s cheap and a deal is easy to come by. I like to eat grilled asparagus all year ’round though, so when it’s cheap I buy a lot and freeze it! I know this might be super obvious but it is something I’ve done for years and it allows us to eat whatever veggie or fruit that sounds good regardless of whether it’s in season or not. It’s also another trick to keeping our weekly grocery budget so low. I stocked up on strawberries and we’re still using them 6+ months later in smoothies. They’re deliciously sweet and nothing like the ones we would have to buy in the middle of the winter, plus we made amazing Homemade Strawberry Jam with them too!

    4. Shop Grocery Outlet and often. Grocery Outlet is a staple in my weekly shopping budget, you can see a few of the deals I spotted last week below. Grocery Outlet is like a treasure hunt, you never know what deal you’re going to find! The prices and stock change out often, making room for more great deals each and every time you shop!

    Coffee Mate Creamer
    Coffee-Mate Fat Free Creamer, Hazelnut - $0.99


    Nature Valley

     36 ct Box of Nature Valley Granola Thins for $2.99!


    Sara Lee Bread

    Sara Lee Sourdough Bread - $0.99!


    5. DIY or Homemade Household Items for less! Any chance you get to make something you normally pay a pretty penny for at home from scratch instead is almost always going to cost you significantly less. Check out our previous post on DIY for a few homemade/DIY recipes that we've tried with great success.

    Of course this is just the tip of iceberg, but for those of you frugalites out there I am certain if we put our heads together we could come up with a wide variety of money saving methods. The goal isn't just to save, but to LIVE WELL on less. It is possible and whether you need to or have to, it can be done on $2/day or $4/day.

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  • Lesson 6: Staycation!

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    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    Defined by Wikipedia
    A staycation (or stay-cation, or stacation) is a neologism for a period of time in which an individual or family stays at home and relaxes at home or takes day trips from their home to area attractions. Staycations have achieved high popularity in current hard economic times in which unemployment levels and gas prices are high.

    Common activities of a staycation include use of the backyard pool, visits to local parks and museums,  and attendance at local festivals. Some staycationers also like to follow a set of rules, such as setting a start and end date, planning ahead, and avoiding routine, with the goal of creating the feel of a traditional vacation.

    Vacationing with any size family can be a budget breaker and for many of us it's simply not possible at all.  With airfare out of the question for a family of 6 and gas prices soaring, you may have to stick close to home. That's why for the past few years our family has taken to the Staycation approach.  We take a few days off of work completely so that we're "on vacation", but instead of going anywhere, we explore our very own town.  We make time to do things that we wouldn't normally do and see.  We eat out, we go to the movies, and we just have fun!  Now those things can add up too, so you want to find frugal ways to save during your Staycation.  



    Here are a few ideas you'll want to keep in mind this summer:
    • You can head to the movies for $2 per ticket (or less!) this summer, head on over here for a full list of participating theaters.
    • How about bowling?  Take the kids bowling for FREE, there are 2 different programs running this summer.  The first is called "Kids Bowl Free" and the other is run by AMF Bowling with over 250 participating bowling alleys!
    • For dining out and more entertainment ideas, I suggest you stalk daily deals sites such as Living Social, Groupon, and Plum District.

    You can go here to see some of the events/outings we've done in the past, but we’re looking for new and fresh ideas this year as we're living in a new state!  Have you done a Staycation before?  Please share your tips, ideas, ways to make it fun, etc., on this Facebook post We'd love to hear from you!

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  • Lesson 5: Garage Sale Tips and Tricks

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    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    It’s that time of year again: it’s Garage Sale Season!  Yes it's a season, look... Fall, Winter, Spring, Garage-Saling, and Summer.  See?  I told you!

    I absolutely LOVE to go out on a Saturday morning and hit multiple garage sales.  It’s a fun hobby, but it’s also a frugal way that I provide for my family.  If there is something that we need, say clothes for the kids, a griddle, a printer, a patio table, etc., it goes on my Garage Sale Hunting List.  We have envelopes for these expenses already budgeted, so I figure out the funds and plan my trip.

    Garage Sale

    Here are a just a few tips to make the experience worthwhile…

    1.  Have a plan.  I use the iGarageSale app on my iPhone to help me along the way, but beforehand I search Craigslist and the newspaper for ads that look like they may have a few of the items I’m looking for.  I gather the address and add them to my GPS, optimizing them so that I’m not driving back and forth across town.

    2.  Have a budget.  Bring a certain amount of cash and leave the rest at home.  You’re much less likely to overspend if you simply don’t have a way to do so.

    3.  Show up on time, but not early.  I like to get to a garage that I know has something I want on-time, but if you're there early you risk being annoying.  If you annoy the seller, they're less likely to want to bargain with you.  Plus it's just rude, they had to roll out of bed much earlier than usual on a Saturday morning and they're probably feeling a bit stressed as it is.

    4.  Practice negotiating.  People that are selling the items you’re shopping for consider much of it “junk” and that works to your advantage.  Many times I’ve been blown away by what people consider junk because to me it’s a treasure!  With that said, always ask if they’ll take less.  More times than not they will.  Now don’t undercut them to the point of insulting them, but it is a garage sale and bargaining is the game.

    5.  Be prepared.  Pack a snack, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and lots of water – but not too much because you’ll have to find a restroom!

    What are some of your best Garage Sale tips?  Let's talk selling and shopping!

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  • Lesson 4: Tax Refunds Are Not a Good Savings Plan

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    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    April 15th is just around the corner and it’s time to tackle the topic of taxes.  Every year around this time, Americans look forward to a large chunk of change coming their way in the form of a tax return.  Now if this was free money, I could understand why everyone gets so excited.  However this isn't free money at all—it's money you've earned in your hourly wage all year long that you've essentially loaned to the government.  The numbers below should be proof enough.  This isn’t a new concept, but it’s one that many Americans don’t understand or choose not to adapt into their lives.

    In 2010, the average Tax Refund was $2,869.  So if you work 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year you're basically taking a $1.34 per hour pay cut.  You know what that means don’t you?  It means that the average American loaned the government (interest free) close to $3,000 each last year.  


    Tax Refund

    Maybe you didn’t know that you could keep that money in your pocket each month instead.  Would you turn down an extra $240 per month?  Personally, for our family we’ve NEVER received a Tax Refund instead we’ve always had the extra cash in our bank each month—and trust me we needed it and found a way to use it.  All you have to do is claim the correct number of deductions on your W4 form.  Just ask your employer to change it based on the calculations you’ve made here or have figured out with your tax consultant based on your family's situation.

    Maybe in your case you’re financially stable and you don’t need that $240 per month (likely not the case for the average American) but if that IS you, have you considered investing that money?

    Here are 3 different things you could do with your a $240 per month income:

    1.  If you continued to loan the government $2,869 per month for 10 years at the end of 10 years (if you didn’t spend a penny of your tax return) you’d have $28,690.  If you’ve been doing this since you were 30 until you retired at age 65, you’d have $100,415.00.

    2.  If you invested the $240 per month for 10 years in a slow growth mutual fund with a 10% return at the end of the 10 years you’d have $50,296.92 – a much prettier number than the interest free loan you’ve been giving the government.  If you’re 30 years old today and you did this until retirement at age 65 you would have $855,325.80 in your account.  You can run the numbers using a Compound Interest Calculator.

    Let’s put the numbers side by side here…
    Loan the Gov’t - $2,869 X 35 years = $100,415.00
    Invest the $$$ - $2,869 X 35 years = $855,325.80

    Maybe you’re thinking “I don’t get anywhere near that amount”. Let’s say you get $480 at the end of the year – if you invested that $40 per month ($480 per year) at the end of 35 years you’d have $153,131.07 or $18,200 if you continued to loan it to the government.

    3.  If you have ANY amount of debt (and this is a no brainer), that $240 should go to pay down your debt.  Let’s say you’re sitting on $15,000 worth of car loans or credit card debt at an interest rate of 16.86% (average American credit card interest rate).  Just guessing here, but I’d venture to say this person is already paying $300/month towards the debt on the low end.  At this rate they would have their debt payed off in 6 1/2 years and paid $10,000.00 in interest!   INSTEAD, if they put the extra $240 towards debt along with the $300 they’re already paying they’d have their debt payed off in just under 3 years and paid only $4,100 in interest. You can run the numbers using an Amortization Calculator.

    Let’s put the numbers side by side here…
    Debt of $15,000 @ 16.89% = 80 months (6.5 years) + $10,092.22 in interest paid
    Debt of $15,000 @ 16.895 = 35 months (3 years) + $4,100 in interest paid

    I know this can be a bit overwhelming, but this simple fact is that it is YOUR money, you’re working every day to earn each and every one of those dollars.  Take charge of your finances and put the ball back into your court!

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  • Lesson 3: Dumping Debt By Doing it Yourself

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    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    One of the #1 ways to save money is to become debt-free. I know that isn't a common way of thinking for most Americans, but I believe it's 100% doable. I'm speaking mainly of consumer debt, student loans, car loans, etc. I understand that in most areas of the country dropping a few hundred thousand dollars to buy a house outright isn't feasible. If, however, you'd like to pay down debt, you may want to follow my new series over on The Frugal Find called Debt Free in 52.

    Here are just a few tips that will help you to dump debt this year...

    Can it be MADE from scratch for less?

    Paying retail is already out of the question for those of you who are dumping debt, but even with coupons there are some household necessities that can be made cheaper from basic ingredients. I wanted to revisit the various posts we’ve written in the past about DIY household products and Cooking from Scratch recipes such as…
    1. Homemade Dog Food Recipe
    2. Frugal DIY: Turn Your Magazines into Christmas Bows!
    3. Homemade PB&J and Grilled Cheese Uncrustables
    4. Homemade Liquid Fabric Softener
    5. Homemade Granola Bars
    6. Freezer ‘BRC’ Beans, Rice, and Cheese Burritos
    7. Homemade All Purpose Cleaner
    8. Homemade Dishwasher Detergent
    9. Homemade Laundry Detergent
    10. Homemade Strawberry Jam

    As you can see many of the things we buy can be made for just pennies on the dollar, especially when you find a deal on your ingredients at Grocery Outlet!

    Money Tree

    Can you FIX it yourself?

    Chances are there is something in your life that needs to be fixed, tangibly speaking. I could start a pretty good list myself from the back hatch of our Sequoia that doesn’t open any longer, the 2 small holes in our walls, the small tear on our couch, and on and on. I’m sure several things will quickly come to mind for you as well. When you’re on a budget and paying down debt the last thing you want to do is hire out help for things you could do yourself. I say this within reason—if your husband is working 10+ hour days making a decent wage and the lawn needs to be mowed, paying a local teenager $10 every couple of weeks to get the job done can be a worthy investment.

    However, there are very likely tasks that you’ve been putting off for one reason or another. Maybe it’s too technical for you, such as a computer issue or a check engine light in your car? YouTube, Google, and your neighbors are a good place to start when you haven’t a clue where to begin. It’s very likely someone, somewhere, has had the same issue you’re having. In most situations, labor is the most costly expense there is: parts are minimal and elbow grease is free. So the next time you have a broken this or that, consider repairing it yourself – you might find it wasn’t all you thought it would be.

    Here’s what I have learned from just doing it ourselves:
    1. It’s never as hard as we imagined.
    2. It’s never quite as time consuming as we thought.
    3. It’s never as costly as we expected.
    4. The gratification that comes from a job done with our own hands – priceless!

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  • Lesson 2: The Cash Only Diet

    Frugal Find 

    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    I'd like to talk today about the "Envelope Budget" or the cash-only method.   I'd like to suggest that you'll actually save money every month by using cash.  Seems like a contradiction right?  I’m suggesting that by spending CASH (note – not debit, credit cards, or checks) but hard cold CASH, you’ll actually SAVE money!  We are a cash-only family – simply put if you can pay cash for it, you should.  I know at first it might sound crazy, you might think if I have cash I will just blow it!  However, I think quickly you will see just the opposite happen. You will begin to ask yourself, do we really need this?  You will find yourself meal planning.  You will find yourself with money at the end of the month.

    “When you pay cash, you can “feel” the money leaving you. This is not true with credit cards. Flipping a credit card up on a counter registers nothing emotionally. A study of credit card use at McDonald’s found that people spent 47% more when using credit instead of cash. This is money you could have saved!” – Dave Ramsey

    We do not pay cash for any bill that can be paid through our online bill pay, and I highly suggest online bill pay – it’s free and you’ll never incur a late payment again.  We get our cash out each week and divide it up between our envelopes, some of them accrue while other are spent each week.

    For example, our Car Registration envelope accumulates while our Grocery Envelope is spent in full each week.  The difference is that you do not want or need for your Grocery Envelope to have excess, it is not a “savings account”—if you have extra money in there every week, I’d bet that there's another category that could use a little bump up or, if you’re working on paying down debt, it should absolutely go there first.

    Hopefully these steps will help you to understand the process...
    Step 1Define your categories.  What can you possibly pay for cash with? One key here is to only include categories for things that you can’t pay online or through an invoice or bill. Anything that doesn’t come as a bill in the mail is probably a good candidate for cash.

    Here's a list of our envelopes.  You may notice that we do not have an envelope for gas. It’s not that we don’t have it budgeted; it’s because I don’t want to leave the kids in the car while I go into the gas station to pay the attendant. We use our debit card for this expense. You’ll need to figure out what best fits your family's needs.

    1. Groceries
    2. Toiletries
    3. Clothes
    4. Gifts (Birthdays, Christmas, etc)
    5. Date Night
    6. Eating Out
    7. Spending Money
    8. Car Maintenance
    9. Kid’s Date
    10. Kid’s Allowance
    11. Trip Money
    12. Car Maintenance
    13. Car Registration
    14. Hair Cuts
    15. School Supplies/Events

    Step 2 – Determine how much you spend in several categories per month, ie. groceries, toiletries, clothing, etc. Not while on a budget, but what you have spent on a regular basis. This make take some time, and you may have no idea because you haven’t kept any track at all so you may have to start this process now for the next 30 days. Now hold on to your seat, you’re going to be shocked.

    Step 3 – Figure out how much you THINK you will NEED in each category.  The key here is to be flexible, because it will change. It will change more than once, twice, and possibly even three times. Life is always changing and so will your budget. Another baby? Up goes the toiletry budget! Or maybe you just potty trained your 2 year old, well that saves $30 a month!

    Step 4 – Get the cash! We go every week  to withdraw our cash, it is easiest if you can keep it to an even $20 amount so you can go to the ATM machine at your bank, saves you a trip inside the bank. This has got to be the best part, it’s like playing a game of monopoly. Divide your cash, you may need to go into the bank every once in a while to get $5’s, $10’s, etc depending on your envelope amounts.

    Step 5 - Start saving money! When the envelope is empty, that’s it, your money is gone and you CANNOT purchase anything in that category until the next envelope payday. But remember, the first couple of months you need to be flexible. Also, please remember to make your budget realistic, if you undercut yourself too much, you will give up. So that is why my family has an eating out budget, because the reality is, while we shouldn’t eat out, we do. We put $15 a week into our eating out budget, if we save it up we can go out to a sit down dinner, otherwise it gets us a pizza night once a week.

    “Hey I just wanted to share with you that after starting the envelope system 3 months ago we have finally met budget AND we were able to UP-IT! Also my husband told me the other day that for the first time he doesn’t feel like we are living paycheck to paycheck. We are buying things dirt cheap before the real need for them hits. It has been a hard but wonderful journey. One I really didn’t think we could do! Thanks so much.” – Cassandra

    That is just one of hundred’s of  reader’s experiences.  I’d LOVE to hear about yours in the comment section below.  Do you use cash or an envelope budget system?  What does it look like for your family?

    See the first post in Julia's series here: Saving Money by Meal Planning.

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  • Saving Money by Meal Planning

    Frugal Find

    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    Saving Money by Meal Planning
    I love that the New Year means new resolutions, new goals, and a fresh start! What I don't love is the feeling we get when I realize I've not kept up with my resolutions, and I find myself slacking big time. The simple fact is that often times we set ourselves up for failure from the get-go by taking on way too much all too quickly. I want to help you tackle saving money in the new year in a way that is managable and that will make a difference to your bottom line when 2013 rolls around.

    I'd encourage you to break up your resolutions and goals into bite size chunks, and spread them out over time. Statistics show that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. With this plan you'll add one new resolution to your plate each month of the year thus forming great habits all year long! Trust me - it's a lot less painful this way, and at the end of the year you'll be in much better shape financially, which will feel great! Today I'll share the money saving tip for January, and in the months to come we'll tackle topics such as budgeting, how to know when a sale is really a sale, when to stock up on a particular item, why you shouldn't treat your tax return like a savings plan, and much more!

    This month I'd like to encourage you to tackle meal planning. "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Basically, it is as simple as you make it. I try to sit down each week, usually on Saturday or Sunday with the store ads to see what is on sale, then I make my meal plan based on these deals. Of course I use whatever I have in my pantry and freezer first then buy as needed the extras. Also, if there is something I see that is a “stockpile price,” I will add that to my list for future week’s meals plans.

    Why Meal Plan?

    • It’s healthier. Meal planning allows you to think in advance about preparing a meal adding a key ingredient from each food group instead of throwing something together last minute that is maybe carb laden.

    • Saves money. If you go grocery shopping with a list, you will be more likely to avoid impulse purchases. Also it gives you the time to organize and sort your coupons BEFORE you shop.

    • Saves time. I can’t stress this enough. While it may seem tedious to sit down and plan out your meals for the week. It is much more time efficient than standing in front of the fridge or pantry blankly staring at the shelves of food, while you think “There is nothing in this house to eat!” Either you will just grab something out to eat, or you will end up making several small weekly trips to the grocery store to grab key ingredients that had you meal planned you would have already had on hand.

    Tips for successful Meal Planning:

    • Use those leftovers! Plan it into your Meal Plan. I enjoy cooking, but the truth is at the end of the day sometimes I am just not in the mood or I am just plain tired. I try to plan ahead for these nights, if I know I will be working until 6 on Wednesday, I will plan a meal on Tuesday that can carry over. Or I will double up on cooking the ground beef the night before so we can use it in another meal.

      From Love Food Hate Waste I found the following statistics:

      Each DAY we waste…

      1 Million Slices of Ham
      1.3 Million Yogurts
      7 Million Slices of Bread
      5.1 Million Potatoes
      1.6 Million Bananas
      4.4 Million Apples
      2.8 Million Tomatoes

    • Use Rice/Potatoes/Pasta as the base for your meal. If you can build the main part of your meal around a grain, you will save money and fill up on less. Use small amounts of meat, poultry, fish, or eggs. Of course I would suggest whole wheat grains to get the maximum nutritional value.

    • Plan snacks around nutritionally sound choices. This helps your budget because as we know, typically fruit, veggies, granola, etc enable your body to go longer stretches between meals as opposed to it’s sugar enemy – fruit snacks, candy, juice, etc. The denser the snack the more bang for your buck and almost always this is the cheaper option anyway!

    • Eat before you shop. Do not go grocery shopping when you are hungry. The best time to go is after you have had a good meal, or at least a snack to hold you over. When you are hungry, you are much more likely to pick up impulse purchases which can just throw your food budget out the window!

    Let’s Practice.

    Step 1: Make 3 Lists; Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.

    Monday – Cereal, OJ, and Fruit
    Tuesday – Oatmeal, Milk, and Toast
    Wednesday – Scrambled Eggs and Toast, Milk or OJ
    Thursday – Cereal, OJ and Fruit
    Friday – Bagels & OJ
    Saturday – French Toast and Sausage
    Sunday – Cereal, OJ and Toast

    Monday – Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup Tuesday – Tuna & Crackers/Sandwich, Fruit and Yogurt
    Wednesday – Bean/Cheese Burritos with Chips & Salsa
    Thursday – PB&J, Fruit, Pretzels and Yogurt
    Friday – Macaroni & Cheese and Fruit
    Saturday – Leftover Pizza
    Sunday – Smorgasbord, what sounds good?!

    Monday - Lasagna, Corn and Garlic Bread
    Tuesday - Grilled Teriyaki Chicken, Pot Stickers and Chinese Fried Rice (make extra rice)
    Wednesday – Chicken Enchiladas and Spanish Rice (using extra rice from Tuesday) (make extra chicken)
    Thursday – Shredded BBQ Chicken Sandwiches and Potato Salad (make extra)
    Friday – Pizza (Eating Out)
    Saturday - Hotdogs, Potato Salad and 5 Bean Salad
    Sunday - Broiled Salmon, Brown Rice and Asparagus

    Step 2: Prepare Ingredient List and head to your pantry & fridge. Cross things off as you find them or leave the ingredients on your list, you now have your shopping list! Make sure to pull out any coupons you have and put them all together in a place where you can find them easily.

    Step 3: Go shopping and save! The best part is because you've planned ahead, without even trying you'll have saved money. You won't head to the store on a weeknight at 5 pm for a "few ingredients" and come home having spent $50 or worse. You're saving loads of time because everything you need is accessible when you need it, no more wasted trips to the store or to a restaurant for takeout.

    Now, it's your turn. Please share your best meal planning tips. And resolve to save money in 2012!

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