Pinching a Penny 'till it Screams

There isn't any wiggle room in our budget. I think there used to be a long time ago but my memory really isn't that good. I don't mind trumpeting my frugal horn all over blogland because well... it's true... we live very frugally, and we're good at it. But sometimes money gets even tighter than we imagine it could.

So, what happens when a frugal family has cut every common luxury (cable, dining out, runs to Sonic- you get the idea) out of the budget and STILL needs to pinch pennies to survive? Right now our Octo-brood is about as pinched as you can get. As a good friend says, "I pinch pennies so hard I make them scream."

When I need to find extra cash around the holidays I start in the kitchen.

Here are some tips to significantly reduce your food budget:
  1. Only buy what you need. This will sound ultra miserly but bear with me. The USDA has a great website that outlines nutritional needs. I offer my kids their needs... because I want them to be healthy and that's what I can afford. Parents: We over feed our kids expensive foods that lack nutrition! Why not offer them what their bodies need and save money? Go visit www.MyPyramid.gov and see the different food pyramids for your age kiddos. Heck, you can even find out what portion sizes in each group you need to lose weight! They have great interactive tools that will help you figure out what the NEEDS are of your family. 'nuff said.
  2. Cut out cold cereal. Fix Oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, Cracked Wheat Cereal, homemade pancakes, eggs. These meals fill you up faster and stick with you longer. Try making them overnight in a crock pot and reheating them for a few days for convenience.
  3. Monitor the Milk. We buy 8 gallons a week! Geesh, If I let my kids drink as much milk as they wanted to, we'd need to buy stock in a dairy. Nutritionally kids and adults only need a few dairy servings a day. Offer proper nutritional servings of milk products and then let the kids drink good old H2O!
  4. Popcorn is a great snack! Popcorn (air popped) is cheap and a great healthy whole grain snack. My kids love this FILLING treat after school. Try different toppings for variety: half butter and half soy sauce (big hit around here), butter and ranch or use ranch dressing powder, BBQ seasoning powder, Mrs. Dash.
  5. Eat leftovers. If you hate left overs... start thinking survival. We don't throw any food away. I call left overs "Planned Overs." If we have broccoli for dinner, it ends up in an omelet, soup, or stir fry for the next night. Get creative and try to find a way to reinvent your left over into it's own dish. Soup and quiche are great leftover mediums. Just think how much you save in ingredients by reusing what you already have!
  6. Eat less meat. Meat is a great luxury here. We eat it often but I portion it out carefully. Again, I only give the serving size amount per the food pyramid. My 4 year old meat-aholic thinks it's child abuse but I assure you, she's healthy. A 4 oz serving size of meat looks small but really, that's all you need and so it's all we eat.
  7. Use nutritious fillers. I try to serve homemade whole wheat bread with every meal. I offer potatoes, rices, couscous, stuffing... anything that my kids love to help fill them up. Vegetables are very filling.
  8. Cut the drinks that aren't really good for you. Soda, Beer, Wine, Coffee, Energy Drinks, Punch... I know, I just heard a thud at the other end of the computer. Are you okay? Did I hit a favorite vice tender spot? Might as well throw in cigarettes while we're at it. Ladies, these things add up and really, they aren't so great for you. When you need to pocket change and cut corners... add up how much a week you're spending on liquid pleasures. A Diet Coke a day may take the grumpies away but... oh heck... you get it. Do I still have any friends?
  9. Keep Snacks in your car. I started doing this to avoid heading to drive thru's when the munchkins were munchy. Stow granola bars and water bottles under your seat for a quick fix for hungry kids and skip the fast food.
  10. Cook inexpensive meals. Duh... I know. Disney Family Magazine has a great article on cheap family meals. Check it out HERE.
For other penny pinching ideas see: Penny Pinching Grandma and Stretcher-Feeding a Large Family.
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Don't forget to grab a button and link up tomorrow for the Friday Boutique. This will be happening every Friday through Christmas. Come link up to your blog post about what you sell and start your Holiday Shopping early!


JadeLD said...

You're so right to focus on food, I found it's the easiest way to cut down on spending without changeing your lifestyle too much. I find having a meal plan and then going shopping every Sunday evening means we waste less. By planning what we eat when we are still in the house rather than at the shop we can check what we have and use up things in the cupboard and fridge.

We could do with cutting down on the meat and we've have been trying to have one veggie night a week. It must be so much harder for 8 of you though, there are only 2 of us to feed, well at least it's good practice for us for the future.

We cook all our pasta sauces from scratch now and it doesn't take much longer, it's much healthier and cheaper. We get a huge tray of tins tomatoes from Costco and cook an onion in some olive oil, add a tin of tomatoes and lots of basil from the plants on the window sill - simple but tasty and cheap!

Good luck with the money saving - love the expression, pinch a penny 'till it screams!

Jenna said...

OK, I will agree to everything but SONIC!!! I will cut back on the trips with my kids... and go myself.

I like a book called Cheap.Fast.Good - lots of good ideas on eating for less. I also started using Magic Mix to make cream of chicken soup. It tastes great & uses up my food storage. (The recipe is at everydayfoodstorage.net - I'm sounding like an infomercial!?) When the grocery store has B1G1Free deals, I try to stock up on the stuff we use frequently.

Thanks for the great ideas!

Kira said...

Jenna is right on. I really need to stop bringing Keaton WITH me to Sonic happy hour :) Lee actually figured out last week that he was spending 60 bucks a month on diet coke. Just giving that up gives a boost to the finances. Thank you for some extra great ideas. My growing 3 year old is always "hungry" so new ideas help :)

stacy said...

one of the things that i do is buy the cheapest loaves of bread at walmart and the walmart brand pancake mix, eaggs on sale and the cheapest box of ziplock bags. at the beginning of the month i make two loaves of bread worth of french toast and the whole box of pancakes and i freeze them so that all the kids have to do in the morning is pull it out and warm it up. i have saved money and saved time and i feel like a good mom because they are getting a "hot" breakfast. :)

Jen - Balancing Beauty and Bedlam said...

I chuckling with this one because I can make pennies scream as well, except I stock up on cold cereal. :) Right now, they're polishing off a $0.50 box of MultiGrain Cheerios with marked down milk.

Pam said...

Loved this post! I am always looking for good, healthy snack alternatives. I loved the popcorn topping ideas. We tried the powdered ranch packet on some PC today. It was a huge hit with my kiddo, who loves ranch on anything. He was getting pretty bored with plain ol' popcorn. I feel like a whole new PC world has just been opened up to us!

If you don't mind - I'm going to post about it today and link to you. Let me know if that's not OK.


Joy @ Frugal Menu Mamas said...

I love what you had to say about reducing the food budget. I just discovered the wonders of popcorn as a snack. :) Glad you mentioned it. It is so cheap!
I will probably link to this post from my blog. Thanks!

Dream Mom said...

I too pinch pennies when it comes to food. I try not to waste anything. I use anything left over for soups. I am amazed at what I can cut out over time. I got a Zojirushi breadmaker in January (as a gift) and haven't bought a loaf of bread since. It costs $.44 cents to make a loaf now versus $2.50 to buy one. I make my own hamburger buns now (use them for veggie burgers not hamburgers), pizza dough, bread crumbs, bread cubes, etc. The list is endless.

I make my own iced tea now-just boil water and cook the tea on the stove and then refrigerate it.

I've been to that website and it's very good. I don't eat much meat and focus on getting the most nutrition for my dollar. If I want something sweet,I make it from scratch.

Love the penny pinching until it screams. You might like the Hillbilly Housewife blog-she has a lot of recipes for penny pinchers.

Its So Very Cheri said...

Just stopping by to touch base. My blog has been growing so rapidly I haven't had time to come for visits. I miss all of my blog friends and needed to stop in just to say hi and invite you to come for a visit as well.

One thing you didn't mention-a lot of people don't realize that the weekly grocery sales flyerd that they put out are called LOSS LEADERS. That means they are taking a loss on those items, hoping you will stock up on all kinds of other stuff. If you look at a couple of those flyers and plan all of your meals around the loss leader adds you will save a fortune

Another thing people don't realize many times is that grocery stores will take both a store coupon and a manufacturers coupon on an item. So say you have a box of rice that run $3.00 and you have a store coupon for 50cents off and a manufact. coupon for $1.00 off, it now costs you $1.50. If it is a buy 2 for X amount of money, use 2 coupons, one for each.

Also use the deals at CVS-you can get some items free, if you plan it correctly. I did a post about this not too long ago. Let me know what you think.
Its Just a Coupon
Its So Very Cheri

Anthea said...

soup is your friend!!! I understand that its not always the best food year round, but its cheap and easy to make - and is good for you. Some soup and bread, or toasted sandwiches is easy to make and there are so many combinations too. Obviously, you can freese it too, so there is NEVER any waster. perfect for autumn/winter!
PS love you blog-all the way from australia!

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