Today, I am likely to step on toes. So, with that in mind, if you are easily offended consider tucking your toes far back under your chair as you read this. Ready? Okay, let’s see how this goes.
One of my biggest pet peeves when asked about our lifestyle is when people are so shocked at the fact we live a lifestyle that can be managed on a single income. It is beyond unnatural to them that in today’s economy, we are able to take care of our family’s needs without my having to work outside the home. What shocks people the most if that with the exception of a couple of times when we had no employment, we have done this without being on government assistance. On the two occassions when we did go on food stamps, it was for a very short time. We waited as long as possible, living on our savings, before we took that step. It chaffed us to have to ask for help. Both my husband and I are proud people and were raised with the attitude that you do all you can to support yourself and not become a burden on society. Now, before people start sending me hate filled comments and email, let me state this. There ARE situation where being on assistance is needed. We understand that. We do not condemn others for that. We simply feel that as long as we are able to work, we should be doing all that we can to support our family.
The problem that I have is the lazy attitudes. Often, I will be asked how we manage on a single income. When I share what we are doing, I am met nearly 90% of the time with comments like, “that is too hard of work”. My husband and I both make it clear to people that we would NOT recommend our lifestyle to anyone. It has to be a choice that you make for yourself. BUT, there are things that you can adopt from our lifestyle that will greatly reduce your monthly expenses. The issue then is, are you willing to put forth the effort it requires? Does the financial relief it would give have more meaning to you than the option of continuing with the way you currently live? Let me give you a classic example.
I feed our family of 4 on less than $400 a month. That is without having a garden to eat from. As I have mentioned many times before, when I prepare meals I cook most from scratch. It is amazing the savings your food budget will have if you just make this one simple change. The cost of making convenience foods from scratch is far less than the cost of buying the packaged foods at the store. On this one issue, I have heard the worst responses. Most say that it takes too much time and effort, yet complain about their monthly food expenses.
Another aspect that I follow as closely as possible is to strive to not have leftovers. This means that I watch portion sizes when cooking. Often, I will cook a bit extra that can be reheated and sent in a food thermos with my husband for his lunch while at work. This makes it easy for him to eat healthier as well as saving the cost of fast food.
Two nights ago, I made spaghetti for dinner. Instead of buying pasta, I made the noodles myself. A couple of eggs, water, a tiny amount of salt, and some flour was all that is needed to make enough fresh pasta for our family. If I wanted to go vegan on this, I could have substituted the eggs with flax seed meal soaked in a bit of water. For those unaware, 1 Tbsp of ground flax seed meal soaked in 3 Tbsp of water will make the equivalent to 1 large egg. Comparing the cost of making my own pasta with that of buying spaghetti noodles is very significant. I can make 4 batches of pasta for the cost of a 1 lb box of spaghetti. In other words, I can make pasta for 4 family meals at the cost of 1 meal using the store bought. This is based upon the cheapest brand sold at WalMart. Things like cake mixes are also a good source of savings. Instead of using store bought, I make cakes from recipes.
One way to reduce the waste of resources is to simply be creative. I had a couple of small eggplants and zucchini squash. Not enough of either one to make a meal. So, I chopped them up and saute’d them with some olive oil, garlic, and onions. Once fully cooked, I added the vegetables to a tomato sauce seasoned with Italian Seasonings. This was spooned over rice for our dinner. The result was a very flavorful meal that the family enjoyed. Actually, I was surprised when my husband mentioned that it reminded him of a food he ate while overseas serving in the Navy years ago.
Our Grandmothers’ generations didn’t have the convenience of grocery stores to supply all of their needs. Yes, markets were available, but they often didn’t have the money necessary to purchase all of their family’s food needs at these markets. They had to grown at least a portion of their own food. Whatever food they bought or grew was carefully prepared to make it last as long as possible. Earlier generations would cringe at the amount of food waste that is so commonplace today.
If you are really serious about wanting to save money in your food budgets, then get ready to put some effort into it. Nothing is free in life. There is always a price to be paid. In this case, the rewards of cooking from scratch far outweigh any perceived inconvenience. The cooking process is enjoyable and you often will find that the recipes taste far better than the packaged foods. Another side benefit is that you often can cook less. This is especially true when it comes to homemade pasta. When I make pasta for our family, I make half as much as when cooking the store bought, boxed pasta. The homemade is more hearty and satisfying as well as better tasting. As you become more confident with cooking from scratch, you can personalize the recipes to your family’s tastes. Play around with the ingredients to make the recipes your own.
Whatever way you decide to cook, just following the no leftovers portion control will save your family money. Most times, leftovers will end up being thrown in the trash. Maybe not the first night, but how often have you cleaned out a refrigerator only to toss a large percentage of the food into the bin? That is waste of your financial resources. If you get a handle on this one area, you will find that you have more money to allocate somewhere else in your budget. Maybe even can be used to build up your pantry.