For some time now, I have wanted to start sharing more practical tips for living more simply. It surprises me to see the level of interest the topic has, yet the sheer number of people who are not willing to make even the smallest of changes in their lifestyle. These same people want to have more money, less stress, more time with family, etc. They truly want to learn how we are doing it in our family. Once they talk to us and realize that it takes change on their part, they are beyond reluctant. They simply say that it is too much work or that they are not willing to give anything up.
Living our lifestyle is not something that we think everyone should do. Some families have a passion for a simpler lifestyle while others do not. That is okay. We have never felt that our way is the only right way. It is just the right way for our own family. If it inspires others, then we are happy to have done so. There are many ways that someone can adapt what I talk about in the blog to fit their own situations.
One of my favorite topics is stocking the pantry. It is something that affects all families in at one level or another. It is one of the biggest expenditures in a typical family each month. It is also one of the easiest to cut down to a fraction of what you may currently be paying. We are a family of 4 in our home. There are 2 adults and 2 children, ages 5 and 7 years. My darling husband is on the truck most of the time, but takes enough food from home that I count him in my monthly grocery shopping. There was a time when we spent nearly $500 per month in the grocery store. Today, I pay no more than $200 per month. Most months I spend closer to $150 per month. That is a huge savings!
The largest expense in grocery shopping is meat. Luckily, the kids and I eat primarily a vegetarian diet. This has significantly cut down our spending. On the days each week when my husband is home, I have meal containing meat. If we were lucky enough to get hold of some deer meat, I would cook meat more often. Unfortunately, I cannot eat commercially raised meat very often or it causes health problems. Until we are able to hunt deer, I simply eat meat as sparingly as possible. Thankfully, the kids enjoy the vegetarian meals that I make.
When I do purchase meat, I have learned to shop around. The only grocery store in the nearest town is expensive. It brings me to the problem of either paying the higher price or saving up my meat purchases until I am at another town where prices are more reasonable. As it happened, I found a tiny little convenience store that has a meat deli. The store is a real blast form the past for me. I remember going to a small store like that when we were going to visit my Grandma when I was a kid. As you walked into the store, there was a small butcher shop style deli in the back. We always bought meat there on the way to Grandma’s home. The store in town is very similar. The butcher/deli area is small but well stocked. Their prices are significantly lower than the larger grocery store. It is now where I go to buy meat when my husband will be coming home. I save on average $1.25 per pound. Some sliced deli meats are as much as $2.00 per pound less than the larger store. The meat quality is great. In this one shopping choice, I can save about $25 per month. Of course the savings would be much higher if I bought meat more often.
Another area that is a grocery budget buster is convenience foods. Wow! This one really can pack a wallop on your monthly costs! What I consider to be convenience foods are the boxed meals, canned meals, frozen dinners, and hot foods from the deli. Pay attention to any person’s shopping cart and you will see that most people buy a large percentage of their groceries in this form. You can easily cut back on this expense. A quick online search will give you a plethora of websites containing recipes for homemade mixes. I have found everything from flavored rice pilaf to homemade cake mixes. Even your basics, such as the biscuit mixes, can be easily made at home for far less than the packaged versions. Quite often, our family found that the homemade versions are more flavorful than the packaged.
When I first began making my own “convenience” foods, I was thrilled to see how quickly they are to make. In two hours, I am able to make enough homemade dry mixes to last over a month. The amount spent on the mixes cost much less than expected. I had thought I might save 50% if I were frugal. Turns out that I had a 75% savings on average! That was significant enough to excite us into keeping the mixes as a pantry staple. A couple of my favorite homemade mixes are listed below. I hope that you will enjoy them also.
Homemade Rice Pilaf
1/2 cup of orzo pasta or spaghetti broken into small pieces
3/4 cup long grain rice
14 ounces of broth (any flavor)
2 Tbs butter
To make the pilaf, melt butter in a pan and lightly brown the pasta. Add rice and broth. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until all liquid is absorbed.
Tabbouleh – Most recipes for Tabbouleh contains wheat bulgur as the grain base. I changed this to Quinoa for my version. Being predominately vegetarians, I wanted to have the addition of protein to the recipe. Like the wheat bulgur, cooked Quinoa blends well to any flavor added to it.
1/2 cup Quinoa
1 cup water
2 bunches of fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbs. fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 roma tomatoes, finely diced
1 teas. sea salt
1/2 teas. pepper
6 Tbsp. Lemon juice
6 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Bring water to a boil and stir in Quinoa. Remove from heat, cover and let set until all water is absorbed. In a bowl, mix quinoa and all ingredients until well blended. Chill for a couple of hours before serving. (I usually make it a day before I want to serve it.