As a stay a home mom I often find that time is easier to come by then money. Not that I have endless time, but since no one is paying me for my time, it seems easier to sacrifice. I have discovered that by putting in a little bit of time at home, I can save on our monthly expenses, which equals more money going into savings or paying down debt.
The less work that is done before you buy a product generally the less you pay for it. So if you buy ingredients and make things yourself, you will usually save money and almost always eat healthier.
I hardly ever buy breakfast cereal for myself or my daughter anymore. My husband is a creature of habit and has made many concessions to our frugal lifestyle, so I let him keep buying his store brand cereals, especially when he sticks to cheaper and healthier choices like raisin bran. But my daughter and I don’t usually eat boxed breakfast cereal. I will make oatmeal or we eat fruit and homemade toast. My daughter likes hers with cream cheese. If you like cereal bars or granola bars for a quick breakfast on the go, those can be made at home too. Check out recipes online like http://backtothecuttingboard.com/dessert/no-bake-chewy-granola-bars/. Depending on where you buy your ingredients and what you put in your cereal bars, you can save a lot by making them yourself. Though I haven’t tried it yet, I’ve also considered making my own yogurt, though I’m not sure whether it would be a significant savings, since my husband is very brand loyal. But here is a helpful link about how to make your own yogurt in your crock pot. http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/10/you-can-make-yogurt-in-your-crockpot.html. I’ll likely try this once we have more children.
I started baking my own bread when I realized that by buying ingredients in bulk I could make a loaf for only $.33! It took a little bit of experimenting to find the right recipe, but now I make my husband’s sandwich bread for his lunches instead of paying almost $2 for his favorite store brand Italian sandwich bread. I also discovered that a loaf of homemade bread is the perfect side dish to a soup or stew. Right out of the oven, this bread rivals most high priced bakery bread. However, while I do use bread flour I buy in bulk at Sam’s Club, I don’t often use whole wheat flour. Partly because I have trouble making it rise properly and end up with very small dense loaves. They still taste OK, but don’t make very good sandwiches. Sometimes I compromise by using half store brand whole wheat flour and half bread flour. But that does mean that my loaves cost more, though still cheaper than good quality whole wheat bread without high fructose corn syrup or other additives.
Making things from scratch is especially frugal than when preparing your own meals instead of depending on convenience meals. There were many nights when we were both working full time that it seemed easier just to grab fast food or run out for a pizza instead of make dinner. Now I try to make sure that I have at least a few meals in the freezer ready to go. The best choices are usually stews or soups. Since we are only a family of three right now, and one of us is still eating very small portions, most soup and stew recipes yield at least two or three meals. But eating the same thing two or three times in a week can be a little dull. So I freeze at least half and keep it for a night when I’m tired, we’re busy or running late. It goes directly from freezer to soup pot and in just a few minutes we have a meal ready to go. Another great choice is pizzas or calzones. I make pizza dough in double batches and freeze half for later. Then I defrost in the freezer overnight and I can make a pizza in half an hour. Personally, we prefer making calzones. I have a hard time getting the dough stretched properly for pizza and calzones are generally less messy to make. That way I can make personal sized calzones and each family member can pick his or her own fillings.
Buy in bulk, portion for yourself
Buying in bulk can save you money on a couple of conditions. First, it has to be something that you already buy a lot of and consistently use up before it goes bad. Secondly, the bulk source has to be a significant cost savings. And third, you must be able to store the items properly. Flour for example, can be stored in the bag but is better stored in an airtight canister. But it’s hard to find a canister that will hold 25 pounds of flour. Fortunately, we generally use up the flour quickly from all the bread and calzone making, so I’ve never had a problem. But I’m still keeping my eyes open for a proper affordable storage container. We also buy cheese in bulk, in block form. We’ve discovered that we can cut the cheese into smaller blocks and then freeze them, defrosting as needed. We mostly use the cheese for cooking and baking so I personally don’t know how it would be for eating. But my daughter and husband both eat mozzarella cheese by the handful and seem to think it tastes fine. This has saved us a lot of money over buying cheese in pre-shredded 2 cup bags. Don’t buy single serving items, just portion them out yourself.