Posts Tagged ‘frugal’

I am going to try to post money-saving deals each week as I find them.

For this week (Dec 1st), at our local Wal-Mart I found Green Giant cut green beans and also sweet corn for .50 cents a can (regularly $1.43/can at our grocery store).  Needless to say, we bought several cases!

Wally World also had Kraft boxed macaroni and cheese for .50 cents a box.

To break that down for a variety of budgets:

For $34.00, you could add 20 boxes of mac & cheese plus 48 cans of food to your storage.

For $20.00, you could do 10 boxes of mac & cheese plus 30 cans of vegetables.

For $10.00, you could do 5 boxes of mac & cheese plus 15 cans of vegetables.

Having peace of mind knowing you have something put back to feed your family – priceless!


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This Christmas is going to be slim for lots of people, so I thought I’d post a few cheap but thoughtful gift ideas.  Many of these gifts focus on food because  a) I tend to be practical, and b) everybody’s gotta eat!  Customize them for the individual’s taste and be creative.

Caramel Apple Basket – Fill a basket (small to medium size) with an assortment of apples and include a tub of caramel sauce.  If you want to spend the extra money, you could also put an apple slicer/corer in the basket too.

Homemade Cookies – Who doesn’t like getting homemade cookies?  Sugar cookies are wonderful this time of year, but so are chocolate chip, oatmeal, snickerdoodles, peanut butter, etc.  Be sure to package different flavored cookies separately.  Softer cookies packaged with crisper ones will turn them all soft (ask me how I know!).

Homemade Candies – Along similar lines as the cookies.  I did this one year for my nieces and nephews – made many different kinds of candy and packaged them in a snowman tin from Walmart.  It was cheap (although time consuming), but they LOVED it!

Make an afghan or quilt – If you are interested in needlework, get busy and make a simple throw or lap blanket.

Make homemade Christmas ornaments – This could be anything from painted ornaments to satin balls covered with sequins and anything in between.  Get creative and use your imagination!  There are literally tons of patterns on the internet.

Jar of caramel corn – This is great packaged in a mason jar and tie the top with a pretty ribbon/bow.  I love to put either pecans or peanuts in my caramel corn.  Another idea would be to package the Popcorn Concoction recipe I have listed on the blog.

Canned Food – There are a lot of folks struggling to make ends meet, and many people would appreciate an old-fashioned “pounding” where you give them canned/boxed goods.  There are lots of sales going on at the moment, and it would be easy to load a box or basket with many different useful items.

Spaghetti Basket – Can your own spaghetti sauce, add it to a basket with a package of dry spaghetti, container of parmesan cheese, and maybe a loaf of homemade bread or storebought French bread.  Voila!  Supper in a basket!  I don’t know any woman with a family who wouldn’t appreciate an easy night in the kitchen.

Mixes in a Jar – Rather than use one on the internet, why not use a tried and true recipe from your own kitchen?   I’ve mixed up our favorite brownie recipe, included instructions, and given as gifts in the past.   Hot cocoa is another fantastic gift idea.

Stationary/Notepads – Most everyone could always use extra paper by the phone.  Fred’s and Dollar General normally carry cheap (but cute) notepads, many with a magnet on the back so it can hang on the fridge.  I can’t tell you how many of these I’ve gone through, but they make wonderful gifts.

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I buy bulk items from a variety of places here in Arkansas and also off of the internet.  Sam’s Club has the best prices locally on things like pinto beans, rice, #10 cans of tomato sauce, fruits, vegetables, etc.  Dollar Tree is one of the frugal homemaker’s best kept secrets for saving money on grocery items.  They have name brand canned goods for $1 each (Spaghetti-Os, Treet (like Spam), Campbell’s Soup).

Local grocery stores and even Walmart also sell #10 cans of food, and it works out to be much cheaper per serving.  Please be aware that not everything at Walmart is a good deal.  I used to shop at Walmart almost exclusively until I realized they hardly ever put items on sale, but grocery stores and smaller discount chains do – weekly.  Now before ya’ll start shaking your fingers at me over Walmart, please note I do still shop there…some.  Just not for everything, and certainly not for all of our groceries.  I’ve witnessed in our own hometown how one grocery store was put out of business completely by Walmart.  It’s scary to think about – one day the only store we may have to shop at is Wally World!  Expand your shopping adventures and try some of the smaller stores.  You might just be surprised at what you find.  🙂

If you have a deep freeze, you can purchase a half side of beef (or a whole cow) and put it in the freezer.  The only downside to this is if the power goes off for an extended amount of time.  I fill gallon milk jugs with water and stick in the freezer to help keep it colder longer for that reason.  Most cities have a butcher shop where you can get excellent quality meat for a lot less when you buy in bulk.

If you want to order bulk quantities online, there are several reputable dealers I can recommend.  Please be aware that most companies are handling a huge amount of orders right now, and are backed up at least 12 weeks.  Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either!  Apparently, there are a lot of us with the notion to store food for long-term use!

Here are a few links to get you started (they’ll open in a new window).  I have either ordered from these companies myself, or personally know people who have and were very pleased with their service.  I’m not being paid to refer folks to their website.   I just know how hard it is to trust companies online if you’ve never dealt with them!   🙂

(Update 11/18/08:  I removed Internet-Grocer from the list. I’ve had an order with them since July and it’s now almost Thanksgiving and it has never arrived. I cannot get them to answer email, even to give an update with “I don’t know when it will ship”. Therefore, I no longer recommend using them.)

www.beprepared.com – Emergency Essentials – located in UT and are super quick to ship, plus extremely reasonable on shipping and handling charges.

www.waltonfeed.com – one of the oldest in business.  They recently updated their website and some of the areas that were previously available are no longer up.  I hope they add them back as time allows.

I hope this helps!

Have a great weekend!  😀

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This is more like a chili than a soup, but it’s really good and low fat, not to mention cheap! Freezes well also.

1 onion, chopped
1 (16oz) can chili beans, Ranch style beans, or pinto beans
1 (15oz) can black beans
1 (15oz) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (8oz) can tomato sauce
1 can chicken broth
1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes (could use 1 or 2 cans Rotel if you wanted)
1 pkg taco seasoning
3 whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Place all ingredients in crockpot, place chicken breasts on top and press down into the mixture. Allow to cook on low for 7 hours.

Before serving, remove chicken and shred/dice, add back to the crockpot.

Serving options:
shredded cheese
sour cream
crushed tortilla chips

I like this best served over rice with cheese on top, but hubby prefers chips and cheese.  This is soooo good and easy to make!

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One of the things I see most often is people not knowing what to stockpile or where to even start.  The best suggestion I have is to make a list of what you use in a month, and initially base your preparations from that.

Every family is different, but every family has basic food requirements that have to be met.

There are a lot of things you can pick up when they are on sale and slowly build your pantry and storage without wrecking your budget.  As previously mentioned, be sure to shop the grocery aisles in discount stores such as Dollar General, Fred’s, and Dollar Tree.

A basic list would include some or all of the following:

  • Water – 1 gallon per person, per day – ideally 2 weeks’ worth (includes water for cooking needs)
  • Flour – white, wheat, rye, soy – whatever your family likes
  • Grains – oats, grits, cream of wheat, cracked wheat, popcorn, etc.
  • Sugars – granulated white, powdered, brown, honey (or molasses), pancake syrup
  • Salt – iodized table salt, sea salt, kosher, etc.
  • Yeast – if you plan on making bread
  • Oil – olive, vegetable, corn, peanut, etc., and/or shortening
  • Butter – counts as an oil, but you can freeze or can the butter, or use butter flavored shortening as a substitute
  • Eggs – fresh is always best, but you can buy powdered eggs to use in an emergency
  • Baking supplies – corn starch, baking soda, baking powder, spices, muffin liners, cocoa powder, etc.
  • Dried beans – lots of varieties such as pinto, black, lentils, great northern, navy, kidney, red, etc.
  • Corn meal or corn bread packets (I really like Morrison’s Corn Kits, but it may be a regional item)
  • Rice – long grain white, brown, jasmine, etc.
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly or jam
  • Dried or canned fruits/vegetables
  • Dried or canned meats – jerky, chicken, beef, ham
  • Nuts – pecans, peanuts, walnuts, cashews, etc.
  • Treats for the kids (or the chocoholic in you   🙂   ) – chocolate chips, candy bars, hard candy, Pop Tarts (which have a shockingly long shelf life!), etc.
  • Boxed cereals
  • Condiments such as ketchup, mustard, mayo, BBQ sauce, hot sauce, pickles, olives, etc.
  • Ramen noodles (VERY cheap, and store well)
  • Dry pasta and canned sauces
  • Coffee, tea, Kool-Aid, Tang, Nestle Quik (chocolate/strawberry), hot cocoa mix, etc.
  • Powdered milk
  • Fruit juice or juice boxes
  • Canned soups – chicken noodle, tomato, vegetable, cream of chicken/mushroom, etc.
  • Crackers – saltines, Ritz, Wheat Thins, Sociables, etc.
  • Canned chili or tamales
  • Apple sauce
  • Instant mashed potatoes (not bad with some cheese and garlic powder added in)
  • Canned tuna fish, SPAM, vienna sausages, etc.  (In an emergency, it’s better than nothing!)

If you don’t know how to make bread (or cook), I highly recommend you learn.  Anyone can learn how to cook with some practice and patience.  Good cooks are not always born – they develop over time.  🙂

For other basic supplies, a beginning list could include:

  • Matches
  • Candles or oil lamps with extra lamp oil and wicks
  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Battery powered AM/FM radio
  • Extra blankets/pillows
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Napkins
  • Kleenex
  • Laundry detergent and supplies (stain remover, dryer sheets. etc.)
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Ziploc bags (gallon, quart, sandwich bags)
  • Trash bags
  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo
  • Baby powder/foot powder
  • Cotton balls
  • Q-tips
  • Shaving cream
  • Razors
  • Toothpaste
  • Dental floss
  • Mouthwash
  • Pet food (dry and canned)
  • Extra canning jars/lids/rings
  • Seeds for planting a garden (use good quality seeds – not the Walmart .25 cent packages)

Consider starting a garden, or planting a few fruit trees in your yard.

These are just some ideas to get you started.  The important thing is to actually begin to prepare before an emergency strikes.  Having food and supplies onhand for your family is a peace of mind that is priceless!

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If any of you have a Fred’s discount store nearby, they are carrying plastic containers that will hold around 25-30 pounds of dog food.  They are very sturdy with a handle on one side, and cost $8.99 each.  I bought a few to hold bulk sizes of sugar, flour, and rice, especially once they are opened.  The lids have a flip/spout thing which will come in handy for scooping out food for cooking.  They were on sale last week (originally they were $9.99, I think) – look in the pet food section of the store.  I’ll try to get a picture posted soon.

Dollar General has 30 gallon plastic totes for less than $10 each which work great for storing flour, sugar, rice, etc.  Be sure to put a few bay leaves in before you seal it.

I normally buy groceries every 2 weeks (I set it up on my husband’s paycheck cycle), and plan menus for at least that long at a time.  Since I’ve been buying in bulk, it’s made shopping so much easier since I always have a certain amount of food onhand.  Our grocery bill has not gone down though, because I’ve been picking up extra canned foods every pay day.  When you have a large amount of flour onhand, for example, it’s easier to move on to another item you need more of such as sugar.

From now until Christmas, grocery stores will be putting more and more canned goods on sale with Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching.  Why not stock up on corn, green beans, peas, etc. while they are .50 cents (or less) a can?  It will save your family money in the long run, and you will have confidence that there is something in the pantry you can feed them.

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Stockpiling a substantial amount of food is not something you accomplish overnight for most of us average folks.  My current goal is to have at least one year of food and supplies put back.  I’m nowhere near my goal, but I’m slowly making progress.  I’ve learned a few helpful things along the way, and wanted to pass the info along in case it will be useful to someone else.

  • Store what your family likes to eat. It does no good to have 300 pounds of flour if you don’t know how to make bread.  Beans and rice are currently cheap and plentiful, they store very well (if stored correctly), but if you have a family who dislikes beans or rice, it’s not going to be beneficial to stock huge amounts of them.  Buy things that are on sale (check expiration dates, and buy the ones with the longest), and don’t forget to shop the grocery aisles in discount stores such as Dollar General, Fred’s, and Dollar Tree.  You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can add to your pantry and save a bundle of money in the process.
  • Store items correctly for long term use. I err on the side of caution and freeze all of my grains (flour, pasta, beans, rice, etc.) for at least a week before repacking them for longer storage.  The freezing process kills any eggs or critters lurking in the food.  I’ve read stories of people spending lots of money on food only to have it invaded by bugs.  I generally break large bags down into more manageable sizes.  For example – a 25# bag of rice can be easily broken down into vacuum sealed bags (if you have a sealer – I don’t…yet!), or put it into clean, dry 2 liter soda bottles or 1 gallon glass pickle jars.  Be sure to put a bay leaf or two in before sealing the lid with tape.  I also use plastic gallon ice cream buckets for storage (use ziploc bags to repackage, then put into the buckets, and tape the lids very well).  Store all items in a cool, dark place if at all possible.  If packaged correctly, grains can last for literally years in storage.
  • Store a variety of foods your family enjoys. Storing only one or two essential items will quickly lead to boring mealtimes.  God gave us the enjoyment of eating for a reason, and we are supposed to eat a wide variety of foods.  Be sure to include canned or dried fruits and vegetables, as well as things like chocolate chips (for baking) and hard candies for special treats.
  • Rotate your food storage. I cannot stress this one enough.  It is essential to rotate your oldest foods to the front, and place the newest purchases in the back – just like a grocery store does.  This ensures your older goods are used first and will prevent waste from products that go bad.
  • Be creative with your storage options. If you don’t have a spare room or large pantry to store canned goods, try putting them in a box that will fit under your bed.  Covering the box with a towel will prevent dust from settling on the cans.  Use a 5 gallon bucket to store grains, and then cover it with a pretty tablecloth or spare fabric and set in the corner of a room.  There is no reason you can’t integrate your storage into almost any room of your home if you really put some thought into it.
  • Don’t have a garden?  Re-can or dehydrate the cheaper bulk size #10 cans of food. I have to confess – I did not have a garden this year.  I decided to dehydrate #10 cans of fruits and vegetables to add to my storage since it works out to be much cheaper that way.  I have a dehydrator which works great for drying peaches, green beans, mixed vegetables, etc. and they take up MUCH less space once they are dried.  A bonus to doing this – reuse the #10 cans for storage.  Wash and dry thoroughly, then repack with whatever you’ve dried (stored in a ziploc or vacuum sealed bag, of course).  You can buy extra lids that fit the #10 cans from most bulk suppliers (www.beprepared.com).
  • Decide how much to store. This can be tricky, and it’s something I still struggle with at times.  How much is too much or not enough?  There are several places on the internet with guidelines for how much to store.  For myself, I made up an Excel spreadsheet with all of what I consider the basic food items that we needed for a year.  Using the general guidelines I’d seen elsewhere, I modified the list to our specifications, and put a blank space beside the goal amount so I could see at a glance what areas still need work.  I printed the page off, put it on a clipboard along with a pencil and hung it in my pantry.  This works for me – do what works for you, but I’ve found it necessary to have a general idea of what we have in storage.  For a basic idea on how much storage you need, this is a good starting point:  http://www.thefoodguys.com/foodcalc.html .  You can print the page after calculating the amounts.
  • Store basic necessities besides food. While you’re stocking up, don’t forget things like pet food, shampoo, soap, garbage bags, bleach, toothpaste, toilet paper, ziploc bags, paper towels, matches, etc.  Some of those things are not necessarily necessities, but they will sure make life more pleasant if you have them.   🙂   Most of those items can be stored in a storage building where temperature is not as critical.
  • Be sure you have adequate water storage. This is the last one for now, but certainly not least in importance.  You can survive longer without food than you can water.  It is essential to have at least 2 weeks worth of water put back for every person in your home – one gallon per person/day.  If you have your own well or a stream nearby, you are ahead of probably 90% of Americans (be sure you know how to purify the water!).  For the rest of us, bottled water will suffice.  The LARGE bottles you see in offices on dispensers are relatively cheap – less than $7 in most places, and the largest holds about 5 gallons.  For a family of 3, you would need 42 gallons of water for 2 weeks.  That sounds like a lot, but it includes amounts needed for cooking also.  Two weeks will at least give you time to explore other options on where to obtain water – even if it means digging a well or cistern.

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