Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The 100th Post!

I have recently decided to begin a (home) career in cooking, in order to save some money. I have been making things that I would normally buy pre-made, from scratch. This past week, I bought 2 loaves of french bread, a can of pizza sauce, and a bag of mozzarella cheese. I normally buy Red Baron's French Bread Pizzas, which at their cheapest, cost $3 for 2 french bread pizzas (Wal-Mart). I buy these for the reason that they are a one serving, easy to make meal. So either for lunch, or a night when one of us is in class, there is an easy "dinner for one".

Anyways, I purchased these things at my local grocery store:
French Bread Pizza (2 Smaller loaves) - $2.19
Can of Pizza Sauce - $1.66
Bag of Mozzarella cheese (4 cups) - $2.68 (on sale)
Total: $6.53

As you can probably already, tell, its going to be a much cheaper route to buy these items individually and then to buy the pre-made ones. With the bread I purchased, I managed to make up 8 servings of french bread pizza. That's 82 cents per serving. In addition, I had enough pizza sauce and cheese left to make more after I purchase more french bread, so really its less than that, my guess would be around 50 cents per serving in the long run, since the bread doesn't require a lot of sauce or cheese to be covered. I also cover the bread with some olive oil before putting the sauce on.

I made these this past Monday while making my soup (lunches for the week) and some seasonal pumpkin bread. They don't take long to make once the bread is sliced, simply wrap in saran wrap and put in the freezer, eat as needed! Bake at 375 degrees for 18 minutes.

This is just one example of how you can save money by making things at home, and possibly from your local area. The pizza sauce I purchased was made by a local distributor. Also, you can make pizza sauce even cheaper by simply making it from tomato sauce. The Simple Dollar has instructions on how to do this, but all it really is is adding some spices to the tomato sauce (basil, cilantro, etc.).

Think about some things that you may buy pre-made, and could possibly freeze as well!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Use for Junk Mail

Yesterday my husband asked me if we could put a shopping list somewhere in the kitchen so I knew when he was out of items only he used. I had a very old clipboard on the fridge which was actually from a high school locker kit I bought probably about 10 years ago. A couple of months ago it finally ran out of the original paper that came with it. "Now what?" I thought. I doubted I would be able to find a pad of paper to fit the size without being to heavy. Looking at the pile of junk mail on the counter, I took all of the sheets of paper I would have normally thrown in the recycling and cut them up into fourths. It didn't take too long and I had all the paper I would need for probably some time. I simply use the back side of the paper that is blank, and you have a new pad of paper.

I know probably a lot of you out there already do this, but it is a great way to reuse another piece of paper before having it recycled! Plus I save money by not going out and buying more pads of paper.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Saving Money: The Plan

Well, unfortunately it has been a while. I'm getting closer and closer to the whole dissertation process, so that ends up eating a lot of my time. Anyways, a great deal has happened over the past month or so, in terms of my (probably one of many) breaking points with money.

Basically, one of our cars needed a transmission replaced. Yeah. I was ready to panic when they told me. For those who don't know, to replace a transmission of a car it can cost upwards of $3500. Luckily, the repair shop we used also provided used transmissions (which is always a good thing to ask about should you ever be in that situation). However, I spent a lot of that day looking at potential new cars. The car we have is a 1998 Nissan Maxima, so it is definitely a good car, but we have no idea how long it will last, and I wasn't sure the investment was worth it if it would break again in a few months or years.

But going through this, I had a very huge sense of failure. Much of our savings were depleted after the move to our new house, as well as myself adjusting to a lower paying job and having a higher living expense every month. For some reason, I had not glanced at our budget for quite some time. After my father gave me that "you need to be saving money" talk (to which I also got quite defensive) I took out the excel spreadsheet and listed our income versus the amount of bills we have each month. I then examined the remaining money, and what should be going into savings accordingly. Additionally, I felt overwhelmed by my car insurance bills this month, and decided I instead would save $20 each week to put towards the car insurance bill, rather than trying to find 200-300 for two months in a row. Since I had to put the car repair on our credit card, I also outlined a strategy of how this would be paid back each paycheck.

With credit cards, the sooner you pay, the better! Even if it is in small amounts, all of your recent payments show up on a credit report, which can show your good faith in paying off your credit card, rather than waiting for some big amount.

I was surprised by the time I had finished how sophisticated it looked. It was a map for our money, where everyone had their appropriate place. Another rule I am beginning to use is a page from Dave Ramsey's books - pay for things in cash. Each week I take out a certain amount for food, in cash. This is all the money we are allowed for the week, and what I am already coming to find is we don't need as much money for food for another part of the plan: planned meals.

First, I wrote down a full menu of all the meals I can make, with a column for lunch meals and dinner meals. I then sat down after printing out a blank Google calendar, and wrote down what meal I will cook each day, and lunches for weekends. Next, I wrote a shopping list of all of the ingredients I would need to make these meals, and any other food items like snacks we may like to have over the week. I keep this calendar on the side of the fridge, and I have already found that my husband will get excited over certain upcoming meals and tell me earlier in the week. If your family doesn't like what you serve, then ask them to be on the meal-planning committee!

After going to the store, I could not believe how simple it was. I buy things accordingly, and feel I nearly cut my grocery bill in half, because I don't buy things I don't need or wont use. So many times I would go through the grocery store just buying things that sounded good to eat or thought I would make for that week, and I would end up with a lot of expired food. I'll admit, buying only what you need is still difficult, because you do see sales and things you didn't think of, but as long as you limit yourself to that one snack, rather than 2 or 3, its a start!

So my plan of action has only been in place for a week, but so far I am coming out under budget. If you are looking for more ways to see where your money goes every month, there is a great free version of Quicken called MoneyStrands, located at

Happy saving!