Monday, March 2, 2009

Price Book

Our family of five spends the greatest amount each month in one area: groceries. The cost of food is easily triple our monthly mortgage. Three huge teen boys can and do eat amazing quantities of food. Eating out not an option with our tight budget;we eat almost all meals at home and try to keep convenience food purchasing at a minimum.
The most useful tool I have found to help make the most of my grocery money is a price book. After reading about how useful a price book could be, I finally started mine about 6 months ago. A price book is simply a comparison tool; record of items you most commonly buy, where they were purchased and how much you paid. I began mine in a half size spiral notebook with dividers. I taped an envelope to the inside flap to hold my coupons.
I subdivided the notebook into categories and labeled the tabs: dairy, meat, household, produce, frozen, baked and convenience. After a weekly shopping trip, I sat down at the table and copied the items I purchased along with price. Within two weeks, I began to see signs of the true tool the price book would ultimately become. It was empowering to read a sale sign and take a look at the same item listed in my book, then compare the current price to what I paid earlier. I could immediately know whether it was a good time to purchase.
For example, I frequently see sugar on sale for $1.69, yet my price book shows that I have paid as little as .99 a bag for sugar. Butter can fluctuate as much as $2.00 or more in a week. Because my price book shows butter has cost over $3.00 per pound, when I see it on sale for 1.89 lb, I can stock up and feel that I have hit a true sale price. I like to shop locally and the price book also helps me see when our stores have a great sale.
Although creating the price book may sound time consuming, it is well worth the effort. Remember, you don't have to record every item in the store- you are simply listing those items you most frequently purchase.
I know we have all read about folks who use coupons to their maximum advantage and manage to save hundreds of dollars on groceries. It has been many years since I have encountered a store that offers the double or even triple coupon savings that super coupon uses relied on.
I always look at the coupons that come in the mail, but often the items offered are ones that I wouldn't normally purchase;they are too expensive. I do check once a week on line for coupons for products that are on my grocery list. A good site for checking is They have a huge database- you type in the name of the product and the database will often pull up a printable coupon. If I find something matching an item on my list, I print it out.
I recently had several coupons for 1.00 a name brand box cereal. I found the same cereal on sale for $1.00 a box! When I expressed the thrill of the bargain to one of my teens, he pointed out that you know you are really getting really old when a free box of cereal is your excitement for the week (said while consuming the entire box- the little ingrate).
In contrast to Sunday morning coupons, those generated by stores themselves are often very money saving. Often they advertise “loss leader” items. Loss leader means those items that the store is selling for a loss with the hope that you will buy other products simultaneously. The promotions are a marketing tool. If you can use restraint and purchase only those items offered at loss leader prices, they can be a huge savings.
Here are some websites that can help you create your price book:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cheap Eats

When my three boys make a trip to the grocery store with me, we answer the inevitable, "How do you feed them? They are huge!" often, multiple times. With Ben, my 14 year old hitting 6'4 and the other two only slightly behind, I often feel like I am living among giants with appetites to match. I have been hard pressed to devise homemade, less expensive ways to fill them up.
By far, our grocery bill is the largest bill we pay each month; often double our mortgage. In these tight times, it has become increasingly difficult to stretch those dollars into dinners.
One of the best investments I have made came in the form of a $2.00 Belgian waffle maker purchased last summer at a garage sale. Waffles and pancakes are great because they are cheap, filling, anytime meals.

They can be dressed up with fruit and whipped cream, they can be made in advance, frozen, heated in a microwave, and the mix can be stored ready in the refrigerator. Waffle makers are easy to use and kids can make their own. Replacing one meat and potatoes dinner per week with breakfast food can be a significant savings.

Here is an easy recipe for waffles:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Mix dry ingredients together, then add wet. I use a large brush to apply vegetable oil to my waffle iron..I have found this step necessary, others might not.

Great Buttermilk Pancake Recipe
5 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
6 tablespoons butter, melted
5 cups buttermilk
5 cups all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
5 teaspoons baking soda
1 pinch salt (optional)
5 tablespoons sugar

Again, mix dry ingredients together, then add dry in batches until desired consistency is acheived. Mix can be stored covered in fridge for one week.

Oven Pancake Recipe

3 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). In a small bowl, mix together white sugar and cinnamon; set aside.
Place butter in a 9 inch cake pan and heat in the oven until melted. In a blender or food processor, whip eggs and milk. Pour in flour and beat until well combined. Pour batter into hot pan. Sprinkle on sugar and cinnamon.
Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Dust with confectioners' sugar; serve warm.

Here is a recipe for homemade Pancake Syrup:

3 Cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups water
3 Tbsp molasses
1 tsp vanilla
2tsp butter flavoring
1 tsp maple extract

Bring all to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves (a rolling boil). Turn
off burner, but leave pot on burner until bubbling stops.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Homemade Multi-purpose cleaning Recipe

This week in my quest to reduce spending and to feel like I am recovering some old, once common knowledge that has been almost lost, I found recipes and made great cleaning products. I have used them in the bathroom used by my three teenage sons (I rarely go in there unless I don full germ warfare protective gear and armed with a bristling arsenal of bleach-laden products). I made the vinegar, water and essential oil multi-use cleaner, took a deep breath and went in blasting.

I was impressed with the way the vinegar (odor greatly improved with essential rose oil...not my favorite, but the only essential oil I had ...I am on a quest to find a good source of inexpensive essential oil...I want lemongrass) seemed to neutralize the ...ahem....urine smell left by children who seem to make no attempt to aim and sometimes seem to begin peeing 5 feet from the john. I sprayed the walls and floor as well. I left it sit for about 10 minutes and after wiping, did a deep sniff test.... very nice.

The recipe couldn't be simpler:

Equal parts white vinegar and water...then 20-25 drops essential oil.

I mixed and put in a spray bottle.

Hard Times

Hard times, come again no more.
'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door.
Oh Hard times, come again no more

Stephen Foster