Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Take care of the Pennies and the Dollars Take Care of Themselves (Simple Life Series) Post One

A young woman came to me yesterday very upset.  Her husband was being shifted to another site in his job which means she won't be able to work her night shifts. 

I've been trying to think of a way to help her.  I thought if she is having trouble with the changing environment perhaps other young people are as well.  I thought that everyone has been reached during these last few years of economic upheaval, but I may not be on the right track.

In hope to reach young people I'd like to do a series on budgeting and tightening up the household money flow.  Some of these things you may do, others may be new to you.  Either way I'll write about them in an effort to reach those who are not aware.

The first area that you can look at is grocery shopping.  We all know about coupons and sales.  Stockpiling supplies has also been discussed through the media in detail, so most people know about that.  I have a friend who is a wiz at setting up scenarios  to save big money on her groceries.  I mean big money.  She was laid off and focused on making money in other ways.  Looking at the whole set up in an opposite light.  Not concentrating on what she brought in in terms of cash, but what she keeps in. ( She has not been able to find a job. in over two years.)   Last time she told me her savings (she keeps records) it was well over $11000 for the year.  That was just on groceries and house hold items.
Needless to say, I look up to her.  Not only for her efforts, but her research and pulling together the scenarios.  I'll cover more of this in a later post.

Today I'd like to talk about waste. Ask yourself this:  When you go to the grocery do you purchase more than you use?  Are you always throwing out food because there's more in the refrigerator than your family could eat before shopping again.  This may seem simple, but I found out about six years ago that I was buying more of an item than we could eat before it went bad.  I could have kicked myself for going through all those years without seeing my error.  How much money did I throw out in a year? 

I think in terms of annual savings, rather than day to day.  As an example,  Peaches are .50 cents each.  They look good so I buy 4 for the week.  We eat 2 and 2 waste.  For that week I wasted $1.00.  If I did that every week I would throw out $52.00 a year.  On just one item.  Put that together with other foods gone bad and you would be shocked at the amount of money that was wasted in a year's time.  That money could be going to paying off debt.

Household cleaners are another area where we bleed money.  I don't even know how much they cost anymore, but for ease of explanation let's choose $3.00 an item.  I don't think I'm far off.  Most likely under the cost of some items.  I'll choose three items that most households use.

Toilet bowl cleaner, $3.00
Kitchen surface cleaner, $3.00
Kitchen trash bags, $3.00

Toilets are cleaned once a week, or more.  Most homes have three toilets so the cleaner may last about a month.  In a year the cost is $36.00.   This amount appears to be minimal, and on it's own, it is.  I use a few drops of bleach, let it sit a few minutes, and brush the bowl.  Cost is minimal.  Around $1.00 a year.  Savings: $35.00.  Add that to the $52.00 in wasted peaches and you now have $88.00 wasted.

Kitchen surfaces are cleaned every day, at least once.  This item is purchased twice a month.  The yearly cost is $72.00.  I make orange cleaner out of citrus peels (I keep them in the freezer until I have enough.) and white vinegar. (recipe below)  A gallon of vinegar in my area is $2.89.  I use one cup of that.  There are sixteen cups in a gallon.  The vinegar cost is 14.12 cents a cup.  Let's say it gets used up in the same two weeks.  The cost is 3.20 annually.  A savings of  $68.80.  Added to the previous savings the annual savings is now $156.80.

Most kitchen trash cans hold the thirteen gallon size bags.  I'll go with the $3.00 price for a box of 10. (I'm not sure about the amount that comes in a small box.)  Most people throw out the trash every day, whether it's full or not.  So in ten days you've spent 3.00.  That's thirty six boxes a year which brings the total cost to $108.00 plus tax  annually.  I use grocery bags in the smaller can I have for the kitchen.  I pitch the trash every day with no cash leaving my pocket. The savings of $108.00 added to the above total comes to $264.80 annually.  With just four (of the many items a household uses)  the savings adds up to a car payment or a credit card payment.

The challenge today is:  Take time to check into your use habits.  Can store bough items be dropped for a few minutes of time invested? 

Other ways to save:

1.Use dryer balls or vinegar in the rinse cycle in place of dryer sheets or softener.

2. Have a candle light dinner once a week.

3.  Learn how to sew buttons on a shirt or skirt or pants.

4.  Reduce meal portions by one tablespoon per person.  You may have enough left over for a lunch the next day.

5.  Reuse glass jars from olives and sauce (and other items) to freeze single portion soups in.  This provides a quick dinner or lunch for each or your family members.  Just remember not to fill the jar to the top because the food will expand when frozen.

Does all of the research take time?  How about making the citrus cleaner?  Yes.  But, there's an old saying; Take care of the pennies and the dollars take care of themselves.

What frugal things do you do or know about?  It would be so helpful for all of us if we shared our experiences in the comment section.  I have an average of eighty readers a day.  That's quite a nice community that can help each other.  Good luck on your new adventure.

Citrus Cleaner

Fill a glass jar with citrus peel.  Add enough vinegar to cover the peels.  Put the lid on and set in a cool dark place for two weeks. (I use a cupboard)  Transfer to a large spray bottle (The $ store has them) and add an equal amount of water.

Dryer Balls


  1. Anyone who has ever met me, or who might see me in a store, would know I'm a serious foodie. I wasn't always. As a child, I was a very picky eater. As an adult, I became a food writer and recipe developer, including writing 2 cookbooks. On my personal path, I've noticed a shift and it saves a LOT of money while still feeding 6 adults. I cook and eat what we have on hand *and* shop only around sales. A quick trip to the store last night meant I spent $12 and saved $9, because I shop at home before shopping at the store. When we have leftovers, we'll eat those up first before I prepare other food... even if it isn't what we "feel like eating" at that time. In other words, I've shifted from living to eat, and instead eat to live. As long as the food is nutritious--even if I'm sick of, say broccoli--I won't buy any other veggies until that broccoli, cabbage, zucchini or whatever is gone. Here's an example: a neighbor recently gave me a bag of lemons and 2 bags of limes. I could buy bottles of apple juice this week, or a carton of orange juice, but I won't. I'll make my own lemon-lime aid, zesting the citrus, drying the zest and saving it for seasoning (lemon pepper costs a lot when bought at the grocery store!). I have almost too much cabbage, green beans, broccoli and zucchini from the neighbor as well, but will use that up before buying any other veggies. Even if I get a hankering for carrots. And even though a 2 lb. bag of carrots is on sale this week for 99 cents. Because it'll be on sale again for that price in a few weeks, when I don't have a glut of other veggies. When my sons were young, I bought what they'd actually eat. Nowadays, kids are raised to eat all kinds of vegetables and fruits. You can save hundreds of dollars per year while seriously reducing waste if you forgo any other purchases when you have bumper crops of whatever in your home garden, get free produce from neighbors who have produce in over-abundance, and save even small amounts of leftovers for take-to-work lunches, etc. until it's all gone. Just an idea.

  2. I like the way you are looking at this subject. Simple living is all about good food and being good stewards of our resources. Once a while back I was upset because I forgot I had something in the fridge and it wasted. I looked to see how I could stop the waste. I simply figured out I buy too much of an item. So I brought down amounts. That worked for me. Thank you for commenting. I know all of the comments help someone who reads the blog.