10 January 2013

Reducing the cost of living 3

We've had two days to think about cutting costs and getting into the right frame of mind to start saving money. By know you should have a budget up and running or at least have started tracking your spending. If you've never made up a budget before, it's a good idea to track what you spend for a month so you know exactly where your money is going and your not just guessing. There are two old posts about tracking your spending and budgeting to help you if you're still at this stage, but if you get into a tangle with it, go over to the forum and ask for help.  Here is a free App for your iPhone to track your spending.

This is my food money box, with receipts.

There is no doubt about it, if you cook from scratch, not only will you save money, you'll ingest fewer preservatives and additives. You will also be skilled enough to turn leftovers into a new meal and to substitute ingredients when you run short. Basic cooking is a wonderful life skill to have and to pass on to your children.

When you first start out on this frugal pathway, collect about 12 recipes that you can cook well, that use cheap and easy to find ingredients, that use grains or legumes as well as meat, fish or chicken and that your family enjoy. Once you get these 12 meals to a point where you know you can't make them any better, start collecting a few more, and take your time perfecting those too and customising them to suit your family. When you have a good collection of main meal recipes, start on baking, then drinks, then soups, then school and work lunches, then snacks. When you have all these categories covered, I bet you'll be seen in your family as a really good cook. You will certainly be putting food on the table that you can be proud of and you'll be providing all that nutrition at a low cost.

I've been cherry picking from old posts to cover as much of this as I can without rewriting it all.

A few quick tips
  • Stop spending on non-essentials. Ask yourself if it's a want or a need.
  • Use cash only - it feels like real spending as you have less and less cash in your purse as you continue through the week.
  • Make your own cleaning products. It's cheaper, you'll get better products and it's much healthier.
  • Make your own laundry liquid. It works! 
  • Stop buying food and buy ingredients instead. Cooking from scratch will save money and help you reduce the amount of artificial additives you eat.
  • Draw up a budget so you know how much you have to spend on food, rent/mortgage, transport, health, entertainment, grooming, clothing etc., then stick to your budget.   
  • Stop using disposables unless you absolutely have to.  This is not just nappies, it's also cleaning cloths, paper plates, knives and forks, cups, etc.
  • Shop at secondhand shops and garage sales.
  • Check if you can lower the cost of your phone, internet, insurance and any other recurring costs. Do a review of these now and repeat it every 12 months.
  • Make a conscious effort to cut down your usage of electricity and water.
In the kitchen
  • Keep a square container in your sink. Fill it with all the water that you use for washing vegetables, hands and general kitchen duties. Each time it’s full, take it outside to water your plants. You can also use your sink container for small amounts of washing up.
  • When washing vegetables like potatoes, pour water into a small bowl and wash the potatoes in the bowl. If you stand at the sink peeling potatoes under running water, you’ll use about 10 litres of water per minute …and it will all run down the drain.
  • Use dishcloths that can be reused many times. I use cotton dishcloths that I knit myself. They last for a few years. I use them for a day or two and then hang them over the side of the laundry hamper until I do the washing. You can knit different colours for different rooms so you never use your bathroom cloths in the kitchen.
  • Only use the dishwasher when it’s full.
  • You can save a lot of power by being mindful of how you cook. When something comes to the boil, turn the power down so it keeps simmering and cooking without the high heat.
  • When boiling vegetables in a saucepan, keep the lid on. It will retain more heat and cost less to cook.
  • Make two meals at once - things like soups, casseroles are the easiest, and freeze the second meal for later in the week.
  • When you bake, do a few things at a time. Bake a few loaves of bread and freeze a couple, or bake bread and cake or biscuits at the same time.
  • Invest in a steamer – either steel or bamboo. You can boil pumpkin, potatoes, and any hard vegetables in the saucepan, while steaming tender vegetables on top. Doing this will save you the extra cost of a second pot on another part of the stove.
  • Keep a small container in the fridge for vegetable off cuts that can be used to make stock or soup. Things like celery and radish tops, the top bit you cut off carrots, turnips and parsnips. The feathery tops of fennel. If you haven’t made use of these vegetables after a couple of days, freeze then or use them in your worm farm, for the chooks or compost.
  • Use the carcass of roast chicken to make stock, then freeze it.
  • If you buy bulk meat, ask the butcher to include all the bones, and if they're large to cut them in two. Use those bones for soups and for making stock.
  • Buy meat in bulk. You may even be able to halve a bulk purchase with your extended family or friends. Don't rule it out because you think it will be too much for you. Ask around to see if anyone you know is interested in sharing the order.
  • Invest in a slow cooker or crockpot. It costs less to cook in and will give you fabulous soups, casseroles and a whole lot of other goodies with little effort.
  • Plan your menus. This will save you time and money.
  • Stockpile groceries. This will also save time and money. 
  • Rotate the stock in your pantry and stockpile cupboards. Put new things at the back and use from the front.
  • Save glass jars that can be given a second life storing food in your kitchen.
  • If you find you have a lot of vegetables in the fridge that are past their prime, make vegetable soup and freeze it. It’s always reassuring to know you have food ready to go in the freezer.
  • Keep the seals on your fridge clean. Check them occasionally to see that they’re sealing properly. You can do this by holding a piece of paper over the seal while you close the door. If the door doesn’t hold the paper and you can slide it out, you need new seals.
  • Keep your fridge organised and clean. 
  • Use your fridge wisely. Don’t push things to the back. Know what needs to be used and never waste food. 
  • Clean out your fridge today and start with a clean slate.
  • Use your leftovers.
Laundry liquid savings
One litre/quart laundry liquid from an Australian supermarket costs about $9. This will do 20 washes. So 10 litres of commercial laundry liquid would cost $90 and you'd get 200 loads of washing done. That would cost you 45 cents per wash, you'd have the convenience of not having to make it at home but you'd be bringing unknown chemicals into your home as well as the packaging. Not to mention having to carry it all home from the shop.

Ten litres/quarts of laundry liquid made at home using soap, borax, washing soda would cost you (less than) $2 and you could make it in less than 15 minutes. You'd have enough laundry liquid for 160 loads of washing and each wash would cost you just over a cent.

For a young family doing seven washes a week, that homemade laundry liquid will last 22.8 weeks and cost about $5 a year. A pensioner or single person doing three washes a week, that laundry liquid will last 53 weeks, so $2 a year.

That same young family using commercial laundry liquid will spend $163.80 a year on their washing liquid. The pensioner/single person doing three washes a week will spend $70.20 on commercial laundry liquid a year.

By switching to homemade the family will save $158.80 a year and the pensioner will save $68.20.

Green cleaners savings
I won't go into the cost comparisons of making, instead of buying, soap, shampoo, conditioner, Chux/dish cloths, floor and wall cleaners, spray and wipe type cleaners and creamy cleaners for the bath and shower, but if you buy white vinegar, caustic soda/lye, soap making oils, borax, washing soda, you'd be able to make all your cleaners and it would cost you about $30 for a year's supply and you'd have more than enough to do several batches. Compare that to the cost of each individual cleaner you might buy at the supermarket: toilet cleaner, floor cleaner, anti-bacterial wipes, Jif, Spray and Wipe, Chux I didn't include the six pages of air fresheners that start off Woolworths online cleaning products because I'm unsure who would buy Air Wick Freshmatic Diffuser Refill Vanilla and Soft Cashmere 2x174g for $12.89! Jif $3.16, Ajax multi purpose spray $2.97, Ajax floor cleaner with BAKING SODA (ahem) $4.07, Harpic toilet cleaner 700ml $4.07, White King antibacterial wipes 100 pack - $10.73, chux - $6 for 20.

So for a pack of products that would last about three months (I'm being generous) $31, buy them four times a year and that is $124.

By switching to homemade instead of store bought, a saving of approximately $94 on cleaning products. Yes you'd have to make them yourself but they're easy to make and the laundry liquid would take the longest amount of time - 15 minutes for 160 washes. 

General savings
If you shop at Aldi rather than Coles or Woolworths, you'll save about 30 percent. If you're spending $200 a week at the supermarket you'd expect to pay $140 a week at Aldi. If you spend $200 a week at Woolworths or Coles you're spending $10,400 a year on groceries. If you spend that same amount at Aldi, you'd spend $7280 a year. That is a saving of $3120 a year on a $200 a week shop or $60 a week saved. Add to that the savings made if you make your own cleaners and laundry liquid and you're looking at an excellent weekly saving just from changing where you shop and making a few products at home.

In my home, I find that it's easier to organise my grocery money if I have cash. I withdraw this every Wednesday and keep it in a tin. Some weeks I spend all of it, some weeks I don't. In the weeks when I don't spend much I stock up on meat or items for the stockpile. I keep the money in the tin and take some out when I have to buy milk or fruit and put the change back in, with the receipt, when I come home. At the end of the month, I add up the receipts and enter the amounts on a sheet of paper with the month along side. I keep the receipts until the end of the year in case I want to check a price or decide to monitor the rising cost of a particular product. It works well for me. How do you handle your money?

As you can see there are a lot of ways to save money at home. You don't have to do all of them, please pick those that you know you'll be able to do and when you do those, maybe add a few of the others. Most of the things I've written about above are how we used to do our house work and shopping when I was growing up - before the advent of advertising that told us it wasn't good enough and there was a new product that you should try. Well, we all know where that lead and it left behind time-honoured sensible ways of running a frugal home that are still relevant today. 

Please add your tips for saving money in the home. This is an area were we can all learn from each other. I look forward to reading your tips.

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