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post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

I am a SAHM and Student.  I was watching kids in my home up until a couple weeks ago which fixed our $ issues but for several reasons, that did not work out.  So, it looks like we are going to have to really cut where we can in our budget.  I don't even know where to start.  I guess I am just looking for inspiration (because it seriously seems impossible to me) and some ideas to get us headed in the right direction. I'll ask a few questions and feel free to add more advice if you have it!

 

1. How do you eat when you're broke, super-busy, and both sides of your extended family all love to eat out??  Admittedly, when I returned to school we started doing to much fast food/take-out.  And decent "freezer foods" seem a just as expensive as eating out.

 

2. Our electric bill runs us about $150 each month.  And we live in a small 2 bedroom apartment.  We don't have cable, so the TV is rarely on.  What else can I do to lower this?

 

post #2 of 23

I'd make meals in bulk one day and 'feed your freezer' once a month or so.  Or if you are making a curry/spaghetti/soup etc. make it in HUGE batches and freeze 1/2 or 3/4 of it at a time.

post #3 of 23

Do you have time to cook on weekends? You can make double batches of meals, then freeze them for heating up on busy nights. Much cheaper than pre-made/processed freezer meals, IME. Make an "eating out" budget and keep track of what you spend. When you've reached your budgeted amount, that's it for eating out for the month. I do this and it is a very effective way of seeing how much small food costs (ie coffee, snacks out) add up over time. As for lowering your electric bill, my DH unplugs most of the lamps, tv, stereo, toaster, washing machine, etc (not the fridge!) before we go to bed. At first it annoyed me to have to plug everything in again when it came time to use it, but it has really lowered our electric bill. Hope this helps.

post #4 of 23
Quote:

1. How do you eat when you're broke, super-busy, and both sides of your extended family all love to eat out??  Admittedly, when I returned to school we started doing to much fast food/take-out.  And decent "freezer foods" seem a just as expensive as eating out.


 


Admit to yourself and others that this is not financially feasible.

 

Meal plan or freezer feed.

 

If you're short monthly, do you know by how much?

post #5 of 23

I agree that you just have to say no to eating out.  Tell your family about your financial issues.  Maybe your parents will pay if they know you're broke.  If they won't, suggest dinner parties or potlucks instead of going out.

 

I save a ton on our groceries when I meal plan and cook from scratch.  I also use the crock pot when I have a super busy day so that dinner is ready and the house smells welcoming and wonderful when we come home. 

 

Do things like:

Monday: roast a chicken in the crock pot- serve with potatoes, salad and broccoli.

Tuesday: use leftover chicken for chicken and dumplings or stir fry. Tuesday night: soak beans

Wed: put beans in crockpot, serve as burritos with veg and tortilla chips

Thurs: rice and beans or vegetarian nachos with guac and salsa

Fri: homemade pizza w/ salad (or something easy like pasta)

Sat: pork roast

Sun: bbq pork sandwiches

 

You get the idea.  Serve simple breakfasts (oatmeal or eggs or cereal) and easy lunches like wraps or sandwiches with fruit and vegetables.

 

Meal planning really makes saving money easier.  There have been a lot of great recipes posted here. Remember that it doesn't have to be super fancy and that a lot of healthy, yummy meals can be made at home for way less than eating out.  One last thing we do is have sort of junky, easy stuff on hand for when we really don't want to cook or only have a couple of minutes to prepare.  Things like a Trader Joe's Indian packet meal over white rice (we usually throw in some beans or vegetables and are good), or frozen cheese pasta w/ a veg and jarred sauce.  Not that healthy, but super fast and healthier than most restaurant food.     

post #6 of 23

My husband and I are both full time students (and broke as well) I try and cook everyday.

Some of our meals include: Breakfast; eggs/toast/pancakes/waffles paired with fruit. Pasta, Pizza ( i make double or triple batches of crust and throw them in the freezer and pull them out when i need to). I just use up all the scraps of veggies i have in the fridge and kids like cheese.

 

I also try and keep things like frozen veggie lasagna, frozen garlic toast, frozen veggies and "chicken" nuggets around for those nights i need food on the table fast. Quesadillas are versatile, as are grilled cheese sandwhiches. chili, and soups in the crock pot can be made ahead of time and then warmed up the day needed.

 

I don't have many tips for the electricity, is there a way to keep it set lower. Wear more clothes, blankets, space heater, whatever. I know there are ways to seal windows, but i''m not sure how, here is one i found with a quick search. My mom just shoves blankets under doors that aren't sealed well. Also, unplug everything you can when its not in use.

post #7 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by cdmommie View Post

 

2. Our electric bill runs us about $150 each month.  And we live in a small 2 bedroom apartment.  We don't have cable, so the TV is rarely on.  What else can I do to lower this?

 



Is your apartment "all-electric"? By that, I mean, stove, clothes dryer (if you have it), heat, are all electric. If you have an electric stove, as I do, I've found that using the microwave as much as possible, along with stove-top cooking - oven as little as possible - really does help with the electric bill. If you have an electric water heater, turn the water temp down. Unplug micro when not in use, as it's drawing juice due to the clock. Anything that has a little "ready" light or lighted display pulls juice even when "off." I'll unplug micro when not in use, keep lights off, etc. The only things I do NOT unplug when not in use are my DSL modem and wireless router. Do you have a desktop computer? Those use much more power than laptops. And if you have laptops, or even if you DO have a desktop, adjust the settings, so the computer goes to sleep after five minutes or so of not being used. Cell phone/iPod chargers and the like should be unplugged when not in use.

post #8 of 23
Thread Starter 

Thanks! There are lots of great ideas and starting points for us here.  As for questions asked:

We are only short by about $250 per month, so realistically, if we could just cut out the eating out we should be just fine.  It is just so hard to actually do.  I know our parents would (and Have in the past) pay for us, but we HATE it.  Let me repeat, HATE IT.  For many reasons.  So, I really like the idea of having an eating out budget, maybe we can save our eating out for times we are with our families and make sure we only drink water, don't eat steak, ect.  

 

As for electricity, our heater is not electric and our water is not electric, so I have NO idea what is up with our electric bills.  Obviously summer is all about the Air Conditioning here in TX,  but seriously, the winter months shouldn't be so high!  I will try the Unplugging idea and see how that works.  

 

Another question from me, How do you keep from wasting too much food? We are terrible about letting things go bad.  And second, what is okay to freeze and what's not?

post #9 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by MCsMom View Post

I'd make meals in bulk one day and 'feed your freezer' once a month or so.  Or if you are making a curry/spaghetti/soup etc. make it in HUGE batches and freeze 1/2 or 3/4 of it at a time.

 

I second this.  I would take one day to cook and freeze everything you can.  It's a lot of work, but it will save you time (and money!) later.  There are free websites that will really help you with recipes (that you can tweak to suit your dietary needs) and how to put together a OaM cooking plan.

post #10 of 23


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cdmommie View Post

Thanks! There are lots of great ideas and starting points for us here.  As for questions asked:

We are only short by about $250 per month, so realistically, if we could just cut out the eating out we should be just fine.  It is just so hard to actually do.  I know our parents would (and Have in the past) pay for us, but we HATE it.  Let me repeat, HATE IT.  For many reasons.  So, I really like the idea of having an eating out budget, maybe we can save our eating out for times we are with our families and make sure we only drink water, don't eat steak, ect....


 

I am in a rush, but I didn't want to forget to post to this because I do understand not wanting to cut out eating out, especially if it's an enjoyable family experience for you.  I really suggest choosing more reasonable eating out options if this is something that you enjoy doing with your family and I would definitely recommend limiting them to once (or twice, depending...) a month.  That said, a few things you can do - only order water, order an appetizer and entree to share, and use coupons!  I recommend getting the Entertainment Book, especially when it's on sale, if it is something you would use.  They have food, movie, activity, and store coupons, but it only makes financial sense if you will use it.  You can preview the coupons in the book before you buy.  And, if you purchase it next year, it will be cheaper than buying it now.  You can also check out www.restaurant.com to see if there are any gift certificates for places you like or want to try.  They always have 80% or 90% off deals (I never buy them when they aren't on sale) and though there are some restrictions, they aren't too crazy.

post #11 of 23


My advice is an eating out  budget if its important to you. Set an amount, take it out in cash at the beginning of the month, then when its gone, no more eating out. We eat any leftovers for lunch, dh prefers that to sandwiches so it works great for us. I freeze most things, what kind of things are you looking to freeze?

post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by cdmommie View Post

Another question from me, How do you keep from wasting too much food? We are terrible about letting things go bad. 



Meal planning will help fix that.

post #13 of 23

Wasting food....Purchase some reusable freezer containers.  As soon as supper is over, take the leftovers and put them in the containers to pull out for an easy lunch (does your dh take lunch to work 'cause this is how I use my freezer stash of leftovers!) or a smorgasbord of a supper one night a week/month or so.  If you only have a small freezer, lots can be saved in ziploc bags (rewash and reuse when you can--not if there's been raw meat in there) and frozen flat to save room.  The other thing I do is to make my leftovers into something else entirely.   As for what freezes well, lots does!  The things that I do not freeze are: potatoes (they tend to change in texture), unless it's mashed or something in a soup, cooked pasta ends up getting mushy, things w/mayo tend to separate, same w/cream if I remember correctly.  When freezing foods, make sure to get all the air out of the bag if you use bags (I use my foodsaver) to prevent freezer burn.  A friend had some dark cherries that were a bit freezer burned and we made jam for Christmas baskets out of it and you couldn't tell at all--it's great!  I get fresh goat milk from a neighbor and I have a freezer FULL of it.  I also get butter on sale and freeze that.  You can also freeze cheese, but it gets crumbly so only freeze what you plan to use grated later.

 

Electricity, let's just say I'd kill for your bill, lol.  I just paid mine and it was $463.  No, really, unplug stuff, don't use your dryer, try not to run a load of laundry unless the washer is full--same with the dishwasher, and oven--don't use the oven unless you are using it for several things at once.  Do you have a fireplace?  Heat w/wood (there are plenty of sources for free wood if you look) once a week use your oven for several items and that combined w/the fireplace will provide lots of heat.  As for a/c, yeah, I'm in TX too and my dh does HVAC on the side so I know how important that is!!

 

Food budget--eat out only once a month and use coupons.  My dh and I always shared a meal when we ate out unless I was nursing or pregnant because who can eat all that food?  restaurant.com has great coupons, and even better sales on the coupons periodically.  Like $25 worth of food for $1 if you catch them at the right time.  For at home eating, do you have dietary restrictions?  I recommend a nice big pot of soup once weekly.  Serve a cup of soup before each meal.  Really stretches the budget!  You can freeze it in little portions too for lunches.  Have you ever read the Tightwad Gazette?  If not, there's lots of little ideas in there to help you out. 

 

Where abouts in TX are you if you don't mind my asking?  You can pm me.

post #14 of 23

I would suggest cooking in bulk. If you're not confident with your cooking abilities (i.e. sometimes you mess things up) then follow recipes from the Joy of Cooking. They always work. Soups, stews, curries all freeze well. You could also do pasta sauce and then all you have to do is the pasta when you get home.

 

Crock pot recipes are also good. Seeing as you are already eating out a lot then you might be more inclined to use some canned soup in your cooking. I don't really know how to do this but a work colleague swears by a can of soup in the bottom of the crockpot and then a whole load of chicken breasts. Cooks on low all day and is perfect for dinner.

 

You could get some convenience foods like steam in the bag frozen veg.

 

I know that most people will disagree with me but i honestly don't think you need a/c all the time. I am from Australia where it is hot - I really know heat - and no one has a/c there. You could try waiting longer until you put it on and then only use it when it is really unbearably hot. You'll find that you aclimatize quite well and won't feel as hot. Or at least adjust your thermostat.

post #15 of 23

Definetly start packing lunch for starters and cooking more on the weekends or figure out easy things to make during the week (spaghetti, stir fry, tacos - all take me less than an hour). Just say 'no thanks' to asking if you'd like to go out. Explain that you just don't have the money. Ask if someone would be interested in hosting a pot-luck at their home instead of going out. Or something. 

 

Instead of just turning stuff 'off' unplug it - TVs, radios, cell phones, video game systems, dvd players, etc all eat small amounts of electricity even when they're turned off. Get in the habit of *never* leaving lights on when your not in a room. Start hanging clothes up to dry instead of using the dryer. Turn the heat down an wear sweaters.

post #16 of 23
Thread Starter 

Awesome Awesome Awesome!

Thanks everyone!

I have confidence that we can do this :)

I am planning to "feed the freezer" tomorrow!

post #17 of 23


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cdmommie View Post

Awesome Awesome Awesome!

Thanks everyone!

I have confidence that we can do this :)

I am planning to "feed the freezer" tomorrow!

 

 


I am also a full time student (grad school), work part-time, and have two busy kids, so I thought I might offer an amendment to the once a month feed your freezer option. 

 

I find I very helpful to cook on weekends and other times when I am studying and home for long periods.  For example, today (sat) I got up at

5:30.  It is now 10 and I have outlined a paper and need a bit of a break.  My break in studying was to go into the kitchen and start a pot of soup. 

 

That soup will simmer for an hour or more (no rush to get back to it) while I get back to my studying.  It is a big pot of soup so I will freeze it in meal

quantities.  Later on today, I will take another break and make another dish and freeze that one, too.  Same thing tomorrow.  Now I have quite a few meals in the freezer AND I have gotten my work finished.  The cooking/cleaning time is very helpful for figuring things out (keep a notebook nearby in the kitchen!).  And because I am only making one dish at a time, everything gets cleaned up as I go along so there is no overwhelming mess (which truly impacts my attention to studying). 

 

Soups are especially good for this system because they can be quick to start and long to simmer.  I would imaging stews would be another good one.  And because I have little kids, I use the same system for things like cookies/muffins/etc.  They are harder to manage while studying, though, because they burn easily!!! 

 

And why not suggest pot lucks instead of eating out?  everything could be purchased so noone has to cook and you would be so much more comfortable at someone's home!!

post #18 of 23

I do my cooking in batches during the day too because I homeschool and am always busy busy busy on the farm.  I'll do one batch of something late a.m., then around 3 I start supper prep by chopping one veggie at a time until I'm done. If I need to stop to rescue/help someone/thing, I can.  Or I'll make bread dough and let rise while I chop/grate/sautee, etc...Just do it in spurts.  I like little bowls w/lids to keep all the ingredients in the fridge while I prepare the other ingredients.  I cook almost everything from scratch, so it's enough chopping to last all day, lol. Plus I'm cooking for 6.

post #19 of 23

notes2.gif Great ideas! Our income is soon to go way down when I redue my work hrs, so I need to put these ideas into practice.

post #20 of 23
Thread Starter 

Well, I did it! I cooked for a few hours today and we now have about 2 and a half weeks of food in the freezer and fridge!  I can't believe it, it only took about 2 and a half hours (although I am waiting on the roast still).

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