Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Miserly Moms

A friend recently loaned me her copy of Miserly Moms, and I wanted to jot down some notes and impressions. I didn't find it to be as practical as Tightwad Gazette, but I always enjoy learning about frugality and stewardship so it was still a good read!

To begin, the author shares her 11 miserly guidelines: 1) Don't confuse frugality with depriving yourself. 2) Give up things that provide the least value. 3) Keep track (written down) of food prices. 4) Don't buy everything at the same store. 5) Buy in bulk whenever possible. 6) Make and grow your own food whenever possible. 7) Eliminate convenience foods. 8) Cut back on meats and poultry. 9) Waste nothing. 10) Institute a soup and bread night. 11) Cook several meals at once and freeze them.

Though I could use improvement in most of those areas, I emphasized in bold the two I'd most like to concentrate on right now.

I've often thought about doing some kind of a price book for keeping track of the target prices of foods I buy regularly. However, I always end up wavering between thinking it takes way too much time and effort to implement, to thinking it's a frugal strategy I really should adopt. After reading MM, I decided to take the first step by printing off price sheets here. I plan to start slowly and not tackle figuring out prices for everything at once. I do have some target prices in my head already, so that helps as well.

As for buying in bulk, it makes sense to me for certain products, but I haven't figured out when and where to buy these items, mostly baking supplies and pantry staples like pasta. I did see this recent post that gave lots of helpful tips. Two stores were mentioned in the comments and I plan to look into those, as well as learning more about how to order from a local co-op. So I don't get overwhelmed (budget or otherwise), I'm thinking about starting with just one or two things, like flour, sugar, beans or yeast.

Other ideas from the book that I want to try:

*Cooking and freezing beans in bulk--we eat a lot of black beans, especially, and this strategy would save time and money. (On that note, have any of you had success cooking dried beans in the crockpot?)

*We regularly eat this dish that calls for canned cranberry sauce, and I wondered about making my own when I saw this idea in MM: Simmer together one bag of fresh cranberries and 8 oz. frozen concentrated apple juice for 5 minutes. The author suggests buying cranberries when they go on sale near Thanksgiving, and freezing them for up to a year. Has anyone tried making cranberry sauce? The cans of it I buy end up being dumped into the crockpot anyway, so the consistency of the sauce isn't important.
*Lastly, I appreciated the chapter on utilities. The author indicated that next to groceries, their utility bill was the area in which they reaped the most savings. Eric signed our house up for an energy audit, which will hopefully take place this fall, and I'm sure the results will be eye-opening!

I'd be interested in your comments on the things I mentioned here, like price books (yay or nay?!), buying in bulk, etc.


Mary Ann said...

I cook beans in the crockpot all the time. I soak them as usual then dump them in the pot and cover with fresh water. I can't tell you how long I cook them; I think usually a couple of hours. I know it takes longer than the stovetop method. I just check them after a few hours and see if they're done yet.

I do a very simple price book where I write the lowest price for the item that I buy regularly along with the store. I live in a great couponing region so if I find something at a better price with a sale and/or coupon, I know immediately if it's a better deal than what I've been paying. For simplicity's sake, I use Aldi prices for many of my target prices as their prices are usually the lowest.

I'm interested in your energy audit. Our home is extremely inefficient and we pay through the nose for utilities. So far any efforts to bring costs down in that area have proved futile, so I'm open to any suggestions for that!

Mom said...

Hi, Carrie -- cooking beans in the crockpot works great. Rinse/soak them first, then put them in with several cups of fresh water. I wouldn't go off and leave them the first time or two you do this because beans soak up a lot of water and you will likely need to add some as it goes along. It takes longer to cook beans at high altitude so I can't say how long it will take where you are. Good luck!

As for a price book, I have very small one that fits in my purse. I have it divided into the same categories as my coupons and have general prices (similar to what is recommended in Tightwad Gazette) -- a maximum cost per ounce for cereal, per pound for meat, and for things I frequently buy. For example, a great price for Gatorade (which I buy a lot of for Dad!) is less than three cents per ounce. I don't always get it for that, but when I see if for that price, I stock up.

Love you! Mom

By the grace of God ... said...

I've had success with beans made in the crockpot -- this was news for me too. As far as making your own cranberry sauce, I did this last Thanksgiving and OH MY, I couldn't believe how yummy it was. I don't think I'll ever buy a can of cranberry sauce again. I used the recipe on the back of the bag substituting pure cane sugar crystals. I also bought a few bags at Aldi, and they are in my freezer. Your cranberry chicken recipe sounds like a winner.

Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

I've done beans in the crockpot several times. I have a bunch of cooked black beans in the freezer right now because of it. Canned black beans are fairly expensive, so that made sense to me to do that.

I don't have a pricebook, just a general idea of what staples cost at various stores. I know when I see a good price on things like flour and oil because of it. I usually stock up on things like flour and sugar in November when the prices drop drastically to bring in the holiday bakers.

I keep a stockpile of things out in the garage, but for us, it doesn't make a lot of sense to buy foods in bulk. With only 2 of us, I can't see being able to use up a giant bag of wheat or whatever before it goes bad.

debra said...

I keep a price book although after a while you can keep alot of the info in your head. :) I used to shop at different stores but I started going to just one and noticed (because of the price book) that sales cycle around every 6 weeks or so -- ie. my store has by 1 get 2free packs of chicken breasts so I only buy them when that sale is going on.

Every so often if I see another store with a smoking sale and will stop by to get the advertised items. And when I am in Walmart (every month or so) I buy the things that are always cheaper there & check out the meat.

The book sounds good. I'll have to look for it.

thehomespunheart said...

I started a price book - but found it to be too hard to keep current/useful to me. I just try to sort of keep a mental note of what a good price is.

As far as buying in bulk - I've always sort of thought it was not a better deal. Could be true or just perceived as I admit I haven't really bought in bulk much.

The only thing I buy in bulk right now is wheat for milling - so far I'm still on my first big bucket!

Love you,

Jenny said...

This is something I am working on. I am learning my self. Glad to see you working on it to. I am trying to figure out the stores around me and what they have to offer. I started planning a 2 week menu to fallow. It has helped me in my shopping and also food storage. I just started the journey. So your post has been wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Making cranberry sauce is very easy. When you buy a package there is usually a basic recipe on the back, but you can always add other flavors to it. I've made them with orange juice, with cayenne, with other fruit in it, all sorts of ways.

Peace, Karen Lichlyter-Klein

Jamie - Family Focused Fun said...

Yep, I cook black beans in the crockpot and then freeze them in smaller portion sizes. Super easy. I also just cook until they seem done and am not really sure how long it took. I think overnight a pretty long time. I started a price book once and failed at it...I just didn't have the devotion to do it but it is a great idea! This past month I've been shopping at a different store and stockpiling a lot of super cheap items.

Sara said...

I make my own cranberry sauce all the time. It's SO easy and SO much better than the canned stuff. The canned stuff is great for crock pot meals and such, though. I typically buy the canned stuff when they go on clearance after Christmas (last year only .19 per can at CVS!) I made my sauce by simmering a bag of cranberries with some brown sugar a bit of water and some orange rind. Yummy! (I'm at work and don't have the exact measurements, but let me know if you want the "true" recipe.)