Wednesday, May 28, 2008
What's in Your Wallet?
The current state of the economy is playing havoc with American family financing and it promises to get worse. Very little of our budget is within our direct control. We can shop around for the best mortgage or a smaller domicile for a cheaper rent; we can turn off unnecessary lights, run full dish and clothes washers and air dry both, but the only real control we have is over what we spend on those day to day items we purchase at the grocery store. A new flat screen television can wait, but food on the table cannot. So what do we do to stretch those discretionary dollars?
My husband and I each came into our marriage with methods of stretching food dollars learned from experience—he as one of seven sons of two teachers and I as a mostly single mother. I am familiar with the best brands and methods of mixing powered milk; he with watering down orange juice. The latter I am totally opposed to. Watered down orange juice is worse than powered milk in my opinion. When the juice is gone, it’s just gone. Drink water.
There’s no getting around the fact that powered milk doesn’t taste like fresh. I use it for cooking, but in a pinch have mixed it with fresh to stretch it further in much the same way my mother-in-law watered the orange juice. Milkman brand is probably the best, but more costly than Carnation and others. I have found that mixing it in the blender nets the best result, but the milk will need a night to settle out the bubbles created in the process.
Cutting back on prepared and processed foods is one of the best ways to save money and increase health. It takes longer to make things from scratch, but it tastes better and keeps dollars in your wallet. I’ve written more than once about my love for our crockpot. Throwing things into it in the morning guarantees an easy dinner that evening and vice versa.
My daughter-in-law and I got into a conversation regarding grocery shopping recently. With the price of gas soaring, it is no longer feasible to hop from store to store shopping the sales as my mother-in-law did raising her family in the ‘50s & ‘60s. Now those of us on the Gig & Key Peninsulas can add an extra dollar to our bridge toll (an extra $52 per month for our family) and current $4 gas (headed to $5 by the end of summer according to the TNT)making a trip to Cash & Carry or Grocery Outlet a questionable bargain. Better to stay near to home and buy in bulk whenever something is on sale. Personally, I still believe that shopping a good sale at a regular grocery store is frequently a better deal than Costco, but it takes the planning of a military campaign and no spur of the moment meal planning.
Then there is the whole coupon debate. Many dyed-in-the-wool bargain shoppers claim that manufacturers’ coupons are not a bargain, that buying store or sale brands in bulk is best. I don’t save as many coupons as I did back in the 1980s, but for items used regularly I will go through the Sunday papers clipping away and keep an envelope of them in my purse. I use them when the item is also on sale.
What are you doing to cut costs? Where do you like to shop? Overall I prefer Fred Meyer, but I’ve seen even their prices inching upward.