Several years ago, I was working full-time in a corporate environment with a two-hour daily drive. To say it was draining is an understatement. My husband and I had several discussions about me quitting work and becoming a one-income family. The plan was for me to do some virtual assistant work but not to count on any of that money should I make a go at it. I’ve shared our story in More Was My Catalyst. Check it out for some further background.
With the decision to become a one income family I had to learn some new skills. Scratch that – LOTS of new skills. While I knew how to cook I wasn’t the one who did the majority of the cooking when working the full-time job. We were like a lot of households in that we were normal, with consumer debt and a consumption mindset. Debt and no savings. Doesn’t that sound stressful?
We had to ask ourselves, what steps could we take to reduce that stress and succeed in our plans to start homesteading?
Start with the Food
June 2014 began my foray into being a homesteader and home economist. All the skills needed to be successful in both endeavors don’t just happen overnight. Well not most. The first thing I had to do was become more proficient in cooking from scratch. And while I was pretty good at planning and organizing I had to get better. Menu planning is of utmost importance when trying to reduce the grocery budget.
How can a pre-determined menu help lower the grocery bill? Planning helps avoid waste and stretch the food longer. I purchase my bacon from Zaycon Fresh. The packages are three pounds of thick cut bacon. Best bacon ever in my opinion. Anyway, my family cannot eat three pounds for one meal so I’ll cook up the entire package. We can then have eggs and bacon for breakfast, freeze some to have BLT’s in the future, save some to have on a cobb salad, and use some for a bacon wrapped chicken dinner. Yes, I started with three pounds but I’ve also saved myself time to do something else because I bulk cooked that bacon at one time. It wasn’t spread over four different meals.
Want to know another way to make food stretch and save money? Buy a whole chicken instead of the parts. It’s much cheaper and you get more meals out of it. Cook the whole chicken. That’s meal one. Use the leftover chicken for chicken salad, or on a BBQ chicken pizza, pick off the smaller pieces of chicken and freeze to be used later for chicken quesadillas. Or leave it on and use some of the chicken to make chicken soup. Did you know you can use those bones more than once to make chicken stock?
Tiffany at Don’t Waste the Crumbs has more great ideas on how to stretch a whole chicken to feed a family. She also has some great suggestions for stretching pork loin and using it in different ways. I hope these examples give you some ideas on ways you can make your money go further. Another great website to check out for budget-friendly meals is Budget Bytes.
How else can you save money on groceries? Grow some of your own! Most fruits require a long-term plan, think fruit trees that take several years to produce, but there are some that may produce the first year (although the second year is better) like strawberries and some raspberries. My raspberries produced first year (planted spring and had a small harvest in the fall). If you know you’re going to stay in place for long-term you may want to consider investing in fruit trees. Otherwise, try planting some berries for a quicker harvest.
Grow Your Own
Most people think of vegetables when the topic of growing food comes up. Is gardening easy? Yes. And No. If you have no experience there is a learning curve. And if you’re really interested in growing food year-round it’ll take research into techniques, what varieties will work best for your particular climate, and by understanding your growing zone! Most people though focus on the summer garden. Which is ok. There is nothing wrong with that at all. That’s mostly what I did the first year. Tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, peppers, summer squash, and beans were what I concentrated on most. I’ve added on every year since incorporating more of the cool weather crops like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, beets, spinach, lettuce, etc. Have they all been successful? Nope, not at all. But I keep trying. My biggest nemesis has been groundhogs…and weeds. Oh man, those weeds! I could probably write a full page just about my feelings about them.
But you know what? I keep trying because it’s so worth eating homegrown food! It tastes so much better. The freshness just cannot be beaten! And there’s a pride to be taken in putting in the work to feed your family high-quality food. And do you know what else you can do with this food you grow? Can it! I just love pulling a jar of crushed tomatoes off the shelf to make my homemade pizza sauce. Best sauce ever! And it only costs about 50 cents (that’s if I don’t grow the tomatoes and buy a bushel from the local farmers market). That’s a pretty good savings from what you can get at the grocery store. I don’t even know what that cost would be because I haven’t bought pizza sauce in three years!
Cook From Scratch
Earlier I mentioned cooking from scratch. Do you know how easy it is to make pizza dough? When I was working full-time we would plan our menu (mostly) because we never got home until 6 at the earliest. This means we would get out whatever meat needed to thaw the night before (it’s still a habit) and whatever else needed done. Back then we didn’t make pizza sauce but we did do the dough. We’d make it and then just keep it in the fridge overnight lightly oiled and covered with plastic wrap. I say this to show you that if you are still working full-time you can still do many of these habits. It just takes a little planning.
One thing that has also been helpful and this is something we did back before I became “retired” as my husband would say, is to make up several meals to put in the freezer. We’d set aside a weekend to fill the freezer with things like chicken pot pie, lasagna or baked ziti, homemade chicken nuggets, etc. Many of these will yield more than one meals worth. If you find it hard to set aside a whole weekend try to find a day that you can do just a couple meals. It really is worth it. All else fails, double up on dinners (or breakfasts – we make extra pancakes, waffles, breakfast burritos, etc. to freeze for quick on the go meals during the week) and freeze the extra half.
Don’t Waste Food
Do you know what has been a huge cost saver for us? As a general rule, we don’t buy “lunch” food. I may purchase a package or two of sliced lunchmeat but that’s about it. My husband and daughter usually take dinner leftovers for lunch. For example, I’ll make a big pot of soup and that will feed us dinner and about two lunches worth for all of us. It’s pretty easy for my husband as he has access to a microwave to heat his lunch. For my daughter who doesn’t have access to a microwave, we purchased a Hydroflask thermos. We have three and have never had an issue with them. They work great for her to have a hot lunch without buying something thru the school cafeteria that is of questionable nutritional quality.
Buy In Season
It makes me feel really good knowing that my family is eating food that I prepared and possibly grown. If I don’t grow it, I try to get it from the local farmer’s market. I’ve gotten fruits and vegetables, honey, and eggs there. Often times I’ll buy stuff in bulk while it’s in season and at its peak and preserve it by canning, dehydrating, and possibly freezing.
For those items that I can’t get from the farmer’s market, I’ll try to find a local supplier (for example, I recently learned that there is an organic grain farm not too far from me so I’ll be purchasing my flour from there). Other items that I don’t have a local supplier, such as cashews, pecans, sugar, dried beans, etc. I’ll purchase in bulk from Azure Standard. It’s just like Zaycon Fresh in that you are given your pick-up time, meet the semi-truck and take your delivery from the back of a semi. It’s really easy and pretty seamless. With both, you need to check their website for local drop locations.
Buy In Bulk
Did you catch that I mentioned a bulk purchase of flour? I buy 50 pounds at a time. And I go thru it in less than a year. I make bread, pizza dough, pastry dough, tortillas (NOTHING like the taste of homemade!) and other baked goods. I’ve had friends say to me that they don’t know when they last used flour and it astounds me. Homemade just tastes so good! And it really isn’t hard. Homemade pasta sauce is to die for too. My recommendation is to choose one thing and start with just that. Perfect it. Then pick something else. For us, it was pizza dough first and then the sauce. We have homemade pizza every Friday. To get the same pizza (pepperoni, black olives and green olives – Yes, I know how much salt that is) from our favorite local pizzeria is about $14. As previously mentioned, the sauce is about 50 cents homemade, the dough is roughly the same cost. We use turkey pepperoni which is about $3–4 per package (I need to see if I can find this elsewhere!) and use about ½ a package. Then the olives come in less than $1. That homemade pizza feeds the three of us dinner and two of us lunch for $4. (Side note: in case you’re curious we’ve started incorporating other types of pizza for variety.)
Are Coupons Worth It?
You’re probably wondering, what about using coupons?? Many people will say that one key to saving money is to clip coupons. In my experience, you can save some money but in the overall scheme of things, if you’re cooking from scratch and buying store brands vs. name brands, you won’t have much savings. I personally still go thru the coupons but I don’t clip nearly as many as I have in the past. It takes me five minutes to go thru them and put them in my coupon sorter (something I got years ago for $1. It doesn’t have to be expensive!). Then, before I go to the grocery store, I pull out the coupons I’ll most likely use based on my grocery list, which was made based on what is needed (close to being out, what I may be buying extra of because it’s on sale – like pasta, and what is absolutely necessary for the meals on the menu or something that is purchased every week, like milk). This week I had $2.65 in coupon savings. Some weeks it’s only $0.25. In the long run, it adds up.
This is a multi-part series on how my family has taken action to save and start winning with money. Next time, I’ll review another area where we’ve achieved some wonderful savings and talk about apps that I’ve used in my endeavor to keep as much of our hard-earned income.
Do YOU have any tips you would like to share on saving money with food?
Is there something specific YOU do to control your food costs?
Some people are born organized and others not so much! I feel blessed to have the talent of organization! I would truly be lost without it!
Although a good bit of it came naturally, I feel I had to fine tune it and work at it. In sharing that, I would like to think many of you just realized there is HOPE for you through perseverance to become organized. It may just mean that you will need to create some new habits.
Here are 7 tips I feel will help you on your journey to becoming more organized:
Finding The Right Tools
When I was young I had a terrible time keeping my room organized, but as part of a work program offered through our high school, I was fortunate enough to find a job in data entry and telemarketing with the Day-Timer company. If you are not familiar with them, they are very similar in nature to the Franklin Covey & Day-Runner planners and helped me greatly become organized. I carried my Day-Timer planner with me from the age of 17 until I was 46 and I just turned 48. I seriously could not have lived without it – such a useful tool!
So why did I stop using it you ask? My life and circumstances changed and I needed something different. Would I still recommend it as one the BEST planners – absolutely! They are a good company with quality products and nothing I ever purchased from them failed me in usefulness or workmanship!
So, what do I use now?
When I switched over from my Day-Timer, I was taking care of my schedule, my husband and son’s schedules, our homestead and two businesses and at that time added two more businesses! I just couldn’t keep things straight anymore on paper. There was never enough room to record everything and I was just losing track of things and I didn’t want to carry multiple planners. Sticky notes were getting way out of hand and I was trying to use iNotes on my iPhone, but they were not searchable and it just became a mess.
At this time, I believe through divine intervention, Michael Hyatt was sharing a lot about how he was using Evernote. Evernote is an app that is usable on my iPhone, iPad, Tablet and Laptop – it syncs keeping me organized no matter what machine I am in front of! I feel I have my 2nd half of my brain with me at ALL times which has been incredibly time-saving. I also incorporated Nozbe which is a calendar app that I have found extremely useful. Again this app syncs with all my equipment and saves me so much time because I am no longer wasting time trying to find things. Both apps are fully searchable and both can be shared securely with my team. I have the ability to email information to both apps saving me time and archiving important information in a note or in an appointment so I have everything all together in one place.
These two apps have been priceless in helping me to become so much more efficient, to be able to streamline things and has kicked up my level of organization incredibly.
Throughout my day, I do tend to jot things down from time to time. I have found that using a piece of paper or notebook so all my notes are in the same place for the day versus sticky notes and then at the end of my day when I am recapping on my day, brain dumping and preparing my schedule for the next day I record those things at the bottom of my to-do list for the day if they are important and pertain or I record them in appropriate notes where that information should be stored.
Finding the right tools that work for you is one of the most important pieces to this puzzle. Nozbe and Evernote are available for free, so be sure to try them out. I highly encourage you to check them out, but if you feel that you will do better with pen and paper that is ok and there I highly recommend Day-Timer products. My way is not the only way – it is important for you to determine what works best for you!
Determining Your Time Hogs
We all tend to have things that snare our attention and hog our time. Whether it is Pinterest, Facebook, Emails, etc… We get trapped and sometimes for hours at a time when we should be utilizing our time in a more productive way.
Personally, I find that I get stuck in my inbox and feel the urge to check my emails more regularly than I should. Not sure why, but when I caught myself I quickly put stops in place to help me avoid that trap.
Take time this week to determine ALL your traps as there may actually be many. Once you have established where you are wasting your time, find ways to avoid those time traps and be mindful of them moving forward.
Using A Timer If Necessary
Once you have established your time hogs, you might find that some of your time hogs are necessary, but you need to learn to get a handle on the time invested. Using a timer on your phone, an online timer or even a kitchen timer will help you keep your time hogs from taking over.
Do You Procrastinate? If So, WHY?
Sometimes I think the time traps and hogs became such because we were attempting to procrastinate and then created these great new habits which really aren’t so great! I believe that we all tend to procrastinate from time to time.
Maybe it is a task that we don’t care to do or maybe it is a task that we aren’t 100% sure how to accomplish so we avoid the inevitable and just cause ourselves more struggles. Prolonging our tasks and to-dos and in the process causing ourselves negative feelings at the end of the day when our to-do list looks the same as it did at the beginning of the day.
We need to learn to avoid procrastinating by making these tasks the first tasks of the day, diving in and getting them done no matter what it takes and then moving on! I find I do this with tasks that I need to do research and trial and error so I now tell myself “Tammy, you can do the hard, just SMILE and DO IT!” That may sound strange, but we can be our biggest cheerleaders and what we say to ourselves can be either empowering or discouraging!
Pay Attention To How You Speak To Yourself
So, how do you talk to yourself? You may not think that you talk to yourself, but I encourage you to pay attention because I KNOW you will be surprised to hear some the nasty things you say to yourself. I am so dumb, I am too fat, I am too old… We have a tendency to be very hard on ourselves, treating ourselves worse than we would treat anyone else! Some of this may have initially started by someone else’s words that we started to believe and then started adding our own or just continuing the harshness!
It is time to turn that around. When you catch yourself speaking poorly to yourself, turn that negative thought around and have something positive to say to yourself. Most chances are, you say that often to yourself so continue to put that positive replacement in place regularly. Our brain will believe what it is told over time so by replacing the negative with the positive you are breaking that negative pattern and creating a more healthy pattern and future for yourself.
I also feel it is important to mention, you need to remember to focus and see the good in your life. Focus on gratitude daily, seeing your blessings regardless how big or small. Focusing on the positive will make your life such a better place!
Learning To Say NO
For many of us, we are people pleasers. We want to be able to help everyone and in turn, that means the need to say YES to everything when we should really be learning to be selective and say NO sometimes.
It is a process to learn this skill, but it can be done and it is actually very liberating once you have established how to say NO when necessary. I have found for myself, the easiest way to do this is to simply reply, “I am not sure if this will fit my schedule, but let me check my schedule and I will get back to you.”
By choosing this simple statement, you are giving yourself the time you need to evaluate this task and to honestly determine whether it is a good fit for you, your family, your schedule, etc. You will need to weigh the situation and determine whether it will enrich your life or add more stress. Don’t be afraid to say NO. Sometimes we are afraid to say NO because we are afraid that such opportunities will stop coming our way, when really, by saying NO you might be allowing other more beneficial doors to open!
There will always be other opportunities and when you handle things politely and honestly, people will respect you for having the courage to say NO.
Taking Time Daily To Schedule And Prepare For The Next Day
At the end of the day, we need to review our progress for the day and learn to accept the productivity that was produced or you might also see ways that you can change what you are doing that will make your workday more productive such as implementing the above mentioned.
There are some things that should be pointed out here. For starters, how much are you putting on your to-do list for a day? Are you remembering that you are human and that you only have 24 hours in a day and not all those hours are for work!
Don’t over schedule yourself, be kind to yourself if you are sick or if things happen that are out of your control that hijack your schedule. One thing you have to learn to do is roll with the punches and remember that life will happen. Are you including margin in your schedule? Be sure to give yourself time in between tasks to eliminate struggles and most importantly be sure to schedule time in there for yourself and what matters most to you.
I am including a copy of my Evernote Daily Schedule Template (see notes below on how-to install) for you. I have found in using this template it helps me greatly to have an overview of my day, enables me to easily carry things over from one day to the next by duplicating the note at the end of the day and keeps a running list of things that aren’t emergencies, but need to get done and shouldn’t be forgotten.
I have learned to not get overwhelmed by the length of the list, but to focus on the items that are most important for that day and if I am fortunate enough to complete those things then I can worry about some of the little things that need to get done as I have time.
This way, everything is in front of me in a very organized fashion and things do not get missed or overlooked.
Another thing that is very important is guarding the items that are the most valuable in your life. For me, that is God and my family. I schedule time every morning with God to start my day and keep my focus on him. There are other times throughout my day that I schedule time for myself for exercise, quiet, reading and I also schedule time for my family and friends. We get so busy, we remove all that is important to our livelihood in an effort to be busy, but busy is not what is important – a life filled with joy and purpose is what is important. What gives you joy and purpose?
Whether you live off-grid, homestead or live in town, organization is key to everything we do. The more organized we are, the better chance we will have of living a life filled with intention. When we are weighed down by stuff and disorganization it keeps us from being our true selves and living to our true potential. Continue this year to follow our posts and videos offering encouragement for #LivingWithIntention, #BeTrue2Self, and #BeTrue2Jesus.
If this post was helpful to you, I encourage you to sign up for our waiting list for Getting Organized In A Crazy, Busy World at TrayerWildernessAcademy.com!
What did you find when you evaluated your schedule?
Installation Instructions for Evernote Template:
Once you click on the link above, the file will begin to download to your computer. In the desktop version of Evernote, click on File in upper left-hand corner. Then click Import and then click Evernote Export Files and you should be good to go.