Friday, March 12, 2010

Frugal Living for our Family (part 1)

Well, I went to do one of my favorite things shopping! I'm not sure why it's so exciting for me, other than it gets me out of the house and it's pretty much the only shopping I do. Plus the discount grocery stores I go to are always like a treasure hunt. You never know what you might find there!

We also picked up some chicken feed and seeds at Agway today. Edison picked out some Sugarbaby Watermelon seeds. We also got red & yellow onion sets, sugar pea, cilantro, and pumpkin seeds. It's still too early to plant the watermelon & pumpkins, but those were boy requests. So, we had to be sure to grab some.

Now, maybe if the rain stops we can actually do some planting! But, it looks as though we'll have to wait until next week sometime.

I know one of the topics I wanted to write about here was how our family lives frugally. It's something I thought I'd talk about a little today. It's especially fresh on my mind since I just spent money at the grocery store today. And, spending money often makes me think about ways I could spend less. Anyway, here are a few things we do...

1. Food/Groceries - This is one of the biggest areas that I can control since I am the one who does the grocery shopping and food preparation. The biggest thing we do to save money in this area is choosing where we shop. There are 2 discount grocery stores that I frequent. One is a Mennonite owned & run store called Glenwood Foods. The other is Sharp Shopper. I love these stores because so often the food is priced at half (or even less) of what you'd pay at the regular grocery. You do need to watch the dates a bit. Many items sell so cheap because they are outdated. And, I don't have a problem with this. As Americans we so often throw away things that are still perfectly good. I am careful though with dairy & produce items & check them thoroughly first to make sure they aren't showing signs of spoilage.

The downside with shopping at these types of stores is that they don't always have everything that I may need. The items they carry can vary greatly from week to week depending on what is available to them. So, I still often need to stop in at the nearby Walmart to pick up additional items.

The other downside is that because the items are always different, it's like a treasure hunt (as I mentioned above). And, sometimes I'll pick up things that I don't really need or wasn't planning on buying because they are such a good deal. But, if I pick up enough unplanned good deals it can seriously effect my final bill.

We seriously limit the amount of prepared/ convenience foods that we buy & I try to prepare most of our foods from scratch. Also, I love to bake, so I'd rather spend my money on baking supplies than on packaged cookies or cakes. After all, homemade tastes better anyway.

We rarely eat out. And, we limit our takeout nights to once or twice a month. This one is hard for me, because I love eating at restaurants. When we do go out to eat we try to make sure it's at a place that we really love.

Many of our vegetables are homegrown. We (and I'm including my family in this, because they share with us) grow our own sweet corn, green beans, soy beans, sugar peas, onions, potatoes, tomatoes. We freeze corn and beans for the winter and can tomatoes. I've also tried my hand at canning homemade spaghetti sauce, but haven't found a recipe that I love yet. I'd like to can homemade salsa this year.

We also can cherries and pears from our trees and our families' trees. And, we make and can our own applesauce with apples either from our own tree or the local orchard. I also buy peaches in bulk from our local orchard & can or freeze them.

2. Clothing - We actually spend very little on clothes. It is rare that my husband or I go shopping for ourselves. This is actually something I'd like to do a little more of, but we make do with what we have. I stopped worrying about being the most fashionable person a long time ago. Also, my sister-in-law has been kind enough to pass along a bunch of new or nearly new clothing to me that she was unable to wear. When I was pregnant, most of my maternity clothing was loaned or given to me by friends. And, if there is something that I need I try to check out consignment stores or yard sales before buying new.

And, even with four boys, we have bought very little for them. Again, much of this is due to the generosity of family and friends. Most of their clothing is hand-me-downs or gifts from Christmas & birthdays. I've bought a few pieces for them here & there, but rarely shop for them. I do like to watch on-line sales since taking 4 boys out to shop can be difficult to say the least.

3. Housing - We do not live in our dream home. Yet. We live in what we can afford during this time of our lives. We often refer to our house as the 'brooding house'. It's where we are raising our children while they are young. We are straining a bit at the seams & will need to find something larger as these boys get larger. But for now it works.

Our house was purchased at an auction by my father-in-law and in turn purchased by my husband (before we were married) for a ridiculously low amount. However, our home was built and owned by an Old Order Mennonite family. When my husband bought the house it had no electricity, no insulation, minimal plumbing, and needed lots of cosmetic work. Luckily, my husband is very handy and was able do much of the work himself.

But then we got married, a couple years later the children started arriving, and work on the house has slowed down quite a bit. There is still so much that needs to be done. And, I'm not talking in an HGTV kind of way where people walk through prospective homes & just don't like the look of perfectly good kitchen counter or floors or appliances and talk about how they 'need' to upgrade to granite & tile or whatever. I'm talking we have a sunporch that has a ceiling that is falling in bit by bit. The linoleum in our kitchen is at least 50-60 years old. Speaking of linoleum, there is still linoleum on our stairs and on the walls going up the stairs (why anyone ever thought this was a good idea, I don't know). There are exposed, unfinished heating vents upstairs. Since our house had no closets my husband had to add them to the bedrooms. The closet in the boy's room is still an unfinished hole in the wall (this can't be finished out until the upstairs heating is finished). Etc. etc. I could go on and on.

My point is, we live with what we can afford. We don't want to go into debt, so we slowly do the work on the house that we can. I often suffer from house envy. I see how 'perfect' other homes are. And, frankly, sometimes I'm embarrassed by my house. I try to keep it in perspective though. Our home would still be considered luxurious by 85% of the world's population. We have everything we need...and more.

I found this link on another blog post today and it really spoke to the whole issue of contentment.

4. Credit cards - We do not carry any debt with the exception of our mortgage. During the time we were both working before we started having children we made an effort to live off my husband's income & use mine toward paying off debt. Once those debts were paid we committed to living debt free. We found a lot of great tips and advice from Dave Ramsey. But, there are a lot of great financial advisors out there who all pretty much teach the same philosophy of living within your means, living debt free, and saving.

These are the main areas where we control our money. I'll address a few other areas in an upcoming post.


  1. I am so impressed and inspired. We recently paid off our mortgage, now we need to be disciplined to save and continue to live frugally (easier for me than the hubby though, he's quite the spender). I have never shopped at Glenwood Foods, will definitely venture out there on my lunchbreak someday soon. I love Sharp Shopper and Amelia's, and like you mentioned, we get to try items that never would have been discovered at Giant.

  2. Barb, it must feel great to have your mortgage paid off! I'm jealous. You will definitely have to check out Glenwood. It really is my favorite place to shop. I prefer their produce & dairy selections to Sharp Shopper. And, they have a deli. You can get lunch meat for around $2 or so a pound.


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