Friday, August 31, 2012

On Saving a Little Money...

After reevaluating our budget and making plans to drastically pay down or pay off some things in the next year to two years, we realized we needed to make some major cost saving changes.  I have been pinning some things lately that I was ready to start implementing and thought I would share them.

First, I decided to make some homemade mixes.  I found some basic ones that I wanted to start with, including a Bisquick mix, brownie mix, white cake mix, pancake mix, tortilla mix, and cornbread mix.  I printed out the recipe for the mix and the directions for making whatever it is.

My plan is to get some clear containers for all the mixes and put the directions on the front and the recipe for the mix on the back and cover them in contact paper so they don't get messed up.  I'm on the lookout for some good containers that don't cost a fortune, since spending $50 on containers for the mixes kind of negates the purpose of making the mixes to save money!  So far, I've only made the Bisquick, brownie, and white cake mixes.  I will be making the others in the next couple of days.

I don't spend a ton of money on store bought breads and doughs, but I would say I spend at least $25 a month on things like that.  Considering that is $300 a year, I decided that I would be better about making things at home.  I have a bread maker that I use, but since that can take as little as 45 minutes and as much as 4 hours to make something, I wanted to have something that was quicker on hand all the time.  I will mainly use the Bisquick mix for pizza crusts, biscuits, and general breads for meals.  I doubled this recipe and am expecting it to last us at least 3 months.  I had everything except the nonfat dry milk on hand to make the mix, so it really didn't cost much to make it. And in the future, when I need to make more, I'll have everything already so it won't cost anything to make it. I made the pizza crust last night and it was really good!  I'll had some herbs to it next time to give it a little something more.  Tim and I noticed that it was more filling than my previous store bought dough or bread maker dough.  That's a good thing since we will probably end up eating less.  I, of course, had to make the brownie mix last night, too, in order to see if it was any good!  :-)  The brownies got Tim's seal of approval!  Our favorite way to eat brownies is in muffin form.  We both like the edges of the brownies, so when I make them as a muffin, we usually only have about one bite that doesn't include an edge.  I haven't tried the cake mix yet, but I don't really make all that many cakes.  I am looking forward to using this to make quick cobblers and I have a big cookie recipe that uses a cake mix.  It will just be good to have it on hand.  And the cost to make that entire container of cake mix was less than buying two boxes of cake mixes.  Also, I made some cookie mixes to have on hand.  I make pretty much only make homemade cookies but sometimes I want them and don't want to go to all the trouble of getting everything out and making them.  This way, all I have to do is add a few ingredients and bake them!  I had all the items needed to make two of each of these mixes (except for the gingerbread since I'm not really a fan!).

Second, I am back to making my own pizza and pasta sauces.  I used to do this all the time, but had gotten out of the habit of it.  I have a super easy pizza sauce recipe and it cost a little over $2 to make 5 pizzas worth of sauce.  (BTW, my sauce recipe is just a 29 oz can of tomato sauce, a 15oz can of tomato paste, 2 Tbsp dried oregano, 1 Tbsp minced garlic, and 1 tsp basil.)  I put one cup of sauce in each bag and put them in the freezer to have ready to go for pizza night, which is about once a week!

Third, I had no idea how much cheaper it was to shred my own cheese instead of buying the bags already shredded.  I purchased cheddar and monterey jack cheeses at Costco for less than $5 for 2 pounds of each.  That makes almost 10 cups of shredded cheese.  That much cheese already shredded is about $10.  We go through a TON of cheese around here.  I would usually buy 4 or 5 bags of shredded cheese every two weeks.  This is going to be a great way for us to save.  I was excited to get to use my food processor as a cheese grater!  When I shredded the mozzarella cheese, it clumped pretty badly.  After doing some quick research, I discovered that it's best to freeze the cheese before you shred it so it won't clump as much.  I packaged them in bags with 2 cups of shredded cheese and wrote the date I shredded it on the bags.
Fourth, is meal planning for the entire month.  I've talked on here before about meal planning.  I didn't keep up with it very well, but now I am doing better.  The way I have done it for the month is having a specific type of meal on each day.  So on Sundays I will make a big meat meal and some sides.  So this month we are having ham one Sunday, then a turkey breast, a roasted whole chicken, a roast, and a pork tenderloin.  The reason I decided to make that type of meal on Sunday is I can plan to use the leftovers in other dishes throughout the week.  Mondays are pizza nights because Mondays are usually pretty rough for me and that is a quick meal that I can make.  Tim informed me that we could have pizza three times a week and he would be fine, but I don't think I could handle that.  We're not in college anymore!  Tuesdays are Italian.  The great thing about this is I can make all the Italian dishes for the month in one day and freeze them if I wanted.  So all I have to do is pop them in the oven and we're good to go.  Or if I know I'm going to have plenty of time that evening, I can just make it that day.  I like the option of having the meals already in the freezer whenever I can!  This month, our Italian meals are lasagna, baked spaghetti, fettucini bake, and manicotti.  Wednesdays are breakfast for dinner nights!  One of my friends told me that she does this with her family and I LOVE it!  We all love breakfast foods and it's nice to be able to sit and enjoy it together since that's not possible for us to do in the mornings since Tim leaves so early.  This month we are having fried eggs and waffles, breakfast tacos with bacon, breakfast casserole, and ham, eggs, and country potatoes.  The fun thing about this is we can make it as simple or as complex as we want, but it's still just yummy breakfast food.  Usually these are really quick meals, which is something I love, as well!  Thursdays will be leftover days.  Fridays are Mexican!  We both LOVE Mexican food and it has, without really being planned this way, always been our Friday night thing.  Before kids, we would usually go out every Friday night to our favorite Mexican restaurant.  This month, we are having taco bake (minus the gross cheese sauce!), black bean and chicken bake, chicken tacos, and enchiladas.  And I'm pretty sure we will have cheese dip with every one of those!  :-)  Saturdays will be another night for leftovers.  I wish I could be more creative with my recipes and try a lot of new ones.  These are all things I've made a ton, but it's getting to the point that I'm good if I can even get dinner made while taking care of the boys.  I'm hoping in a few months I can start branching out and doing more interesting meals!  I'm thinking that with having a set plan for every meal, I will know how better to shop and know that I have everything on hand for all the meals, HOPEFULLY leading to us not eating out.

Fifth, I'm going to make our own laundry detergent.  I haven't done this yet because we have enough for a little while longer.  But I'm really excited about this.  I've heard from people who have made this recipe that it costs $11 for supplies and it lasts anywhere between 6 months to an entire year.  Can you imagine only spending $11 on detergent for a whole year??  Along with that, I found a cheap way to refill my foaming soap pumps!  I read that I could use about an inch of baby bath wash in the soap container then fill the rest with water and mix it up.  I tried that but the bath wash didn't completely mix up and I didn't get as much foam as I wanted.  I have several of these big containers of clear Palmolive that I picked up for $1 each a little while back.  I used that instead and it mixed completely and makes a great foam!  I'm excited to know that I can refill my soap containers probably 20 times from one of these big bottles that cost me $1 instead of using the refill soap you have to buy for $5 and only refills it 4 or 5 times.

I hope I didn't bore you too much with this.  I hope someone might find some little tips they can use to save a little.  I would really love to hear about any ways you pinch pennies and save money!  I need as many ideas as possible!


Silvy Kehrli said...

love this!!

Susan said...

Great ideas, Randi! Keep them coming! I'm trying to figure out the little ways to save money around the house too!

Tim and Randi Weigle said...

I might try to make a weekly post on Fridays about how I saved money that week. I think that will also help me stay accountable to doing something different each week to save money.

Catie said...

This is great!! I'm going to have to try some of these :)

Holly said...

This is awesome. BTW I make this laundry soap. Great and it does last forever!