If you’re like me, your grandparents had at least one chest or deep freezer or a spare fridge/freezer combo in their basement. My grandparents had both – a 30 year old fridge/freezer and a newer chest freezer and they were both stocked ALL the time. I believe it’s a byproduct of growing up in the Depression and not knowing if you’d have food at a later date, but in any case it was good economy to keep these simple appliances on hand.
My grandfather grew two extensive gardens (probably 1/8th acre altogether which was impressive for city living) and my grandmother was a master grocery-shopper and canner. With their powers combined, there was always canning, harvesting, freezing, and meal-smithing going on in their household, and I reaped the benefits: fresh produce all summer and fall, and delicious pickled and canned foods in the winter. Because of this, their freezers were always full of veggies, fruit, and meat – all homegrown or bought when it was on sale. This saved immense amounts of money in the long run because they planned meals on what was handy and on sale, not based on what sounded good at that exact moment.
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To Freeze or Not to Freeze
If you don’t already have a chest freezer, the first step is getting one of course. I can’t speak to the most efficient new models, but what I CAN suggest is looking on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or garage sales and finding one that way. Chest freezers ideally should be incredibly simple – a rectangular, insulated box with a compressor to keep food frozen. That’s it – it doesn’t need dials, buttons or whistles to work. A decent freezer might run between $150-$500 new, but a good used one will cost a fraction of that. I’ve seen them going for $50-100 in some cases, and at those prices it would be a steal. So once you’ve found a freezer, the next thing is to learn how best to utilize it.
Farmer’s Market Finds
Depending on where you are in the country, your local farmer’s market or co-op is probably winding down its offerings, coming into fall crops like squash, corn, apples, etc. It’s at this point that, as peak season for a lot of summer offerings is waning, that you can find drastically reduced produce that is nearing the end of its optimal eating period. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth picking up, though! Pretty much any vegetation, save for maybe lettuce, is freezable without reducing quality or nutrition to any significant degree. Chop up fruit into bite-size pieces and freeze in freezer bags and they should be good for up to 9 months. Berries are great because you don’t need to do anything really, and frozen berries are absolutely perfect for smoothies, straight from your chest freezer. Hit up the farmer’s market and pick up everything you can think you’d eat and cool it down!
You can almost always find great deals on meat and produce at the grocery store. I already love Aldi (and have written about it on several occasions) and one main reason is, as meat gets close to its “sell by” date, they mark it down drastically. It’s not uncommon to see meat, at their already very low prices, marked $1, $2, or even more off the marked price. Taking it home and freezing it immediately (or after some minor prep work) will save a tremendous amount of money in the future. Most meat is still great up to about 6 months.
Fruits and vegetables are the same way – an excessive influx of produce or reduced sales one week might mean deep discounts the next. Get in there and reap the benefit! You can peel and freeze nearly overripe bananas and use them in smoothies or as a base for healthy ice cream.
You can even freeze eggs and butter, if you’re so inclined. Butter freezes very well because of its low water content, and eggs can be cracked into ice cube trays to freeze them for up to 6 months.
Keeping your eye out for cheap meat and produce, as well as some great sales on pasta or other staples can actually aid in another money-and-time-saving technique I love: meal prep!
I have a friend who bought a tremendous amount of green peppers for essentially .25c a pepper, and then ground beef in bulk. Coupled with rice she had on hand and some cheap tomato sauce, she prepped up dozens of stuffed peppers and froze them in her chest freezer. Prepped meals like this keep great for generally at least 3 months, and can be popped out of the freezer on a busy night or for a quick lunch in the microwave. Saving time and money? Absolutely, sign me up!
Hurry Up and Freeze!
With a bit of preparation and some investigation, and a little patience, you can find a cheap deep freezer and put it to good use. Whether you’ve got a bumper crop from your garden, a healthy CSA (community supported agriculture/co-op) or a neighbor who likes to give you all their extra tomatoes and zucchini, you can find use for all of it. Being able to meal prep, store, and save money all at the same time makes a chest freezer a brilliant investment that is cheap to maintain and fix, making it an incredible tool in your money-saving arsenal!
Do you own an extra fridge or deep freezer?
What’s your favorite thing to freeze and save up on?
Creating a healthy meal plan on a budget can be tricky. We so often have the best of intentions: we develop a meal plan(ish), buy our groceries, fist pump when we’re $16 under budget, and then suddenly your two year old is screaming, the baby has a rash, and making that Pinterest-worthy quiche for dinner is the last thing on your mind because McDonalds here we come!!
The guilt of feeding your toddler a Go-Gurt and cheeseburger for dinner doesn’t weigh as heavy as your eyelids from not having slept all week, so you brush it off and pray you get to bed before midnight tonight. You tell yourself you’ll do better next week. You’ll create a better meal plan that is healthy but that allows for some flexibility. This week was just a rough week. Next week will be better…hopefully…
But then next week comes and your budget is all out of whack because you went over your food allowance thanks to one too many “happy” meals and the produce you bought last week is now squirrel food and and AND….
Take a breath. I’ve been there.
Creating (and sticking to) a healthy meal plan can be tough when we’re constantly pulled in a thousand different directions and there’s only so many minutes in the evening to get things done. Fortunately I can help.
A few simple steps can be the key to keeping your family fed and healthy, and your wallet fat and happy.
(Please note this article contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission should you click through. This in no way impacts my recommendation of any products/services.)
How to Meal Plan on a Budget
Take Your Time Meal Planning
“Step 1: My TIME? Did you miss the memo about my lack of time??! Thanks, Amber…”
Stick with me, dear reader. If you’re creating a meal plan just before you go grocery shopping, you’re going to create a panicked, rushed menu that might be short-sighted or be missing key ingredients; suddenly it’s Wednesday, you’re supposed to have lasagna, and you don’t have marinara sauce or noodles.
One of the best ways to start your meal plan is to flip through your local grocery ads. This way you can craft your menu around the great deals being offered on produce or meat that week.
You should also take the time to consider what your kids will actually eat, what’s in season, and what day of the week your grocer creates sale prices. Often you can find meat or produce drastically marked down on a specific day of the week because it’s nearing the end of its shelf-life. This doesn’t mean it’s bad, but just that it’s nearing the time in which it can still be sold.
It’s especially important to keep an eye out for great deals on meat, because that can be frozen and used at a later date, and still picked up for half the cost of what it was just one day before.
Cook Once, Eat Twice
Cooking enough for your family is a given, but if you take five minutes to cook extra of the base ingredients, you can save yourself thirty minutes in the long run.
If you’re cooking a grain like rice or quinoa, or a big pot of pasta, it takes hardly any extra effort at all to toss some extra in and store it individually for a future meal. In fact, to get the most mileage out of the time spent cooking, you’re shortchanging yourself if you’re not getting at least dinner and a lunch out of your efforts.
In addition, cooking a large batch of a grain or pasta on a Sunday will leave you with a base from which to work later in the week for the meals on your plan. This cuts down significantly on the prep work for the weeknights, time far better spent relaxing with your family.
Put Your Leftovers to Work
Beyond simply increasing your portions for future meals, a good meal plan flows together as the week goes on.
Cooking a protein on Monday can mean that Tuesday’s dinner is already prepped. For instance, you can roast a chicken on Monday night then shred the leftovers, toss in some seasonings, and have chicken tacos on Tuesday!
This is a great way to make the most of the leftovers you have, even if reheating leftovers isn’t necessarily your thing.
A dinner meal plan that flows might look like this:
You also want to take into consideration what produce you can cut up ahead of time for multiple meals. For example, we make a vegan bolognese that incorporates a lot of the same veggies that go into korma so I often try to make those meals close together.
Cut once, cook twice!
Shop Locally, Shop Seasonally
I went looking for eggplant the other day and when I finally found it at the local HyVee, it was exceptionally expensive. I swear I just bought one for like $1 the other da….oh, nope, that was three months ago. Heh. Oops.
When I last bought eggplant, it was from the Farmer’s Market when they were at their peak and everyone had dozens of them for sale. When fruits and vegetables are in season, there’s an abundance, and what’s more you can get them from local farmers that are concerned about how they manage their produce. Normally you can count on food that’s not doused in pesticide, or eggs that are free range and fed normal feed instead of industrialized garbage.
Learning to find out what produce is in season is a great way to train your body to enjoying a wealth of different foods, not to mention how much better they taste than the tiny, off-season offerings we have at the stores now. If you’ve shopped for zucchini in the last few months, you know what I’m talking about – they’re tiny! I’ll wait until summer when they’re the size of small dogs and bursting with flavor, not to mention cheaper.
How Big is Your Chest?
Being able to freeze leftovers, extra meat you purchased on sale, or in-season produce can make all the difference when it comes to eating healthy on a budget. Not having enough freezer space can be quite costly, so consider investing in a chest freezer.
If you have the time, canning is considerable work with a wonderful payout, but again, there’s that catch – if you have the time. If you don’t, freezing can be a viable substitute for in-season fruits and vegetables that are plentiful and cheap. Buying in bulk, divvying up into containers or baggies, and then freezing produce is a great way to stretch those dollars.
Similarly, you can buy a lot of meat in bulk from local farmers (we’re talking a quarter of a cow!) for a great price and then freeze it all, using as you need it.
If you’re patient, you can usually find someone on Craigslist or a Facebook resale page selling an old deep freeze for cheap. It doesn’t need bells and whistles; it just needs to get and stay cold.
As I often recommend for many of those who have a harder time sticking to a budget, use cash. Figure out how much you’re going to spend on groceries per week and get to the ATM.
This allows for two things:
1. You can see exactly where your money is going in a way that using a debit or credit card doesn’t allow for.
2. It discourages impulse spending.
Keep a tally as you shop so you know whether or not you can actually afford that sweet treat or a six-pack (no, sadly, I do not count that as an essential!)
Know Where to Cut Back
We used to have a pretty insane food budget per week – $200 for our family of three (at the time). And we’d go over it sometimes! That’s pretty much the definition of insane idiocy!
Knowing we had to cut back (and quick!) we started first by developing a meal plan and tracking where our biggest expenditures were coming from.
Once we had a good grasp on how much we were spending and where we were spending it, we began by cutting it down a bit each week, and as of the time of publishing, we’ve cut it in half.
$75 for (now four) of us is much more palatable. There are still days we go over a bit, because having two little ones is nothing if not busy. That’s ok, though! At least the days of going over $200/week are done and gone.
Here’s how we cut back:
– We started off only cutting $20/week and saw how we had to adjust and what we were comfortable with/without.
– We changed the stores where we bought most of our food. Schnucks became Aldi and believe me when I say we’ve never looked back.
– We improved the quality of the food we eat, and by that I mean we cut out a great deal of the processed foods and replaced them with whole, natural produce, meat, eggs, and dairy that actually left us sated.
– We cut out impulse buys significantly by only using cash to make our purchases. Aldi is a two-fold boon here, because they only take cash or debit cards. It helps with this strategy.
As I mentioned above, we often buy a lot of our dry goods online, such as pasta, flour, and sugar. While your grocer probably has a lot of what you’re looking for, chances are it’s going to be more expensive than you need to pay.
An example of this would be quinoa – we use a lot in our household because it’s incredibly healthy, very versatile, and can be used in a huge variety of applications from savory to sweet, breakfast to dinner. Local stores, if they even have it, usually charge $5/lb+, but on Amazon, I recently bought a 10lb bulk bag for a little over $2.50/lb, and that includes shipping.
Of course you want to see your meat and veggies up close and it’s unlikely you could get those things online at a good price anyway, but buying bulk pantry items from Amazon.com is a fantastic way to stock up without burning a hole in your wallet. Plus they deliver straight to your door! Oh, how I love online shopping…(Don’t forget to use Rakuten and Ibotta to save even more!!)
Trying to cook elaborate meals when you have an infant and a toddler is like trying to catch a bunch of flies when you’re surrounded by bullfrogs; it doesn’t make sense. Your kids likely don’t care what they’re eating, if they’re eating at all, and your spouse is too busy going from odd stain to odd stain, deciphering if they’re spills or spit-ups, to care if your dinner looked amazing on Pinterest.
If you need to make a meal of jarred alfredo and rigatoni, with some frozen broccoli tossed in, then do it. It would only cost about $4 and would easily feed a family of four!
Sometimes you simply want a big salad for dinner, and you know what, that’s great! Salad comes together in minutes, can be full of healthy proteins, fats, and veggies, and can be incredibly cost effective.
My point is that homemade dinners don’t need to be elaborate or expensive. Like ever. Don’t stress about it.
Starting a new week with five new meal ideas, even if they’re simple, is a recipe (haha) for disaster. I’m not suggesting you never branch out to try new foods, but you should always have a good amount of solid, well-liked recipes in your repertoire so that you can pull an old standby out in a pinch. Remember how your older relatives always had actual physical recipe boxes? Use those!!
This also helps you easily gauge what you’ll need for leftovers or a flowing meal plan since you’re already exceptionally familiar with the ingredients and cooking involved.
Visualize Your Plan
Buy a magnetic white board, some wet erase markers, and stick it to your fridge where you’ll see it daily. From there, write down your meal plan so that everyone can see it, you are constantly aware of it, and there’s no surprises.
An added benefit to having it on a white board is being able to erase and adjust as needed. Just like having cash at hand when you go to buy groceries, awareness helps inform every decision you make, from purchase to plate.
This will go a long way to creating savings and efficiency in later meal plans.
Now go meal plan
This post isn’t exhaustive by any means, but it’s a great place to start if you want to cut your expenses and still eat healthy food.
If you focus on eating the majority of your meals at home, meals comprised of whole foods and minimal waste, you can improve your health and the health of your finances.
Remember, we’re not just trying to save money, we’re trying to save time so we can improve the quality of our lives.
Stuff steals your joy and suffocates your life. Do you believe this? I do. I’m on a mission to become weird.
Dave Ramsey says, “Don’t be broke. Be Weird”.
He suggests to look at what everyone else is doing and run the other way. The Joneses want stuff: cars, houses, furnishings, clothes, and the bills that pay for the stuff put a noose around their neck that one hiccup in life–an accident, a car repair, a broken appliance–leaves them “stuffocated”.
Nerdwallet says the average household is $135,924 in debt.
Bloomberg says $16,000 of that is credit card debt.
No. More. Stuff.
More than a year ago my family of four took a vacation and all of our needs fit into two backpacks. If we had taken more stuff we have checked bags and missed flight connections. We each had three or four sets of clothes and washed them in the sink and hung them to dry. We were minimalists and it was an experience that left us thirsting for more–I mean less–stuff.
Over the last eight weeks we have sold so much stuff. At the same time we put our house on the market to sell. Last week we closed on the sale. No one would have said our home was cluttered. Judgments say we lived simply. We didn’t pour additional concrete for the driveway or build a shop, or fill the house with furnishings. Simply to others felt “stuffocated” to us. We leased a 997 square foot 2-bedroom apartment for four people. The girls share a bedroom and we have a dog. No amount of downsizing prepared us for the transition. No matter how small our material goods are there was still too much stuff. We still have a few boxes of stuff to take to Goodwill, and we are 100% debt free. We are FREE! Here’s what we’ve learned.
Less stuff means more life.
Remember that backpacking trip? We can have great experiences like those more often. We can move quickly with less stuff, even be more spontaneous. There’s no house, yard, or anything else to maintain. We can go whenever we want, where ever we want to be. That thought alone leads to a lot less stress. Stuff doesn’t hold us back.
If your income comes from online sources the world becomes your playground. House sit for people around the world and your lodging and utilities are covered. Go have experiences stuff will never let you have.
My mom is a pack-rat. She still has my grade school worksheets. I recently convinced her to shut down a storage unit where she was storing stuff because it has cost her more than $5,000, for stuff that fit in her garage. My husband’s mom is a pack-rat. She doesn’t understand why we want less stuff when stuff can be handed down, passed around, or is generally useful. My Dad wants to know when I am coming to pick up my late Grandma’s china. It’s beautiful and I don’t have room for it. Dad chuckles when we talk about our next move. We get the, “Oh you kids…”. We’re in our 40’s, hardly kids, and this feels better all the time.
Shopping is fun, and what if having extra money leads to helping causes you care about. Start a foundation to touch people and needs with care. Do the work only you are meant to do.
I am not saying you don’t need to buy things. Plenty of people need a house. I think people need a place to live that doesn’t own them. For my family a house is a liability, not an asset. We move often. I wouldn’t call us nomads, but history says we move every 4-5 years. If that means selling a house in a downturned financial cycle then we have a lot to lose. Luckily, we sold our house while the market was high. Now we get to plan next steps. If you enjoy living in a house as part of the American Dream, that’s great. Hopefully the house fits your income. Dave Ramsey suggests no more than 40% of your income be tied to a house on a 15-year term, fixed rate mortgage.
You don’t have to furnish it with big box high priced things. Shop second hand if possible. You don’t have to furnish it with big box high priced things. Shop second hand if possible. Find Furniture sales in your area. Visit a garage sale. A little elbow grease and paint can make furniture or decor something you love with a great story. Tell your story.
Open your mind and be free
On Dave Ramsey’s program he allows people a debt free celebratory scream. “FREEDOM”! It’s based on William Wallace from the movie Braveheart:
Don’t you want freedom from stuff, debt, and clutter?
Tell us how you plan to become free in the comments.
Nicole, owner of WeTalkHealthy, lives a healthy decluttered lifestyle. Her main focus is as a health advocate and mom of 2 who studies food, and general wellness. It’s her mission to help you live a healthier life by learning about the dangers in the food you feed your family. Whether it’s meal prep or creative exercise without setting foot in the gym, you don’t want to miss her tips. Connect on Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or the Facebook group. Save
Financial freedom sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? The thought of never again having to set up autopayments or worry about what bill is due when…Ahhh-mazing.
That said, have you ever thought about the benefits of financial freedom BEYOND just freedom with your finances?
Well today we’ve got Jacob from Dollar Diligence to introduce us to the non-financial benefits of financial freedom —
Being $25,000 in student debt, I knew I was feeling the strain and the anxiety. I hadn’t experienced a good night’s sleep in months and felt drained of energy on most days. I wasn’t completely hopeless, but I felt constrained by the enormity of the problem.
The damage my debt was doing to my finances and credit was clear, because I monitored it almost daily. But, what wasn’t so clear was the damage it was doing to me and those around me. The stress, coupled with my inability to concentrate on much of anything else, led to a deterioration of my health, my relationships and my career.
Getting free of debt not only gave me my financial freedom, it saved my career, and it probably saved my life.
Financially I’m not yet where I want to be, but I now have a clear path to achieving my most important goals. It’s a feeling like no other. While the financial benefits of becoming debt-free are clear, less clear, but much more important, are the non-financial benefits. When you understand how debt impacts every corner of your life, it becomes your most powerful motivation to eliminate it completely.
The Physical Reality of Debt
You feel it first in your emotional makeup. It’s hard to ignore the feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, but you feel as if you can cope with it. What you don’t realize is the physical toll it takes. Studies show that stress is a leading cause of heart disease and researchers have found a positive correlation between debt-induced stress and heart attacks.
When I was at the peak of my distress, my family forced me to get a physical. I found out I was a hypertensive time bomb that needed immediate disarming. I long ignored the migraines, the weight gain and the new age lines – all stress-induced. When I got rid of my debt, I got my health back.
Debt Can Hollow Out Your Life
While your mental and physical health deteriorate under the weight of debt, everything else that is important in your life seems to fade into the background – your family, your relationships, your career and your future.
When you can’t concentrate on anything other than your finances, nothing is prioritized. It doesn’t happen deliberately; it just happens.
You grow distant from the people close to you and there is no urgency in your relationships at home or at work. Some people become resentful of others – their spouse for not understanding or being able to help, their employer for not paying enough and anyone who is enjoying a debt-free life.
Debt threatened my relationships, my career and my future. When I became debt-free, I got my life back.
Finding the True Meaning of Wealth
At the risk of drawing any comparisons between eliminating debt and surviving some real life and death situation, I did gain a similar sense of appreciation of everything around me.
There are so many moments of wealth that occur in our lives that, when we’re lost in a fog of despair, we miss entirely. Wealth is as much about accumulating these moments of love and happiness as it is accumulating vast sums of money.
It’s also about being able to choose how you want to live your life – free to pursue your passion with peace-of-mind and no encumbrances. All of that is lost when you can’t see past a stack of bills. When I became debt-free, I became a very wealthy man.
It may seem hopeless at times, but there are great rewards awaiting you for taking a stand against your debt, the least of which is your financial freedom. When you understand how much is taken from you when debt controls your life, there is no greater feeling than making that last payment.
What would you life look like if you were financially free?
Tell us in the comments below!
This post courtesy of Jacob @DollarDiligence Follow him for daily personal finance tips! Jacob is a high school math teacher who hustled his way out of student loan debt. Frugality is Jacob’s middle name (okay…maybe not…or is it…)
We all have a money back-story. You might not realize it, but what you thought about money as a child, is still affecting how you deal with money today and all of your tomorrows. Because choosing to save your money rather than spend it is very different than not feeling like you have enough to spend.
Today’s guest post is brought to you by Shauna Sanders, life coach for busy professionals.
Did you hear any of these statements growing up? —
Money doesn’t grow on trees
We can’t afford that
Money can’t buy happiness
They were born with a silver spoon in their mouth
I’m not made of money
We don’t have money to burn
A LOT of parents have said numerous versions of this to their children (and themselves) and have no idea how much it affects their relationship with money for the rest of their lives. Allow me to translate each statement to how your subconscious most likely hears it:
• Money doesn’t grow on trees (AKA- There is not enough money to go around, and it will all run out someday)
• We can’t afford that (AKA- We are broke and not able to purchase whatever it is you’re wanting or needing)
• Money can’t buy happiness (While true to a degree, this can be misinterpreted to mean- If you HAVE money, you can’t be happy)
• They were born with a silver spoon in their mouth (AKA- They are rich only because were born that way- and deeper read – Since we were NOT born rich, we can never be rich)
• I’m not made of money (AKA- More “I can’t afford it” mentality)
• We don’t have money to burn (AKA- We don’t deserve to spend money on our “wants,” rather only on our “needs”)
Here’s the good news- you can change your money story!
Step 1- Go back in time
Think back to when you were a child and recall what you heard about money as you grew up, from your parents, other adults, and even other kids.
Step 2- Identify Your Money Story
Think about what you heard about money and how that affected your current feelings to do with money. For example, I remember hearing “We’re not lucky when it comes to money” and “I’m not made of money.” I grew up thinking I was destined to be “not rich” and more importantly, that I didn’t deserve to have money. I took it a step further all by myself and realized I felt having money meant you weren’t a hard worker and I was almost embarrassed by anything that might be construed as “rich” or “fancy.”
Step 3 – Flip It And Reverse It
Take what you know now, your back-story, and flip it around (or reverse it- or both!) I took my shame of anything looking “rich,” and I owned it. I changed the meaning.
I always wanted someone to clean my house, but I had convinced myself I “couldn’t afford it” and admittedly it disgusted me to think of myself as “one of those people” (AKA- frivolous and lazy). And so, I changed the definition of what someone who gets house cleaning means.
The NEW definition of house cleaning recipient-> Someone who values their time and chooses to spend money to have help cleaning their home so they can have more time with family or whatever else they choose.
What money story have you been telling yourself and how can you flip it?
Where will you choose to spend, save, or share YOUR money? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Shauna Sanders is a life coach for busy professionals who feel like something is missing from their lives. Together you’ll zero in on the reasons why and make a powerful plan of action so you can finally create and sustain the fulfilling life you want. Connect with her on Facebook or visit her website ShaunaSanders.com!