Friday, October 7, 2011

Where to Cut When There's Nothing Left to Trim

I continue to read stories on the internet about ways to save money, and according to the titles of the stories, I could save thousands a year. But as I read along, I realize that none of this pertains to me again. We don't have a mortgage, car payment, loans, cable bills, ridiculously high phone bills, we don't eat out and we stay clear of expensive, unnecessary and often unhealthy snack. How does someone like me find ways to save money on a tight budget when I've got no where to cut!

We aren't exactly poor, but we aren't exactly well off either. We live off of one income, my husband's (unless someone wants to start paying me to blog), and we choose to rent our home until we have enough money saved up to put a CONSIDERABLE downpayment on a house. It's how we do things, it's kept us out of financial trouble. But with all this being said, that one income goes quick once you add in business expenses, health insurance and now finally a form of a retirement plan soon. Finding ways to cut has been difficult, but necessary, in order to continue to live as the costs of food, utilities, gas and other commodity items rise.

We are all feeling the financial pinch these days, or in some cases, the financial axe, and could use some ways to help save if we are already doing all we can to use our money wisely. Here are some tips to help you afford to stay healthy in hard economic times.

1. Become friends with someone at the produce department of your local grocery store and take note of when their food trucks come in. For a long time we were buying organic spinach for $3.99 a pound, of which we consume at least 1-2 pounds a week, until one day I ran across a price tag for bulk organic spinach at another grocery store of the same chain, and it was only $1.29 a pound! I went back to my store, and after we figured out that their pricing was way off (it said $4.99lb), we were game. Now I am able to pick up 2 pound bags at a time, unopened or set out, and get it for a fraction of the cost that I was paying before. We then freeze what we cannot eat right off and use it for smoothies. The trick is getting to it on the morning that the truck comes in before they put it out, that's where the connections with the produce employees comes in handy.

2. Buy what's in season when it's cheaper and freeze what you can't eat right away. The vast majority of our diet consists of fresh foods, but we do not have the room in our yard for a economically efficient garden. Finding a good local, organic farmer that you trust and visit on a weekly basis helps offer the freshness and variety for a reasonable cost to putting healthy, fresh foods on our plates. When the season begins to wind down for a particular item that we really like, we often stock up and freeze what we can to keep the nutrients intact. But as seasons change, we have learned to explore new foods that we normally didn't eat in the past.

3. Know the season for sales. Coupon clipping doesn't really work for our diet because as I mentioned, it consists of mostly fresh foods. But what does work is that certain items such as coconut oil, organic teas, organic free-ranged chicken (if not purchased from a farm), coconut milk, whey protein powders and body care products are items that have a sale cycle that is valuable to take note of. When certain items are on sale that we could not realistically afford at full-price, we purchase extra with the knowledge that they will not return on sale for another 6-8 weeks, depending on the store. Keeping this in mind when running on a tight budget is important to know when alternating what months to stock up on certain items.

4. Buy box fulls when you can. Some stores will give you a discount if you purchase a full box of a certain item. Whole Foods offers a 10% discount in our area if you purchase a full box of their eggs, and Costco in this area offers a special price if you purchase a full box of their organic free-ranged chicken (don't quote me on this for other areas, I just know it's the case for our area). It never hurts to ask if you have the extra space to store the food! We don't have a chest freezer, so there is an equal balance between buying in bulk and not overbuying when something is on sale.

5. Buy spices from the bulk area and put them in your own jars. Organic spices tend to be quite pricey, and I found I was just taking the spices out of the jar and placing them in my spice rack and recycling the jar. Then I found the organic spice bulk area where you can purchase the organic spices by the ounce and save easily 50-75% off what you would normally pay for organic spices.

6. Buy into a herd share, co-op or bulk meats from a local trustworthy farmer. Herd shares, co-ops and purchasing bulk meats (which could entail a portion of or the entire animal) are very helpful resources for people who eat a natural, organic and basically free from processed foods kind of diet. They specialize in wholesale prices on bulk quantities of organic dried food items and offer ways to split orders up between other members so that you do not have to order more than what your family would need.

7. Remember that eating healthy costs less in the long run. People often ask why we gave up luxuries like eating out or fast food, and aside from the obvious nutrition and financial reasons, remaining healthy is our extra insurance policy. We are blessed to not have to purchase prescriptions, rarely get sick with anything more than a cold, so we don't have to worry about doctor bills, and reduce the risk of injures by exercising and eating healthy. Neglecting our bodies costs a lot more in the long run, and sometimes it's important to remember the big picture of life.
Your children will thank you in the long-run!