Monday, May 26, 2008

It's the Root of all Evil...

But a necessary one. Money is harder and harder fought in today's climate. Fuel prices, interest rate rises - it all makes for a crunch that a lot of us have yet to experience in our own homes. The nineties mortgage crunch is looming in our memories. I have vague recollections of it being a "tough time" but now I am seeing it with my own adult perspective.

We've had a rough fortnight with car services and unexpected dentist bills that blew my budget out of the water. Now I am having to look at tightening our belts to get us back in the black. I've come up with some ideas to do that, and I thought I would share? Some of these I do anyway, but some are new or reintroduced ideas to save some money.

$ Check out the local produce markets. We went to the Rocklea Markets and found not only cheaper but much better quality produce than the local supermarket. There was a wholesale butcher that had bulk lots of meat for cheaper prices. I got 2 kilos of shortcut rindless bacon for $10. I normally pay $8.95 for 750gms!

$ Find factory food outlets. We all love a clothes factory outlet bargain - so why not food? At Rocklea there is a Grocery discount store. It's filled with amazing bargains. Some of it is close to its Best Before Date but if you're shopping on a fortnightly basis you could incorporate those dates. I got Bocconcini Cheese for 99c and I normally pay $4.99. It's a good way to have a few 'nice' things included in the cupboard without blowing out the food budget.

$ We have looked at the Golden Circle and Sara Lee outlets too. Beware of false economy though - if you don't normally have Chocolate Bavarian on your shopping list, there's no point buying 10 to put in the freezer just because you're saving 50% is there? But if you were having a party or having people come to stay they would be great for cheap drinks, cakes and tinned fruit.

$ Meal plan,meal plan, meal plan. I can't stress how much time, effort and money it saves me to have each meal planned. It also helps me overcome the "don't know what to cook- can't be bothered thinking-buy takeaway" trap! I try to plan in some take-away type meals: spring rolls & dumplings with fried rice for a Chinese night or curry with puppodums and chutneys for an Indian. It's sometimes the things that accompany a meal that take it out of the boring home cooked feel and make it something special. It also helps create well rounded nutritious menus.

$ If I'm making something that would make great leftovers for lunch (eg: lasagne) I make dessert on that night to make it go further. Speaking of making it go further, I have changed things like instead of using my square dish and having a 6-layer lasagne, I use a bigger, rectangular dish and spread it out to 4 layers giving me more yield. Adding more veggies and less meat cuts down on money too. Also, reusing leftovers in a productive tasty way saves money. I buy a slightly bigger roast lamb so that we can get a shepherds pie out of it as well.

$ The other great thing about meal plan is I can usually make my fortnightly plan go one or two days further as we'll have a 'soup and rolls' or 'eggs on toast' meal in there. So I can choose to carry that over to next fortnight's plans or wait off shopping a day or two. Sometimes I try to go a few days over to eat out the cupboard a bit more. It gives flexibility for when we're having a really lean fortnight.

$ Buy up on things like washing powder, toothpaste or toilet paper but keep it in the original budget. It's all about creating a buffer to smooth out the differences when we're going through a lean time. With things like Shampoos, creams and deodorants; again, be creative. Avon has roll-on deodorants for $1.49 and shampoos for $1.79 some months, and you'll never get it cheaper at the supermarkets. I also found gorgeous handmade soap at Rocklea for $2 a bar and not only will they will last longer than any store bought variety and smell glorious, we keep the money in the community.

I know I probably sound like we're on the bones of our bums - we're not at all, in fact I think seeing as I've been a SAHM for 6 years, we've done very well on a single income! But I like to think it's my job to be as economical as possible to make sure we can have some luxuries to life, and I enjoy the challenge! I will be back with my next fortnight's meal plan soon.

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