What Do You Do?

by Kelly · 22 comments

in Thoughts On Frugality

Have you ever had one of those perfect ‘aha’ moments, where something hits you in a flash of brilliance? “Eureka!” you exclaim. “I’ve found the secret to frugality!” Of course you have. At least once, I’m sure.

Well, do you mind sharing? The rest of us are dieing to know.

My flash of brilliance came while grocery shopping, and it’s twofold. The first part might not apply to you as it’s local; a grocery store near me offers €5 in credit on your store card for every €50 spent on Thursdays. “Eureka!” I thought. “I’ll only go grocery shopping on Thursdays!” But more importantly than the (sometimes up to €20) in store credit earned was the money saved by only shopping every second Thursday. By only shopping every two weeks I was able to maximize the rewards earned while minimizing my grocery bill. Not to mention the time spent battling the Thursday crowds- I wasn’t the only one to have this frugal idea!

So my secret to frugality is ‘Don’t be afraid to set a routine and then stick to it.‘ Going fourteen days in between shopping trips forces me to maximize my pantry and use its contents creatively. Not to mention that the self-imposed rules really do help my budget; I notice my spending goes up, way up, when I shop weekly.

What are your secrets to frugality, your ‘eureka’ moments? Frugal tips like these are too good not to share!


1 Emily September 17, 2008

Kelly, that's a great idea! How do you manage to go two weeks without shopping, though? My milk seems to expire earlier and earlier these days, so it seems I'm in the store at least twice a week.

My "A-Ha!" moment was when I followed at Counting The Cose e-zine challenge and started documenting every penny spent. The first month I spent more than $500 in edible groceries (Ack! for a family of 3? who owns a pizza restaurant? how could I justify that?). Ever since then I've tracked our spending, and at the end of every month posted it on my blog. There's been much progress, I've actually gotten the groceries down to $200. It has worked, but it was sure hard to see.

Emily's last blog post..Homemade Cheese Danish

2 Dana September 17, 2008

My big moment was when I started to check the expiry dates on everything! Once I get to the counter I mention that the items are about to expire and get at least 50% off. You would be shocked at what has expiry dates these days (ie. tooth paste.. moisturizer)

Dana’s last blog post..This is just Cool!

3 Vintage Mommy September 17, 2008

I think I’m in need of an “ah-ha!” moment; I just had an “oh no’! moment when our food expenses hit $500 and it’s only half-way through the month.

I’m working on tracking expenses carefully this month and hope there’s revelation in the works!

Vintage Mommy’s last blog post..Vel-a-cro, Spungie Cords and the Mirr-o

4 penguinlady September 17, 2008

I have to ask: how do you handle meat when you go only every 2 weeks? We have terrific meat here in Alberta, but it doesn't last that long unless I freeze it all.

My "ah-ha!" moment was realizing that buying non-food at the grocery store could be more expensive than going to a discount store (like Target or Zellers). So, I keep an inventory of that stuff and do 1 trip to Zeller's a month to pick up laundry detergent and deodorant et al.

5 neimanmarxist September 17, 2008

I am sure that shopping every other week would be a great savings! my aha moment isn’t very creative. We read dave ramsey, and decided that we were going to decide what to spend on what each month, rather than letting interesting items we were seeing decide our monthly expenditures for us. Going on a cash budget changed our spending. it made us really understand what was going in and what what going out . and we learned we could live on half what we were living on if we just thought about it a little more and set limits.

not very creative, is it?

We also stick closely to a schedule, like you. Grocery shopping is only on Saturdays, because that is the day of the farmer’s market. Big savings at the farmer’s market!

neimanmarxist’s last blog post..When Fancy Strikes

6 Kelly September 17, 2008

Thanks for the comments everyone!

The milk situation might be a local issue as well, but I think it has more to do with personal taste. In fact, I don’t like the taste of milk, so I never drink it. I also have horrible flashbacks to being made to drink it as a kid, so I never serve it to my kids either! They eat a lot of yogurt and cheese, so I feel OK about their calcium intake. Plus, for breakfast, they’ll have bread or brioche with peanut butter or nutella, a piece of fruit and a yogurt instead of cereal. Not to mention that most milk sold here is the presterilized kind that doesn’t need pasturization. So, we buy 6 liters every two months, and that is really only for cooking. And, I confess, I use cream in my coffee, again, the shelf stable stuff.

Meat is also about storage. We don’t eat much meat, but we freeze a lot of it so that it is on hand. I stock up when I see a good price, as I suspect many of you do. In fact, we have very little food in the fridge itself, mostly just yogurts, as we eat a lot of frozen veggies too.

Here’s a question for you all: any a-ha moments for saving money of children’s clothes? I’m finding myself needing to buy a lot of boy’s pants right now, and lacking room in the budget!

7 Gabriel September 17, 2008

I want to know what you do about milk too! By trying hard, I can now easily make it a full week, sometimes a week and a half, in between grocery store trips. But by the time I go, I need to go–usually for milk. I still spend too much. In contrast to penguin lady, I have discovered that my main non-food items are the same price or cheaper at the grocery store and they have better sales. Plus if I go to Target I always seem to buy a ton of extra stuff I don't really need, so avoiding it saves me even more money.

Gabriel's last blog post..Life Path Number

8 Roshawn @ Watson Inc September 17, 2008

I agree with Emily. Accountability keeps me on track. It keeps me cognizant of what’s going out.

P.S. Sorry, I have no suggestions for saving on boys pants.

Roshawn @ Watson Inc’s last blog post..Investors Forget Bulls and Bears, Be Observant Ostriches

9 Early Retirement Extreme September 17, 2008

I don’t know if it was an a-ha moment. More something that naturally developed. I shop for loss leaders and cook around those. That’s typically 50% off or so.

Drop the milk or think of it as a treat. Many people are allergic to it anyway (without knowing it) but small amounts are probably okay.

Children’s clothes: Yard sales, freecycle, thrift stores. If you have more than one child save the clothes from the bigger child for the smaller child. And buy clothes a size too big so they can grow into it.

Early Retirement Extreme’s last blog post..Do it yourself investing

10 Dee September 18, 2008

I had to have help with my "aha" moments. Two books changed my way of looking at money – _Your Money or Your Life_ and _The Tightwad Gazette_. Once I learned to look at money differently, everything sort of fell into place.

Just a note for those who find themselves running to the store to pick up milk between scheduled shopping trips. You can freeze it quite successfully. It's best if you pour out a cup or so to allow for the expansion of the milk, but if you don't it's no big deal. Just put it in the fridge to thaw a day or so before you need it. Also, a way to stretch your milk is to buy whole milk and mix it 3 parts milk to 1 part water. It tastes like 2% and has fewer calories, and stretches your milk by 25%.

11 Shevy September 18, 2008

Well, Safeway here offers 10% off your grocery bill or 10x your Air Miles the first Tuesday of the month. I never remember about it, but if I was smart I’d plan to do a big shop then and get other stuff as needed.

You know, if all you need is milk or bread or eggs there’s no law that says you can’t just go into the store and buy just the one item. I often do that because Safeway is directly on my way home from work.

12 Kelly September 18, 2008

@Shevy- I had to laugh thinking of lawmakers trying to get a law on the books mandating the need to buy two things or more on each shopping trip!

But, it takes a lot of willpower or focus to be able to only buy one thing in a big store. Good for you!

13 Amy September 18, 2008

Everyone has good suggestions! Kelly, I definitely like the idea of setting a routine and sticking to it. In fact, that's what I'm doing for groceries now. I just did my first bulk-shopping trip!

Amy's last blog post..My Big Bulk-Shopping Trip

14 Uncommonadvice September 18, 2008

After reading "Your Money or Your Life", I began to question every single purchase and decide whether it added any value to my life or not. Since then I've drastically reduced my personal spending.

Uncommonadvice's last blog post..The Middle Class are Being Squeezed Out of Their New Cars

15 Alison @ This Wasn't In The Plan September 18, 2008

My most recent A-ha moment came when I was running short on dryer sheets. I knew I wouldn’t make it to the store in the next few days to get more, so I ripped the few I had left in half so I could last until my next trip to the store. And now I always rip them in half, and ultimately I’m saving quite a bit of money. Why did I not think of this sooner?

Alison @ This Wasn’t In The Plan’s last blog post..Meal Planning by the Month

16 JoMama September 19, 2008

Milk: when I used to buy fresh milk, I would buy it as inexpensively as I could and freeze it in quantities. I am now back to buying powdered milk for us as the youngest in the family is old enough to drink fat free. And if you mix two containers of milk–one for now, and one for when it runs out, then it's always COLD, which tastes best!

The Tightwad Gazette is such a phenomenal book for expanding your concept of frugality. I love it, and refer to it often for some of the "recipe" guides.

Little Boy Pants–I kept my older son's clothes labeled by size in copy paper boxes just in case I needed them (I did 8 years later!) I also share in hand-me-down, and I always shop at kids consignment shops before I buy new…and try to get them on sale when I can!

I love your blog, and hope to get back for a visit to France one day. My first trip was as a chaperone for a youth trip. For now, our frugal family is making memories here in Alaska.

17 Zhu September 19, 2008

I can’t just wait two weeks between shopping trips but I do try to plan meals ahead in order to 1) eat out less 2) pack lunch everyday but Friday 3) set a food budget.

Frequent grocery trips are bound to make us spend more… for sure.

Zhu’s last blog post..Old Beijing (???)

18 Maria September 19, 2008

I wish I could plan meals for two weeks. For some reason I can’t think past one – just what I’ve always done.

Do they have consignment shops where you are at? That is mostly how we shop. Love taking in any old clothes that are still in decent condition and getting credit to purchase new (consigned) ones.

19 Angela V-C September 19, 2008

My "aha" is simply not going to stores to shop — if you aren't there you can't buy anything! Of course, one has to go to the grocery store and occasionally to other stores as well, but I try really hard not to go into stores unless I really need something…

Angela V-C's last blog post..Last Year's Carfree Camping Trip

20 Leah September 19, 2008

Right On! Limiting oneself lends to a creative menu. I think as the primary “cookers” of the family we tend to be more critical of “weird” dinner combinations…kids and husbands will eat what’s served, and usually not complain. I’ve been on a black bean kick and lately thought of trying an “eat like the world eats” day where we consume the staple of most of the people that we, the more economicaly fortunate, share our small planet with. I was thinking beans+rice for 2 or three meals that day. It is a conciousness raising tool as well as a budgeting technique. Maybe I’ll give that a try this coming week.

21 billeater September 20, 2008

I suppose this one is well known, but the simplicity of it surprised when I first heard it.

Go grocery shopping right after eating. Since you are full, the likelihood of “impulse” buys goes way down. You aren’t hungry or craving anything, so you think about what’s not in the pantry, versus what’s not in your belly.

billeater’s last blog post..reduce your cell phone bill minutes by using uma wifi calling

22 rosie_kate September 28, 2008

I have numerous frugality tricks, since we live on a very tight budget. I produce as much of my own food as I can and make things myself whenever possible. But as far as shopping, a friend of mine shared her trick of only getting groceries once a month. I was skeptical, but when I tried it, I found it works great. I buy things in bulk anyway, so this just adds another dimension to that. I order from two co-ops, and shop at a grocery store. I spend the same amount in each place each month. Then I have a certain amount that I spend on some things that I buy in my neighborhood, like milk and eggs. And just like that, I’m staying in my budget. In the last week before grocery day, I have to be more creative to use things I have on hand. As far as veggies, we eat very seasonally depending on what’s in the garden or cold storage (or freezer) at the time.

Previous post:

Next post: