Right now, we're saving for a few things. Being on one income, it can be really hard to save, so we've been looking at ways we can cut our living costs - and I thought I'd share some of them. We're trying to be a bit creative in how we free up some money, so I'd love your ideas and tips too.
First up - food costs. Here are some things we already do, and some we are going to start with:
We keep the grocery shopping bill down by buying fresh fruit and vegetables from a local supplier, rather than the supermarkets. They're cheaper and they last a lot longer, which means we throw out a lot less of anything.
Further reduce the weekly food bill by buying meat in bulk - we've done this for a while now, and it's great. We get a quarter of a cow and a whole lamb (all chopped and packaged in portions, and delivered to us) direct from a farm and it costs us around $300 to $400 all up - we usually do that twice a year, a big saving for a meat-loving family! We now also get chicken from the same farm and it's much cheaper too - and all the meat is really, really, REALLY good. And fresh. Doing this also means we get to eat nice things, like cutlets and roasts and steaks, which we'd rarely do if I had to buy it from the butcher or supermarket each week.
We seem to be in the habit of going out for lunch every Sunday... which is getting very expensive! And while it's fun (and I keep convincing myself it's educational - teaching Abbey how to behave in restaurants) it isn't a luxury that single income-earners or those saving up for big things can really afford. Not every week. We're now changing our lunches out to cheaper or free family activities with either lunch at home or a pre-prepared picnic. Meals out will be relegated back to less frequent occasions and times we really, really want to go somewhere (a restaurant we've been wanting to try, or a special occasion).
Bake. And then bake some more. The key to low-cost eating (and healthier eating) is making as much as possible at home - there is just no escaping that fact. Set times for baking - meals, treats, breads and pastas (if you enjoy it like I do) - and freeze some too. Having as much on hand as possible during busy times of the week will save stopping for quick and expensive takeaway, or boring yourself with the same meals all the time. (That's a key for us too - keeping food interesting. We like good food and don't want to eat boring, bland meals... and that takes a bit of thought and preparation.)
Be prepared. I tend to fork out ridiculous amounts for snacks when I'm out and suddenly starving, or caught without something for Abbey (toddlers always need snacks!). Usually it's just a matter of taking two minutes to throw some snacks in a container before we head out the door - sultanas or cheese and biscuits, fruit or a baked treat, are easy and always on hand.
Drinks. I drink lots of water, and being out for a few hours without a drink on hand can make me feel a bit yuck. Kids also need lots of fluids. So, always - always! - have a bottle of water with you. I loathe paying for water, especially given that here in Melbourne we have some of the best tap water in the world.
On the topic of drinks.... let's talk alcohol. Steve and I are not ones to drink just anything - we're somewhat
snobby fussy when it comes to beer (for him), wine (for us both), and champagne (for me). We justify the occasional splurge by having a smaller shopping bill in general, and we just drink less due to our expensive tastes (we'd rather drink good stuff less frequently, than drinks we don't enjoy all the time). (This is a good thing for our health, too, so it's a good control!)
I've saved the most important tip for last: meal planning. If you're serious about wanting to spend less at the supermarket, or wanting less wastage, then a good meal plan is the key to it all. Think about: which ingredients you'll need for certain dishes (if one dish uses half a tub of natural yoghurt, for example, try to plan another meal that will use the other half - or make double and freeze it); writing a shopping list and sticking to it; what you'll need for all meals and snacks, not just dinner; avoiding extra trips to the shops in between big shopping trips (firstly because food shopping is boring! and secondly because more trips will tempt you to buy more things while you're there); and using leftovers either to freeze or to eat as another meal.
In case you think all this cost-cutting sounds terribly boring (and tight!), let me assure you that sacrificing a few things doesn't have to mean going without all the time. There are times in our lives when we simply can't afford everything, so we have to choose. If going without a few small things means we get a family weekend away, or something else to help finish the house, then to us it's worth it.
Next time, we'll talk about cutting household bills.