Recently we have had some budgeting changes. And it wasn’t a budget increase for our little home. The gas station sold and a new King arrived with tighter purse strings. It didn’t help that the city began rebuilding the whole bridge right in front of the station. The king is worried and laments to Bali often. Oh, well, we have been here before and we are prepared.
The paychecks are a bit smaller and there is the question of whether this new owner will keep the highest paid servant or not. Fortunately, many of our household entertainment such as the Internet and cable has contracts that just ended. Yay! They were getting quite costly. DishTV was $85 and going up. The Internet just spiked to $70. I was spending $800 to $1,000 on groceries. Don’t ask, I have no clue what the heck I was shopping for.
I have two sides to me; frugal Fanny who can pinch a penny until it dents or free and spend happy lady who’s holding hands and hanging out with Amazon. Although, when I spend money it’s mostly for the family, the home, and the garden. I forgot what frivolous looks like.
Long ago, when Arjan (my six year old) was a wee thing and I was pregnant with Sam, we moved to the Sacramento area to start a new life. Bali worked as a cashier making $10 an hour. He worked long hours to make enough for us to live decently. We had high rent because there was only one house in that whole town to rent when we relocated. A rent or mortgage can take up a large chunk of the paycheck. I was a housewife and for me to work we would pay more just for childcare and commute. I got smart and found The Complete Tightwad Gazette to start me on a journey of frugality and simple living that brought us ease, financial peace, and a life rich in the really good stuff; family, time, comfort, good food, old-fashioned ways of living, great books, and all the things that really matter. I learned that the simpler a house was run and with frugality and creativity, the better life became.
Time has passed and we have had more abundant years. We spent more luxuriously with travel, staying at Inn’s, eating out, fancy coffee drinks, large budgets for groceries, ordering things on Amazon just because one was struck by a fancy, and buying things without blinking.
We are returning to our roots. Now, I will say that I very much enjoyed being fancy and free for a bit. I do love the good life now and then and will look forward to more abundant years to come. However, for now, we are going back to all the ways to live on less such as making do with what we have, zero spending months, a grocery envelope, and a budget written out on paper (recycled paper, of course).
I am having a lot of fun with this right now, and relearning so much. I had forgotten about Leanne Brown’s, Good and Cheap recipe book that she wrote for people on food stamps. I forgot how fun it is to make a tub of homemade laundry detergent, or teaching my sons to make bread. My husband has even joined in with making vats of Indian soups from our bulk storage of beans and lentils.
I have cut off the cable and did some research on free internet. One company that is very popular is Freedom Pop. I ordered a hot spot and will do the monthly plan that is either $7.99 or $24.99. I need to call them Monday to see what this is all about. You can get Freedom Pop for free but you’ll have to buy the hot spot (I’m guessing it’s a modem) and you only get 500 MB and that translates to an hour and a half of internet. We would use that up the first hour and a half we own the thing.
Without cable, we now have Netflix and an HD antenna that we stick in the window and today I joyful found that we get up to 27 local channels. I was not impressed with cable. I had three movie packages and could never find a movie I enjoyed. During the day it was filled with infomercials and shoot ’em ups. Whatever happened to the daytime TV geared toward the housewife who just wants to fold some dang laundry and watch a comedy/romance? It seemed the movie channels were always for the men with a lot of testosterone. Now with my local channels, I can see all those old movies, the black and whites, the sitcoms from the 70’s and 80’s. I’m thrilled, it’s like old times!
As for less internet? Good. I’m getting too wrapped up in my Channel and checking my book stats. The children are starting homeschool and I need to focus on writing more fictional books, coloring in all our coloring books, my lego skills, and cooking everything from scratch.
Now, how about that out of control grocery budget. Long ago we were on food stamps for a time. I remember that for a family of four the amount was $350 per month. We managed very well. I decided to go back to that. I would stretch $350 per month and I would force myself to forget the side savings when I ran out. I would act as if that was all I had. Period. And that is how it is for many folks out there. When the money on Calfresh (our name in California for EBT or food stamps) card runs out you have to make do.
One thing I’ve learned is that fancy diets such as Vegan with alternative meats and dairy is out. Junk food, packaged, premade, convenience foods…out. All raw diets with tons of organic produce. Out. I was doing Raw for 30 days and that was so expensive. Even all organic is out.
So, how do you feed your family well and extremely healthy on this amount? This is how we are doing it so far.
We cook big pots of lentil, garbanzo, or bean soups made Indian style with potatoes, ginger, onions, garlic, tomatoes, seasoning, and cilantro. We get peppers and tomatoes from our garden and we have 5-gallon sealable buckets of rice, beans, lentils, wheat, flour, steel cut oats, rolled oats, and walnuts we picked for free on our friend’s property. I make my peasant bread that is just a simple wheat loaf that cost .50 cents to make. I also make my own tortillas again.
For breakfast, we eat a lot of steel cut oats. I bought bulk in oat bran, wheat bran, flax meal, and peanut butter powder and I put it in the oats, pancakes, and bread (not the peanut butter powder). I bought a cheap honey wheat pancake mix that you just add water. It comes in big bags and is so much less than making from scratch. I add good stuff to make them healthy, such as the bran, flax meal, nuts, fruit, maple syrup.
We snack on bananas, apples, carrots, celery with peanut butter, and popcorn with nutritional yeast and coconut oil.
As for veggies, we eat a lot of salads because you can make those cheaply. Or I may make some cheap boxed mac and cheese with soy milk, vegan butter, and tons of broccoli. Some convenience items are much, much less than homemade so scratch the earlier statement. Even top ramen can be made decent with the plentiful addition of kale, mustard greens, and/or spinach. When feeding a family you can’t always worry over MSG, GMO, or non-organics. I do try to stay away from GMO’s and I get what I can with the organics. Shopping with the list of Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen helps.
To stretch the good stuff I use the age-old trick of rice, potatoes in soups, frozen or canned veggies when less in price than the fresh version, and spaghetti. If we use meat, it is so rare, we do buy a rotisserie roast from our New Earth health store that is free of antibiotics, hormones, and free range. After raising rescued factory hens I will never buy cheap chicken or meat from a big store. There is a reason some things are so inexpensive…at the cost of something or someone else.
As for entertainment; we have joined the Yuba City Racquet Club. Ooh la la, right? It turns out the club is far cheaper than the public pool in this town. It cost $5 dollars per person for two hours at the pool. If we go to the club daily to swim and work out it cost $1.33 per person. And the club has an indoor pool, outdoor pool, jacuzzis, saunas, steam rooms, upstairs and downstairs with work out rooms, old machines, new and fancy machines of all sorts, full schedules of classes, daycare and kids club in a separate house with a big yard and playground, and many racquet courts. It is very nice and the kids love going to the kids club so I can really work out. Summers here are hot and going to the pool in the afternoons has been a dream. This is the most luxurious thing we do and it is saving us a pile because we don’t visit friends right now, travel, go out to eat, or the movies. This club is so nice and fun that it affords a way to escape and play without taking a trip to Six Flaggs.
I love going to the movies, but for a family of four, it can easily be $100. We splurged and bought a very generic Smart TV, cut out the cable, as I said and now we pay $7.99 for Netflix and can watch movies we like, and choose, on a nice sized screen. This has saved us hundreds.
Then there are books. We all know we can get books from the library, but did you know that some libraries have a program called “zip books”? You can ask your library to order you any book from Amazon under $35 and it’s shipped to you directly and when you finish reading it you give it to the library to add to their collection. Libraries are very hip now and carry some of the newest, most popular books. I am able to find almost every book that is mentioned or peaks my interest on Goodreads.com.
I am in bed now, watching an old black and white movie for free on my older and smaller TV. I have a good book on my nightstand that just arrived from Amazon that I ordered through the library. It’s Down to Earth by Ruth Hetzel and cost over $25. I really wanted to read this book but I would never spend that much. We enjoyed homemade Indian food and organic salad for dinner. We will sleep well tonight without worries of money or how we will pay bills or afford groceries. I’m feeling very fortunate and richer than the middle class right now.