Money saving strategies: Part 1

 

I’ve been doing this Stay at Home Mum thing for just over a year now, and I’m loving spending lots of time with my little lady. The less loveable part of being a Stay at Home Mum has been the Stay at Home Mum salary – zilch.

Going from a double income couple to a single income family was quite an adjustment to make and forced us to rethink some of the ways we spend our dollars. I’m hardly the first person to encounter this, and definitely not the first to share money saving strategies, but thought I’d share just a few ideas and changes I’ve made to help keep our costs down.

Look at your bank/credit card statement, insurance policies and service providers

I regularly sit down with our statements to see where all our money’s disappearing to, and which of these expenses could be cut out, or at least made smaller and at least once a year look at our insurance policies and service providers to see whether I could be getting a better deal. Some changes I’ve made:

  • I cancelled all of our direct debited charity donations. I felt a little guilty about this initially, but reassured myself that we’d spent years donating to these causes and have made sure that I still do one off donations here and there for my favourite charities. If you’re locked in to donating $20 a month, that’s $240 a year, and though I won’t bother with the math, I’m pretty sure thats equivalent to a lot of nappies!
  • I called our health, home and contents, and car insurance providers and tweaked each policy to make them cheaper. For our health insurance this meant adding a premium and cutting out the extras that I wasn’t using, saving hundreds of dollars. For our home and contents and car insurance I rang the insurance company and asked if they could do a better deal for us, and managed to shave a few hundred dollars off, I then increased our premiums, shaving a few more dollars off. Given that we very rarely call on using any of our insurance, we decided that if we had to make a claim, we could probably afford the premium so long as we keep a little money aside ‘for a rainy day’.
  • We looked into all of our service providers and decided that the money we were spending on phones was ridiculous. Keeping two mobile phones, a home phone, and internet going, was costing a small fortune. As a result, neither of us are on Mobile Phone plans anymore, instead we both use prepaid and don’t regularly update our phones. We’re both still going strong with our iPhone 4’s, and won’t be replacing them until they die. When they do need replacing, we’ll buy the phone outright and continue with prepaid. No phone contracts for us!

Grocery shopping / Food

  • I sit down and plan our weeks meals every Sunday night, and then write out my shopping list before I hit the shops on Monday morning. When planning my meals I’m thinking about what’s already in my fridge/freezer/pantry that I need to use up, what I can make that we’ll leave leftovers for lunch the next day (or popped in the freezer for a lazy day) and how much dinner prep time I’m going to have available to me on that day. This systems works well for me because I’m not much of a cook, and so would otherwise leave dinner decision making to the last minute and opt for takeaway or vegemite on toast. It also means nothing goes to waste, because I buy exactly the amount I need of everything, throwing little out.
  • I love a good bargain! I buy non-perishables in bulk when they’re on special (toilet paper, tooth brushes, shampoo, pasta, canned tomatoes, cleaning products, dog food, nappies, etc) but only if I know I’m actually going to use them, and I have the space to store them.
  • I try to buy most of my meat when it’s only got a few days left on it’s ‘use by’ and is reduced to clear, and when I get home I divide it up into the quantities we will use it (i.e. two pieces of steak, 4 sausages) bag them up, and put them in the freezer. When I’m planning the next weeks meals, I’ll be looking in my freezer to see what meals I can create with the meat we’ve already got.
  • I try to buy the majority of fruit and veg according to what is in season and therefore cheapest.
  • We have lots of fruit trees, and a veggie garden (sometimes in operation) so get some of our fruit and veg free (we also water our fruit trees and veggie garden from our rain water tanks, saving us more dollars!)
  • Meatless monday – One night a week we would eat a dinner with no meat. It was usually much cheaper and also gives you points for being kind to the environment!
  • We eat out less often than we used to, and usually drink water with our meals.
  • We drink less pod coffee than we used to. At one stage I calculated that I alone was drinking approximately $20 worth of pod coffee a week. I placed a ‘one pod a day’ limit on myself, and either went without, or drank instant coffee the rest of the day. Now that I’m pregnant, I’m not drinking very much anyway.

Entertainment

  • We don’t watch a lot of TV, so we’re happy with free to air. We’re against illegally downloading movies and TV shows, so we check out iview regularly when we’re looking for something different to watch, or borrow DVD’s from the local video shop or library.
  • To entertain Miss E and myself during our weekdays at home, I’ve found a number of free or very cheap activities to keep us amused. We attend a playgroup once a week that only asks for a $1 donation each time we come, we go to Preschool Storytime (link here for South Aussies) at our local library once a week which is completely free, and I’m part of a mothers group who meet once a week at either a cafe, a local park or at one of our houses. When we’re not doing these things we try to visit family and friends or head to the park, rather than going out for lunch or coffee with friends.
  • I stopped buying books, and I used to buy a LOT of books. I either borrow from the library, family and friends or when I specifically want to own a book, I wait and ask for it as a gift for birthdays/Christmas etc.

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In part 2 I’ll share some more strategies for saving money on Baby stuff, clothes and much much more.

Take and adapt whatever works for you, ignore what doesn’t and please share any great money saving strategies you use to get by!

Abby xx

 

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Cooking for those who hate cooking

You’ve probably picked this up by now, but I’m not a big fan of cooking.

I’d rate cooking as being about as enjoyable as ironing, cleaning the bathroom or mowing the lawn. Unlike ironing, cleaning the bathroom and mowing the lawn however, I have to cook every day. Ick.

I’m amazed by the number of cooking shows on tv. Is it not enough that we have to cook everyday? We have to watch other people on TV doing it too? I’m waiting for the launch of MasterLaunderer. A show where contestants compete in stain removal, brightest brights and making your clothes feel like you’re wearing a million baby duck feathers. I would watch that.

Oops, went off on a bit of a tangent there…

squirrel-up-dog-gifSo,

I’m very lucky to have a husband who enjoys cooking and does it well. In the past he has taken on the lions share of cooking, but now that I’m home most days, I’m cooking a lot more. When Matt’s away with work, all cooking responsibilities fall to me, so I’ve had to devise some ways of feeding myself and Miss E, without having to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

One of my strategies is to cook during Miss E’s nap times in the middle of the day, when I’m not worn out, and still have a little enthusiasm to bring to the process. If I cook just before dinner time I’m usually frazzled by the million other things going on at that time of the day (Miss E waking from her nap, then having her dinner, bath, bottle, bedtime story and bed, as well as Matt coming home some time in there, all in the space of an hour and a half). If I can avoid cooking at the same time, I’m sure I’m far more pleasant to be around.

I start off by cleaning any dirty dishes, clearing off benches and making sure the dishwasher is ready for a load of dirty dishes.

I then start preparing several meals at once. If I have to be in the kitchen, I make it worth my while and do as much as possible in one hit.

A few days ago I had an hour of power in the kitchen and whipped up some puree’s, some play dough, and a few freezer meals at the same time.

banana and strawberry puree 1As we get closer to the end of the week, I look through the fruits we seem to have an abundance of and make up some puree’s to freeze. This lot is a punnet of strawberries (they were cheap this week) and two bananas.

banana and strawberry puree 2and because I already have the stick mixer out, I make up some peach and apricot puree’s out of some preserved out of season fruit I had in the pantry.

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IMG_5367I freeze ready-made baby meals in a Heinz freezer tray. After 24 hours in the freezer I pop them out, and put the cubes into ziplock bags in the freezer.

In between batches of puree, I made some stir fry and rice.

stirfryIf you don’t have a rice cooker, get one. They’re pretty cheap, super simple to use and wash, and they make life much easier!

riceI made up some freezer meals, and the next day’s lunches.

stirfry 2and while waiting for the stir fry to cool, before I put it in the fridge and freezer, I made a batch of play dough as well.

playdoughThen when it was all done, I put as much as I could possibly fit in the dishwasher and set it going, then cleaned up. Apart from our good knives, anything that fits goes in our dishwasher, if it can’t go in the dishwasher, it can’t live here. I have a similar policy for clothes and the washing machine.

So that’s that. An hour of pain in the kitchen, for a few days gain 🙂

Do you have any other fabulous techniques for making cooking quick and painless?

Abby xx