Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Buy what you Need, Need what you Buy

*note, this is likely a boring, long post…*

WFMW - Works for me Wednesday - check out others' ideas, too!!

I've been thinking about what it means to be frugal vs. thrifty lately. I've always considered myself thrifty. I rarely buy anything for full price, unless it is a store brand, like at the grocery. I also go to sales and thrift stores and discount stores. That, in my mind, makes me thrifty.

What is frugal? Well, it is a lifestyle. It is actually finding ways NOT to spend money. How's that for a concept? I mean, there are people who actually have "no spending" days. Some have no spending weeks and months... except for necessities. And I don't mean that new pair of pants you "want". How old are you pants, anyway?

So, I was thinking about food last night. How much does it really cost us to eat every day? How much per person? How much per meal? Have you ever thought of that? If, for example, for two of us, if it cost $1 per meal, for 3 meals a day for 30 days (each)...the total would be 30*3=90 *2 = $180. That's a budget of $180 a month.

Do I budget for that? Does that seem high or low? Some people have meals that cost $2 or $3 or even $10 a MEAL...

Seriously. Think of what you eat in a day.

1. Breakfast, if I eat pop tarts that were 1.99 for a box of 12 (6 packets) and I eat a whole packet a day that's $.33. This is thrifty, IMO. If you eat real, plain oatmeal that’s $1.50 for several cups and break that down per serving, you could get this down to $.15-.25, very easily.

2. Lunch, if I eat out that could be $5-6 average. So, I usually pack. If I get a frozen meal or soup on sale, I could pay $2. If I eat leftovers... of chicken and noodles, for example, the cost would be (chicken $2.50, noodles $1.00, veggie $.75 = 4.25 for the whole thing... this would make 4 servings for us, so that would be approx $1.06. Which would you rather spend $1.06 or $5?

3. Dinner, chicken and noodles, $1.06 or burritos... (wraps $1.99 for 10 wraps, beans $.75, salsa $2.99, cheese $1.99... base it on 2 servings total - wraps $.20 + $.75 + $.49*2 salsa (estimating 6 servings in container), cheese also estimating 6 servings in container $.33*2.

.20 + .75+1.00+.66 = 2.61 / 2 of us = 1.31 each

If you go out, you can spend $10, $20 or more for dinner. And that’s nice, but not an all-the-time thing for us.

So, we've got .33 + 1.06 + 1.31 for the day for one adult equals $2.70 for the day. Multiply that by 30 and you get $81 for the month. EACH. This doesn't include snacks. It doesn't include eating out. That's being frugal. Minimalistic. Lil M’s morning and lunch costs are taken care of at daycare, usually. But I do plan for her to have 2 meals a day at home. So, that’s an extra $1.50 a day, approx. $45 + $81 and you get $126. Without having gone through this exercise, I had already accounted for approx $125 a month in groceries for the two of us. But that includes snacks, cleaning supplies, and dog/cat food stuffs.

For us, this is realistic, it works. For others, maybe not. Being thrifty, I'd get frozen meals from the grocery and soups and such and have that for lunch. That's a good start. That will lower my grocery bill. Being frugal lowers it more. And we're eating healthier. I've done all of what I suggested above. These are actual examples of our meals.

Some meals I consider frugal and weekly for us are:

- Chicken and noodles or rice (which can be more frugal if you by a chicken on sale and cook it... i'm more thrifty here because i used canned chicken. i also use canned soup for this, that i get on sale.) This freezes well for lunches. Already figured this cost at approx $1.06 a serving. Could be even less.

- Beans and rice... beans, beans, beans... i buy dried beans. Soak them overnight and put them in the crockpot to cook all day. i don't always use meat. There are lots of ways to cook beans. add tomatoes, mushrooms, vegetables for soup... this is one of my favorites, because you can use these beans for tacos, burritos... freeze beans and rice meals... don't just stick to the beans your mother or grandmother made. Try all different kinds and see what you like. You can stock up on these when there is a sale, and they keep extremely well.

Beans are pretty frugal, especially dried. I’d say I can make 6 meals, or more, out of a bag of beans, and onion, spices, bouillon, and rice. Rice - $1.50 for a 2 lb bag, beans $1.50 for a small bag. And maybe $.50 for an onion and $.50 for extras. That’s $4.00 for 6 servings. That’s $.67-$.75 each serving!!! J If I add meat, it would bring it up to $.90-1.00 a serving.

- Eggs. I make omelets, egg sandwiches, fried rice... lots of uses for eggs. And they are cheap. They're also a good protein. I don't eat these as leftovers. Well, unless you count boiled eggs. Which I don't make often for some reason. But think about it. If eggs are $1.25 for a dozen and you eat 2 at a time, that’s $.21 a serving. Have that with some toast $.10-.30 and you’ve got a meal for $.50-$.75 per serving (without or with meat)

To me, being thrifty means being more simple with your meals. It doesn’t mean sacrifice taste. It just means don’t go buy the expensive meat or go out all the time. Learn to use a crock pot. Buy things on sale.

Being frugal means that you consider what you are actually eating, and try to find ways to minimalize that. Take the meat out. Make enough to take for lunches. Freeze your own meals. Yes, you can do that! J It also means DON’T buy things when you don’t NEED them. Yes, that sale is good. But if you don’t NEED the item, you’re still spending the money. Why? Sometimes shopping can give us a rush. Or make us feel better about something. Try not to use your money that way. Buy what you need and need what you buy.



  1. Good points. I am a reformed impulse grocery shopper--now I try to stick to a meal plan, and a list. What a difference it makes!

  2. Same here. I *really* try to follow my grocery list!! And agree that it makes a huge difference.

  3. What a great break down, I totally agree!

  4. We have been eating frugally, although I have never broken the costs per serving down...thanks for reaffirming my efforts! :)

  5. Your Frugal Friend, NikiApril 8, 2009 at 6:35 PM

    So true! Perhaps I could use that quote taped to the inside of my wallet!


  6. wow, thanks everyone!! and here i thought that people would think me completely NUTS to write all that down! LOL

    yeah, i need to remember it more, too. :)

  7. I haven't gotten into the nitty gritty of cost per mean but I've definitely become more mindful of what I am spending and what I need versus want. I've started using coupons more often and I try to be mindful of not buying things just because they are a good deal.

  8. Great tips. It definitely takes some effort to learn to be frugal, but it's so worth it!

    Congrats on your new job!