By Victoria Rolfe / Red Hook, N.Y.
As we sit and watch world events unfold around us–from deadly disease, to war, to political strife–we often feel helpless in the face of it all. And at the same time we are witnessing the suffering of others abroad, we are hit at home with our own (less earth-shattering, thankfully) household challenge. You can’t escape it. It’s all over the news. And even if it weren’t, your pocketbook is telling you. The cost of many things is going up.
Well, if there were ever a time to adopt a frugal lifestyle, it might as well be now. Let’s go over some things that you can do to counteract this punishing inflation. The price of everything has gone up, but most notably gas and food. Unfortunately, they are two of the things we rely upon the most. Obviously, we can’t stop buying them so what’s a consumer to do?
Let’s start with those high prices at the gas pump. The only thing to be done for that is to use less of it. Try to eliminate unnecessary driving. Much of the driving we do each week can be drastically cut down or eliminated altogether. Remember the Covid shutdown? You were staying home all the time, and what happened to your gas spending budget? I’m not saying to go back to that drastic situation but do try to be more conscious of discretionary driving.
Consolidate your errands as much as possible. Try not to be nipping out for a quart of milk one day, and a loaf of bread the next. Buy all your groceries at once for the week (even for two weeks). Some diehards can do it for a whole month. Do all your errands together on one day, mapping out your path for the least driving possible.
Carpool if you can. Is there someone with whom you can share driving into work? Try to double up or more with people whenever you are going somewhere in the car. Maybe you can turn some of your chores into social events, traveling to the grocery store with a neighbor or friend.
This might be a good time start that walking regime you keep meaning to get around to. Are there some places on your weekly driving list that are actually within walking (or maybe biking) distance? Use this as an opportunity to better your health and get into shape while also saving on your gas budget.
And, of course, stay home when you can. You got used to that during the pandemic, right? Break out the old board games, puzzles and books and enjoy some of that domestic bliss you came to know and appreciate during the shutdown.
Finally, make sure to keep your car in top condition, and especially to have your tires inflated to the correct PSI. Talk to your mechanic about other maintenance you can do that might improve your gas mileage.
Luckily, there are many things you can do to lower your food bill as well. You can start with how you approach food buying in the first place. What you should not be doing is planning your meals and then shopping for the ingredients. To save money on your food bill, you should be doing exactly the opposite.
The most frugal approach to food shopping is to buy what’s on sale. Every supermarket advertises a few “loss leaders” in its circular to get you in the door. Buy these sale items. Stock up on them if they are nonperishable. Also, keep your pantry well stocked with cheap meal ingredients, such as pasta, rice, barley or other grains, oatmeal, beans, lentils, split peas, canned tomatoes and so on. Keep your freezer stocked with frozen veggies and fruits (bought when on sale). I buy them or grow my own and freeze them during the summer months when they are in season. But you can still buy them cheaply throughout the year, especially when there is a sale or in bulk size.
If you eat meat, buy it when it is on sale, and then either freeze it or make your meal out of it and freeze the whole meal or a portion of it to eat another time. Also, stick to more reasonably priced selections, like chicken or ground beef. The less meat you can get by with, the better off you will be when it comes to food costs (not to mention your health!). This same concept goes for dairy products as well, another costly part of your food budget. Our family saved a lot of money on our food budget when we switched to a vegan lifestyle!
When you approach food shopping this way, you will always have the fixings for an affordable and healthy meal at home, and you will notice an immediate drop in your weekly grocery bill. And hopefully, this will keep you from traveling to restaurants (wasting gas as well) or from picking up a quick (but expensive) take-out meal on the way home.
There are three more items that you should drop from your grocery list if you are trying to save at the register: processed foods, prepared meals, and beverages. Try to avoid those ready-made meals and basically anything that comes in a package with a big list of (often unpronounceable) ingredients.
As for beverages, the fewer you can buy of these the better too. Drink water ! (from the tap). Sugary drinks are expensive and not good for your waistline or your teeth anyway. This would be the perfect time to try and wean your family off of them if you can. And try to reduce the amount that you buy and drink. This includes “100% fruit juice drinks” (just as unhealthy, unfortunately, and even more expensive). And do I even have to mention those expensive coffee drinks? Make your own at home.
If you are ready to dive deeper into frugal grocery shopping, I invite you to read my comprehensive guide: Money Saving Grocery Tips From Your Auntie Victoria
None of this is rocket science, of course. It’s just frugality. It’s the way people used to live “back in the day”. It worked back then, and it can work for you through these expensive times too. Give it a try. You might like it! You may even decide to adopt this way of life permanently. Why live more expensively than you have to, right? I love this frugal life and I can’t help but spouting off its virtues to anyone and everyone who will listen. I hope you will come to like it as much as I do!
A long, long time ago, after the birth of her third child, Victoria made the life-changing decision to leave the work world behind and devote herself to being a full-time mom and homemaker. Along with her new title of Domestic Engineer, she took on the role of the Chief Home Economist for the family.
At first, it was scary to try to live on less than half their income, but Victoria found that she not only rose to the challenge but thrived in the enjoyment of learning to live their best life with limited resources. She embraced this new frugal lifestyle of the at-home-mom and went on to add a fourth child to the mix. And their family was complete.
Along the way she acquired a great deal of wisdom in how to not only avoid debt, but pay off mortgages early, buy cars for cash, travel on a shoe-string budget, and send kids to college with no student loans, all while also saving a tidy nest egg for retirement. She currently educates others in these skills through her business Bright Future.
Now living the life of a modern homesteader in the Hudson Valley, New York, Victoria has added gardening to her list of skill sets as she grows many of her own vegetables to supplement her family’s primarily vegan diet. And she has come to realize that this waste-not, want-not, carbon-friendly, sustainable life she is living is not only benefiting her own family but also our Mother Earth, and that each of us has the obligation to live a responsibly sustainable life not only for ourselves, but for the greater good of our community, and our planet. We can all do this one household and backyard at a time. We are the world! And it all begins right at home.
Victoria can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org