Help Me Find 700 Dollars a Month!

Updated on August 29, 2012
J.M. asks from Fox River Grove, IL
23 answers

Unfortunately my monthly pay in my new position is 700 dollars a month less than what I expected. I only work part time so I could add the other two days onto my work week but I would rather not. So, I am trying to revisit our budget in order to find that 700 bucks without drastically changing the way we live. I was going through our expenses for this last month and holy sh*t we spent a whopping $520 on eating out!! So there is a huge chunk right there. The problem is, we are not eating out (or grabbing fast food which I hate to even admit we have been doing) because of a special occasion (except for once), it is just poor planning or laziness when it comes to preparing a dinner and then it is just easier to eat out. Admittedly, I hate to cook. I think the reason why, however, is that it is always a rush to get dinner on the table as my husband's schedule varies slightly day to day and I like to have it ready right when he gets in the door. He doesn't demand this or even expect it but for some reason I feel obligated to have it perfectly timed which ends up making me irritable! So I have been thinking that if I could learn to make some decent meals in my crockpot that would eliminate the part of cooking that I hate. Besides cutting the restaurant food, how else do you mamas help trim your budget? Does anyone have any good crockpot recipes that can go from freezer to crockpot (particularly ones using frozen chicken breast) or does that not work? I am a bit domestically challenged if you couldn't tell. ;) I looked around at coupons online today and I thought about starting to coupon but we don't get the paper and I am not sure if it ends up being worth all of the extra effort?

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Well, you identified a HUGE part of the problem--random eating out/take out. Budget for O. night per week out. Put ca$s in an envelope for that. That's it.
I'm a Dave Ramsay fan. Get his book.
Live on less than you make. Quite simple.
Cut subscriptions, deliveries, etc.
If you have car payments that could be O. really easy fix--cash cars only.
Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from Savannah on

Yay to you for tracking your spending and being willing to change! Some things are hard to say since I don't know what your expenses are and what you do, but here's a few things I did when I went from working to sahm to "find" money (in no order):
1) Tracking/Planning: I went to Dave Ramsey's website and printed off the budget worksheets (twice: once for our current, rough draft and another to use when we got things under control in a couple months). I highlighted the things that were set in stone (set payments: car, house, insurance) in one color, and the things that could change monthly (hopefully lower: gasoline, phones, utilities, etc) I highlighted in a different color. Then, I set to work trying to get those things lowered: lower my cellphone minutes/data plan and then remember to use the phone more sparingly, call insurances (a low mileage discount?), cable/internet/phone company: shop other companies for rates and discuss this with your current provider, plan trips out to run errands or whatever in a way that cuts gas down a little every week,
2) Utilities: will a flat rate utilities help with your budget?
3) All receipts from everyone go in a basket on the bar, and once a week go through them together to see what's being spent, to help you get a realistic idea for your budgeting worksheet, but also to see where you can trim expenses.
4) Someone on this site said that laundry at night was slightly cheaper than in the day. I don't know but I did adopt that.
5) We made changes to our recreational choices: we would go hit a little league game and a picnic in the park (even though we didn't know the kids, it was free and fun if the weather was nice), free art openings, concert in the park, library instead of paying for movies or books (and sometimes there's lectures or classes which are interesting),
6) Pack lunches for you and husband instead of buying. This could be leftovers or sandwiches or's cheaper than lunch out. We actually DID save quite a bit of money this way! When I first started, we were both working and both spent from $7 to $12 on a lunch, each. That's $35-60 for a 5 day average of $151 to $260 each month on just ONE person's lunch, just to cut that out and eat what's already in the house anyway. Remember to double that if 2 of you are buying lunch....if you both eat $7 lunches, that's $14/day, which is $70 in 5 days, which is $3,640 in 52 weeks (a year), which divided by 12 months, is an average of $303 a month. (For example: I made homemade chili and that's about 6 of our servings, and it's delicious. There's only 4 of us, so there's a bit more but not enough for a whole meal. We can use that as lunch though, and the food didn't go to waste and we saved the money that day).
7) Instead of eating out for dinner, we peruse "Chez Abril" (my kitchen, lol). I didn't know how to cook (seriously, I did not) when we first got married. I had just a couple meals under my belt....I didn't even know how to do a grilled cheese sandwich. I started looking in the sales papers to see what meat was on sale, then going to and searching by ingredient for say, "cube steak", then searched by rating and picked out a recipe that sounded good. I made friends with the butcher who felt for me and told me what to do with some things, too. That saved us a lot of money (then we're looking at a minimum of $25 for just the 2 of us ($34-45 with the 2 kids, minimum) for a night's dinner. Turns out, I'm a good cook now. Go figure. Not gonna be on Master Chef anytime soon (nor do I want to be) but the family is fed well, for a lot less. Don't eat out more than once a month, and make it count as a happy, fun event together. Make your menu for the week with sales papers, coupons on hand, and the inventory you have in your house (including a night for leftovers) to help keep you from buying random stuff and needing to return to the store over and over (this saves time and energy so you don't have to feel rushed to cook).
8) Drink more water, less sodas and extras. Watch the grocery budget. I do use coupons and shop the sales papers. I go to Walmart and hand them the sales papers; on my shopping list I write what I'm buying, and what the price is elsewhere and Walmart will match the price, plus I use the coupons. I don't buy them, but I get the Sunday paper (at no cost, I don't know why) and I just use those coupons. Nothing crazy like on the couponing show, but I just buy what I need and if there's a coupon for it then jolly for me. Reduce the meat in your diet: try 1 day a week of vegetarian? Reduce paper (towels, napkins, etc and use dry erase for the kids instead of paper to throw out when they're practicing stuff). Buy in bulk if it's reasonable to do so for your family's needs. Grow food (we grow onions, yukon gold potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, and jalapenos). I would like to try my hand at some cabbage, spinach, and/or squash.
9) Change the thermostat, lights off, unplug things that aren't being used often (guest room lamps, the toaster, I flip the switch that plugs in the computer, fax, printer, etc to off at night, etc). You could turn off the DVR and direct TV and just keep the network and netflix (we did not, we like our DVR). Change filters regularly to save on heating / air.
10) Instead of paying for a gym, you could walk, bike, or swim. Consignment for some clothing items. Sitter swap instead of babysitters. Refinance the house for lower payments. Instead of going out, you could have friends over for potluck, poker, games, drinks, or whatever. We have fight nights where our friends who are martial arts or UFC fans come over to watch the fight. Everyone brings a little simple dish or drink and the kids play upstairs, the adults have fun hanging out, talking, and watching the fights. I set up the indoor tent so the kids can "camp" since the best fights are very late.

As for dinners: especially when I was working (PLANNING to quit though when the baby came), I just didn't have time to deal with cooking every night. A few things to note: you said your husband doesn't expect/demand that dinner be on the table when he came home. I was the same....I still felt pressure (grandma's ghost? ha!) to have it ready as he walked in. He actually told me one day that he'd PREFER to be able to wash up, change clothes, and veg out 15-20 minutes before having to sit down to dinner anyway! So I was stressing for NOTHING. I now aim for dinner to be ready within 20 minutes of Jer coming home (unless he's working late that night; my kids are little and have bedtimes). But another thing that was great for me: Sundays were my cooking and "prep" days. Jeremy would watch the kids---go take them out to have fun with daddy for a little bit and I would cut up the veggies in the food processor (too much trouble to clean it every day, but if you only do it once a week, it's not bad---I'd just have my weekly menu out and look at the ingredients and prep for much of it: have a couple onions diced up and put them in a container, some bellpepper, celery, garlic, etc. I'd buy chicken in family packs when on sale. I'd put it all in the pressure cooker with some Tonys, garlic powder, maybe some chili powder or whatever, and cook it. Within about half an hour, I'd have 5 pounds of chicken cooked and easy to shred if needed! (While it's in the pressure cooker, that's when I'd attend to my veggies). When it's ready, I could throw something in the oven (king ranch casserole, chicken enchiladas, chicken/rice casserole, whatever)...put something in a pot (chicken noodle soup, chicken tortilla soup, etc)....divide the rest of the chicken up and put in ziplocs and freeze for when I needed it quickly (the "big part: cleaning and cooking, was already done and it'd be super easy to defrost something while you're working and throw it together with some broccoli and pasta (or whatever) when you get home, or even put in the crockpot with some other ingredients and it doesn't take nearly as long if the meat is already cooked. Some days, it wouldn't be anything odd to see me making some chicken and rice in the crockpot (chicken stuff in the crockpot, brown rice on the stove), a casserole or enchiladas in the oven, a pot of stew, soup, or gumbo on the stove, and making some paella or chicken alfredo on another burner, all at once, thanks to the pressure cooker doing a lot of the work for me. If beef is on sale, make a batch (or 2) of meatballs and freeze some, use the others...make a batch of dirty rice, some burgers, some taco meat that could later be either tacos, soft tacos, part of the filling for beef enchiladas, taco soup, mexican pizza, etc. Then you have meals already done for your "busy days" and on your less hard days, you can cook something simple but different (bake or broil some fish, do some steaks, something with porkchops or whatever). I always make my menu with my calendar right next to me so I can plan meals according to how busy my days are. I bet you could find $700 in these suggestions.
As for recipes....this is getting long, but I'll hunt up some crockpot recipes, and other easy ones, later (about time for me to wake my son and go pick up my other son).

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Check your sofa cushions.

embrace changes that are painless/ fun for you, otherwise you can't stick with them.

Small budget cutting mechanisms we've done include-
We've given up papergoods (no disposable plates, cups, cutlery, napkins).
We reuse bags & baggies.
We buy generic/ bulk/ on sale.
We don't buy processed foods, we don't buy snack foods.
Our beverages are limited to tap water, milk, wine, tea and coffee. No juice, vitamin waters, sports drinks, or sodas.
We bought annual memberships to the zoo and the science museum. This trims our "entertainment budget" with the kids.

We've cut back our subscriptions, no newspaper, magazines, premium cable. We buy clothes on sale only, with coupons and at the end of season. We welcome handme downs and pass our stuff along too.

An easy and cheap crockpot recipe is- corn and potato stew.
2 medium onions,
2 potatoes, or sweet potatoes.
1 bag frozen corn nibblets.
a few chicken boullion cubes

cook in your slowcooker. Then in the last half hour or so, add milk, cream, sourcream or plain yogurt.
to make it mexicanish, you can add a jar of salsa. or for a more for scratch thing, you can add tomatoes, cilantro, and jalapenos.
to make it italianish, you can add a half jar of marinara, or add tomatoes, oregano, basil and garlic.
to make it indianish- you can add a jar of tandoori sauce, or add tomatoes, curry, cumin, and garamasala.
to make it malaysianish- you can add a jar of coconut curry sauce, or add tomatoes, coconut milk, curry and red peper flakes.

The point is, the crockpot is really forgiving and really versatile. once you get a few "core" recipies, you can really take them in any direction you want.

good luck to you and yours in your new money finding venture.
F. B.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Here are the things that have helped us in the past:

1. Call credit card companies and ask them to lower your interest rates. You'd be surprised what they will do just because you asked.
2. Call your cable company and tell them you think you're paying too much, and ask what they are willing to do about that. I do this every six months, on the dot. I usually end up saving over $20/month just by asking for a discount. Sometimes I have to argue a bit to get it done, but I always get it done.
3. Shop around for a new, cheaper, car insurance policy. I always shop around every six months, every time my policy ends, to make sure I'm getting the best price.
4. Shop around for a new, cheaper life insurance policy. Companies run specials on life insurance. If you're paying for it already, you might as well get a deal.
5. Consider bundling internet, cell phone, and cable, if you're not already. Lots of companies will pay off your contracts with other companies to make this happen if you are currently under contract. Bundling can save a lot of money.
6. Don't vow to only eat at home if you don't think you can realistically stick to that. Give yourself a restaurant budget and stick to that. I find that if I try to make myself stick to only eating at home, we end up eating out anyway, and the food I buy at the store goes bad. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.
7. Make meals that you can 'recycle'. For example, I cook a big pork roast in the crock pot, and the next day, we use the leftover roast, reheat it with barbecue sauce, and eat barbecue sandwiches and chips for dinner. It's a really easy meal the next day, that hardly cost us anything.
8. I find I save the most money by leaving my debit card at home, and never carrying cash. If I don't have any money on me, I can't spend it. I carry my check book so if I have to stop at the store or something, I can pay with a check. They don't take checks at drive-throughs. :)
9. Don't forget to budget for fun stuff so that you dont' end up with unexpected expenses on that front. We allow a certain amount for every weekend, because we're off of work and our kids are off of school. We know, realistically, that we're going to do SOMETHING fun, so might as well plan for it! If we're saving money, we may plan a morning picnic at the park to feed the ducks. The kids love that, and it's almost no money at all. :)

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

If you do eat out a lot and that fits your style of living then think of it this way....

How much more will you be spending on groceries to cook.

Add in an increase in utilities, the hot water is not free by any means

Add in dish soap, dishrags, scrubbers, Drano for that drain that will get plugged from the stuff coming out of the dishes and clog the drain, extra pots and pans if you don't already have what you need to be successful, foil, saran wrap, Tupperware or Rubbermaid items to store foods in, all kinds of extra charges that can easily add up.

Add in extra costs for buying a mop and bucket or some other sort of floor cleaning device if you don't have one that you can use every day.

Then think about this.

If you are spending your whole evening annoyed because dinner wasn't exactly on time like you want it, then you have to clear the table, put any leftovers up, clean the pots and pans while the dishwasher is running....when do you get to have the time for what you normally do?

I think that if you want to eat out that eating out is not all bad. I hate doing dishes and would rather use paper and plastic for the rest of my life than wash any dishes. I can't afford to eat out so we use a lot of prepackaged stuff. Canned Ravioli's, Frozen Pizza's, salad mix, frozen foods that pop into the microwave, all sorts of cheaper stuff that's just not that healthy.

If you eat at less expensive places, maybe not the most expensive meals on the menu but a smaller portion meal with less sides. Less food, less cost.

~~~~~~If, IF, it was anywhere comparable to eating at home with all the extra costs, including your time because your actions have worth and every minute you spend in the kitchen is taking time away from something else you could be doing, then IF they are even within a couple of hundred dollars I would eat out almost every meal.

Here's my thoughts in a nut shell.

cost of eating out


Buying food to replace eating out


Cost of additional utilities
gas goes up $25 per month
elec goes up $50 per month
liq, soap $10 per month

That brings eating at home up to $485.00

I would rather have my time in the evenings and not be irritated because it didn't get done at the time I wanted it done. Then have to spend hours in the kitchen cleaning up the mess.

I would rather eat out those meals. Just trying to cut what we eat donw by a bit. Less expensive restaurants, less expensive menu choices, water instead of soft drinks, no liquor, no desserts added on, etc...

Cutting the actual cost of the meals out instead of adding extra costs to a different area that I already don't like dealing with.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Stop eating out... there is $520

Cancel the internet/cable/phone OR get a bundle pack that is cheaper with NO extras. Basics only

Revisit your cell plans and adjust accordingly.

Plan your meals. If you are not good at the timing then go with the crock pot ideas. I am not a crock pot user except for pulled pork. I plan a day or 2 ahead what I will do for dinner.

Yes you need to defrost meats before you put them in a crockpot, at least mostly defrosted.

Go to the library and borrow a good basic cook book on how to cook and learn the basics.

Cut magazine subscriptions and don't buy them at the store.

Babysit on weekends so other couples can have date nights! My daughter babysat 6 kids (2 families) last sat night from 5-midnight and got $160 cash. This was a heavy night for her and she earned every penny. Usually she averages $12-$15 an hour CASH

Think outside the box. Write down every penny you spend and see where the extra is and where you can cut.

I've not followed Dave Ramsey but a lot of people swear by him.
Good luck

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

A few things:

1. Adjust your expectations. Talk to DH and have him reassure you that being Mrs. Cleaver is not required for a happy home. Truly.

2. Get come crock pot books, or just make it up. Meat + Veg + some spices = dinner. You can also make quick meals like breakfast for dinner or pasta, burgers, or tacos.

3. Delegate. Is there something that the kids can do to help? Then enlist them. If you have someone mow your lawn, for example, is that a possible kid chore? If you find yourself being the bank of mom, what about looking at their expenses and seeing what they need vs want? Maybe give allowance (if they don't get one) to limit the outlay to x dollars per week, end of discussion.

4. Take a list with you to the store. Spend a few extra minutes to compare the sale price, the price per quantity and really think " do I need x or am I just hungry?" A little extra time in the store might help you shop wiser and save money. I find that shopping with one of those scanners (for the scan and bag shopping) helps a lot and helps keep me under my budgeted amount for the week.

5. Ask someone who gets the paper if they use the coupons. I don't coupon as much as I could, but sometimes I get $30 off just in coupons for things we already use. Always use the store card. Double up where you can. Even if it's just now and then $30 is a tank of gas. And about that gas - some stores have partnerships with other businesses. We use reward points to get $ off on gas and then save up til it's more than 50 cents off a gallon and tank up our van and another vehicle to maximize the reward.

6. Look at things like do you really use all the cable tv channels? No? What about Netflix or Hulu instead? Do you need superspeed internet or can you toggle down and save a few bucks and still get what you need online?

7. Do you eat out for lunch, too? Could you pack leftovers or cheaper meals instead?

8. Freeycle is a good way to get kids' items for free. Get rid of your stuff (or sell it on Craigslist/ebay) and keep an eye on Freecycle for things you need. Can you repurpose someone's old dresser for toys with just a coat of paint instead of getting a new shelving unit? Can you get the kids an art desk without spending anything but time? It's been really great in my area for things for DD.

9. Have everyone list all the little things - that cup of coffee, that candy bar, that soda at the office. I'm sure you can find more ways to cut out things you don't really need if you know what you are spending.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

First, let me say that I HATE it when I'm expected to walk in the door from work and sit straight down to eat. I like 30 minutes or so to unwind. Ask your hubby what he prefers. You might find that he's not all that thrilled to have dinner on the table the second he walks in.

As for cutting back, are there any trips you take in the car that you could cut out or combine to save on gas.

Do you spend money at the salon for manicures/pedicures?

I am assuming you bring your lunch when you work. If not, there is also something you could cut out.

Cell phone - either cut it out altogether or get a lower cost plan.

As for coupons, I rarely see them for the products I buy. I have watched those Extreme Couponing shows and yeah, they get hundreds of dollars of stuff for minimal/no cost, but they end up with 50 tubes of toothpaste, 100 cans of drink mix, and a bunch of other stuff, but when they get home, they don't have the fixings for a meal.

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answers from Los Angeles on

You have a lot of wonderful answers already. April C, and Nikki G have some excellent ideas.

To give you something they haven't mentioned
Get your sales ads and look at each ad. Then circle the best prices. The better the price the more I circle it. Then make your menus for the week based on the best deals. I don't shop Costco or Sam's for any meat, fresh fruitrs or vegetables. Why? Because I can always find better deals at my local grocery stores. Example: Sams had whole fryers for $1.39 lb. Costco had whole fryers for $1.49 lb. My local grocery store had whole fryers for $.79 lb. I bought three and put two in my freezer. I made garlic roasted chicken last night. (

If my wife and I go out to eat it is at a restaurant that we got coupons for. Usually a buy one get one free. If I go to Red Robin, I eat half my burger and take the other half home for another meal. I also take any left over "bottomless fries" too. Check out

When I find an exceptional deal at the grocery store, I buy more of it. Example: Ragu sauces. The spaghetti sauce and alfredo sauce are usually $3 or so per jar. But every now and then they go on sale for $.99 per jar. So I will buy 12 of them. Then every time I use one, I'm saving $2. If you pay sales tax on food, its even more. So by the time I use them all up, I've saved about $25. I've found by doing this my wife and I spend about $35 per week for the both of us on groceries. And that includes brown bag lunches.

For good/excellent crockpot recipes go to They have a paid part and a FREE part. I'm signed up on the free part. You can also type in your ingredients and they will tell you what recipes work with what you have on hand.

When I go to a grocery store, I always look in their marked down section first. It makes a big difference in the cost of your meals. I bought marked down hamburger (half price), I found balck beans half price in the dented cans, I got lettuce marked down because the heads were noticable smaller (two to the bag for half price), cheese I had from a previous sale, and tomatoes from my garden. So for $2.70 my wife and I had two dinners of taco salad.

Good luck to you and yours.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

You can easily save a ton of money by shopping smart and prepping ahead of time. I am by no means an "extreme couponer." I'm not digging in the dumpsters or paper recycling bins for coupons. But I do pay attention to the sale cycles at my grocery stores and I know what days are double coupon days for which stores. I only clip or download coupons for stuff we use. I'm not a person to buy it just because I have a coupon for it, to me that's wasting money. I stock up on things when they are on sale and that's when I use the majority of my coupons.

One example of a typical dinner at my house, keep in mind the kids are only 6 and 2 so portion wise they don't eat what older children will require. We grilled perdue boneless chicken breast , rice, and steamed broccoli. The entire meal cost $3.75. Yes I said three dollars and seventy five cents. The chicken breast were buy one get one free, they come 3 to a pack with the avg price being $4.50 per pack so it was $2.25 for the chicken. The broccoli was 2 bags for $3 for the big frozen bags which we get 3 meals out of that size bag so it worked out to be 50 cents. And the rice medley was 10 packs for $10 so that was $1. It really does pay off in the end to know your stores sales cycles and use your coupons accordingly.

I'm a big fan on once a month cooking because we have so little time after working all day, doing homework, etc. I'd rather spend those few hours doing fun stuff with the family instead of being stuck in the kitchen cooking and cleaning. And you can cook some frozen meats in the crock pot. I cook frozen chicken breasts, pork chops, and steaks all the time. I've never cooked a frozen roast ...that would probably take forever.

I'll copy my answer to a previous question regarding once a month cooking and maybe some of these ideas will work for you too:

I totally agree on the food saver...the best investment we've ever made. Your food will last so much longer in the freezer without any freezer burn :)

I have done up to two months worth of meals in a weekend. I have 4 large crock pots and I use the McCormicks seasoning packets to keep it simple. Keep in mind these meals are not gourmet meals but the quick fixes in a time crunch. There my "semi-homemade" Our family can stretch meals pretty far since our kids are only 5 and almost 2.

I will suggest now that if you have a large freezer start stocking up on your meats when they go on sale. I only purchase meats several times a year. I am known to go buy 50-100 packs of perdue chicken breasts when they go on BOGO free sale at the local market. In addition to freezing meats I also can them. It is very easy to do and saves a ton of time when rushing to get dinner on the table. The chicken actually cooks in the canning process so it's simply a matter of opening the jar, seasoning the chicken and warming it up. Dinner is done in 15 minutes or less.

Back to the point of the post :)

The night before my cooking marathon hubby and I wash and prep all the veggies needed for our recipes with the exception of the potatoes. Then I put a large pork roast with gingerale in one of the crock pots. It may sound weird but the gingerale makes the meat so tender and juicy. I slow cook the pork all night. The first thing I do in the morning is shred the pork, whip up some bbq sauce or if you have a fav brand you like than use that. One crock of pork makes a TON of homemade pulled pork bbq. Then I divide it out into multiple meals using my food saver bags. I can usually get 8-10 meals out of one large pork roast.

Once that is done and the crock is cleaned I refill it with a large pot roast with potatoes, green beans, carrots and onion. That will slow cook for 8 hours and again the meat is so tender and juicy. You can either divide the meat and veggies for individual "roast" meals or cut the roast into cubes and viola you have a wonderful homemade beef/veggie soup to bag and seal. 5-7 meals out of one crock.

Then I'll make the McCormicks original chicken recipe in another crock pot. (I double the recipe using 2 packets.) This is an all in one dish meal with the chicken, potatoes, green beans, carrots, onion, and any other veggie you'd like. 4-6 meals out of one crock.

The third crock is usually the McCormicks "country chicken" recipe doubled. I love the fact that the chicken and gravy are packed and sealed just waiting reheating. Easy to boil in the bag and then dump over rice or mashed potatoes. 4-6 meals.

The final crock is used to make a veggie mix of potatoes, carrots, green beans, onion, celery, etc. I season these with a packet of hidden valley ranch and slow cook the veggies all day...juicy and tender veggies. 8-10 side dishes done ;D

Once I have all four crocks going then I start on the stove/oven work. We prefer ground turkey over ground beef. I buy 1 lb logs of jenny O ground turkey for $1.99 each at walmart. Again I stock up on these and usually have at least 20 rolls in the freezer.

I start by mixing up 4 lbs of turkey with 4 McCormick's Swedish meatball packs. I do NOT fry the meatballs as directed. Instead I line my cookie sheets with parchment paper and cook all the meatballs at once in my oven on 350 for about 20 minutes. I insert our digital thermometer into one of the meatballs and it beeps at me when done. While the meatballs are cooking I prepare the sauce on the stove. After the meatballs are done I divide them into the food saver bags and then pour the sauce into the bags. This makes 8 meals for us easily. Just boil the bags to reheat and serve over egg noodles or mashed potatoes add a veggie and viola dinner in minutes :)

Next I mix up Italian meatballs following same process. If I have homemade sauce on hand I'll use it if not I pour store brought sauce over the meatballs and seal them. Once again just boil the bag and serve over pasta with a salad or veggies for a simple supper. 8 more meals done in a matter of minutes :)

Next I brown up a ton of ground turkey with onions. Once browned and drained I divide into 3 batches. I take the first batch and whip up turkey taco meat. Divide and freeze to make quick tacos, taco salads or enchiladas. 8 meals.

The second batch is "simple sheppard's pie". Mix ground turkey, carrots, green beans, peas, corn and any other veggies you like, and beef gravy. I divide this into 6 small casserole dishes and seal in the food saver bag. Simply grab it from the freezer, remove the bag, pop it in the oven on 350 until warmed through, gravy will be bubbling. Top with mashed potatoes and put back in the oven for 15 minutes. I have used instant potatoes for this in a pinch and you can't tell the difference. I've also frozen it with the potatoes on top (I have a recipe for make ahead and freeze potatoes, if you're interested.) Delicious any way you do it :)

The third batch is for lasagna. I bake a huge tray of lasagna and then divide it into smaller casseroles to freeze. Add a salad and viola 6 more meals done :) I alternate lasagna with spinach stuffed shells each time I do this to give a variety in the quick meals.

I also make a huge tray of mac and cheese then divide into side dish servings and freeze. One tray can go along way as a side dish :)

I have hubby slice up beef for fajitas. I cook up the beef, peppers, onion, etc. Then divide and freeze for quick fajitas. I do the same with chicken. Another 4-6 meals done. All you have to do is warm and serve :)

Also check out the Lawry's marinades. They have a Hawaiian marinade that will knock your socks off. Use it to stir fry pork or chicken with green, red, and yellow peppers, broccoli, pineapples, and any other veggies you like stir fried. Divide and freeze. Simply boil bag and serve over rice or egg noodles....yummo!

I also make a huge batch of chili to divide and freeze. Chili always tastes better the next day :) I serve over rice or mashed potatoes with a dab of sour cream and cheddar cheese....delicious. We get 8-10 meals out of one big batch.

Once you get started you'll find a zillion things you can make ahead and freeze. For example, I freeze left over turkey and gravy for a quick boil in bag meal to serve hot turkey sandwiches or over mashed potatoes. Whatever you're in the mood for. If I've made a roast I cube the leftovers and make soup or stew to freeze. When I make a one pound meatloaf or in our case turkeyloaf my family only eats half in that meal. I freeze the other half to be used for a quick meal later in the month. You will find you are saving a ton of money because #1 you are not wasting food and #2 you'll have quick meals in place to avoid having to buy fast food out when you're too tired to cook.

When freezing your bags make sure you lay them flat until frozen. Once frozen you can stand them up on end to save space in the freezer.

Give it a try and let me know if you need any help :)
Peace and Blessings,
T. B.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

If you have a car payment, pay it off or sell it and buy a used one that you can purchase up loan.

If you have more than one car get rid of all but one. Everyone can carpool and make a schedule or use city transportation to cut costs.

Buy a deep freezer and a dehydrating machine and grocereries in bulk or when they're on clearance only. Once you build up your reserves, you will only need to replenish milk, butter, bread, and the dry goods you used from your backstock. You'll cut your grocery bill down to less than half. There is an art to this, read books by Peggy Layton or check youtube for the endless vlogs from people who keep preparedness and bulk pantries.

Cook meals for the week on weekends then put them in the fridge or freezer for reheating if you hate cooking on weeknights. Crockpots are a good move.

Sure you can knock yourself out and clip coupons to save money. I find you buy a bunch of junk you wouldn't other wise use. Coupons are designed to drive you to buy certain products, not necessarily are they designed to really save you money unless it's something that you would use whether it's on sale or not. I find buying generic is the way better way to go, and to move away from even boxed, processed, and prepared foods. Cooking from scratch is way cheaper and healthier in the long run.

Call your insurance provider for car, homeowners, etc. and barter for a lower price. A lot of people don't know they price match. Try. You have nothing to lose.

Get rid of cable and if you can go to a no-contract cell phone.

Shop for your clothing a year and a season ahead. That means no shopping until clothes go on clearance when the new season's clothing are being brought in. Store them for the coming year. You might be behind a year in trends but you'll save a bundle. Especially on winter coats, boots, etc.

Cut back on after school activities if you've got alot going on. Maybe one activity a year per kid, or take a break until finances improve.

No club memberships, cut back on entertainment if you're movie-hounds, etc.

Go see a credit couselor. They're there for you whether in you're in financial straits or you just need guidance with streamlining your budget. Hope this helps.

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answers from Austin on

My husband doesn't get home from work at exactly the same time every day. So I wait to start cooking either after he calls to let me know he's on the way, or after he gets home. I think he also likes the flexibility of deciding what he's in the mood for. We buy some things fresh with a plan to make a specific meal, some things that will keep longer, and some dishes to have leftovers for a few days.
We bought a big package of ground beef and in one cooking session made lasagna(leftovers for the week and shared with FIL), meatballs(for dinner that night and leftovers for sandwiches), hash(cooking experiment for son who doesn't like meatballs), and made the rest into burgers to grill the next night.
Another week, we bought a big package of boneless chicken thighs. The first night, we cooked some with barbecue sauce and onions(25 minutes in the pressure cooker, but the same recipe would work in a slow cooker), and turned some into chicken nuggets. The next night, I cooked some with peppers and onions for fajitas, and cut up and froze the rest to make a stew another day. (The recipes turned out great, but it took longer than I expected to trim all the fat off.)
Things we like to have on hand for quick meals- frozen cheese ravioli(boil for 3 minutes), frozen fish(set a timer to bake it, and walk away for awhile), meats with longer expiration dates(hamsteak, sausage), rice(20 minutes in the microwave), canned black beans, refried beans, canned tuna or salmon, and salad. Think about what you enjoy eating at restaurants, and whether you can make a fast, cheap, or healthy version.
Does your family just eat out at dinner, or breakfast, lunch, coffee as well?

For saving money in general, my husband is very good about researching prices(phone service, electric service, gas for the car) and using coupons.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

I really hope 8KidsDad chimes in . . . he's great with this stuff.

Eating out is killing you. That's an expensive way to go.

I would listen to Dave Ramsey, for free, on Iheart radio (anytime) or on his web site ( from 2-5pm eastern. I got his book - Total Money Makeover - from the library and loved it.

My niece just saved $70 a month after shopping around her car insurance, and it only took some minutes on the phone.

Good luck - way to dig in to this issue.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

to trim my eating out expenses I...
- buy certificates for eating out.
- take advantage of kids eat free nights

I also use the grocery deli and pre-packaged food for convenience. For instance roasted chicken from the deli + bag of Cesar salad + garlic bread = dinner one night. $6 + $3 + $2 = $11 from grocery store vs. $25 at fast food place.

Also consider having your husband take over some food prep. Even if he barbecues from time to time. Or ask friend/neighbor /relative to either come cook with you or for you. Make a girls day out of cooking. Have your friends over for wine and snacks & bulk cooking.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

cancel the newspaper if you get it.
get a cheaper phone plan.
Dog sit by taking dogs into your home when people are traveling.
start a small side business.
Be frugal when it comes to gift giving.
Give up Starbucks.
Rent movies instead of going to movies.
Pot luck dinners with friends on the weekend instead of going out.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Iowa City on

You can cut the cable/dish and use Hulu and Netflix. That will save you around $60/month. If you have a home phone consider getting rid of it and just using your cell.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

cancel the internet and cable! I would, but my hubby won't let me!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I think it's doable to cut back on food substantially, but for how long, it's case by case. One month I wanted a few hundred for summer camps, so I bought pasta, etc. Our food bill was so low it was almost funny. I used the money saved for camps. Then, the next month, I bought food like we usually do. I was hungry and sick of pasta!

And strangely, if I buy $100 or $300 of groceries in one trip, it still feels like there is "nothing to eat." No real MEALS. It takes a lot of planning. I need to do better with that, I know.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

There are quite a few good cookbooks (check your library) that talk about cooking ahead of time. Making one roast and then using it for multiple meals, etc. Sandra's Money Saving Meals on Food TV centers on making inexpensive meals AND using one meal to make another later in the week. She also explains how to chose lower cost cuts of meat to save money.

My other money-saving-idea is to use your local library for movies and books rather than buying/renting.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Cut the restaurants. You don't have to be a chef - the supermarket has tons of pre-cooked, or ready to heat meals. They're pretty good nowadays!

Besides, you don't have to literally eat beans and rice - buy ANYTHING you want at the grocery store! It will always cost less than the same meal eaten at a restaurant.

Unless it's fast food, that stuff is cheap! (Which is why we eat it once a week. And it tastes so damn good!!)



answers from Los Angeles on

As you know, cutting back on eating out will be a huge savings. But don't deprive yourself altogether - maybe plan for one dinner a week. That way, you can look forward to a night where you don't have to cook.

Even if you don't want to go crazy with couponing, you can still shop the sales. Do you get the fliers in the mail every week with the ads for all the major markets in your area? We get about five different ones each week. If you scan them carefully, you can see who has the best sales and buy those items at those stores. Yes, it means more markets and extra shopping, but it can save you a lot in the long run. You can also plan your meals around the sales (ground beef on sale - great, make hamburgers).

Other ways to cut the money: look at your utility bills. Could you have a cheaper cell phone plan? How about your land line? Do you need all the TV channels that you get or could you reduce your cable bill?

Make sure you turn off lights and TVs when you're not in the room. You can save a lot off your monthly power bill this way. Adjust your thermostat by a few degrees to save money on air conditioning and heating.

If you have services like a gardener, house cleaner, etc, consider cutting those out entirely.

No Starbucks.

Bring lunch to you work and have your husband do the same. At least three times a week, if not every day.

Are there ways that you can carpool to save money on gas? Or is public transportation cheaper than driving?

Good luck!



answers from Madison on

I don't pay for a cell phone...what do you pay? I am shocked as to how much people spend on their cellphone which is not needed in most cases...internet/ you even watch tv...if not why have it? eating out is a big you really have to have the house at the temperature it is set at...even a few degree's warmer or cooler can mean $20 or so...



answers from Sacramento on

Super easy crock pot recipe-

1 beef rump roast
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 envelope Lipton's Onion Soup mix
1/2 cup liquid (I use red wine)

Put everything in crock pot and let it cook. You can add whatever veggies you like during the last hour of cooking. Makes an amazing thick broth that is good over egg noodles or rice. Leftovers are great. I even save the leftover broth to use later as a soup base.

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