Learning to Budget

Updated on June 04, 2010
K.G. asks from Auburn, IN
17 answers

Ok we are on a very tight budget and are looking at ways to help the grocery bill. I was thinking of stocking up on rice,pasta and beans. we buy our meat from a butcher usually a 1/4 cow & some pig (comes out to be less than $2 a pound and its really good lean meat). so we have plenty of meat. but as for the staples what other ways do you keep your family full. My hubby is freaking out that we have no money which we do. all of the bills are getting paid and food in kitchen, but he seems to think it is a quick fix. we got into debt because his plant shut down and my school bus job really did not pay much. so now that we have relocated and paid down over half of the debt we are in better shape and we have only been paying cash for things we need as apposed to the cc we had to use during his time off. I know this takes time to get out of debt but he just does not see it yet. so any advise would be great.

p.s. we are not looking to consolidate our debt is not enough to do that anymore..also we are members of Sam's we do buy in bulk the things use alot of.

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wow thank you to everyone for all of your input, i will look into Dave's website and see what all of the fuss is about.

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answers from Indianapolis on

Try going to www.daveramsey.com. He has a great debt reduction program!! And you will see results!! He also has a radio show and on the fox channel.



answers from Indianapolis on

Dave Ramsey recommends www.e-mealz.com as a great meal planner. The menus plan for about $80 a week and are very easy to use. We use e-mealz and shop at Aldi as much as possible.

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answers from Washington DC on

Do you have the time to make your own bread? That can be a HUGE savings! Bread dough can be frozen too. What you could do is on Sundays make a couple of batches, shape them in to loaves, rolls, buns, whatever, let them rise again if necessary, then freeze them in the pans. Then you just pop them out of the freezer and into the oven. They're done when you get a hollow sound when tapping on the top crust.

If you have time in the morning, make pancakes from scratch with some fresh fruit on the side. It's cheaper than cereals and pre-packaged pancake mixes.

Do you have a berry/fruit farm nearby? Berries and fruits can be frozen. Go pick your own, then preserve them by yourself. This can also be a huge savings. Personally, I make all of our jam myself during the berry seasons (strawberry, blackberry and raspberry) and I make enough for a year. Freezer jam is delicious and it's got a lot of sugar but is altogether healthier than store-bought. Also get your veggies from your local farmers market instead of the supermarket or plant your own. Beans are super easy to grow and if you have beans, you don't need meat. Beans can provide all of the protein a family needs. You can get the other nutrients in meat from other sources as well, namely dark, leafy veggies. Meat is the most expensive item on our grocery list and I always buy it on sale.

Cut out paper towels and just use regular kitchen towels. I use one kitchen towel per day unless there's a BIG spill, so the extra laundry isn't really anything.

Set up a laundry line in your yard and quit using your dryer so often. This can be a big energy savings.

If you still want meat, then get a whole turkey and cook it. Once it's cooked pull all of the meat off and boil the carcass to make sure you got it all. Pull all of the bones out and freeze in plastic Ziploc bags in about 2lb. servings. I make a great stew every year after Thanksgiving with the leftover turkey. I usually have about four 2lb bags of turkey and each one makes enough stew to feed us all for a few days with the addition of some homemade bread so we eat off of my turkey for a couple of weeks after Thanksgiving. Turkeys aren't just for Thanksgiving. I also have a great chili recipe that with the addition of macaroni noodles feeds us all for three days also. Find some recipes like this (I'll give you mine if you want) that are cheap to make and will feed your family for days and days. Tell them to get used to eating the same thing over and over.

Find some recipes (I think they're online) for making your own cleansers. Really all you need to clean just about everything in your house is water, baking soda, and vinegar. These three items will make everything you need. Sure it doesn't smell as good, but oh well. I would still get laundry detergent though.

In conclusion, try to cut out the middle man in everything you buy if you can. If you have a local dairy, go there to get cheeses and milk. Always buy local if you can. Clip coupons for everything you have to buy at the store. Learn to eat the same things over and over. Build healthy meals from cheap ingredients like bean/veggie and rice jumbalaya. Preserve your own whenever possible. Make your own whenever possible.

Message me if you want some of the cheap "feed an army" recipes that I like to freeze and eat off of for days.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Your idea of rice, pasta and beans is good.

Only buy fruits and veggies that are in season. Because they are in season, they are cheaper.

Also, if you can, try growing some of your own. However, just what you would really eat...and don't go overboard or it will become a money pit :)

Freeze leftovers when you can, or eat them the next day.

Watch for the sales, when something is on sale, take advantage of it; but only if it is a frequenty used item...For example, let's say you like tomato soup and use it alot...if it is on sale for 50 sents, go ahead and buy 10 or 20. Sales tend to by cyclic, at least where I shop. You can generally get a feel for it and buy accordingly.

Don't be affraid to shop in more than one location.

Set a budget, and stick to it. This is hard...but if you only allot a certain amount of money for groceries, and you have met it...cook out of your freezer and cupboards for a few days... asuming you like to keep them stocked.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

As a place to start right away, I suggest Cindy's Porch. It's an email newsletter and there is tons of useful tips, etc., on her site, www.cindysporch.net or she just opened a new site www.cannywomen.com, I believe, or google Canny Women ). It's very positive & affirming and she has a good sense of humor.

Her main points are: learn to "DO instead of BUY"; "SHOP at home FIRST"; and "procrastination" can be our best friend when it comes to BUYing more stuff.

Also, before you stock up on stuff, first, take a good inventory of what you already have, in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. Use up what you have already, and then stock up on items that you regularly use.

Also, for cutting costs, I highly recommend borrowing The Tightwad Gazette from the library--this book is dedicated to frugality and has tons of tips, suggestions, articles, etc. Easy to read, and covers just about every aspect you can think of.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

Sounds like you are off to a good start. Stocking up on stuff you truly use, when it is on sale, is a good idea. Even if you start by just buying one or two extra packages. Also good for non-perishable stuff, eg soap and toothpaste.

I agree with the person who said to read the Tightwad Gazette. One easy idea from there: don't buy tomato soup in cans, make it from tomato paste instead. Empty a can of tomato paste into a sauce pan. Refill the can 4 times with water (or milk if you like creamy tonato soup). Put water into pan. Heat and serve. You may need to beat the lumps out with a whisk or hand-beater. Cheaper, plus doesn't have the added sugar /high fructose corn syrup of commerciallly mad tomato soups.

Get rid of any brand loyalty you have and try the store/generic brands.

Do everything you can to make stuff last--rinse out soap/shampoo/conditioner containers for the last shampoo etc.

Do the same for ketchup, spaghetti sauce, salsa containers and use the liquid for soup.

I keep 3 containers in my freezer, labeled "Chicken Flavor", "Beef flavor" and "Veggies". Into these go leftover cooking liquid, gravy, and the last spoonfuls of veggies that no one wants. When it reaches critical mass (about a quart, or more) I make soup. Thaw the container, add fresh veg. like onions, celery, carrot, whatever, and cook. I usually add some water if the meat/chicken flavors are really strong or salty. May add rice or pasta. Great in winter when it is cold out.

dig the solid deodorant out of the container before tossing container and apply with fingers (I get 10-14 days extra use out of deodorant that way--don't do it before putting contacts in though).

Use rags instead of panti-liners/sanitary pads.

You have cut out or drastically reduced junk food, right? also paper products which can be substituted with cloth items (e.g. napkins, cleaning rags, handkerchiefs)?

I find if I buy good food, REAL (not processed ) food, it fills me up better than the processed food (e.g. a home-made potato dish vs. one from a mix). I thinnk I end up spending less....I hope so anyway! it certainly is healthier.

Drink more water and less juice/pop.

Grow a garden if you can. If you get too much food , look into preserving /freezing it, or just share with friends.

Oh--sharing with friends--if there is a good sale but the quantity is too much for your family, find another family to go in with you on it. i remember once there was a sale on apples, something like buy one 5-lb bag, get another one free. Way too much for us, but OK if the cost and apples were shared with neighbors.

Cook double batches of stuff like lasagna, saves energy because then you just have to re-heat.

Some people save all their change, or every five-dollar bill, or all their quarters, or whatever--and then put that toward their debt in addtion to their regular payment.

Look into swapping services you might normally spend money on, e.g. babysitting, haircuts, lessons etc.

hope some of this helps. Good luck1

K. Z.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I agree with the person posting before me: watch for cyclical sales at your local grocery stores. When I do that, and they do BOGO sales on items I buy regularly, they are even cheaper than buying them at Walmart. Especially buy items that will keep. When the peanuts go on sale for BOGO, I will buy several, as my hubby and kids snack on them often.
As far as fresh veggies (which are usually the most expensive) check out your local farmer's market. Right now at my regular grocery store I can get fresh corn on the cobb for 25¢ a cobb. (8 for $2.00). If you find a good deal, cut it up (or off the cobb) and bag it in freezer bags and freeze some.
Usually things like soups, crackers, pasta, laundry soap, shampoo, razors, paper towels, etc, go on sale about once a month. So I stock up with about a month's worth each time. Then I never run out, and I never pay full price.

Pull out the sales papers from the newspaper and go through them. Then make yourself a list of which items to buy from which store. Also, check the front of your grocery store when you first go in. Often, they will have flyers there full of coupons. My regular grocery store even had a coupon a few times for a BP gas card (before the spill, lol). It was buy $25 worth of groceries and you can buy a $50 gas card for $40.00. That's the same as saving 20% off gas.

As for foods:
Beans and rice and potatoes are easy and cheap sides. You can make your own french fries, or just mashed potatoes (or baked) from a $3.00 bag of potatoes. Same thing with any kind of pasta.

If you eat breakfast at home it can be done less expensively with scrambled eggs and grits, than with prepackaged cereal or toast/bagels.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

What about growing (and maybe even selling or bartering) some of your own fruits and vegetables? Canning? I LOVE canning. It's a lost art. If you can find someone to teach you, GO FOR IT! It's WELL worth it! A bit of work, but FABULOUS in the winter when everyone else is buying at the store and the quality is better, too! NOT hard, just time consuming.



answers from Columbus on

Looks like a lot of ladies are already recomending places like Sam's Club. We go there for items we can buy in bulk, like toilet paper and laundry soap, but you can get good deals on canned soup and other food items. It does pay off to check prices per unit though, as sometimes Sam's isn't the lowest. We also go to Kroger a LOT! It's the closest to us, but when you use the store card, they send you coupons for the items you buy the most, so you can end up getting some things for free. most stores have websites that tell you what they have on sale. Sometimes it helps to go to a few places to get all of what you need. (so long as you aren't driving around for hours.)



answers from Tulsa on

I use angelfoodministries.com I found this when I was a single mom. anything I need that I don't get from my boxes I go to family dollar and get what I need then to dollar general and then the grocery store. beans and rice are a good idea but find multiple recipes for it or you will get sick of it very quickly

i do bbq beans with hamburger in it. burritoes, chicken and rice, rice cooked in chicken broth with chicken. beans, chili, (good with ground turkey in it and ground turkey is cheaper),spanish rice (rice, picante and hamburger), ramen noodles and meatballs, beans and winies,egg burritoes with rice in it. simple 3 ingrediant recipes. buy a 3 ingrediant cookbook. I still cook like a single mom with no money and its not that bad. tuna and macaroni and cheese. go to allrecipes for more simple cheap recipes. get creative and use your imagination. meatballs are cheap and very versitle. meatball sandwiches, spagetti and meatballs, ramen noodles and meatballs. good luck.

plant a garden :) buy fruit trees.



answers from Nashville on

Have you thought about couponing? I keep meaning to start doing this. My friends that do it say they are disappointed in the trip when their savings is less than their money spent. !!! That is crazy to me, but it sounds great. So if they spend $80, they like to show at least $80 in savings on the bottom of the receipt. There are a ton of websites. I don't know them because I haven't started doing it yet, but I know they talk about coupon mom, and southern savers. Apparently if you can buy ahead and buy in bulk (have space for bulk so that when stuff goes on sale you stock up) you can split your grocery bill in half. I don't have any space to stock up, so I have to figure that out first. They check the weekly circulars and go to multiple stores to buy whatever is on sale that they have coupons for. I guess at first it costs you a little more, because you are buying ahead but still buying that week's meals that aren't necessarily on sale, but once you get stocked up on a little of everything, it really pays off.

Check prices at places like Costco and Sams. Lots of things are cheaper, but not always, so you have to look. I have a Costco membership and I like most of their grocery items. Produce is always cheap and better quality than what my grocery store carries, I just don't always need the large sizes.

Have you looked into Dave Ramsey for your budgeting plan? It's not a consolidation program, just a plan to show you a smart way to pay things off so that you see the results faster and keep at it. It is just financial advice, and sounds a lot like what you are doing already with paying cash only and getting debt paid down.



answers from New York on

Your already off to a great start. Buy meat is bulk is great. We buy boneless chicken breast in 10lb boxes for 1.99/lb and since there's very little waste it goes a long way.

I find potatoes make a great side dish. They're usually fairly inexpensive and there are so many different ways to make them.

If you like eggs, they also make an inexpensive meal.

Cereal is good to have on hand (for breakfast or snacks). Watch for sales and coupons or try store brands.

I save a ton by buying bread at an outlet store. The nearest one is about 18 miles away, but if I'm going to be in that area, I make it a point to stop in and stock up.

Check out the weekly sales flyers and stock up on the sale items. Sometimes it's worth it to go to 2 or 3 stores.

If you don't already belong to one, you may want to look into joining a warehouse club like BJ's. It's not for everyone, but for us it's a big savings.

It's really not the right time of the year, but homemade soup is very inexpensive and quite nutritious.

Good luck paying off that debt. Yes it does take time and committment, but it can be done.


answers from Dallas on

i shop in two places for food...walmart and kroger. alot of times kroger is much cheaper than walmart, believe it or not lol. my main staples are beans, pastas, frozen veggies (only like 3 kinds hubby will eat though), meat on sale, and cheese. i can't believe how much you can make out of that. we usually only have ground turkey or chicken as main meats, and those are fairly cheap, especially if you get a big pack.... i usually make double of what i have so i can freeze half so hubby can snack later on (he eats alot lol). angelfood ministries is a good idea, but they usually pack in a lot we don't like so it's not really worth it.



answers from Cincinnati on

go to www.daveramsey.com and find a Financial Peace University class near you. That will teach you to budget and to get out of debt. Next, go to google coupon mom. She has the most amazing system for coupon shopping I've ever seen. Her program is free. She will send you reminders when new online coupons become available and you can get a weekly list of kroger sales and the coupons that go with them. Good luck.



answers from Lafayette on

Several people have recommended Dave Ramsey. Our church just went to Tennessee to get trained from him/his staff directly to open it up to our church & community. We'll be beginning Financial Peace University soon. If you are in the West Lafayette area, let me know and we'll get you more info!!



answers from Columbus on

I highly recommend Dave Ramsey's financial planning materials. Sounds like you are already on a good path: aggressively paying down debt and using cash. It also sounds like the other problem is that your husband might not realize how much things cost. I used to handle all our finances and then got tired of my husband asking the "where did all the money go?" question, so I handed over the responsibility to him. Best thing I ever did. He wasn't pleased at first but then he really got into it! He began to understand how things add up and how much groceries actually cost. He also began to see how an unplanned trip to the hardware store for lightbulbs and batteries could upset a "budget". Truth was, our "budget" was unrealistic. We now have a realistic budget that takes into account the small needs and the big ones. Our budget anticipates car maintenance and repair and entertainment and vacations, among other categories.

We will be completely out of debt, including our vehicles in less than 2 years with only our mortgage left. We need to stay on plan though.

I encourage you to look into Dave Ramsey's materials and do the work together so you'll be on the same page.

Hope that helps a bit.



answers from Cleveland on

Somebody already said www.daveramsey.com which I also recommend to get you started with a great plan. He really helps you get focused on what to do first.

We use www.mint.com to keep track of expenses. It's free. You can link to all your online accounts like checking, credit cards, mortgage, other loans, etc. and then it automatically categorizes your expenses (sometimes you have to manually correct them) so you can keep track of your budget. You can even set budgets and it will email you if you are close to going over.

If you're not a computer person, it might not be right for you, but we love it. It's also very secure - it doesn't save any of your account numbers. Like I said, if you're not a computer person, you might not like it because you have to be registered online for all your accounts first (credit cards, mortgage, etc.) but if you already do that, it's easy to set up.

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