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Hand holding a clipboard to inventory a refrigerator

The Easy Way to Inventory Your Food!

WHY INVENTORY YOUR FOOD?

Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half.

 

 

This is an excerpt from the planning chapter of our book, Cut Your Grocery Bill In Half with America’s Cheapest Family. It will help you manage your food inventory and tame food budget so you’ll always have extra money for stocking up on killer deals!


Sometimes we’re both dog-tired and the thought of inventorying the freezer or planning a month’s worth of meals is the last thing either of us wants to do.

But before we embark on our once-a-month grocery trek, we do want to be efficient and economical, so Annette takes stock of what we have in our pantry and refrigerator, and Steve inventories the freezer.

Freezer Meat Inventory sheet.

Evaluating our stockpile

Annette records items in a number of categories, noting what we’ll need to buy in order to make it through the month.

If you go shopping once each week or twice a month you may not have to do a full inventory each time. But this step is still critical for making sure your pantry and freezer are fully stocked so you won’t have to make a special trip to just pick up one missing item for a meal you are preparing. Taking stock also helps us minimize duplicate purchases and reminds us to use the things we already have in the house.

Taking Stock the Easy Way

Using a blank sheet of scrap paper, we make note of the following items and quantities we have in stock. (Of course, your list will differ.):

Breakfast Foods: Eggs, milk, juice, oatmeal, farina, cold cereal, bagels, and ingredients for waffles, pancakes, and French toast. Annette also makes sure our pantry is well stocked with baking soda, flour, baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and commonly used spices.

Lunch Foods: Peanut butter and jelly, tuna, bread, lunch meat, eggs for egg salad, tortillas and shredded cheese for cheese crisps, hot dogs, cottage cheese, yogurt, salad fixings, and plenty of fruit.

Dinner Foods: Steve takes almost everything out of our chest freezer, and gets a count of the number of items in each of the following categories:

  • pork/ham,
  • sausage,
  • chicken/turkey,
  • beef,
  • lamb, and
  • lunch meat.

He also notes how much

A bright colored beach ball floating in the blue water.

Inexpensive Summertime Fun For Families

School's Out For Summer — Yikes! Here are about 15 great Summertime Ideas for Kids (and Adults)

It's June and school's out …what do you do to help your kids have healthy fun in the summer?

Is it an afternoon at the movies, a visit to an amusement park, or an afternoon at the mall?

How much will that cost you?

Perhaps you might want to consider tackling a large project, learning a new skill or participating in community service. These activities can also be fun and more rewarding.

But be careful of Summertime overkill.

We’ve seen parents sign their kids up for a crushing load of summer activities that have both parent and child exhausted (and broke!) by summer’s end. Are expensive camps, clinics and planned activities all there is to having summertime fun? Spending gobs of money to keep your kids entertained isn’t necessarily the solution.

We’ve compiled a list of suggestions — most of which we’ve done — to stimulate your thinking about summertime fun activities.

Not Just for Kids!

Don't think, however, that these ideas are just for kids! As we said earlier, kids often know how to have fun in a way that adults don't, and we think folks of any age will get some enjoyment out of these ideas.

We know that if both parents are working, your options are more limited, but there are still activities that you can do together. Consider “co-oping” with a couple of other working families and coordinating days off to do activities with the kids.

Inexpensive Indoor Fun

Free Days at Museums  

People often think of museums as great places to visit. While they can be very educational, we've found that they can also be over-stimulating, especially to young children. We try to limit our time there to no more than four hours. Some museums schedule occasional Free Days. Contact your local museums to see what they offer.

Summertime Quiet

We schedule a couple of afternoons each week from 2 to 4 p.m. as reading or artwork time. Even Mom needs a break and staying inside during the heat of the day can be refreshing.

Edu-tainment at the Movies  

We don’t “live our lives in front of the TV,” but during the summer, we’ll schedule a weekly time to watch a two-hour movie borrowed from a friend or the library for some excellent “Edu-tainment.” The old Disney classics like Old Yeller, Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island, The Apple Dumpling Gang, Homeward Bound and many others are wonderful to watch. Also, historical movies hold our kids’ attention, educate them and provide better role models and heroes than most of today’s movies — Davy Crockett, Johnny Tremain and Gary Cooper in Sergeant York are just a few examples.

Volunteer this Summer 

Don’t neglect this Read More...

Steve and Joe Economides standing in front of a cubbie hole shelf unit they built.

Happy Fathers Day - Building Something that will Last!

The typical Father's Day celebration is to wait on Dad, hand and foot, hand him the remote control and let him do whatever he wants for the entire day.

Try a Different Kind of Father's Day 

This Father's day we'd like to encourage Dad's everywhere to step up and make it a day when they serve their families—giving time and love to their families, and receiving much more in return. There is no better Father's Day present to receive than to have little hands squeeze your face after you fix a broken toy or finish swinging your child at the park. 

The Best Gifts for This Father

Some of the best gifts Steve has ever received are tools that he uses to build things for Annette and the kids. He’s constructed things like built-in oak bookcases, captain’s beds from salvaged waterbed frames, storage racks, shade structure for our dogs, and he’s also refinished lots of furniture.  He and Joe built an 8' tall cubbie hole shelf unit a few years ago from used lumber purchased on CraigsList —you can read more about it and other things we do in this article from American Profile Magazine).

The Right Tools - at the Right Price

Having the right tools (not necessarily the most expensive ones) help him to get the job done quickly, safely and well.

Check out CraigsList or OfferUp.com for estate sales and for specific tools in your area. We especially like church rummage sales because there are usually lots of tools and no one is emotionally attached to them. This is the best place to pick up good tools inexpensively. If you don't have time to shop on CraigsList, check out Amazon and eBay, you may be surprised at the deals you find.

Learning to Do Home Repairs

And Dads, don't forget that one of the best ways to save money is to learn to do household repairs and small construction projects on your own. Not only will you save money, but you'll amaze your wife and you'll be able to teach your kids how to manage and repair a home—these are great life skills to pass on.

What if you Don't Know How to DIY?

YouTube has thousands of step-by-step / how-to videos for just about every type of household project you could imagine. When Steve encounters a new home repair problem or project, YouTube is one of his first stops.

Find a handy mentor or be a mentor. Steve has spent the last year or so working with son-in-law Collin, helping him learn how to do dry-wall, plumbing and other carpentry work. This is the very thing Annette’s dad did for Steve when we bought our first home.

If you are "Handyman Challenged" see if one of your friends can help you repair something and learn while you do it together - Steve and Annette's dad (Syl) do this all the time and really enjoy their time together.

Tools that Steve Likes

Here’s a list of Steve’s favorite and most used tools:

Woman opening her mouth to sing and showing her teeth.

4 Best Ways Your Family Can Save on Dental Care Today

Many American families sacrifice their oral health under the belief that they can't afford dental care. With over 100 million people in the U.S. without dental insurance, and one in five adults not attending routine dental care appointments, it’s clear that, while routine dental care is necessary, cost is a legitimate concern. 

Did you know that taking on the full cost is not the only option for maintaining routine dental care? There are a number of practical things families can do to help save money on dental care without putting their oral health at risk.

1. Educate your family and practice oral health best practices

There are simple, ongoing steps everyone should be following to keep their teeth and mouth clean and healthy:

  • Brushing at least twice a day
  • Flossing at least once a day
  • Using an antimicrobial mouthwash when necessary
  • Consistently scheduling routine cleanings and examinations at the dentist

These preventive habits will not only encourage a healthy smile and fresher breath, but they can reduce the chances of developing tooth decay, gum disease, as well as a host of more serious illnesses and conditions that your dentist can help spot and diagnose in time to effectively treat. Failing to maintain good oral health habits like these often results in some level of dental complications down the road, along with a lot of unexpected expenses.

2. Work closely with your dentist

Your dentist is primarily interested in maintaining and improving your oral health. When you're at your semi-annual check-up, take advantage of the opportunity to discuss any concerns or questions you have and listen carefully to the dentist's recommendations.

If they suggest ordering x-rays or an additional procedure, listen to the reasoning behind the recommendation and make an informed decision. A small investment now can prevent tremendous expense down the road when a minor problem progresses into a major issue.

Many dentists offer flexible financing options and discounts for uninsured patients such as a sliding fee scale or installment payments that can make receiving the care you and your family need easier to afford.

3. Budget wisely and plan for both the expected and the unexpected

Your family's oral health really does deserve to be prioritized in the family budget. Although you may not be dealing with an obvious problem currently, that doesn't mean it's wise to ignore routine dental care.

Be sure to budget effectively to cover, at minimum, a routine exam and cleaning every six months, x-rays once a year, and the supplies and equipment needed to maintain those healthy habits described above.

It’s also important to plan for the unexpected to help soften a financial blow. Despite your best efforts, you or your child may get a cavity that requires filling. Perhaps a filling or bridge you already have will need to be repaired or replaced during the year. Or, maybe it’s time for your teenager to look into getting braces. Budgeting wisely for these possibilities will ensure that an emergency situation doesn't turn into a huge burden.

4. Use a dental savings card

One of the most valuable investments you can make in your oral care is to join a dental savings plan to reduce costs. Dental Solutions offers a dental discount card that applies to everyone in your family for less than $10 month. 

Dental discount plans offer significant Read More...

iPad with a woman's hands using a map to find garage sales.

Roadmap Savings for Garage Sale Treasures.

7 ways to make Garage Sale Shopping more Fun

If you’re going to spend a day hitting garage sales looking to find treasures, try these 7 tips to make your time Garage Sale treasure hunting more profitable (and less expensive).

Plan your Garage Sale route

Check out the garage sale ads on CraigsList, GarageSaleGal.com and yes, even in your local newspaper and select sales in one or two specific geographic areas. More expensive neighborhoods tend to sell nicer stuff, but can often have unrealistic pricing.

Follow the signs to your Garage Sale Treasures

As you’re driving to a sale on your list, follow the signs of unadvertised sales also. About 50% of sales never advertise online or in print. When we host garage sales about half of the people come because of our signs and half because of our ads.


Carry a list

Impulse buys at garage sales not only cost you money, but can create a glut of unneeded stuff that you’ll eventually have to get rid of. This is especially important if you take your kids with you—they can be “stuff magnets.” Help your kids list three or four particular toys or things they are searching for. This will minimize the “Gimmies.” Make sure your kids pay for their own purchases. There have been times when we’ve shared our list of things we’re looking for with the host of a garage sale and their eyes have lit up. They’ve immediately pulled out the very thing we’re looking for and sold it to us on the spot. Other times they’ve just stared at us blankly and said they didn’t have the item. Then they usually comment, “Hmmm, carrying a list to garage sales, what a great idea!”

Packaged Deals Brings Great Savings

If you’re at a garage sale and there are lots of items you want to buy (clothes, books or kitchen items), gather the items together and ask the host if they would take less for the group of items. In the case of a group of items we usually add up the posted price and ask them what their best price is . . . then offer a little less than that.

How to Negotiate the price

Remember that most garage sale prices are “set in Jello.” Meaning that everything is negotiable. Ask the host what their best price is on an item you’re interested in and then negotiate from there. We’ve found that later in the day, hosts are much more willing to drop the price. If they won’t come down to the price that works for you, leave your name and phone number and ask them to call you if the item hasn’t sold by the end of the day. We’ve picked up a number of bargains this way.

Making a Deal at Rummage Sales  

By far some of our best deals have come at church or non-profit group rummage sales. Usually these are fundraisers, but because the workers aren’t emotionally attached to the items they are selling and because they want to "move" the "merchandise," prices are usually really low and very negotiable. One annual sale that we attend starts selling 50-gallon trash bags for a $20 donation near the end of their sale. This means we can fill that trash bag with as many items as we can fit . . . for only $20. We've picked up some great deals!

Life Training for Kids 

Garage sales are a great place for kids to learn about negotiating and buying things Read More...

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