ABC Nightline—4 Steps to Living Like America's Cheapest Family
Ryan Owens (news anchor) and Jim Scholz (camera man and producer) are a couple of the finest and nicest media people we've met. We spent two days with these guys shooting the video story you can watch below. What's interesting about the video is that we shot parts of it two weeks apart because the guys were called off of our "story" after the first day due to the fires that were raging in Texas and Oklahoma (that video is at the bottom of the page).
As a result of the lapse in time between shooting the first section in our home (reviewing grocery ads, talking in the kitchen and inventorying the freezer) and the second section shot in the grocery store and the sit down interview with Steve and Annette—you'll see some differences: Annette had her hair cut and Steve and Ryan are wearing different clothes — you may catch a few other differences too, if you look closely.
Both Ryan and Jim are very inquisitive. They peppered us with questions about so much more than saving money on groceries, clothes and other household expenses. They had planned on staying for dinner and board games on their first visit, but they had to run to catch a flight (Dallas fires) and the same thing happened on their return visit (Jim to Dallas and Ryan to LA)—the life national news reporters isn't as glamorous as you might think. We did get them to stand still long enough to get a photo though.
You'll catch some money saving grocery tips in this video and you'll also see Abbey's closet full of designer gowns.
4 Steps to Living Like Cheapest Family in America
The mortgage crisis of 2008, the recession that won't end, the debt ceiling showdown, the European debt crisis -- these are big, complex phenomena. But make no mistake: As many have pointed out, they boil down to a simple cause: people and governments failing to live within their means.
They can all learn something from the aptly named Annette and Steve Economides, of Scottsdale, Ariz. They head the cheapest family in America, a title they're so comfortable with that it's the slogan for their family business, which consists of a website and newsletter that teach frugality.
How do they do it?
Step one: Invest in a large freezer. On a recent visit, the Economideses' freezer contained two turkeys, sausage links, milk and black bananas. And that was at its emptiest, when Steve Economides was taking inventory before the next shop.
"Annette will turn this into bread," he said, holding up the bananas.
In fact, when shopping they seek out things that are marked down because they're about to expire.
"When things are vacuum packed, their lifespan is indefinite," Steve Economides said. He said common sense, backed by his freezer, trumped sell-by and expiration dates.
Step Two: Plan meals in advance. Annette Economides schedules all family meals every 30 days. Get out the newspaper and plan based on what's on sale. You freeze what you haven't used yet.
"When you are first starting out, if you just ... plan your menu on what's on sale, you will cut your bill in half," Annette Economides said. "We bought corned beef back in March -- on sale for St Patrick's Day. So now I cook it once a month. And for leftovers, we have Reuben sandwiches."
That's right: Living frugally doesn't mean eating white bread and ramen noodles.
"Not true ... ham and gravy, hamburgers, chicken," Annette Economides said.
It also doesn't mean devoting all your time to scrimping.
"[Planning] actually saves time," Annette Economides said. "I only do it once a month."
The average American shops for groceries twice a week.
Step Three: Coupons. Have them clipped, filed and ready before shopping.
Step Four: Ruthlessly efficient shopping. Once a month, the Economideses pile into their van -- a former hotel shuttle they bought for $8,000 -- and when they get to the store, they hit it with a battle plan: Divide and conquer.
Steve Economides does produce, dairy and meat -- his weapon is a calculator -- and Annette Economides handles everything else. They communicate via walkie-talkie. A recent shop took four hours. The highlight: cereal for 50 cents a box. They bought 17. They spent a total of $120 for 17 bags of groceries.
These numbers are much smaller than those in the dire stories of economic woe that dominate today's headlines. But that doesn't mean they're not relevant, even instructive. After all, the word economy is rooted in the Greek word "oikonomia": household management.
(A special thanks for Basha's Grocery Store for allowing us to shoot video there)