Trim fat from finances
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Eat locally and shop frugally to trim the fat from your finances

I was listening to Julia Butterfly, an eloquent woman who lived for 2 years high in a redwood tree, often in dangerous storms hoping to save it and the surrounding virgin forest. Some locals thought she was crazy for it and some admired her courage and clarity of thought. She told my classroom full of activists that her harshest critics are the environmentalists, who are working for the same cause. She was getting to know loggers and riding on bulldozers, building a bridge to the logging community. She was attacked for this by hostile activists who thought that she is betraying the purity of the cause. They thought that she should operate just like they do.

How dramatic! It makes my superhero cape wrinkle up. Her point of the story is that to accomplish great things, people need to approach the problem in many different ways.

There are those who make a lot of noise about animal rights, to the point where they do extreme things to make a point. There are those who adopt spartan or ascetic lifestyles so that their impact is not too negative. When people do this zealously, it can serve to turn people off to their cause because they want flavor in their food and comforts in their life. When Jimmy Carter invited Americans to be responsible and turn down their lights, many folks resented it and didn’t do it, thinking that it meant turning down their lifestyle. 

But as long as most of the people are making the revolution into a joyful, delicious and grounded one that appreciates our diversity, it’s going to work out. The noisy people will get someone’s attention and give them a sour face, but when they talk about it and someone at their office tells them about how they can approach the better life, it will be something that can be digested. 

The approach of slow foods is a wise one. Make it delicious. Buy from local farmers, it’s a revolutionary idea these days and one that makes a huge difference. But while savoring the delight of fresh herbs, a frugal foodist can give thanks for the attention that Fast Food Nation or other harsher activists have brought to the cause.

To be a frugal foodist I do the following

  1. Take advantage of the sales: Many grocery stores offer ham deals. They might offer a free ham when you buy £50 or more in groceries or £20 in free groceries if you buy £100 in gift cards at the store. Either one of these deals can save you £15 to £20, especially if you were already planning on buying groceries for the week or you were buying the gift cards, perhaps for presents.
  2. Plan your meal around low cost foods: A 10 lb. bag of potatoes can be bought for anywhere from £2 to £10, depending on your location and the sales. A big bowl of mashed potatoes can help fill your guests as well as save you money. Sweet potatoes are also a low-cost option. Looking for a dessert? Why not try a favourite of the original tightwad, Amy Dacyczyn–apple crisp. Simply peel and dice apples, mix together equal parts of flour, butter, oatmeal, and brown sugar, and sprinkle over the diced apples in the pan. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes at 350 until the apples are soft and the topping is melted, and you have a delicious, seasonal, low cost dessert.
  3. Skip the premade food:As much as possible, skip the prepaid meals and desserts. You will pay 50 to 100% more than you would pay for the same food that you make yourself. If you don’t want to spend the entire morning of Christmas cooking, consider using your slow cooker for some of the side dishes. Another way to take a shortcut is to follow Rachael Ray’s Holiday Entertaining in 60 Minutes menu. You will still save over buying premade food and not have to spend the whole day in the kitchen.
  4. Consider having a potluck holiday dinner. Another alternative is to ask your guests to bring their favourite dish to pass. The guests are assured they will have a dish they like (which can be important for families with fussy young children), and you will have a few less dishes to prepare.

5. Don’t cook too much food. Every year we tease my mum that she cooks for an army. After the meal is over, there are at least as many leftovers as the amount of food we just ate. Sure, leftovers are nice the day or two after a holiday, but if you are looking at saving cost, don’t buy double the amount of food you need just to have leftovers (that despite best intentions often eventually get tossed out).

If you eat a lot of convenience foods, you can save time and money by doubling each recipe you cook and freezing half for those busy (or tired) nights. If you are attached to eating meat with every meal, focus on cutting your use of paper products or expensive side dishes. You can save a lot of money by making small changes. 

Also, see: How to get out of debt

Saving money needed be hard, I used to rely heavily on credit and loans – on a monthly basis. My spending habits were out of control. I ate out often and would lose track of my finances at the weekend. My cash-management spiralled to such an extent that I was regularly using payday loans simply to get me through the month.

The financial products I was using can be helpful to some but to my finances they were simply too much for me to handle.

That being said, after establishing my spending habits, sitting down with someone who was a lot smarter than me (thanks Dad) and understanding what needed to change – it was easy.

If you need to trim the fat, these are my favourite money-saving techniques I used to cut out the extra costs – I was leaking through the kitchen.

1. Make my own mixes 

If you regularly use Bisquick for biscuits and pancakes, consider making your own mixes. It only takes a few minutes to whip up a mix, and it’s a lot less expensive than buying the ready-made mix at the store. To get you started, here’s a recipe for all purpose biscuit mix:

homemade “Bisquick” for Biscuits and Pancakes

  • 8 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 c. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 8 tsp. sugar (optional)
  • 1 c. Crisco

Directions: Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal. Store sealed in pantry or refrigerator.
To use with:

  • BISCUITS – add 1/3 cup milk to cup of mix.
  • PANCAKES – 3/4 cup milk to a cup of mix, and I like to add an egg also but the original recipe didn’t do that.

I add a one quart envelope powdered milk, or 3/4 cup Carnation powdered milk to the whole batch as I make up the mix; and then I just add water when I use it.

Recipe from

2. Use less meat

By weight, meat of any kind is the most expensive part of your meal. You should try to use less of it. Notice I didn’t say cut out all meat. In fact, you don’t even need to make meatless meals. If a recipe calls for a pound of ground beef, try cutting back to 3/4 lb. or even 1/2 lb. I use between 1/2 and 3/4 lb. meat for every pound in the recipe for all of my casseroles. My family never notices.

3. Buy spices in bulk

Spices are incredibly expensive. I have a hard time paying £6 for a small bottle that I might use twice a month. Fortunately, I don’t have to. Some grocery and health food stores sell spices in the bulk bins, and they cost £1-£2 per POUND! Don’t waste your money on fancy little spice jars. Go for the bulk spices. Your bank account will thank you!

4. Skip the paper

Begin using cloth napkins and towels in place of their paper counterparts. You can find both inexpensively at yard sales. I bought 50 cloth napkins for less than £5 at a yard sale last summer. I’ve already paid for the investment by not having to pay £2 for paper napkins every month and the Earth is a better place for it. And cloth napkins are so small, they only add one load of laundry a week. And my kids are messy eaters!

Similarly, purchasing second hand goods like clothing instead of buying everything brand new can save a great deal! Put these strategies together with sensible long-term investing and you will be well on your way to retire early!

5. Eat leftovers

Much of the money that is wasted in the kitchen is from food that is tossed out. Jim even wrote a post about how his family uses a leftover calendar to ensure they don’t waste any food. Instead of thinking of that half-eaten casserole as trash, start thinking of it as money. How much did the ingredients cost? Even if it’s only £5, you’re throwing out £2.50 whenever you toss that casserole (and that’s not even taking into account the time it took to prepare).

Not convinced? Keep a tally for a month, you can’t escape numbers. How much money are you throwing into the trash? To combat food waste, make a plan for leftovers. Use them for lunch. Have a free for all night, where your family eats leftovers for dinner. Or don’t cook as much food. By using all your food, you waste less money.

Zaraki Kenpachi