Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Frugal and Healthy = Weird?

I had an appointment today, and the topic of food came up as a necessary evil. Now, I never thought I was that weird or different. But apparently I am!

In the span of about 5 minutes, I discovered that I definately do a lot of things differently than many. Now, I get that not everyone makes their own yogurt or bread for that matter, but really, is it that weird to want the kids to have a healthy diet? I mean, I got looks for the fact that the kids will go through a bag of frozen veggies in one day, the pumpkin muffins I made here, the fact that I make macaroni and cheese from scratch, and that I make my own knockoff mixes.

So, this just propelled me to post more- to give a glimpse into what life is like as the Shopping Ninja- what I do, how long it takes me, and how easy it really is to fit into our lives. Here's some basic rules I live by:

1. "Fix it and Forget it" Blame the late night paid programming, but this is my motto for the most part. I don't do anything that requires more than 10 minutes of my undivided attention- or maybe it is that I can't with toddlers in the house.

2. "Go! Prices" For frequently bought items, I have what I call a "go!" price- the price at which I stock up. For example, when name brand jumbo packs of diapers are on sale for $8 or less and I have a coupon, I'll bite. But when the price drops to $5 or less when using a coupon, I'll buy all that I can. For the store brand diapers, which I don't like as much, I won't pay more than $4 per pack for them. Another example of this is laundry detergent. It is pretty much a given that laundry detergent will be on sale somewhere for around $3 for a 32 load container, so that price doesn't excite me. When I see it on sale for less than $2, I'll buy a couple. When that drops to $1, that's my Go! price and I'll stock up- but that only comes around once a year or so, so we're talking 20+ bottles of laundry detergent to last till the next sale.

3. Sales cycles- Know them! Ever notice that the same items are on sale all the time? Well, by knowing my "go" prices on stuff, and having an idea of how long until the next "go" price sale, I can get enough of any item to last us until we hit another sale. Take fruit snacks, for example. A box a week will generally last us, and an "ok" sale comes up every month, but a great "go" price sale is more like every couple of months. So I'll buy 8-10 boxes at a time when they're under a dollar, or until I run out of coupons if it's a price of 50¢ or less.

4. Don't spend money on stuff that you can do for yourself quickly and less expensively. This means onion soup mixes, creamed soups, coffee, iced teas, etc. I also rehydrate our beans instead of buying the cans- cuts the price in half, doubles the shelf life, and you control the salt.

5. Have quick meals and snacks on hand. I have an entire snack station set up. See a picture here In my freezer, I've got burritos, waffles, and pre-cooked chicken or beef that just needs to be heated through. Ask yourself honestly- can you REALLY get delivery or dinner in less time than it takes to make a quick meal? If you can, then you need a few go-to meals! Which brings me to my next point:

6. Go-to meals. For me, it is some form of chicken and vegetables with gravy- either topped with biscuits, pie crust, or stuffing, or served over noodle, rice, potatoes, etc. We also have spaghetti and meatballs (precooked meatballs), hot dogs and beans, and burritos in the freezer. All of these meals need less than 10 minutes hands-on prep, and all of them will be on the table before Domino's has time to get to your house.

7. Preprep ingredients, not meals. I don't have a lot of freezer space, so I need flexibility. So I freeze chili base, precooked beef, some chicken (both cooked and raw- not together though!), and frozen veggies. These can be turned into many meals, whereas a casserole has only one end-game to it.

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