Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pinching Pennies

A large part of being a stay home mom (for us, anyway) is learning to save money in as many ways as possible. One of the biggest ways we've done that since having Oliver is rarely going out to eat. We went out to eat last weekend as a treat from Colleen; it was a thank you to Andrew for assembling her toilet (she just redid her bathroom). Before that, I seriously can't remember the last time we went out to eat. Wait, yes I can. It was for 5280, when we met up with friends and spent way too much money (but had a great time) at an Italian restaurant downtown.

At home, cooking, I've been learning to save money, too. Whenever there's a big sale item, I stock up on a lot of it. Last week, for example, there was a big sale on cheese at Safeway (and not because it was going to expire, either). Bags of cheese are normally about $3.50 a pop. They had bags of cheese for $1.49 if you bought at least four. So I did. Whenever there are frozen lunch meals on sale, I buy a bunch of those. That way, even if we're in a hurry in the morning, Andrew has a lunch to take with him to work.

Before, when we had a little extra money, I'd follow recipes exactly, even if that meant going to the store to buy a few extra ingredients. Now, I play with recipes. I use dried herbs instead of fresh. I'll chop the tomatoes I have in the fridge instead of buying a new can (even though canned tomatoes aren't that expensive, it still saves to not go out and buy more!). If I have regular onion in the fridge, I'll use that instead of green (or vise versa). It doesn't matter what kind of cheese a recipe calls for; I use what I have.

I've also been working very hard at not wasting food. Before, I might have half of an avocado left from a recipe. It'd sit in the fridge, unused, until it went bad. Now, I search for recipes by ingredients online. Last night, for example, I made soup because I had an extra bunch of kale in the fridge. The soup recipe I found called for tomatoes and onions and kale, which I had in the fridge. Also, it was mostly water based. To use the kale, I just had to go to the store and buy a can of beans and some vegetable boullion. The soup was good for dinner last night, lunch today, and lunch tomorrow. Each time I do this, I probably save about a dollar or so by not throwing out an item. It adds up, and I feel much better about not throwing out any food, too.

Last week, Andrew and I had date night at home. I spent a little extra and bought stuff to make a nice torte for dessert. Today, I'm meeting up with a friend for tea. I decided to bake a treat here to bring with me rather than spending a couple dollars on a single cookie (Yes, I'll be spending a couople of dollars on tea, which you can easily argue is expensive. However, I say spending $2 on an evening out with a friend is relatively cheap). A quick survey of my pantry showed me that I had flour, sugar and cocoa. I also decided to use up the extra semi-sweet baking chocolate I'd purchased for the torte. I found a recipe for brownies at allrecipes.com, and I halved it because I only had two eggs instead of four. It's OK if it doesn't turn out perfect. I chopped the semi-sweet chocolate and used that instead of chocolate chips. And, you know what? It smells wonderful. Once they're cool, I'll cut them and package them for lunch treats, and I'll take one with me tonight to enjoy with my tea.

I'll be sure to update my blog on occassion to include the various ways we work to save our money. I might not be able to stay home with Oliver forever, but the more I penny pinch, the longer I can be here with the little man. Besides, I've come to enjoy penny pinching. I see it as a challenge.

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