I have always been a frugal person, especially when it comes to food. In fact, when I was a single parent (it was just Josh and me at the time) I used to feed us both for about $50 a month. Keep in mind that was 10-12 years ago, but still pretty good. I did it out of necessity because that’s all that I could afford. When Mike and I got married I kept most of my frugal spending habits at first but one by one (when they weren’t a necessity anymore) they dropped off. For the first time in my life I was in a position where I could go grocery shopping without a calculator or without keeping a running total in my head. If I wanted something, I put it in the cart. It was awesome!
For a while we lived off of Mike’s income and all the money that I brought home was discretionary. When we planned child number two I dropped half my hours at work and my income became part of the household budget. By child #3 we decided that I would need to stay home altogether. We weren’t sure where we would make up the lost income from my job but we trusted that it was a worthy desire and that the Lord would provide for us. Which he did.
At one point, about 4 months after Mellissa (#3) was born, we were just scraping by. Our checking account was just about empty and we still had about $1000 to pay in bills for that month. I got on my knees and prayed about it and decided as a show of faith that I would triple our fast offerings for that month. Within two days of turning in that check, one of Mike’s friends called him to give him a side job that covered every penny of our expenses for that month. So tip number one : PAY AN HONEST TITHE AND A GENEROUS FAST OFFERING! From that point we maintained the higher fast offering and we were continually blessed with just enough to get by. The only problem was “just enough” didn’t cover unexpected expenses and Mike was working himself to death between his side business and his regular job. That’s when we finally took a closer look at our budget. We couldn’t keep living on faith alone. “Faith without works is dead” right? I realized that we were spending about $650 a month on groceries and there was a lot more work that I could do at home to help our situation.
Now by this point I had almost completely ditched all my frugal habits. I was buying pre-packaged, pre-made, pre-frozen, ready-to-cook meals and telling myself, “well, you can’t make it for that price anyway.” Also I still valued my time at about $22/hour which is what I made at work, so why not? By the time I added my time + the ingredients for a meal then $8 for a frozen meal was a steal. I had to really change my perspective.
We did a few things at this point to fix our budget and cut back spending. The thing that made the biggest difference, I think, was going to an all cash “envelope system.” I did some homework and figured the minimum amount that we could get by with for each category (household, grocery, auto, etc..) and that’s the amount that I set aside into our envelopes at the beginning of each month. Incidentally, the amount into our grocery envelope was almost half of what we had been spending.
Immediately we saw the difference. Mike’s side jobs were now an option instead of a necessity. Please allow me to brag a little bit because I’m really proud of our progress. Within four months we were out of debt (except our house), had more time together as a family, money in the bank, and each month we had about $700 that could go to whatever we chose. Which for us was savings; we wanted to have 6 months expenses saved up before we start spending again. Things may not go as quickly for everybody but remember, even when progress is slow, it’s still progress!
From that time forward, I have continually sought out and created new and creative ways to save money on groceries. It has become a passion. Which is fortunate considering we have since added child #4 to the family and subtracted (due to the economy) a good portion of our income. While I was always frugal when I was single and even a single mother, it's a LOT more challenging to be frugal when there is a larger family involved. Especially when that family includes my meat & potatoes, no rice & beans husband. And anybody who knows me would tell you that I DO love a challenge!