Friday, February 12, 2010

Journey To Becoming A Frugal Mom

Recently I said that I would be writing a post about how I was able to spend so little ($240) at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago for the month for a family of 7.  Last week I did spend $80.  Each week I still buy fruit and milk.  Although, I had a few more things to buy last week.  That being said, it is still much better than our $800 a month that we used to spend.

My journey to becoming a frugal mom began when we got married back in 1996.  We wanted to both go to Bible college and graduate debt free.  Our goal was accomplished!  I can remember many days when we had very little to eat, but we never went with out.  Our needs were always met.  My husband and I both worked on campus.  After we graduated our first child was born and my husband wanted to go on to seminary.  We both worked hard for a year saving money for the move and for seminary.  While my husband was in seminary, I decided to quit my job and start a day care in our home.  Our pay was drastically cut and we were not able to stay afloat.  Unfortunately, we went into debt by $7000.  A series of events happened and we were very thankful to be able to get out of debt.  At that point we chose to not have any more credit cards and to just survive on what ever money came in, no matter what!  Having a day care in the home became too stressful and I decided to work for an agency as a nanny.  We were blessed to find a wonderful Christian couple who needed a nanny.  I took our son to work daily and watched their son in their home who was the same age.  This more than met our needs!  I even gave birth to our second child and was still able to continue to care for their son while taking both of our children.  By the time I gave birth to our 3rd child, my job had come to an end.  The work with the agency continued on a need by need basis.  I was then able to chose my jobs and my hours.  We were only making $19,000 a year and had  3 children.  We learned to only buy what was necessary and to pay cash for everything (including seminary).  This meant that if we did not have the money when it came time to enroll for the semester then we would sit out and wait till we did.  Thankfully, we never had to do this!  When it came to children and vehicles, we made due with our little compact geo prism!  In fact we never owned a mini-van until our 4th child was 3 months old.  We were able to graduate debt free!!!

Shop, Save, and Share
Shop Smart, Save More: Learn The Grocery Game and Save Hundreds of Dollars a MonthOur journey took us to New York for my husband to pastor a small church in a tiny tourist community.  At this point, I no longer had outside employment.  I was able to become a full-time homemaker.  I also gave birth to our 4th and 5th child.  Because it is a small church in a small town, my husband does not get paid much, but he is still a full time pastor.  With all this being said, I HAD to learn to be frugal or we would not have survived.  There were a few times that I thought that we would not survive, but God so graciously sent sickness into our home which brought people in the community into our home who saw our need and He provided through them.  After that, we decided that something had to be done.  I decided to read about how to be more frugal and to talk to other ladies in the church who used coupons.  I started out by reading, Shop, Save, and Share.  Then I checked out various blogs such as and also purchased Teri's book and learned how to stock pile and shop according to cycles at the rock bottom price.  After this, I found many other blogs such as and and shopped faithfully each week according to sales and coupons.  I was able to save much and stock pile greatly.  One of our church members had given us a chest freezer and I was able to fill it.  Many days when I shop, I will find mark downs or just good sales on meat and I will buy a lot (25-40 lbs).  The key to shopping this way is to know your prices (when it is a good buy or not) and to purchase a lot at one time.    A good inverstment at this point is a food saver for sealing your meat once you break it all down and repackage it.  I found it very helpful to keep my receipts and to keep a spiral bound notebook that became my price book.  In the beginning, it was very hard for me to just shop sales and use coupons only when it was rock bottom prices.  Sometimes, that meant I only purchased meat and 2 cases of olive oil.   In the beginning we did not have fancy menus.  After several weeks, I was thankful that I did this because I was then able to prepare more meals and have more food in my house then I ever did.  My menus could be as fancy as I wanted them and I could change my mind any time I wanted to change it.   The flexibility is amazing.  Now, if my husband lost his job tomorrow, we would be fine not grocery shopping for at least 3 months.

We would all sit down together and clip, file, and pull coupons.  I would then carefully review the ads and shop accordingly.  This was fine until the summer was over and I was back to teaching the kids school.  So, I took it down a notch and only clip the coupons that I need and try and not buy as much pre-packaged foods.  Suprisingly, I am able to save even more this way.  I shop at the high end stores (not Walmart) because they have better sales and I buy in large quantities.  Many times I find it cheaper to buy in smaller packages using a coupon.  I shop Price Chopper for the majority of our products, Aldi for our dairy products, and a food service warehouse for most of our bulk supplies used in baking.  Food service warehouses are a great place to get good prices on bulk supplies.  Just ask around and most of them will sell to the individual.  A couple of examples would be a 30 lb. box of cultivated IQF (individually quick frozen) blueberries for $29 or a 50 lb bag of steel-cut oats for $24.  Rite-Aid, CVS, and Walgreens are also great places to shop for paper supplies, baby care, and household cleaning supplies.  An example of a great buy recently was at Rite-Aid.  They have a promotion going on that ends tomorrow for P&G products that if you spend a certain up to $25 you get a pre-paid visa card for $15 or if you buy $100 worth of products in the promotion you get $35 in a pre-paid visa card.  So, I had my husband purchase 8 packages of pampers diapers for $8.99 a piece and I had 8 coupons for $2 off each package and 3 coupons for $5 off a $25 purchase from watching Rite-Aid videos
After I submit my SCR (single check refund) I will get $35 if I purchase $12 more dollars worth of products by tomorrow (which I intend to do online).  That is some pretty cheap diapers!!!

I have also learned to can when the fruit and vegetables are in season.  Also, making bread, hamburger buns, and rolls are quite easy and we enjoy it.  Plus, I have a friend that occassionally brings over free bread that was outdated from the bread truck.  We keep it in the freezer and pull it out when ready to use and it tastes wonderful.  This week, we were able to have grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch because of my friend's generosity.  To sum it all up, I have learned to think out side the box and be creative with what we have.

I would be more than happy to answer any questions if anyone has any.


Roan said...

Thank you so much for this overview. I am so happy with my early success, but I want to save even more! I saved $23 in coupons yesterday on my weekly Kroger trip. I have started going to Walgreens too.
How do you file your coupons?

Debbie said...

That is wonderful that you are able to save so much in coupons at Kroger and that you are shopping at Walgreens, too. I purchased a larg coupon file online from Smead that an expandable canceled check file with a-z lettering. I file according to category. I also use a small coupon billfold that I carry in my purse as I go shopping. I plan my coupons before I even leave the house. I will try and find the link for the coupon file that I bought and send it to you. Keep up the good work at all the savings. It is well worth it! If you have tips on savings, too, I would like to know. I am always learning. It is a process.

Anonymous said...

Great work, Debbie! A Proverbs 31 woman brings her food from afar, sometimes literally. Food is very expensive here on Long Island, so whenever I go upstate to visit family, I shop at Aldi's and other places and bring the food back with me. Saves us a lot! Every grocery store here also has a clearance shelf and certain times of day that meats are discounted, so I take advantage of those, too. Keep up the good work. Your husband's heart can "safely trust" in you and he will "have no need of spoil."