Frugality returns

Sticker shock at the grocery store reflects the 9.9 percent increase in food costs in 2022 and the 2 percent increase in 2023. Feeling the financial pinch, families have begun reconsidering their shopping strategies with discussions from places such as the Facebook page “Budgeting, Saving, Frugal Ways, Grocery Hauls, and Homemaking.” That popped up on my Facebook last week. One sentence caught my attention, “With the price of food skyrocketing these past couple of years, it is time to go back to the basics of how to stretch that food dollar.”

Go back to the basics? I scanned the page. I saw nothing new to me. However, I do recall a conversation with an older woman. I mentioned cruising the grocery produce aisles looking for markdowns on prepared salads with the freshness date still days in the future. She had never considered doing that. So realizing she may not be unique, I mention the following.

Cut back on eating out. For years our finances meant we only went out to eat on our anniversary. Not even fast food restaurants got our cash. I knew how to make hamburgers with a skillet and shakes with the blender. Years later, when smoothies arrived, I read the instructions and dismissed them as “just another name for our family shakes.” 

If a food item you use goes on sale, buy ahead. Years ago a friend’s husband set a stringent budget for groceries. She did not consider going outside those limits to buy a super low priced item. “But it will save you money in the long run. You buy more this week when it’s on sale and you will eat for less the next time you fix that meal,” I said.  

Grow your own vegetables. Been there, done that. I don’t anymore. Instead I look for the seasonal bargains in produce. When I find my favorite apples or strawberries at a super low price, I buy a lot and put them in the refrigerator or freezer.

Don’t have leftovers, have planned overs as my mother-in-love called them. Today’s chicken is tomorrow’s chicken salad, sandwiches or casserole. When the Thanksgiving turkeys go on sale, I buy a few to prepare through the year, then freeze the leftovers to eat later.

Take your lunch to work. Years ago a coworker realized that he could make a car payment for the amount of money he spent every day going to the drive-through. He began carrying lunch and driving a shiny new truck. 

            Don’t take the husband or kids grocery shopping.  “It reduced my weekly bill in half,” one poster said. The same thing happens with grandchildren.

For one month (or some set period of time) Buy Nothing. Instead use or eat what you already have. Do not go to the stores. Vow for that period to not buy new clothes, furniture, household goods or hobbies. Restrict yourself to items you must have such as perishables, milk or eggs. One couple did it for two months and paid off their credit cards.

Go back to the basics of the past: My sister-in-law rolled her eyes when the next generation asked for help buying disposable diapers. “Try cloth diapers. You can wash them out by hand and hang them to dry. People did this for thousands of years and saved money and the environment.” She said this before the expensive, fussy, modern cloth diapers. 

Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do or do without. That old adage may seem trite but plenty of families on the Frugal Living Facebook page use that advice to their financial benefit. 

Just ideas folks. Frugality begins with a mindset of saying “no” to little things until enough funds accumulate for a big item that right now seems like an impossibility.