Saturday, December 20, 2008

Changes in Perspective

Just when was it Christmas tradition to sit by the fire and tell ghost stories? I never remember doing that.

I'm amazed at how perspectives can change. Not that long ago we were Double Income, No Kids (DINKS). We weren't rich but that was nothing we couldn't do. We had a house. I drove my beat up, rusted out pickup truck. But if we wanted to go on vacation, we went. I wanted to eat steak, I ate steak. We wanted to eat out, we did, and often. We had no monetary worries, no wants and bills were paid.

Then we were Double Income, One Kid (DIOK?) Pretty much the same. We went on vacations. We did what we wanted. Enough people gave us baby shower gifts that we had little need to buy that kind of stuff. And add to that overindulgent grandparents, we had no monetary worries, no wants and bills were paid.

Then I stopped working. OUCH! Sure we are both loving the extra time I have with Rose and my wife is now spoiled that I am home to take up the slack. But now we are literally living hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck. We can't eat out. No vacations in sight. And I can't say that every bill gets paid. I've learned that the size of the paycheck doesn't matter. People I know who are making $25,000/year are in the same boat as people I know making $150,000/year. The debt/income ratio is the same so the issues are the same.

A week ago we were at a skate party for a friend's seven year birthday party. At the end of the party they started throwing out the leftover food. Two years ago I wouldn't have thought anything of it. Now I'm horrified. I was able to step in and save the cold cuts, cheese, carrots and grapes. That was my lunch for a week.

I saw a thing on the news about the Grocery Game. Needing to find new places to cut costs, I checked into this. In college I was Coupon King and later in the early days of my first marriage. I stopped though because I found I was buying things that I just didn't need but bought anyway just because I had a coupon. I've noticed that most coupons are for unhealthy processed foods. I just didn't need to save 30 cents on three bags of Doritos. I didn't need the Doritos to start with. Or any host of frozen foods like pizza rolls.

But I decided to try this Grocery Game anyway. I'm looking for an edge. I paid a dollar for a four week trial and then the cost is $10/8 weeks/store. We only have one grocery that I am willing to shop at so the per store cost is not an issue for me. The the trick is to 1) buy things to build your own person stock. 2) Combine the coupon savings with instore sales and the store frequent shopper card. 3) Shop every week for just the things on the list. I'm still having a hard time getting my wife to remember those details at times, "well I don't need that right now," that's NOT how it works! We're buying for later. I like the concept so far and I hope that I am actually saving money.

The first week was a waste since I had no coupons. The second week was a little better since I had a piddly few coupons. The third week we didn't go because we had no money. Last night was the fourth week. Because I get a list of the best deals I can go through it and only pick the items that I KNOW we use. I think this helps me with out of control spending. Last night our total instore+coupon savings = $70. We had a full cart of groceries. It cost $150. The previous month we spent $250 on a full cart of groceries. Three months ago I spent $350 on a full cart. So I think we are moving in the right direction. My month is up but I am going to renew for at least another eight weeks. They tell you it takes twelve weeks to realize the full potential. We'll see.

I have a freezer stuffed full of frozen meat that I bought 30%-50% off. We froze three loaves of bread. So I'm feeling good about success. Funny how I've changed. I saved the turkey carcass to make stock. I'm making my own lard. I'm not throwing out the bacon grease. I'm not throwing out bread but finding ways to use it. I'm baking my own bread. It's like I've gone back in time. I wonder if my great-grandparents would be proud?


Brook said...

I am right there with you. Not acoupon clipper because there are usually no coupons for fresh fruit, veggies, eggs or meat which seem to be most of my bill. Don't get me wrong-I get mostly frozen veggies and stuff, and I saved (read beans and rice a lot of nights)for 6 months to buy a freezer so that we could start stocking up on clearance meat which I have no problem buying and like you I throw nothing away-nothing. Ok, somethings but really we just can't afford the wastefulness we thoughtlessly practiced 2-3 years ago. I have no problem getting boxes or taking home other peoples leftovers. Heck if we have food left onm our plates at the end of a meal we don't toss it. I save it for my own lunch and give the rest of the fam the "good" leftovers. I read recently that between the the farm to the consumer something like 30+% of edible food is wasted and then when we get it home easily another 10-15% is wasted. It is shocking to me. Anyway, congratulations! Now I want you to be like the woman in front of me at the grocery awhile back who had a cart full of food-even fresh veggies, fruit, meat and milk and bread who, when her coupons were all scanned laid out a whopping $5. I shit you not, about $150 in groceries and she paid $5. You can do it and maybe I should try it too.

Huff Daddy said...

Have you heard of CSAs? Community Supported Agriculture. I read about them in USAToday about 6 months ago. As I understand it, you buy shares into a farm and in exchange get something like a box of food per week during harvest. Since the farm is local, the food is fresh and often organic. That's my involvement goal for spring. I have to verify that the one near my house really exists,

Huff Daddy said...

Damn, bad link.

Brook said...

As a matter of fact I have and have investigated it in my area. I haven't been able to sign up with one(they want $3-400 at planting and I rarely have that lying around) and a couple of others that do a pay as you go had all the customers they could support at the time. I will start earlier this coming year but honestly have a hard time shelling out the money up front for the other ya know? I do try to shop at local farmers/tailgate markets of which there are many in this area. Asheville is very hippie which is good for this sort of thing. A local college even raises grass fed beef and sells it for like $4 or $5 a lb. Caveat you have to buy at least 1/4 of the cow at a time. Another reason I had for saving for the freezer since buying some cow is my next savings goal!

Huff Daddy said...

It's the hippie aspect of Asheville that I love. The Bele Chere festival used to be an annual event for me. My wife's bosses moved here from Asheville and didn't like it, but then they are quite Republican. We are two hours west of you BTW. I used to drive through once a month for work.

I have my eye on a chest freezer for sure. Sometime next year.

I'd really like to do the side of beef also. My parents used to do that. There is a farm locally that has organic beef. Works out to $1.99/pound but like you said, 1/2 cow minimum. The way to go is to go in with others.

I didn't know the CSAs were that expensive!!! I'm still going to look into it though.