How I've Saved Money

I wanted to write up a post, mainly for myself but for others as well, on how I've saved money throughout this year and a half of transition and my future plans as well.

In the beginning it seemed so expensive buying organic products.  However, now I've learned its cheaper to make most of it myself.  Here is what I've cut out of my budget and made homemade that has saved me loads:

  • Bread - there is nothing like fresh homemade bread!  There are no preservatives, no HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) or chemicals in our bread.  It is more satisfying than store-bought bread and we get fuller on one sandwich than we ever did with store-bought.
  • Tortillas - wheat and corn; If you haven't had a homemade corn tortilla then you are missing out!  Just masa flour and water and the taste is unbelievable and they go like crazy around here.  Look at the costs of organic wheat/flour or corn tortillas - talk about ridiculous!
  • Pancakes - organic, whole wheat pancakes that taste good and are cheap is what makes making homemade worthwhile.  You can easily make a month's worth and freeze them in baggies of 2 for a quick breakfast or snack.
  • Oatmeal - how hard is it really to put 1/2 cup oats, 1c water with a sprinkle of salt and cinnamon in a bowl and heat?  Very easy breakfast and cheap!  I've found if I put a whole banana in my daughter's oatmeal, she doesn't even need sugar.  Add applesauce to it for a cinnamon/apple oatmeal and on and on....
  • Pizza - we normally just do cheese pizzas and are satisfied with that but every now and then I may throw in some toppings but we love it plain too.  Each slice of my homemade pizza has about 5-6g of fiber and you just can't get that with most frozen or pizza shop pizzas!  It fills you up on just a slice or two so one pizza feeds my family of 3 with leftovers!   I also only need 1/4 of a 2 pound slab of mozzarella cheese to cover the pizza - so one block makes a month of pizza!
  • Snacks - everything from cookies, muffins, scones, bagels, granola bars to all kinds of goodies are much cheaper to make homemade than buying the organic varieties!  
  • Sauces - making homemade organic spaghetti and pizza sauces is much cheaper, not to mention it tastes better too.  Making it only 4 times a year (every 3 months) and freezing them is a time-saver too.  
  • Condensed Soups - I hated recipes that called for those nasty cans of condensed soup, that is until I found out I could make my own! I know only make my own and its so much more delicious and healthier!
  • Ketchup & BBQ sauce - it is so cheap to make your own ketchup and BBQ sauce and it doesn't have HFCS when its homemade!  It also freezes well and you can make a huge batch twice a year.
  • Salsa - this has been my most recent addition and WOW is the taste better and the cost dramatically cheaper than organic store-bought salsa!  To think I could have been making it this whole time but glad that I found it freezes well, so now I can make it 4 times a year along with my sauces.
  • Jam - making your own organic strawberry jam for the freezer is a money-saver!  If you make it twice when strawberries are in season, you will have enough for a year but you can also make it from frozen strawberries.  
  • Hummus - we have enough beans and tahini to make hummus for a year or more!  Seeing how we were spending about $3-4 for a small tub and it wasn't even organic, we are going to save a lot of money making it homemade and its organic!

My garden was a trial-run this year but I'm settled on doing it now because not only how cheap it is to buy seeds/plants but also how good it tastes.  I only bought organic seeds and plants.

  • Carrots - this is our big savings!  We would buy 2 or 3 bags of carrots each month as we love carrots with hummus.  I would pay on sale about $1.50 per bag for organic but most of the time it wasn't on sale and I paid more than that. So for a month it was anywhere from $4.50-$7.00.  For just $1.99, I got a packet of organic carrot seeds (enough to last an entire season with more for next year).  2 plantings so far gives us 44 carrots and we have loads of seeds left that we are planting every 2 weeks until fall frost for a continuous supply of carrots!  I no longer have to pick up a bag of carrots on my shopping trip.  $2 for enough carrots to last us the whole spring/summer and some of fall for 2 years is just amazing!
  • Onions - I got 90 onions for around $3 I think it was in spring.  Since you can pick onions anytime throughout their 3-4 month growing period - I have a constant supply now.  If I need an onion, I go pick one and use it!  How amazing is that?
  • Sugar Snap Peas - have you ever bought these organic in the store?  For a small bag you pay about $3-4!  For $1.99 I got enough seeds to last me 3-4 years.  We planted 18 seeds in May and we are still eating them everyday!  We get a nice sized bowlful every week or a handful daily.  My daughter doesn't like the store-bought, but she has eaten loads of our home-grown ones! 
  • Broccoli - we already used up our spring harvest but will have more for fall.  For $1 a plant, we had 4 large heads with lots of side heads.
  • Spinach - another $1.99 packet that will last us 3-4 years!  We had a bowlful of spinach every week with just a few seeds!  This is another spring and fall crop, so we anxiously await planting the fall crop for more spinach.
  • Mustard Greens and Kale - for a huge head of either from one seed why would you buy it in the store?  Another $1.99 for a packet of seeds of each to last 3-4 years.  $2 for that many years of produce - is anyone following me here? LOL
  • Strawberries - for just $10 I bought 24 organic strawberry plants and watched them grow like crazy.  I now have a mini-strawberry patch with strawberries to eat weekly.  They will produce for 3 years!
  • Tomatoes and Peppers - I recently planted tomato and pepper plants and checked them today and I already have a new tomato!  I paid just $1 per plant that will yield me a continuous harvest through the end of summer.  We also have 2 peppers growing already as well.

Outside of food-related savings, I also save in other items for the home:

  • Laundry Detergent - I've been making my own laundry detergent since 2006, so for almost 6 years now! I only make it 4 times a year for just $10 a year!  I do however use a cheap detergent for my delicates but may try homemade delicate detergent that is made with Zote soap soon.
  • Liquid Hand Soap - For $1 I get enough soap for 3 months - that is just $4 a year for hand soap in our house!  I've been making my own liquid hand soap for 4 years now and still love it!
  • All-Purpose Cleaner - my all-purpose homemade cleaner is one of my best money-savers.  I remember those days years ago when I would buy all kinds of cleaners, but those days are gone!  I clean my bathrooms, kitchen, outdoor furniture and anything else that needs cleaning with this cleaner.
  • Torn-up t-shirts - instead of throwing away hubby's old t-shirts, I simply cut out the arms and throw those in the trash and use the rest for dusting rags!  
  • Plastic store bags - I save them and use them for our small trash cans throughout the house and change them weekly.
  • Paper store bags - one of the stores we shop monthly has these and we re-use them for many things: bringing in produce from the garden, crafts, cover for spray painting to protect yard or deck, etc.
  • Refilling Ink Cartridges - we save our empty printer cartridges and get them refilled twice a year.  This has saved us a lot of money as I print a lot for homeschool purposes.
  • Reusing Glass Jars, Cans & Containers - I have so many glass jars in use right now that were given to me or those I saved myself.  Everything from sugar for coffee to seasonings are stored in these.  I also save cans for crafts or pencil holders and other containers for my hand soap or other uses.  

Future plans on saving money:

  • Composting - this is something we want to start doing since we will need compost for our garden every spring.
  • Re-using Ziploc bags - I want to purchase the bag-dryer I've seen others use and start washing out my bags and letting them dry since I use SO many every freezer-cooking cycle!
  • More Gardening - next year I plan on being more organized with my garden and never having a square empty!  I plan on planting radishes, garlic, potatoes and more and having continous supplies of our most-used produce. 
  • Herb Garden - I went to purchase some herbs but couldn't find any organic, so I plan on making my own herb garden next spring from seed.  Then, I will be able to make up my own spice blends!
  • Sewing Clothes - by next year I plan on being able to make my daughter's clothing and then eventually some of mine!  I've been able to make her a skirt and curtains for my kitchen but come winter, I plan on getting back to it more intensely.

I feel like I'm forgetting some things, so I may update this post from time to time!