Friday, October 10, 2008

Saving Money The 21st Century Housewife's Way

Well, after yesterday’s excitement it has been hard to settle back down to domestic matters, but with a whole day blocked out of my diary to spend at home, I really have no excuse not to. It’s a rare day that finds me in the house for its entirety, and this makes it a situation I look forward to, particularly if it is on a Friday. It means I can potter round getting ready for the weekend, and if I’m really lucky, I may even fit in some time to bake.

Mind you today I kind of have to bake as I have a dozen eggs to use up in the next three days. This is not my fault, rather it is the fault of someone I am very cross with at Abel and Cole, who have today delivered to me eggs with only three days left to run before the Best Before. After all the recommendations I have given them (both verbally and on this website) this is really not on and I am very cross indeed. Who on earth can easily use up a dozen eggs in three days, particularly when there are only three of us in the family? Good grief! Not to mention that this means I will now need to go out and buy eggs for next week, when I thought I was going to have enough without doing that. It totally defeats the purpose of having things delivered when I have to go out and buy things I was expecting to receive. Hopefully Ocado, the grocery delivery people who are arriving later, will do better. The last few deliveries I have had from them have been absolutely excellent. It took them a while to get it right, with problems with packing and things being broken (although admittedly I still do not order eggs from them!), but I think they have just about got it totally sorted now.

It’s good having groceries delivered, although I must admit sometimes I do want to hand pick things for myself, but not only does delivery save the environment, I find it prevents me from buying a lot of things I do not need, and forgetting things that I do. This is particularly the case with Ocado, where I can go back and edit my order up to the day before if I find I have forgotten something. Shopping is such a challenge these days. I find it hard to believe but my grocery bill has doubled in this last year. And that calculation does not factor in paper goods (like paper towels, toilet roll etc) nor cleaning products as I buy those in bulk at a warehouse store, nor alcohol, which I usually buy there as well or in any case, separately from my groceries. I know the world economy is under terrible pressure but how is a housewife to save money without compromising on quality or style?

Here are some of my top ideas.

1. Consider using a grocery delivery service with on-line ordering. Sitting at your computer with a cup of coffee, it is a lot easier and less stressful to choose exactly what you need and not overbuy. The kitchen cupboards are not that far away, so you can always nip and check what you really do have in there. You can even plan your menus around what is on special offer. I tend to keep my recipe notebook beside me so that I can check what is on special offer and then find a recipe to build round it. Online shopping means that menu planning and shopping can become one exercise and that, in itself, cannot help but save both time and money.

2. Now is the time to clear your kitchen cupboards (throwing out that nutmeg from 1995) and see what is really in there. You can then build up a good supply of basics so that you can make things from scratch instead of using ready made products. For example you can make a delicious salad dressing from oil, vinegar, mustard and sugar that costs pennies, as opposed to buying a ready prepared dressing that costs pounds. For more ideas like this one, see my entry from last Friday, 3rd October – Great Taste on a Budget the 21st Century Housewife’s Way - on my other blog on Blogger.com, Recipes from the 21st Century Housewife.blogspot.com.

3. Eat meat free evening meals at least three or four times per week. The cost of meat has gone up so astronomically, now is a great time to explore vegetarian recipes like the pasta bakes and gratins that can be so comforting at this time of year. I’ll be including even more of these on the Recipe of the Week page on this site and also on my recipes blog (see link above) in the near future so do keep having a look. There are quite a few vegetarian options in both locations already. Eggs are a great source of protein as well (although admittedly this weekend I have a surfeit of them!) and can be the centre of many meals – not just breakfast or brunch.

4. Do not – repeat do not – go shopping when you are hungry or feeling low. You will attempt to feed both body and soul by filling your cart to the brim with things you do not need. Supermarkets, for all their protesting about trying to save us money in this tight economy, are in the business of making money and they know all too well the tricks to entice you into buying things you could probably do without.

5. Really check the savings before you pick up those “buy one get one free” offers – or my personal top hate – “buy two get one free” offers. Often the price has been hyper-inflated to cover the cost of the second (or third) item anyway, and you could probably find it cheaper elsewhere. With the buy two get one free offers you often end up something you won’t even be able to use up in time anyway. Who (except those with very large families) needs three loaves of bread or three bags of potatoes at one time?

6. Easy on the freezer – it can actually cost you money rather than saving it for you. When we moved I got rid of my big free standing freezer and now have a smaller –what I would describe as “half sized” – freezer which is literally half the size of my previous model. It has saved me so much money, not to mention angst at having to throw away the things that hide at the back of the freezer until they are so frost bitten you don’t want to eat them anyway. It also stops me buying massive quantities of Hagen Daz or Ben and Jerry’s ice creams when they are on buy two get one free! An idea that helps my pocket and my waistline – excellent!

7. If you can, and you have the storage space, consider joining a warehouse store for purchases of paper goods, cleaning products, wine, beer, pop etc. My membership at Costco costs under £40 per year and yet it saves me at least £200 in that same amount of time just on every day purchases. If storage space is short, consider taking a friend with you (most cards allow you to take a guest) and split your purchases so that you each get half the number of items (and half the expense!).

8. Try to bake some of your own cakes, cookies etc. Homemade versions almost always cost less than the pre-packaged ones and they definitely taste better. Plus you know exactly what is in them, and can even adjust the amount of sugar you use. I find a small reduction in the amount called for in most cakes and cookies really is not noticeable at all and makes for much healthier treats. Plus baking is fun, and a great way to involve your kids in the kitchen.

These are just a few ideas to help you tackle the rising costs of living in these alarming times. If you have any tips to share with other readers, please don’t hesitate to get in touch at the usual address – april@21stcenturyhousewife.com . These may be challenging times, but there is no need to compromise on taste, quality or style if you economise the 21st Century Housewife’s way.

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