Saving money. Something we should all be doing, right? Putting money away for a rainy day, for those worst-case scenarios we hope never happen: I lose my job, I get injured and can’t work, a family member needs care. Or the simpler things: we need a new car, a new air conditioner, a new roof.
It feels good to have some money in the bank. It feels good to have a little cushion to ease the fear and stress that come with living from paycheck to paycheck. But it isn’t always easy to save. It takes discipline and diligence. It means skimping on some things to have the money to save in the first place. But every little bit, even if it’s only $5 here and $10 there, adds up.
When the new year began, I wanted to rethink my grocery shopping. I was frustrated with battling crowded stores and frustrated by my lack of planning. And I didn’t like how much money I was spending each week just to feed our household of two. I decided I would reduce our grocery bill by $20 a week.
I shifted my schedule around so that I could devote more time to menu planning. Now, each week I take a careful look at what we have in the fridge, pantry and freezer so I don’t buy anything we don’t need. Then I make a list of what we’ll have for dinner each night of the week — it’s not set in stone; I just want to be sure there is something available for every night. I also make a list of what is available for lunches and breakfasts.
I make my grocery list based on what I need to fill the gaps and pick out a few interesting things to make for the blog and for some variety. The next morning I head to the grocery store as early as I can to beat the crowd. As things go into the cart and get marked off the list, I use the calculator in my phone to keep track of my bill. If the total passes my limit, something’s got to go. Usually it’s some little luxury thing like a pricey cereal or cheese.
This week it was granola bars that got thrown back. We both have been particularly busy, so having granola bars to pack for snacks seemed important — but I couldn’t afford them. Since I’ve been careful about taking inventory and making my list, though, I knew I’d have enough ingredients at home to make something from scratch.
And so all week long, we’ve been enjoying Cranberry and Pistachio Quinoa Breakfast Cookies. They’re better than granola bars any day! I already had the ingredients at home, so this week, they cost me nothing to make. And the recipe yielded far more cookies than would ever be in a box of granola bars. Plus, they’re made with whole-wheat flour, quinoa and oats for a healthy punch. The recipe is from Bon Appétit. I used half whole-wheat flour and half all-purpose flour and pistachios instead of almonds.
Twenty dollars a week. It doesn’t sound like much. But it’s $1,040 a year, and that sounds like a good start on a rainy-day fund.