Mr. Fix-It

Part of the homesteading lifestyle, is the desire to do things ourselves.

Instead of buying all our food at the grocery store, we want to grow our own produce, raise our own meat, and provide ourselves with dairy products.

Instead of heating our home with gas or electric, we want to use wood that comes from our own property.

Instead of going out and replacing something that breaks, we should try to first fix it ourselves.

The list goes on, but the outcome is the same. We gain a higher level of self-sufficiency, we save money, we learn lessons and we have a level of satisfaction that we can’t get from outside resources.

Historically, when something breaks in our house we either call the repairman or we replace it.  So when the washing machine broke last week and flooded the house – you can read about it here – both hubby and I began shopping for a new washer.  Of course if I’m going to purchase a washer, then I should purchase the matching dryer.  After all, this set is somewhere between 12-15 years old, the dryer is bound to give up in the not too distant future and has served its purpose.  It doesn’t matter that the dryer still works, we can sell the set on Craigslist and put that money toward the new set.  Someone else will buy it, fix the washer and all will be good.

Then it happened.  Sticker shock!!!!!  Seriously people, why do washers and dryers cost so much money?  I’m quite sure they have doubled in price since I purchased my set and how many loads of laundry could I do at the Laundromat before I would have paid for a new set?  I began doing the math and it wasn’t pretty.

In the meantime, hubby switched his focus from shopping for a new washer and dryer to figuring out what the problem was with our washer, narrowed it down to the most likely problem and ordered the part.  Yesterday the part arrived and when he got home from work he rolled up his sleeves and went to work.  Within about 20 minutes everything was done and we tested it out.  No leaking.  I did a load of laundry.  No flood, not even a tiny leak.  It was the first time he has done any washing machine repair and my Mr. Fix-It man did a great job!!

By simply changing our mindset, we saved around $200 in repair costs and saved around $1500 by not running out to purchase new appliances.  Not only did we save a lot of money, but this experience has taught us a valuable lesson.  It has given us more confidence in our abilities or in this case, hubby’s abilities 🙂

” There Is A Lesson In Almost Everything That You Do, And Getting The Lesson Is How You Move Forward. It Is How Much You Enrich Your Spirt ” Oprah  ~ Mistake Quote



January Monthly Challenge

In an effort to eat healthier and save money, hubby and I are challenging ourselves to a month of soups and stews in January.

Breakfast will consist of something other than soup or stew and hubby wants me to throw in some variety at dinner once or twice a week, but our lunches and the majority of our dinners will consist of soup or stew, with sides of veggies when needed.

Granted, some soups and stews aren’t necessarily healthy, but I’m focusing on those with meats, dried beans and/or veggies and avoiding ones with pasta and a heavy cream base. Healthy, warm, satisfying meals perfect for cold winter days and nights here in Central IL.

Meals of soups and stews should also save us money. I have some meat and veggies in the freezer, veggies from our garden in the freezer as well as our garden tomatoes canned and ready for use. The addition of a few more meats, veggies and dried beans from the grocery store during the month won’t cost a lot and we’ll have many good meals on the table. Hubby is also committed to taking soup/stew to work for lunch each day. No going to lunch with co-workers or grabbing take-out somewhere for the entire month. That alone will save us a tremendous amount of money for the month.

Another benefit is trying out some new recipes and becoming more disciplined about preparing and eating more meals at home.

Our goal is to have more money in our bank account and lower numbers on the scale at the end of January.

Less dependency and more self-sufficiency.

I’ll report back on January 31st to let you know how we did.

The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man’s foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher. ~Thomas Henry Huxley


The Lessons I’m Learning

I went on my first once-a-month shopping excursion last week and already I’m learning some valuable lessons.

Lesson I

It’s better to go shopping alone. For a couple different reasons, this is a struggle for me. I am a stay-a-home mom and part of my responsibilities in our home is to take care of the grocery shopping. This typically includes taking at least one child with me, but when I’m shopping for the entire month, I need to put all my focus into my shopping so I don’t do something like “forget 3 or 4 items on my shopping list. Yes, that is exactly what happened. Fortunately, my shopping included stops at 2 different grocery stores so I picked up the forgotten items on the next stop. Problem is, the next stop tends to have higher prices so I spent more on those items than I would have spent otherwise. Lesson learned!  However, the other reason I struggle with not taking the girls shopping is the opportunity for them to learn.  By going with me they learn how to shop, can work on their math skills, reading skills, etc.  Fortunately, there are other ways for them to learn many of these skills, so for now I think I’ll try to do my once-a-month shopping alone.

Lesson II

When shopping, you’ll need 2 grocery carts, not 1. After all, I did have to purchase bulky items like toilet paper and paper towel, which leads me to Lesson III.

Lesson III

To save money and to eliminate the need for two grocery carts, I need to invest in less paper products. Our family isn’t willing to completely remove paper products from our lives, but there is some definite benefit to investing in things such as cloth napkins to eliminate the need for napkins and using old towels as rags instead of paper towel to clean up spills and messes. We’ve just made it easier to grab a handful of paper towel instead of making it easier to grab a few rags to clean up messes and I need to change that. By making some space for rags in different areas around the house, I could save our family a considerable amount of money.  Guess I need to start cutting up some of those towels that are about ready for the trash can.

Lesson IV

Be prepared to make little changes along the way. When preparing the menu for the month, I had completely forgotten that we were going to be gone the first weekend of the month. My menu had included meals throughout the weekend. My grocery list had included items for those meals. Yet, we weren’t home to prepare or eat those meals.  This means I’ve already purchased some foods for next month.

Lesson V

Expect to order more seeds for the garden as the month goes on.  I prepared a pasta dish with spinach and artichokes for dinner last night. It was yummy!!!! The recipe will be a post for another time, but as I was preparing dinner I discovered that we had not purchased any spinach seeds for the garden. Considering how easy it is to grow and freeze spinach, it seems pretty silly to not grow a decent crop of spinach. After all, it cost me more to purchase spinach at the grocery store than it costs for a packet of seeds that will grow an ample supply of spinach for future spinach and artichoke pasta dishes 🙂 and provides us yet another savings over the year.

I have no doubt that there will be more lessons learned as the month goes on and since knowledge is power, I expect to be armed with quite a bit of power by the end of the month.

Saving Time, Money and Energy

In March of 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor estimated that a family of four spent an average of $8,513 per year on food, or $709 per month. It is also estimated that there is a 4% increase in food cost each year.  If that estimate is correct, a family of four now spends about $9875 per year on food or about $823 per month on average. Breaking that down even further, that’s about $206 per week.

Sadly, I would have to say that our family pretty much fits the averages and that needs to change.  We’ve made some changes over the last couple of months, but we need to get out of our comfort zone and take bigger steps in reducing the amount of money we spend on food.

One way we plan to save money on food costs is by re-establishing our garden. Seeds have been ordered and as soon as they arrive we’ll be planting indoors to get our seedlings started for the garden. But until our garden begins producing, I’ll still be making regular trips to the grocery store and that is where the changes begin.

Regular trips to the grocery store means once a week. The more often I visit the store, the more money I spend. Yes, I take a list with me on every visit, but too often additional items end up in the cart and those additions add up over time. So to help save me time, money and energy, I’m going to quit buying my groceries a week at a time. Instead, I’m challenging myself to only shop once per month.

Living in a small town means that a major shopping trip for me requires a minimum 20 mile drive one-way. Shopping once a month should save me between 2 1/2 – 3 hours in travel per month. If I’m driving less per month it’s saving us money in gas.

This is going to take a level of planning I’ve not tackled before. Planning a weekly menu is a bit different than planning a monthly menu. I need to make sure that I have a complete menu and list of items that I need for each meal. This means shopping my fridge, freezer and cupboards first then completing my grocery list. I can’t save money if I’m not using up what I currently have on hand.

This year has become the year of self-imposed challenges and I have to say that I pretty excited about this challenge and the possibilities.  My challenge will begin March 1st and I’ll be sharing along the way so check back to see how it’s going.

Has your family made changes to help save money on your grocery bill? If so, what changes have you made and how is it working out for you?