10 Tips to Stay on Budget for Groceries

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I frequently get skeptical looks, the side eye, or people thinking I’m starving my kids when I tell them that our grocery budget is $80/week.

It takes a lot of work, but it is doable. I cook a lot from scratch- it’s healthy, cheap, and I can control what goes into each dish (hidden veggies, fruit, less sugar, etc.). I can make a cheese pizza at home for less than $4, and that is enough pizza for the kids for two meals!

Here are a few of our family tactics to stay on budget:

  1. CASH! Go to the bank/ATM and get your grocery money out of the bank every week. This is a great way to start. I get $80 out of the ATM each Saturday for the upcoming weeks’ groceries.
  2. Inventory your Fridge, Freezer, and Pantry. Bonus- You’ll also find stuff that needs to be thrown out or donated. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printables, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.
  3. Menu Plan. Start by using what you’ve got on-hand. Eat food that’s on sale or in season. We eat a lot of strawberries in the summer because they are cheap!
  4. Make a grocery list. Stick to the list Don’t be afraid to substitute brands, or make changes based on what is on sale, or any in-store markdowns you find.
  5. Don’t be afraid to go to more than one store. I’m not saying run all over town, but going to two stores is OK. In our area, there are a 99 Cents Only store and a Grocery Outlet in the same shopping Center. I hit up both each week. Then, on the way home, I stop at Food4Less and buy milk (cheapest in town!), eggs, and bread (if 99 Cents Only doesn’t have the high protein bread we like).
  6. Eat Less Meat. Not only does it save money, but it’s better for the environment.
  7. Take advantage of local resources. There are a few food co-ops in our area. Additionally, there are free produce distributions too. A couple of my friends and I split a co-op lot twice a month. It comes out to less than $20 per person, and we get all kinds of cool stuff. A quick google search can help you find both in your area.  In the summer, we take advantage of Kid’s free lunches too.
  8. Coupon and/or use money-saving apps.  My complete list of apps can be found here. Right now my favorite apps are Fetch Rewards and Ibotta.  I love that I can use Fetch at any store. It helps because I shop a lot of Grocery Outlet and 99 Cents Only.
  9. Speaking of which… Don’t forget to check out stores like 99 Cents Only. There are all kinds of great bargains. Here is my list of 10 Great Buys at 99 Cents Only!
  10. Be Flexible. Some weeks you will go over budget. It happens. Sometimes you need to stock up on staples, or your family wants to eat something that isn’t on sale. Sometimes you really want to order a pizza and wings. That’s OK! Frugality is a journey, it’s not a punishment or a life of austerity and suffering. You can still live a fun, full life while being frugal.

Talk Back: Share a few of your families tips for staying on budget?

OhmConnect: Earn $400 in Their New Summer Challenge

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I’ve been crowing about Ohm Connect for years, and if you live in So Cal and haven’t signed up yet, I’m not sure what you are waiting for!

OhmConnect is having an awesome Summer Challenge, where you can earn upwards of $400 for conserving energy.

 How does it work?

1. Set your goal by picking how often and how much energy you want to reduce this summer.
2. OhmConnect with show you how much you can earn if you hit your goal.
3. Once summer starts, they’ll tell you when it’s time to power down every few weeks.
4. Get paid in full if you hit your goal. Careful though: you won’t earn anything if you don’t!

 Summer Challenge Deets

  • The Summer Challenge runs from June through the end of September 2019.
  • Your summer potential payout is based on your home’s current energy use, how many events you select, and how much you choose to reduce on average.
  • Your success will be based on the average energy you reduce overall events.
  • Potential payouts may change, so lock in the best rates now!
  • Read more about the Summer Challenge here!

Screen Shot 2019-05-29 at 9.43.13 PM.pngI’ve already signed up, and I was pretty realistic. Since OhmConnect notifies you in advance, I can plan activities out of the house during times when we need to conserve energy.

California Climate Credit- Savings on Your April Utility Bill.

Screen Shot 2019-04-13 at 9.24.20 AM.pngImagine my joy when I opened my email this morning and I found out I have $44.85 SDG&E bill!

And if you have any of the following utilities: PG&E, SDG&E, SCE Pacific Power and Liberty Utilities, your April bill will have a credit.

The California Climate Credit. From the CPUC website:

“Twice a year, millions of California residents receive a credit on their utility bill identified as the “California Climate Credit.”  The California Climate Credit is part of California’s efforts to fight climate change.  This credit is from a state program that requires power plants, natural gas distributors and other large industries that emit greenhouse gases to buy carbon pollution permits.  The credit represents residential utility ratepayers’ share of the payments from the State’s program.  The credit program was created by the CPUC, which also oversees the program’s implementation.

Currently, all residential and eligible small business electricity customers of PG&E, SDG&E, SCE Pacific Power and Liberty Utilities receive the credit, as do all Community Choice Aggregator (CCA) customers.  In addition, natural gas residential customers of PG&E, SoCalGas, Southwest Gas, and SDG&E also receive the credit.  Customers don’t need to do anything to receive the credit – it is automatically applied to their bills.  The credit amounts vary among utilities, CCAs and from year to year.

If you’re not sure whether you’re receiving the Climate Credit, the first thing to do is contact your utility or CCA, the same as you would do with any billing questions.  That’s because although the CPUC oversees the credit and can help with any remaining questions you have, your utility or CCA is best positioned to access your individual records and answer questions about individual accounts.”

The 2nd credit will be on the October bill.

In addition to this credit, we also use the TIME OF USE billing to our advantage. Here is an article I wrote about last summer with some tips about how to save on your utility bill. Time of Use billing isn’t for everyone, but we use it as I am able to do the bulk of our energy using chores during off-peak hours, such as dishes and laundry.

And one thing that I find super helpful- We signed up for Ohm Connect a few years ago and it texts and/or emails you when you should conserve more power due to the demand on the power grid. It’s a win-win situation: You save money on your power bill, and you earn points from Ohm Connect that you can cash out for Paypal, Amazon or Target Gift Cards, OhmConnect store credit (to buy energy efficient thermostats, smart plugs, etc.) You can learn more about OhmConnect here.

Thinking about Cutting the Cord?

file1201268366483With the price of cable going up, and dish offerings that can be sort of… meh depending on where you live, cutting the cord may be right for you. If you are one of those people that has to watch “their shows” as soon as they are available, or you need a specific kinds of sports ball, this may not be for you. In that case, try shopping for a better deal with your cable provider or check out a dish provider.

We’ve been without cable for about 15 years, and Mr. Husband has been without cable for almost 20 years! My kids have never had cable. They don’t miss out, we’ve got an Apple TV, so they can still watch PBS Kids, and we’ve got Hulu too (which I love because it’s $5.99/month for limited commercials).

With Apple TV, we can watch YouTube (Once the big kid learned about Rube Goldberg machines, it’s all we watched on TV for a week), Hulu, Netflix (we also have a streaming only subscription). We also have an antenna (like this one), so we can watch local over the air TV.

Depending on how strong the signals in your area are, you should be able to receive:

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • NBC
  • CW
  • Fox
  • PBS (We get three PBS channels)

There are additional networks that are available in various areas of the county.  Here in So Cal, we also get:

Plus we get a few more Spanish language channels, and one Korean language channel.

The thing I like about not having cable is that the kids are not bombarded with commercials for toys, junk food, basic consumer shit that a lot of us were exposed to as kids on TV.  I like that the commercials on Hulu are 30 seconds or less and it’s usually only 1 or 2 per break.

And we spend time doing other stuff. Crafts, science, playing with toys, etc. Yesterday we played stuffed animal clinic and built a Lego zoo.

Money Saving Tips for Going Back to College!

collegeSo after a few year s(cough cough), I’ve gone back to college to finish up my AA and get ready to transfer to a CA State University.

Like any endeavor in my life, I’m trying to do the college experience on the cheap. Here are a few ways you can save money while going to school:

Start out by completing a FAFSA. That’s a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Regardless of your family income or situation, you should fill it out. You never know what kind of loans, fee waivers, or grants you may be eligible for. I was able to get a Governor’s Board Fee Waiver, which paid for my classes. All I had to pay was the Health Fee (which is $20).

amazonprimeAmazon Prime has a discounted program for students. The first 6 months are free (Courtesy of Sprint, and just $6.49/month after that. That’s 50% off the regular price.

You can rent your textbooks online, Amazon rents textbooks. Your local school library may also have short term checkout of some textbooks. You may have to ask the librarian for more information.

If you need a new computer, Apple offers a discount through Unidays. I’m still in the middle of setting my account up, but it looks like Unidays partners with hundreds of retail partners.

School supplies are always cheaper if you buy them off campus. I like to shop for school supplies at Dollar Tree, they have lots of great stuff all year long.

A list on online retailers offering discounts can be seen here, courtesy of Dealhack.

Once school starts, get a Student ID card.

Beyond saving money at on tuition, books, and supplies, your student ID may give you discounts out in the world! College students who meet some criteria may also receive a discount on your automobile insurance, cell phone bill, even fee free banking products.

Movie theatres, museums, local attractions, and restaurants sometimes give students discounts, make sure to check before you go.

Talk Back: What’s your favorite Student Discount?

 

OhmConnect: Get a free Nest thermostat after rebates!

This is a great deal for those of us with SDG&E as our utility provider. If you use OhmConnect, but you are not and SDG&E customer, check with your utility to see if this offer exists.

Check out this sweet deal:
SDG&E’s Energy Efficiency Rebate: Get $75 off instantly when you purchase an eligible energy-efficient thermostat.

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SDG&E’s Automated Demand Response Rebate: Get another $50 via a rebate after installing your new thermostat and connecting it to a program like OhmConnect. Click here for instructions.

OhmConnect Connection Incentive: Buy a Nest device from the our store, connect it to your account, and receive an additional $45. There is no application, just connect your device!

That’s $170 in rebates- SCORE. In addition to getting these sweet rebates, you’ll also be saving money on your utility bills.

 

If you are new to OhmConnect, you can learn more about OhmConnect here, and sign up here.

Save $30 on Ergo Baby with Pampers!

ErgoThankfully our diaper days are almost behind us, but if you have a little one or are expecting, this is a great deal for you!

Right now, when you sign up for the Pampers Rewards Program, you can score $30 off ErgoBaby. I love Ergo- they have great baby carriers, and they also make a super cute carrier for kids to wear their dollies.

Pampers Club is a great way to earn rewards for buying diapers and wipes. You’ll also receive money saving coupons for future purchases.

  1. Join now
  2. Find codes on your Pampers products
  3. Submit codes and start turning diapers into rewards today!