A day in the life of frugal (part 1): food

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AJ & KJ: A day in the life of frugal is the start of a four part series that we will be posting throughout the month. For some people, being frugal has negative connotations, while for others it is both a challenge and a rewarding lifestyle. The reality is, we’re frugal in certain areas of our lives, so we can be spendthrifts in others. We don’t take frugality to the next level just for the sake of being frugal, but it is a frame of mind we have in making purchase decisions. We don’t unplug all of the appliances when we’re not using them, we don’t wash out plastic Ziploc bags, and we don’t take ketchup packets from fast food chains (well, if you exclude Whataburger from that statement…). Okay, so maybe not the BEST examples of how we aren’t exactly frugal, but we think you get the point. For this first post, we’re starting with our favorite topic: food!

If you missed our other posts, then head on over to: Part Two: Home Goods & Tasks, Part Three: Shopping, and Part Four: Travel

Reuse coffee
KJ: I have mentioned this to a few people, and most people think I’m crazy, but hey, it works for us. Dad, that quirky habit of yours rubbed off on me. When we make coffee, we typically just use the prior day’s coffee grounds and add a little bit of extra grounds, so we keep the prior grounds for a few days. This helps us stretch the value of our premium coffee (when it’s bought on sale), plus it otherwise just seems wasteful to throw it out every time.
AJ: I didn’t even know it was weird that we did this until Kirby wrote this. Is this really that weird!?

Shop clearance food
KJ: When planning a menu for the week, Angela knows exactly what we need for the next week for food. As such, shopping the clearance food section at grocery stores can save some mula, so long as you use the food in the next couple days.
AJ: This is another area where I’m not extreme. I don’t buy discounted dairy, I don’t buy discolored meat, I don’t buy soggy produce. HOWEVER, when Tom Thumb puts paper towels and tampons on sale because a certain brand has new packaging, I grab it up. That’s just smart, that’s not extreme! Another trick I’ve learned is that if my store is out of the produce I’m looking for or the only options left are looking a little sad, I ask them to discount it. Broccoli often looks tired, but a half hour soak in an ice bath perks them back up, so I don’t mind buying it when it’s a little less perky.

Eat soups for lunch
KJ: Soup is one of the cheapest meals you can have. I often take a soup and a snack to work for lunch. All I have to do is throw it in the microwave and voila. Cheap AND easy. Progresso does a great job with their soups, and they have some great Weight Watchers approved meals too particularly if you’re extra concerned about watching what you eat.

Eat leftovers
KJ: If my parents were reading this, they would think this statement was patently absurd. When I was a child, I wouldn’t touch leftovers with a ten foot pole regardless of what it was (even pizza!). Today, I eat every sign of leftovers I can get my hands on. How fascinating it is that tastes change so much over time. I’m not even sure that it is so much about being practical than it is about eating good food. The flavors of the pizza, soup, casserole, chicken piccata, or whatever was on the menu from the week just have a way of marinating so nicely when they have an extra day to absorb those rich flavors by the time lunch rolls around. Not only do we save lots of money each week eating leftovers (it’s hard to cook just for two without having a lot of leftovers – not that I do the cooking), but we get to enjoy the same great meals multiple times!
AJ: This one makes me happy. I too used to hate leftovers until I was responsible for cooking meals. How did my mom ever find the time to make lunches and dinner!? She must have been like freaking Super Woman! Kirby and I both have a hard time taking a lunch at all, so packing leftovers ensures that we at least have an option when given a breathing moment in our day.

Grate that cheese
KJ: If grating cheese were an olympic sport, then I would probably finish first. I can grate a cup of cheese at the speed of light, and if you do a price comparison of block cheese versus the grated counterparts, you will find you can save a bit of money on cheese (I once read that if you analyzed the time it took to grate cheese versus the price difference, you’re paying close to $160 per hour of labor!). Things to consider though are ease of grating (even with how fast I can grate cheese, it’s sometimes one extra step after a busy day of work), freshness (grated cheese often lasts quite a bit longer), and type of cheese. Try your luck at grating mozzarella and you’ll be sorely disappointed with how challenging it can be.
AJ: He doesn’t lie. I’ve never seen someone grate cheese faster. It is cheaper to buy blocks of cheese which means you can typically get a higher quality cheese if you grate it yourself. And we eat a lot of cheese, so that’s a big deal 🙂

Freeze food
KJ: Tortillas, bread, leftovers, soups, candy, you name it. You can save lots of money by freezing foods and reconstituting them later, so you don’t have waste.
AJ: I recently heard that you can freeze berries if you space them out individually. I don’t freeze nearly as much as I should. Herbs in ice cube trays, chicken/vegetable stock, and sauces, all come back to life brilliantly and are worth the extra few minutes of packaging them properly for freezing.

Check out our other installments of “A Day In the Life of Frugal” at: Part Two: Home Goods & Tasks, Part Three: Shopping, and Part Four: Travel

    What methods do you use to pinch pennies on food?
    Do any of these seem absurd to you?
    Do you have anything unique of your own to add?

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5 thoughts on “A day in the life of frugal (part 1): food

  1. Great post above and some great ideas! One of the areas where my wife and I are in great need of adjustment is our food. I liked your idea regarding reusing coffee. Never thought of that before, so may have to give that a try. We have had great success lately with freezing food as well as eating leftovers. Like KJ, I would never eat leftovers as a kid or ever when I first got married. But, that change has had many benefits, especially to our budget.

    Thanks again for the great tips and post! Also, love the color change (easier on the eyes to read!)

    • Glad you like the new format! Yeah, I used to think the coffee thing was ridiculous, so it’s interesting how we find ourselves taking on some of those habits we saw when we were younger (coffee reusing, leftovers, etc.).

  2. I am a foodie. I love food, especially leftovers. While my coworkers nuke a frozen dinner or reheat a can of overly salty can of soup, I will enjoy steak, ribs, or even a casserole that I made two nights before. By rotating lunches, I am not having the same thing twice in a row.

    I watch cooking shows Saturday mornings to learn to make something new each week. This not only provides variety, it becomes a challenge like the show “Chopped” on the food network. I will shop my fridge and the managers daily specials to come up with a creative meal that avoids waste and high price of premium cuts of meats.

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