Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Making due

With more and more companies downsizing and prices on the rise, it is becoming more important than ever to watch where and how we spend.

There are so many ways to save money every day that it is almost intimidating. Most of us settle for just not buying things, but that can make you feel deprived and depressed about the whole situation. What my family and I have done is a little bit different. We haven't completely stopped spending money, but we are a lot pickier about what we spend it on.

For instance, instead of buying some of our Christmas gifts this year, we made them. We spent less money than if we purchased them, and they are actually a little more heartfelt. We found out at the last minute (actually about 10 days before Christmas) that our nephew was giving us a gift after the family decided last year to not buy for each other any more. So I rapidly made him an afghan in his favorite team colors. I wasn't really paying attention to what I was doing when I made the original chain for the length, so it wound up being HUGE. Almost 8 feet long. Well, at least he and his wife will have plenty to keep warm at the football games. But he loved it. Probably better than if we had bought something random from the store.

Since I cook, that saves us a lot of money too. We haven't stopped eating out completely, but we have cut down a lot. And when we do stop for a burger, we generally eat off of the Dollar Menu. Last night, for instance, we had to go grocery shopping after my husband got off work. It was 7pm by the time we were finished and we were both very hungry so we decided to go to McDonalds and just grab a bunch of double cheese burgers and take them home. We got into the drive thru and saw the new dollar menu and were shocked. There were only 6 items on the dollar menu now and none of them were meat. Just ice cream, fries, pies, parfaits, small sodas, and I think cookies or something. We were amazed that McDonalds would kill their dollar menu like that. So we went thru a couple of more drive thrus looking for dollar items. Finally wound up at Wendys. Jr Double Cheeseburgers for $.99. Sold! We got 8 of them( 2 for each of us) and 4 plain baked potatoes for $14 and change. While it is still somewhat expensive, it is better than it could have been. Had I cooked them myself, it would have been about 1/3 of that after buying buns and meat, but at least we got to eat quicker and didn't have a mess to clean up.

Anyway, I generally cook our meals. I haven't really found anything that I can't cook at home that we would normally eat if we went to a sit down restaurant. And sometimes, I can do a better job than the restaurants, since I can tailor it to my family's liking. Granted, it does make us have to have a wider variety of ingredients on-hand, but if I shop smart, and use coupons, I can almost always make it cheaper than retail.

An example of this is flatbread. I got online and looked up pita bread recipes and found that you can use just about any bread dough to make pitas. So yesterday I was making bread and decided that instead of 2 loaves of slicing bread, I would make 1 loaf and some flat bread. Pinch off a ball about the size of a pingpong ball, roll it out really thin, like 1/4-1/8 of an inch, pre-heat a pizza stone in the oven to about 475 degrees, and bake them on the stone 2 or 3 at a time. When they puff, flip them. It takes about 5 minutes each. And they are wonderful. Since I was making bread anyway, it saved me the $3 or $4 dollars that a pack of flatbread would have cost me, and I know they are fresh.

Prices have gone up so much lately that it is almost cheaper now to make our bread instead of even going to the thrift store. And if I can ever get a batch of sourdough going without killing it, I won't even have to buy yeast. Flour is going up, but that will affect commerical bakers as well as home cooks.

So as long as prices keep going up, I will continue to find ways to either make it myself or make due without.

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