Getting Off to a Rough Start

Just as I was creating this blog our world came tumbling down… we have lots of faith in God to get us through, but smart financial decisions will be necessity for a while. I started to learn about couponing and frugal ways of life out of want. I was led by a desire to provide the most I could for my family. We’re small but we have family spread out all over the country, we’d like a house one day, and while loads of money will never be what makes us rich, having a little extra in the bank gives us a definite feeling of financial security. However, we found out 3 or so weeks ago Chris will be losing his job with the Air Force which now makes frugality a necessity.

It’s a long story, one that I’m just not going to bother re-hashing, but the Air Force announced it would be cutting back 3,700 Airmen and Chris just happened to be standing in front of the firing- no pun intended. God blessed me with a sense of calm from the beginning and while we’ve had our moments of trying to control our life, we are constantly reminded that if we want to get through this unscathed we’ve got to put it in God’s hands. The job search began yesterday and we’re casually looking at rentals and for a second car.

I have to say, I’m delighted to be moving back to Boise. The move will bring some exceptional positives but among those that are relevant will be the ability to have more stores to shop from with greater savings. I’m also extremely looking forward to not living in a giant wind tunnel so that there is a real chance that I might be able to grow a garden next year. It will probably just be a container garden but this past summer was a complete failure. I’m not positive, yet, about whether or not I have a green thumb, but I am certain that my poor memory (you know, forgetting to water makes for a big problem) and lack of knowledge makes for difficult growing conditions. Idaho summers are often plagued by scorching summer and little, if any, rain fall. Not to mention that living in Mountain Home provides winds so powerful they produce ‘brown-outs’ and wind tunnels. To make matters worse, our current apartment faces directly west which provides direct (extreme) sunlight that makes our porch the perfect place for a solar oven but not delicate plants. I also tried to plant from seed- yeah, I won’t be so naive next summer. I think with more experience in terms of timing, types of plants, etc. that I’ll be able grow from seed one day- it’s certainly more cost efficient. However, for now, I need big boys and girls that can get off the ground running.

As for the stores, I’m definitely looking forward to having more choices than just Paul’s, Albertson’s, and Wal-Mart. I don’t care what the commercials say, the latter two only go so far in saving families money. And while I support Paul’s being a local shop… their prices are just ridiculous… I do have a bottom line to consider here. I first refused to shop at Wal-Mart when we first moved out here but goodwill and willpower only lasted for so long. However, I’ve been shopping at Albertson’s almost exclusively since I got back into couponing. I noticed several weeks ago that we don’t get double coupons in our weekly fliers but my mom and grandma do in their Sunday papers. They don’t shop much at Albertson’s and when they do they don’t use the coupons so they give me their double coupons from their fliers which our local Albertson’s accepts. (Confusing, I know. I don’t know why they accept them but don’t send them out, but they help me save so I’m not complaining- too much at least!) While I have been able to make some great deals between the doubles, store coupons, and manufacturer coupons, I know I could do better if I had more stores to choose from. While I’m not a huge fan of Winco’s produce, they often have excellent deals that you just can’t find elsewhere. I stop there to buy things on sale and in bulk as well as for meats (but not seafood.) While Winco does carry a private label, often the things they have on sale are brand-name so if you buy on sale with a coupon you can often get things for free or dirt cheap. Since I am there anyway, I always check the produce. There are some safe bets like garlic, potatoes, onions, and things that can last a while or can take a beating and be perfectly fine. If I need other things I can’t find there, in terms of produce, I’ll go to a local produce stand or the co-op, and hopefully I’ll be growing it myself for summer 2010. I prefer to support local sources and plan to do so in the future, but given our current financial situation it may be a while. However, if something is in season, I can often get it for the same price or better at a local stand.

Living in Boise will also provide us with a closer proximity to EVERYTHING! That means less gas and wear and tear on the car! It also means a tank of gas will get us up camping, back home, and then some next summer. One thing in terms of food that it will provide is my willingness to go directly to the source. I love the idea of shopping straight from a farm but we live Mountain Home and that adds on at least an extra 100 miles (round trip) to our food which doesn’t make it especially local. If you add in the cost of gas and the pollution it makes it’s hardly worth the trek. Wal-mart and Albertson’s tend to get several things like berries, cherries, corn, apples and a few others shipped in from those same ‘local’ sources anyway so overall it’s just better to buy them at home. However, I am looking forward to go pick-your-own this and that next summer since we’ll be in Boise by then. Chris has promised to take me apple picking next year and I can hardly wait!

Once we’re back to ‘normal,’ financially speaking- with steady jobs, our first saving endeavor will be to save for a second freezer. Living in rentals provides a smaller fridge/freezer as it is, but even with a full-sized fridge/freezer combo we will NEVER have enough room. There have been many times I have  had to pass up a good sale because we didn’t have room knowing full well we would put it to good use. The first thing we’ll put in the freezer will be a quarter of cow that we’ll buy directly from the rancher, have butchered locally, and will be grass-fed with no antibiotics, hormones, etc. I also plan to find a source similarly clean chicken, as well. It would be wonderful to think that as part of the Pacific Northwest I could find a natural and healthy source for our seafood, and while I’m not giving up hope, I’m not holding my breath just yet, either. Our freezer will also include frozen corn, freezer jam, and a few other tidbits.

A ‘frugal’ endeavor I embarked upon this year was learning how to can. It’s now December 30th, and I can happily say we’ve used about half of what we have canned so far and I miss canning like crazy! I know it’s hot, it takes a lot of time, it means shelling out money upfront, and it can get very messy and involved, but I love love LOVE IT! It’s therapeutic for me. Plus, it’s also reassuring knowing that I am creating food that will save my family money later. I know where that food source is coming from and while it’s still preserved and not fresh, it was fresh when I put it in the can and I chose food that didn’t have chemicals, pesticides, and who knows what else on and in it. So that’s definitely something I am looking forward to for next summer and fall. This year I only did blueberry jam (which was for someone else), strawberry jam, Bing and Rainier cherries in pineapple juice, lots of peaches, and spiced apple sauce. They are all ‘lite’ in sugar, too, which is another reason why I decided to give it a try. I want to control what’s in my food and that means WAY less sugar. The only exception was the spiced apple sauce. I sweetened it with natural, unprocessed honey but I still didn’t put a ton in. For the 2010 season I plan on doing TONS of peaches, cherry pie filling, several jams, salsa, marinara, several versions of tomatoes, apple sauce, pears, and if I decide I am brave enough and have the money to invest in a pressure canner, I’ll also do green beans and pumpkins.

That’s the good start to what we’re doing to save money and a good road map of where we’re going in terms of reaching financial security. I hope you enjoy growing and learning with me as I set out on a cheaper, simpler life by cutting costs but not corners.

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