As many of you know we moved from Florida to Iowa last August. It was our giant leap of faith. My husband had been a teacher in the Florida public schools for 6 years with no raise and increasingly lousy health insurance. He loved the teachers he worked with – but hated his job. He was at a Title 1 school with an outrageous amount of politics and racism involved.
We struggled for 6 years to make ends meet and finally sat down and decided our family needed something different. So we packed up our kids and headed off to Iowa where my husband is now the principal at a very small country school in a farming community. Going from Disney World and warm weather to freezing winters and only cows and corn surrounding us – it’s been quite a change for us, especially the kids!
Although by odd circumstances we are actually making less than we did in Florida we are so much happier here – and that’s what matters. But we are still trying to find our “groove” as you can imagine! What our family did to save money in Florida is VERY different from how we are trying to save money here in Iowa. I find it really inspiring throughout the year to have a list put together of ways that our family wants to save money.
At the end of the year not only will you be able to look back and see what you’ve accomplished, but you’ll probably be able to add a lot of things to the list that you never thought of earlier in the year!
Living in a small town and having to go to the next town/county over to buy groceries has changed the way we shop – a LOT! We are still working on our “system” for grocery shopping but we not only shop in the next town over, we also shop in Des Moines (an hour away but we are there often) as well as in Chicago (5 hours away but visit family there often). Many of my goals revolve around food as that it our largest expense for the month. Although we are still figuring life & shopping out up here in Iowa here are my money saving goals for 2013.
- Make my Own Bread – We haven’t bought bread from the bakery or the grocery store in well over a month now. We purchase bread flour in bulk at Costco and use our bread machine. It literally takes about 3 minutes to get together my supplies in the morning and dump them in the bread maker.
When everyone comes home for the day we have hot fresh bread! I don’t have to knead the dough and let it sit/rise in the oven (although I wish I had time for that!), my bread maker does it all for me! Not only do we get less processed ingredients this way but I can make all sorts of bread – white, sunflower, wheat, oatmeal, potato, etc. I even dump some flaxseed powder in for extra protein!
- Grow a Vegetable Garden – Just this weekend I planted my seeds indoors and am waiting for the last frost so we can till a huge plot in the back and plant our seedlings. Our Veggie Garden will be about 30′ x 8′ which is a pretty huge starter garden but I am really excited about it! My goal is to heavily offset the cost of our fresh produce throughout the year just from our backyard.
We are planting corn, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, oregano, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, basil, spinach, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, beans, onions, and pumpkins. If you don’t have time to till your yard or don’t have room for a large garden consider planting in buckets, wood pallets, or create a raised bed and just add soil! Any scraps go to our piggie!
- Can my own Sauces – I am new to the world of canning but managed to can enough salsa to last us 6 months when we moved up here. My goal is to expand that this year! We personally don’t like anything in heavy preservatives or jams so I have been researching some new ideas for canning our fresh vegetables. I plan on making larges batches of salsa and spaghetti sauce to get us through the year.
- Pre-Freezing Dinners & Desserts – I have been working really hard on pre-freezing meals for our family. This has made a big difference in cutting back the amount of time we spend eating out! Not to mention that I can purchase in bulk more often which is usually cheaper. I am also hoping to make quite a few pumpkin pies once our pumpkins are ready to harvest so when we need to bring a dessert to get togethers I just have to grab it out of the freezer!
- Meats – Thanks to some amazing friends that we have made up here they have blessed us with pretty much a lifetime supply of venison. It has incredibly helped our grocery budget and in exchange I am hoping I can dole out some of my bread, veggies, and sauces to them in return! Bartering is an excellent way to save money!
- Re-look at our Investments – In the past 10 years it seems my husband & I have moved around quite a bit and it’s incredibly easy to ignore things like retirement monies, IRA’s, CD’s, etc. I know we need to combine some things & move it around – it’s a great thing to keep in check once a year!
- Build a Chicken Coop – We used to have almost 40 chickens (see them here!) and we LOVED every second of it. My HUGE goal this year is to save up and be able to build a chicken coop so that next year we can buy birds! Fresh eggs are a huge plus and we will have plenty to share with everyone around us. I’m amazed at how incredibly easy it is to have chickens – I think everyone should have them! 🙂
- Save up for our Vacations – We were specifically saving for a vacation to Oregon in 2014 and a trip to Disney in 2015. This is a continuing goal and we are hoping to have our trips completely covered before we plan them! Remember we are using our credit card rewards to also help offset the cost.
- Yard Sale Die-Hard Summer – I have always loved yard sales – but this summer I especially want to keep an eye out for things that will help offset our budget. Warmer clothes and heaters for the cold winters here, materials for our chicken coop, etc. I try to be very careful with expenses and buy before we need something. For example – I’d rather pay $3-5 at a yard sale or on clearance at the store for my son’s shoes than pay $15 last minute!
- Stay Healthy – You may laugh & say I have no choice but we are really trying to incorporate healthier foods as well as proper supplements into our entire family’s diet. We have owed thousands of dollars to hospitals for the past 5 years that I feel like we’ll be paying forever but we’re doing the best we can to prevent illnesses.
Phew! I’m sure I will add more to this list but as you can see I am REALLY focusing on groceries this year. Living here in Iowa has changed our grocery shopping and eating habits quite a bit because of availability and proximity to the stores so it is a pretty huge project for our family this year to work on!
What kinds of things are you trying to save money on this year?