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  • Creative strategies for coping with rising costs – Part Three: Finding Time For Cost-Cutting Measures

    In this series, Creative Strategies for Coping with Rising Costs, I will discuss the ways I am saving money and cutting costs in order to maintain our lifestyle as prices increase. You can read Part One: Back to Basics here and Part Two: The Drugstore Game here.

    The first two part of this series discusses fairly time-consuming measures if you’ve never kept a price book or played The Drugstore Game. So in Part Three, I want to discuss ways to find the time to do these things. Unfortunately, there’s no totally painless way – if you weren’t doing these things already, you’ll have to make some changes. My goal in this article is to suggest the easiest ways to make time.

    Here are some ideas for finding blocks of time to implement your cost-cutting measures:

    • If you work, use your lunch hour. You can take the weekly circulars and cell-phone pictures you’ve collected and enter them into your price book to get started. Or, if there’s a drugstore nearby, you could head there at lunchtime. This is also a good time to plan a menu, if you are using meal-planning as a way to save money (bring the grocery store circulars to work so you can plan your menu around what’s on sale).
    • Trade baby-sitting time with a friend. You can watch her kids while she goes to the drugstore and vice versa.
    • Create your price book with a friend who lives in your area. You can divide responsibilities by store or by category. Better yet, do both – trade the raw figures that you’ve collected, fill out the price book page for the items assigned to you, and then make copies of the pages so that you each have a complete book. Your price book will be done in half the time (even less if you get more than one friend involved).
    • Go shopping after the kids are asleep. Personally, I hate shopping late at night, but I have friends who love it.
    • Get your spouse on board. My husband is very accommodating about stopping at a drugstore on the way somewhere. If we’re all together, I’ll just run in and grab the deal I need, but he will also go by himself if I am clear about what the deal is.

    These are the ideas I came up with. If you have suggestions to add, please leave a comment!

    And remember, once you’ve created your price book and played The Drugstore Game a few times, the time commitment is greatly reduced.

    Come back next Monday for the fourth part of the series on Unusual Ideas For Saving Money Without Reducing Your Standard Of Living. And don’t miss the update on the first two posts in this series.

    The Value of Your Time

    I’ve been extremely busy, but it really hasn’t been one major project, just everything combined. A big part of it is that I have chosen to do certain things myself rather than pay for them, most notably cook healthy meals and clean my house. It’s made me ponder the value of my time, particularly since I work full time.

    I’ve decided that at least for the moment, I am willing to spend the time cooking and cleaning for my family – we eat much healthier than we would if we paid for take-out, and our house is a lot cleaner now that I’m doing it myself instead of paying someone. However, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have Marc’s full support, understanding and encouragement. It helps tremendously to keep the marital peace when we agree on how to spend our money.

    For my part, I am working hard to streamline my tasks. I have become more diligent about my menu planning and am making more meals that can go into the freezer to free up time on weeknights. I have also learned to clean my house by breaking up jobs that I used to think needed to be done at once – for example, instead of vacuuming the whole house, I now vacuum only the top or bottom floor, and sometimes I only vaccum half of a level if I’m really pressed for time or just too tired. In a few months, I may decide these tasks are not worth my time after all. But for now, they are.

    Learning How To Cook (Efficiently) – Financial Tip of the Week (Nov. 3)

    This is the fifth and final installment in a series on saving money by cooking at home. Don’t forget to check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

    Cooking Skills
    It’s hard to cook without basic skills, and even experienced cooks continue to learn in the kitchen. For a few years now, I’ve been wanting to take a knife skills class at The New School of Cooking but haven’t managed to work it into my schedule. I’m sure other cooking schools throughout the country offer similar classes, not just on knife skills but on other basic techniques as well.

    However, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to learn how to use a knife, or even to cook. I think that one of the best ways to learn these days is to watch Food Network. Several of the chefs are particularly good at teaching – for beginners, I recommend the shows Sara’s Secrets, Food 911, How to Boil Water, Everyday Italian, and 30 Minute Meals. I think Semi-Homemade won’t really teach you skills, but will give you the confidence to try a few things because they’re so easy. Additionally, there are many websites with how-to videos and articles – take a look at Epicurious, Cooking Light, and Food Network (here and here; check out their list of safety tips, too).

    But the single best way to learn how to cook is to just do it. As I discussed in Part 1 of this series, experimentation – even if it results in a failure of a meal – is still a success, because it makes eating at home fun and exciting.

    The Efficient Kitchen
    It’s much easier to cook if your kitchen facilitates cooking rather than hinders it. When we moved into our house, the first thing I did was have additional countertops installed in what was supposed to be the breakfast nook. I couldn’t understand how anyone could cook in a kitchen that didn’t have any counter space!

    Counter space is important, because you need room to do your prep work, like chopping and measuring. Give yourself plenty of room, and don’t forget to put a plastic grocery bag on the counter to toss your garbage into. Keep the tools you regularly use within easy reach. And make sure there’s some clear space next to the stove to make stove top cooking easier.

    These tips from Cooking Light are intended to assist in designing a new or remodeled kitchen but some of them can be used to reorganize any kitchen. Find more tips here and here.

    I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on how to save money by cooking at home, and that you’ve been inspired to eat a few more meals at home. Don’t forget to invest the money that you’ve saved!