Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ask Orthonomics:
Help Me Solve Reader Dilemmas

I am sorry some of the questions have been sitting in my inbox for so long. I apologize for having lack of blogging inspiration. Below are questions from readers. Add your comments please. I am thinking of this blog as a g'mach of sorts, where we exchange cost effective advice, instead of money or goods.

A reader writes:
In an effort to cut our grocery bill, I dutifully went out in November and got a freezer. Its a stand-up freezer (as opposed to a chest) and it isn't energy start, but I distinctly remember the energy sign saying that it cost about $60/year to run the freezer. They delivered it the first week of December and set it up in our (cold) basement. Its been running at a 4 setting- which is what is suggested. Its only about 1/4 full right now (I'm still trying to fill it up) and everything is frozen solid inside. I noticed that it runs a lot. We just got our December electricity bill and it jumped from $200 to $330. I know, I know, most people would wish for a $330 bill, but $200 is typically the high end for us. We budget about $190 a month, which evens out in the Spring and Fall. Anyway out kWh jumped from 528 to 815kWh, with an average daily use was 21.6 in November and 23.3 ion December (I honestly have no idea what this means, but it may be important). Anyway- could this freezer be increasing our bill that much? BTW- I've found some great sales and really have tried to be mindful to set aside money to be able to buy food when it comes on sale.

Sounds like you have an issue with a defective freezer. I only hear our energy star upright freezer running for a brief time after I close the door and from time to time it comes on. If you hear yours running all the time, it is possible that the freezer is faulty. I'd call the company and speak to them first. My reader Miriam points to this product, , where you can find out what energy culprits are in your home. Before I'd spend on another product, I'd speak with the company, stuff your regular freezer and unplug this freezer until the next utility bill. I'd also consider whether the culprit is from another source (fan on the heater, workman and their equipment, or perhaps a neighbor doing work and using your outside plug). And, please report back.

Another reader writes:

Here is a situationt that has come up in our family that you may want to write about in your blog.

My family has been fortunate to get a fair number of hand-me-downs, especially for our younger boys. I dislike shopping and try to save money, so the hand-me-downs have been very helpful. Some bags have a lot of clothes we want; others have just a few, and some have no clothes we want. I pass clothes we don't want to WIZO (like a g'mach).

My children understand that we look through these free clothes before filling in with new clothes. Sometimes they reject a shirt or pants that I think they should accept, but I am generally willing to respect their preferences. After all, they have to wear the clothes, not me. And I don't want my kids to develop negative associations with hand-me-downs, like "those yucky clothes Ima makes us take". This system works pretty well for us.

Except for coats for my 11yo. We get some nice coats as hand-me-downs. Sometimes they're even name-brand coats, like Lands' End. They are good, warm, well-made coats. There's nothing wrong with them. They're not girly or stained or nerdy, just a little plain. But my son doesn't like them and wants a new coat. But a new coat is expensive. It seems unreasonable for me to lay out money for a new coat just to give into his whim. OTOH, he will probably avoid wearing the free coat except if he is really freezing. I know this from experience, since this situation has come up with him before.

I explained the situation to him. I also asked him if having a coat he *likes* (as opposed to just a coat he doesn't particularly care for) is important enough to him to spend some of his own money on. Of course, I woudn't expect him to pay for all or even most of the cost himself. But I explained that if it was important enough to him to spend *some* of his own money on, then I would be more willing to spend my money on it too. He said it wasn't at that level of importance, but he is clearly still unhappy about the situation.

So, two questions: In this specific situation, am I doing the right thing? And in general, how do other people approach giving kids choices about which hand-me-downs to accept?

I'm more interested in how my readers will respond than what I have to say. I think it is important to respect kids preferences in dress (to an extent) and I think you are doing this. We basically employ the same method: take what you like and we will fill in around the edges as needed and within a budget. Some kids are pickier than others, and I have one of those kids, so I'm symathetic. I won't give into whims that are expensive and go against the values we are trying to inculcate (although I haven't been asked), but I'm happy to respect the preference that pants have pockets in the back and front, or whatever the flavor of the month is, at the time clothing is picked out.

If your son isn't willing to pitch in a few of his dollars for a jacket of his own, I'd probably let the situation go. If the motivation becomes stronger to have a certain jacket, I'd state the budget before heading out, and make sure it is understood that not every jacket in the mall is a valid choice. Unfortunately, the post-holiday season markdowns have not been particularly strong.

Readers, share your ideas.

Another reader writes:

As one of those people who can't seem to get my food budget down below $250/week for family of 5, I'd like to see some more details on how people do this.

Some questions are:
1) How do you get your kids to eat the food you make. I can't seem to make them eat meals other than the standard "kid" fare. Do you bribe? Force? Deprive them of after-school snacks until dinner is ready? (I am usually scrambling to make dinner when I get home in the afternoon). How much after-school snack do you give? It's hard to give them enough to make them not hungry and yet not kill their appetite to eat a dinner they don't love (eg pizza). I have a hard time forcing my kids to eat meals even I don't find appetizing -- usually the cheaper, pareve meals. Likewise leftovers. So much food gets thrown out even though I do plan many meals. Just because I plan it, doesn't mean they will like it. Anyhow -- I find my food spending goes up when I plan because I tend to plan large vegetarian meals and produce is expensive. In the trash it goes most of the time.

When I got married my husband was like your average kid. His diet probably resembled your kid's diets. I started by introducing a new dish, and alternating with meals he would recognize. Soon, he started really enjoying my meals and the chicken nuggets became something of the past. Fortunately, this happened before the first kid started eating, so I never had to wean a kid off of pizza, nuggets, or fish sticks. I tell my kids that if they don't like what I'm serving, that they can make themselves a bowl of cereal or a sandwitch. And, I try to put meals I know they like into the lineup, rather than pack each night with something experimental. This way everyone feels that their preference is being listened too, and we also get the variety of a good diet.

As for snacks, my own kids love bananas (didn't always), which are filling and not full of fat and sugar. Hard boiled eggs also work. Some parents let kids put snacks in a box at the beginning of the week and take as they like, but when you are out, you are out. I use this for yogurt because my kids could easily eat three at a time. They conserve a bit because they know what they see is what they get until the next sale comes along.

2) How do you keep track of what you spend at the supermarket while you are shopping? Walk around with a calculator? Someone told me recently she does exactly that -- she uses a calculator and buys her essentials first, extras next depending on how much money she has left. I'm planning to get a calculator soon and try it.

A calculator works. I keep a calculator hany while I shop, but tend to add (and subtract coupons) in my head as I go along. I think it is important to keep track because shopping registers do make mistakes. Today I realized that something went wrong because the bill was a lot higher than what I had in my head and it turned out my club card didn't register. Glad I caught that before having to stand in line at customer service.

3) I'd really like to see some weekly menus for those of you spending $100/week on food. Especially from those of you who work full-time and don't really have time to cook. What do you serve for breakfast? Kid lunches? And, of course, dinner. Someone posted in a comment once that they eat fish and meat during the week and yet spend $60-$75/week on food budget? I'd love to know how. I do have a pressure cooker.

I think a lot of our savings is in the shopping, rather than the meals. We use a lot of tomato products, e.g., and I will buy lots of cans when the 28 oz can is on sale for $1. For breakfast I serve whatever cereals I bought for a $1.25 or less a box. If we run out, my kids make oatmeal. Lunch varies, but probably includes some season fruit and a peanut butter sandwitch. We have a lot of dinner options. Sometimes I serve legume based soups such as Indian red lentil soups, vegetable and pasta soups such as ministrone, a veggie and cheese bake that uses mostly cottage cheese, homemade pizza with smaller sprinkling of cheeses, bean and rice burritos. My kids love pasta and I try to vary the sauces, sometimes by adding a can of tuna for each 28 oz can of tomato sauce (a receipe no one thought they would like, but that we all enjoy). I sometimes serve tuna patties with frozen brocolli.

4) If anyone wants to work with me :-) I'll send you a sample of my weekly menu as well as an overview of my supermarket tape -- I'd really love some feedback/training in this area. Actually, that wouldn't be a bad idea -- to write down what I buy, what I cook, and then what I throw out to see where all that money is going. I've never done that before. If I get around to it I'll let you know what I come up with.

Sounds like a great idea. Send it over.

5) I work practically full-time and do 99.9% of household chores. I get up at 5 am and go to bed at 11 or 12 almost every day. I justify eating meat several times/week because I have no time and no household help whatsoever and it's really easy to prepare. When I come home really stressed out and in what I call "nervous breakdown" territory -- rather than order pizza out, I'll roast a chicken and make rice. It's easy. It's satisfying. It's a heck of a lot cheaper than pizza. I really can't feel guilty about this because I work my tail off. How do other "newly frugal" or FFB (frugal from birth) people deal with this?

Sounds like you need a little help. I'd collapse on this schedule. I'd say that before tackling a new menu, you need to get everyone on board with a vision and some responsibilities because you shouldn't have to shoulder it all.

Hope that helps. I'm sure my readers will be even a greater help.


Anonymous said...

So many of these touch on my real life situations:

I am lucky that my kids love pasta and would eat it every night if I let them.

My daughter (11 yrs old) wanted Converse sneakers. I know she likes cool clothes. I bought them on sale and they were still expensive, so I asked her to chip in $7.00. At least they are sturdy and not total junk.

I also work, and planning meals really helps that last minute expensive dish. I have a system that people laugh at, but it works for me. I have a schedule:

Sunday - Shabbos leftovers
Monday - pasta
Tuesday - meat or chicken or fish, with rice or cornbread, OR homemade minestrone soup (made the night before)
Wednesday - homemade pizza (I make the dough the night before)
Thursday - more pasta

Of course, there are vegetables / salads / fruits to go along with these. But the point is I have the SAME schedule for every week, so I'm never at a loss for what to serve. Plus, my kids know what to expect, so there are fewer complaints. I have a kid who hates meat, so she makes herself a pizza bagel or something. There's always tuna fish.

Anonymous said...

A few caveats: my wife and I both work in demanding jobs, but don't have any kids yet. Most of the advice below is from my own childhood and what my parents did.

1) In terms of the freezer, assuming you haven't forgotten some other appliance or change you made, your new freezer is using a ton of energy (kWh is a unit of energy). You should be able to find out in the manual how many kWh the freezer should be using or just call the company.

2) For the gmach/coat issue, we also got a lot of hand-me-downs, but whenever we went shopping, we had a very strict budget. Shirts had to be less than $X, pants less than $Y. There were fights about the amounts and the typical "but all the cool shirts cost more" but when we shopped during sales and at the right stores there were a lot of choices and we understood the financial situation and didn't cause a stink. Once we were older and worked and had our own money we could supplement and buy what we liked. I don't see why this is a bad idea - you could also let your child do some chores. Each child finds different things important and there's nothing wrong with indulging that within certain guidelines.

3) $250 a week for food is crazy. The problem is that you're throwing out a huge portion of what you're buying and just wasting money. There are plenty of healthy ways to make food everyone will like and still be cheap. My family simply didn't have junk food in the house other than air-popped (and eventually healthy microwaved) popcorn and sometimes fruit rollups. We didn't have snacks after school. Lunch was usually PBJ or a bagel and cream cheese or tuna (school refrigerated lunches). My parents occassionally did the "pizza days" and such schools offer too. I always loved new foods, my brother and sister hated them and only liked kid fare. Now they both have "normal" adult appetites. My mom just made what the majority would eat and anyone else could fend for themselves with fishsticks or whatever. You should also involve your kids more in the menu maybe instead of just trying new stuff they're going to reject. A friend's mom would make a monthly menu with her kids.

4) Best way to save money is to have a list and stick to it. It's the impulse buys that kill you. I see a calculator just taking a ton of time for little gain. When you're home, you can better analyze what you bought and see if there's a cheaper way to do it.

5) Also, make more things that go longer. My favorite thing to make is a meat spaghetti sauce. I use about 1.5-2 pounds of ground beef and canned tomato sauce and veggies which makes enough sauce for about 5 meals (we freeze in individual containers). Ditto with split pea soup - I use flanken and get enough soup for around 6-8 meals. Total cost for sauce/soup is maybe $3 per meal. My mom makes chicken soup and then uses the soup chicken to make chicken pot pies. The key to saving money is having things go further. Also, to save time and money - use frozen veggies as much as possible, they're fresh, ready whenever you are, already cut up, and you can get them on sale very cheap. You can make a great stir fry with frozen veggies, a little bit of meat, and rice very cheaply. The key, I think, is not to cut out meat or chicken, but to use it more creatively.

6) My wife and I are concerned about also having the kind of schedule you describe, 5am to 11pm. I strongly suggest getting some household help. Also, see above, there are lots of meals you can make that you can freeze and then just reheat for an instant, home-cooked meal. Again, nothing wrong with chicken or meat if used correctly. Having just roasted chicken I think is a waste since there are so many ways to make the chicken go further such as using it in a stew, stir fry, etc.

Orthonomics said...

JS-Hired help I know is out of the question in this case. It will be important for anyone in a situation such as this one to get the husband and kids on board and pulling more weight.

Anonymous said...

I would add that my wife and I share the household duties - we couldn't manage any other way, I think one of us would go insane if it all fell that one person. We each have things we enjoy (or rather, don't mind, lol) and things we dislike. I don't mind vacuuming, but don't like dishes. My wife doesn't mind dishes. We split up other chores the same way. I think you also need to realize that if you're both really busy things aren't going to be perfect. You just need to accept that. Not sure how old your kids are, but they can help out also. As a kid me and my 2 siblings had weekly chores (also divided based on who preferred what). My sister set and cleared the shabbat table, I vacuumed (some things never change!), and my brother would walk the dog friday night (this was the night no one wanted to do it, we split walking the dog the other nights). Point is, everyone needs to pitch in. Also, not sure if it's an option, but maybe you can change your work hours - my parents would start work at around 6:30-7am so they could leave work early to get home and be with us and take care of household duties. It also let them go to sleep much earlier since their time was used more efficiently so they weren't so burnt out.

ProfK said...

Re the plain jacket that isn't liked there is one solution that won't cost an arm and a leg and may make your son happy. Does he like a particular sports or activity? There are decals available, some online and some in stores, which can be sewn onto clothing. I've seen some of these decorative decals in a sewing supply store and they started at about $1.50. Putting on the decal might make the coat seem more "his" than someone's pass me down.

Ezzie said...

What cereals are $1.25 or less a box!? That's amazing.

The best we can ever find here are things like Honey Bunches of Oats on sale at $2.49/box, and their boxes are somewhat smaller. (14oz? 17oz? Offhand can't recall.)

Commenter Abbi said...

On getting kids to eat new foods: With my picky one, it helps to serve the new food along side something she likes- usually pasta.

i also try to have the staples my kids like on hand: pasta, pittitm (israeli couscous that cooks up in 6 minutes), tuna, plain yogurt, string cheese). My kids also go gaga for frozen veggies- particularly corn, peas and string beans. A large bag lasts me about a month-six weeks and I never have to throw out rotten leftovers.They cook up in 3 minutes in the microwave. You can also make nice healthy shabbat side dishes with sauteed string beans with garlic and slices almonds, or string beans in garlic and canned tomatoes with a little sugar.

A standard kid meal in our house is pasta, peas and cottage cheese or tuna. Or pttitim, tuna and corn. Once a week is frozen pizza bites I usually get on sale and another day is turkey dogs i buy in large 2 pound bags. Every once in a while i make yogurt pancakes, that are a snap to whip up, but take time to fry. One daughter likes them but the other doesn't, so i try to avoid.

My kids don't eat a lot of Shabbat leftovers, but i manage to finish them throughout the week. My husband is rarely home for dinner during the week, but when he is i like to make something fresh. I usually get chicken breasts or turkey cutlets and make something with them.

I agree, cutting out food waste is the biggest money saver. If you family doesn't like what you cook but you do, try to freeze or try to make stuff they do.

Orthonomics said...

Ezzie-Time to get out of NY where you are stuck with local, overpriced stores, lol.

About 3 weeks ago Safeway had select Kellogg's cereals on sale for $1.49 if you bought 5. I bought and paired them with 5 $1 Kellogg's coupons (the store was willing to take any Kellogg's cereal coupon). Total bill: $2.49.

I do the same thing with GM cereals and Chex. Chex sometimes goes on sale for 2 for $5, but you get a voucher for other groceries if you buy $20 worth, so you end up getting the cereal for half, or $1.25 less any coupons. The key is to be prepared and find someplace to put the stuff (ahh, the joys of suburb living).

Anonymous said...

Another deal that grocery stores run is the "buy $x worth get back $y" promotion: buy $x amount worth of certain products and get back $y in register coupons good on your next purchase at the store. My grocery store just ran one of these deals, buy $30 worth and get back $15 in store coupons; the best part of the deal was that even though the products were on sale, the "buy $30" part of the deal was based on the regular shelf prices and not the sale prices. So if an item normally cost $6 but was on sale for $3, you could buy 5 of that item and get back the $15, essentially getting the items for free. Not all of the items were on sale for half price, but some were, and with coupons I ended up coming out ahead on most of my purchases. Many of the foods were kosher, including cereals; I also bought other items I needed, including diapers and wipes. I don't usually even pay $1.25 for a box of cereal (although I'll pay more than that for gluten-free cereal for my oldest).

Esther said...

I really relate to the gemach clothes question, since my kids primarily wear donated clothing. For my daughter, we have a friend who dresses her daughters with the same taste we have and keeps the clothes in excellent condition. But we don't have a specific family who gives hand-me-downs for my son, they are literally from the gemach so it's hit-and-miss. There have been a number of very nice shirts that I wanted my son to wear, but he doesn't like the style. I really wanted him to wear them but at this point he's old enough to be able to decide to some extent. (Doesn't mean he gets new clothes from the store though.)

I really hope the last contributor is able to get more rest and help. She sounds like a kind and intelligent person, so I am not judging her, but it does sound from the information provided that her kids have taken over the home. I can't imagine many reasons why they would not be required to contribute to the daily chores, and why they would be able to refuse to eat what is prepared but still get snacks. I think that might be an area for her to look into, in addition to the budgeting questions. (I will assume that there must be a reason why her husband isn't contributing to the chores, I'm guessing he works longer hours than she does.)

Anonymous said...

Anyway out kWh jumped from 528 to 815kWh, with an average daily use was 21.6 in November and 23.3 ion December

This makes no sense at all. If the average daily use went from 21.6 to 23.3kWh, then the total from November to December should have gone up by only 74.3kWh (including taking into account that there are 31 days in December). Are you sure that perhaps the December bill includes more days than 31? Maybe the November bill was for 25 days and the December bill was for 35 days?

Mark [the engineer]

Anonymous said...

One way to save money is to make sure that you aren't buying all of your products in the specialty kosher part of the supermarket, if it has one. So many of the 'regular' items have hechshers and are so much cheaper. For example Mama Mia pizza shells have khof-k, and are much less than the brand in the Kosher Experience by me. Making the pizza yourself with the shells and shredding the cheese (unless shredded is on sale) is much cheaper than buying pizza, especially if you want toppings.

Also, make sure to look into what items are cheaper in which stores. In Central and South Jersey there are many roadside produce stands where vegetables and fruit are often pretty cheap. Frozen vegetables are about 40% cheaper at Wegmans and BJ's than in Shoprite, and Shoprite Marinara sauce (o-u)is a LOT cheaper than the specialty kosher brands.

Anonymous said...

Getting kids, or adults,to accept hand me down clothing often depends on the presentation. Make sure the items are in good condition and freshly cleaned. Don't go through the bags in front of your kids. Just bring home the coat, or any other clothing item, and tell your children you got them a coat, shirt, suit etc. You don't have to tell them you didn't buy it.
My kids wear plenty of hand me downs as we have dozens of cousins. I do want them to feel like they are getting something of quality so that they will appreciate it and take good care of it, so I make sure that it is in good condition, clean and pressed if necessary.

I know this has been mentioned before but is worth repeating, a great way to cut down on your food expenses is not to try to please everyone at once. Many people are shopping for food with each indvidual family member in mind. I grew up with 2 food choices every day "eat or don't eat". I could always make myself a sandwhich or cereal if I was not happy with the available chocies and do the same with my kids. If they don't like the choice for meals they are welcome to supplement it with whatever we have available, sandwhich, frozen pizza bagels, cereal etc. Typically, when people overspend for families it is because they are trying to suit everyone's individual tastes.

As an aside, I have been recently testing some budget tracking software, if you're not into keeping all of your receipts and inputting them into Excel. is pretty good if you have patience early on to properly "teach" the system how to itemize your expenses. It works well for me because both my wife and I use debit cards as opposed to cash for purchases specifically for the benefit of being able to track our costs. It translates your purchases into categories (food, transportation, housing etc.) and aggregates the data. You can even set a budegt per category and get alerts when you hit your budget number.

Ruth said...

Amazing grocery budget busters: rice and beans/legumes.

A huge pot of rice and beans made the old fashioned way is time consuming but soooo inexpensive. Really, an onion, garlic, green peppers and some spices, plus a bag of dried beans and a bag of rice. $5-7 feeds a family a nutritious filling and tasty meal for 2-3 dinners.

A crockpot lentil or bean soup made with a 1/3 bag of barley, a bag of lentils or mixed beans, a can of chopped tomatoes, some chopped carrots, celery and onion and a few spices. Again $5-7 and you have the same thing.

Stay away from processed foods and the freezer aisle especially -- poor nutritional value, poor economic value. Yes, these bean and rice type things take longer, but they all are slow cooking -- all of the time commitment is in the prep time. Put them in a crockpot or a stockpot on a low flame for 8 hours, walk away and you're done. And the best part is, after eating these for a week, when you have chicken or beef for Shabbos, you realize how special Shabbos dinner really is.

Anonymous said...

We do something that most people I talk to consider "horrible" and "disgusting"; we eat leftover cholent during the week. I cook one chicke on friday night and have plenty of leftover (we are a small family) and my husband needs to take lunch everyday to work. Bewtween the shabbos night and lunch leftovers he has enough for 5 lunches. I'm not a big meat/chicken eater so I make simpler lunches for myself. Dinner is almost always very simple foods, parve most of the times.

miriamp said...

Why is that horrible and disgusting? Are you supposed to just waste the Shabbos leftovers? of course they become weekday lunches! (Well, for the grown-ups and at home kids, since the school kids aren't allowed to bring fleishigs to school.)

Anonymous said...

Freezer suggestions: Fill it to achieve energy efficiency. Fill it with bags or cans of water/ice.

Anonymous said...

miriamp: enough people have made faces when we told them about the cholent that we simply don't tell people anymore.
But again we've seen enough people throw away all the shabbos leftovers on motzei shabbos for similar reasons...

Ahavah said...

The best way to get control of your grocery budget is to know what things cost at the places where you normally shop. I do this with a spreadsheet, which I correct each week when I get new receipts. You then use the spreadsheet to work up a menu each week (or two weeks) that stays within your budget. Using coupons and sales in conjunction with your spreadsheet, it is pretty easy to keep costs under control.

Once you have your spreadsheet going, it only takes a few minutes to correct it and it only takes about 15 minutes or so to work up a menu each week. You know the recipes for the things you normally make, and if you're trying something new you have a book or printout, usually. When you get good at it, you will find ways to coordinate ingredients, so that nothing is wasted. Only buy what you need each week to begin with - later once you've got the hang of it stock up on items that you use a lot when they go on sale. You can allocate a few dollars in each week's grocery budget for stocking up.

Since I make a menu, obviously I make a shopping list to go with it. You should have everything on your menu, including snacks, on the grocery list - and stick to it. This also helps make sure kids are getting healthy snacks. You should take the menu with you along with the list, in case something you need is not available or the price is not good. That way you can adjust the menu on the spot - put back what you no longer need and get what you do need.

I usually write down the prices of everything on my list as I put it in the cart, and then add them up with a calculator when the list has been completed. If some things came in under budget, you can then decide what "extras" to add. If you came in over budget, you use the list to decide what to pare back on or exchange completely.

You can use either your list with the prices written on it, or if you're good at deciphering receipt language you can use the receipts each week to keep your spreadsheet reasonably up to date. Sometimes the prices of an item will jump unexpectedly - but usually you are pleasantly surprised to find more things on sale than were on the weekly flyer.

I can email anyone who likes a copy of my excel spreadsheet. I don't use much in the way of convenience foods, but all the basic meats, fruits, veggies, and staples are on there. You can then fluff out the list with the products you usually buy.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post! I love reading the mechanics of how people are saving money and negotiating the feelings and preferences of family members.

One thing I can say is not related to food. It is about clothes. Last year my 6 yo daughter shot up and grew out of the "little girls" section at most stores (including thrift). Apparently, no girls size 7 and up dress modestly in any way shape or form and there hasn't been a long skirt anywhere. (Except online or from Monsey for $40-$60 just for weekday style).

So I pulled out my sewing machine, bought the simplest tiered skirt pattern I could find and $5 worth of fabric on sale. The first skirt took me 5 hours and a lot of mistakes. It was unwearable. But the second skirt took 90 minutes and looks absolutely professional. We've gotten a lot of comments.

This isn't the answer across the board, but learning to do things for yourself can be both cheaper and personally satisfying at the same time.

ProfK said...

Heaven forbid in my house that there isn't enough leftover cholent for at least a few meals. I can't figure out why people throw out the leftovers. If they would have slow cooked a bean/barley stew on a Monday they would still be serving it on other nights, so why not the cholent?

Anonymous said...

In our house, almost nothing goes to waste. I love Shabbat leftovers - that's what I bring to the office for lunch every day during the week. Right at this very moment, there is a split pea soup in the crock pot that started cooking on Friday. It was part of dinner on erev Shabbat, some of us had some today, and sometime tomorrow it will probably be finished.

My wife has even frozen leftover chulent on occasion for later consumption. After all, what is chulent if not a stew of sorts?


Commenter Abbi said...

Rachel in Israel: I'm a secret leftover chulent addict as well.

I just add a bit of water and heat in the microwave. Yum! I made an awesome chulent yesterday and it was just me and my husband and the kids (kids still aren't eating it but they took a bite yesterday; it's a start). Why should i waste the leftovers? Think of it as cassoulet- no one would throw out gourmet French food.

My bubby used to freeze it in ice cube trays for portion control, since it was just her and my zayde. When she passed away, my zayde still had a few weeks of her chulent left to eat. :(

Shoshana- if you know anyone coming back from Israel, cheap, tzanua everyday tiered skirts for girls aren't hard to find here. They usually run about 30-40 shekel a skirt.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm alone here, but I'm a big fan of eBay for clothes -- for me and the kids. One thing I like is that the sellers usually give the measurements, so you can't be tricked by a skirt that looks long in the picture but is really mini. The prices are unreal. Sometimes the shipping looks high, but the item price might be $0.99 -- you have to add price plus shipping and look at that as the true price. Even with shipping, it's much cheaper than real stores.

Commenter Abbi said...

One thing I don't like about the shopping by menu idea is that I just don't cook that way. I like to have a stocked pantry and cook based on what vegetables I find that are nice, what poultry I'm in the mood for (and is on sale- the stores usually have rotating sales of chicken/turkey parts/ whole chickens). Also, my kids live on pasta, tuna and cottage cheese.

Now I'm out of tuna. I can't imagine buying just enough to get me through the week- maybe 3 cans.

I just like to have it and then stock up when I run out.

Anonymous said...

I don't have time to budget and save. I work full time and have a large family. I buy what is on sale and try to anticipate upcoming needs. I know I spend an extra $1000 per year on clothes for a family of 8 plus but my time is also valuable. We have meat on Shabbos only but we have chicken a couple of times a week as it is something that everyone loves. On a cold winter night chicken soup is a favorite dinner. Shoprite and Costco both have whole chickens for under $2 per pound.

I also need cleaning help as I don't see how I can work a full time job and spend evenings with my family and be up at six to spend time with my early risers.

Healthy food does cost more money than junk. Fruits and vegetables do cost more than cake, candy per calorie.
Company on Shabbos costs more money than not having company.
Cake and challah baking is a fun activity most weeks.
I do not buy any convenience or take-out food. No cold cuts from the froom stores. No kugel, no side dishes.
I serve over 235 meals per week. I can't get my costs down to under $500 if I serve fresh fruits and vegetables at every meal other than breakfast.

Ahavah said...

Anonymous 8:37

Saying you don't have time to budget and save is like saying you don't have time to clean the toilets - it causes way more trouble than it's worth. What I hear you saying is you'd rather serve your kids empty calories and convenience foods and/or waste money throwing away food every week because you don't want to take half an hour to work on a menu and grocery list. The time invested is well worth the effort. I have six at home and one away from home, so my budget is somewhat comparable to yours. It's a bit of hyperbole to say you make 235 meals a week. You make 21 meals and 7 snacks, and for casseroles and soups and cholent and such it is very little extra effort to make for a large family as it is to make for a medium size one. If you have been being a short-order chef to make everyone what they "Want" at every meal, then you have a bigger problem than your time and budget.

Now, as for help: Even, worst case scenario, your kids are all ages 1-8, every kid over 6 can help clean and help with food prep. My kids have had a chore chart starting with the basic set the table at age 4 and working up - we have a daily rotary now and the house runs smoothly.

Ditto for sous chef duty - a six year old can wash fruits and veggies, measure ingredients for you, and get ingredients and return them to the cabinet for you while you're cooking. Older kids can do basic chopping of lettuce and fruits and veggies, supervise the rice cooker and boiling potatoes, check to see if things in the over are "brown," and so on...up to my 12 year old who can nearly cook a real meal by himself now (with supervision from me, of course) and can and has cooked spaghetti with meat sauce and sauteed broccoli for himself and his brothers when our car broke down recently and left us waiting for a tow at dinnertime.

Kids are not stupid and if you are pleasant with them they enjoy helping. Explain to them that the budget is tight so there will be less convenience foods and more simple, homemade dishes, and that your time is tight and you need help with this and that in the house and in the kitchen. If you treat them as a contributing part of the family they will respond positively (unless they have been waited on hand and foot since birth, and then you will have some "retraining" to do, and it will be painful).

Commenter Abbi said...

You obviously didn't hear correctly. Anon specifically said: "I do not buy any convenience or take-out food. No cold cuts from the froom stores. No kugel, no side dishes. "

So how did you translate that to: "What I hear you saying is you'd rather serve your kids empty calories and convenience foods and/or waste money throwing away food every week because you don't want to take half an hour to work on a menu and grocery list."?

It sounds like she makes everything from scratch, but heavier on the chicken rather than the rice/beans.

Next time you want to give advice, try reading the comment first.

happyduck1979 said...


I think I am the poster who spent $65 a week ish on groceries including meat and shabbat foods. to be perfectly honest, we have moved to E'Y and the bills have gone up. we spent roughly $100 a week now I would guess... that includes everything though. Our meals have not changed much, just certain things are more expensive here.

My daughter gets lunch at school (750 nis for the year so roughly $200 for the whole years worth of hot lunches) and she takes a peanut butter sandwhich every day for aruchat esser.

Basically, I budget one chicken, one small package of ground beef, 2 cans of tuna and 3-5 pieces of fish per week. We also go through a fair bit of string cheese which is 12 shekel for 8 pieces, 1 log of gefilte fish, 1-2 packages of pasta, and 1 loaf of bread.

Days may vary, but the grocery list stays pretty much the same.

Breakfast most days is either cereal or yogurt (from a large container).

Lunch is leftovers from the night before (well, generally).

Chumous, tomato spread, cucumber salad, and purple cabbage (when I get around to making it) accompany most meals. They are make once, keep for around two weeks. we do not buy store bought salads other than choumous because of allergies. It cuts way down on costs.

Friday Soup (fresh vegies which are cheap here), gefilte fish (1 log does both meals. I defrost it, add stuff to it to make fish balls so it goes a long way) chicken of some sort (whole cut up) rice OR potatoes, some green vegie (generally green beans). Chumous (lasts all week, generally two weeks) and homemade tomato basil spread (make it once every two weeks or so. dessert (chocolate pie/fruit cake/cookies)

Shabbat- some sort of kugel, pitzitzim (my daughter loves them) and something in the crock pot (chullent/dafina/soup/pasta with meat sauce). Seudat shlishit chopped egg, cucumber salad (homemade) and leftovers. dessert (if iti s just us it will be leftovers fro mthe night before, if we have company I might make something new)

Sunday leftovers from shabbat

Monday tuna cassarole or tuna patties

Tuesday sheppards pie or sloppy joes

Wednesday either leftovers from earlier in the week or if we really have nothing left than I might do baked white fish.

Thursday pasta with homemade tomato sauce with either cheese or leftover ground beef if we did sloppy joes earlier in the week)

Snacks - wafers, sliced apples, raisins, tea biscuits with peanut butter

Anonymous said...

I am the poster who you assume serves convenience foods. I serve no traditional convenience foods as allergies run in the family. There is a cost to shopping. If I can spend an hour less and have more time to work I am saving money. Is buying challah for Shabbos a convenience? Is buying bread all week a convenience? Cheese? Fresh fruit? Green vegetables in the winter? I am an excellent cook and can make pancake mix from scratch; ditto chocolate pudding; ditto chocolate syrup; french fries.
Are frozen french fries considered a convenience food? Pizza bagels?

Get my idea. Convenience food in my house is purchased bread. I rarely buy cake or cookies, kugel or kishke--they contain bad fats unless they are homemade!

I grow my own produce but I have no time to can or freeze. Is purchased vegetables and fruit convenience food? It is perfectly legal to raise chickens in NY and most of us with a small yard can maintain a small flock of egg layers and later birds for shecting--not having your own flock is a convenience!

Sorry my rant went on but we eat fruit for breakfast usually grapefruit.
Apples or tangerines for lunch.
Seasonal fruit for dinner.
Tossed salad for dinner.
Sliced vegetables as a side.
Whole grain vs. whole wheat bread when possile.
My soups contain many vegetables and no soup mix enhancers--again trans or tropical fats.

Explain why this is wasteful!
Perhaps it is but isn't having a large family by definition wasteful--smaller families use less and take less money to run.

Ahavah said...

Commenter Abbi:

Perhaps I misunderstood, but it seemed to me she said she didn't have time to budget and plan a menu and that snack cakes or candy cost less than nutritious snacks. She said fruit costs too much. Those are common laments, to say the least - and the major reason why people's grocery budgets are out of control. And "convenience foods" don't only happen at dinnertime, you know.

At any rate, she said she couldn't get her food bill below $500, but didn't say how long that covered - but it sounds like she meant every week (with that 235 meals hyperbole, that's what it sounded like). If so, that's an outrageous amount of money for groceries, so I hope that's not what she meant - but my kids eat fresh fruits and fresh or frozen (not canned) veggies or salads every day and it doesn't cost nearly $500 a week - less than half that, even.

And we eat red meat 2-3x per week, and have wine and dessert and liquor with our coffee on shabbat and all yom tovim, as well as birthdays and such (but not on regular weekdays). I could get our grocery bill down to even less if I had to - and still feed 6 or 7 depending on who's home. And I cook everything from scratch, too - 3 meals a day.

So I don't believe that someone who is planning and budgeting properly needs to spend anywhere near $500 a week - MAYBE $500 every two weeks - to feed 8. If she meant $500 a week, well - You have to be just yanking things off the shelf and throwing them into the cart without looking at them and then throwing half of it away uneaten or spoiled every week to spend that much money on food.

Again, it seems clear that planning a menu and budgeting would benefit her far more than it would be a nuisance - ditto for a chore rotary and sous chef rotary. Whether she uses convenience foods or not, lack of organization is something to be avoided if a person wants to get the most out of their time and their money.

Anonymous said...

9 kids plus two parents equals 11 per meal x three per day 33 x 7 equals 231 meals per week. Shabbos guests are at least four per week. Where is the hyperbole?

Do you buy Cholov Yisroel?
School lunches?

Seriously my bill is at least $400 per week and with Yom Tov, barbecues, family get-togethers averages near $500 per week.
My family entertains every Shabbos.
Shmura Matza

Commenter Abbi said...

Again, Ahava, if you have just read her comment instead of reading what you wanted to read, you could have a much more productive discussion.

She spends $500 a week precisely because she doesn't have time to sit down and plan meals and budget. She works full time and wants to feed her family healthy meals- the stuff about the cake and cookies was not a lament- it was an explanation. She was saying that she could buy more cake and cookies and less fruit and vegetables and she was probably have a more reasonable food budget. Because she doesn't do so- (because she buys so much fresh fruit and veggies even in the winter) she knows she has an over the top food budget.

"So I don't believe that someone who is planning and budgeting properly needs to spend anywhere near $500 a week -"

Exactly- she fully admits that she's not planning and budgeting, but she can't because she doesn't have time.

To the original poster:I totally hear where you're coming from. I work part time with only 3 small kids but I felt that I didn't have time to plan and budget. Also, i just don't cook by meal plans. I like to see what's in the super market, what veggies are nice and cook based on what i find.

However, our food budget (and financial life in general) was getting out of control and we started working with a family financial counselor who is trying to help us build a personal, itemized grocery spreadsheet to figure out where all the money's going (my average weekly food bill is about 800 shekel with a big 1200 every 2-3 weeks)

I agree that at least shopping with a list will probably help cut your weekly shopping down by a lot.There's also a lot of psychology to get over- growing up, my family were never big spenders but we never budgeted at the supermarket. It's a hard thing to get used to if you've never done it.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how the statistics break down on this blog, but we keep cholov yisroel, pas yisroel and bishul yisroel. This makes bargain/coupon shopping really difficult. I actually manage to keep what I think is a reasonable food budget considering the parameters we have accepted upon ourselves, but there are many weeks when I simply cannot afford the quantity or diversity of products because the cost so much more than their standard kosher counterparts.

Anonymous said...

My food bill includes all toiletries, non-prescription medicine, disposables and $75 more per week towards Yom Tov extra expenditures. In reality it is $400 per week and not the $500 as I inadvertently included an extra $100 that I put away each week towards extra funds for camp. I spend $325 per week for food and put $75 more towards Pesach and making others Sheva Brachot and barbecues.

Have to get back to work.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of sniping got started over nothing, because $325 for a family of eleven, including toiletries and paper goods, with produce, Shabbos guests, and cholov yisroel, does not sound profligate to me. People have different ways of budgeting for Yom Tov and your method sounds eminently reasonable.

I think I spend nearly as much for a family of 8, and I don't do company. I'm including my Costco spending which includes a lot of non foods, such as school supplies, cleaning supplies, etc.

Orthonomics said...

POSTER OF THE LAST THREE QUESTIONS RESPONDS TO COMMENTS (but is unable to get the comments page up, so she sent via email):

tesyaa you had the same food schedule every week. I love this idea and think it will help greatly if I implement it. BTW -- I also buy clothes on ebay. If you find a vendor with a small track record you can usually get really good prices. In particular I have had great success buying myself shoes on ebay. snow boots for kids are also good value there.

JS -- no snacks after school? didn' t you starve? my kids get home at 3:30 and 4:30 starving. I definitely need to start buying preparing healthier snacks, but I can't imagine providing no snacks. I'd be interested to hear how you managed. Where you starving and your mother put her foot down? Or were you a little hungry but could deal with no food until dinner? What time out of school and what time dinner served?

I did use a calculator for grocery shopping and found that I had spent at least $35 before I even left the produce aisle. It was informative, but not something I think I need to do every time I shop.

Esther -- you very gently and nicely commented that it sounds like my kids have taken over the house. FYI their ages are 9.5 (boy), 8 (girl), 4.5 (boy). I would say they have not exactly taken over, however they don't pitch in enough. I am working on that. I function much like my own mother did (no surprise there). She was never able to come up with a routine whereby we all (3 girls) pitched in to help, though we took over our own laundry at some point (what is a good age to start that? anyone have feedback on this?). In general she wasn't good at establishing routines and I am similarly not. I start with good intentions, but invariably start second -guessing myself and modifying things and then I forget all about it. Anothing major problem here is that my husband is always "too busy" to contribute. He works full-time and has a small business on the side. Also a sleeping problem so he is frequently tired. Exhausted really. I haven't figured out whether these are excuses I should have no tolerance for or whether these are bonafide issues I should be supportive of. The practical side effect is that there is no family comradery in these issues -- no sense of "we are all in this together and should support this venture together." The little guy really digs his heals in and then the 2 older ones get resentful and say they shouldn't have to help if he doesn't. My daughter is quite capable and helpful actually. My oldest son is improving, but needs a lot of help getting started with a task. My husband also doesn't eat legumes and is generally not enthusiastic about potatoes either -- 2 very cheap meal staples. :-(

Ahavah Gayle -- your comment "Saying you don't have time to budget and save is like saying you don't have time to clean the toilets " really made my laugh. All I can say is, if you come to my house, please don't look in the toilets! :-)

happyduck1979 -- yes it definitely was you. Thanks for the info it's helpful.

One thing I've noticed about these responses is that those of you who seem to have it under control seem to have a "system". You can tick off "we buy chicken this many times per week, and prepare this many meals per week, and eat pasta on thrusdays, chicken on wednesdays, etc."

As I mentioned before, I have a hard time establishing routines with meals, child discipline, household management because I constantly 2nd-guess myself. I never know what my shittah is -- i.e. am I someone who tries to make her kids eat healthy meals they don't really like (large veg meals I plan, but end up throwing out), or someone who makes whatever it is most people eat in the house (pasta, hamburgers, pizza). There are many other examples. I know this is my downfall (along witha few other things). All the comments here have been helpful in one way or another with practical examples and general encouragement.

Whew! I am going to go eat my lunch now before I have to head back to work.
-- Poster of the three Questions

Ahavah said...


We had burgers this week - homemade, lean, on whole grain buns. (Ever made kafta burgers? Kids love them.) You don't have to completely deprive kids of stuff they like to get them to eat healthier options. We've also got liver & onions on the menu, which all the boys but one happens to like very well, and the one will eat it, as long as he gets something he likes that week, too. For everybody, I think, it's that kind of balancing act - that's why I need to take a half hour or hour, once every week or two, and just do it. We're actually heavy on the meat meals this week because next week is going to be dairy due to several evening activities. It's all about making things even out in the end.

My point, which I guess Commenter Abbi doesn't think is valid, is that a responsible adult should MAKE time to do it. It's our job. It's the duty we accepted upon ourselves when we got married and had children. I'm sorry Commenter Abbi seems to think it's an outrageous inconvenience to be an organized, responsible adult. However, I'm sure there are plenty of other people besides myself who disagree. Certainly if one is in economic trouble and spending over $2000 a month on groceries, they need to stop complaining and start doing something to try and control costs. I'm wondering what Abbi thinks will work in place of having a menu and budget - maybe having the kids on a food rotary to see which family members can eat on a given day? (That was facetious, class. I'm not actually suggesting that.) Not pay the electric bill? I mean, really - what other options are there?

I'm up at 2am not because I want to be, but because I need to drive one of my older sons to work in an hour or so before I can get some sleep for a couple hours until 6am, since his bike is in the shop. Adults sometimes just have to do what needs to be done, whether they like it or not. At least I can use this time to finish up paperwork and pay bills online and yes, check email. Griping about it doesn't help. God willing I can take a nap this afternoon. If not, so be it. Have coffee will travel.

It seems to me that what Commenter Abbi and Anonymous want is a solution to fall out of the sky that doesn't involve her making any changes or putting in any effort. It seems that's what everybody is looking for - but in real life, there is no such thing. We've all got to deal with economic reality, whether we like it or not. That means putting some time into it, even if it's at 2am. Welcome to adult life, class. Nobody said it was easy. Oh, well. It's probably a bad idea to write emails or comments at this hour. Guess I'll go clean something instead, LOL. Shalom.

Ahavah said...


Unless you're making each person a unique SEPARATE dish, you're only cooking 21 meals a week like the rest of us. This sort of drama-queen attitude is what got you in trouble in the first place, no doubt.

miriamp said...

"As I mentioned before, I have a hard time establishing routines with meals, child discipline, household management"

Poster of the Three Questions:

Been there, done that, didn't work either. I'm not very organized, but I have 8 kids, so I really do have to be, and I'm learning to be, slowly. The children need it!

laundry -- at 9 they should be able to do the whole thing, as long as they can reach into the bottom of the washer (if you have a top-loader) to get all the clothes out. More realistically, though, I just expect all my kids to help with the laundry according to their ability and willingness. I've alternated between tying it directly to a treat (like computer time -- do 15 minutes of helping at least 4 days this week, get 1 hour of computer time) and just making it a expected chore (and then giving out the computer time sporadically, but more to the children who helped more). Both have their good and bad points.

How we break it down: hampers in rooms need to be brought down to the basement and sorted into bins for light, dark and sheets/towels/blankets. The kids all help with this. Even the 3 and 4 yr olds can sort if someone else does the heavy lifting. in fact, all of my kids would rather help with dirty laundry than with clean! It's my 11 yr old's favorite job. His second favorite is bringing up the full baskets of clean clothes, and he'll less willingly help match socks and put away his clothes and his 5 yr old brother's clothes. My 10 yr old is a girl, and she also prefers sorting dirty laundry (her brother doesn't like doing the girl's hamper, so that works out nicely.) She'll also put away girl clothes for any of the 6 girls.

What *I* actually do -- throw in a wash from pre-sorted bins, transfer clothes to dryer, take clothes out of dryer. my 11 yr old knows how to do all of the above, and will help when I *can't* do it, but usually I don't want to wait for him to be home for this anyway. Once the laundry is back upstairs, I fold it and sort it, put away the grown-up's clothes, and save a basket of girl's clothes and a basket of boy's clothes for the kids to take care of when they come home from school. I have on occasion even had them hang up my clothes.

Food -- cooking fancy things they won't eat is a waste of time, effort, and money. Instead, cook that sort for thing for you and your husband (assuming he'll eat it) in smaller quantities, and let the kids taste it, but don't expect them to eat it. Instead, try to make healthier versions of kid food for the kids. But if they want to eat pasta, make pasta. Have healthy side dishes or sauces or just make it up in other meals.

Oh, and I've recently discovered that if you make "refried beans" from white lima beans and flavor it like fancy mashed potatoes, that's exactly what it tastes like! Now the trick is to get the kids to try it.

Commenter Abbi said...

Please find the exact sentence where I claimed that planning and budgeting are not "valid" or that they're an "outrageous inconvenience". My only value judgment in any of my posts with regard to budgeting was "It's a hard thing to get used to if you've never done it." How did you translate this to mean I think budgeting is an outrageous inconvenience? Your ability to misread and misconstrue other people's words to fit your own prejudices is truly astounding.

I'm sorry to break it to you at this late date,Ahavah Gayle, but what works for you and your family might not work for the other trillion people on the planet. Meal planning is not the single path to financial independence.

As a matter of fact, after trying the meal planning route (does not work for me) and following my grocery receipts, I have devised a plan that works for my family: I buy food that my family likes and cook with it until it's gone. My grocery bills aren't outrageous, they just need to be trimmed and cutting out waste and making sure that I wasn't buying things that nobody ate was my number one priority. For us, thank God, it's not a question of choosing between the electric bill and the food bill because we both work and make nice salaries.

As for "not putting in the effort"? Once again, your questionable reading comprehension skills come into play because if you'll notice at the end of the last post, I mention that "However, our food budget (and financial life in general) was getting out of control and we started working with a family financial counselor who is trying to help us build a personal, itemized grocery spreadsheet to figure out where all the money's going". Which part of that sentence could be construed as "It seems to me that what Commenter Abbi and Anonymous want is a solution to fall out of the sky that doesn't involve her making any changes or putting in any effort."?

Instead of regaling us with your selfless martyrdom, try responding to what's actually written in these comments.

Ahavah said...

Commenter Abbi

I believe you're personalizing. The subject at hand is ANONYMOUS' planning and budgeting, not yours. No suggestion ANYONE has made about planning and budgeting, chore rotary and so on has been accepted by her, so what does she want? YOU didn't ask for a method of controlling costs, because YOU already have one. SHE did. She got suggestions from several people. SHE shot down them all. YOU supported everything she said. So, now - how is she any better off? She isn't. She didn't want to change and you supported her - so what exactly IS she supposed to do? She's ALREADY doing your make-it-up-as-you-go-along method and it is NOT working for her, or she wouldn't have written about the situation in the first place.

So, based on my GRE and my MENSA card and TWO degrees, both with distinction (magna cum laude), I'm pretty sure my reading comprehension skills are ok - at least during daytime hours. I think, however, that YOU are not listening to her because what she's doing now is NOT working for her. So instead of thinking my comments apply to your budget and your situation, how about making some CONCRETE suggestions for how to get her grocery bill down, since "just buying stuff people like to eat" isn't doing it for her. You have offered her NOTHING in the way of solutions, you have only been ENABLING her dysfunction to continue. Great work, there, Abbi.

Commenter Abbi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Commenter Abbi said...

I wrote something else, but I've decided this fight is going nowhere. I'm sorry you're choosing to read your own prejudices into what I've written instead of reading the actual words.

Jim Harper said...


First, let me explain what a KWH is and then we'll analyze the problem.

I kilowatt hour (KWH) is used when an appliance that draws 1000 watts of power runs for one hour. Or a 500 watt appliance runs for 2 hours. Or a 100 watt bulb is burning for 10 hours. Etc. In all of these cases, one KWH is used.

If you're in NYC, you will be paying 10 to 12 cents per KWH. If you're elsewhere, your costs will be lower (and maybe even half of that.)

So... an increase from 528KWH to 815KWH is 287KWH. At the most, at 12 cents per KWH, that will increase your bill by about $34 per month. Look at this website and you'll see that this cost is right on target for a freezer:

The question is: Do you save $34 per month by having a freezer? Our calculation was "no". We save much more by home canning.

Whatever the case is, the freezer doesn't explain the increase in your bill.

So, something else is going on. Perhaps the increase is because of natural gas usage?

Another problem could be that you're on a variable rate plan where the price of electricity fluctuates each month. I've found that, in New York, the price can vary drastically from month to month on the variable rate plan. The variable rate plan is a much better deal, historically, over the course of a year or so. But, you can get hit with big spikes occasionally.

Feel free to email me if you'd like to brainstorm ideas a bit more.

Anonymous said...

I am the anonymous poster. No where did I say that I have trouble making my budget. The reality is that when you have a large family and work full time something has to give. Some weeks there are medical emergencies. Other weeks it could be extended family simchas of emergencies. A working mother of a large family has to budget her time. I am an professional corporate purchasing agent. Perhaps the shoemaker goes barefoot but I prefer to think of it as that three hours extra income per week allows me to not worry about coupons and comparing prices at three venues. I am one of the people at the check-out register that can tell you the price per pound of every vegetable and the price on everything in her cart.
If you work outside the home reducing stress is as important as saving a few dollars.
I can serve my family cheaper and nutritious food but I would have to spend too much time in food prep.
I buy less than $5 per week on cake, candy, junk, soda, water and seltzer. I do buy fancy natural juices and other treats for Shabbos.
Please tell me if your family would be happy with tofu, rice, noodles, beans and only local inexpensive produce year round.
If all the other kids get hot lunches it doesn't work to deny your kids.
If you want to talk about Mensa or GRE, IQ and SAT scores I am quite sure mine are higher than yours.

Anonymous said...

OK, so I’m a little late commenting here, and I guess this conversation is over. My question was about the freezer and I want to thank everyone for the comments. Mark (the engineer), you are correct- we went back an looked at the bill and for whatever reason, the December bill was 35 days and the November bill was 27 days. We did have a lot of company at the beginning of December and wonder if the bill was larger than usual because of that and not only because of the freezer. I’ll try raiding the recycling bin to fill up clean bottles with water and fill the freezer that way (thanks for this tip), and we’ll see how it looks next month. Jim, if this doesn’t work, I may email you.

I also wanted to say that all of this is very encouraging- it sounds like many of you have crazy schedules, much like DH and I do, and you still manage to fit in some cost-saving tips- very, very encouraging. I’m not one for planning menus, but tesyaa, I like your general approach to having pasta one day, pizza another day- it narrows things down but isn’t so restrictive that you can’t be creative or try something different on a whim. I’d much rather stock my pantry and freezer (using many of the tips you all have suggested here) and then be able to create meals as I go- DH says I can make a steak dinner out of a can of tomatoes and some corn on the cob- he’s exaggerating of course, but its good to know that we can save cash without planning meticulously ahead.

Orthonomics said...

aml-I received a copy already. I will write about it.

Ahavah said...

My kids take their lunch every day - they NEVER eat a hot lunch on a school day. I practice what I preach.

Unknown said...

Cost effective advice oops no one is ready to give suggestions in free!!!
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