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When I started teaching elementary school full-time, it was a drastic departure from my former career as a stay-at-home mom/writer/substitute teacher. My boys were getting older and more involved in outside activities so I found myself stretched very thin. I was constantly on the go, which meant less time for managing meals and errands.
To help my bottom line, I work hard to make sure my budget isn’t stretched too thin as well. It is an easy trap to fall into when you are pressed for time. Often, items purchased in a hurry end up costing you more. Try these strategies instead.
Plan ahead • Get a good calendar or your smart phone and pencil in all family activities. Next, consider how you will feed your family, particularly on jam-packed days. Try not to rely on fast food or take-out every time you have a busy evening. The cost of eating out adds up quickly: At $25 to $30 for a family of four, twice a week comes to $200 or more by month’s end.
Cook ahead • Worried about not having enough time to cook? Consider using a slow cooker, like a Crock-Pot. Go online to find tasty, reasonably priced recipes. One of my favorite sites is Crockadoodledoo.blogspot.com, created by a busy mom who’s also a trial attorney. She offers great recipes for beef, chicken, desserts, and side dishes. A little effort in the morning before heading to work will yield a scrumptious meal when you return home.
Try meal planning • Many moms swear by eMeals. For $5 to $10 a month, you receive meal plans with recipes, directions, and even corresponding grocery lists. You can buy meal plans that are specific to certain stores and nutritional needs such as low carbohydrates or low fat.
Buying pre-made meals can be another time-saver. It’s a little more expensive than making meals from scratch, but cheaper than eating out. Options include family value meals from Whole Foods in Germantown; for $20, you receive a meal for four. Curbside Casseroles (curbsidecasseroles.com) and Katie’s Kitchen (katieskitchengtown.com) offer casseroles. At Katie’s, you can even pick up your order at the drive-through. Both run from $10 to $30 depending on serving size.
Stock up • Another way to save time and money is to stock up on foods you eat frequently and eliminate special trips to the store for drinks or snacks. The same goes for household products, such as cleaners and toiletries. Watch grocery store flyers and clip coupons to use on sale items. That strategy can double your savings. Warehouse clubs are another good place to buy items in bulk.
Also, check out mymemphismommy.com, which has an extensive coupon database. It contains current, local news about store sales, club membership info for places like Sam’s Club and Costco, and Amazon Gift Card Lightening Deals, which are daily sales you can participate in on Amazon’s website. (They’re quick, so you have to pay attention.)
When buying bigger ticket items — appliances, computer equipment, a car — make sure to comparison shop to find the best deals. Yes, comparison shopping is time-consuming, but there are several websites that do the legwork for you. Some of my favorites include pricegrabber.com, bizrate.com, and yahooshopping.com.