by Samantha Biggers, Peak Prosperity:
Helpful ways to save money while boosting quality of life
Inflation is a big topic right now.
The $trillions in fresh worldwide stimulus are causing the price of nearly everything we depend on to rise sharply in price, as this chart from February shows:
(Note how both Bitcoin and Ethereum have increased a further ~50% since this chart was made just a month ago.)
Adam has had a number of excellent interviews recently with highly experienced economists, analysts and investors — like Ed Butowsky, Grant Williams, Jim Rogers, Jim Bianco, Luke Gromen, Steen Jakobsen and others — who are extremely concerned of the secular era of rising inflation they see us headed into. And these interviews contain a lot of valuable guidance about how to position your portfolio accordingly.
TRUTH LIVES on at https://sgtreport.tv/
But I’d like to offer some guidance that everyone, regardless of net worth, can follow to help insulate their home budget against the threat of rising prices.
I offer 29 steps below — some big, some small — that my husband and I are implementing in our own life. And while these steps save money, they don’t sacrifice quality of life. No one (including me!) wants to lower their living conditions if they don’t have to.
Start by looking for hidden inflation at the grocery store
Remember when sugar came in 5 lb bags? Now that same sugar comes in a 4 lb bag but costs the same. Orange juice containers have had ounces shaved off, too.
This is an easy way for manufacturers to make up for rising costs without raising the actual sticker price at the grocery store. People don’t notice as quickly or protest as much as they would if their grocery bill suddenly shot 20% higher.
Many of those reading this may remember being taught about grocery store price tags and unit costs in math class. This is the fine print on the price tag that tells you how much you are paying per ounce or lb. This is a useful tool that I don’t think is being taught as much in the classroom. It allows you to make wiser purchase decisions at the grocery store. If you have kids, it may be a good idea to teach them this, so they develop smarter shopping habits.
Some of the items on this list are part of our household routine by now. They helped us out when we were building our small house without a bank loan.
1. Roast & grind coffee at home
We buy our coffee beans from bulk suppliers online. Coffee Bean Corral has good prices on green coffee beans in 5-132 lb bags. We typically buy 10 or 25 lbs bags and then vacuum seal the green coffee beans in quart size bags for long-term storage. Green coffee beans keep for years when sealed this way, so they are a good way to make sure you have coffee during times of shortages or financial trouble. We drink Bali Blue Moon and Mexican Chiapas most of the time. Both are certified organic and free trade. We roast it in a convection toaster oven or a cast iron pan in small batches as needed. Instead of paying $15 per lb or more, we drink some delicious coffee for half or less of that. The Bali Blue comes in at around $7 per lb after you account for the 20% loss of weight that comes from roasting. Mexican Chiapas is about $5.
If you don’t care about fancy varieties and blends, you can buy Colombian coffee beans for around $3 per lb.
2. Buy tea in bulk & use a tea ball
Years ago, I added up the cost of buying tea in boxes of 20 bags. The price was a staggering $45-$50 per lb to buy a pound of dried organic green tea in bags.
For $10 or less, you can purchase a pound of loose leaf organic green tea, or for under $15, you can get blends like Earl Gray. If you like to have a few bags of tea on the go, you can buy empty ones and fill them with your choice of tea or keep a 100 ct box of some basic tea on hand for those times.
Tea balls come in different sizes. You can get strainers that make a whole pot. If you’re a tea drinker, this is a simple thing that can save a ton of money.
Buying multiple bulk teas also offers you the opportunity to make your own blends.
3. Buy staple foods in bulk
These classic staples are much cheaper when purchased in bulk, can be used to make a wide variety of meals, and can store in your pantry for a very long time:
- Cooking Oil
For guidance on how to buy and store bulks staples to create a deep pantry, read Peak Prosperity’s comprehensive Guide To Home Food Storage.
4. Grow a garden.
With organic salad greens selling for $7 per lb at the supermarket, it is not hard to see how even a small garden can cut down your grocery bill. For some tips on planning your garden, check out my PP article “Planning Your Spring Garden.”
5. Subscribe to CSA boxes or online discount produce and food boxes like Misfits Market
This winter, while our gardens were not productive, we subscribed to Misfits Market. I am happy with the quality and quantity of fruit and vegetables we received. You also get the option of adding on other healthy grocery items, including dry goods.
I pay $35 plus tax and $5.50 shipping for the base box. If I purchased everything at the grocery store that is included, I would easily pay double that. The last time I ordered the box and added dry goods and additional fruit, I spent around $112 for groceries that would have cost me $250 at my local grocery store.
6. Always look for coupons when shopping online. I can usually find a 5% or better off coupon, especially on the first purchase.
A simple search using your favorite search engine can yield a lot of coupons. I usually just search for the merchant name and put “coupon code” after it. Retailmenot.com and other sites typically yield the best codes.
7. Produce part or all of your electricity
Switching your home over to solar or other renewable energy sources is a big deal. It is simply not possible for some people because they either rent or don’t have the financial means to do it all at once. The beauty of solar power is that you can start small. Portable systems can help out those that do not own their home.
Solar power centers and panels come in a variety of sizes and price points. Over the years I’ve been sent a few of these in exchange for an honest review. Here are some that we use and recommend on our farm. I do not make any commission off recommending these products. We know that they perform well in a farm environment.
Jackery Power Centers– We have tested the 240, 500, and 1000 models. They all performed well. Matt and I gave the 240 to his parents, so they have some backup power in case of a power outage. His Dad uses it and a 50-watt panel to keep his electric bicycle batteries charged up.
Goal Zero– I have an older Yeti 400 that my Dad uses for backup power at his house. It has come in handy during winter storms. Goal Zero makes some larger units on wheels that are meant to act as a backup for an entire home. They are a good choice for people that want a system that works well right out of the box.
8. Find ways to cut down on energy costs
- Don’t leave lights on all the time.
- Consider replacing your hot water heater with an on-demand unit or turning down the thermostat. While an on-demand has upfront costs, it could save you a lot of money over time.
- Check for drafts and seal with foam insulation or caulk.
- Avoid using air conditioners until you really cannot stand it or set the thermostat to a slightly higher temperature. Even a few degrees can save you money.
- Look into solar energy programs through your power company. You may be able to get panels at a reduced cost and sell power back to the grid.
- Look for energy vampires. Televisions, speakers, and chargers can all burn some electricity even when turned off. Some people have found that using a power strip that they turn off when not in use helps a lot.
- Older appliances and electronics burn a lot more power than newer ones. My husband and I were given a used flat screen tv that was made 10 years ago. We did not use it long. It burned 10x the power of a newer model! Our older chest freezer used 5 amps of power, while the new chest freezer we bought burns a mere 1.5 amps! That really adds up over time. While I know getting rid of all your old appliances and electronics may not be realistic, please consider the energy consumption of older items if you are shopping for them used.
9. Make your own beer or wine
My husband and I have made beer for decades. It is easier if you buy a small 5-gallon kegging system. There are countless videos and websites online to help you get started. Wine takes longer to make, but there are some amazing wine kits out there, or you can make fruit wines from juice or fresh fruit if you find a good deal.
10. Get a Soda Stream or kegging system and make your seltzer and soda
Fizzy water costs a lot, and commercial sodas are usually made with high fructose corn syrup, something a lot more people are trying to avoid. We make a lot of seltzer water at home and flavor it with concentrates from Nature’s Flavors.
11. Purchase a good water filter and water filter bottle rather than buying bottled water
There are so many water filter options for your home. Brita makes attachments that go on your kitchen sink, or you can opt for a pitcher. Another option for those on the go is to buy a water filter bottle that you can refill anywhere. I used a water filter bottle in college all the time because I was used to drinking water that was not treated with chlorine or fluoride. Water filter bottles by brands like Lifestraw can also filter out environmental contaminants and bacteria that can make you sick.
12. Find creative ways to avoid food waste. Make your leftovers count.
It is incredible how much food is wasted because it is forgotten in the fridge. Soup is a good way to use up leftovers. Casseroles are another classic go-to. Pot pies are another option. A quick “leftover recipes” search online will yield a ton of different recipes to be inspired by.
13. Make your own convenience foods and freeze them for easy meals during the workweek
Below is a short list of foods that you can make ahead and freeze. You can purchase aluminum pans and other packaging from Amazon or restaurant supply companies.
- Individual or family-sized pot pies
- Vegetables and meat for slow cooker meals
- Baby food purees
- Stir Fry
14. Utilize a slow cooker for delicious one-pot meals that don’t use a lot of electricity or other cooking fuel.
I love using slow cookers for easy meals that I can make ahead of time. They are great for soup and cooking tougher cuts of meat. They also make it easy to cook meals in bulk that you can then eat as leftovers all week, again making your food budget stretch farther. Adam’s wife Ashley is addicted to her InstaPot pressure cooker, which yields similar results as a slow cooker but in a fraction of the time.
15. Make treats for your pets.
Have you ever added up how much you are paying per pound for pet treats? The number is shocking. If you pay $4 for an 8 oz bag, that’s $8 per lb. This means you can catch meat on sale and use it to bake treats or use a dehydrator to make snacks and save money. The ingredients you use are likely much higher quality than what pet companies are using. Dog biscuits are nothing more than some flavoring added to wheat flour and cornmeal. You can make a lot of dog biscuits on your own for just $10.
16. Consider making your dog or cat food if what you normally feed is expensive.
Consider that canned pet foods are 78% water. You’re paying for much more water than your are food.
Making your pet food is not always cheaper than buying. The only way to calculate your savings is to consider the cost of what your pet typically eats. If you’re buying dog food that costs $2 or more per lb or your pet requires a special diet, then you may be able to save some money making your own. Your veterinarian can help you plan out a home-cooked diet that is appropriate for sensitive dogs or those with health issues.