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What is frugal to you?

When I started this blog, I was a researchin' fiend....I had bookmarked every Google hit on "frugal living" and "frugal recipes" from here to Tacoma. There is a LOT of information out there, and it can be overwhelming to weed out what is truly useful to me, and what is either not current, or not as helpful for what I'm able to accomplish....try Googling "urban homesteading" and see what comes up...those folks are super ambitious, but it's not really in my realm of possibility right now.

One site, Hillbilly Housewife, had caught my attention pretty early on - she offers a lot of really good tips on frugal living to the max...and she got me started on making more of my own stuff from scratch which has saved a lot of money and made breakfasts more interesting! But she posts a pair of "Emergency" menus...one that is $45 for a week of shopping, one that is $70. I had printed them out, thinking that those were the weekly menus I should aspire to.

They are still fabulous examples of Extreme Meal Planning - every bite is accounted for, down to the beverages. But I had to wonder how realistic the dollar amounts were - and several weeks into my own shopping experiences, I look at those menus and think that perhaps my own pantry offers more variety. Granted, I can have 10 dollar shopping weeks because I have taken the time to stock a very happy pantry and freezer, but I think advanced planning like that is necessary when you're talking about being frugal.

So how realistic are HBHW's menu prices? Check out this post at Living Almost Large where she took the time to price out the entire $70 menu plan on current pricing for the New England area. I knew there'd be a difference, she points out that the HBHW prices are from 2006 and they live in North Carolina - but the 140% difference was a bit staggering. She used pricing from Stop and Shop, and while many of the items are cheaper for me at Price Rite, it wasn't hugely far off. And as other commenters to the article have pointed out, there are ways to be just as frugal without resorting to bacon ends, reconstituted powdered milk, and a few other tidbits within the menu plan.

Now don't get me wrong - I still turn to HBHW for recipes, she has a great listing of cheap eats that have required very little tweaking on my end - and that's just because my DH has particular tastes. And she definitely inspired me to move away from the pre packaged foods and make more from scratch...I make a mean muffin, and my DS is quite fond of my homemade pizza. But as with anything, test what you read against your own experiences....what works for one person may point you in a better direction, but may not be the ultimate answer. So keep reading, keep testing, and come up with the Frugal formula that works for your family!

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