Disclaimer: I did not follow all of these things all of the time, but I try to most of the time. I've also added in somethings that I've learned about recently. Oh, and additional ideas/tips are welcome in the comments.
Dr. Man and I got married after his second year of med school and before my first year of grad school. This meant for the first two years of our marriage I was the only one with any positive income (by positive, I mean opposed to negative-- as in loans). In order to minimize the number of loans we had to pull out (med school is expensive!), we learned to live frugally and I learned some extreme frugality tips. So, I figured that I'd share with everyone else. The key to maintaining this is not to try to adopt all the frugality tips at once, but to ease yourself into it. Also, pick the ones that work for you. So, on to the guide.
In this part I'll focus on Food:
-Do NOT pick frozen dinners just because they are cheap. They will end up costing more than if you just made the dinner yourself and froze the leftovers for lunch.
-Repeat after me, Sales Are Your Friend. This means that whenever pasta and pasta sauce goes on sale-- stock up. Pasta/Pasta Sauce was a main staple for Dr. Man and I because we both liked it and could jazz it up in a variety of ways.
-Additionally, whenever ground meat (if you are carnivorous) goes on sale buy a lot. Then, split the packages into ~1/2 lbs packs and freeze. This is about right for making a meal for yourself with enough leftover for lunch or dinner.
-A second part to this is to take advantage of the internet. A lot of grocery stores post their weekly fliers online. So, take a look there to figure out where the best deals are at for the week.
-I went so far as to make a “grocery log” where I charted the prices of our staple food (flour, milk, butter, etc.). Pretty soon you'll notice that the grocery store price things in cycles.
-Make your own bread. It's much cheaper and delicious.
-Powdered milk. I don't like to drink it on its own, but as far as baking, cooking, or making instant pudding it's delicious.
-Beans, beans, the musical fruit... well it may make you more musically-inclined, but beans are an excellent food source. A large bag of Fifteen Bean Soup (I'm talking serving size of approx. 14 here) is around $2 at Grocery Store here. And it comes with everything you need to make said soup. That works out to be about 15 cents a serving!
-Now the trickiest part of food shopping: Fruits and Vegetables. To this I say, “Get thee to thy Local Farmer's Market.” Seriously, this is how Dr. Man and I afforded fresh fruits and veggies. Go towards the end of the scheduled time (I'd say somewhere between 15-30 mins before the market is scheduled to end) and haggle with the sellers. Don't try to haggle with anyone who has their own trailer in sight (unless you like to do things the hard way or you like an exercise in futility), but try those that have a limited amount of produce left or that are parked far away from their stand. A lot of the time you can get their produce for anywhere between 25%- 50% off just so they don't have to cart it back to their car/truck/etc. Plus if you live in a college town and plead poor grad student, sometimes you'll get extra stuff thrown in. And (at least at our Farmer's Market) the produce is already just a little bit cheaper than at Grocery Store.
-Booze. As any graduate student knows, alcohol is a very important food group. So, these are the things that I've found to help lower the cost of such things. Sam's Club (or any whole-sale club) usually has a discount liquor store-- with cut-rate beer and wine. Make friends with your local, independent liquor store clerk. They'll point you towards good deals and cheap, but tasty wine (ok, I like wine). Or if you have a clearance liquor store (our Chain Liquor Store has one a few miles from Public U.), go there and find stuff you like on the cheap.
Stay tuned for the next installment...