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I am an AVID ice cream lover.  Especially Chocolate ice cream.  Ben and Jerry’s carries more than one flavor that gives my tongue much happiness!  Those sweet pints are my go to when I’m happy, sad, tired, frustrated…or frankly, just in the mood for chocolate ice cream!!

At $4.50 a pop, those puppies are an EXPENSIVE addiction!  And, unfortunately, a budget leak.  How often do we buy things that we just throw into the grocery cart without thinking about it?  Ice cream isn’t a NEED (sad, but I do have to admit that), it’s a nicety.  And, if I shop around, I can find some seriously delicious, yet cheaper ice cream–and in a larger size.  Yes, friends you too can find ice cream–creamy, delicious, chocolaty goodness (or many other flavors) in 1.5 qt or half gallon sizes which will meet your need for the cool treat without having it affect your bank account quite as heavily.

Case in point:  Two weeks ago I bought a pint of B&J and ate it…maybe in two sittings, maybe in one (my eating habits are not the subject of this blog, so moving on… ;)) and then two or three days later, my husband stopped at the grocery store to get some more milk and bought me another pint.  (I love that man!)  Three days after that we were doing our weekly grocery shopping and we went to peruse the frozen dessert aisle.  DING DING DING…WAKE UP CALL!!

Now, when I shop for ice cream WITH A PURPOSE, I always look for the best deal–something that will last more than a sitting or two in my family of four.  When I shop without thinking, holy cats, that money LEAKS right out of my wallet.  At $4.50/pint, we had spent $9 in ice cream that may have lasted all of 3 sittings.   Mayfield (Georgia and Tennessee made) offers a 1.5 qt product that lasts about 8 sittings and costs less than $4.50 for one container!! 

We all have budget leaks.  These budget leaks change as our lifestyles change, as our tastes change, as our families change. 

Families with two working parents tend to eat out and leak money through the convenience factor.  Frankly, I understand, because who wants to work 8-10 hours a day, come home and cook on top of helping the kids with homework!?

When I was working for a non-profit organization last year here in the Augusta, GA area, our son ate school lunch at least 2x/week ($2.50/day) and I ate out at least 3x/week ($8/day).  When I stop to calculate ($116/month) over the course of the months that he was in school, I was eating out, that’s around $1500 in one year.  I cringe when I think about the fact I could have packed lunches those days for my son for about $1/day (no joke) and for myself for about $2/day and saved, or spent elsewhere, the difference.

My husband used to be a huge fan of soda vending machines.  Hey, you can use your debit card, so let’s do it, right?  WRONG!  $1.25 for a bottle of soda is just not okay.  Starbucks is right there on post–let’s drink up, right? 

Convenience is a WONDERFUL thing.  I just hate to pay for it.

Cooking on the weekends for the week ahead can use up a large portion of our family downtime.  Occasionally it’s okay, but it’s not my first choice for every weekend. 

If you want options for easy meals that can cook while you’re at work or on the go, check out the links here.  There are so many options available to feed your family, regardless of picky eaters, and you have less to worry about when you get home from work.  Yes, it requires the purchase of a crockpot–but if you don’t want to buy one, next time someone asks you what you want for a gift, put that on your list.  (Practical gifts are a money saver and very thoughtful!!)

Also, menu planning is KEY.  Get the family involved!  There is nothing worse than planning a great menu only to hear everyone else in the family say, “Oh, I don’t want that!”  Plan the menu EVERY WEEK.  Plan the menu AS A FAMILY.  Shop WEEKLY for your groceries.  With these three steps you’ll cut your grocery bill because you’re only shopping for that week.  Everyone will have a say, so there (should be) less complaining because they had some input.  Weekly planning gives you the opportunity to mix things up and yet hit on everyone’s favorites in a timely manner.

Also, remember to utilize your leftovers.  While we rarely have taco meat leftover, if we do, the next night is typically spaghetti night.  I just dump the taco meat in the sauce which enhances the flavor…always a hit.  We serve French bread with our pasta–if any is left, we use it for French bread sandwiches the next day.

Finally, remember that changes in the eating arena aren’t always the easiest to make.  Start small.  If you normally eat out 5 times/week, try for only four.  If you have a crock pot, but have never used it, break that puppy out and use some of the recipes at the link above.  If you have the time to cook ahead, try putting together an easy lasagna or a chicken and rice casserole that just needs to be popped in the oven when you get home.

When water drips from a faucet, those drops add up to a cupful one drop at a time.  Those budget leaks (whether a penny each or more) add up very quickly to significant money.  Cut off your leaks and use your money more effectively…one penny, nickel, dime…or pint…at a time!