Do you have any great ideas for young couples who have children and don't live in the city? Everything we need is at least a 10-minute drive away? How do we keep from spending all our time getting the things that we need to live?
To reduce trips, this is what helps us:
We also live "out in the boondocks" and we love it. We have 140 acres. There are only seven houses on our road. The nearest store is about seven minutes away and it's a family-owned convenience store. To save money, we buy our milk from a local farmer, our produce from the local auction barn (10 minutes away) or from the Amish (also 10 minutes away). Whenever we go shopping, we buy enough to last a month. Then, if we need something like bread, we go to the convenience store. The beauty of rural living is that there are no shopping centers around, you can see the stars and you can hear yourself think without the noise of traffic. Our nearest shopping center is 20 minutes away. Do I mind? Never! And I hope and pray that it stays like this at least until I die, and I'm only 55.
A ten-minute drive is a blessing! We drive 15-30 to get to any place for shopping. Of course, the obvious solution is to combine trips. Make sure you never just run out for one thing. Plan your trip so that you can get bread at the day old bread store, pick up the sales at the grocery store, and stop at the bank and the post office on the way (or wherever your errands take you).
I enjoy my errands because I take a child or two with me and it gives me the opportunity to catch up on what's going on in their life, or I pop a book-on-tape in the cassette player in the car and the trip goes by way too fast. Some of my favorite times with my kids have been in the car when you can talk with less distractions. I even think of topics ahead of time, especially if they are the one word answering type of teenagers. Make it an adventure, not a chore!
Living 20 minutes from the closest grocery store with four children, a husband, and disabled in-laws for 12 years has taught me that these three suggestions are truly lifesavers at times!
Lauren in Louisiana
How well I know Sheryl's problem! I grew up in a city, but we moved to my husband's hometown when our first son was 2. I was so used to the city conveniences. I about went into shock when I tried to grocery shop on a Sunday evening and found the grocer was closed!
After 5+ years living rurally, I am loving it. It does take some adjustment. The following tips are good frugal tips that will work for anyone, but are especially good for rural life. All of these can help you avoid trips to the store.
With time, you'll find that you don't need those city conveniences. There are a lot of bonuses to rural living, so dig in and enjoy it!
We live pretty far from anywhere. This is how I keep from feeling like I am running all over all the time. I plan one day a week to do errands. I use the Internet to look at the weekly flyers of the major grocery stores or have my husband stop on his way home from work, just to run in and get the flyers. Then, I plan my shopping list the day before. Right now at McDonalds, happy meals are 99 cents on Wednesdays. So unless someone has an appointment that must be kept on another day, we go to McDonalds for lunch, and the kids (1 and 3 years) spend some time playing on the playground. Another option for this is a picnic lunch. I bring a cooler with two-liter bottles of water frozen into ice to keep freezer items and meat cool from earlier shopping trips.
Our library system has their catalog online, and from my home computer, I can request a big stack of books and have it waiting for me. If the kids aren't tired, we usually spend some time browsing in the children's area.
I make sure to stock up on necessary items so there are no last minute trips to the store, and in a pinch, I can have my husband pick something up on his way home from work. Doing this, instead of making 3 or 4 not-so-quick trips into town, I can get it all done at once, and have a fun outing.
I raised my kids in a rural area and only shopped "in town" twice a month. We did have a local mom & pop store where I bought filler items, but I tried to keep that to the absolute minimum. I mixed regular milk with powdered milk and water (1/2 of each) and made 2 gallons of milk out of one. My kids never knew the difference and it's just as nutritious. I got a group of women together once a week. While our kids played, we visited and baked bread. At the end of the day, everyone had homemade bread to take home and the kids had a great time. I bought a huge deep freezer and kept it filled, so that we rarely ran out of anything. It held all my garden produce! We did go to a local library once a week six miles away, as it was a savings in entertainment. We never had cable. When you feel the impulse to jump in the car and shop, try looking in your own cupboards first and making do or changing the menu to suit what you have. Needless to say, we were a one-income family and I was a stay-at-home mom. Sometimes economizing means a richer, more creative and fulfilling life!
The best advice I can give (from someone who used to live in the country) is to buy a freezer and stock it. When the nearest grocery store is 30 miles away, there is no such thing as ordering a pizza or Chinese food. Rotate the food, first in, first out, so nothing will perish. I personally prefer the standup freezer as the chest type can seem to bury your food and it is hard to reach down to the bottom of those. Almost anything can be found frozen now, including meat, potatoes, fish, pies, etc.
We live in the country as well and love it! It is about 20 minutes to town. It's a much simpler life. But, going to town does take time, and with gas so expensive, it costs a bit of money, too. We try to combine trips! This takes planning, but it works pretty well. I try to do other errands when I am in town for scheduled events. We have a rule that we need to have at least three things to do before we can go to town. Also, buying items on the Internet (or catalog) and having them shipped to my house saves a lot of time! UPS, Fed Ex and USPS come down my road daily. It is incredibly wonderful to have the package just brought to my house. There's no driving from store to store just to find it is out of stock. And when I do go to town, I plan my trip to get the most of my time, making stops in order of how I drive by them, finishing up with the groceries so food does not spoil. I also try to have at least one day a week I do not get into the car. It is amazing how much I get done at home! And it is relaxing, too. I sometimes have to be a bit more creative with meals for a day or two, but we don't go hungry.
Dee in Culleoka, TN
I would maximize online shopping through your favorite stores or Amazon.com, and take advantage of free shipping offers and online coupons. Stores like Walmart ship online orders to local store at no charge. These items would be paid and waiting for pickup.
Another option is to find a shopping buddy who will take turns with you to shop/drive for each of you. If you find enough shopping buddies, you could rotate trips to suit your schedules.
Wholesale purchasing is another option. Purchase in bulk and stock up for future use. Make jam, jellies, preserve, breads, cookies, pies, etc. and keep dry goods sealed and baked goods well wrapped and frozen.
When my children were very young, we lived a good 20 to 30 minutes out of town. I shopped every two weeks, so keeping an accurate list of what I needed throughout the house was essential. I set menus and tallied all household and grooming needs. I kept back-ups of everything from toilet paper to jam and toothbrushes to powdered milk for the times we might run out of fresh. My best investments were two small freezers, one was used for garden produce and the other meat and make-ahead meals.
Once in a great while, we ran out of something. However, with planning, it was rare. Planning is the key, and being stubborn about not running out to the store unless it was life or death saved my sanity and kept us on budget. So make those menus, buy in bulk, and create a spreadsheet for tracking what your family uses.
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