Okay, looking back the first bit was more about the philosophy that allows me to live inexpensively than many actual practices. I shall now attempt to move on to the actual practices. Being practical & all, they might be a good idea.
1) Plan for tiredness. It is a good idea to have a few "easy prep" meals on hand most of the time. Our "easy" meal of choice is a frozen pizza. This is good for when everyone is exhausted but you really need a good meal.
2) Dress up your basics. You might think that canned beef ravioli is relatively bland and not that tasty. Of course it is, unless you add spices while you're cooking it. I use a basic "Italian Seasoning" mix and sometimes a little frozen garlic.
3) Speaking of frozen garlic - this is a great thing. You can buy garlic pre-peeled & in a packet in most chinese grocery stores. Just stick them in a bag in your freezer. Not only is the garlic easy to get at, it is also easier to cut & press when frozen.
4) Chinese grocery stores = less expensive produce. You may have to inspect your produce a little more closely, but you certainly can't beat the prices. I especially like to buy red bell peppers by the pound!
5) Fresh green beans, make a great alternative to chips when washed in cold water & put next to ranch dressing.
6) Want to eat the healthier whole wheat pasta but not able to afford it? Mix it in! Buy a small box of whole wheat pasta and do 1/4 whole wheat to 3/4 regular inexpensive pasta. As long as you buy the same shape, the cooking time is about the same. It adds interest to your pasta with different colors and you feel a little better about yourself.
7) Parmesan cheese. A little jar of the powdered parmesan goes a long, long way. Add it to your cheap pastas for the "livin' large" feel.
8) As you may be able to tell, Scott & I both love to cook. Cooking your own food at home is a great way to save money. If you have a significant other, share the tasks. Funnily enough, Scott would much rather wash dishes than chop onions & veggies. Me? I'd rather chop. Perfect division of labor!
9) Tired of staying at home doing nothing? Rearrange your furniture! Not only will you have a great opportunity to clean, but you'll also have a new feeling space.
10) Find out what things your city is doing for free. Is it free to go to the local museum every Thursday evening (Grace in Abilene)? Does your local library give interesting and informative programs on everything from origami to travel? Does your local library let you BORROW non-book things, like passes to the local museums? (Toronto Public Library) You're living here, paying taxes...take advantage!
11) Want to travel? Try couch surfing! www.couchsurfing.com Find a free place to stay near you. Offer your couch to passers by. This is a great way to meet interesting people from all countries & walks of life!
12) Are you using rechargeable batteries for everything possible? I don't follow this one as closely as I should. But I think it's a good idea. Especially when you can buy item specific batteries (I just bought the rechargables for our Wii...they use the Wii's USB power to recharge which is AWESOME!)
13) Share the cost of a meal. We did this when we lived in College Station. Once a week, one person would make dinner for all 6 of us. Not only was it tasty, but we got to not cook sometimes...and we also enjoyed new and interesting food experiences! (Mmmmm bay leaves... (I tease, Kent, the soup itself was actually quite tasty :-p) Mmmm homemade alfredo sauce...)