Updated on 08.25.07

A Glimpse At How A Frugal Family Spends Their Weekend

Trent Hamm

Last night, my wife and I sketched out a rough outline of the things we wanted to do this weekend. When we finished, we realized that most of the things on the list were, in some form or another, frugal. Here’s what I mean.

On Saturday, it’s my moring to get up early with Joseph, so the day will begin with my son and I playing while mom sleeps in a bit later. We’ll have oatmeal for breakfast, then after that, we’ll finish off our grocery list – the first real grocery trip in about two and a half weeks – and my wife and son will go to the grocery store while I stay at home and write. For lunch, we’ll eat leftovers.

After that, the afternoon will be spent making a giant batch of breakfast burritos (we’re completely out, and they’re wonderfully tasty). This will take about two hours or so. After that, I’ll mow the yard while my wife does some trimming of the bushes around the house.

For supper, we’ll have tuna noodle casserole. But wait – we’re going to actually prepare four of them at once. Three of them will be wrapped up and put into the deep freezer for later use (after the baby is born). This means that many of the ingredients can be purchased in bulk – and that’s actually what my wife did at the store!

Sunday will be very similar, except we’re going to eat leftover tuna noodle casserole for lunch and prepare four pans of lasagna for supper, eating one and putting the other three in the freezer. During the afternoon, we’re going to trim down our DVD collection severely (our target is 30% retention, 70% selling) to not only free up space by getting rid of stuff we don’t watch, but to put some extra money towards eliminating our student loan debt. We’ll also likely spend quite a bit of time outside, going to the park across the street from us. I’m going to attempt to teach my toddler how to throw a frisbee – it’s likely above his coordination level, but I think he’ll enjoy the time together. We’re also going to prepare the bassinet for the baby’s arrival – it’s curently in pieces – as well as wash a lot of clothes and rearrange the dresser in our son’s room to make space for the baby.

If I’m lucky, I’ll find some time somewhere to read a few chapters of Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver, which I’ve just started again, and also finish a book that I will review on The Simple Dollar in a few weeks.

On an ordinary weekend, we might go somewhere else and do something interesting, like visit a state park or go to some sort of community event, but there’s not much really going on and my wife is nearing her due date, so this will be a pretty clear “take it easy” weekend.

If you read through that description, there’s a lot of frugality integrated into that routine: buying in bulk, cooking meals at home, looking at voluntary simplicity options and paring down our DVD collection, and enjoying free entertainment (playing in the park with my son and teaching him how to throw a frisbee).

What’s the cost of this weekend? Almost nothing. What’s the enjoyment of this weekend? Quite a bit. I’m spending time with people I care about and doing stuff that I enjoy – cooking, going to the park, writing, and so on. The end result? A weekend where not much money left my pocket, but I went to sleep very content and happy each night.

If you’ve wanted to start spending your time focused on frugality but keep thinking to yourself, “No one is doing this! Everyone else is doing other things!” rest assured that there are frugal families out there.

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  1. Monica says:

    I love cooking multiple meals at one time! I do this at least once a week. I am expecting in November and already have been stashing food in the freezer. It is really cheaper to make things in batches. Another plus is that I can get away with not using as much meat. For instance, in spaghetti sauce I can use one pound of meat and make three to four quart size freezer bags and hubby won’t even notice. As long as it’s got the meat! Red beans and rice…cooking two to three pounds of beans with one pound of smoked sausage. He’s pleased and so am I!

  2. Snit says:

    Great post! We too strive to be a frugal family — have spent time together cooking from scratch (I loaded up on baking stuff months ago), taking walks, invited friends over to swim in our apartment complex’s pool — that felt like a “party” but we did not spend a cent and all the kids are happy and tired now! Keep sending ideas…maybe even your recipe for lasagne!

  3. mamacita says:

    You know that, having said all that, your wife will totally go into labor on Sunday.

  4. Meagan says:

    Good Book

  5. Soni says:

    Question – where do you get all the pans for freezing the casserole and lasagna in? Or do you freeze, then remove, cut and bag? Or what?

    In my mind, both the casserole and the lasagna appear to be too structurally fluid to maintain hull integrity if depanned in their natural condition.

  6. Alex from Personal Finance Views in the UK says:

    I think your weekend sounds lovely. Just spending time, talking and carrying out practical tasks with loved ones can be such fun, precious time. I worked most of yesterday (Saturday) but my husband cleared out a load of old bike stuff, put the best bits on eBay and binned the junk – very cathartic and useful economically – while today we’ve been out for a walk together and are about to have lunch with his mum. While we were walking, we were reflecting how great it would be if Sundays could be like they were when we were kids: all the shops shut, so no one could shop, and most people spending the day with their families. It’s good to dream, and at least your family – and mine, and hopefully others – are trying to recapture that.

  7. Dave says:

    The whole baroque cycle by neal stephenson is excellent, i also highly recommend cryptonomicon, if you haven’t already read it.

  8. Sabrina's Money Matters says:

    I’ve been so busy these past few weeks with a new job, and haven’t had the time daily to catch up on the feeds I’m subscribed to, so after working some overtime this morning, I have been reading through the latest of the last few weeks. Good stuff!

    Thanks for this, my husband and I have a hard time figuring out how to cook a lot for later and still want it later, lol. That’s a great idea, one of our favorites is Tuna Noodle Casserole, lol.

  9. Titika says:

    I’d just like to say that I’m really impressed with your blog in general. You seem to have made such a huge and important change in your life so that you focus on the highest priorities. If you continue living as you describe in this particular post, I think you will live a long, happy, and prosperous life.

  10. Alli says:

    As for the questions about freezing lasagnas, etc., there are a ton of websites devoted to “once a month cooking”. (The concept of OAMC is to cook in bulk and create your own “fast food” for less than you would otherwise spend. For someone trying to make healthier choices, it’s also great to be able to control what is in your meals.) To freeze a casserole with liquid, (ex: lasagna or enchiladas) you could do one of 2 things: 1. Line a glass baking dish FIRST with foil (leave plenty of excess around the edges so you can “wrap up” and seal your meal, then SECOND, line your foil with plastic wrap (same excess) and finally fill with your casserole, layering as you normally would. Seal your plastic wrap around it, then completely seal your foil, creating in essence a packet. Place entire glass dish, wih sealed packet still inside, in the freezer until it is solid, then pop out your foil-sealed meal, and stack in your freezer. Label! When you want to defrost it, remove the foil and plastic wrap from your frozen meal, and place back in your original baking dish to thaw (or bake for a longer time from a frozen state). (OK, that was only the first, most complicated version, which I do.) Option #2: Buy disposable foil trays at a dollar store, assemble your meal inside, and seal with foil. Label.

  11. Margaret Kaser says:

    Just wanted to make a comment. I enjoy reading your blogs but you have left one very important item out of your frugal week-end. Where did you go and worship God in the morning on the first day of the week (Sunday). We are commanded in the Bible to meet around his table every first day of the week. Acts 20: 7. That should be your first priority on Sunday, and then to live for Him the rest of the week also. You have a young family and I believe that you should be teaching your children about God and Jesus as well. Just wanted to share some of God’s word with you. In Christ’s Love
    Margaret and Wayne Kaser

  12. Jay Cee says:

    To: Margaret Kaser: Is that really any of your business? Maybe you feel it’s your “concern”, but really, another’s worship/spiritual life is not your business. Just worry about bringing yourself to God’s table on Sunday. Let this guy live his own life.

  13. Sharon says:

    Totally off topic…like your post…
    1. Acts 20:7 is a statement, not a command. “We met” Not “You should meet”
    2. The command is in Exodus 20:8-11 and it says seventh-day not first day.

  14. Sharon says:

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming….

  15. Brad says:

    Oh Jebus.

  16. Margaret Kaser says:

    There was no ill intent in my statement about religion. My husband is a preacher of the gospel and we are commanded to spread the Word of God to everyone. We do not live under the Old Testament since Jesus went to the cross and was crucified. It is a school master for us but since Jesus went to the cross and was crucified and rose again we live by the New Testament. I enjoy your Simple Dollar and believe me there was no ill intent from me. I was just concerned for your soul as every human being should be concerned for their neighbors soul as well as their own. I apologize if I hurt anyones feelings. Please accept my appologies. Sincerely, Margaret Kaser

  17. Wanderer says:

    Margaret, Your concern for another is laudable. It’s unfortunate that many times the Christian perspective comes across as judgemental, when that is almost never the case.
    As for OAMC, cultivate a friendship with a restaurant person. The things you want are called “Aluminum Half Pans”. They generally come with lids are are just plain dirt cheap to the restaurant. Many larger cities have restaurant supply companies who exist to supply the needs of local restaurants “on the fly”, as we say in that industry. If all else fails, I bet local bulk “club”-type stores carry them.
    Love the ideas for a frugal weekend. Linking this post from my own blog.

    ..enjoy the ride…

  18. Winnetta B says:

    I was hoping to see church somewhere in that weekend as well, but to each his own. I don’t go every weekend either! Anyways… love the article. Really enjoy hearing that others are doing things with family instead of having their phone ding every 2 hours with another event/activity to attend. Will be linking to this from my blog, too. Thanks for sharing your life and learnings with us.

  19. Frugal Mom Advice says:

    Very true! The most important thing is having fun with the ones you love and spending time together. You do NOT need to spend any money to do those things.

  20. Iris Robin says:

    This level of organization is key to getting your finances under control. I think a lot of people have a hard time getting over the hurdle of taking the time to write down every cent they spend.

    In reality it’s the best way to save money, because you have the numbers there in black and white. As a small piece of advice to your readers, be persistent and take small steps. First write down what you’ve spent on the weekend, then eventually start your recording your spending habits daily.

    Great article, full of wonderful examples to help people to save money, love it and keep up the good work!

  21. lisa says:

    I like going to park idea, getting some ice cream and meet with friends. Don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a good time for sure.

  22. Ivana says:

    wow. i would rather watch paint dry than experience that weekend.

  23. anita says:

    I’m with you Ivana. I am sure this works fine for a family oriented life-style but I think most singles would prefer something a little more soical.

  24. Gina says:

    I think a little more fun could have been in order. Perhaps a visit to an ice-cream store and just get one scoop or rent a $1 movie from red box, go for hike with homemade picnic. Your wife is pregnant and I am not all that cooking and standing was probably exhausting. You could try giving her a back rub and make dinner for her. Just sayin.

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