Before I get started on the main event, I’ve got a little blog housekeeping work to get out of the way. I hadn’t realized how much work my kids extracurricular activies would be in additional to school. We went from zero homework last year to school homework and Boy Scouts homework this year. The school also lined up a billion “welcome back” events. Finally, we had 4 birthday parties for my newly 7-year old – immediate family, school friends, and two different grandparent and aunt ones.
In the midst of all that one of my best friends’ father died. I don’t deal with death well, so I’ve been a bit of a mess for the last few days.
Notheless, the show must go on…
When I started blogging in 2006, almost all the blog posts were about saving money. It’s much easier to write something concrete like “avoid the artisan grocery store” and “bring your own lunch to work” than “work harder and hope for a raise.” It was especially easy for me to focus on the frugal aspects because I had control over many of my expenses. When I put together the case that I was being paid less than 95% of all software engineers according to Salary.com, the answer I got was, “Sorry, there’s nothing in the budget to do anything.” They couldn’t even get creative with stock option compensation or vacation time.
My fiancee (now my wife) wasn’t satisfied with her work environment either. She applied for a promotion across the country in San Francisco. She got it and we moved shortly after. Silicon Valley is a very good place for a software engineer like me to find a job. Unfortunately, during that time, the push was to get superstar coders under the age of 25. I wasn’t a superstar, but I was a useful cog. At 30, I was the oldest person at the 25-person company. The CEO was 19 or 20. I don’t know if Silicon Valley is still the same way, but by age 30 you are way over the hill. At that point, people don’t want to live on the campus and work 16-18 hours a day. They, like me, want to have a wife, and maybe start a family.
I got a little off-track there. However, the point, I’m trying to make is that I’ve found it very difficult to find a job that is both interesting and pays even an average salary for my experience. As a software engineer, I was still being paid better than most people, so it’s relative. (I would have still liked to be bumped up to the bottom 25% instead of the bottom 5%.)
One of the things that saved me was frugality. From a very young age, my mother taught me to save money. I think I had always been a saver anyway as I’d save all my Halloween candy until it went bad. Nowadays, there’s a lot of talk on Twitter personal finance about earning more money. That’s certainly half of the equation. It’s just a difficult half for me to speak to. I don’t know what kind of job your are in or what your education is. Perhaps making more money is extraordinarily difficult for your situation. I can suggest adding a side hustle, but that’s way off-brand for this “Lazy Man.”
One of my favorite things to do is think about reducing our necessary expenses. For example, we got solar power 4 and a half years ago. We paid a lot up front, we’ve saved more than half of what we spent. After around 8 years any electricity our panels generate will be “free” (compared to what we would have paid if we didn’t get the panels).
The other thing I like to do is save money on groceries. Soon after we moved to our house, we lost the local Best Buy. That’s terrible for technology geek like me. However, we gained an Aldi, which is perhaps the best grocery store if you are frugal. That’s a great financial trade-off for us.
Saving Money on Chicken
I seem to be in the right place at the right time to save enormous money on chicken. Our chest freezer helps us stock up quite a bit. I’ve been so fortunate with saving money on chicken that I’ve been able to write some creative articles like, “McFly, Are You Chicken?” and Rich Chicken, Poor Chicken.
Today, I have another chicken deal to share. It’s appropriate because as I described at the beginning, I’ve been feeling like a chicken running around with its head cut off.
In the photo below (click for larger version), we have 3 types of chicken:
We have thighs with bones, thighs with no bones, and breasts. Typically, I use the chicken breasts for the dogs I sit. I slow cook them until they pull apart like pulled pork. Then I put a little in their kibble. They eat their food so fast. My dog won’t eat anything now without incentive. We used to use cheese like many people do, but I feel that chicken is healthier and it’s often much, much cheaper.
At the top of chicken pyramid scheme, I was able to get 2.47 pounds of chicken for $2.15 or about $0.87 a pound. As you’ll see, this is quite a splurge! Some dogs eat better than people. Then again, most dogs I know are better than people ;-).
On the second level of my pyramid, I have chicken things with bones and skin. These bake well, especially with an egg-wash and breadcrumbs. Here I was able to get 7.73 pounds of chicken for 2.98 or 38.5 cents per pound. I’m paying for some bone here, but I’m also getting the skin which locks in the flavor.
Finally at the bottom of the pyramid, I have boneless, skinless, chicken thighs. There are great with a simmer sauce in a slow cooker with onions and peppers. I make rice is separate rice cooker and it’s quality healthy dinner, with just a few minutes of preparation for just a few dollars. With different simmer sauces, there are almost endless options. Here I got 14.61 pounds for 5.69 or 39 cents per pound. I’m not paying for bone here, so this is probably the best chicken deal overall.
I would love to tell you how many meals this will come out to be, but I don’t count them. I make a batch and then we eat it until its gone. Sometimes it’s smaller lunches. Sometimes it’s paired with more starches and rice to stretch it further. So any kind of guess would be nothing more than speculation.
It’s not every day that I can find these kinds of deals. However, as you can see with the other articles above, they do come around. I’ve certainly have had the best luck with Aldi, but occasionally, I can find a deal at our local Shaw’s. The local military base can be a good source as well. I usually don’t go to different stores looking for these deals. I’ll only give it a look while I’m doing the rest of our shopping. It’s easier to “shop our chest freezer” from previous deals.
While this may seem like a small thing, I believe that a bunch of small things add up to something significant. It’s really difficult to try to make an extra percent or two investing in the stock market. Even if you do, it’s likely to be mostly luck. However, any time I can save 40%, 60%, or 80% on something like food, it gives us more money to invest. Getting that money in the market early has been critical to our very secure financial position now.
And a lot of that started with being frugal.