• Depending on how bad the situation is, adopt as many or as few of these as needed; the biggest area to cut back in is in food; most of us can’t change the cost of our housing or other bills much because they are fixed costs; however, with a little time, effort and creativity you can cut your grocery bill to ¼ what you normally spend.  Some co-workers and I were talking the other day on what the least we ever got by with for family groceries for one week—based on 2 adults and 1 or 2 children.  I was not the winner at $25 for one week.  Someone else got by on $15 for one week of groceries! This was somewhere around the time frame of 2008.
  • Cook all meals from scratch—breakfast, lunch and supper
  • Make home-made pound cakes instead of buying snacks and dessert
  • Buy popcorn in the bag (to cook the old-fashioned way on the stove) instead of chips
  • Buy the big bags of off-brand cereal instead of the name-brand children’s cereals (honestly these really taste about the same—not that big of a difference)
  • No convenience foods (no pre-packaged, instant, or frozen meals)
  • Shop from a list and stick to the list
  • Make the grocery list from  menus
  • Make the menus with what’s already in the cupboard or requires the fewest purchases
  • Limit purchases of empty-calorie items
  •  Freeze left over’s in individual containers for work or quick lunches
  • Make soup or stew from some leftovers
  • Make lemonade from lemon juice instead of buying soft drinks or powdered mixes
  • Buy the big tubs of ice cream for something sweet to keep on hand
  • Buy juice in the aisle instead of the cooler section
  • I can’t tell the difference between the various brands of milk
  • Buy the least expensive name-brand laundry detergent in the bucket
  • Buy the largest container of whatever it is you are buying at the time (check per ounce cost)
  • Be careful where you buy your household or toiletry items—it is worth a trip to another store as these can be astronomical at some stores; get these at a trusted dollar store; still check the prices—these things can eat up your budget quickly if you don’t pay attention to the cost; check the amounts before buying because sometimes the dollar store brand is way less in quantity
  • Buy the least expensive name brand toothpaste in the largest size
  • Don’t scrimp on toilet paper –it’s not worth it and it uses up faster; just make sure you get a brand that has decent amount on the roll so you don’t run out too quickly
  • I buy generic if the budget is really bad on any given month but mostly, if I can, I buy the least expensive name brand; I have found the generics are not the same quality and I end up regretting it; the exception use to be paper towels but now I have discovered the roll has been shortened (larger cardboard roll holder in the middle) so I will probably go back to least expensive name brand; there are a few exceptions but use your own judgment
  • Learn to use a crock pot or slow cooker; you can get by on the meat specials from butcher shops many months if you use your slow cooker on the less tender cuts of meats and get creative with recipes
  • For cooking, use the off-brand cream of chicken, mushroom, etc…; for eating as soup stick with the name brand (this is ok for soups that are time limited and not your regular routine). I always keep tomato soup and chicken noodle soup in the can for just eating on rare occasions.  The tomato soup is good with grilled cheese or bologna and cheese sandwiches for a change of pace.  The chicken noodle is what I keep around for when one of us is sick.
  • Get your cheese in the block form and grate it yourself
  • Limit going out to eat and if you do make your money count—know where the good prices are for good quality food in generous portions; limit dining out to once per month regardless of how often you can afford; when the budget is extremely tight but you are in a situation where you have to eat out look at the value menus and consider just buying each item you want separately rather than going with the combos or numbered meals
  • Know which restaurants and chains are rip-offs and avoid them; some “fast food” chains can end up costing more than a high quality sit down restaurant
  • Remember—clothes are for covering the body and are not a statement of your worth as a human being—teach this to your children as well.  Buy sturdy, appropriate clothes at the lowest price you can find them and forget about name brands and tags.  Shop backwards (no not walking backwards).  Buy at the end of the season clearances which end up being 75-95% off if you time it right.  Just buy at the end of one season for the next year (and vice versus).  Put it away and pull it out when it’s time—brand new.  Buy clothes that are likely to remain in style—basics, classics.
  • Go to yard sales very, very early—leave your house at 6AM and bug the people as they are trying to set up their tables.  If you wait until 8AM then forget it.
  • Overcome pride which causes us to spend more than we have
  • Do not use credit cards or borrow money for day-to-day living.  If you don’t have the money then don’t buy it (don’t use credit and debt at all if possible)
  • Some stores still offer lay away with no interest or fees—take advantage
  • If it’s real bad cut off cable, internet, cell phones, and house phones
  • Cut back on heating and cooling to the extent possible to remain healthy and reasonably comfortable—is it really necessary to walk around naked in your house in January?
  •  Learn to make and enjoy soups and stews—waste nothing; throw no food in the trash; if nothing else put up the last little bit in the freezer to pull out later
  • Recycle, recycle, recycle—why buy special plastic storage containers with lids and then throw away the margarine and sour cream containers when you are done?
  •  Over the counter medications are fine in the generic forms—there is really no need to buy the name brand at 4 x the cost
  • Combine trips whenever possible; I use to like to go back into town to buy groceries but since the gas prices went up (as well as the cost of everything else) I get groceries on the way home from work
  • Buy groceries once per month and try to get everything you need for the entire month; it’s easier to budget this way and you spend less overall; sure you will need to go back for bread, milk, and a few things here and there; discipline yourself not to buy what’s not on your list and is not needed; stock up when you can on things you know you will need anyway

(Diane Webb)


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