Being a one income family means that sometimes it’s tough to make ends meet. But, I would rather pinch pennies by living frugally now and have time with my children when they are young than have more money. That may sound crazy, but that’s me. Here’s a few things that we do:
LIVING FRUGALLY TIP #1 Don’t Keep Up With the Joneses
We have always done things a little differently than most people. We homeschool. We keep the Sabbath on the seventh day and eat biblically clean foods. We don’t do Christmas. We don’t have the desire to have the latest and greatest things. We don’t have cable TV or satellite, a brand new car or wear the latest fashions. We’ve never bought new furniture. We don’t go to the movies more than once or twice a year and rarely eat out. We don’t take elaborate vacations. We do like nice things, but nice doesn’t always mean new. Nice can be a great second-hand find or something passed down from a family member.
Some people think we’re weird. We may be weirdos, but we’re happy weirdos!
If new is something that is important to you, that is OK. It just means you need to be creative about saving money in other areas so you can have a little more to spend on the newer items you like. Just don’t make it your life’s focus to “keep up with the Joneses.” Life is more than stuff, and focusing solely on stuff will leave you feeling empty inside.
LIVING FRUGALLY TIP #2 Look for Local Places that Sell Discounted or “Distressed” Foods
In this area, we have a lot of “dented can” grocery stores run by Amish or Mennonites and they are a great resource for living frugally. They get loads of groceries at distressed food sales/auctions and then sell them in their stores. Some items are out dated, some have just a slightly bent or torn box, and some items are just overstock.
Another benefit to these types of stores is that you can often try things for a very reduced price. I have found fancy organic foods, toiletries and household cleaners I’d like to try but wasn’t sure I’d like for a fraction of their regular price. If I don’t like it, then at least I’m not out a lot of money.
There’s usually an amazing assortment of other products like napkins, diapers, cleaners, toiletries, toys, movies, and even dog food there. Some places even have refrigerated/frozen items and sell locally raised eggs or meats.
LIVING FRUGALLY TIP #3 Cook from Scratch
If you can make it yourself, why buy it? Obviously, if you have limited time, making it yourself may not always be possible. But if you do have the time, you will benefit from making your own foods beyond saving money. Being able to control what goes into your meals, and into your family, will also benefit your health.
What foods do you eat most often? Can you make those from scratch? What about…
- Snacks, like cookies or Gluten Free Crackers
- Every kid’s favorite food group…Ketchup – without HFCS!
- Spice mixes like Homemade Chili Powder, Homemade Taco Seasoning, Homemade Chai Spice Blend, Dry Onion Soup Mix, or a spicy Creole Seasoning Blend
- Gluten Free Cream of Mushroom Soup
- Whipped Cream
- Gluten Free Mozzarella Sticks that even gluten eaters will love
- What about that Bang Bang Sauce from your favorite restaurant? Make it yourself!
- Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza
- Pumpkin Puree
- Creamy Peanut Butter Apple Dip (with Probiotic benefits)
- Ranch Dressing Mix and Dip
- DIY 3 Ingredient Fat Free, Sugar Free Fruit Yogurt
- Homemade Hamburger Buns (bread machine recipe)
- Vanilla Extract
LIVING FRUGALLY TIP #4 Make Your Own Stuff in General
My mantra any more is Why Buy It When I Can Make It? Here are some more DIY ideas and recipes:
- Homemade Toothpaste
- Homemade All Purpose Cleaner
- Homemade Soft Scrubbing Cleanser
- Homemade Aloe Vera Shampoo or Dry Shampoo
- Easy and Frugal DIY Firestarters
- DIY Iced Tea Bags
- How to Stretch Your Favorite Fabric Softener and Save Money
LIVING FRUGALLY TIP #5 Check Into Assistance Programs
Even if you don’t qualify for food stamps, if you have young children you may qualify for WIC benefits. Some of the foods you can get include milk, cheese, peanut butter, fruits and vegetables, brown rice and beans. There are also various charitable organizations in most towns that will help those who are in need.
LIVING FRUGALLY TIP #6 Grow Your Own and Can/Freeze if Possible
If you have any space at all, you can grow at least some of your own foods. Container gardening is fairly easy and a great way to have fresh tomatoes, herbs and even some fruits.
If you have farmer’s markets or farm stands near by, those are also great sources of inexpensive and better quality produce than what you find in the grocery stores. And if you sincerely make friends with the owners, you’ll often find they are generous to a fault! I’ve had an older Amish lady just give me produce!
LIVING FRUGALLY TIP #7 Plan, Plan, Plan
Now, this is one I’m still working on…organization is a bit of a challenge for me. BUT, if you’re going to cook from scratch and make your own stuff, you have to have a plan. I always try to plan meals around what I have on hand and what’s on sale and try to set aside time several times a week to plan meals, things I need to bake or make, coupons and sale papers to look at, grocery list, etc. Some weeks I do great, others not so much. The weeks I have it nailed down, the money goes so much farther. If I go into a store hungry with no list…well, God help me is all I can say.
There are many ways of menu planning. I used a post-it note system for a while at the house we moved from last year. I don’t have the right set up in our new home to use this method anymore, but it was an easy way to plan meals for the week:
click photo to find out how I used this post-it note menu plan
LIVING FRUGALLY TIP#8 Buy in Bulk
If space allows, buy in bulk. I buy things like buckwheat, oats and rice in 50# bags. They store for what seems like forever in plastic buckets with tight-fitting lids. You can often get them for free from local grocery stores, especially if they have a bakery because they get shortening and that pudding like filling for donuts in big buckets.
Sometimes, you have to be creative about your storage “system.” I’ve heard of people using the space under beds, for example, to store extra canned goods. You may not have a lot of space, and might think it’s impossible to store anything, but if you are determined to find space to store bulk food items, you will most likely find something that works.
Since I buy some grains in bulk, I need a grain mill. I have a grain mill that I LOVE – and, I got that for free! I participated in the Grain Mill Wagon Challenge a couple years ago. Not only did I get a free grain mill, I also got paid $25. Being a blogger has perks, too! Check out the recipes I submitted for the challenge:
LIVING FRUGALLY TIP #9 Make Friends With Other Frugal Folks
I have several friends who are also very into living frugally and natural/healthy-minded. One friend has chickens and gives us eggs or we trade for something I have that she needs. She is super generous and has given me more than I have given her, but I know that when I am able to give more, I absolutely will.
And it usually works out that when one friend is a little short or down on their “luck”, another friend is blessed and can help out. That’s the way it should be…Believers should be looking out for each other! Now, I certainly don’t mean make friends with the lady down the street just because she has chickens…but when you do meet someone like that and sincerely form a friendship, it can become a mutually beneficial relationship on many levels.
LIVING FRUGALLY TIP #10 Pray, Pray, Pray
I didn’t put these in any particular order but this one should be Number One! Followed by Plan, Plan, Plan. I believe that the reason I can do the things I do is because I pray “Give us this day our daily bread…and supply all our needs according to your glorious riches in Christ.” I am blessed with family and friends who can help us out when we need it, and whom we can help when the tables are turned.
Be Realistic About Living Frugally
You can only do what you can do, and stressing out over trying to be frugal is not worth it, trust me! Trying to go from “spendthrift” to “tightwad” overnight is not realistic! Take a look at the areas where you spend the most money and choose one area in which to start trying to be more frugal. Add more areas as you can.
I’m not perfect about it and don’t obsess, but I really try to make the resources we have stretch as far as possible. I hope I’ve given you some ideas that will help inspire you to try living frugally, too.
I’d love to hear your Living Frugally tips so please leave a comment below!
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