Living on a low budget doesn’t mean having to do without. With just a little elbow grease and planning necessities are easily taken care of for pennies on the dollar.
Meal-planning is one way to do this. Go ahead and make out a menu, including all meals and snacks. Try to make the most of what you have in your pantry, and plan as many meals as you can that could make a second meal such as lunch or supper the day afterwards or to put in the freezer for later; soups and casseroles are great for this. Don’t overlook what you can make from scratch either. Don’t buy a tube of biscuits if you have flour in your cabinet, and remember to factor in cheap substitutions as well. If your favorite pancake recipe calls for a cup of buttermilk, then don’t spend four dollars on a quart that’s just going to waste. Substitute that butter milk for sour milk made from a cup of your regular milk with a tablespoon of vinegar whisked in. Dry milk makes a long lasting pantry staple for a substitute for the milk needed in your baking as well.
Research the prices of your local grocery store and shop where you’re going to spend less on average. Not only will this save you money on your groceries, but your gas tank as well. However, if the produce on your list is in season at the farmer’s market and substantially cheaper than your store, then don’t shrug that off just because you don’t want to deal in cash. If it appears later that the amount of produce you bought doesn’t add up to the way your meals are turning out and it may spoil, then look up the best method of preserving it so it can be stored for later use. This saves you more money later as well. For example, canning a couple quarts of applesauce to put away can save you when you need pie filling, oil for baking or even a quick side to go with those peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. Small container gardens in your kitchen window or on a balcony on up to four by six beds in your yards can keep your family in freshly grown produce for cheaper than that as well.
Another thing to research closely is clipping coupons. Those staged shows may make it look great, but if you have six bucks in your pocket and no milk or eggs are you really going to want to spend your money on a year’s supply of razor blades or two Sunday papers that are only going to give your two coupons you’ll actually use? If you feel using coupons is a worthwhile way to save your family’s dollars however, be sure to stretch that part of your budget as far as you can by looking up local websites in your area that give you the list of the coupons coming out that week as well as websites that can link you to free coupons to print out.
Something else that can be an easy way to stretch a small budget is homemade cleaning supplies. Homemade laundry soap is made simply by grating a bar of soap (Fels Naptha or any type of bath soap) into two cups of boiling water. Whisk in a quarter cup each of Borax, washing soda and baking soda until it’s all dissolved. Add a drop or two of an essential oil, like lavender or tea tree if you’d like, and once it’s cooled, transfer to your storage container (washed out milk jugs work great) and add luke-warm water to make a gallon.
This recipe makes between sixty to seventy-five loads of laundry for the average cost ranging between a dime and two dollars. Your favorite dollar store conditioner mixed with a cup of white vinegar and dissolved in hot water makes a gallon of fabric softener when added to the remainder of the water. Add a tablespoon of baking soda to a small amount of the softener for homemade freshener spray. White vinegar and baking soda work as well as any all-purpose cleaner in your local cleaning aisle. White vinegar is a great rinse aid in your dishwasher and baking soda scrubs your tub clean for pennies by comparison.
Several other homemade substitutions can be found around your house and put to use with a small amount of work on your part. For instance, an unusable or unwanted flannel shirt can be turned into reusable dryer sheets when cut into six by six squares and soaked in fabric softener. In addition, with simple tracing skills and quick seams on the sewing machine, that same flannel shirt can also be turned into a quick stash of cloth feminine pads to drive down that cost as well . Think of it as a game; what can you re-purpose around your house to cut pennies and dollars out of your spending?