It will come as no surprise that many Americans are struggling to make ends meet in this tough economic climate. But thrifty and frugal families across the nation are finding creative ways to make every dollar count.
Mothering’s savvy community is more active than ever—bursting with brilliant and simple ways to save money without sacrificing comforts. And while smart solutions like H&R Block’s new Never Settle for Less campaign are inspiring families to make the most of financial options at tax time—Mothering members are also sharing ways to think creatively for a better future all year long.
Here are just a few community inspired ideas to help you stretch your budget a little further this month.
Plan Your Meals
This is possibly the most recommended and straightforward way that a family can save money each month. By carefully planning an entire week’s meals you can cut your grocery budget in ways you never imagined. Start saving now with these proven meal-planning methods.
1. Choose dishes that complement each other to save on the number of items you need to buy and reduce your weekly waste. Since we often do not use all of a specific ingredient we need for a recipe, think carefully about how each item on your list can be used for more than one meal. Can some of the leftover sauce from spaghetti be used for sandwiches the next day? Will buying a different type of cheese make it more useful for multiple dishes? Simple questions like this will help you plan with a budget in mind.
2. Eat simply and you will save cash. Grab a good whole foods cookbook and look for recipes that can easily be made from scratch. While packaged foods can seem like a great deal at first glance, they often produce no leftovers and are less nutritious and filling–costing you more in the end. Cooking from scratch will expand your options and save money over the course of a week. Mothering has many simple and delicious recipes in our Peggy’s Kitchen section to get you started.
3. Plan to use leftovers and you can cut out the need for several lunches or dinners a week. Often times leftover foods go to waste because we have not planned to use them. Considering ways that you can serve every bit of food will make your budget go much further. Challenge yourself by planning for only five dinners each week, using only leftovers for the other two nights, and you will be surprised how much you can do without.
4. Stick to your plan. Once you have come up with a list of all of the items you will need for the week, don’t deviate. Make a promise to yourself that you will buy only what is on the list and don’t go back to the store until shopping time comes up again.
Grab more tasty ideas and find support for getting started in the Meal Planning forums on Mothering.
Switch to Cloth
Many families have discovered that switching to reusable solutions for everyday items can save a good deal of money. Try these simple methods and you will start seeing savings in no time.
1. Make your own baby wipes. Disposable baby wipes add up to big costs over the year. Make your own by cutting up a flannel sheet or using wash clothes. Wet them with warm water and baby safe soap, or make your own baby bottom solution with the simple recipes from this thread. You can even pre-moisten and store them in an old wipe box (or other resealable container) for easy use.
2. Ditch disposables. If you haven’t already, consider using cloth diapers instead of disposables. Modern options make them just as convenient, super cute and eco-freindly. Buy them premade from a variety of online shops, or craft your own for extra savings.
Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies
1. Clothes Soap: Creating your own clothes soap is not only eco-friendly it is a great way to save costs. Many families who make their own soap have cut down this expense to just a few cents per load.
What you will need
One chunk of laundry old-style soap (approx. 1.5 ounces)
One Cup of Super Washing Soda
Gallon Size Container
Stirring Spoon or Ladle
Check out this thread in the Mothering community for the instructions on making this frugal alternative.
2. Cleaning Supplies: Baking soda, vinegar, lemon, and essential oils are all-natural household items that are safe and effective cleaning agents. Here is a recipe for some safe window cleaner to replace expensive commercial options.
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon liquid detergent
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 cups water
Put all the ingredients in a spray bottle, shake it, and use as you would a commercial brand.
Grab six more recipes for common cleaning products in the article Good Housecleaning right here on Mothering.com
While the above solutions can lead to big savings for your family they are just a small sampling of the unexpected ways that you can reduce your spending each month. To reduce even more, write down all of your expenses (no matter how small) and start identifying areas where a little research and ingenuity will save you a bundle. Look to the Mothering Frugality and Finances forum, including our recent Frugal Tips Contest, for inspiration and support in your journey.
Continue to Never Settle for Less by Filing online at hrblock.com or in an H&R Block Office.
This is a post is based on an advertising relationship.
Melanie Mayo-Laakso is the Content Manager for Mothering.com. Mothering is the birthplace of natural family living and attachment parenting. We celebrate the experience of parenthood as worthy of one's best efforts and are at once fierce advocates for children and gentle supporters of parents.