Our house has always had to run on half-empty or fumes to make ends meet, so to speak. Penny-pinching has been our favorite sport! I remember my coupons spilling out on the floor of the grocery store but it had to be done. I’ve even made my own liquid cleaner with dish soap and hot water.
Each category on my budget list would have to be cut down to a few dollars each. To start, the rent had to come first. Everything went into that to make sure we had a roof over our heads. I have seen personal items spread out over the parking lot of our apartment community from an eviction. That was incentive enough to curb our spending nature.
Second, although it pains me to trim off money from the food category, electricity and heating had to come next. I could wash our clothes in cold water but not my dishes, hair or my daughter. We could get clothes and shoes from the local thrift store. I’ve discovered some great finds in household items that way.
When it comes to raising kids, I tried to use honey instead of sugar and cut out the artificial additives so the school wouldn’t call me about any behavior problems. I found that using the least expensive baking mix saved a lot. Just adding sugar or honey, eggs or replacement, and milk (cow, rice or soy) makes great dough for fruit cobbler, pancakes, pigs-in-a-blanket, cupcakes, cakes, and cookies.
We lived mostly on sauces. Spaghetti sauce is good for most pasta and homemade pizza, but also alfredo sauce can mix well with pasta and rice. Add cooked cut up chicken and some broccoli and you have a great casserole!
My parents lived on beans when they were growing up so they wanted meat at every dinner. If beans and corn bread aren’t your style, you can try hot dogs in macaroni and cheese or in baked beans. Cut them up to add to pizza or use bacon cooked and cut up. One of the dishes my mom taught me was using mashed potatoes on top of vegetable soup mixed with cut up hot dogs or hamburger as a stew base or using canned stew for Sheppard’s pie. I’ve even used a baking mix and milk dough to top mine.
If you want a cut costs on meat, I buy a large bag of chicken breasts and add them cooked and cut up into just about everything: salads, soups, stews, casseroles, battered fried nuggets, stir fry, or enchiladas with green chili sauce. My favorite new way to make that is to cook the sauce and chicken then put that on top of cooked rice and corn tortilla chips. Top off with shredded cheese and it’ll be a crowd pleaser!
Above all, the best way to save money at the grocery store it to make a menu or meal plan and definitely eat first!
Sheryl Knapp is a freelance writer and has been a single mom for over twenty-five years.