As our family grew slowly over the years to include a father, mother and ten children, we began by necessity to become a frugal family. As a stay at home mother who was mostly responsible for keeping the money our hard working father brought home stretch to meet our needs, I found many ways to do this.
The main way I learned was by reading. There are many good books on this subject, but the one I found the most useful to me was “The Tightwad Gazette” by Amy Dacyczyn. This book is actually three books combined into one, and has more information in it than you will ever be able to use, from buying furniture, cars and houses, to giving gifts and ‘dumpster diving’. It’s a fun, witty book to read, and makes being frugal an adventure, rather than a chore.
One tip that helped a lot was to ‘plan my pantry’ rather than just using menus and shopping lists. The book taught me to make a list of all the ingredients we needed to make our favorite meals, and keep the pantry continually stocked with these items.
Buying in bulk also saves a lot of money on the grocery bill, as buying in bulk is usually cheaper. It will also help you make less shopping trips, which saves money because if you aren’t in the store often, you will save on the temptation to buy treat items that are not on your list.
In working towards saving money at the grocery store, I quickly learned that buying prepared items and convenience foods simply cost too much for my large family. That meant I needed to cook more often. A book called “Make a Mix” was a help in both saving money and time. This book tells you how to make a host of homemade mixes, such as pancake mix, main course mixes, and spice mixes.
I learned to grow an herb garden. I also planted onions and garlic around my fence in the front yard. They have attractive foliage, and I could harvest them at the right time.
I invested in a good dehydrator to dry the herbs, onions and garlic, and also the mint I grew for tea. I could also buy apples and other fruits in bulk and dry them. The dried fruit made good snacks for the children. One Christmas when money was tight (and it would be a good idea even when it’s not) my son and I made beef jerky for presents.
Worn clothing can be recycles into fun, useful items. Blue jeans can be cut into good size squares and sewn together, three squares thick, to make the best potholders you will ever have. I used red thread to sew a design around the edges, and even sometimes put metal buttons in the middle. You can also sew the squares together to make a small comfort for a young boy. Back it with bandana material, and tie the squares in the middle with red yarn. You can even use the blue jean pockets in your squares, and tuck candy or dollar bills in them if it’s a present at birthdays and Christmas time.
Use old cotton material from clothes and curtains, cutting them into large squares, then finish the edges for table napkins. I’ve made some really cute, unusual napkins this way. The children love to use them. I use these same napkins to wash the baby’s face, and dry my hands as I cook.
Old sweatshirts can be recycled as bibs for your young children. Cut a square around the stretchy neck, longer in front than in back, finish the edges, and have a good bib that cost as much as five or six dollars in the store, for something you would normally throw out.
Learn to sew. There are so many ‘easy to sew’ patterns out now, that even the beginner can make something cute and practical. Ebay is a wonderful place to buy clothes, especially if you can find them in ‘lots’. Check outlet stores, both in your area and online. Join your local freecycle group for all kinds of deals.
There are so many ways to save money as you raise your family. Don’t let finances cause you to limit your family size. There are alternatives for most of the expensive things, if you use your imagination.