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These savings strategies for a bad economy is only two basic rules…but it’s working like magic for our large family!

Over the past year, I’ve started to notice something about our money.

Basically, that thing is that we don’t have any.

ha!

The problem is that our whole family has continued to spend money as if the price of everything hasn’t gone through the roof.

And also, lately we seem to have some unavoidable, but very expensive problem, crop up every single month.

You just can’t crank up the music and try to ignore it anymore. The economy is terrible. The cost of everything has doubled. And your paycheck hasn’t.

So what can we do about it?

Well, I have stumbled across something that is working really well. And it’s a lot simpler than you’d think.

The Best Savings Strategy For Hard Times

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What’s The Problem, Really?

First things first. You have got to know where your money is going if this is gonna work.

If you don’t already have a way to budget, and you want an easy way to track things, give Mint a try.

Why is a budget so darned important?

Because, if you’re really honest with yourself, you have no idea where the money went this month without one.

Oh, you probably remember the giant car repair bill you had.

And you might even know the cost of the last grocery run.

But did you also remember the 3 times in the past two weeks you stopped to grab milk (and in the process picked up a couple of other things from the store)?

I never do.

Maybe you’re smarter than I am.

But I need everything dumped into one spot so I can see at a glance that I spent waaaay more on “shopping” than I realized.

What To Do About It

Once I got really honest about looking over my budget, I could see that there were two categories we were constantly spending waaay too much on.

For us, those two categories were groceries and shopping.

grocery cart

Grocery Budget Busters

It’s hard to admit that our groceries category was going over, because I have a course that will teach you how to keep your grocery spending down.

And those strategies still work! I promise they do.

For me, the real problem was that I had become kind of a FOMO grocery shopper.

I mean, we had a pandemic, so I bought lots of extra food because I didn’t want to go out as frequently.

Then, you’d go to the store and find oh so many shelves just EMPTY of food.

Things like potatoes, which we eat a ton of, just weren’t at the store anymore.

That was scary.

SO…I got into a habit of always buying a bunch of extra food.

Having extra food on hand is a great habit. Until it’s not.

When you have too much food on hand, it becomes no big deal to waste what you have. That’s just the harsh truth.

grocery shopping cart

Shopping Budget Busters

And shopping? Well, I figured we’d just have to stop buying ourselves all of that fun stuff.

But the thing is, when I dug through all of those Amazon purchases, it was for boring things. We were not splurging much.

Instead, I found replacements for things that had broken (a hose nozzle), things we needed (medicine, shoes, homeschool books), and gifts.

Then there were the Walmart trips, where things tend to just get added to the cart.

These aren’t frivolous things either, generally. Usually things that once I see them in store, I remember that we have been needing a new *whatever*. (Shower curtain, containers for small toys that have been covering the floor, etc.)

fried chicken

The 2 Changes That Made An Almost Instant Difference In Our Budget

Well, I knew something had to give.

We were overbudget in those categories every single month.

And we couldn’t just rob Peter to pay Paul. The other categories in our budget were already strained.

What to do?

pesto and shredded zucchini

How I Fixed The Grocery Budget

Let me tell you a truth I learned a long time ago about grocery budgets.

There’s a time and place for coupons, sales, and shopping at the “right” stores.

But the truth is, a huge part of your grocery budget is saved or lost right at home.

Like all of that food waste.

For me, scraping out leftovers (that became science experiments) has always felt like throwing dollar bills into the trash can.

But I *knew* I could do better.

So I immediately made a commitment to really use up our food.

NOT a pantry challenge. (You might already know that I just hate pantry challenges!)

I basically decided that food was our home currency.

It’s something to be doled out as needed, and to be preserved in any way I can think of.

I’m going to give you more tips, but I really want to highlight that the biggest change I made was nothing more than being seriously committed to the idea that food = money… and I’m not gonna waste a scrap if I can help it.

Like taking all of that leftover angel hair pasta, mixing it with some leftover smoked pork ribs, and making soup for supper. (And here are some other ways we use up leftovers.)

It also means accepting the fact that my two oldest are almost never around for supper anymore. So I can (should) make smaller portions.

Ideas for Collecting Food

We were lucky enough this year to receive gifts of produce from my parents as well as a few different friends.

People tell me they want my friends and family. haha!

Well, they are pretty amazing, but I suggest you get some people of your own. 😉

I find that if people know that my family will use up any food they want to give us, they’re more likely to offer it.

This isn’t a suggestion to tell everyone you see that you want food. But, let’s say some friends are planning to throw away a hambone (ham and bean soup!) after you have a meal together.

Ask them if they’d mind if you took it home instead.

Next time, they’ll probably think of you and offer it to you first.

Then, just keep doing that.

But be generous. Take them a cup of that ham and bean soup as a thank you! Or anything you have an abundance of.

canned apples

Preserving Food

Once you have food on hand, you simply MUST keep it from going bad!

I’m going to suggest some investments that will help your food last.

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I know it seems counterintuitive to tell you to spend money to save money, but over time you will make all of this money back and then some, assuming you are committed to making it work.

Freezing is probably the easiest method, assuming you have freezer space.

If you don’t have a deep freeze, even a smaller freezer like this model can store a lot of food.

Or, if you already have a freezer (or 3, like we do!), you might want to invest in this affordable vacuum sealer machine to make your food more compact and longer lasting.

strawberries in freezer bag

There are a lot of things you can just toss right into the freezer.

  • cut fresh veggies like peppers or onions, etc.
  • fruits like grapes, strawberries without their tops, sliced peaches, etc.
  • bananas for banana bread or smoothies
  • shredded chicken
  • pulled pork
  • rice, flour, grains: so it won’t go bad so quickly
  • leftover soup or chili
  • basically, nearly anything that your family isn’t eating quickly enough right now (if you aren’t sure that it can be frozen, Google it. You’ll be surprised!)

And other foods you can freeze might take more time, but are worth it! Learn how to make homemade chicken broth, pizza sauce, any number of things you can freeze.

I’ve even frozen my homemade pizza dough with no trouble.

pickled green beans canned

Do A Little More

This year, I finally got back to canning food.

I only have a water bath canner, which does somewhat limit my ability to can certain things.

But I didn’t let that stop me!

Green beans, for instance, can’t be canned in a water bath. Unless you make green bean pickles! So we’re giving those a try.

pear scraps

And when I peeled all of my apples for applesauce, apple pie filling, etc., I was determined to not waste those peels, either.

I made apple peel jelly (and also pear honey from my pear peelings).

You can also make homemade apple cider vinegar from your cores and peelings, and I can’t wait to give that a try.

apple on a tree

Incidentally, we got all of those apples for $1 per pound by picking them ourselves at a local orchard. So I have been looking for all sorts of ways to preserve those apples!

Dehydrating Food

For my birthday this year, my Hubby got me this dehydrator.

I’ve always wanted one, but I’ve been a little worried I wouldn’t use it enough to justify the cost.

Cosori dehydrator

But man, can you dehydrate some food!

My family loves apple rings and fruit leather, I’ve discovered.

fruit leather

I also was excited to dehydrate the strawberries I found on sale (they go bad so quickly!). They were great in my cereal.

I’ve done zucchini chips, too. And I can’t wait to try jerky (that stuff is so expensive!).

I do recommend this dehydrator. It has been so easy to use and clean.

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Saving The Shopping Budget

My secret weapon when it comes to saving my shopping budget is nothing more than finding a good thrift shop.

I’ve got one I love, and now I go every other week.

United States map
One of my fun thrift store treasures…

There are so many treasures to find! Especially if you’re willing to be patient.

I have found SO many things, but here are a few:

  • clothes for all of us ($4 dresses! $2 pants! Both practically new.)
  • homeschool books and supplies galore
  • a CD player I needed ($8 instead of the $25 I found online)
  • a bike
  • furniture
  • pretty decor for $4
  • coffee tumbler lids (the lid on my favorite tumbler broke…easy fix by buying an ugly $1 tumbler just to keep the lid!)
tumbler
  • wiffle balls and bats
  • graduation party decor
  • stationary (25 cents)
  • card & board games (for homeschool…that I had almost bought for $12, there it was $1)
  • belts & shoes
  • milk crates

Now, you might be saying “If I go to the thrift store every other week, won’t I just be spending more money?”

Well, for me the answer is no.

Like I said, I can’t walk out of Walmart for less than $100, and typically make that trip once a month. Meanwhile, I rarely spend more than $8 at the thrift shop, and come out with things we need.

(Ok, and a lot of books that we might be able to live without. But I don’t care, I’m keeping my 25 cent books.)

And if I’m perfectly honest, I’ve found that lately, many things I’ve bought brand new have broken quickly. Which is really disheartening when things cost double what they were a couple of years ago.

Wait A Minute

Or wait longer.

I’ve gotten into a habit of needing something, popping on Amazon, and having it shipped immediately.

Even though I know I should sleep on it.

Sleeping on even a small buying decision is often a good idea, because I sometimes find that we don’t actually need the thing I really, really thought we couldn’t do without.

But I’ve found it’s valuable for other reasons, too.

NOW, I open my Cozi shopping list instead of Amazon, (it’s a free organizing app, but I would be lost without it), and just add my wish item to the list.

Then I know to be on the look out for a cheap way to get what I need.

Sometimes that’s the thrift shop.

chalkboard hangers made from pop tabs

Or it might be finding a way to recycle what we have.

Like when I used pop tabs as hangers on the back of my chalkboard.

Or milk crates for bookshelves when I bought too many cheap books. haha

That’s My Savings Strategy Right Now, And It’s Working!

I know I gave you a lot of ideas, but in reality my whole money strategy right now boils down to:

  1. Absolutely do NOT waste food.
  2. Find it secondhand or free instead.

It’s nothing revolutionary. But if you can find a couple of oldie, but goody, rules like this to laser focus on in your own life, you really can make a big difference in the budget.

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