We’ve been living on a budget since getting married and over the years, although my husband has gotten raises, certain parts of our budget seem to have gotten tighter. For instance, our food budget started out at $200/month. At this point, we’re at $360/month, and although that’s higher, we also have four children now, three who think they need to eat All. The. Time. Food prices have also gone up significantly in the past ten years. So how do we make it work? Here are a few tips to stretch your dollar, especially at the end of the month.
Dig through your cabinets
If money is tight at the end of the month, you may not have much in the budget to make a grocery store run for a full meal plan. Many times however, when you really start to dig, you’ll be able to put together at least a few meals with what is in your cupboards and freezer. I can almost always make pizza, spaghetti, or some kind of pasta or rice/chicken dish with what I have on hand. Even if you don’t have enough for a full meal, you can do the rest of your shopping based on what you already have.
When we’re trying to stretch things, I will substitute black beans in for meat. It works great in tacos, soups, or chili. Seasoned properly, black beans are delicious! In fact, my kids prefer them to ground beef.
Have breakfast for dinner
We do this at least once a week. Flour, eggs, and milk are pretty cheap and things we usually have on hand, so pancakes and waffles are basically free. Bread from the discount bread store is also usually less than a dollar a loaf, so french toast is another option we love!
Eat a cheap breakfast
Cereal, bacon, and sausage might be yummy, but they aren’t exactly cheap. Our family can easily eat an entire box of cereal ($3.50 a box) in one meal. Much more affordable would be scrambled eggs ($0.68/dozen) and toast ($0.88/loaf) bringing us to under $1 for the whole meal. Switching to a less expensive (and often healthier!) breakfast is a great way to save a few dollars every day!
I don’t use cloth diapers because I like them or because I’m “green” or any reason other than being frugal. And I don’t use them all the time. But when we’re having a particularly tight month, using my cloth diapers is an easy way to save about $30 to $40 a month. You can get prefold diapers and covers fairly cheap and pull them out whenever you are in a slim month.
Skip the napkins and paper towels
We almost never buy paper towels or napkins. I keep a couple rolls of paper towels on hand for when I fry bacon or fish, but other than that, we used dishcloths or small washcloths to clean up messes, even just to wipe our hands at mealtimes.
This one should be a no-brainer, but I know it isn’t for everyone. When we’re having a tight month, we drink water, water, and nothing else but water. Sometimes even for breakfast. It isn’t our favorite thing to do, but it definitely can help us stretch our money through the end of the month.
Eat at home
Eating out is expensive. It’s convenient, fun, and delicious, but it is expensive. One of the best ways to make your budgeted money stretch farther is to eat at home. A simple lunch of sandwiches, cheese sticks, and carrots or broccoli costs a tiny fraction of driving through Mc. Donald’s.
Shop at Aldi
Are you normally a HyVee shopper? Try something cheaper! We buy almost all our groceries at Aldi with the exception of a few items that are cheaper at Sam’s or Walmart. If you can avoid the other stores unless they’re having a big sale, you’ll save a lot of money each month.
Use grocery pickup
If you’re one who tends to splurge while in a store, it might be time to try out grocery pickup. Sam’s offers this and many Walmart stores are beginning to offer it as well. You can go online, order your groceries, then go pick them up without ever entering the store. This can save you money in a big way by saving you from picking up a soda in the checkout lane or grabbing a bag of chips as you walk through the main aisle.
How do you stretch your dollar?
What are your best dollar-stretching tricks? How do you make your budget last longer? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!