It seems everyone is feeling the crunch financially these days. We have always lived on a reasonably tight budget simply because we have made a choice to live debt-free. However, right now my husband is between pastorates and only working a part time job and so we've had to tighten up the belt several notches.
Let me say right here how thankful I am for parents who raised me with a different set of values than most people live by. We learned early in life that eternal values were those that were the most important. We also learned that relationships (beginning with our relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour) were far more important than anything tangible in our lives. The older I get the more grateful I am for these important truths that were ingrained into my heart and life. It allows me to see that those things with eternal values are what really, really matters.
I also am thankful for learning that some of the most enjoyable things in life are free! I love watching children play, I love sitting and watching the rain come down while I sit on my porch and drink coffee. My mom taught me to enjoy watching people. I can have a wonderful time sitting in a vehicle waiting on my husband and mentally sketching people or guessing their names, occupations or guessing their personality type. I love bathing babies, telling stories, listening to stories or simply reading a book. I love nature. I love....and the list could go on and on with things that cost nothing!
So with all that said, life still goes on. We have to wash clothes, buy groceries, clothe our families, and pay the bills! When the belt does needed tightened what are some ways we can help our families to make it with the least amount of pain?
One of the major expenses is food so I want to talk about that first. Years ago I heard a radio program where they talked about how much food is wasted in America. I was astounded by the statistics. The current amount of food that is wasted in America is estimated to be 100 billion pounds of food per year. Is is estimated that 14% of the food Americans purchase is wasted. The average American family throws out $590 worth of food each year. This is just food in the homes and doesn't include grocery store waste or restaurant waste. I stood in my living room after hearing that program and prayed to the Lord telling Him that if He would send us food that was going to be wasted we would use it. He has never failed to answer that prayer to this day. Much of our food is from what others planned on throwing away or from a grocery store like UGO that deals with what is about to go out of date or is the overflow of other stores.
So, first make it a matter of prayer.
Second, cook from scratch. When you buy anything precooked or premade you are wasting money. It only takes minutes to put together food from scratch. I read a book once and she gave price comparisons of pre-made food and food from scratch in price and time. I assure you people who don't cook from scratch are spending a lot of money and not gaining much in time.
Third, make more casseroles, soups and foods that have meat in them but the entree isn't made entirely of meat. When we have been the tightest financially I have doubled the non-meat part of a casserole and reduced the meat part. My family didn't notice.
This includes soups, etc. You can even make one non-meat meal per week and save. Meat is one of the major expenses in the food budget and we in the Western world eat too much meat. You can make baked beans with hot dogs in them along with corn bread and a green veggie and voila!-- a meal. You can make chicken and noodles, au gratin potatoes with ham pieces in them, pinto beans, green beans with potatoes and sliced link sausage, pot pies, stir fry and Chicken A La King, and make a little meat go a long, long way. Need recipes? Find your basic recipe and then learn to stretch it!
I have even made some really good dinners just scavengering my fridge and mixing them together and ending up with a good meal from leftovers in the fridge. I call them "Desperation Dinners". Twice I've been asked for my recipe and told the person "I couldn't give it to you if I tried".
Fourth, reduce waste in your own kitchen. If you have a few vegetables left and don't think they'll get eaten throw them into a quart jar and freeze them. Later you can put them in your homemade vegetable soup. Learn to eat up your leftovers. Take bread heels and leftover rolls and put them in a freezer bag. Use them later for overnight breakfast casserole or the stuffing for Thanksgiving Day. I even have a really good crockpot recipe for chicken and stuffing where those old bread scraps come in mighty handy. Some of the recipes that have been glorified today by Food Network are really recipes that came from our grandmothers depression days. My mother said Bread Pudding and Rice Pudding were both recipes to use up the leftover day old bread and leftover rice.
If you haven't canned or frozen food before you might want to learn in case someone gives you their extra bumper crop of zucchini or even corn. I've actually canned an entire freezer of food someone gave me. Their freezer had broken down and the food had thawed. They planned to throw it away. I canned fish and beef both from that freezer load of food!
Reuse your storage bags (unless meat was stored in them) by giving them a scrub in hot dish water and drying them over glasses on your counter. Give up paper plates and paper towels for a while. I promise it won't kill you. You can memorize scripture or pray while you wash the extra dishes. No one will bother you as you do it!
Fifth, learn who has the best prices. I keep a small notebook in my purse where I keep the prices of things we commonly buy. WalMart used to have a corner on the market in many areas. I now buy more things at Kroger as they have become cheaper than WalMart on many, many items. We buy much of our milk at Save-A-Lot because the first gallon is much cheaper there. We make a weekly trip to UGO and find prices on canned goods that can't be beat. I check the ads each week. We buy only Scott toilet paper when it's on sale at KMart or Dollar General Store. (Try it one time and compare how long it lasts next to any other brand and you'll be sold.) I now make my own laundry detergent at such a savings that I couldn't begin to compare it with the cheapest laundry detergent out there!
If I have to I can feed our family for a week on a very, very small amount of money. I'm thankful for the help the Lord has given me in doing this.
Next, ask yourself where the leak is in your budget. How many times do you go to town each week? How much are you spending on eating out or entertainment? Have a family night at home and get out those old-fashioned board games and make homemade pizza versus expensive delivered or freezer section pizza. Just making the pizza can be half of the fun!
We have never owned more than one vehicle as a family. (unless my children owned one--I'm talking about one for hubby and one for me.) This has saved us an enormous amount of money. Just the license, insurance, maintenance, gas cost, etc. is a large chunk of change. Some people can't even imagine this but I've asked my husband to make sure there isn't an extra car out there to tempt me to run around when I'm supposed to be at home! I've never felt cheated--I've got too much to do here anyway!
Now to clothing. Years ago I was very embarrassed by my clothing and my shoes. My husband was in the early years of ministry and we had four children under the age of five. Most of our budget paid the bills and when I had clothing money it went on the children's needs. Then I learned to give my wardrobe to the Lord and let Him supply it. Didn't He say to seek Him and His righteousness first and all these things would be added to us? (Matt. 6) Well, it works!
I can't begin to tell all the wonderful treats He has given me. If He can clothe the grass of the field and make beautiful flowers He can take care of me! The other day I was looking at my wardrobe and realizing that much of it had been given to me in what others would call rag bags. I also had found wonderful deals on some of my favorite clothes.
Now I'm not what you'd call "into" clothes. My husband actually picks out more of my clothes than I do or insists I buy them when I want to go to JoAnn's fabric and buy another piece of fabric to make a grandchild something new however, I'm not ashamed of what the Lord has given me.
I am a seamstress but in the last few years I've found you can get as much into sewing adult clothing as buying it on sale or finding a gently used piece at a thrift store. With that said, I believe you should learn to sew. Basics if nothing else so you can "refashion" something you found at Goodwill.
Learn to shop thrift stores, learn to look at an article of clothing and ask if just a small alteration would make it something you'd love. Learn to shop at the end of the season in the store--you usually have plenty of season left when they're trying to get rid of them. Learn to shop in stores like Ross where you can get brand name clothing for a fraction of the full price. Learn what to invest in financially and what to only buy the cheap line.
I love having lined skirts (pencil skirts) for dress up. I have paid more for them because a good lined skirt will last years and years. If something is more of a fad and is going to be out of style shortly I would be looking at a cheap department store for what I'm wanting.
We live in a town with probably six to seven thrift stores. I recently found Cierra three camisole tops to wear under her long sleeved tops for 50 cents each! They look brand new but they were considered summer.
There are many wonderful blogs on refashioning clothes and I know from experience some of the best pieces of fabric I got to use on children's clothings were from larger ready made outfits given to us. Cierra's first dress I made her was darling. It was from a piece of leftover fabric with a built in slip made from an old bedsheet!
One of my favorite tips I've used for years was to take my old hose that had one leg with a runner and save it. I tie a knot in the leg that has the runner and put it in my underclothing drawer. Then when the next pair gets a runner in just one leg I take out both pair and cut off the bad leg leaving the panty part on both pair of hose. I put them together (it has two pair of panties to it) and I have a new pair of hose. Make your hose last twice as long!
These are just a few of the things I've learned through the years but they've sure come in handy when times were tough. Something interesting is that our children never have really known when we were having a tough time. Now we've had a few times they knew because of what was on the table.
On the whole, however, they didn't know that when we were pretending we were living in the Great Depression and I was hanging all my clothes on clothes lines in the basement and we used oil lamps I really was pinching my household pennies till they cried with the pain! We made the most wonderful memories and saved money all at the same time.
My grandma wasted nothing. She washed her plastic wrap and reused it. She saved every tiny piece of thread from sewing and put it on a spool for mending. She counted how many times the toilet was flushed and knew how much water was being used. She used a timer with every long distance phone call. I asked her why she was so careful with all she had and she said, "I lived through the depression with small children to care for."
I remember my Grandmother Mettler talking to Niki about the Great Depression when Niki had to write a report about it. She made the comment that the entire time she never saw money exchange hands. She said you learned to trade your goods and services for what you needed. She also said that people became very creative during hard times. She would talk of the beautiful little toys her mother-in-law made for the children from cardboard, pieces of scrap wood and even corn cobs! She said that going through tough times together would make your relationship stronger when you got through them and that you would look back to those times as some of the best times in your life. A-men Grandma. With the right attitude and some Yankee ingenuity (even if your a Southerner:)
it can be a time when you learn to appreciate what you have and make some sweet memories.
Have any tips? I'd love to hear them! Tough times don't have to be sad times! I pray you'll turn to your Heavenly Father and ask for wisdom and help and then use what He's given you as a wise steward. Let's all bring Him glory in whatever state we are in!