This summer marked 4 years since I walked away from a job that was literally making me sick and simultaneously returned to my frugal-living roots. Surviving as a large family on one income isn’t always fun, it involves more effort because running to the store for bread isn’t always an option, but it’s been worth it. By making a lot of little (and some big) changes we’ve been able for me to return to being a stay-at-home mom. Every bit of effort has been worth the sacrifice.
I’ve had a few failures (the homemade deodorant worked just fine but melted all over my medicine cabinet) but for every failure I’ve had many more successes. My husband and I sat down not long ago and made a list of some of the things we now make instead of buy. I narrowed it down to a list of the 10 that have made the biggest financial impact in our lives.
Now, before you say “But Meg, a loaf of bread costs $1.80” or “Saving $10 a month on laundry detergent won’t change anything”, I invite you to look at the larger picture.
If you make just ONE of these things you can save $120/year (or more). Make two and that’s $240. Use that $240 to pay down a credit card and you save even more in interest charges. When the credit card is paid off use that money to pay off your vehicle. You could be completely debt free in half the time, just by making that one little change.
If finding ways to save money is important to you, considering making these 10 things instead of buying them:
1. Laundry detergent – In a good week we wash about 15 loads of laundry and the homemade laundry detergent I came up with has saved us a fair amount of money. The detergent I make can be used as powdered or liquid and has the added benefit of being kind to those with skin allergies.
2. Liquid hand soap – We’re a family of eight with three bathrooms, we go through hand soap like crazy. I was buying liquid refills that equal about $.25 per bottle but now I make it for free.
3. Bread – We go through about 4 loaves of bread, two packages of buns, and two packages of rolls a month. That’s easily $15/month and was even higher when my kids were in school. Now I take a few hours one or two days a month to bake and freeze bread. I bake whole wheat and white loaves, pretzel rolls, dinner rolls, bagels, cornbread, yeast rolls and naan. I accidentally discovered that if my loaves are too crumbly my family likes open-face toasted sandwiches just as well as two-slice sandwiches. I discovered that bland bread makes excellent bread crumbs and croutons and is perfect when dipped in soup. I learned that naan is the perfect replacement for tortillas, it tastes better and is much easier to make. Check out my list of bread recipes here.
4. Pre-packaged baking mixes – It is so simple, and cheap, to make cookies/waffles/pancakes/cake/brownies from scratch that I no longer buy mixes. It takes about 30 seconds longer to make these things from scratch if you have the ingredients so keep your pantry stocked!
5. Hummus – Hummus is a snack staple in my family but at $4 for a family-size container that lasts one snack session I was spending around $20 a month just on hummus!! I now make all of our hummus from scratch using dry chick peas that I cook and freeze in advance. My husband found the perfect cracker recipe for dipping, eliminating our purchase of pita chips at about $4 a bag!
6. Pizza – Who doesn’t love pizza? With about 20 minutes of work I can make enough pizza to feel all of us, for about 90% less than delivery. The major benefit here is being able to make everyone their own personal pizza, no more arguing over toppings.
7. Oatmeal packets – Store brand oatmeal packets cost $2.50 for a pack of 10. Instead of buying these, which are full of artificial ingredients, I buy a tub of old-fashioned oats for $2.79. Toss a handful of oats into a bowl, cover with water and microwave on high for a minute, add your choice of toppings and you’re ready to go. My children’s favorite topping is cocoa powder/sugar/cinnamon, with maple syrup/raisins a close second. One special occassions I melt chocolate chips in the oatmeal and it’s divine!
8. Breakfast cereal – If your family is like mine one box of cereal lasts exactly 20 minutes. When you buy breakfast cereal for as many as I do it can do serious damage to your budget, even if you buy the off brands. Instead of cereal we eat waffles (I make a large batch weekly and freeze), eggs, toast with peanut butter, apples drizzled with honey, oatmeal, leftovers, etc. One of the best things about ditching breakfast cereal, aside from the savings, is knowing exactly what ingredients are going into everything.
9. Yogurt – My homemade slow cooker yogurt was such a success that I don’t plan on buying yogurt ever again. While I stay away from the “kids” yogurts that are full of chemicals, the plain stuff just doesn’t stand up flavor-wise to the homemade. My kids LOVE yogurt more than any other snack and now I don’t feel guilty giving it to them!
10. Paper Towels – This one was hard for us, a lot of spillage happens around here. I was always disappointed in the performance of the papers towels though, and they are so expensive. I now keep a few old towels under the kitchen sink for big spills. The really ratty towels (don’t we all have some of those hiding in the linen closet??) are now cut into rags and stored in a kitchen drawer for small spills and cleaning purposes. I hate cleaning with nice, colorful rags but I don’t mind getting bleach on the old ratty towel pieces.