How I stretch a dollar

The fact that my blog was in part created to help other busy moms out there budget, organize, and cook healthy meals, it makes sense that I would share my own little tips on how I stretch a dollar around here. I do most of the same things that you do, I’m sure, such as coupon clipping, buying in bulk and stocking up on sale items. But I also have a few other gems, none of which are original thoughts, I will own, but still worth a post of their own in the case that there is one reader out there who can benefit.

Most people would agree that we’re in a recession and have been for a long time. When it started, I am not politically savvy enough to know. 2008? 2001? But the truth is (they say) the recession kinda ended in 2009. Does that sound ridiculous to you? Probably because it kinda is.

Fact is, we’re in a bit of a depression pickle here, folks. Now, I know this is not a political blog, and yes, I have gotten on a soapbox or two recently, but I think it’s worth pointing out because even if we weren’t in a  recession or a depression, we should be budgeting and acting as if we are. Regardless.

It’s just my personal opinion, you see, but us Americans have to stop spending money just because we have it. I’m just as much to blame. When money was flowing I loved to shop at Harris Teeter. It made me feel as if I had really accomplished something to be able to afford to shop there exclusively. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Harris Teeter and I still shop there because when they have good deals they have GREAT deals. They are the only place that doubles coupons every day, and at least quarterly they will triple coupons or take super-doubles. Combine that with a sale and you’re stock-piling.

But I also shop at other places for the price comparison factor, as I suppose all you savvy moms do. If I had more stores to choose from I would also be doing some of my shopping at Big Lots ( I love that store) and Wal-Mart (Alas, our Walmart is not a super store) and Target. Back in the day when I lived in a town that offered more in the way of savvy shopping I did just that. I knew exactly where to go to get the best price on the things I needed.

With all that said we still need to stretch our dollars as far as they will go while NOT sacrificing our standards at the same time. My standards are simply this: good, quality products that I trust in, and high quality, health foods and ingredients. I will not buy cleaning supplies at the dollar store just because it’s cheap. I have been anti-chemical since I was pregnant with Number Two when Hubby and I were introduced to Melaleuca by some friends. We stayed in for many years until we just couldn’t afford it anymore, but we learned an awful lot during that time about toxins and chemicals in the home. I’d still use Melaleuca products if I had the extra money and I am likely to go back when and if I ever can.

The good news is since 2001 there has been a lot of all-natural products introduced into the mainstream and offered in stores. I myself like the GreenWorks line, Seventh Generation and others are just as good. We can still afford quality and safe products even while on a budget. Some things are worth the extra dollar. I even found some coupons for Green Works recently. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that a sale will happen before those coupons expire 🙂

Here are some of my favorite ways to stretch a dollar:

1. Cut dryer sheets in half. Trust me, your clothes won’t be any less softened. I PROMISE.

2. If you like to drink tea, do what I do. I call it “Recession Tea” because I only let the bag steep for half the time so I can get 2 cups 🙂 I used to be a tea bag whore (oops, did I just type that out loud?) Meaning I would use 1 bag for a whole cup, leaving it in the whole time, making it nice and STRONG. Oh yeah, I love my tea. And then I’d throw it away and start all over again with a fresh bag.

3. I also invested in a Food Saver. Not the big, pricey one – just a small one. And I don’t buy the bags that go with it either. I buy a less expensive brand that works just as well. I’ve been doing this for at least a dozen years and I’ve never regretted the initial $80 investment. I go to Sams Club, buy ground beef or turkey, steaks, huge roasts, etc. and then separate everything into amounts that will feed my family of 4, and then use the food saver to bag and freeze it all. Super easy and a great money saver.

Did you know that you’re using too much detergent in your washers? Those little pre-packaged pods of dishwasher detergent that you pop into the dispenser are more than you need, (I use them- I’m guilty. We all love convenience!) and can actually clog up your washers gears. BTW pre-rinsing your dishes is not completely necessary. I found this out the hard way. I don’t mean you should put gunky-covered dishes and whatnot into the washer. I’m talking about all that pre-cleaning you do before you put them into the washer. It’s what I’ve always done. And then my washer clogged up and went kaput, and the repairman said “you’ve got to give the washer something to do or else the detergent builds up.” But as far as detergents go in both dishwashers and clothing washers, you’s be surprised at how little you actually need to do the job.

Truth: clothes can and will wash just as effectively with virtually NO detergent. In fact, years ago when my hubby and I went über toxic and chemical free, we even stopped buying clothing detergent all together and instead invested in these weird plastic-covered magnets that stick to the inside of your washer and pretty much do the same job that the detergent does. This is not sans a stain remover when necessary. I have been back to using detergent for quite some time but the message is the same: you really only need 1/8 cup or less. Just try it, then decide.

What are some of your best dollar-stretching tips?

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