Keeping Our Household Budget Under $300 a Month (Part 3 of 4)

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Welcome back to Part 3 of How I Keep Our Household Budget Under $300 a Month…  Saving Money at Home!

Even if you’re a pro menu planner and careful shopper, it’s not going to make much of a difference if you burn through your supplies at home.  So here’s where it gets fun.  Here’s what do to make our dollars stretch.  (By the way, I’d love feedback on this topic, since I’m always on the lookout for new tips and tricks!)

1)    Let nothing go to waste.

This may seem obvious, but a little bit here and there really adds up.  Make a point of eating your leftovers for lunch, or have Leftover Night once a week.  If you have extra ingredients (perhaps you only used half a package of green onions), then chop the rest and freeze them for the next time you do!  If the toddler eats only half of his PB&J sandwich, slip the other half in a baggie and serve it tomorrow.  You get the idea.

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This is where having a deep freezer gets really helpful.  We were able to purchase a used one off of craigslist for about $150.  It’s been a wonderful investment!  Even though we have no place to put it in our little home, we got permission to keep it in our neighbor’s barn.  It’s a bit of a trek out there, so I make a point of keeping a running tally of its contents inside of my recipe binder.  That way I know exactly what I’m working with during my menu planning phase.

2)    See how little you can get away with.

Here’s what I mean:  Perhaps you always use two squirts of body wash in the shower.  Experiment with using just one and see if that gets the job done.  (By all means, if it doesn’t, then please, use two.)  If it does work, visualize that bottle doubling in size, since that’s basically what happened.  Body wash just got half as expensive for you.

Likewise, the back of our laundry soap box has directions to use a full scoop with a standard load.  I’ve been using half that for years now with no repercussions.  Our clothes come out just as clean.  So see what works for you around the house.  You may be surprised!

3)    Consider rewashables!

I don’t usually consider myself part of the ‘green’ movement, but they sure have some things right!  Household recycling is spectacular for the budget.  We switched to cloth diapers when our second child was born and it’s made such a financial difference!  For two extra laundry loads a week, I’ve been saving $60 a month just on that.  We also use rewashable wipes, washcloths in place of napkins, and only hand towels for drying our hands (NEVER paper towels).  It might sound like a drastic change at first, but it quickly becomes a natural part of your lifestyle.  Pretty much the only thing disposable we purchase now is toilet paper.

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4)    Identify your most expensive buys and see if you can make them from scratch.

I say expensive buys here on purpose.  Don’t assume that just because you’re making it from scratch, that it’ll be more economical.  We get bread for $1.69 per loaf at Aldi.  After doing the math, I realized I’d be paying close to that just for ingredients, and that didn’t factor in the extra time and work in the kitchen (baking is not therapeutic for me).

Realize that gardening is not always as frugal as you would think.  One year we spent $60-$80 on the set-up for our tomato, watermelon, and pepper plants.  I highly doubt we would have spent that much on tomatoes, watermelons, or peppers that year, especially since seasonal produce tends to be cheaper anyway.  We spent a lot of time mulching, watering, squashing disgusting, gross caterpillars (can you tell I’m not an outdoors person?), and weeding that no one got paid for.  Also, if you’re considering your own chickens for eggs or growing your own meat, be sure to look into how much it will cost to feed the animals.  We spend about $8 total per month on eggs for our family, so something like that would never pay off for us.

Now, if you’re into organic foods or just hobby farming, then that’s a different story.  If the budget allows, then go for it!

Don’t forget to visit the last part of this series, Keeping Things in Perspective!

57 thoughts on “Keeping Our Household Budget Under $300 a Month (Part 3 of 4)

  1. I have down on my to do list making the re washable things. Yours look so neat and pretty in the drawer. You have been nominated for a 3 in one blog award(s). I would gladly have you accept this. It is a great way to get your blog out and

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  2. Bethany says:

    I’m loving the series so far, I was actually talking to my husband about it and discussing some ways we save. Two of the ways we save on our grocery budget is making our own laundry soap.seriously I only have to make it a couple times a year.the ingredients cost less then one store bought bottle and they make more then one batch!!! The other way we save is by recycling. Trash bags are expensive, so by recycling we cut our trash bag usage in half 🙂

  3. cassandraperu says:

    Good ideas, Kelsey! Love it all! I get so excited about all this stuff. 😀

    Late commenting here on my part:
    I know things are slightly different here, but ziplocks are expensive here so I wash mine to reuse! And just use a piece of masking tape to write what’s in inside.

    And laundry. I also always use the “rapido” cycle of my machine. Whatever that is for American ones (quick? or short cycle?) Machines might all be different, but it takes half the time, half the water/electricity and I have never had a problem with my clothes not being clean. (and we live in a notoriously dirty place). We also do not have hot water in the house, but as long as the clothes are not stained, the cold water always works for cleaning clothes for me. 🙂 (Stains are a COMPLETELY different story…)

  4. lori Huhn says:

    To save money I buy my rice, beans, flour, sugar, all in bulk. I have been making my own laundry soap too. I make huge batches of meals and freeze them. I hope you are making your won re fried beans. So so easy and couldn’t be cheaper. They also freeze amazing. I make tons of things ahead to save time and money (cause if you have it you wont go out). Muffins, pancakes, waffles, cupcakes

  5. Peggy K. says:

    I sooooo agree about the gardening not necessarily being a savings. Add up the cost and compare before making that decision.

  6. Jeanne says:

    I have been using cloth napkins for years! I bought mine at thrift stores…a lot of times unused, since most folks only use them for special occasions.

  7. Emerie Marie says:

    You mentioned freezing your green onions (and other unused portions of veggies). Did you know that some veggies, green onions included, resprout from the trimmings? After you cut off what you need for cooking, just set the bulbs in a cup of water, and you’ll grow new onions to use. I’ve only done it myself with green onions, but I’ve been told that celery, romaine lettuce, and other veggies that come with a bulb or “stump” will do it as well. Saves a few extra cents for me, since I put green onions in just about everything. ^_^

  8. Emily says:

    Your post is very interesting! I do not have children yet but my husband and I are planning and saving for whenever they do come. We are just starting budgeting planning and saving and I am going to try your tips.

    One thing that my husband and I do is make our own laundry detergent. The first time I made the laundry soap I
    Just wanted to “try it out” . My husband thought I was crazy but after 2 loads he thought the home made laundry soap was 100 xs better than the tide he used to use. My husband used to have major skin issues and now he seems to be doing much better . I am not 100% sure how much I save , but I do know that I get at least 200-250 loads with one purchase of ingredients. I just asked my husband and we both believe that we may (stressing may) spend $20 for the ingredients. So aroun $.20/ load. We love it and totally worth it !

    Here is what we use:
    1 4 pound box of arm and hammer super washing soda
    1 4 pound box of arm and hammer baking soda
    1 4 pound box of borax
    1 bar of fels naptha
    2 bars of other soap ( we usually just use what we have dawn ivory ect.)
    In a large bucket or jar , washing soda, baking soda, and borax. Grind fels naptha and bats of soap. ( we use a hand grinder like for carrots or cheese). Mix ingredients .
    For smaller loads use : 1 table spoon
    For larger loads use 2-3 table spoons

  9. Katie says:

    I tear my fabric softener sheets in half and it works just as good. Thanks for all your ideas 🙂

  10. K says:

    You don’t like shopping, cooking or gardening; what do you like? And if you don’t get organic foods, how in the world does a family of four eat $8 worth of eggs in a week? That’s 3 or 4 dozen, no?

    I do like some of your tips though. I love cloth diapers. 🙂

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      Haha. Well, I like shopping BY MYSELF. I just find it really stressful taking the little ones out. I DO love cooking, though not necessarily baking, but I will make no secret of my dislike for gardening. I’m just not an outdoors person, unfortunately. It’s an area I need to grow in. As for what I DO like, well… I like writing, reading, playing with my kids, music, and many other INDOOR things. 😛 And you probably misunderstood my $8 comment. That’s about what we spend per MONTH, though I admit that’s probably still on the high end. 2-3 dozen is more like it. Glad to have you stop by and thanks for leaving a comment. Go cloth diapers!

  11. Olivia Steele says:

    Hi Kelsey! I love your blog! In between reads, I’ve just written my husband to share with him my new inspiration to eat/cook on more of a budget. We live in China, so some foreign products are ridiculously expensive. So we definitely need to be more mindful of that…

    In reading this post, I thought about fried rice. It’s SUPER easy to make, and I cook it any time a bunch of veggies are about to go off. They’re not fresh enough to eat raw in a salad, but always taste great in fried rice. Plus, the only thing you really need is rice (cooked the day before so it’s cold), peanut oil, and eggs. You can throw in any veggies you have. So you always have the ingredients on hand. (Plus, it’s great leftover for lunches or dinner again!)

    Thanks for sharing all your tips and advice!

  12. Lynelle says:

    Not picking on your dislike for gardening but if you do enjoy it and have a baby, I have found that it have saved us TONS on baby food. Or buying your frozen veggies on sale and making them into baby food really chops the price too. One other thing I do is buy oats in bulk and use my food processor to refine them instead of buying baby oat cereal all the time.

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      The baby oat cereal is a great idea! I have always made my own baby food from store-bought ingredients. I can’t imagine paying so much for those tiny little cans! 😉 Thanks for commenting!

  13. Stephanie says:

    So glad I found your site!! Just wanted to chime in on liquid fabric softner… I mix the following ingredients is a gallon jug… 1 bottle of cheap conditioner (scent varies by person).. 8 cups white vinegar… shake well, then add really hot water to fill and the shake again.. Wooooohoooooooooo! 1 gallon of fabric softner for a little more than $1.00

  14. Heather says:

    I like garden sharing. I do that with a couple of my friends. You only do a 1/2 or a 1/3 of the work, and then you get to reap the benefits of a home made garden without doing 100% of the work. I have tons of produce from our garden. A good size garden even for 2 or 3 people is enough to benefit, and have tons to can.

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      Ooh, what a great idea! I never considered sharing a garden before, but it makes so much sense! Thanks for commenting, Heather!

  15. danielle says:

    I love how you said “your body wash just got half as expensive.” I would have thought using half as much would make about zero difference in my budget, but when you put it that way, it means I basically just got a 50% coupon when I do this! and I think the washcloth idea instead of napkins (or paper towels around here) is a great idea. I don’t have enough to last one day if we used them in place of the paper towels, but I could easily go to goodwill and pick some up for a few cents each. Great ideas!

  16. bahowson says:

    Talking about stretching a dollar – I started making my own laundry detergent WITH NO SOAP GRATING! It’s only washing soda, borax, blue dawn soap, & water. It takes me 10 minutes to make 2 gallons which lasts us about 3-4 months–or 32 SUPERSIZE loads. The math comes out to about 15 cents per load I think. For perspective, our house is 2 adults and 2 toddlers. ALSO, for food- I started “butterfly” cutting my chicken to make 2 adult side breasts for breaded chicken instead of using 2 separate breasts. I love saving money!

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      Thanks for sharing your recipe and the chicken tip! I’m definitely considering incorporating both into our regular routine!

  17. Junia says:

    For us having a garden is very cheap, as it is a way of life. We grow onions, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, peas, asparagus, green beans, lima beans, carrots, red beets. We do not buy any green beans, we eat beans that we canned from our gardens. We make all our own hot sauce, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, and we used tomato sauce and juice in a lot of dishes. We don’t buy any corn, asparagus, or strawberries at all. We spent $10 on a 5 years worth of strawberries.
    So no, small over summer gardens are often not profitable, but for us who have been living off of them for generations, they pay for themselves many times over.

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      Mmm…. Reading this makes me hungry for homegrown veggies! Yes, I can see how an all-year garden would pay itself off much better. Unfortunately, our climate wouldn’t work for that. 🙁 Thanks for reading and commenting, Junia!

  18. Julianne says:

    I too always cut my dryer sheets in half. They still do a great job at scenting and softening stiff fabrics at half the price and the best part is that the box lasts twice as long.

  19. Kim says:

    I grew up with my mom cutting the fabric softner sheets in 1/2. But to stretch my dollar more I add white vinegar to final RINSE cycle. I also make my own laundry soap so when I have more to spend I buy a liquid fabric softner and dilute 1 cup of softner to 1 cup water and soak spounges in the dilution. Throw a 1/2 a sponge in the dryer.
    I also dilute all my hand soaps.

  20. Nancy Tabor says:

    Years ago an older neighbor told me when she has leftover veggies, she puts them into an ice cream bucket in the freezer right from the table. When the bucket is filled, she makes a wonderful vegetable soup with adding meat an option. I have used this suggestion for years and love it.

  21. nikki says:

    Thanks for mentioning the gardening bit. Every SINGLE time I see “grow your own veg” on a living more frugal list I want to scream. Yes, gardening is cheap, if you invest in it in the first place. If you’re willing to pay $300+ in supplies to make your garden a success, it will save you in subsequent years, but unless you live in the land of perfect soil, perfect weather and perfectly flat terrain with no trees, you’ll be spending a lot of money and time and labor those first few years.

    (Just an aside, you may be surprised at how long you can garden. We garden 10 months out of the year and we’re in zone 5b. It just takes a lot of creativity.)

    I really like this list.

    I started really stretching our food budget, we’re down to about $80/wk for a family of four. We only eat 1 type of meat every week and we have 1 meatless night and 2 left over nights out of 7 days. 1 pound of beef gets stretched to 3 meals. I don’t make hamburgers except as a very, very, very special treat. I’d love to get down to $60 or $70 a week, but it won’t happen because I prefer organic produce and local, grass fed or humanly raised meat. Honestly, I’m floored that we can eat with a conscious for so little, but we’re blessed to be in a good area for it.

  22. Dee says:

    Here are my frugal savers: make your own: soap (.50 cents per bar) Lysol wipes (.04 cents per tub), lip balm (.24 cents per tube), super washing soad ( I don’t buy this I make it from baking soda by heating in oven at 400 for an hour mixing @ 30 minutes), laundry liquid wash soap (.35 cents for a gallon, use 1/2 C per load), coffee creamer (5.00 for a gallon), icecream (4.00 per 1.5 quart), liquid hand soap( .54 per gallon), home made jam (this varies from .70 a pint to 2.00 a pint depending on cost of ingredients), laundry softner (free- I recycle aluminum foil into balls and toss into dryer, bonus no static so far)

  23. a says:

    We do straw bale gardening- no digging, weeds, etc. Super easy and you can grow anything in it. We have been eating home grown lettuce for months that we are growing and it taste amazing! You can can or freeze your produce as well and save so much. Look up straw bale gardening on Pinterest if you are interested in learning more or email me.

  24. debbie says:

    Hi, I save money by making our laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent,toothpaste and hand soap as well as cleaners. I also make our own pizza dough for Friday nite pizza night.I’d rather spend a few extra dollars on fresh fruit for my family.

  25. Rachael says:

    I realize this thread is from a couple years ago but…
    I haven’t bought toilet paper in three years. We use family wipes. Basically a flannel square that is washed. They sit in a basket on the toilet tank, we have a dedicated trash can(with lid) in the bathroom that they go in and then I can dump them in the washer without having to touch anything, with cloth diapers when I have those.

    You can find wipes on etsy for about $1 each or make your own (you’ll want to do two layers, trust me). My wipes have lasted for three years and are just starting to get some holes (I use the sanitize wash on them)
    I do have toilet paper for visitors, but the last jumbo pack I bought three years ago is still around.

  26. Robin says:

    I use Dr Bronners soap for body wash, shampoo, cleaning. The same bottle. 2 drops on a mesh spongy will soap your whole body. Sometimes 1. Same for shampoo etc. a bottle last me 6 months and it comes in different types. Very mild and effective
    I also buy big packs of white washcloths at Walmart 18 for 4:00 I think. Use them in the kitchen, for washcloths and for cleaning. They bleach to keep them clean.

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