Practical Tips to Stretch Your Budget
There are lots of articles out there on riding out inflation, recession, and everything in between. I thought today I'd talk about more practical day-to-day things we can do to stretch our money.
With Christmas coming, I'm curious to see if consumers will overspend to satisfy their families. I wish we as a society would stop catering to our whims and think long term. Will a child play with a toy for two days or two years? How fondly will you remember that new electronic game or gadget?
Instead of buying a gift for each person, could you convince your family to forego gifts in exchange for a family outing?
For the past year I've restocked my closet from garage sales. I've bought unique t-shirts in quality fabrics for anywhere from 25 cents to a dollar. You can't beat that. Hint: Men's t-shirts are usually sturdier than women's t-shirts.
I must admit, that's always been our weakness. We love to try new restaurants, especially if we're out in the big city. Prices have become exorbitant even for a middle class couple with no kids, not to mention the tip. We've decided to limit eating out, saving it for when we're far from home, or for special occasions.
If it's hard for you to break the habit, consider having an appetizer as a meal. Americans don't realize how big our portions are to other countries. I often order the appetizer for my meal and it's more than enough.
Split a meal. I can't get Greg to do this, even though he often takes home a portion of his meal. Does anyone remember the Friends' story line for Joey? Joey doesn't share food. Neither does Greg.
If you're not Joey, or Greg, consider splitting a plate.
Eating at home
There are a lot of ways to stretch food at home.
- Add water to your slow cooked meats and poultry to make a broth.
- When you pull the meat out, turn the broth into a gravy with fat and a little flour. Stir until smooth.
- Add beans. You can add beans to a meal or use it as a replacement for meat. It's equally nutritious and full of protein.
- Use half. I've started doing this myself. Where in the past I might use up a whole jar of pasta sauce, gravy, or BBQ sauce, I've started cutting back and using less to save for next time. This works particularly well if you use an instant pot or slow cooker. Both these cooking methods require much less moisture than stove top cooking.
- Check your fridge regularly so no food gets wasted. If it looks like it's starting to go, cook it first.
- Save your scraps. If I don't use up a whole vegetable and can't use it right away, I toss it into a freezer bag I label 'soup scraps'. These become my base for soup.
- Learn to cook from scratch. It's sad so few people know how to do this anymore, but I understand. When I was a teenager I had no interest in cooking. That changed after I married. It was a long, slow trudge to learn the basics on my own, but now I wouldn't cook any other way.
- Stretch meat with TVP (textured vegetable protein). This 2 lb can
is supposed to have 40 servings. That's a great return for the price.
- Use every drop or piece. I remember being horrified watching a good friend throw away the green part of the scallions she was chopping. Also, never throw out your oil container without tilting it on its side and getting every last drop out. There's always some left.
- Pack a lunch instead of eating out. Sadly, it's no longer the good old days where you can afford to eat out every work day.
- Fill up on fillers. Unless you're diabetic, rice and pasta are good fillers. Diabetics must stick to beans, nuts, and cheese.
- Eat less. I'm serving just a little bit less than before to stretch a meal.
- If the kids are looking for a quick snack, give them popcorn. Save even more money by popping corn the old fashioned way on the stove top.
- Meat is ridiculously priced, but cheaper cuts can be used in stews, soups, and casseroles. Buy the meat in a roast, cube it yourself then freeze until needed.
I wish it weren't so, but it's definitely belt cinching time. Prices are beyond ridiculous. Do whatever you can to save money because I'm afraid it'll only get worse. In 50 years of grocery shopping I've never seen the economy so volatile.
Have you changed anything to save money? Do you ever split a plate with your dining partner?
If you haven't already done so, invest in a slow cooker or instant pot. I swear by them. They can turn tough cuts of meat fork-tender.