Saving Money While Raising Kids – What Works for Alex
After reading Michelle and Mary Ellen’s posts on how they work to save money while raising their kids, I stopped to think about the ways my husband and I have been working to trim down our monthly expenses. Since I became a SAHM a couple of years ago, I feel like it’s a responsibility of mine to help keep our expenses low since I’m no longer bringing in the extra income that my job provided. Most of our money-saving tips have to do with cooking and food, but there are a few things we do to save money anywhere we can.
Here’s what’s been working for us:
Breastfeeding. Even with some pretty serious breastfeeding struggles in the beginning, I was able to breastfeed my oldest for 19 months and I’m currently breastfeeding our second baby. It’s saving us a lot to not be buying formula and statistically, our boys should get sick less often because of it, ideally saving us money on visits to the pediatrician.
- Baby food. We made our son’s baby food from scratch and will again for our second baby or do baby-led weaning. It’s pretty easy, we control what ingredients he gets and my husband, who loves to cook, really likes being able to participate more in feeding our kids since it’s mostly on me as the milk maid until we start solids.
- Reuse! When our second baby was born, we were able to reuse all of our older son’s furniture, clothes, and baby gear and borrow a few items from friends. With our second son, he is the fourth baby to use our infant car seat and baby swing as we’ve loaned them to friends over the last few years. Talk about savings for everyone!
- Cut Back. We are about to cancel DirecTV, which we’ve had for over a decade and watch TV thru Netflix and Hulu Plus. It’s been frustrating to pay so much every month for TV when we really don’t watch that much. The few shows that we do love, we will be able to watch through less expensive means or for free online. This alone is going to possibly save us almost $100 per month! And we never even had any of the premium movie channels!
- DIY. I made a lot of the items for both of my kids’ bedrooms including crib sheets, a duvet cover, changing pad cover and most of the wall decor. Buying fabric with a coupon or when it was on sale ended up being a lot cheaper than buying those items already made. We borrowed an Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper from a friend and I just couldn’t justify spending $18.99 a piece for new sheets. Instead I bought some cotton jersey fabric with a 40% off coupon and made three of my own for a grand total of $6.
- Cleaning supplies. I use baking soda and vinegar for the majority of our household cleaning, especially in the kitchen and bathrooms. It saves us a few bucks on buying cleaning products and is fume-free and non-toxic. I’m planning to give making my own laundry detergent a try this summer.
- Meal planning. My husband and I try to plan our week of dinners during the weekends with occasional input from our son. Doing this has greatly reduced the amount of times we go out to eat each week… which can easily happen out of sheer laziness. Before kids, we ate out a LOT!
- Online Deals. My husband and I are both foodies and we still like to eat out on occasion, especially small, family-run restaurants. A handful of local restaurants that we like often put up deals on Groupon or LivingSocial and we’ll snatch those up when they are available.
- Shop Around. We rarely complete all of our grocery shopping at just one store. We hit up Trader Joe’s for a lot of organic items, dairy and some staples. We prefer Target for some other items. We read the weekly ads for sales and clip coupons occasionally, but most of the non-processed food items we buy rarely have coupons.
- Buy in Bulk. There is a lot that we only buy at Costco because it gives us the best deal, even in large quantities; toilet paper, organic eggs, dishwasher soap, shampoo and conditioner, razors, and bread to name a few. We love pesto sauce in our house but I am terrible about getting basil to live long enough to make it from scratch. We buy the large jar of pesto sauce from Costco and divide it into half-pint mason jars and keep them in the freezer. We’ll also buy some meat and fish from Costco and freeze in portions, including their rotisserie chicken packaged into legs and quarters. We even buy gas at Costco because it’s the best price around for us.
- Food Saver. Earlier this year we bought a Food Saver from Costco and have found it really helps us throw away less food since it seals food for the fridge and freezer that will keep for much longer. If a cut of meat we like is on sale for a great price, we’ll buy two and keep one in the freezer. Same goes for fish. If I make a large batch of meatballs, we’ll freeze a bunch of them and know that they will last for months or even years in the sealed pouch. Investing in a small chest freezer to make room for all of this stuff we freeze is something we’ve been discussing lately too.
- Canning. I can’t remember the last time I actually bought a jar of jam from the store. When a specific fruit we love is in season, I will buy a bunch from our farmer’s market and spend an afternoon making jam; something I learned from my own mama. When Costco has four-pound packages of strawberries at a great price, I’ll buy one or two packages and make freezer jam (super easy and my favorite!). One summer I canned about ten pounds of sliced peaches that have lasted us for over two years. This summer I’m planning to make peach jam and applesauce. When I make a lot of one kind of jam, I try to connect with my mom and my neighbor (who both make jam too) and trade. It ends up getting us more variety without me having to actually make a big variety. Plus, we can give jam to friends as gifts during the holidays too.
- Sauces and Stocks from Scratch. I make my own marinara sauce, meat sauces, and soup stocks and I either can or freeze them. When ground beef is on sale, I’ll make bolognese sauce, divvy it up into mason jars and freeze it. When my heirloom tomatoes are ripe and I have a LOT of them, I’ll make marinara sauce and can it so it can go in my pantry. We’re still eating the sauce I made last summer! When we make a whole roasted chicken or roasted turkey for dinner, I’ll make soup stock with the bones and some veggies and freeze it in 2-cup portions. Doing this as much as I can saves time when I’m making dinner and it saves me money from buying them pre-made from the store. Do I still have to buy store-bought stocks? Yes, sometimes. But I try to make my own as often as I can. Plus, the homemade stuff has no preservatives, has all ingredients I can pronounce, and tastes so good!
- Grow Your Own. In the summer, we grow our own herbs and some vegetables. When we lived in California, we had a fantastic lemon tree that gave us lemons year-round along with a vegetable garden that was growing something different pretty much all year. Living in Utah now, we have a much shorter growing season, but we still try to grow a few veggies in the summer. Tomatoes are our favorites and we try to grow a variety of different heirloom tomatoes. I make and can marinara sauce with our tomatoes and my husband and I thoroughly enjoy eating fresh salsas, BLTs, and Caprese salads throughout the summer. We also grow different herbs that we cook with including thyme, cilantro, parsley, and chives.
- Little Things. A lot of little things that are in the markets for convenience we choose not to buy. For example, we don’t buy shredded cheese. If I need it shredded I buy a block of cheese and shred it myself. We don’t buy boxed macaroni and cheese, I make my own. We don’t buy pre-made frozen meatballs, I make my own. We don’t use cream-of-whatever canned soups, I make a great cream sauce base. We don’t buy cake mixes, we make cakes from scratch. In a nutshell, we try to make as much as we can from scratch to save money and because it often tastes better and is better for us.
What are some ways you are working to trim down expenses in your household?