Trying to live on less so you can pay off some bills and/or save for the future? Many are trying to do this but struggle with how to make it happen.

When our children were young, I went back to college and we were a family of five living on one income. We became creative at saving money and made it through that time of greatly reduced income. Here are some of the ideas that worked for us.

I caution anyone wanting to live on less to not try to do everything at once. Pick two or three ideas and do them for a couple of weeks, then add others. Make sure you adjust the suggestions to work for your family — be flexible!

  • Rarely eat out or eat out only with money you have saved using coupons. For instance, if you go to the grocery store and save $3.00 with coupons, put that $3.00 in an envelope for eating out. When you get enough money in the envelope, go out to eat! It’s like eating out for free.
  • Take lunches to work instead of buying your lunch. Use leftovers or make sandwiches. If you spend $5 every day for lunch, this one idea could save you $25 each week per person.
  • Buy bagged cereal. You would be surprised how much cheaper per ounce cereal is in bags versus in boxes.
  • When making a meal, make double. Use the extra amount for lunches or freeze the extra for another meal. This will save both time and money.
  • Four meals from a whole chicken:
    • With kitchen scissors, cut off some pieces of the breast of the chicken. They don’t have to be pretty pieces. Make stir fry with the pieces using lots of veggies, which can be cheaper than meat.
    • Roast the remaining chicken with potatoes and carrots or winter squash or whatever vegetables you have on hand.
    • After your meal of roasted chicken and vegetables, cook the chicken carcass with the meat left on the bones in a big pot of water (or your crockpot) with cut-up carrots, celery, onion and whatever seasoning you want. After it is cooked, take it out of the crockpot and separate the meat from the bones. Divide the meat into two groups, one for soup and the other for creamed chicken on biscuits. Save about 2 cups of the broth for the creamed chicken. Leave the rest of the broth plus the vegetables in the crockpot, put the chicken you separated for the soup back in the pot and add a package of noodles. When the noodles are cooked, you have homemade chicken noodle soup. YUM!
    • Use the remaining chicken and broth for creamed chicken on biscuits. Try making your biscuits from scratch.
  • Stretch your ground meat by adding oatmeal or crushed crackers and an egg when you make meat patties or meatballs. You can add chopped onion or seasonings for extra flavor.
  • Eat eggs instead of meat. They are cheaper.
  • Have breakfast for your evening meat occasionally — pancakes or waffles, eggs, and fruit. Make the pancakes or waffles from scratch.
  • If you have leftovers, make them into a casserole. Mix them together, put them in a baking dish, pour cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup over the top and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes. About 5 minutes before it is done, sprinkle shredded cheese on top and bake for another 5 minutes. You can also spread leftover mashed potatoes over the top of the casserole before baking; top with the cheese at the end. The only cost for this meal is the soup and the cheese.

As you probably noticed, most of these ideas are how to save on groceries. Send me your ideas on how to live on less and I may include them in a future post. Happy saving!

Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.

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