This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest by Bam Bam
We are all looking for ways to save money. Every little bit helps. The more money we can save, the more money we have to put toward preps. In what follows I share some ideas that I’ve picked up that have helped me save money. These are ideas that I have implemented and which have worked for me. I am curious to hear your ideas. Let’s put our minds together and figure out ways we can save.
1. Stockpile groceries and hygiene products.
With the exception of some fresh fruits and vegetables, and milk I only purchase groceries and hygiene products when they are at their rock bottom prices. And even then I use a coupon. To get started with your stockpile, make a list of the items your family uses regularly. Then keep an eye out for sales. When an item your family uses regularly goes on sale, buy enough to last 6-8 weeks. If the price is really good, buy a years supply. Do this, and over time your stockpile will grow.
2. Make common items at home.
Before purchasing an item, ask yourself if you can make it at home. In the past few weeks I have learned to make laundry soap and dishwasher soap from basic ingredients like washing soda and borax. These turned out so well that I am stunned. Why didn’t I start doing this sooner? What other items can be made at home for a large savings?
3. Cook from staples.
Basic foodstuffs are inexpensive: beans, rice, wheat, oats, corn, pasta; and yet a multitude of dishes can be prepared from them. We have started a program of eating meatless dinners one night a week. Sometimes I will make a tuna pasta salad with veggies from the garden. Sometimes I will make bean and cheese burritos. The main thing here is to cook with real ingredients instead of buying processed foods. If you buy staples in bulk, you can save even more money. I am so impressed with folks who make their own bread on a regular basis. This is one of my aspirations.
4. Grow a garden.
Gardening can save a lot of money. From March until December, I can usually count of some kind of vegetable from the garden. (I am still learning about growing winter gardens.) During the summer months, the veggie for the dinner plate is often as simple as sliced tomato. If you have onions and cucumbers as well, make a tomato, onion and cucumber salad. Plant some yellow squash and zucchini and you will have plenty of veggies for dinner.
If you do not have room for a garden, you can still save money by eating seasonally. Ever notice that watermelons cost $8.99 in April but by the end of May they are going for $2.99? Buy at season’s peak and save money.
5. Can produce from your garden.
Eating seasonally saves money. Canning produce when it is available at rock-bottom prices (or free from your own garden) also saves money. I am down to my last pint of mango chutney. Right now mangos are going for $1.99 a piece. Next month they will be two for a dollar.
If you are new to canning, start with water bath canning. You can make bread & butter pickles, salsa, chutneys, relishes, jellies and preserves. Once you master water bath canning, you can take the next step and start pressure canning beans, meats, soups and other low acid foods. I am just amazed that folks will spend $12 for a can of meat—you can pressure can your own meat for less than $2 a pint.
The best thing about canning is that you’ve got all kinds of Christmas presents ready to give away. A nicely decorated jar of bread & butter pickles is always appreciated.
6. Buy clothing and other items off-season.
By March, stores usually begin to put winter clothing on clearance. You can pick up winter clothing at half price. This is the time of the year to buy winter coats, thermals and sweats. Buy them and put them up in the closet. When cold weather comes around again, you will have something new to wear or to wrap up to put under the Christmas tree.
Do the same thing with summer clothes. If you wait until the end of July or the beginning of August, you can catch some great sales on summer clothing.
7. Pack lunches and snacks instead of eating out.
There are two things I avoid when I am out and about: vending machines and coffee shops. I refuse to pay $5 for a cup of coffee.
It is much wiser to plan ahead and pack a lunch or a snack. If you wait until you are starving and pass by the vending machine with candy bars for only $1 it’s easy to give in to temptation. If you plan ahead, you will have healthy snacks on hand so that you don’t get hungry enough to be tempted by the vending machine.
Do you get sick of the same old meals? Here’s an idea. Get a map of the world and a cheap set of darts. Pin the map to a garage wall. Close your eyes, and throw the dart at the map. Whatever country you hit is the cuisine for dinner. You can do the same thing with a stack of international cookbooks. Close your eyes and pick a book. Randomly open the book. Whatever page you open to is what you cook for dinner. Few people can actually say they have cooked Szechwan Duck. (Note: Although you would most likely have to go to the grocery store to purchase some ingredients, you would still spend less money than you would if you were going out to eat.)
8. Take care of what you own.
Buy the best quality you can afford and take care of what you own. You will pay more for higher quality merchandise. But quality is worth the extra expense. When I am looking to purchase something, say a kitchen utensil or a tool, I want something that is gong to stand up to wear and tear. If the item breaks in a couple of years and I have to replace it, how much more will I have to spend in the long run? It’s better to go with quality from the start.
The second part here is to take care of what you own. The two biggest ticket items for most of us are our homes and our vehicles. If homes and vehicles are properly maintained, they can last a lifetime and beyond.
This is also a good place to note that maintaining your health will save you money. We all know that we should eat right and exercise. But vaguely stated ideals do little in our day-to-day affairs. Here are some ideas: when selecting a snack, choose a piece of fruit instead of a candy bar. Drink unsweetened ice tea or water instead of soda. Don’t just say, “I am going to exercise more this year.” Say, “I am going to take the dog for a 20 minute walk after supper each evening.” And do it.
9. Barter for things you need instead of buying them.
Everyone has some skill or product that can be bartered. I can a lot of different products. Many of these things are inexpensive and easy to make. I have recently begun bartering home canned products for free-range eggs. Bartering is a win-win situation. The person on the other end of the deal is getting a good product. And I can rest assured that I am helping my local community.
10. Go in for free entertainment.
It does not cost an arm and a leg to have a fun-filled family outing. Spend a rainy afternoon making a list of activities that do not cost money. Here are a few: hiking, swimming, bike riding, taking a picnic. You could go to a museum or a community concert. Check out your local community calendar for a schedule of events in your area. You can often find festivals, play and concerts. Play cards or a board game. Bake some cookies. Visit your local library; check out books and DVDs. Take your dog for a long walk. Go hunting for arrowheads. Go bird watching.
Call your local extension service and see if they have any free classes. Take a class. Volunteer to teach a class. This is a great way to learn new skills such as cheese making, soap making, canning, gardening and composting.
This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win:
First Prize) Winner will receive a Stealth Body Armor Level II vest courtesy of SafeGuard ARMOR™ LLC and a $150 gift certificate for Wolf Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner.com A total prize value of over $600.
Third Prize) Winner will receive copies of both of my books “31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness” and “Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat: One Man’s Solution” and a Katadyn Siphon Water Filter courtesy of Mayflower Trading Company. A total prize value of $107.
Contest ends on June 5 2012.