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31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Don’t Waste

“Waste not, want not.” We’ve all heard the phrase, but are we following it? Purposing to not waste food is a simple thing, but it can make a big difference in our grocery budget. Here are a few ideas for eliminating waste:

1. Make the Most of What You Have

Back when my husband was in law school, we often only had $17 to $20 to spend on groceries for an entire week (all 21 meals). I quickly learned that creativity was a poor cook’s best friend.

I usually stocked up on mark-downs, loss-leaders and the rock-bottom deals and then concocted the best menu I could based upon these. I rarely ever followed a recipe exactly as written, because we usually didn’t have all the ingredients and couldn’t afford to buy them. But I discovered you don’t always have to follow a recipe perfectly in order to get a fabulous end result!

AllRecipes is a great resource if you’re working with an odd assortment of ingredients. You can plug in what ingredients you have and don’t have and it will pull up recipes you can make. You also can find lots of great substitution ideas online, such as at these sites: Emergency Kitchen Substitutions and Ingredient Substitutions.

2. Repurpose Leftovers

Instead of pitching those leftover mashed potatoes or vegetables, why not repurpose them? Once again, AllRecipes is a great resource. There are also some excellent ideas in these articles: How to Turn Leftovers Into Scrumptious Meals, Creative Uses for Leftovers and Leftover Recipe Ideas.

3. Use Up the Last of the Bottle

My mom taught me never to throw out a bottle of anything unless you’ve used up the last drop. When the bottle of ketchup or salad dressing or laundry detergent is almost empty, add some water, put the lid back on, and shake it up to get the last remains cleaned out of the bottle and stretch it just a wee bit longer. It’s a small little thing, but the little things can add up to make significant differences.

4. Use Half the Recommended Amount

Did you know that you can get by with using a whole lot less than the recommended amount of shampoo, laundry detergent and so forth? Challenge yourself to try it and see how little you can get by with using without noticing any difference.

Want to do something really radical and inexpensive? Try the No Shampoo Experiment. I’ve not gotten that brave yet, but I have friends who have done it with success.

Put a rubber band around the neck of pump-style soap dispensers to limit the amount of soap dispensed per pump. — 40 Practical Tips for an Ordinary Rubber Band

What simple things have you implemented in your home to eliminate waste? I’d love to hear your ideas to possibly try!

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  • I’ve never seen the rubber band on the neck of the dispenser used before. Great tips all of which I use.

  • Melissa says:

    This is another small one…instead of using Pam or another spray to grease baking dishes, I save the wrappers from butter sticks and use the butter that’s left on those.

    • Maria says:

      If you unwrap the butter when it’s cold, there’s nothing left on the wrapper! (We’d always get in trouble when I was growing up, if we didn’t unwrap the butter cold.)

      • Alea says:

        @Maria, There might not be a lot, but I save up those butter wrappers ‘with nothing on them” in a container in the fridge and then when I bake I use several to completely grease a baking dish.

        I also just put a splash of oil in the bottom of a baking dish and then use a brush to coat the pan. Much less per ounce than buying Pam (unless of course you combine a coupon with a sale and buy it for pennies).

        • Amanda Y. says:

          @Alea, My favorite, if you have $10, buy a Misto refillable spray can from Bed Bath & Beyond and you can refill it over & over with oil and use it like Pam for much less cost! Plus you just pump the top a few times, so it’s only air and oil, no propellants like cans of pam and such have!

  • Kelly Hess says:

    I make my own foamy handsoap with the FREE Dawn Hand Renewal I get at CVS!

    • Jennifer says:

      @Kelly Hess, We do this also! I have 2 foaming dial bottles I have been reusing for a long time. It takes very little soap to refill. It is also much easier to get rinsed off.

    • Amy says:

      Hooray! I have been wondering if there is a way to make my own foamy hand soap. The foam is so much easier for my kids to handle than regular liquid soap, but I feel like I’m paying for a little soap and a lot of water! Thanks for the “recipe!”

  • Honey Smith says:

    OK love the rubber band idea! I always feel like too much soap comes out. And since I spend .30 whole cents on softsoap or dial handsoap, I expect it to last;)

  • Rebecca says:

    I’ve always done the water trick to get out the last of the spaghetti sauce, or a splash of milk if it’s alfredo sauce. I’ve heard of people who take all veggie leftovers from a meal, throw them into a bowl in the fridge or freezer, and at the end of the week make a “leftover stew”. Lately I’ve been watering down my 2 yr. old son’s milk. The pediatrician says he only needs about 10 0z a day, but if he could decide he’d drink 30 or more, so I’ve been cutting it in half with water. He still gets all the good milk and calcium, and stays hydrated for a bit cheaper than milk.

    • Katie W. says:

      @Rebecca, We do the same with our sons milk. It helps make it last longer 🙂

    • Tabatha says:

      @Rebecca, I also do this with my kids juice. I will use one container of juice and keep it, then when I open a new one I pour half of it into one container and keep half in the container I just opened. Then I fill them both to the top with filtered water. Less calories, the benefits of the juice, and lasts twice as long!

      • Caroline says:

        @Tabatha, I add water to the juice in my kids cups after I pour it. I remember my mom doing that when we were kids and it stuck with me!

      • Anitra says:

        @Tabatha, I put the water in the cup after I pour it (for myself too!) I tried the two bottles trick a few months ago, and the second bottle got something weird growing in it before we drank most of the juice! D’oh.

        • Dani says:

          @Anitra, I use about 1/4 juice and 3/4 water for my kids! The kids dentist actually says it is much healthier for their teeth too! Plus it’s a great way to get kids to drink water that wouldn’t drink just water by itself. Some people thought it was gross I did this, but they are use to it so they don’t know any better. I will admit, I don’t water mine down though. I’m not use to it and don’t like it as well. I only drink it once every two or three days though. I drink a lot of water. It’s free! (well almost)

        • Daisy says:

          Everyone in our house does this (but I don’t dilute IN the bottle). The fruit juices are too sweet anyway, even if they don’t contain sugar. We fill water in 1/3-1/2 of the glass first, THEN add juice. That way, the juice doesn’t splash up and get the water dispenser on the fridge all sticky and spotted.

          Great links. Can’t wait to check them out.

        • Amanda Y. says:

          @Anitra, It shouldn’t get things growing in it if you keep it refrigerated. Otherwise, opened juices can grow mold (learned that one the hard way)

    • Rebekah says:

      we did that too for a while and we still water down juices. this way they get their recommended daily water intake also! this saves money and they still drink what they want!

  • DeDe in Guthrie says:

    Love this tip and then the link from Kelly to make my own foamy soap.
    Thanks y’all!

  • Beth says:

    We have begun freezing a lot more food to prevent it from going bad for example loaves of bread, leftovers, some cherries we picked at my grandparents that were going to go bad before we could eat them, etc. Our schedule doesn’t always allow us to use up everything before it spoils, but freezing buys us some time.

    • Katie W. says:

      @Beth, We also do the same thing with our leftovers or I eat them for lunch.

    • Rebekah says:

      @Beth, my mom used to freeze milk! or she’d mix 1/2 reg milk with 1/2 powdered milk. she always told us to shake the milk before we drank it. To this day I still shake the milk jug and I didn’t find out until recently when my husband explained that there’s no need to shake the milk — so I asked my mom why we did and I’m 30!!

  • Emmy says:

    We happen to use dryer sheets but rip them in half (sometimes in quarters) to make the box last longer.

  • Jenny says:

    I have not tried it yet, but can’t wait to. I read in All You to save the juice from a jar of pickles and throw peppers, onions, etc in there to pickle them and they will last weeks longer!

  • Lindsey says:

    I add water to my laundry detergent and fabric softner as well as cutting back the amount. I figure this way, even if my husband does the laundry and doesn’t cut back the amount, I’m still cutting back because I’ve dilluted it.

    • Dani says:

      @Lindsey, Ha Ha! I do the same thing!! I always water my down and once it is half full I fill it back up and then shake it. I usually do the laundry, but if I don’t I know only half the amount is used too! I actually read somewhere (can’t remember where) that using too much detergent is bad for your clothes. I must admit, my clothes don’t kook as dingy as quick now.

  • Kelly W. says:

    Thank you so much for the recommendations! My husband is a youth minister, so he never makes a lot of money. We have moved to a new church and both took huge pay cuts. But, we know this is exactly where God wants us, so we are being obedient and trusting that He is going to help us financially. These tips are really going to help me. I’m looking at how to save as much money as possible.

    • Tabatha says:

      @Kelly W., Have you tried making you own laundry soap, window cleaner, multi-purpose cleaner, and dishwashing detergent? Making all of my own has saved us a significant amount of money!

      • Kelly W. says:


        I like to use a mixture of white vinegar and warm water for cleaner, but I haven’t tried anything else….do you have recipes?

        • @Kelly W., I’m with Kelly. I stopped buying any cleaning items (even those one can get “free” with CVS and Walgreens’ deals), and solely use white vinegar for all cleaning in my home. Works actually better than branded window cleaners, IMO, and I do know this small factoid: white vinegar kills some molds that even bleach cannot! Works for me, and is just pennies in cost–even use it as toilet bowl cleaner. I like the non-toxicity of it, too.

      • Vieve says:

        @Tabatha, Please post recipes for these things!!! If anyone has recipes that are septic safe and very good with HARD water, I would appreciate it!!!

        • Tabatha says:

          @Vieve, Actually I do have recipes! 🙂
          For the window cleaner use 1 cup of rubbing alcohol, 1 cup of water, and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Works just like Windex!
          Dishwashing detergent: 1 cup borax, 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup conventional powder detergent. Mix in a container and then use about a tablespoon or so in your dishwasher. One small box of Walmart brand powder detergent lasts me the better of 3-4 months!
          I have more recipes on my blog for furniture polish, carpet stains, cleaning your toilet among others! Check it out if you want just click on my name in the comment! 🙂

  • Danni says:

    I switched from liquid hand soap to bar soap for handwashing. I find it’s cheaper, you use a lot less soap (especially the kids) and it’s much gentler to your hands.

    • Janie says:


      I’ve been using all that free body wash in our hand pump soap bottles, especially with little ones around who like to squirt soap all over the sink for fun.

  • Ginger says:

    1. Rinse out bottles as you said
    2. Vacuum my heating/ac filter to make it last longer (I have lots of pets who shed and their hair/dust goes straight there.)
    3. Rinse out ziploc bags unless they held meat
    4. Freeze leftovers and USE them.

    • Kellie says:

      Cleaning/changing your air filter is saving you lots of money! My hubby is a HVAC contractor, and you would not believe how many service calls they run for an A/C not working right, and the only problem the tech finds is a dirty filter. Such a simple thing could have saved these customers not only the cost of a service call, but a more efficient running A/C!

      • Amy says:

        Too true! We found out about the perils of the dirty air filter the hard way–during a Florida summer! Now we change ours every other month, at least!

    • Katie W. says:

      @Ginger, I reuse my ziploc bags as well I have ones that I have had from 6 months ago and they are still working great! 🙂

      We have a dog that sheds alot too and I didn’t even think about vacuuming out the filter thank you for that tip!

      • kim says:

        @Katie W., ok – we just paid $18 for two filters for our AC – I thought it was a good deal, because we had a 10% off Lowe’s coupon and there was a $4 rebate attached. BUT – can I really just vaccuum them and reuse them another 3 months? SERIOUSLY? Even if I just reused them once, that would save $35 a year!

        • Kelley says:

          I bought the Washable filters….spray them off with a hose and they are already 5 years old and still look new!

  • Bethany says:

    Even better for hand soap is to use a dispenser that has the foam thing on it. I bought foaming soap once and now when it gets low I add water and just a little regular soap. With 3 kids we go through a ton of soap and so this way it really stretches!
    Another way to stretch groceries is to realize that many things that have an expiration date on them don’t really expire! Having lived overseas I’m used to eating things that are past their date and usually they are just fine. Obviously you have to use common sense with that!

  • Maria says:

    I love reading your material, Havent been couponing long but I have already become addicted and saved so much. I havent tried the meal planning yet, but im gonna start soon. I have made my own laundry detergent for about 2 years now, and now i make my own fabric softenner, and it is great, with 3 year old twin boys and a 7 month old daughter it cleans our laundry wonderfully. Cant wait to read more of your stuff, thanks for all you do.

    • Kristi says:

      @Maria, how do you make fabric softener? I have been making my own detergent for over a year and would love a recipe for fabric softener.

      • Lisa says:


        Alternate idea to making your own, soak a washcloth/small rag in liquid fabric softener. I use some baby washclothes since I got so many when my baby was born. Squeeze out the excess and hang dry it. Then toss that in with your laundry. Make sure it’s dry though to avoid liquid fabric softener stains on your clothes. I’ve diluted it with water too and it’s been working fine. I read this type about a month ago and have enjoyed this money saving deal.

      • Christy says:

        @Kristi, We stopped using fabric softener or dryer sheets all together (gasp!). My husband has a lot of khakis and shirts that say not to use fabric softener because it will ruin whatever is in them to make them wrinkle resistant. We also have dogs and it is not safe to use fabric softener on their beds, blankets, towels, etc. After leaving out the softener and/or dryer sheets on loads with my husband’s stuff and on “dog loads” as we call them, we realized the stuff was just as soft. The only side effect I’ve noticed is if we wash something fleece, sometimes it will stick to something else in the dryer and when you pull it apart there is some static electricity. I have only noticed this with fleece (we have a few blankets and winter coats). So, after realizing we could deal with occasional static cling and just leave the softener out of every load, we stopped buying it or dryer sheets.

        Disclaimer: We also live in a very humid climate–so this may have something to do with it and I am sure hard vs. soft water plays a role (so this may not be the answer for everyone, but you could try it)!

      • Brenda says:

        I use plain vinegar for fabric softner,works great. I have been doing it for years.

      • Maria says:

        @Kristi, Kristi, You take 2 cups of Hair conditioner (about 1 bottle), 3 cups of vinegar, and 6 cups of water, put in a bowl and wisk well, then pour into a gallon jug and add to your laundry, i work the conditioner into my deals at cvs for free, they have a kiwi cvs brand that smells great. it works wonderful. Also on the laundry detergent, i use a cup of dishwashing liquid instead of a bar of soap, works just as good and it doesnt goo up.

  • Amanda says:

    We learned to reuse baggies in Africa, mostly because they didn’t really sell them there (except in a few select places for a small fortune)! I have watered down whole milk before, but I don’t know if I would suggest it with skim….it’s already watery enough!

    • Beth says:

      @Amanda, I too reuse baggies for a few things. I never pay much for them when I buy them, and usually try to buy them when there is a ziploc rebate available or something, but I realize the little things really add up!

  • 1. I use the extra paper that I cut from my printable coupons for grocery lists, notes, etc.

    2. Sometimes we have a buffet lunch to “clear out” the leftovers.

    3. I use my toothbrush handle to push every last bit of toothpaste to the top. Our tube lasts for a long time!

    4. Keeping organized helps me not to waste. Too many times I’ve had meat thawing in the back of my fridge, and then I forget about it(until I smell it–eww!) Lesson learned! I keep thawing meat in the front of in a basket in my fridge where I can see it.

  • Jessica says:

    We also reuse our dryer sheets. They are the free and clear type, and used to remove static and pet hair (not for fabric softening or sent), and we can usually get a couple uses out of them with still good hair removal.
    When leftovers are close to their expiration date and we know we won’t get to em, we add them to the dog’s meals. Our vet suggested adding various “people” food a while back, and it also helps make the bag of kibble last longer. Course that depends on your pet’s taste, stomach, and vet recs
    Left over chicken gets added to a work lunch salad (or other things in the fridge like lunch meat, cheese, fruit, whatever should get used. Though my dad had that mind set when making omlettes, even cutting up and adding left over pizza…). Left over veggies that we wont get to (or if we wont get to ALL of what’s left over) gets frozen to go into a few sauce dishes (crock pots, stews, pot pie, certain casserole and skillet dishes) as opposed to throwing the left over out and buying frozen mixed vegetables for the same purpose, which also helps sneak in veggies.
    Putting computers to sleep saves electricity without always waiting the start up time.
    Personally I’m having trouble adjusting to using less hair shower product. This summer I donated my hair, so I lost plenty of length and certainly require less product, but old habits and all that jazz…

  • Tabatha says:

    I have also found that once a month cooking can potentially save tons of money! I spent $75 this month and was able to get a whole months worth of dinners! Then I had extra for snacks and stuff. Total for a month I was able to shave another $100 off my food bill and that’s feeding 4 people! Total spent all month is roughly around $150!!! 😀 I also send leftovers with my husband to work to prevent him from buying lunch while at work, and the only soap I’ve ever “bought” was Bath and Body Works soap that I was able to get for free from coupons.

  • To make lettuce last longer, peel the leaves from the head (never use a knife to cut it) and then wrap in paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the fridge. Change the paper towel every time you use the lettuce. I can stretch a fresh head of lettuce out for nearly three weeks by doing this!

    • Lee says:

      @The Single Gal, but that is a heck of a lot of paper towels! I use a plastic knife and cut my lettuce then store it in air tight containers! but with a family of 5 it never lasts long. Plus we don’t eat iceberg but buy leaf or romain…the heads are smaller.

      • Deb H. in Wisconsin says:

        @Lee, You can also tear up the head of lettuce and put it in a bowl and just cover it with water and it will keep fresh in the fridge for days. You need to change the water when you use some lettuce.

      • Laura says:

        @Lee, you actually don’t need to replace the paper towel every time. We always use the same one for 2-3 weeks with no problem.

        With our romaine, we wash it and dry it (salad spinner works well, or blot with paper towels), then wrap in paper towels and stick in a ziplock bag. We keep the leaves whole and just tear them up when we need to use them.

        This method doesn’t just keep the lettuce longer, it also crisps up a soft head of lettuce that you forgot about or that just didn’t look great at the store. If you’re using old/bad lettuce, just be sure you don’t put anything in the bag that has mold on it.

        • Janie says:


          A clean, dry, lint-free dishtowel works fine for this purpose too. Only caveat is that if the lettuce turns brown it can stain the towel, so you could always use an old towel dedicated to this purpose.

      • Laura says:

        @Lee, also, even if you go through lettuce very quick, doing this can help you take better advantage of sales or save yourself a trip to the store. 🙂

  • Jodi says:

    Years ago, I paid a fortune for Soft Scrub. Now I use a powdered cleanser such as Ajax or Comet (.50 sale at Wags). When I remove the sticker at the top for the cleanser to come out, I only remove half of the sticker so that I can more easily control how much comes out.

  • Michele H says:

    I have switched to somewhat “no-poo”. And when I don’t use shampoo, I use a paste of lemon juice w/ baking soda. Cleanses your hair without stripping natural oils (then follow w/ conditioner, same as normal). Even after ONE try, I noticed a HUGE difference in the softness w/o sacrificing the clean feeling!

    • Challice says:

      @Michele H,

      Ok, I gotta understand. I’ve tried all “Curly Girl” methods. Using the whole mayo method, olive oil method, etc etc etc, this one is a new one. My hair is, thin, fine and oily. I am so hesitant to try this because after using all the above methods my hair is SOO SOOO disgusting. Once it felt and looked like straw it was so terrible. I wanna try this but am still hesitating. I have much lemon juice (free lemons here) but eek. Can you tell me, how long did you rub it in, how long you let it sit, and how long you rinsed it out (obviously til it was all cleaned out) also what conditioner do you use?

      • Lauren says:

        @Challice, I do no poo to an extent…I sometimes use shampoo when my hair is super dirty (like the mix of salt water, sand, and chlorine this week at the beach). I mix a tbsp or so of baking soda in about 8 oz of water (sometimes I up it b/c i have long hair and my hubby uses the same amt for his). I pour it through my hair and massage it, and then I rinse it really well. I use whatever conditioner I have on hand. That’s it!

    • WilliamB says:

      @Michele H, how are lemon juice and baking soda gentle? Lemon juice has a pH of 2.3 (strong acid).

  • kitchy says:

    This is wonderful,sharing tips to everyone…Good Job to all of you guys!!..I re-used ziploc bags,i used dry sheets softener instead of liquid i saved tons because of this,(since i only got it as freebies), i also used extra paper from printable coupons as my grocery lists papers. I wanted to try the rubber band on the liquid soap bottle..

    • Christy says:

      @kitchy, I have a B &W laser printer. I print coupons back to back just flipping the paper over so the coupons print on opposite sides. i.e. when I cut the coupons out, the ad part is on the back of each coupon. Someone told me that they tried this with a color inkjet printer and too much ink bled through and the store wouldn’t take the coupon??

      If I print out a coupon from some sites that only print a coupon on the top of the page and no ad to fill up the whole page, I save the rest of the piece of paper and feed it through the bypass tray in my printer to print another one that I know will print on the top.

      When I finally only have a small strip left, I use it for grocery lists or give it to my 3 year old to cut (he loves to just cut paper into little strips and it is great fine motor/scissor practice).

  • Rachael says:

    1. I use conditioner (freebies) to shave my legs instead of buying shaving cream. It works great!

    2. I have a basket that I put all the school newsletters, menus, worksheets that I don’t plan on saving, etc. and use the backs to print my coupons on to save money on paper.

    Thanks for all the great tips everyone! Going right now to put rubberbands on all the soap dispensers. 🙂

    • Tammy says:

      2. I have a basket that I put all the school newsletters, menus, worksheets that I don’t plan on saving, etc. and use the backs to print my coupons on to save money on paper.-I am glad to have found somebody who does that!

    • Lindsey says:

      I use conditioner, too, and it works better than shaving cream!

      We also reuse our papers for the printer, but when we do need clean sheets, we get paper at Staples when they have rebates (like they do this week!), and then submit the rebates. In the past year, we’ve purchased 7 reams of paper for a total of 7 cents after rebates!

      We’ve also found that for printing coupons, a laser printer is definitely worth the investment. We found a refurbished one cheap on ebay, and we also buy our ink on there and can get 2 for less than the price of one at the store.

  • Angie says:

    We have “restaurant” night when there’s a bunch of leftovers in the fridge – sounds more exciting for the kids and they get to pick from the “menu”. I’ll routinely take leftover veggies from the week and make veggie/beef soup or shepherds pie or chicken pot pie — both good for using a variety of veggies, whatever you have on hand.

  • Lana says:

    About 2 weeks ago I put a freebie whiteboard on the fridge at eye level. I have been writing every leftover and any other food items that need to be eaten on it. I have not thrown out a single leftover since then, also no more finding half a bowl of tuna salad or whatever that you wanted to eat but forget about. Cross out or erase the item as you use it. Wish I had done this 30 years ago as we could have saved so much money.

    • Susan Whitmer says:

      @Lana, Great tip!

    • Daisy says:

      I need to do this. My husband is tall and I am short. He always misses things in the fridge when quickly packing his lunch in the morning. I wish I could convince him how making it at night makes MUCH more sense.

      I have been meaning to write out the week’s meals on the front of the fridge, so my teen doesn’t eat eat something I have planned to go on a meal later in the week. He’s a cheese thief.

  • Tammy says:

    Fantastic tips. A lot of them I have already been doing. I just found your blog about a week ago, and started following. I even started gardeing and a gardening blog this year to try and cut cost.

  • Challice says:

    Save all the yogurt, cottage cheese, etc containers and use them for containers for the fridge.

  • Allison says:

    I use about 1/3 the amount of laundry detergent (I have a ton of free bottles-can’t beat that with homemade!), I use dryer sheets until they’re raggedy, I don’t use the heat-dry on the dishwasher, I use cloth diapers at home, I cook the right amount so we don’t have leftovers going to waste, I print coupons on any scrap paper…I’ve learned a lot in the year since I started following MSM.

    I’m trying to find a good way to hang-dry my laundry in my apartment without spending any money, and I tried turning the A/C off the other day, but it got too hot by evening… : (

    The no-poo thing, uh-uh, no way, sorry. My MIL does that, her hair is TERRIBLE, and it stinks like vinegar. These days, everything causes cancer, the average age expectancy of living to my 70s sounds good to me, and I’ve got a lot bigger things to worry about (like where my rent money is coming from next month, since my hubby quit his job out of the blue). Shampoo is not even on the radar right now.

    • Amanda says:

      hey got some tips for ya. hang your clothes on hangers on the shower curtain rod, and clothes pin items to the hangers that cant be hung. also you can get a retractable single line clothesline at walmart for about 7.00 it attaches to one wall and a hook attatches to the other and you pull it out when in use. for the cooling thing… open you windows/outside doors early in the morning and also put box fan in a window facing the wrong way (blowing out) and make sure other windows are open. it will suck air through one window and pull the hot air out the other and create a cool breeze. just make sure the window that doesnt have the fan in it is not on the sunny side of the building!

    • Katie W. says:

      @Allison, I have a laundry drying rack in our house ( which is the size of a small apt. 🙂 And I hang dry them there for the day.
      I also run the A/C for maybe till it begins to get cold and then shut it off. We have all the fans going and a rotating fan that keeps the cool are moving. So you don’t have to have the A/C on as much.

      • Christy says:

        @Katie W., Not sure where ya’ll live, but our heat index is in in the 100-110 range for most of July and August–a/c has to stay on here! We do set it on 80 and use ceiling fans though. I guess we get to reep the benefits in the spring and fall when we can leave windows open with no a/c or heat and also on the minimal heating costs for most winters (not last winter–very cold, unfortunatley)!

  • Amanda says:

    I dont even have kids but there are always 2-5 at my house and lots of people. I dont use very many paper towels and or baby wipes… I buy a few bunches of white wash cloths at walmart and use them for the wiping business! I can bleach them and they can be reused plus they clean much better… when they are worn out I reuse them for rags for cleaning. I also use all dish towels and cloths in my kitchen again can be used over and over. Now that I have decided to line dry most of clothes this saves more, the dryer does not have be ran and I use vinegar as fabric softener –yes it works and takes out smells and only cost around 1.25 or so a gallon, and I half my laundry detergent with baking soda… clothes come out smelling as if I purchased expensive softener, plus the kids love hanging and playing between the cloths on the line! you can save around $25.00 per month line drying give or take depending on how much laundry you do.

  • ann says:

    I don’t throw away those Cereal Bags. I use them during my Freezer cooking days and they really do well in the Freezer. I don’t reuse them after that. This reduces the need for Ziplocs to a good extent.

    • Melanie says:

      @ann, Good tip, Ann! To chime in here about those cereal bags — they also make great pie crust waxed paper. My mother taught me to roll my pie crusts out on them and then transfer the crust into the pie plate by just turning the paper and crust into the pie pan. It works great! The cereal bags are like heavy duty waxed paper!

  • Courtney says:

    We recently switched over to using bar soap to wash our hands. We were going through a lot of liquid soap, even though I watered it down to make it stretch further, and I was sick of having to constantly refill the bottles. Bar soap has turned out to be much cheaper and easier for us.

    We also make most of our cleaning products/detergent and use every last drop of everything.

    Here’s a neat trick I learned from the Tightwad Gazette. You know when your deodorant is just about used up and there is that last little bit at the bottom? Save it. When you have 4-5 almost-used-up deodorants, scrape it all out into a little bowl and microwave it just long enough until it liquifies. Then pour it back into one of the empty deodorant containers and let it cool until it hardens. Voila, you have a whole new stick of deodorant!

  • Wendy says:

    We either reuse/repurpose or make from scratch all sorts of thing around here:
    ziploc bags – wash and reuse
    clorox cleaning wipes – make my own
    use baking soda instead of scouring powder
    use vinegar and water instead of buying windex
    make “maple syrup” from sugar, water, vanilla and butter

    In homeschooling, I stick workbooks into page protectors so that more than one child can use them. The kids write their answers on the page protector with dry erase markers or sharpies. They clean off with some elbow grease and/or rubbing alcohol. With 5 kids, this has saved us hundreds!

    Check it out here…

  • -I have a container in my freezer that I throw chicken bones, carrots, onions, celary, etc. into and when I have enough odds and ends I make homemade chicken stock.
    -I save all of the plastic grocery bags that I get and I use them to pick up dog poop, to throw away diapers (no diaper genie for me), to line small trash cans and many other random things.
    -I use old toothbrushes (which were free in the first place) for cleaning. They are great for tight corners and grout (last night I cleeaned the grout on my bathroom floor with a toothbrush and Shout laundry stain remover and the floor came out great).

    • Daisy says:

      When I buy onion or get green peppers and red peppers when they are the lowest price of the year (under 50cents each), I chop them and freeze them in freezer bags and put them just inside the freezer door and use as needed to add to dishes. They go much further and freeze well.

  • Angela says:

    When my mascara starts to get dried out, I wet the brush and replace it in the container. The next morning, the mascara is almost as good as new. My mom taught me to do this when I first started wearing makeup as a teenager, and I usually add water to my mascara six or eight times before I finally throw it away and replace it with a new tube (that I bought on sale with a coupon, of course!)

    • margaret says:

      okay that sounds like a really bad idea!, not only is mascara bad after about 3 months.. but thats just bacteria growing.

      • Angela says:

        @margaret, I’m not sure I understand why adding a drop of tap water is encouraging bacteria to grow more, but that’s fine. This is just something that has personally worked for me without any problems for over 20 years. It’s made each tube of my mascara stretch so that it’s not bad after 3 months. If it concerns you, I’m sure there are other things that you could do to save money.

  • Deb H. in Wisconsin says:

    *I use shampoo to pre-treat oily spots on my clothes.
    *I cut open hand lotion tubes, hair gel tubes and my hubby cuts open hard-sided container of lotion to get the last bit out of every container.
    *Teach your children to re-use, not waste and coupon. My kids-11, 15 and 16 are very good at finding ways to cut back and love the “game” of it!
    *I can or freeze as much as I possibly can get my hands on in the summer. A pressure cooker canner is a great thing to keep your eye out for at garage sales.
    *I make LOTS of jams/jellies in the summer out of the fruits I can get (I even use zuchinni in one recipe) and I use those jams for gifts at Christmas for teachers. It is ALWAYS a huge hit. Follow the directions on the Sur-jel. It is easy.

  • Sophia says:

    Thanks for the great idea about using the rubber bands on soap dispensers! I generally end up with several bottles of expensive hand soap after gift-giving occasions, and I’m always bothered by how much they dispense at once. You only need about 1/4 of that, but I’m the only one that seems to realize it. 🙂 Thanks to you, my expensive hand soap can last a lot longer!

  • Karen Rucker says:

    I feel pretty good reading these tips because we’ve tried almost all of them and we continue to use the majority, though a few didn’t work with our family.

    *I use a rubber spatula to get the last of the peanut butter out of the jar.
    *I try to have only a few day’s worth of food in the fridge at any one time and store the rest in the freezer. What I do keep in the fridge I try to store in clear containers or ziplocs. That way, we can see what we have and use it before it spoils.
    *When the fridge gets to be full of leftovers, we have a ‘fend for yourselves’ night and let the kids use up the odds and ends.
    *We don’t use paper towels or paper napkins since washcloths work just as well.

  • Lisa says:

    If you use Brillo pads or Magic Eraser (bought on sale of course!), use scissors to cut the pads into halves or thirds, which should be plenty to do the job.

    • Christy says:

      @Lisa, I let the magic erasers dry in my drying rack and reuse them until they literally fall apart! I only use them on soap scum and crayon marks on kitchen counter as I can get everything else out with other cleaners. That makes the free or cheap magic eraser box last long enough for another deal to come around!

    • Vanessa says:

      @Lisa, The way I extend the life of of a brillo pad is to put it in the freezer after each use.This keeps it from getting rusty.

  • WilliamB says:

    The Frugal Girl ( started Food Waste Friday to, as she puts it, shame herself into wasting less. Every Friday she posts a pix of food her family wasted that week and encourges others to share. It’s a great way to be aware of one actually wastes.

  • Kimberly says:

    There are a lot of comments regarding soap dispensers and how much soap is used in relation to bar soap. At our house, since I can get Ivory soap bars free or close to free, I cut it up into small chunks and put that into the bottom of the empty soap container. Then add water and shake. This works really well for our family and is super cheap. If you do not want to wait for the water to dilute the soap at the bottom to get a thicker soap I think you could probably microwave it to melt it with some water and then add to container. The piece that I use for each bottle of soap is about the size of one square of a Hershey’s chocolate bar, just a little thicker.

  • *I freeze onion cuttings and skins to use later in broth (picked that tip up from Stephanie at Keeper of the Home). Also save the bones from the local, pastured chicken I buy from our farmers market for broth.

    *I save, dry and crush eggshells for use in the garden

    *I compost vegetable scraps

    *I even do #3 on your list despite the fact I so disliked it when my Mother added water to the ketchup bottle when I was a kid. Guess I’ve become my Mother LOL!

    Mary Ellen

  • Debbie says:

    I save the broth that comes with canned chicken and use it to make chicken soup.

  • Ms.M. says:

    I never throw away leftovers or spoiled fruit anymore – just making a conscious effort to use left overs before cooking something new (I don’t mind the repitition) has saved us $$. I also banned my husband from liquid body soap in the shower – we use the Dove or Olay brand bar soap. It’s better (more moisturizing) for the skin and lasts at least 3-4x longer than a bottle for less $.

    Overall I just want to thank you so much for this series Crystal! I started couponing the week of Memorial Day 2010 and your series was the first thing I read as a guide. Since then I’ve cut our family of 5’s weekly grocery bill from $125 to $50 per week! And that’s without taking some of the more ‘drastic’ measures – we only shop at one store + RiteAid, don’t yet have a big freezer for freezer cooking, etc. I look forward to even more savings in the coming months!

  • Mary in Ohio says:

    I water down liquid fabric softener (that I buy for pennies with coupons) half and half and it works great. I use 1/4 the amount that they say for laundry soap (I have to buy Tide EVERYTHING else even homemade gives me hives) our clothes still get clean. I also water down the soap dispensers and rinse all jars (ketchup, etc)) with water to get every last drop out of them. To avoid wasting water I boil macaroni noodles and eggs together, they take about the same amount of time to cook.
    Also fabric softener sheets work just as well cut in half or even thirds instead of a full sheet.

  • dawn says:

    this is not new, but I just started doing it…

    my dh hates leftovers. he wants a “new” meal every night. so, the leftovers sit in the fridge, with the kids and I eating what we can for lunch, and usually throw them away a few days later. it makes me mad to waste all that food.

    so, as of last week, whatever we do not eat for the meal that night, I freeze immediately. (except for canned/fozen vegies, etc.- I only cook what we need for that night for them) Then, I’m going to pull out the leftovers within the month and use them. viola! a “new” meal for dh, no throwing food away and less cooking for me. 🙂

    as an added bonus, my fridge is much cleaner and less cluttered now.

  • dawn says:

    one other one…

    instead of buying foaming soap refills, but the regular soft soap refills and mix 1/2 soap, 1/2 water. you could probably use 1/4 soap, 3/4 water as well. foams and works the same, for a lot less $$$.

  • Amanda says:

    * I use conditioner to shave legs instead of shave cream,unless I can get shave cream free or really cheap.
    * I save all plastic bags from grocery store and reuse them to clean litter box, put in small trash cans or repurpose somehow.
    * Save and reuse some plastic containers (like butter tubs) to store leftovers or use as a mixing bowl.
    * We stopped buying and using paper towels and only use wash cloths and dish cloths now that we can wash and reuse.
    * Beginning to use more natural and cheaper subsitutes for cleaning the house like baking soda and vinegar and only purchase other cleaning supplies when they’re free or really cheap.
    * Use every bit of lotion, soap, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner and laundry detergent by putting in a little water when you get to the bottom.
    * Freeze as much as possible.
    * We save leftovers in the fridge to eat for lunch the next day or for dinner the next day.
    * Use coupons and sales to save money and buy food, health items and household items at rock bottom prices.

    • Christy says:

      @Amanda, We started using reusable grocery bags. I find that I have enough baggies from bread, bagels, veggies, etc. to use for cleaning up dog poop (may not work for litter box). We occasionally forget to bring a bag into a store or forget to put them back in the car and end up with some bags now and then. These seem to be enough for the pull ups we need to throw away after a bedtime accident (3 year old). I guess this doesn’t really save us money (except at CVS and Target) but we are not wasting bags since we use all we get (veggies, bread, bagels, etc.).

  • Marie Stopa says:

    I must say I really learned a lot reading your post and your guests comments. I thought of myself as a very frugal peron, until today. I got some great ideas that I want now implement into my family life. This is a great read.

    Marie Stopa

  • Julie says:

    First of all, I love the rubber band idea! And I love to think about how we can make our pennies go farther, but he other comment I have is we tend to focus our thoughts on wasting money and things. Perhaps one of our most valuable resources is time. I think we have to balance wasting time with wasting money. At times the two go hand in hand and that is wonderful! But it seems that there are always trade offs. Perhaps it is worth spending a little more money if it means being able to spend a little more time with our families. Balance in all things. I think that God will help us know when we need to do that. It is just something to think about.

  • Megan says:

    Here is the recipe I use for laundry soap. Since we have been using it (about 2 years now) we have stopped using fabric softener and I am still on my first boxes of borax and washing soda. I have a top load washer but a friend uses it with her front loader and it works fine for her.
    1/2 bar castile soap
    1/2 cup washing soda
    1/2 cup borax

    grate the soap and put it in a sauce pan. Add 6 cups water and heat until the soap melts
    add the washing soda and the borax and stir until it is dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour 4 cups hot water into the bucket. Now add your soap mixture and stir. Now add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir. Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel. Use 1/2 cup per load.

  • Margery says:

    I make homemade frozen dinners whenever we have leftovers (lasagna, chicken & rice, stir fry, etc.) I put the food in a tupperware container in the freezer. Then my husband can just pull one out of the freezer when he goes to work. He fills in with sandwiches, too.

  • Daisy says:

    Spotted bananas get made into banana bread early in the morning (so I don’t heat up the house) and fruit that isn’t being eaten up as fast as they’re turning always get put into smoothies. Somehow they’re more excited about drinking a peach smoothie than just eating a peach.

    • Christy says:

      @Daisy, I make a lot of banana bread that way too! You can also peel the banana, freeze it and throw it in a smoothie later!

      • Beth B says:


        I don’t even bother peeling. I put the banana, peel and all in the freezer. I don’t even have to put it in a bag, the peel keeps it nice. To use it in a recipe, I microwave it for about 15-30 seconds and cut a slit on the side. Works great.

  • meegan says:

    There’s a ton of homemade recipe substitutions in the book Miserly Moms by Jonni McCoy and some ideas to cut back on other expenses like going to the dentist. You can get it through to avoid paying full price.

  • Lisette says:

    I bought an inexpensive olive oil bottle and filled it with about half water half dish soap for hand washing dishes. The metal spout really keeps you from using more dish soap than you need! I’ve been using the same 24 oz bottle of dish soap for nearly 2 years. AND, it looks pretty sitting next to my sink! Bonus!

  • Rachael says:

    Unless they get pooped in, I reuse swim diapers. I turn them inside out and throw them in the washer with the rest of the clothes and then hang them to dry. I usually get about 5 uses out of 1 diaper, so one pack can last us all summer!

    • Leah says:

      @Rachael, I use iPlay swim trunks, which have a built in diaper, so I’ve never had to buy swim dipes. I ordered a “mixed bag” (basically a random print from last season) for only $7 online. I’ve also seen them at consignment shops and discount stores like “Tuesday Mornings” for cheap. Definitely a great investment (besides, most trunks alone cost more than $7!!).

  • Rhonda says:

    My father always said : “watch your pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.

    I use only clear containers for fridge leftovers. That way I can see what I have in the fridge and don’t forget about them.

    I buy clothes for my sons at garage sales for sizes years ahead when I see them for cheap (esp. jeans, shoes, coats, and dress clothes). I don’t remember buying anything new for them, except socks, and training pants. It has cut our clothing budget to $20 month for a family of 4.

  • Nora Laughlin says:

    I’ve gone shampoo free many times. I like to alternate by doing the baking soda for a few weeks then shampooing. It works very well, but it takes a bit of experimenting to find the right amount to use for your hair. If you have an itchy scalp baking soda works wonders.

  • Tabatha says:

    Ok so I’ll try it here! Good grief…3 times now and it still won’t post the reply to the comment! Once again if you click on my name it will take you to my blog where I have a load of household recipes among other things!
    Window wash: 1 cup rubbing alcohol, 1 cup water, and 1 tablespoon white vinegar. Works better than Windex!
    Dishwashing detergent: 1 cup borax, 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup conventional powder; mix together and then use 1 tablespoon or so with every load. I buy the smallest box of Walmart brand powder and it lasts me 3-4 months by doing this.

  • Lindsey says:

    I love the rubber band trick! I’ll have to do that today. 🙂

    I cut ground hamburger with cheaper ingredients to make it go further. Example – lean ground hamburger was on sale for 1.77 per pound when you buy 5 lbs. Bought 5 lbs. total – $9. Mixed with quite a bit of oatmeal (I like black beans, mushrooms, mmm, there are others as well), eggs, water, and seasoning. Cooked that and divided into 7 – 1 lb containers. Used washed out 16oz butter/sour cream/cottage cheese containers. I defrost and heat up the frozen 1 lb hamburger for meals like tacos, hamburger helper, spagetti, sloppy joes, etc. $9 got me a total of 7 lbs – that’s $1.28 a lb for good hamburger!!

    Love all of these money saving ideas!

    • Janie says:


      Great tip, thank you! I’d never considered mixing beans or oatmeal into the ground beef crumbles or burgers (only ever done that with meatloaf). We buy pricey grassfed beef straight from a rancher, too, so this is a wonderful way to stretch the good stuff.

  • Lindsey says:

    Washing windows – I just use a spray bottle with water and wipe with microfiber cloth. Cheap and natural – my kids can wash windows!!

  • When I get junk mail that only has printing on one side and is still in pretty good shape, I use it as printer paper for unimportant documents or coupons. Just make sure there isn’t any personal information on the printed side!

  • James says:

    i have never seen the rubber band trick but absolutely love it, this right out of a page in my book.

  • Rebecca says:

    On the rare occasions that we buy a loaf of bread, we keep it in the refrigerator to make it last longer.

    We put our Enlish muffins in the freezer and only take out what we need.

    When I get to the to the end of my liquid laundry soap and I can’t drip out any more, I add some warm water, shake it up and then I add it to a sink of water. It works great for washing dishes or cleaning the kitchen or add to a bucket and wash outside windows and outside toys.

    I use a spray bottle of water with a little vinegar to wash my inside windows, mirrors and glass.

    I also use vinegar to put in the dishwasher to make my glassware sparkle.

  • Lisa says:

    Plan menus–shop the ads [they’re all online now] and learn to cook!

    I save money by making 10 gallons of laundry soap at a time and use white vinegar in the rinse and in the dishwasher rinse. If you pay for water you may want to put a brick in the toilet tank and use the “middle” setting on your washer, too.

  • Meredith says:

    It may not seem like I save money on a few of these but here are ways we’ve cut back:

    Stop wearing a full line of makeup. Nix base makeup and keep a nice powder on hand. Keep a good lipstick or gloss and some mascara. Use them only for special occasions. As a stay at home mom, that’s only about a time every few months. Stop saying you need makeup. You DONT.

    Go to the grocery store often…if you live by it that is. I live just a mere mile from our market. I go and buy small amounts of produce every two or three days. If I do one big bulky trip, too much spoils. One month I
    lost more in produce than I used in gas.

    Live like an Oregonian. I live in sc now but when I lived in the ne, we saved energy by opening up the windows and night. This let’s in the cool air. Close up during the day. You’ll be shocked as to what this does to your electric bill.

    Don’t be afraid of bad produce. If something has just been merely bruised or starting to rot (not deep with mold) you can still use it. Most of the time the good portion left on the produce is in the ripe stage. Not to mention you can get some terrific jams and sauces out of these.

  • We raise pigs! We have absolutely ZERO food waste! All scraps, peelings, cores, leftovers….go to the pigs. In 6 months we take the pig to the butcher and end up with over a hundred pounds in healthy, all-natural pork that tastes out of this world delicious! A great way to turn food scraps into more food…

  • The most important thing I do is plate up our family dinner. I used to let the kids do it themselves and they would eat all the meat and potatoes and no salad. I also hold back a little of what we have. Say we have pot roast I keep a portion then make lots of soup with veggies I have saved in the freezer from the ends of prep work.

    We also reuse composition notebooks. I cannot tell you how many times the kids came home from school at the end of the year and only 1 or 2 pages are used.

    Also, I lived in Hawai’i for several years and I learned a great way to handle leftovers. Fried rice. Everything can go in fried rice and it is perfect for breakfast. Here is a simple recipe:

    3 cups cooked rice(any kind)
    3 tablespoons onion
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    2 eggs.

    I cook the onions in butter until translucent, add in the rest of the ingredients, stir thoroughly, then toss in my leftovers which might include:

    -pot roast
    -carrots or any veggie
    -spam(I did live in Hawai’i=).

  • Amy says:

    I did the shampoo-free thing for a year or so and loved it! The first month was awkward, but after that it was great. I plan on starting again after I finish up my current bottle of shampoo:)

  • Lisa says:

    Over-the-counter medicines, compare for generics. Ex. Tylenol is acetaminophen, Motrin is ibuprofen, Benadryl is diphenhydramine. Tylenol PM is acetaminophen + diphenhydramine(Benadryl). If you are unsure and don’t want to make a mistake ask the pharmacist to help you. Its the same with Claratin and Zyrtec. Both have generics. I watch people buy brand name for 2-3 times the cost. If you must buy a brand name and don’t have a coupon ask the store if there is a tear pad of coupons for your product.

  • angela says:

    FYI on making your own laundry soap using Borax…. I did that for about 2-3 years and came home one day to warped hardwood floors. Apparently, the “newer” washing machines (mine was over 12 years old) really do need the liquid or “he” type of laundry soap or they can cause problems with the machine. (according to the repair man and insurance agent) Which mine did, and cost about $8,000.00 to replace the floors, drywall, trim, paint, doors, etc, etc….So, now I buy laundry soap and dilute it to stretch it. Still kills me to pay for it though…

  • Beth B says:

    I don’t buy paper towels or washclothes. I cut up old stained up clothing to use as rags. 90% of our clothing is hand-me downs from others. I end up with plenty so if something is really nasty, I don’t feel bad about tossing it out. They are also great to take to camp. Once its used, you can toss it out.

    We close the vents in rooms we don’t use so we aren’t air-conditioning or heating them.

    All the lights in our house are the new flourescent kind. I really think they do make a difference in our electric bill.

    Insulation can really help you save on your heating and cooling bills.

    Recycle old flat bed pillows by folding them in half and sewing a new white cover around them. Then design a new pretty pillow case to go over that. Or just enclose the recycled pillow in an old but pretty pillow case and sew it shut. Makes great travel, camp, and play pillows or just use it for a bed pillow.

    Not relevant now, but when the snow flies, dig out all those old dried out markers and let the kids color the snow man with them.

    I reused Walmart sacks by lining a plastic bowl and letting the kids use it when they get sick. Saves on cleaning up a mess when they didn’t quite make it to the bathroom.

    I also clean mirrors, the front of the microwave, and the front of the dishwasher with a wet rag and follow with a dry one. Does a good job for me.

  • Kristie says:

    I love the rubber band idea. I put them on all the soap dispensers last night. My DH complained a little, but was okay with it! LOL
    This morning my 3 year old son said “MOM, this doesn’t work with the rubber band around it!” I said it’s to help you use less and not waste!
    Thanks for the tips!

  • Gretchen says:

    I used to make homemade laundry soap, but after more research and considering the valuable time used to make it (I like liquid better than dry) now I buy All free and clear. I still get soap that doesn’t break out our sensitive skin and the cost is about the same or less. The trick is you only need about a tablespoon of soap per large load. I will use double for really dirty laundry (like dog’s towels or my husband’s muddy jeans). This makes one small bottle last several months!

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