Guest post by Lisa from PanaMom
If you live in a city with a great drugstore or a grocery store that doubles coupons, saving money on your household budget is fairly straightforward. But everything changed when we moved. Goodbye, Publix and CVS. Hello, Panama! I had to get creative! (And if you live somewhere without access to all the deals, you’ll need to get creative, too!)
Here’s what has worked for me:
1. Find out what’s local.
Local is almost always less expensive. Seedless grapes here are $5/lb, but pineapples are $0.75/each. Nathan’s hotdogs–my absolute favorite hot dog–are $7/pkg, but fresh fish is only $3/lb. Although there are no “loss leaders,” there are still deals to be found.
2. Eat like a local.
Especially in developing countries, people are living and eating on low salaries as a way of life. You can, too.
I cut out almost all the processed foods. It saved us hundreds of dollars. I stopped buying boneless, skinless chicken and started processing chicken quarters. Rice, beans, and lentils have become staples of our meals.
3. Shop like a local.
It’s natural to seek out something familiar. For me, that was the big American-style grocery store. $6 packages of Oreos made it all feel better. I couldn’t spend all my money on overpriced food. I decided to hit the local open-air markets and found $0.10 limes, $0.25 mangoes, 40 pounds of oranges for $6!
4. Waste not. Want not.
Your grandma was right. If you don’t waste what you have, you don’t find yourself in a place of need.
Aluminum foil is $10/roll here. We rarely throw it away after the first use. Packaged tortillas are cheap and come with wax paper circles between them. Those circles have proved invaluable. We use them as “plates” at snack time and they also hold paint for the day’s craft.
5. Make it yourself.
Flour, yeast, turbinado, and the like are inexpensive. In bulk, they are cheaper.
All the recipes for your favorite foods are easily accessed online. My kids love Pillsbury crescent rolls. They are $4 a can here. So, I found Crystal’s Butterhorn recipe, and we all love them.
Another favorite is homemade goldfish crackers. I know what is in them, and the kids love them.
The more I make from home, the less often I have to go to the grocery store which means less opportunity to spend money. And it’s fun. We are currently working on perfecting our homemade Chick-Fil-A lemonade!
6. Be honest.
You might have to explain to your kids that you cannot afford to buy something. And that’s okay.
My girls love strawberries, but they are $10/pound. I can’t justify that amount of money out of my budget when there are plenty of other fresh fruit options. I had to sit them down, tell them no, and explain why. They were not happy about it, but now they are learning at an early age how to manage their money.
Lisa has been married to her awesome husband for 12 years. She is a stay-at-home mom to their three great girls and one terrific son. Follow her Panamanian adventures at her blog, PanaMom.
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