Our large family has been through some lean times and God taught me many things. I want to share some of these ideas on stretching each dollar in a hard season.
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Stretching Each Dollar
My husband and I have been married almost 25 years and have 8 children to care for. I have been at home with the children ever since I had my firstborn 22 years ago. Here is what we have learned in this area.
Faith is an important part of getting through any kind of tough time and still remaining hopeful and not hopeless. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
I praise God that he allowed me to borrow a book to read to my children for homeschool, about George Muller (also sometimes spelled Mueller). From that book, I got the idea to keep a prayer journal and to go to God with everything I need. Starting July 24, 2008, I began to pray for everything we needed (even milk and bread) and I wrote down the date I prayed, the item I needed and the amount it might cost, the date I received it and who it was from or how it came to me. If I prayed for someone to find Jesus and know him, I would write the cost was “priceless” and that “God provided it”. At the top of each journal page, I wrote a Bible verse (usually related to God's provision), which I use when praying. Not long ago, I published a similar journal so others could use it if desired.
When I pray, I start by adoring Him. Then I confess my sins, then I thank Him, then it's time for prayer or supplication for my husband, my children, my relatives, other people, our country and its leaders, and Israel and the peace of Jerusalem. Then I pray the Bible verse (His promise) at the top of the page back to Him and ask Him (with total belief that He can do this, nothing is impossible for Him) for all the needs on that list.
After doing this for a time, and seeing God answer these prayers, you will no longer fear when lean times come. If you do accidentally have fear, you can look back on this journal and see how He already did provide for you in the past and look forward to how He will make it happen soon.
Some examples of Bible verses in my original notebook journal are…
Matthew 6:31-33 So do not worry, saying “what shall we eat?” or “what shall we drink?” or “what shall we wear?” for the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Psalm 102:17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; He will not despise their plea.
Philippians 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.
Learn to be Frugal
After praying, see what you can do to save money. Learn to be frugal in creative ways. There are many great books in the library and blog posts you can read. I found Miserly Moms to be a great book for a family living on one income.
Everyone needs clothing and the kids seem to grow out of them faster than we can earn the money to buy them sometimes! Here are some ideas of what you can do.
If you have more than one child (or plan to), you can keep 18 gallon plastic totes in your basement, garage, attic, shed, barn, or storage tent as they keep critters, bugs, water, and smells out quite well. Mark them by size with all the clothes your other child or children can grow into. I stack mine four totes high. I prefer the Rubbermaid brand as they have lasted over 22 years and still do a great job for me! We get our totes from our storage unit business.
Buy Abandoned Storage Units
This is a great way to get clothing for a very low price, even less than rummage sales. Sometime, it is free if you find money in a unit or resell items to get all the money back that you paid for the unit! Read storage auction tips before you begin so you know exactly what you are getting into. At the auction, the clothing would be packed in boxes and very hard to see. Look for items that you can see from the door that are in your child's age range. For example, if you have a baby, look for high chairs or baby related items. If you have a small child, look for a toy kitchen or toy tool table or small trike or bike If you have a teen, look for a large bike or sporting equipment.
Rummage Sales or Second-hand or Thrift Clothing Stores
In the past, I had a time when would end up with 20 t-shirts for a child and no shorts. It gets confusing when there is more than one child to shop for! Now, before I go on a “thrift shop,” my kids and I make a list. I know that we only wash our clothes once a week and that “kids are messy.” So I like to have nine of each item, like shirts, for example. I also realize we only really need one winter coat. I give each kid a list of items, like: pajamas, underwear, shirts, pants, socks, etc. They look in the clean and dirty areas to count how many of each item they have and write it down. I write their name and size on this list and help my little ones. Now we know if it says 4 in the socks section that we would like to buy 5 socks. If you do laundry everyday, I would suggest three of each item. Sometimes we can't afford all the items. We pray for those. We try to get a low price so we can get more items for everyone.
If you can't afford clothing at all and you have been praying and waited as long as you could, then it's time to seek help from a church. There are churches that have a “closet” for such times as this. Also look for free items at rummage sales or on the curb marked, “free”. There are some online websites that have local clothing for free. One example is Craigslist. It offers items for sale, plus a free section.
Repair What You Have Or Make One
If a long-sleeve shirt gets a stain or hole on a sleeve towards the hand, you can cut it and hem the ends and make it a short-sleeve shirt, or make pants into shorts, or attach a decorative patch. You can mend the holes in socks with needle and thread. You can go to your library to get a book, video or get on the internet and watch a YouTube video to learn how to sew or stitch. Thread, needle and scissors are a great investment for such a time as this. Save the good parts of clothing you are ready to discard: to use as patches, or if you need a button.
Food and Necessities
Keep A Price Notebook
If you do all of your shopping at one store, you are wasting money. For example: Aldi may have the best price on cereal, but Sam's has the best price on peanut butter, and another store may be the best on flour this week only. With a notebook or app of best prices for each item (in alphabetical order by item), you can look quickly to see if an item really is a good deal or not. It needs to be something you can carry with you and update often. Use a pencil if you are using a physical and not digital notebook so that you can change prices often! I update at home after the groceries are put away with the prices from my store receipt. Be sure to track the size of each item and the price per pound at each store. Have a code letter for each store. If they have a sale, record the sale price, but keep track of the regular price too.
An entry might look something like this:
A- Store Brand – 7/16/21 – 18 oz./$1.39 – $1.24/lb.
M-Store Brand – 7/20/21 – 28 oz./$2.99 – $1.71/lb.
F- Skippy – 7/21/21 sale – 28 oz./$2.67 – $1.53/lb.
W- JIF – 7/27/21 – 18 oz./$2.00 – $1.78/lb.
*S- 7/30/21 Peter Pan 96 oz./$7.22 – $1.20/lb.
You can put a mark by the best price, I bolded it above and put an asterisk by it.
Use the discount bread store and buy as much as you can in one trip whenever possible. You can save so much money by purchasing bread there and freezing it. If you are going to make your own bread, make your own yeast too. My favorite sour dough yeast starter recipe is from Serene Allison at Above Rubies.
Make your Own
Make your own food, whenever possible, instead of buying convenience foods.
Every week, plan a soup and bread night, a rice and beans night, an eggs night, a pancakes or waffles night, a leftovers night. These meals are so inexpensive.
Soup: Make a lot at once and freeze it. Get the biggest pot that will fit on your stove and fill it a little over half full of water. Add bouillon cubes or broth powder and make a big pot of broth. Next, add frozen vegetables and some kind of cooked pasta or rice. Then, add lentils or meat and add spices to taste. When you have made a lot of soup, have some for supper that night. With the rest, get empty ice cream buckets with lids. Place the empty bucket inside the container you plan to reheat in. For me, it is a CrockPot. With a permanent marker, mark a line as to how high you can go with the soup and still put the cover on. This is how high you will fill the buckets. Label them and stack them in your big freezer. When you are ready to make soup, place the bucket in a sink of hot water to loosen the soupsicle from the bucket. Then, dump it into your pot or CrockPot. Add a cup or two of water and turn the CrockPot to low if you can wait four hours or high if two hours. If you run out of buckets, you can empty some of your frozen soups into 2 gallon freezer bags. Always wash and use those buckets to freeze a different kind of soup.
Pancakes and Waffles: Make your own from scratch to save the most money. Make a lot and freeze the extras. Twelve pancakes fit in a gallon freezer bag. Get more than one waffle iron at rummage sales or from your storage unit finds if you have a large family so you can get more done in less time. Waffles can be frozen too.
Leftovers Night: Put everything out like a buffet and let everyone pick what they want. We also get out peanut butter, jelly and bread if we think we won't quite have enough for everyone.
Try to plan outings to the store along with another needed trip so you can save money on gas. Get as much as you can afford (and within expiration date before the next trip) in one trip. Each trip you eliminate means less gas, less impulse purchases, etc.
Coupons and Rebates
Sometimes it pays to do this and sometimes not. You have to check your price notebook. Often, the best price is at a store that does not accept coupons. Or, it could be a brand that doesn't promote with coupons. Most rebates need you to purchase brand name items. If you can't really afford the item or could get a better price on a different brand, then it doesn't pay to do it. You can use savings apps like ibotta to save more money as well.
If you are baking or cooking and you don't have enough eggs, don't panic. To replace one egg, use one and one half tablespoons of each of the following: oil, water, and baking powder. It really works!
Muffins Made Of What Is in The House
2 cups grain (flour, or substitute for up to one cup of flour: cornmeal, baby cereal, flake cereal, potato buds, oatmeal, etc.)
1 cup milk (or 1/3 cup powdered milk and 1 cup water)
Up to 1/4 cup fat (1/4 cup oil, 4 Tbsp. melted butter or 1/4 cup peanut butter or shortening)
up to 1/2 cup sweetener (use between 2 Tbsp. and 1/2 cup sugar or up to 3/4 cups brown sugar)
2 tsp. salt
1 cup additions (nuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, blueberries, chopped apple, shredded carrot, pumpkin puree, applesauce, mashed and cooked sweet potato, banana, baby food, etc.)
spices (use spices that compliment the additions like 1 tsp. cinnamon with 1/4 tsp. nutmeg or cloves or 2 tsp. grated orange or lemon peel)
jellies and jam (fill cups 1/2 full with plain batter, then add 1 tsp. jam or jelly and top with 2 Tbsp. batter)
topping (sprinkle cinnamon sugar on the batter in the pan)
Mix well. Bake at 350 F for 11 – 14 minutes. Yields 12
Whatever you do, do not put items on a credit card or borrow to pay for them. God can and will provide. Trust Him, not the card. You will be blessed for it.
Grow A Garden – even if it's just a small one
Save seeds from your fruits and vegetables to see if you can grow something out of it. Look up when to plant for your region and research how to grow food. Buy seeds as you can afford them. In the right season, plant your garden, grow your produce, and eat, freeze or can in jars what you can get out of it. It is a learning process and may take you a few years and lots of reading and trial and error to get the hang of it, but it is worth it! No garden space? See if there is a community garden you can join.
You could even get a wooden raised garden box. It is a great learning experience for the kids and I love the convenience of having the garden raised off the ground a bit. We had to do this while waiting for our grass to grow in a new construction home.
Have a big freezer for soups, meats and breads and use your freezer in your kitchen for pancakes, waffles, fruits, vegetables and desserts. In your big freezer, make sections for the types of food you are storing and keep them separated with cardboard or boxes so you know where to find things quickly. Take inventory monthly when meal planning before you grocery shop. This helps to know what you already have and how much room there is in case there is a sale and you can stock up on certain items.
You can make your own cleaners to save the most money. You can find my recipes for dishwasher detergent, laundry soap, toilet scrub, all-purpose/glass cleaner and HE washing machine cleaner here. For liquid hand soap, you can take 2 Tbsp. Dawn dish soap and 6 oz. water and shake it up and put it in a foam pump from a hand soap that went empty. Currently, due to the pandemic, I am spending more money on this item and using this recipe. Either God is keeping us healthy or this recipe is working?
I hope you picked up at least one new idea from this post. If not, pass it on to a younger mother. Remember Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” You will get through this time with even more wisdom and faith than you started with.
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