Many times we need to take a deep breath, stand back at look at things in a realistic light, and then move forward SLOWLY. Don't panic, don't rush, don't make rash decisions - think, breathe and save.
** Don't waste your money. It is so easy to do. Fast food, those coffee shops, late fees, super high cable/phone bills (you CAN renegotiate), smoking, impulse buys, shopping for entertainment, etc.
Make it your goal for a few months to track absolutely every dime spent - you will be amazed! So much of the money we spend is just not necessary. Track those purchases and see exactly where you are spending it. Take steps to remove those wasteful items. A penny saved is one you don't have to earn AGAIN.
** Track you grocery costs. KNOW who has the best deals and best prices. That is especially important today. Some stores just have better prices. Watch the sale ads. Buy sales!!!!!!! Stock up on sale items and clearance items when you can. That is money in the bank!!!!!!! Use coupons if you can for items that you WILL use - not just to be using them. Stock up on good deals and always be prepared. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Learn how to improvise. Use what you have. If you run out - substitute - no running out for a thing or two.
Buying sales, markdowns and clearance - is ALWAYS another way to stock up and SAVE
**Shop more than one store. NO one store has all the best prices. I realize right at this moment many can not or will not do this - but as a general rule, use more than one store. Dollar stores often have the best prices for health and beauty or cleaning products. Watch for the best deals and sales. Make it your mission to get the best deals. If needing to go to more than one store - remember to make it your goal to have a route to follow to minimize fuel usage.
Look at Aldi (if you have them), dollar stores, farm markets, roadside stands, grocery outlets, bulk stores, ethnic stores (generally cheaper on many items), etc.
** Buy bulk if you can. NO you don't want to have so much that you waste food and goods. You can always go in with family or friends to split costs and product. You want to get the best prices.
Repackage goods - get yourself a vacuum sealer (best utensil you can have), use large glass jars, canning jars, repurpose any other packaging that you can. Freeze, can (re-can), dehydrate, etc.
** Make you own. So many people believe that you HAVE to buy everything you need. In the past - people MADE everything they needed. Get cookbooks on "mixes". Learn how to cook and bake. Make your own breakfast foods and coffee - instead of going out. Make waffles and pancakes to freeze for those rushed days. Make hearty muffins, breakfast burritos, etc.
Make snack goods - popcorn, ice cream, popsicles, chips, cookies and brownies, etc.
Use leftovers for lunches.
There are cookbooks and recipes on-line for 'restaurant' favorites that you can make at home.
Grow a garden or some veggies. Use less. Shop seasonal.
** Eliminate convenience foods. DON'T buy precut - salads, veggies, fruit - it costs at least twice as much if not more than buying a whole item and cutting yourself. Prepackaged mixes cost more than making from scratch. A restaurant meal can cost 10 times more than homemade.
Buy whole chickens or loins and cut your own - so much cheaper. Learn to de-skin or de-bone chicken yourself - there are You Tube videos out there.
** LESS MEAT usage!!!!! Now more than ever this can be critical. We (for the most part) do NOT need meat to survive, at least not every day!!!!! Make meatless nights at least a couple times a week. Use smaller quantities - there is no need to eat a huge steak - cut it and let more than 2/3 people eat from it. Make soups and casseroles - you can load it up with veggies and beans, pasta, or rice and use way less meat. Look for protein substitutes - there are many. Think beans, nuts, dairy and even tofu. Remember meat is just a side dish as are veggies - it should not be the MAIN event!!!!!!
** Waste NOTHING. Find new uses for everything. Leftovers for lunch or recreate into new meals. Jars and bottles for storage. Squirt bottles from condiments can be great for homemade dressings or used for icing (for decorating). Ends of bread or stale bread or crackers - crush and use for coatings. Any food containers can be used for storage or leftovers (taking lunch to work or school). Extra fruit - turn into smoothies or frozen sweets or sweet breads. Use cardboard containers to make fun toys for the littles (drums or storage containers or building blocks). Use TP tubes (or paper towels tubes) for plant starter pots (plant-able as well). Old clothes can be remade into new clothing or quilts. Old t-shirts or towels make great washable rags. The list goes on and on!!!!!!!
** Less traditional meals!!!!! Have soup nights once or twice a week - sure does stretch ingredients. You can make bean soup, cream of soups, potato soup, leftover (whatever you got left) soup. Have baked potato night - super filling and you can top with any type of leftovers. Have breakfast - pancakes, waffles, biscuits and gravy, eggs and sausage. Make big old roll-ups with tortillas - use minimal meat, cheese, lots of veggies and dressings or sauces.
Remember there is nothing wrong with sandwich night as well! OR salad night! Use what you have and get creative with it.
** If you have the room and the ingredients make foods ahead and freeze some meals for when you are in a hurry or tired or broke! Make more than one lasagna or casserole. Make more than one loaf of bread or batch of rolls. Save leftover soups and casseroles and freeze. I often freeze individual containers of soup or casserole for those nights I just don't feel like cooking or to go with a sandwich.
You will always have a variety of food on hand - and it could really help your family out if finances are running low.
Potato flats with whatever topping you have. Could be a great side - could be a filling quick meal
Any type of grilled sandwich. Cheeses of any sort, meat, tuna, pattie melts, I have even made grilled mac n cheese sandwiches (yum by the way)
Look at things differently - open your eyes to how many wonderful ways there are to be frugal!!!!!
You can live a beautiful life and not really sacrifice a thing. In fact I think you actually gain and live better by being frugal. You can still have class. You can still have dignity. You can stretch those dollars. You can save a little more. You can help others a little more. You can have a great life and feel safe and confident for your family.
Life is just BETTER when you are frugal.
NEVER EVER BE ASHAMED OF YOUR FRUGAL LIFESTYLE!!!!!!