Reader Question – What are Your Must-Haves in your Pantry?

Simply Frugal reader question

Here’s a question from Christine:

Here is what I would like to know: a friend of mine is trying to start a pantry or a stockpile so that she is not constantly out of everything and so that she can maybe save a bit of money.

What would you consider your must-haves in your pantry?  What staples do you always have on hand?

Do you have a question you would like to ask the readers of Simply Frugal?  Send your question along to us here.

How to Build a Kid’s Wardrobe Cheaply

Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about building my daughters’ wardrobes cheaply. (I just have to be careful I don’t overbuy because girls clothing can be so cute!) But as you know, kids outgrow their clothing very quickly so buying clothes can become quite expensive. But, by planning ahead and taking these tips into consideration, you’ll be sure to build your children’s wardrobes cheaply.

Fantastic tips on how to build a kid's wardrobe cheaply.

Accept Hand-Me Downs

Nothing is as cheap as free!  I took full advantage of the clothes my sister-in-law offered to lend us for the first six months or so of Sienna’s life.  I know hand-me downs are normally meant to be kept, but our borrowing situation was ideal since we didn’t have to store any of the clothes once we were finished with them. We just gave them back!

Buy off the Clearance Racks

Buying off the clearance racks is especially handy if you’re stocking up for next season.  Last Fall/Winter, I stocked up on quite a few items that will work for Sienna this coming winter, including a snow suit for only $10!  Had I waited until she needed the snow suit, I’m sure I would have been paying close to full price.  Currently my favourite store to shop at for clearance prices is the Joe Fresh section in our local Superstore.

Shop online

Similar to shopping the clearance racks in a brick and mortar store, shopping the sale sections online can save you a bundle.  Last Summer I stocked up on quite a few outfits when Old Navy had one of their better coupon codes.  I think I averaged about $3.00 a piece! I also enjoy shopping online at The Children’s Place and Joe Fresh.

Buy used

Garage sales and thrift stores can be a great place to look for gently used clothing.  Although I haven’t had much opportunity to shop at garage sales myself, I know that the clothes I was selling in our recent garage sale were hot sellers!  I’m sure most cities offer this, but our town also holds a twice annual kids garage sale at our Recreation Centre.  I picked up some cute sweaters, jeans and PJ’s for about $0.50 a piece.  I find buying used clothing an excellent way to build a kid’s wardrobe cheaply because the items are usually only worn a few times before they’re outgrown.

What are your tips for building a kid’s wardrobe on a budget? 

6 Ways to Earn More Money

While spending less is often the best thing to do financially, sometimes it's good to earn more money if it means it will push you closer to your financial dreams faster. Here are 7 Ways to Earn More Money. #earnmoney #incomeideas

While spending less is often the best thing to do financially, sometimes it’s good to earn more money if it means it will push you closer to your financial dreams faster.

But before you get excited about the idea of earning more money, it’s important to make sure you manage the money you already have well.  If you’re financially strapped, there’s no point in earning extra cash if you’re just going to spend more money for short term satisfaction.  Focus on getting a monthly budget figured out and learn how to maximize the money you already have before you go out and try to make more money.

Once you have that out of the way, you can read these ideas to help you earn extra money:

Earn money from your hobbies

I’m sure many of you have a hobby that you enjoy and are quite good at!  Why not turn that hobby into extra income?  Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Teach coupon classes
  • Do surveys through Survey Junkie or MaruVoice.ca
  • Sell your photos if you’re into photography
  • Teach art classes, either privately or at a local craft store
  • Sell your work at craft shows or on etsy
  • Design pieces on commission
  • Sell your baking during coffee breaks to local businesses
  • Enter your work in contests with cash prizes
  • Paint business windows for the holidays

Bonus idea: If you love visiting websites or blogs, sign up for UserTesting. You’ll be paid $10 for each website or app that you complete a set of tasks on while speaking your thoughts out loud.

Sell things you no longer need

Clear up some space in your home by selling things you no longer need or care for.  Have a garage sale or try selling items on Kijiji, Craigslist, or eBay.  Or give a Buy & Sell group on Facebook a try.

Rent out your space

If your home has an extra bedroom or empty space, you could become a landlord. Students and recent graduates are often especially eager for affordable and small spaces to call “home”. Your extra garage space might also be perfect for someone needing to store their collector car, for example.

Try a paper route

Earn a bit of extra money by doing a paper route.  Get some fresh air and exercise while you’re at it!

Offer to babysit

Give some friends or even neighbourhood families some time away from the kids so they can go on a date or get errands done by offering your services as a babysitter.

Start a part-time business

If you have a bit of time to devote to money making, why not consider starting a part-time business from home?  You could try these ideas on for size:

  • Start a blog
  • Dog walking
  • Tutoring
  • Baking/Meal provider
  • Music lessons
  • Errand runner
  • Personal shopper
  • Cleaning
  • Graphic design work
  • Mow neighborhood lawns/shovel snow
  • Life/Business Coaching – are people always asking your advice on a particular subject?  Consider charging a fee for your advice.

Teach English at Home with VIPKID

If you have a Bachelor’s degree from a US or Canadian University as well as experience with children (such as: teaching, mentoring, coaching, tutoring, babysitting, etc.) you could possibly earn up to $22/hour (USD) teaching online with VIPKID. VIPKID needs thousands of work-from-home teacher’s to teach English online to kids in China. This is an amazing work-from-home opportunity – and don’t worry, you do not need to know any foreign language or have formal teaching experience. Find all the details here.

All in all, get creative or meet a need you see around you to earn a bit of extra money you can put towards reaching your financial goals!

What are your ideas for earning extra money?  Do you have any stories to share about how you’re currently earning extra cash?  Please share in the comments!

How to Make the Most of Christmas when You Can’t Afford Much

When you can’t afford much for Christmas it is easy to feel down and let it get in the way of having a great holiday with your family. This year, if you find that you just don’t have the money in your budget to do everything you wish you could, take time to appreciate what you do have and make the most of Christmas anyway.

How to make the most of Christmas when you can't afford much

Focus on the Meaning

The most important part of coping with a tight budget during the holidays is to really focus on the meaning of the holiday.  Christmas is a time of celebration for all and a time to turn our focus from our busy lifestyles to our friends and family that mean so much to us. Focus more on how you are spending your time than how you are spending your money and find the joy in the little things.

Find Fun Freebies

Find fun free things to do that will build lasting memories. Many libraries will offer great free Christmas story times, activities, and parties. The local schools will all have parents going on that you can visit and support loved ones. Going and viewing Christmas light displays, singing carols, and building snowmen are all great ways to spend time together making Christmas memories without spending money.

Get Crafty

Save money and make your holiday decorations at home with salt dough ornaments, paper snowflakes, and fresh cut  evergreen branches. This is a charming way to decorate for the holidays while building great family memories that will last a lifetime.

Create Traditions

Create family-centered traditions like watching Christmas Movies while sipping homemade cocoa or reading Christmas books before slipping off to bed on a cold winter night. Your traditions can be anything you already have the supplies to make happen without spending any money.

Wrap Everything!

For children when unwrapping gifts is the most exciting part of the holiday try wrapping everything even the smallest stocking stuffer. This will draw out the fun part for children even when you don't have a lot under the tree.

Focus on Others

Turn your focus on helping others. So often it is hard to see past our own struggles and misfortunes. By taking time to help others in some way you are helping your family learn to look at your holidays with thankfulness for all the things you do have while helping make Christmas a little brighter for others at the same time. Even if volunteering with the needy at your local soup kitchen or food pantry is not an option you can perform random acts of kindness for others.

10 Frugal Tasks to Do Before the End of the Year

The end of the year is rapidly approaching. A new year is the perfect time to fix any financial mistakes you’ve made, and any bad spending habits you may have to set your family and your budget on solid ground for the upcoming new year. If you’re like most people, you may not know how to begin fixing those issues. These 10 frugal tasks you need to do before the end of the year are a great place to start.

10 Frugal Tasks to Do Before the End of the Year

10 Frugal Tasks to Do Before the End of the Year #frugality #frugalliving #simplyfrugal

Do a financial audit

If you’ve never done a yearly financial audit, now is the time. To do one, download all of your bank statements for the year. Go through each one and make a list of the unnecessary expenses you had. Total them up. This will allow you to see just how much money you wasted this year hopefully making it so you can fix it next year if need be.

Reconciling Your Checking Account

These days most people don’t write checks, which means they also don’t reconcile their checking accounts. This is a bad idea because you can easily miss fraudulent transactions, wasted money and more. If you haven’t done it recently, make certain you reconcile your checking account before the end of the year.

Find new ways to reuse things to save money

Reusing something instead of throwing it out is a great way to save money. Before the year ends, find ten or so new things you can reuse to save. Doing so will set you up to start the new year saving instead of spending. This post, 25 new uses for old things, is a great place to start for ideas!

Try Menu Planning

If you’re not already, give menu planning a try before the end of the year. Not only can it save you time, but it will also help you save money on your grocery bill. It doesn’t matter whether you plan for a month or a week. Anything will help if you’re not already doing it. In our family, I have incorporated a 20 meal rotation for dinners. Kids are picky, so this ensures most of the meals will be enjoyed by everyone because I have picked favourites for the rotation.

Try Freezer Cooking

Along with menu planning, give freezer cooking a try before the end of the year. It saves time, money and stress for you! The easiest way I have found to start freezer cooking, is to made a big batch of dinner one night and freeze the leftovers. Spaghetti sauce and taco meat are some of my favourite leftovers to freeze.

Once a Month Grocery Shopping

Part of the reason you may be having trouble saving on groceries is because you’re in the store more often than you need to be. That’s why it is important to give once a month shopping a try before the end of the year. When you’re in the store less often, you spend far less money. Once you try it, you’ll very likely never go back.

Budgeting

Another major issue most people have with their finances is not making a budget. If you’re not currently making one each month, give it a try before the end of the year. Make sure you stick to it for at least one month. I think you’ll be quite surprised by the changes you see. The Budget Binder Kit that I have made is a great way to get started with budgeting.

Cut Unnecessary Subscriptions

As you’re reconciling your checking account, be sure to keep an eye out for any unnecessary bills you’re paying each month. This usually happens in the form of a subscription. If you haven’t used it in the past 30 days, you do not need to be paying for it.

Work on Cutting Utility Bills

Aside from groceries, utility bills are one of the highest expenses a family can have. Before the end of the year, take the time to work on lowering them. Put your lights on timers. Fix any leaky faucets. Cut your shower time by 90 seconds. You would be surprised at how much savings those little changes can really add up to.

Get Your Car Tuned Up

Car maintenance is very important to keep your car from becoming a money pit. Before the end of the year, be sure it gets a tune up. This includes an oil change if needed, tires rotated, battery checked and other routine tasks. By keeping it maintained, you’ll set yourself up for a new year with a great running car.

So there you go. 10 frugal tasks to do before the end of the year so you will be well on your way to a more financially secure future! What’s the first thing you are going to work on?

How to Feed Your Family on $50 This Week

One thing that will bring a family together are home cooked meals at the kitchen table. There is nothing better than gathering around yummy food, while conversing about life, with your family members. Unfortunately, feeding your family does not come cheap. Here are some great tips to help you feed your family on $50 this week, whether you are tight on cash, or just simply looking to be a little more frugal.

How to Feed Your Family on $50 This Week

Yes, it can be done, and you don’t have to coupon! Check out these practical tips on how to feed your family on $50 a week!

Take Inventory

Take inventory of what is already in your fridge, freezer, and pantry. I make a list using the inventory sheet from the Grocery Conqueror Kit, so that I have it as I sit down to make my shopping list and menu plan. No need to buy tomato sauce if you already have some in the pantry!

Use Store Rewards

I like to collect PC Optimum points because the points turn into cash that I can put towards my grocery bill. I just recently redeemed $30 so that was a nice chunk of change of of that grocery bill! There are many other store reward programs out there that may be worth trying out if it means savings for you!

Use Grocery Rebate Sites

I like Checkout 51Snap by Groupon, and Caddle because I can just upload my receipt and go. I have 7 days from the time I shop to upload, and I can combine rebates from all 4 sites from 1 receipt to maximize savings!

Shop the Right Places

Being able to feed your family for less, means that you need to be willing to shop at different stores. If you are used to shopping at higher end grocery stores that generally charge more than say, Walmart or No Frills, consider stepping outside of your box, and head into a less costly store. Set aside your reasons and any ill feelings that you may have about those stores. You certainly will not regret it after leaving the store with a little extra change in your pocket!

Meal Plan Around Flyer Sales

Meal planning is a great way to make sure you know exactly what your family will be eating every day. Knowing which meals you will be enjoying also means that you know all of the ingredients needed, and this will allow you to better stick to your budget of $50. Just make sure that as you plan your meals, that you are scoping out the flyer sales and planning
your meals around what is on sale and what you already have at home.

Use Cheap Fillers

When you have a tight food budget to stick to, you will find that rice and beans will become some of your favorite ingredients. Rice and beans generally do not have much flavor, so they can be added to almost any meal, even if it is just as a side that you season with salt and pepper. However, the other great thing about rice and beans is that they are cheap fillers in things like tacos, soup and chili! This means that you will feel fuller after eating them. Dry beans will be your best value, so don’t be afraid to use them!

Make a list of cheap meals

I’m in the thought camp that most meals can be frugal meals if you purchase the ingredients on sale. for example, meat. Don’t buy chicken breasts if the chicken thighs are on sale. Also, take a look at the 20 meal rotation I have been doing as our meal plan lately. I’d consider most meals on the list cheap and frugal!

Stick to the same things for Breakfast and Lunch

In our house, I have a rotation going of oatmeal, pancakes, French toast, scrambled eggs and cereal all served with fruit for breakfasts. Sounds time consuming, but it’s really not because once in a while we have breakfast for dinner (pancakes/French toast) and I freeze the leftovers. We can then pop them into the toaster for a super quick, filling breakfast! Same sort of idea for lunches. Sandwiches, grilled cheese, soup, leftovers… Dinner is where most of the variety comes from!

Eat Those Leftovers!

Who wants leftovers? Most people generally are not fond of reheated meals the following day. However, eating leftovers is a great way to help you stick to your weekly food budget. If your family cannot handle the same meal twice in one week consider turning your leftovers into a new meal by turning it into a soup or stew, or adding new flavors or vegetables to it. Taco Tuesday can become taco salad (or taco soup) Wednesday. I especially love to freeze leftovers like spaghetti sauce. Makes for a super easy meal on a rushed night.

Feeding your family on $50 this week really comes down to being creative as much as it does frugal. People do what they have to do to survive and you, my friend, can totally make this work for your family. What tips do you have to add?

The Grocery Conqueror Printable Kit contains over 50+ pages to help you organize your kitchen, streamline your meal planning and grocery shopping tasks. Ultimately enabling you to create a more organized kitchen, thus saving you money on your grocery bill.