This is a list of some of the things I do on a regular basis that save me money.
Make my own laundry detergent- what I do is probably cheating, but it works.... I use 2 bars felsnapatha (or ivory), finely grated- mix it w/ a box of borax and a box of washing soda- then fill up two tupperware containers designed for cereal- that are ideal for this (bad for cereal, bc the seal isn't tight enough to keep cereal fresh). I have an HE washer and this detergent works perfectly.
Make my own stocks- I save all ends of celery (especially the leafy ends), and all onions scraps, plus garlic scraps-I keep a ziplock baggie in the freezer, and I add to it as I go. I save all chicken bones- the neck from inside a whole chicken, the cut off wing tips from whix wings, the bones from a roasted chicken.... free stock.
Make my own pasta sauces- I make massive batches of meat sauces... 3-4 28oz cans on tomatoes, to one lb of beef. I freeze half imediately, then I freeze any leftover after next day's lunch. I make bolognese sauce, cinncinatti chili, black bean chili- as these are my family's favorites.
Make my own pierogies and freeze them individually.
make my own hamburger patties and freeze them individually.
Smoke our own meats, and dice and freeze for easy meals.
Make stock from the bones of above smoked meats, for making soups.
Make batches of soup as large as possible, so there is enough for 3 meals, plus one for the freezer. (bean and bacon soup is one I make regularly).
Make my own pizza dough.
Invested in a Kitchen Aid Pro standmixer, invaluable when baking!
Stock up on items that are free after sale and coupon. The following are items I have gotten free after sale/coupon that are in my pantry: Quaker oatmeal (8 18oz cannisters), Montgomery Inn BBQ sauce (10 bottles), lawrys marinade (10 bottles), carnation evaporated milk (16 cans), scotchbrite sponges (20), celestial seasonings tea (6 free boxes, plus 2 boxes for $.50/ea), suave shampoo (4 bottles), loreal shampoo (2 shampoo, 2 conditioner), 15 glade scented oil air fresheners, johnsons buddies soaps (15), cottonelle toilet paper, tomato sauce, kashi waffles, general mills honey nut cheerios, kellogs poptarts, uncle bens rice mixes, fish oil supplements (5 bottles of 75ct), betty crocker frosting... Those are all $0 oop, and a few gave "overage" to pay for other items...
I utilize the cvs ecb program, walgreens RR and easy rebate program to get free, nearly free, and even moneymaker items. Currently I have the following items in my linen closet from those places- 4 glade glass scents, 2 loreal revialift, 1 loreal age defying radiance, always infinity pads, kotex panty liners, garnier hair products, loreal lipsticks, covergirl lipsticks, excedrin,advil PM, oral b toothbrushes, gum toothbrushes, reach toothbrushes, colgate toothpaste, suave bodywash, softsoap bodywash, benefiber sticks, pepto bismal chewables, sudafed, glade candles, dishsoaps, mascara, many pricy hair stylers, windex, oust surface and air, febreeze, this still incomplete list is getting to large:)
I have a little brand loyalty as possible, I go with whatever is the best deal. There are a few items that are brand specific (flour, baking soda...), so I really stock up when there is a sale.
I buy 6 sunday papers every week there are coupons.
Those tins of ajax bleach powder that are $.39/ea w/ coupon frequently at walgreens are perfect and very economonical for cleaning the toilets.
Vinegar is the perfect cleaner- for carpets, hard floors, counters, windows, just about everything.
I plan out all meals in advance, but I am willing to change if a better choice shows up! Everyone in our family is asked for input in planning out the meals.
I do aim to make everything from scratch, but if packaged is cheaper and the ingredients are acceptable, I will try it. (recent examples- nestle refridgerated dough, was cheaper after sale/coupon than buying the butter alone to make cookies... seapak shrimp scampi, when it is on sale w/ coupon- is cheaper than buying all the ingredients).
I wear an unusual size (I am tall and thin) that is never found in any thrift/goodwill store, so I have frugal ways of buying perfect fit clothing cheaply. Landsend.com has an excellent overstock section- I once got dress pants hemmed to my specs for $11/ea, a button down dress stretch shirt for $3, bathing suit for $11, and many more. The key is finding websites that sell your size, and checking them a few times a month for rock bottom deals. Heck- I once found a pair of jeans at walmart for $3- and they fit and flatter perfectly. My kids get clothes from everywhere- goodwill sometimes, clearance racks sometimes, rockbottom deals found online sometimes.
I dye my own hair- after 2 salons failed miserably and gave he horrid highlights, I decided to try bc there was no way I could do worse. Amazingly, I did an excellent job, and it is something I am proud of. I also began cutting my own hair...3 times now, the stylist gave me a cut she chose, instead of the cut I asked for. And on top of that- there were stray long hairs missed that I had to trim myself. Again, I decided there was no way I could do worse! I have been cutting my dh's and my kids hair for 14 yrs.
I have also found that general politeness and common courtesy goes a long way, being friendly w/ cashiers and managers, makes them want to help you. Cashiers and managers know us everywhere we shop.
I give extras to neighbors and friends.
I spent an hour searching the internet, and saved hundreds of dollars on vet bills when we rescued two puppies that were 4 weeks old.
Buy all chew bones from the dollar store, all leashes/harnesses from walmart, petfood from kroger. I price compared and found where each item we buy regularly, is cheaper. The same dog harness was $19 at a petstore, and $7 at walmart!
I enacted a "no waste" policy on food in our house...Either you eat it, or put it in the fridge for tomorrow- anything to small to save, the puppies get. Every other day, I search the fridge to ensure leftovers aren't being forgotten.
I use pureed pumpkin in place of oil in chocolate cakes, brownies, and quick breads.
I keep a running inventory of the chest freezer.
I own 2 food scales, and everything is frozen in ziplocks bags w/ an exact weight and date written on the bag. No meat is stored for longer than 4 months.
I do online surveys.
While I do subscribe to a multitude of magazines, I never pay more than $10 for a yr subscription. Many magazines have coupons in them, as well as the value of the articles:) I put a high value on reading and information.
We use the libraries instead of buying books.
I have a broadband connection, what I save from the internet far surpasses the expense of the fast connection.
What I will NOT do to save a buck:
put up w/ a rude cashier or shop anywhere that doesn't appreciate my business- whether I pay with coupons or cash.
Steal or lie.
Drive more than 10 miles for a deal/freebie.
Put myself or my kids in an unsafe environment.
Behave rudely to a cashier or another customer.
Bring anything unsafe or low quality into my home, whether free or cheap.
An interesting equation....if I spend $70/week on supplies for my family, that ends up being $2/day for the 5 people in our family to eat. If I add in our 3 big dogs, and our birds- it ends up being $1/day for each of our family members to eat (yes, our pets are part of our family!).
My oldest has food intolerances to dyes and preservatives- they cause intense, explosive anger outbursts. Solving this problem, is what initially led me to cook from scratch. I have only been cooking/baking from scratch for 5 yrs, I add a few more dishes each year. 6 yrs ago, the only things I could make from scratch were marinara, and fried potatoes. I married a Chef, fully intending to never, ever prepare a single meal.