The other day, a friend - and not one I'd expect to hear this from - complained about how the many articles on how you can save money are just not helping. Nine times out of 10, the tips are common-sense items that we should be doing anyway. Eat out less? Check. Drive smarter? Check. Shop sales? Check. Cook everything from scratch? Great idea, but sometimes the execution is a bit questionable, and frankly, I have about an hour a day at home when I'm not in full "mom" mode. Time is sometimes of an essence. Negotiate a new rate? Sure, but if you're underemployed, that might not help. Shut off your cable? In my house, no matter how bad things get, I can't win that battle until after the Jayhawks take the Final Four.
I looked at her and gave her my best advice of the day: I let my kids pick dinner. The eyebrow raised.
Really. Think about it: Once a week, usually on the night my husband has school, my kids decide what's for dinner. Typically what they decide on is mac 'n cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich. Paired with sliced peppers, cucumbers or apples, and you have dinner for less than $3. It may not be gourmet, but it's healthy - and eaten. And food that's refused to be eaten doesn't help anybody.
Sometimes we go a little more creative. Pasta dishes seem to be a common theme. Sunday, we tossed pasta with some chicken-apple sausages, some sauteed garlic and about a cup of riccotta - to rave reviews. And tonight my daughter selected chicken and noodles, which are surprisingly easy and a crockpot staple.
Other times, we'll think of ways to get my oldest more involved with the cooking. She's a pro at helping me make a fall seasonal salad of lettuce, apples, raisins and walnuts. And with an interest in being "big," she is learning to cut softer items like bread or some fruits as well.
Here are some real ways moms can save money. You may not see huge savings, and you've likely seen it before somewhere, but at least they're attainable!
- Make dinner be double-duty. It's not much more difficult to pack your lunch for the next day as you're serving dinner. Usually you have enough anyway!
- Wipe it up. Cloth wipes are great! While paper towels are easy to use and easy to toss, it's not much more difficult to go cloth. I have a rag bag that the kids know they can tap into to wipe up a spill or a dirty mouth, and then they toss it into the washer. (And yes, you can train a toddler to do that!)
- Drop the single-serve treats. Not only do they generate an insane amount of trash, but also they're far more expensive. I keep a container or crackers or other non-perishable treats in my car for those emergency situations.
What works for you? Are there ways you're able to save money and live greener without a lot of extra effort?