42 answers

Money Saving Ideas?????

Hi there ladies,
I came here because you always seem to have great ideas, ideas that other overwhelmed moms can't think of because of everything else going on in life. Anyway,I am needing money saving ideas. My husband had a brain aneurysm and stroke just over a year ago, and brain surgery 6 months ago. He is 37 years old. He got SDI for a year and was cut off of that a few months back because you can only be on it for 52 weeks. They failed to mention that we should have filed for SSI at the same time, and now the wait for that could be up to three years. We are down $2400 a month and are living off of my meager salary. Losing that much money each month has been devastating. We are trying to get my youngest into a state run preschool so that we don't have the added cost of daycare, and hubby could watch him the rest of the time...although he can't drive and I will have to pick him up and take him to school, which is difficult in my line of work. I'm not the greatest cook and have no idea how to plan meals in advance or how to take the ingredients from one meal and make a new meal the next day. We live in a rural area and the rains are coming so I can't save on gas by riding a bike. The bus isn't an option because I am a crisis worker and go back and forth to schools all day. I try to buy things like paper products in bulk and go to Food Max rather than the local grocery stores. I have a cell phone and a land line and I am thinking of just cancelling the land line. We don't have any TV hookup so that isn't an issue. I am more and more stressed every time I go to the store to get something. I have to explain to the kids how we can't afford "extra" stuff right now and to be honest I have no idea what the next step is. He might get SSI he might not. He is now stressing too (which isn't good for his health) and feels he needs to just go out and get a job. His doctor hasn't cleared him yet, although he will if he feels he is ready to go back to work. With the budget crisis there is also no guarantee that he can get re-trained or sent back to school, which was our hope. Anyway, I am just feeling lost and stressed. I would love some simple suggestions for ways that we could save on money and still have fun as a family. The advantage is that we have more time together as a family and I love to play with my kids. I know that this is way more important than some fancy trip or buying them things! I finished school almost two years ago and haven't graduated yet (I have an incomplete). Once I graduate and get my intern number I could be making a little more money (but the school is almost 3 hours away and the whole process feels so daunting right now). Sigh, thanks in advance to any moms who respond. I know that I have't asked for anything real concrete, but any ideas for saving money would be greatly appreciated.

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So What Happened?™

I feel so very blessed to have received all of these amazing responses from you all! I feel validated for the hard times we are going through and your thoughts and prayers have been felt deeply. I printed out the whole list of responses and have been highlighting the ones that seem like I can handle at the moment. I have already started on some of them!!!! What has been so helpful is the variety of responses and the fact that I don't think any of us can come up with this many suggestions and/or options on our own. This community ROCKS!!!! Thank you for taking the time to respond with your advice and stories. I realized after I sent this that someone had asked about a similar issue a few days before. I figured I would get few responses because of that...boy was I wrong! Thank you, thank you, thank you! And my family thanks you too!


More Answers

As for making the kids feel rich without spending a dime - we have library night where we go pick out new books for the week - and movies for our Friday night movie night, we have a game night, ... Friday night movie night - we make a giant batch of popcorn and homemade pizza then sit down to watch our library movie. My kids are too small to enjoy making their own games, but I could see a 9 year old thinking this was cool. We go on lots of picnics and hike and camp frequently.

With Christmas coming, Martha Stewart's website has great ideas for nice gifts you can make for family members - we made necklaces by stringing pretty glass beads on gauzy ribbon for less than $10 for 4 grandmas and two cousins. We've also made candles by pouring old wax into various tin (cookie cutters, cans, etc) and purchased wicks. Food gifts like seasoned nuts or cookies or cocoa kits are great for neighbors or nearby grandparents. Basically, if you can get the kids involved, they won't notice that you aren't out shopping for presents, and your presents will be more meaningful to everyone. Your older son might enjoy making birdhouses... You need minimal supplies and could probably find all of the supplies (paint, etc) on the sale racks. We let our son choose whatever paint he liked on the sale rack at home depot - basically, the mis-mixed paint.

Actually - Martha even has great homemade Halloween costumes that you can assemble from stuff you own or can acquire at a dollar store.

Definitely make a menu and live by it. You can make a pot of beans on the weekend for ~$1, and then use this pot of beans to make burritos, as a side dish with meat, add rice and rotel tomatoes and cheese and you've got a third meal... Eggs + cheese and whatever veggies you have on hand is a cheap and quick meal. (Eggs + cheese + beans in tortillas is another variation of the same meal). I admit we buy cases of beans because we are vegetarian and they are quick, cheap and healthy. At least once a week we eat our cheater version of tortilla soup - 1 can black beans, 1 can pinto beans, 1 can rotel tomatoes (or other "mexican" tomatoes with chilis), 1 can water, 1 bouillon cube (veggie in our house), 2 cloves garlic. When that has heated, we serve it over a handful of crushed chips, with cheese and avocado on top. I make a salad by pouring 1 can of drained black beans in with 1 can drained corn, tomatoes, avocado, 1 crushed clove of garlic and tossing in 1/4c red wine vinegar + 3 tbs oil. Serve this with grilled tofu or some grilled meat.

You might ask your older son for help planning meals. I started planning dinner and cooking for our family at 8. We suffered through a few crazy dinners (like fruit salon! just fruit salad!), but it helped my busy parents.

Shop the dollar store. There are an amazing number of things you can get at those places. But, don't go in there without your normal grocery list, as it is also easy to walk out with junk that you don't need. I'd suggest making your list of things you need - cleaning products, toothbrushes, groceries, etc. and first stopping at the dollar store THEN your grocery store.

Hope this helps.

2 moms found this helpful

Look back to 10/02/08 "ways to save money." There were lots and lots of wonderful ideas. Your situation may be a little different because of your husband. I would certainly check your local area to see if you have a food closet. The one in my area supplies food once a month.

Also, do you have any close friends or family nearby? If so, don't hesitate to rely on them. When my husband and I were living off his very small wages about 12 years ago while putting me through college (before kids), we invited ourselves to both sets of parents for dinner fairly regularly. We also spent time having game nights with friends, trading back and forth on who served dinner.

Relative to meal planning, create a table on word to represent a month. Pick one meal that is inexpensive that your whole family likes and cook it once a week, for our family it is tacos on Tuesday. I make enough that my husband can take a couple to work on Wednesday. After one day is filled in, I start filling in the rest with similar meals. Pot roast one Sunday, roasted chicken the next and pork roast on yet another. With these three main dishes, I take the left-over meat, shred it and make all sorts of tasty dishes (carnitas, enchiladas, meat w/gravy & mashed potatoes, soups & stews, etc) For my small family, I can make Sunday's meat choice stretch for three days. Your family is larger, so I imagine you could stretch it over two days. I fill in the remaining days with things with less meat and more beans, rice or pasta, for example chili beans, bean soup, spaghetti, tuna casarole, etc. Before you know it you'll have the month's meals planned and you can make a grocery list.

I really do hope that you have friends and family nearby that you can rely on. If not, you might consider moving so that you are.

Best of luck to you.


1 mom found this helpful

Make a menu for the week, and shop off the menu.Ans stick to the menu.Make a list of what you need beside the menu and give yourself a weekly allowance for grocery shopping. When things are this tight, there is no room for "stocking up". Really analyze the cost per ounce of food-sometimes fresh is cheaper than frozen. Price shop. Consider making your own bread once a week. A simple recipe will make 2 loaves and is usually cheaper. Stop buying expensive cereal, substitute oatmeal.Look at kids lunches--are you packing too much? Wasting money on "snacks?" A good lunch can consist of a sandwich, an apple and a juice box or water bottle. Drink water instead of juice. Kids can get used to this too.Cut out paper towels, napkins and anything else that is a constant expense. Use reusable products/towels/containers instead.

A sample weekly menu--

1. Meat (we don't eat it, but whatever you see on sale)+ rice pilaf +cooked veggies (broccoli is usually cheap)
2. Quiche with broccoli, swiss and cheddar + salad
3. Soup, bread and salad (consider making your own soup, and freezing extra-all you need is beans, tomato sauce and veggies)
4. Cheese Enchiladas + zucchini
5. Baked potatoes w/chili on top and veggies or salad
6. Spaghetti
7. Free night-leftovers or something simple, whatever needs to be used up

Or whatever. It doesn't have to be extravagant! Keep it simple, try to plan for things that use the same ingredients, etc. Hope this helps!

1 mom found this helpful

Dear M.,

Cutting your landline is a great idea. We did it about 6 months ago and don't even miss it. Do you have a slow cooker or crock pot. You can easily make lasting meals this way. You can pick up just about any cut of meat and there are these great Crockpot seasoning mixes you can pick up at the store that let you know exactly what you need. You can have the meal one night and then make burritos or sandwiches the next.
Also, tofu is the least expensive protien you can buy (usually 1-2 dollars a pound which serves about 6-8 people). My husband chops it up and sauteys it with onions and mushrooms in Soy-Vay Very-Teriyaki Sauce and pours it all over spaghetti, instead of udon noodles). It is a great dish that is healthy and not very hard to make.
We save money on the food bill by buying mostly frozen vegetables, eating meat only 2 to 3 times a week and going to costco.
Hope this helps.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi M.,

Some suggestions for saving money are:
-Check out www.allrecipes.com They have recipes for everything and you can even put in ingredients from a previous dinner and recipes pop out. I do a lot of roasted whole chicken and then make soup the next day. Or I make a roast and then add it to stir fry.
-Stop buying paper plates. They are convenient but washing dishes is better.
-At many elementary schools they have preschools/after school care attached. They are usually for low income families and may not charge you any thing.
-My father went through the SSD to SSI thing about a year or so ago. The SSI did not take 3 years (I think it took about 6 mos) and they paid him retro back to the time he went on SSD. So, keep plugging on and get creative with your meals and child care.

Good Luck,


M., you've been blessed by many Mamasource readers. So many great ideas for you as well as others who need help.
I'd love to help you w/ meal planning. As Rachel Ray always says "cook once", eat twice. I'm an Independent Consultant for the Pampered Chef(r). You can email me privately for my website or my email. "Power Cooking" has saved money & minutes for busy families. Perhaps, now more than ever, "trying out the business" might help you and your family.
Hopefully, a few wing-less angels (friends) will come to your aid. You're in my thoughts and prayers.

I am so sorry you are having such a rough time right now. What about food stamps and, as someone else suggested, WIC? Food banks are also an option if there is one in your area. Chances are there are other resources from the state for aid. Do an online search or ask a friend to do it. Any resource out there was put in place for just these kinds of circumstances. Good luck.

Dear M.,

My husband compliments me on my cooking and claims that I am the "Queen of Leftovers." Perhaps I can help you. You say, "I'm not the greatest cook and have no idea how to plan meals in advance or how to take the ingredients from one meal and make a new meal the next day."

If you will give me an idea of what you are cooking now, I may be able to give you some ideas. Are there certain foods your family really dislikes? What foods do they "love?"
Using last week as an example, tell me what you fixed for your evening meals Monday through this past Sunday.

Much love to you. And remember, "This, too, shall pass.

Merylyn (aka Mommie Salami)

My heart goes out to you and your family and I hope & pray that better times are ahead of you. You've gotten some excellent advice. I would just second the advice to be brave and ask for help. It really makes people feel good to be able to extend themselves (I know from having been on both sides of it) so you'll be doing others a favor too! Since you live in a rural area, work as an itinerant and have young kids, I would not get rid of the cell phone--you need that. If you have cable tv, get rid of that instead, and when you go shopping at thrift stores for clothes pick up some board games and books for evening time. Take the kids with you and let them pick out stuff. If the kids don't already help you cook and clean, get them involved in that--maybe they can help you plan meals and even help you look online to find some easy and affordable meals (there are millions of recipes on the internet) and learn about cooking together. Making your own meals as much as possible is going to really save $. Is there any way you can carpool to save some gas costs? Remember that all around the planet there are families raising beautiful healthy happy kids on far less $ and with far less material stuff than we have in this country, so be brave, give the kids a chance to step up to the challenge, and don't forget to give yourself little treats, like a soak in the tub at the end of the day, or 5 minutes sitting in the sun whenever it comes out. You're doing great and your family is so lucky to have you!

Hi M.
I want to say sorry about your husband. I could only imagine what you guys are going through. I know a couple people who are in similar situations. I always tell them, not to stress too much because this only for now, everything will get better. First you need to find out where all your money is going to. Make a list on how much you spend on food, groceries, gas, house/rent, etc. Then you can see where everything is going. From there, you can start to slim down on stuff you feel like you are spending too much on and put the remaining on stuff you need. Budgeting is the key to make anything work. I know it is hard work especially to sick to it, but that's the only way you are going to get through it is to create a budget. If you need any help at all, I'd be more than happy to help you out with that. I know it is tough. Just hang in there, things will get better. This not forever. I wish you the best.

So sorry about your stressful situation. Hang in there and don't be afraid to ask friends for help. When my son was born, my husband and I were both teachers at the same school, and our colleagues organized a dinner rotation and fed us for three weeks! Each person signed up for a day and brought a meal on their assigned day. Maybe you have a friend at school you could confide in and they can coordinate something like that?

I don't know if FoodMax is always cheaper, but Safeway has the buy one get on free frozen vegetables or the two huge bags for $3 about once a month, and I have found the Kirkland (Costco) bread to be tasty and less expensive than the grocery stores. If you have a friend with a membership, so much the better!

I'm trying to be more frugal with food, and some things I have learned: Cream of mushroom soup can work miracles with leftovers! You can have roast chicken for dinner one night, serve with rice and a vegetable. The next night you can pick off the left over chicken, mix with cream of mushroom soup, a can full of milk, 1 cup or so of cheese, and the leftover rice; put it in a casserole or baking dish, sprinkle with bread crumbs (which you can then drizzle with melted butter or margarine for extra flavor), and bake it at 350 for 20-30 minutes (since everything is cooked, you are basically just heating it through). If it starts to brown too fast, you can cover it. You can experiment with different flavors of creamed soup for variety of flavor, and if you keep some boneless chicken breasts on hand, you can add one to the mix if you ate more roast chicken than you thought. You can do the same thing with elbow macaroni or little shellls pasta instead of rice. Use the same recipe with a can or two of tuna for tuna casserole (which is fairly cheap and filling).

Another trick I do is buy ground meat (I usually get turkey) and brown it all at once(add onions, salt, and pepper) but divide it into two meals: one night I might use it for spaghetti, and the next for cheeseburger pie (which is a Bisquick recipe; all the Bisquick pie recipes are quick and easy, and I haven't had one I didn't like). You can mix in beans to make the meal more protein rich and use less meat. Another easy recipe that I often fall back on: brown and season meat, drain fat, add 1 can tomato soup, 1 can full of water, and about a cup of elbow macaroni. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Cook 20-25 minutes, or until noodles are tender. Serve sprinkled with cheese.

Look up a recipe for Shepherd's Pie: it is tasty and very forgiving as far as ingredients. It's a good use for leftover vegetables (I even made one once with Brussels sprouts after Thanksgiving left us with a ton!) Shepherd's pie also freezes really well for a meal later. I just tried a quiche recipe called Frugal Mac Dougal's Quiche from the Egg Boards website: http://incredibleegg.org/index_v2.php?mcID=1&cID=16&a...= My kids both loved it (with ketchup, of course!) and so did my husband.

A last food tip: you can buy roast and either bake it or put it in the crock pot all day on low (seasoned with salt and pepper). Then you can have roast for dinner and leftovers for sandwiches or tacos, burritos, etc.

Here are two links that may help you find things in Ukiah (such as public assistance and job training):



Also, someone suggested programming your cell with the local law enfocement numbers for emergencies, which is definitely a good idea, but I think your land line will still dial 9-1-1 even if there is no service to the line: if you do disconnect your land line, double check before you take all the phones out :)

FINALLY! Best wishes to you and your family. I wish your husband strength and health, and best to you in finishing your degree quickly and painlessly!

Hi M.,

I've just been through a long period where my family had NO money to spare. Here are a few of the things that got us through:

If there's a Grocery Outlet near you, check them out. They sometimes have really good deals on frozen meals and produce. There were days when I fed my family of 4 for $3.00 a meal! They don't always have the same things, but there's often something good to choose from.

Dollar Stores are wonderful, especially for cleaning supplies, etc. You don't get as much, but you can get enough to accomplish the task.

Dollar Stores are also wonderful for birthday gifts. When my kids wanted to buy me presents, I have each of them $2.00 and let them choose whatever they wanted. I ended up with 6 presents that were chosen just for me and given with love.

You say that you need your car for your job, but you might want to analyze if there's a way to drive and park and bus the rest of the way. I learned that I could drive to the part that had to be driven and bus the rest of the way. This saved me a LOT of money.

As far as phones, Tracfone is the cheapest way to go. You can buy phones for as little as $9.99, and they have a family plan where you can get basic service for 3 phones for only about $22.00 total (for all three phones) per month. If you use your phone for texting or hundreds of minutes every month, this might not work for you, but it's worth checking out.

For clothes, Goodwill, Target and eBay are the way to go. I've gotten 5 pairs of pants and 3 sweatshirts (all in great condition) for my son for only $12.00 on eBay. Definitely the way to go for a boy who always loses his sweatshirts! Plus, shopping is fun. If you don't have internet at home, you can use it at your local library. And the best way to place bids without going over your budget is to use a snipe tool (which will automatically place a bid for you at the last minute - however much you tell it to bid). I use www.auctionstealer.com. They give you 3 free "snipes" each week.

Also, check to see if there's a Freecycle in your neighborhood (I think you can Google it). I live in Marin and I've gotten some wonderful freebies from the Marin Freecycle online group. You can even post what you need, and you never know what people have in their garage that they need to get rid of. It's also a REALLY easy way to get rid of things you don't need any longer.

When things break, Google for instructions on how to repair them instead of replacing. I've gotten a lot more use out of many things that had seemingly broken, just by spending a little time working on them.

Perhaps your husband could start a small business selling on eBay to make a little extra money. Here are a couple of ideas of where to get things for free to sell: If there's a country club or tennis court near your home, have the kids collect all the loose balls they can find. You can sell them on eBay to people with dogs. Or, approach people who are having garage sales or flea markets and ask if you can cart away what's left over at the end of the day. Often, people are just happy to get rid of the stuff.

It might seem like this is hard on your kids, but I've been amazed at how great my kids have gotten at being thrifty. And, as a bonus, they now recognize how spoiled most of the kids around them seem. They can't believe it when their friends whine about having to use last year's cell phone, or that they have been able to go skiing for 2 whole months.

Good luck! Remember, adversity brings families together. Once you get used to being thrifty, it won't feel so stressful.


First of all, God bless you, you have a lot on your plate. One little thing that we do as a family that we all LOVE that is completely free is hiking. We do this every weekend if we can, and the everybody loves it. We also sing. Anything you can think of, make it up if you have to. When you are down, nothing helps like singing. Best to you.

I read the responses and I don't think I saw these two suggestions for cheap/healthy food:
1) along with the beans and rice suggestion, I would add potatoes. You can buy a big bag fairly cheap, they last a long time, and you can make a million easy things that fill up the tummy (fried potatoes, hash browns, mash, french fries, boiled with butter and salt, etc.)
2) when you are buying veggies, buy in season. It's cheaper and the veggies are usually better. If you are not sure what is in season, ask the produce person, it's what they are there for! Soon we will be in butternut and spag squash time. Most stores sell this squash with a little recipe stuck on the side to get you started. Don't be afraid to try new cheap/healthy foods :-)

Good luck with your situation~ my thoughts are with you.

Wow, what a storm your family is going through right now. I sent up a prayer for you and your family!! I've read the responses, and there are some great ideas, thrift stores, craigslist, freecycle etc. Do you belong to a church? I know that our church is always helping other members out when they are in need, that is what the church is there for. Don't be too proud to ask for help from the church, family, friends etc. I pray that your family is strengthened by this trial you are facing and that many blessings will come to you despite this difficult time.

Your story is so much like mine was.....over 25 years ago!
My husband too had an aneurism and a stroke and he was only 31 years old. I had two young children 7 and 2 yrs old at the time. He was a self employed plumber at the time and had no workmans comp or anything for us to live on. We were living off my meager part time salary working as a learning assistant at my daughters school.Meanwhile his health prognosis was so uncertain. I kept thinking I just had to get a 'better' full time job. I had only 2 years of college at the time. Something helped me to make a life altering decision!
I applied for welfare, financial aid and applied to our local University. Somehow with blinders on I finished my degree and got my teaching credential. It was the best choice I have ever made. I've taught for 22 years, my children have both graduated from college and have good jobs, my husband is basically healthy and went back to work.But it was my salary that has been stable thru the years.
I have since paid back into the sytem that helped our family thru bad times. If there is any way you can go back to school it may be a good decision for you. I have had a job I love for all these years as well as being able to support my family. The very best of LUCK to you! P.

Dear M..
I am sorry you and your family are going through such a tough time - but it sounds like you all love each other and have a great family. I just came across a webpage about saving money yesterday. It is www.realsimple.com/moneymakeover . It is supposed to be a one day makeover to save lots of money. The other source that keeps coming up in this area is Ellie Kay. She is kind of the queen of how to save smart when you have a family. She has at least one book out and her website is:www.ellikay.com. I hope you will find some good ideas that will work for you. Also ask around for anything and everything you can apply for that is not so well known. A little bit from many sources will make a diiffernce. I don't know where you live but at our church we always have grocery bags available on Sunday mornings and many churches have some kind of pantry, if that is something you would do. I just want to end with encouraging you as it sounds like you are a wonderful mom and wife. C.

Hi M.,
I really feel for you. I hope that your husband recovers soon. However, hats off to you for pulling yourself and your family through this situation.
The first thing that came to my mind was, (since you mentioned food items), that if you could just buy the Sunday newspaper, there are inserts for stores and the deals for that week. We just bought a whole bunch of cereal from Rite Aid and Longs since they had deals on breakfast cereals (each box was either $2 or $2.50 compared to more than $4 at a normal grocery store). We instantly cut down the expense for cereals in half.

Also, vegetables and fruits are often less expensive in ethnic stores (Indian and Chinese for example) than large grocery stores. I do most of my Vegetable and fruit shopping between my neighborhood Indian store and Trader Joes. If you live in a rural area, see if there are any local businesses selling fruit and vegetables.

I am assuming that with kids around, you must need milk. Now that we get from a normal grocery store like Safeway or Lucky. They usually have a deal on 2 gallons. 1 gallon milk turns out to be almost $4, and 2 gallons cost about $6.

Communicate with your friends and let them know that you would liked to be informed about sales on essential items when they go for grocery shopping. If any of your friends has a Costco card, ask them to get you household products such as toilet paper, dishwasher soap etc., which are cheaper there. Personally, I go to Costco only to get household essentials in bulk, otherwise I end up spending money there on things I don't need.

Hope that this helps for now.
Take care.

I am so sorry to hear of your situation. I hope this advice helps. Have you ever heard of Dave Ramsey? He is a financial advisor who has a radio talk show on XM and is on Fox news. He has fantastic ideas for helping people save and get out of debt. He has a website at www.daveramsey.com. One of the services he promotes is something called e-meals. It is an online service (I think $5 per month) that gives you a meal plan to follow, the recipes and shopping lists for all the low cost ingredients. It might really help you trim your food budget and give you menu ideas.

I mostly wanted to write to offer support, your situation is heartrending and your attitude is stellar. I'm sorry to hear about these stressors, and I think you've risen to the challenge beautifully. The one real idea I have for saving is that perhaps your husband could produce some food while he's home anyway. A small garden and a few chickens, especially since you're rural, would probably make a difference. It's hard when the rain is pounding you but I wonder if you could make it work somehow. I feel for you and wish you all the best. Would you feel okay signing up for food stamps? That might also help a lot. Good luck and take care.

I know your struggle. My hubby is unable to work due to a medical condition and we are also filing for SSI. We've always lived off my salary anyways because he was going to school still. So we live off approximatly $3,000 per month and we have a baby boy on the way. The best help you can give your family right now is to stay positive; don't argue about money but do make sure everyone in the house knows that money is tight and some things have to be forgone. Don't be so pestimistic about the SSI process, everyone gets a response after 6 months if you have filed everything out correctly and even in the best of circumstances denials come and have to be appealed. In California there is a state disability different from the standard 1 year, look into filing for that as well.
Here are some great everyday savings:
Coupons - clip them, find them online.
Bargain Shop - if you check all the ads and plan your shopping trip in advance you could save more than shopping just at FoodMax
Plan Meals - I would be more than happy to share some great easy recipies with you! I've learned to do this, but it can also be as simple as grilled cheese sandwiches or breakfast for dinner. Also cut out dining out and/or fast food if you haven't already; try taking sandwiches or left overs for lunch (it's boring but cheap).
Cut the phone - you should probably keep your landline just in case, but down grade it to the most basic $10/month plan.
Home - I don't know your situation, but if you're in a position where your monthly mortgage or rent is out of bounds look into something more reasonable and maybe closer to work (rule of thumb the monthly payment should be no more than 1/3 your monthly income).
Utilities - we have PG&E and there are some great financial assistance plans which you can sign up for online. We qualified for the FERA plan, but there is also CARE and LIHEAP (no matter who your provider LIHEAP & FERA are federal programs available). Also contact your water, garbage, etc. to see if they have any plans available. You may be greatly surprised.
Food Stamps or WIC - don't be afraid to look into this, it's all income based but with a family of four you may qualify. With the status of our economy it's just something you need to do, it can really help with the basics if you can get it.
Charity - if you are affiliated with a local church or even if not, the churches will help. Take whatever help you can get, or save this as a last resort.
Liquidate - have a garage sale! It's work but you never know what you could get rid of and make a little extra for the bills. Also anything extra you might have like a boat or a timeshare should be sold if possible. Take advantage of free listings like Craigslist to unload these items.

Last but by no means least find your local family resource center, they sometimes have funds to assist your family and more direct information on how to get assistance in your area. Keep a positive attitude, if you don't you'll regret it in the long run. Know that we're all here to be supportive and you can always lean if you need to.

Best Wishes!
L. Anne Banta

About SSI. You didn't say if you found a lawyer. I tried and failed without a lawyer then I found one and won. The whole thing took 3 years cuz I waited to find the lawyer. They only take money if you win and it comes out of your award. Good luck with everything!

First, I am so sorry, this sounds like a VERY difficult time. I have used www.freecycle.org to let go of or receive items. You can post WANTED: boy clothes in size ? and someone will likely respond, and everything must be free. Also, I'd try Craigslist.org for the same things. I've even seen people ask for food on freecycle.org. Family game night is always fun, and of course free. As far as cooking, I use allrecipes.com a lot (am on I the internet enough?). You can search by ingredient to find recipes that use what you have on hand. Good luck and feel free to contact me if I can help in any way.


Good morning M.,

I know things are difficult for everyone today. You are not alone. Your husband needs to heal his body before he goes out there and beats himself up.

Have you thought of a home based business? I was stressed and always had a second job and looked at a home based one and it is wonderful. If you like people, like to help people, want to see your family and friends get healthier and make money doing it, check out www.1stlook.biz

There are lots of home based businesses if this one apeals to you let me know and I will get you more info.

Good luck to you and your family. Make sure hubby takes care of himself and you take care of you also.

Have a blessed day.

N. Marie

One of my mom's tricks when we were growing up was Saturday Soup. She tossed the week's leftover pasta, veggies & chopped up meat into chicken noodle or minestrone soup for lunch. We weren't too thrilled when she put spinach & liver in the soup - but mac-n-cheese tastes AWESOME in tomato soup.
Buy generic whenever you can - like Safeway's dryer sheets are great and much cheaper than the national brands. Shop once or twice a month to save gas and impulse buys.
The Dollar Store has great shampoo etc. for a buck a bottle.
Avoid processed foods - like pre-cooked meats, Stouffers, etc.
Make casserole type meals to use less meat and sneak more veggies past the kids. Campbells soup cans have lots of great recipies on the lables.
Look for cookbooks that help you stretch $$ and plan a weekly menu.
PG&E can give you pointers on saving gas & electricity.
Ask your local church for help!
Start shopping at GoodWill for the kids clothes. I have found lots of things with the tags still on! They outgrow clothes or mess them up so fast anyway! Bring it home in a Macy's bag - they'll never know!!!
God Bless!

Hi M.
I'm sorry to hear of your situation. Life sure is rough sometimes. I want to offer you some help/ideas. I have a home based business. It is Homemade Gourmet. It's really good comfort food too and economical. There are excellent meal ideas and recipes. Also shows you how to make meals in advance and what to with the leftovers. Some even come with a shopping list! Check out my website and call me. I will give you my price. I hope this helps you and your family in this trying time.

Wow! You have a lot on your plate. You and family will definitely be in my prayers tonight! It sounds like you have covered most of your bases. You might want to call PG&E and telephone company see if you qualify for any low income program. It might be worth the time you sit on hold with them. I make a menu on Sunday for the whole week. I do all of my shopping on Sunday. It saves time and money. I found when I stop at the store for one item I come out with a couple and also that is time wasted during the week. Try leaving the kids at home, than they are not asking for extras at the store. Also, you might want to change your dependents on your check to bring home more money right now why you need it. Just remember if God brings you there he will get you through it!

I'm so sorry to hear about your situation. My heart goes out to your family. I didn't get to read all of the responses, but one thing I can think of is to let your child's teacher know the situation you're in. I'm a teacher, and I know there can sometimes be expenses for school items and/or field trips. At our school we always try to provide scholarships for kids who need them for field trips (usually this money comes by asking families directly on the permission slip if they want to make a donation to other students in need...the students in need remain anonymous).
I hope this helps.
Stay strong! XOXO

Hi M., You should cancel the landline as long as your cell plan will accomodate your needs. You can get some groceries at AGrocery Outlet and just make meals that go farther like pasta, chili and soups especially for this time of year. Tell the kids that the cuts have to be done to survive and you they have to go to the basics with just food, and a place to live. God will provide. I hope your husband will recover well. You just do what you have to so your family is together.

Hi M.,

You might be surprised at the government programs you qualify for. Situations like this are the reason they exist. You most likely qualfy for food stamps and probably for Health Families (which is health insurance for your kids. this may save you money out of your check)

You are such a strong person. I will be praying for your family. I read your responses looking for ideas and there are many great ones. The only thing I can add is do not get rid of your land line. If there is an emergency or disaster the cell phones are the first to go out. You need a land line in case of emergency. My two cents. Good Luck!

Hi M.,

I know how you feel. It's hard to make ends meet when things have changed and the economy isn't helping. As far as the food/meal situation goes, if you can find these cookbooks, it might give you ideas. Robin Miller has a show on the Food Network where she makes 2-3 meals for the week using some of the same ingredients. You can even find One-dish cookbooks (casseroles, stews, etc...), too. That might help you out, especially if cooking isn't your forte. I've seen all these cookbooks at Border's, Barnes & Noble, even MIchael's, and the recipes are good. If you have a crock pot, you can make chicken, pork chops, stew meat, etc... in bulk, then eat them throughout the week with different side dishes. My mom did that when things were a little tight when we were growing up, along with casseroles. And there is nothing wrong with leftovers, they're God's way of giving us lunch/dinner the next day!!! If things get really bad, there are Free Dining Rooms - which are different than soup kitchens - you can go to and get a meal. My mom volunteers at one in Fremont and she sees families in there a lot. Many of these families are working 2-3 jobs and are in good standing, but still find it hard to keep food on the table 1-2 days a week. I've eaten there myself, they have good food.

I would keep the land line, though. I don't know exactly where you live, but if there is a bad emergency and the power is out, you can still use your land line (depending on the type of phone you have) to contact people. You don't want to drain your car's battery charging your cell phone during an emergency/power outage.

Anyway, I hope this helps and will be praying that your husband's medical/work situation improves. Hang in there!!


LIke you, I'm a single mother with 2 teenagers with big appetite. You may want to inquire on the Food Bank in your area, my neiborg who has a disabled husband receives prepared food daily (lunch and dinner), for herself and her ill husband, it is healthy as I've tasted it myself. If I could, I would definetely sick for such great assistance, but it is only for people with medical conditions.
Also, with your family income, you do qualify for the WIC Program (Women, Infant and Children Nutrition Program), your 4 1/2 year old is eligible for the benefits. Until he turns 5, the program will help with checks for nutritios foods to be redeemed at your local grocery store. Programs of that nature are available for a reason.
Good luck.

Hi M.,

You have been receiving some wonderful advice, I don't think I could add anything more helpful other than letting you know that my husband and I are FINALLY recovering from a similar situation (although not brain surgery!).

Anyway, with a little Faith, alot of Prayers, and a lot of reaching out for ways to "make it through" financially.... it all got us through "the storm".

Just keep making smart choices for you and your family. It sounds like you're doing the best that you can. Keep those boys happy, and they won't even know what's going on :o)

There are many prayers being said for you....


:o) N.

Hi M.,
You have all my sympathy-- sounds like you and your family have been through a real rough spot, with tough times yet to come!
Here are my suggestions:
Call 211 it is the social services number for Santa Clara County, and they may have some suggestions.
Food: check food banks-- they give away food, and most don't make you 'prove' how needy you are. When shopping for your family, focus on dried beans and rice-- they're both dirt cheap, filling, and healthy. Find a friend with a Costco card and borrow it. Giving up your land line is a great idea-- I know of people who did it before this recession and have never regretted it. If you belong to a church, go see what they can do to help-- sometimes they give away food, sometimes, clothes, and with two boys, I'm sure you're in almost constant need!
Best of luck!

I'm sorry to here about your situation. I know it's kinda scary with the economy and everything. I have tried to stock up on clothes and kitchen stuff from yard sales or freecycle or even craigslist they have some good things and most of them at low prices or free. You and your family will be in my thoughts.

M., I am so sorry to hear what horrible hand you've recently been dealt. I can only imagine what you're going through.

I don't know if any of this will help, but I am a self-proclaimed penny pincher. I have found ways to cut money all over the place. (In fact, here's a link to a blog I wrote recently on the subject. It might give you some ideas http://www.lodinews.com/blogs/lodimoms/?p=108)

When it comes to meals, the easiest way to make your dollar stretch is to buy the basics: canned vegetables, pasta, beans and fruit. When the latter starts to go bad, make it into a fruit salad. Buy lettuce and use it for a salad, then put it on a sandwich or if you buy spinach, steam it. Bread is also a good thing to have on hand; you can make sandwiches, hot or cold, or serve with dinner as a great way to fill your tummies up. Also, I've found buying a whole chicken is a great money saver: boil it and use portions mixed with frozen vegetables and noodles as a great homemade soup, or pick off pieces and mix with cheese for quesedillas. You can even cut the pieces and fry your own chicken (as opposed to buying pre-cut packages).

I could go on forever, but I'll stop. Good luck with what you're going through. Things will get better, I believe in that. :)

On a side note, I think cutting your landline is a GREAT idea. We did it a few years ago and have never missed it. The only thing I would recommend is keying into your cell phone the local CHP, police and fire and plan on calling the police dispatch first in a real emergency since you won't have real 9-1-1 access and they can get you to the right help.

I would reach out to the local community for help. There is no shame in asking for help when you really need it. My friend is a single mom and has found all kinds of resources for financial aid in her area. Talk to neighbors, friends, place of Spirit, and your local social services agency for starters. You might even be eligible for WIC for your youngest! You would be surprised at what programs you might find! I would also keep on SSI. I know 2 people who benefitted from it when in need, so don't give up!

I wish you well. I know what it's like to struggle financially with little ones. This will get better in time.

Hi M.,
I am so sorry to here of your situation. I really want to bless you with a year of sustanance and faith for your family. an also you should hightail it to social services and get food stamps, medical an even wic because you are able I believe with a 4yr old. Also try to locate a grocery outlet-that store is great, and has cheap organics and bath proucts. buy things in bulk that are cheap-i have been known to buy a case of cereal because it was cheap and that is the kind we eat an it is 50% off at other stores. oh another thing is contact your utilities and you may qualify for lifeline which is a very basic rate of phone and gas an electric-so you can have basic service in an emergency- for healing and livlihood-Oh, can you make up the class online at night? good luck and blessings L.

I see you have a lot of responses, but your story pulls at the heart strings and people really feel for you. It is tough out there and especially trying to survive, work, pay bills, etc and take care of kids. It is hard to believe that things continue to go up while the economy and jobs are so scarce too!! Others have mentioned the programs and you are fortunate that you have time because you can use some of that time to do research. My friend quit work to go to school and I could not believe how much help she got from the various programs. One of her two daughters has been on scholarship at a very expensive private school for 4 years now and the school cost her very little. She has food stamps and government assistance to get her children food and she even gets scholarships to get her children into camp (for free). It is truly amazing.

The dollar stores carry great items and now many carry produce and refrigerated items. My sister does a lot of her shopping there and then goes to the grocery store for the rest.

Making cheap dinners is easy too. I make noodles with butter and cheese, brocoli and turkey hot dogs some nights. This is one meal that is under $10 and feeds the whole family.

I also make tacos and the next night make taco soup with the left over meat - chicken broth, salsa, corn, taco meat, avacados and corn tortilla strips that are fried in oil for a bit. It is very yummy.

I know you will get through this and have a loving family which is GREAT and very helpful. Your husband can look into the various programs and aid that are out there while you work and can help you with planning. I think planning and organization are HUGE to being successful and saving money as well.

Good luck!

Hang in there M., it sounds like you're doing a great job! When my budget is tight, I make big, inexpensive meals that provide lunch and dinner leftovers for several days: casseroles and spaghetti. Casseroles are easy: cook about 1 lb of any meat (I usually do ground beef), toss in a bag of mixed frozen veggies, then two cans or one large can of tomato sauce or Campbell's cream of (whatever you like). Pour into a 9X13 casserole dish, sprinkle with cheese and/or breadcrumbs, cover with foil, and bake at 350 degrees for 25 min. Campbell's website has a lot of great recipes for casseroles using their soups that are inexpensive, too. Plan to go to the grocery store once a week at the most, and bring a list with the items you need to prepare four to five of these dinners, plus the other items you'll need throughout the week. Planning a week ahead of time for a week's worth of dinners really takes the stress off. I know because I'm a reformed meal planner myself! You're in my prayers!

Hi M.;My heart goes out to you!  Your husband and kids are very lucky to have you in their lives.  Have you considered planting a garden? It doesn't matter how big or small it is, just get something going.  Zucchimi and corn seems to grow well anywhere.  Tomatoes, herbs and potatoes would be fun and fairly easy to grow as well.  I don't know what kind of a climate you live in, but check with someone at a nursery, or go on-line and research what to plant where, and when.  Gardening will be fun for the whole family...it relieves stress and gives us something to nurture, and cultivate.  And when we get some of our wonderful homegrown fruits and veggies on the table there is a great sense of accomplishment and pride (especially for the kids).  I can guarantee the kids will be happier to eat veggies that are grown from their very own garden!

A few more tips:1) Buy a simple wooden drying rack (Target or Walmart usually has them), and dry your towels and clothes in the garage or outside, if your climate allows.  Or, you can start them in the dryer and finish on the rack.2) Wash and re-use baggies, trays, and foil. Don't bother wasting money on paper towels.3) If you have the room, plant fruit trees that do well in your area.4) Try negotiating with your lender or landlord to reduce your payment/rent.  It never hurts to ask.

Stay happy and positive - it will help you get through the tough times.  Take care.

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