10 Ways to Make the Most of What You Have

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jar of money on concrete by grassy lawn, with text overlay: Frugal Fridays.

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Times are tough. They have been for about three years. Despite what varying politicians, analysts, and news reporters say or hope, it doesn’t seem to be changing too dramatically. But that doesn’t mean we can’t fight the good fight and do what we can to make ends meet.

The kids and I are currently studying the Great Depression. And while there is much sadness during that time period, there is also much wisdom to be gained by learning from our grandparents and great-grandparents. One of those things would be to make the most of what you have.

You would be surprised at what you can do with a little. And if you’re okay with having less than more, you’ll do great — and even thrive despite the tough times.

10 Ways to Make the Most of What You Have

Repurpose leftovers into new and different meals. This doesn’t have to be Hamburger Surprise. You can make delicious meals by a little creative work in the kitchen. Turn dry bread into croutons or bread crumbs. Transform grilled chicken breasts into chicken tacos. Pot pies and soups are tasty ways to make something out of practically nothing.

Save hand-me-down clothing for the next kid. Don’t believe the lie that every kid needs to have brand new clothing every time. Our grandparents would have been shocked. Hand-me-downs do not make one less of a man — or woman.

Convert old furniture into something new and improved. Laura has a wonderful way with microwave carts and other discards. She takes obsolete furniture and makes it useful again.

Stretch your meats or go meatless. Make five chicken breasts go farther than you ever thought possible. My friend JessieLeigh shows you how.

Polish your shoes instead of buying new ones and have them resoled when necessary. Remember shoeshine boys? Yes, people used to wear the same shoes until they wore out. If it’s a classic, quality shoe, this is a great way to protect your investment. You can easily polish your shoes yourself. For resoling, just google the word, cobbler or shoe repair.

Think creatively about clearance items. Not everything has to be used in the way it’s marketed to the consumer. Think outside the box when you see something on a great sale.

Pack food for the road. Avoid restaurant high prices by bringing food you already have at home. Don’t be afraid to mix grocery store purchases with takeout fare for the best of both worlds.

Sell something. Ebay and craigslist are very user-friendly, as long as you use wisdom. You’d be surprised at what income you can generate by selling stuff that is just taking up space. One man’s junk truly is another man’s treasure.

Make your own convenience foods. It is not difficult to make your own pizza, cinnamon rolls, or instant oatmeal. By making use of the space in your deep-freeze, you can stretch the time investment to last you all month.

Have a staycation. There’s no rule that you can’t take a vacation and still sleep in your own bed. With Amy’s tips, you can plan a rocking vacation — at home. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also save all that hassle of packing, loading, unloading, and unpacking. I hate that.

What do YOU do to save money?

Share your favorite money saving idea in the comments or link to your post below.

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  1. Great tips. Funny, about the reinventing leftovers. I can’t make myself throw out food. My mother and I were just having this coversation the other day. She’s a bad girl, lol. The US is one of the most wasteful of countries!

  2. Hand Me Down Clothes – this one made me laugh! When I had my 1st, I knew I was going to want to save money – and one of the easiest things to do was to buy neutral type clothing and plan to hand it down! It was a no-brainer! Now I thought at the time that I was buying plenty of neutral stuff with a bit of girl mixed in – but to tell the truth, very little of it was acceptable to hubby for a boy. Thankfully we had a girl for our second! And after she got done wearing it all, I seperated neutral clothing out again and set that aside for #3 which is our only boy. And now with baby number 4, 95% of her clothes – I have seen on 2 other previous girls! And that stuff was adorable and still in great shape! I’m always amazed at the amount of clothes my friends just give away, and then buy more for the next kid. Yes, I’ve had to buy up more gallon containers to stock the sizes while they are getting bigger – but it has saved me big time in the cost of clothes!

    I am still saving because I am always shopping the clearance area’s of Target and Walmart – every late winter, late summer to get the best deals of things for NEXT Year. I have a whole bin of clothes sizes 10+ for my oldest daughter is currently a size 8. She is still not as into “hip, cool” clothing and she’s homeschooled anyway – so that won’t be as much of a problem – and I’m getting her brand new clothes that would cost an arm and a leg otherwise to get brand new each year. And her two sisters, I don’t even have to shop for at all right now – because I have tons of clothes in both their sizes. I even keep shoes if they slightly worn and bathing suits can sometimes go for 2 summers.

    With my son, I have a cousin who had a son 1 year before mine. I am always getting large boxes of hand-me downs from them (the cousin is quite a bit bigger than my own son) so I’ve easily got half my wardrobe already ready for him and if I shop those sales – than I’m good to go for all of them!

    Just thought I would share what I do.

  3. For my family, it’s been over 4 years; the real estte market started going down here in the fall of 2006. House prices started dropping $10,000 a month in value, eventually falling by 65% or more. As prices dropped, sales stopped–and so did our income. It’s been low since then, but there have been so many amazing blessings.

    Since my children are young, they have gotten used to having certain meals on a regular basis: soups, beans, oatmeal, etc. They love that I make their brithday and Christmas gifts, and they want to make something for each other now, using whatever we have on hand–whether it’s an old sheet that I turn into a nightgown (with tucks and embroidery as well), or if I make handkerchiefs from old top sheets (no need to buy so many tissues that way), or if I make clothes for them from our old clothes.

    We’re in the middle of the great clothing swap right now, where we change seasonal clothing out. Everything gets packed away and “new” clothes come out–hand-me downs for everyone. My oldest son gets hand-me downs from other boys as well as garage sale finds (I can buy a shirt for .50 at a garage sale that looks new, or a new one for $12. I can get most of a year’s wardrobe for the cost of that one new shirt!). My daugher also gets hand-me downs from friends, as well as what I make for her (I’m making some things for her tomorrow).

    We also have boxes of shoes; one box for boys and one for girls.

    We trade kitchen scraps for eggs.

    We go meatless most of the time now.

    I’ve learned to feed my family of 8 for .50 a meal for ALL of us (that’s .06 per person) on a regular basis. That’s something I didn’t do before, but we do it now, and we have plenty of great food to eat!

  4. Our family has been living the ultra-frugal lifestyle for years out of necessity. There are many “tips” I could share, but the one that I would most like to pass on with love and compassion is to make sure that we guard our hearts and minds against a poverty mindset. It’s a very dangerous trap.

  5. When studying the Great Depression, I found The Waltons tv series a useful lesson also. My children loved watching four seasons of the show.
    In our family we work hard at being frugal. Our friends call us the kings of recycling material and other things.

  6. I have a pair of black heels from 1999 that I will not get rid of. They are the only simple plain black heels I’ve ever found that 1) fit, 2) are comfortable, and 3) I can run in. Yes, I’ve been that woman running down Michigan Avenue to make a wedding before the bride. I have had them resoled and repaired several times, and I intend to keep doing so until they fall apart.

  7. Really great tips. These are the things that go against the thinking that is so pervasive in our modern day society but was a way of life for people just a couple of generations back. We got way off the financial track in a very short amount of time. I am doing my best to teach my children these principles.

  8. Studying the Great Depression is so inspiring. This is one of my favorite topics when visiting with elderly friends and relatives…so much to learn!

    I am afraid that I posted my link twice when I tried to change the name of my blog to the name of my post…please feel free to remove one or send me a note on how to do it! Sorry about that!

  9. Great tips! I’d like to add in repurposing items. For example, taking the yogurt container that would have gone into the recycling container and reuse it for holding food or small toys.

  10. I am a coupon using, thrift store shopping, trash picking, garden growing, freecycle’n kinda gal!

    Have a great weekend

  11. My daughter was throwing away a pair of black flat shoes about 7 YEARS ago because they were really scuffed up. I took them, put them through the washing machine and used black magic marker on the scuffs . . . I still wear those shoes today! They are not my “dress shoes” HA! but they work with jeans and my black slacks. Who would have thought!! (Every once in a while I add more black magic marker.)

  12. Thanks for the post!

    I am trying to teach and remind my children this very thing. Who knows how long we will be in this time when frugality is necessary – but we should
    remember that we are always called to use our money with purpose!

  13. We are also studying the Great Depression in homeschool, and moving into the New Deal. There are so many lessons we can learn from that time period. I’m always telling my kids that it is important to study history so that we can avoid the mistakes of the past.

  14. Great tips! When we feel we have a need, we always look at what we have and see if there is something we have that can be repurposed to meet that need.