How to Make Your Money Go Further – Part 1

Money has been uppermost in my mind lately. I have been remembering times when I have been particularly broke and how I survived (Does Big Hair Make You Resilient?). This has helped to stem a bit of the panic I have been feeling since losing my job. (I have been fired for refusing to be vaccinated. Here is my post talking about it: Vaccination: the 24/7 Helmet You Can Never Remove)

I am going to do a series of posts with each featuring one way that I have been able to survive on less.

To be clear: I am not a money saver as much as a money “stretcher.” I can make an income go a long way but I’m not the best person to talk about putting money aside.

It’s Always Something

It seems like there is always a financial imperative that demands I “make do” on less. I have had to survive financially through job losses, lay-offs, the birth of my children, a move to a rundown house in a small town that needed essentials like a furnace and roof, starting up a new business on a shoestring, and going back to university at 37 years old. For most of these years our family had only one income and that was seasonal. We never knew how long break-up would be. I saw to it that we never went hungry and never missed a mortgage payment – even the year my ex was off for over six months.

Because my life has always been in a tenuous financial state, I have rarely ever had a six month emergency fund put aside like the experts recommend. In the past seven years since my divorce, for example, I have moved four times, had three different jobs, bought and renovated an apartment, and then bought a house and put a suite in it. Ideas I’ve got – stability, not so much. I am really regretting the lack of an emergency fund right now but am happy that I’ve got some tried and true ideas I can put into practise immediately to conserve the cash I do have.

My History of Money

Before I get to the first set of ideas, I want to give you a bit of background.


Money created a lot of anxiety in our house when I was growing up. My Dad was raised in an affluent family and had never faced a lack of money. His family didn’t believe it was appropriate to discuss finances and so Dad never really understood or had much respect for money. At 83, he still spends anything he can get his hands on! When he wants or needs something, his first inclination is to look for a loan if he doesn’t have the cash himself. He believes in taking as much money as they will lend him!


My Mom, in sharp contrast, was born into a very large family without much money. She is resourceful and can make a dollar stretch a long way but she never really had her own money to look after so was not a great money manager. She is not fussy, to her credit, and is happy to be the recipient of cast off clothing or other items. Sometimes when I was growing up, she would have a job and her own money, which seemed to help her feel more secure. Before I left home at 16, however, I remember her as being almost constantly worried she wouldn’t have enough money for even the essentials.

The Legendary Fights

The worst fight I remember was when I was about eight years old. Dad came home with the fanciest colour television we had ever seen. There were buttons on it so that you could push one or another to change the channel even. He’d purchased this without consulting my Mom because he knew that if he’d asked her, she’d have said, “No way!” My Mom was furious but kept her anger to herself while us kids were so excited.

The next day she just let go and started screaming about how broke we were and how could he buy something like this when she didn’t know how she was going to buy groceries and feed us kids. He fought back and for a few hours, it was touch and go. Eventually he relented and the TV went back to the store. None of us kids said a word –even my youngest brother wasn’t going to get in the middle of that one!

New Purchase Panic

The purchase of any new item makes me nervous to this day. Before I buy any appliance or piece of furniture, I always try to source it second hand. In my life, I’ve had a total of ONE new couch and you know what? It wasn’t very comfortable. The one I have now was $100 from ReStore (Habitat for Humanity’s store to raise money to build housing for lower income people) and it’s way more comfy, albeit it has a kind of cigar smell to it. I can pretend I’m some rich dude drinking Lagavulin, smoking a stogie, and grilling some underling over his latest screw-up trade when I sit on that couch. Ha! My cats don’t care and really? you are just asking for disappointment if you have animals and buy a new piece of furniture. They don’t advertise that at the SPCA!

OK! So the very first thing to do to save a kit and caboodle is…

Cook Your Own Food

This also includes other things that go along with home cooking: baking, gardening, and preserving.

This is the best way to save money as it’s where a large chunk of everyone’s discretionary budget goes. Cooking your own food is also healthier for you, your family, and the planet. By now, if you are vaccine free, you cannot go out to restaurants. Hopefully you’ve been working on your cooking skills.

Ordering food is very expensive and you can make the same dishes at home, only better. Restaurants typically use the cheapest ingredients they can find in order to maximize profits. Some cook with questionable additives. Learning to make your favourite restaurant dishes at home will give you a sense of real satisfaction.

One word of caution: You will likely not be happy with those cheap restaurant meals once you learn to make them yourself! You sure won’t feel like paying for them.

Consider Eating Vegetarian or Vegan Once a Week or More

I have not eaten red meat for nearly 40 years but this year I made the commitment to cut out all animal products. There are several reasons I became vegetarian but that’s for another post. Eating vegan has saved me so much money that I have been able to buy organic rice, beans, quinoa, and vegetables without feeling guilty. Even if you eat vegetarian or vegan one night a week, you will save money. Especially with the prices of meat and milk products right now.

Eating a vegan diet is also a great way to reduce inflammation in your body. Often this could start to accumulate as you age, so reducing it is a good idea. It might also save you more money on doctor’s visits or medications. A search for “Whole Foods Plant Based Diet” will give you a wealth of information, recipes, and inspiring videos if you are at all interested. Here is a site with links to 10 Ted Talks on plant based diets:

Buy Food in Larger Quantities

There are many creative ways to buy in bulk. Sharing purchases with friends, starting or joining a food co-op to cut out the middle man, or freezing / preserving the extras (more on that, below) are all great. I have done these things at various times with varying degrees of success. The food co-op involved a lot of coordination and work but it also became a way to socialize with others who shared my passion for organic food and saving money. Highly recommended!

When in Doubt – Make Soup

Now that I live alone, nearly everything I buy is in too large a quantity. When I buy a head of cauliflower or broccoli, it’s more than I can use within the week. What I do is make soup, stew, or sauce with the extras and freeze it. These frozen soups have come in really handy when I have gotten busy or when the government forbids me to go out. I just heat up some of my saved soup and enjoy a simple home cooked meal.

You can make homemade soup for less than a dollar if times are really tough for you. I talk about how I did it in my post Does Big Hair Make You Resilient?.

Waste not – Want not

When I was a teenager I worked at a soup and sandwich restaurant. One of the things the owner did was take all of the trimmings from vegetables like carrots, celery, and onions and toss them into a bucket in the freezer. She would keep adding the vegetables until the bucket was full of frozen trimmings. Then she would dump the frozen vegetable scraps in water with spices and boil them until they reduced down. Once this was strained, it became the basis for a homemade vegetable soup that was absolutely delicious! If you’ve got a vegetable that is about to turn, try chopping it up and freezing it. You can always make a soup or stew or add it to a stir-fry later.

Coupons – ?

A note on coupons: I personally don’t use many coupons. This is only because the brands of food I eat don’t offer many. Often the no name brand is cheaper than the brand name even with a discount. I know some people have great success couponing. I think it really depends on how you eat and your level of patience – I defer to the experts! Tell us your coupon success stories!

Learn to Bake Bread, Muffins, Granola Bars, and Snacks

Having these staples on hand will really help convince you that home baking is superior. It can take a while to get in the habit so go easy on yourself and take it slow. Try making just one new recipe every week or two. Your baking will be so much fresher and taste far better than anything you can buy in a grocery store. And the best part? You will know exactly what ingredients are in it.

Baked goods and snacks are some of the most expensive foods to buy in the store. Any baking you do will help you save. A loaf of bread costs less than a dollar when made at home but will set you back four or five times that at the store. Plus it won’t be near as good!

No Kneading – Best Bread from Recipe Tin Eats

One of my favourite breads is easily made with only three ingredients and doesn’t require kneading. Nagi, whose site is called Recipe Tin Eats, always provides alternatives for both ingredients and kitchen equipment which is why she is one of my favourite cooking site authors:

Learn to Garden

If you don’t have access to a garden space, you might have to get creative. My cousin grew a prize-winning garden of lettuce, peppers and other vegetables in containers on her small apartment deck. Nearly every community has a garden where you can have a small plot for very little investment. The bonus is that you will meet gardeners who are experienced and who will give you advice on what grows well in your area.

Raised Beds out of Pallets

I built two raised garden beds on my lawn with old pallets. Just make sure they are free of chemicals if you want to try this. I grew peppers, cherry tomatoes, herbs, and strawberries. Try to grow vegetables and fruits that are easy and not fussy. I like to focus on those that are really pricey to buy organically or that are listed as one of the “dirty dozen” for pesticide contamination. Here is a list of the “dirty dozen”:

Try Permaculture!

After being inspired by people like Morag Gamble, I have gotten more interested in permaculture gardening. Here Morag talks about how to start a garden:

Although, Morag is in Australia, her principles will work anywhere. She has a fascinating blog where she has articles and resources for permaculture and off-grid living:

No Digging Required

I love the “no dig” methods and tried the “no work” Ruth Stout method for potatoes last year. Basically, you toss them on the lawn, cover them with mulch, water them with the lawn, and forget about them. I had about six pieces of potatoes that had sprouted in my cupboard. I thought I’d try them as there were no seed potatoes left anywhere last year. In the fall, I dug up a small box worth of potatoes! It was amazing! Most weren’t large but they were very tasty and of course, organic. If I do it again, I think I’d pay more attention to watering and helping the plants by shoring them up with more straw as they grew.

Learn to Preserve

After all the work and reward of growing your garden, you will want to learn how to preserve any bumper crop of tomatoes or peppers your garden produces. Second hand stores are a great source of canning equipment and jars. I have moved too much in recent years to be able to can so this is something I’m looking forward to being able to do again. In the past, I used to can enough salsa to last my family through the winter and more relish than we could eat! I made a mean jalapeno jelly to give away as Christmas gifts, too.

The internet is a great source of ideas for proper canning methods or techniques for freezing fruit and vegetables. If you are a visual person who likes a book in hand, your local library will have many books to get you started.

In many places in my hometown, homeowners put signs up near their driveways or post on social media asking for help picking fruit from their cherry, apricot, or other fruit trees. This is a great way to get free fruit that you can then turn into jams, jellies, and other treats.

Dehydrating Food

Some people dehydrate food as well, although I haven’t had much luck with this. I do see used dehydrators that are nearly brand new in second hand stores because most people don’t use them much. If you want to try drying food, getting a second hand dehydrator will help you “test the waters” to see if this is something you enjoy without having to lay out a bunch of cash for a new one.

In Part 2, I am going to talk about my next favourite way to make my money go further – Buy Secondhand.

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