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We are a family of 6 and over the years we compiled a list of frugal living tips for large families. Everything from food, to clothes, to home, to travel, and entertainment we have frugal tips for it all and I'll share them with you! At the end of last year, I shared with you the 165 ways we saved money in 2015 now I will share how we save money as a large family.
Save Money on Food
I want to start with saving on food because this seems to be what amazes everyone and what they have the most questions about. Other families seem amazed that we feed 6 of us for $400 a month instead of $1,000+! Here is how we do it.
Eat real food. We eat as much real food as possible. This means I do a lot of cooking. It's cheaper to make your own fried chicken for a family of 6 instead of buying 2 boxes of fried chicken from the freezer section.
Don't buy it if you can make it. There are 7 main things I stopped buying and started making. But this is the basics, like above, don't buy fried chicken when you can make it. Don't buy jelly or jam when you can make easy freezer jam in the spring.
Stretch meal with beans and rice. You can make meat stretch with beans. You can use half as much. I also find that shredding meat like chicken and adding beans and rice stretches it much further. Be sure to read How to Make Your Foods Last Longer where I go into this in more detail.
Bread and potatoes. We eat a lot of bread and potatoes with meals. They help fill you up for a lot cheaper than meat and other veggies do. Don't believe me? I listed out Cheap Dinner Ideas from bread for this reason.
Coupons. Yes, we use coupons, but not in the extreme couponing way but in the ‘hey I'm buying that and I have a coupon way'. I do miss opportunities where if I had looked a bit harder I would have found a coupon but with a family of 6 and a blog to run I don't have a ton of time to coupon hunt. I did share my sites where you can score over $1,500 in rare and high-value printable coupons online. Those are my go-to sites.
Drink Water. We drink water 95% of the day. The kids get a cup of milk with breakfast and a glass of watered-down juice at lunch and the rest of the day it's water. It's healthier and cheaper. We don't keep soda and extra juices in the house.
Menu plan. Yes, we menu plan. I did a video explaining how we menu plan. Since making the video, we more or less make a list of meals for the set time frame then pick what is easier to make each day but having that list is what is saving us money.
Once a month shopping. Yes, we shopped once a month before we got into the RV. We made a month-long menu plan and a list and took an entire day and hit several stores. We would start by hitting our local grocery outlet, then BJs warehouse (mostly for diapers, wipes, bulk beans, rice, sugar, and flour) then Aldi, and whatever we couldn't get at those 3 stores I would grab at our local chain grocery store. We would have an extra freezer and freeze bread and milk on top of other things. Yes, we walked out with 20 loaves of bread, 8 dozen eggs, 10 gallons of milk, and more. The reason you want to only shop once a month is the more you go into the grocery store the more extras you buy and the higher your bill goes.
Skip eating out. The menu planning is to avoid eating out. This drives up the coast of feeding your family. I'm not saying you should never eat out but I'm saying when you do it should be planned and to celebrate or a special occasion. When you do eat out follow my tips for eating out frugally.
No meat day. We have a meatless meal day once a week. This ranges from mac n cheese for the kids, to spaghetti, bean tacos, rice beans, and cornbread, fettuccini alfredo, and more. Cutting meat one night out of the week can save you about $20 a month or more right there. When you do need to buy meat be sure to use my tips for saving on meats.
Breakfast for dinner. We also do one night a week where we have breakfast for dinner. Breakfast is the cheapest meal to cook and this also in many cases means no meat. We use a dozen or so eggs, a loaf of bread some cheese, and once a month a pack of bacon. We can feed all of us for about $5.
Cook for leftovers. Whenever possible we cook so we have leftovers. These are used for lunch and if we are lucky and we have enough we will have a leftovers dinner night. But they rarely last that long.
Use Amazon Pantry. I use Amazon Prime Pantry to save on my groceries as well. I can get deals and buy in bulk sometimes the deals aren't great but other times they are better than I can find in town.
Free Groceries. I also shared recently how I get $100 in free groceries each month.
Simple Tip. This one tip helped me save $1,200 in groceries.
Start Canning. Canning many of your own items will save you money! Even if you can't grow your own garden, buying produce in season and canning wills ave you from buying it at higher prices later.
See how I feed my family of 6 for only $200 a month or $50 a week.
Fetch Rewards – Use invite code: T4YVG for a special reward. Like Ibotta get points as a rebate when buying certain items. Turn the points into Amazon or Visa gift cards and other items.
Related: 60 Things to Make Instead of Buying
Save Money on Clothes
Now that we covered food the next thing I get asked about is clothes.
Hand me downs. Yes, my kids wear hand-me-downs. I have 3 girls and while clothes from the oldest girl rarely make it to the youngest there are some that have.
I get free kids' clothes. Yes, I do get kids' clothes free. I wrote a post explaining how I get free kids' clothes, from where and how you can too.
Mend what you can. I learned basic sewing skills and got a small sewing kit that I keep by my bed. I sew buttons back on, sew up some small tears, etc. I'm not any good at hems but I'm learning!
2 weeks' worth of clothes. We don't keep a ton of clothes we have about 2 weeks' worth of summer clothes and 2 weeks' worth of winter clothes and PJs for each kid. Since we keep up on laundry this isn't an issue and it saves us from buying a ton of clothes.
PJs same as play clothes – We try to keep most PJ and cloth pants and T-shirts. This allows us to use their PJs as play clothes so if they get paint on them it's not a big deal because the only people that will see them are us.
Save Money Around the Home
Now let's save some money around the house.
Skip the paper. Don't use paper products if you don't have to. Use rags instead of paper towels. Skip paper plates for regular plates. Some families have gone as far as to use family cloth instead of toilet paper….. but that's a bit far for us.
Reuse Ziploc Bag. We reuse Ziploc bags as we can. We don't use any that have held raw meat, but any that hold snacks and chips we will wash and reuse again.
Get rid of clutter. Getting rid of clutter has made it easy to find what we need as we need it and this has saved us money by not buying stuff we already have.
Downsize to a small house. We made the mistake at first of trying to get each kid a bedroom when in reality we just need a 3 bedroom house. A bedroom for mom and dad, a boy's room, and a girl's room. We all tend to congregate in one area of the house anyway so we don't need a lot of useless space. So we downsized, to the extreme in some cases, to an RV to live in full time but you can do this in a regular house as well and save money on rent or a mortgage, and all your utilities.
Barter. This can save you a ton of money. We trade childcare with other families. We watch their kids they watch ours. You can barter your time and talents for other things you need as well. You can become a Bartering King or Queen too.
Grow a garden. Anytime you can grow your own food in a garden, raising some chickens, etc you can save money on food. Get a milk cow if you have room and save on milk, make butter cheese, and more.
Get refunded for phone data you don't use. YES! You can get refunded for phone data you don't use each month!
Get these 34 things for free. There are 34 things you SHOULD be getting for free but are paying for, to the tune of $2,400 a year!
Save money on Amazon. I buy a lot of things for around the home on Amazon. Amazon Prime Perks – 30 Hacks to Save With Your Amazon Prime Membership to save money on those.
Save Money on Babies and Kids
Having 4 kids we have learned a few things about saving money on babies everything from diapers to feedings and more!
Breastfeed. Please don't get me wrong, Breastfeeding is not free by any means but it is much cheaper than formula feeding. We have kids that we formula-fed and some we breastfed and we saved a bunch more money breastfeeding. Check out what I wish I knew before I started breastfeeding.
Cloth diapers. Like switching from paper towels, this will save you money. There is a good start-up cost when getting started but the overall cost over the 2 years before your child is potty trained will save you a ton of money. Check out how to get started with cloth diapering and how to save money on cloth diapers.
Skip baby food. As your little one starts eating table food they can eat almost everything you eat so baby food isn't really needed.
Related: How We Find Field Trips for Free
Pay cash. We try to pay cash for everything we can instead of putting it on a credit card or taking out a loan. Plus by paying cash, we tend to get a better deal than taking out a loan.
No debt. We strive to be debt-free. While we do have a car loan we are working to pay it off and be debt-free. We will then make car payments to our savings account to build a car fund for when we are ready to replace our car, which we will drive until the wheels fall off!
Increase Your Budget with Amazon Gift Cards. There are many legit ways to earn free Amazon gift cards. I listed my 45 top ways to earn free Amazon Gift Cards. I also shared the system that allows me to earn $210 each month in Amazon Gift Cards. I use them to order gifts, household items, and like I mentioned before on Amazon Prime Pantry.
Avoid Temptation. To avoid impulse purchases, it's best to avoid temptation. That is why I suggest only grocery shopping monthly. Other ways to avoid temptation are to avoid the mall. Toss junk mail without sorting through it. Cancel all magazine subscriptions even the free ones. Fewer ads in the house mean less temptation you will have. Canceling your cable will help as well!
Keep a High Credit Score. We keep a high credit score to get the best rates on things that do require a credit check, like renting a house or even renting a car.
Saving Money on Entertainment
Take advantage of free weekends. Many local attractions, museums, and others will offer free weekends a few times a year. Take advantage of them!
Memberships. Have a local attraction your family loves like a zoo, museum, or amusement park? Consider getting a membership so you can go anytime you want for free for an entire year.
Kids eat free nights. If you are planning to eat out, look for places where kids free normally you can get 2 free kids meals for every adult entree bought. For us, that means all 4 of our kids eat free. If you have say, 7 kids have one kid order a cheap adult meal and you can 6 free kids meals, see where I'm going with this?
Free city events. Every city will have free city events throughout the year. Some do summer concerts others do festivals. There will always be ways to spend money so either set a budget or don't even bring your debit cards with you.
Parks. Parks are free and perfect for younger kids!
Group discounts. Get together with other large families and take advantage of group discounts at local attractions. Normally you need 10 – 15 people to take advantage of this discount.
Entertainment Book. Use things like Entertainment Book to save money locally or even out of town. Verizon Wireless has also paired with Entertainment Book and offers points on your account each month which can be traded in for discounts like Buy 1 Get 1 Free admission to attractions.
Family Game Night. There is no better way to bond than time together. We try to do once a week family game night. We also watch for deals on games and add to our collection a few times a year.
Family Movies. We will sit down once a week and do a family movie. We tend to do them in the afternoon between lunch and dinner. This way any younger kids that need naps and are too fussy are tricked into nap time 😉
Saving Money on Travel
Stay with Family. Before we started traveling full time we always traveled to areas we had a family. Because of this, we always tried to stay with family vs a hotel. It gave them more time with the kids and it saved us money and even on food as well.
Free Things to do. We always look for free things to do in every city we travel to.
Travel Hacking. I recently read an article on travel hacking. While we haven't tried this yet it does seem like a great way to save money on traveling.
Take a Cruise on a Budget. I love cruises because they are all-inclusive but they get even better when you can cruise on a budget.
Get the Best Airfare Deals. Know when to book your airfare tickets to get the best airfare deals!
A friend of mine wrote an ebook on how to take a family vacation for a week for $250 or less!
In what ways does your large family save money?