Frugal Tips for Large Families – How Large Families Can Save Money
Saving money when you have a large family can be overwhelming. These Frugal Tips for Large Families are simple and easy to follow so that you can start saving right away!
Frugal Tips for Large Families
Today I want to talk to you about frugal living tips for larger families. These tips are great for anyone but as a homeschooling mom of 5, these are what have helped us to thrive on a single income. These tips are hopefully some realistic ways for busy moms to start saving money. I know there are even more frugal ways to go about doing some of these things but for me, if it isn’t realistic with 5 kids then it’s just not going to happen. So, I hope these are simple and easy enough to put into place right away.
Let’s jump in!
I’m going to assume that you have already looked at where you are spending your money and areas you can cut costs from that angle. From my experience, cutting the phone bill by going with a less known provider that uses Verizon towers and getting rid of satellite tv were two huge money savers for us saving over $200 a month. So, be sure to start there if you haven’t. Once you get that groundwork laid there are a lot of smaller tips I can give you.
9 Ways to Be Frugal and Save Money (That Actually Work)
Ways to Save Money on Groceries for a Large Family
Grocery Shop Once a Month
I do most of my grocery shopping in one trip once a month. I do this for several reasons. First, I do it because I hate going to the store. It’s just a waste of my time in my book. Second, I do it because I have to go in with a plan. There is no way I can grocery shop willy-nilly and expect it to last the entire month. This way I am forced to be intentional about my spending.
The first thing I do before going to the store is I sit down and plan my menu for the month. I make my grocery list from my menu and then I add in a few extra convenience meals (I’ve learned if I don’t do this we WILL end up ordering pizza or going through Wendy’s and the extra $8 to feed my family on those ‘bad’ days is so much cheaper than the $40 at Wendy’s).
—New to Meal Planning? Check out Merissa’s Ebook – Meal Planning Made Simple.
Now, I know what you are going to say because I hear it from other people all the time. How do you do milk, bread, and produce? To begin with, I put any meals that need fresh ingredients in the first two weeks strategically. Then the last two weeks we eat frozen vegetables (and fruit if we choose).
As far as milk goes, we use almond milk for most of our recipes. As long as it is unsweetened and unflavored, it stands in great in most recipes (not as well in baking but we have had decent success). If you use regular milk, you could try almond milk for the second half of the month since the shelf life is longer. If that’s not to your fancy, then just make a mid-month stop and keep yourself to an under $20 trip. Make it a game!
—Want to make your milk last? Learn How to Freeze Milk.
I will tell you that this is my most successful frugal tip. If I go to the store only once a month, I have been able to feed my family for the same price as buying for 2 weeks at a time. I am serious. I have tried to cut it down and shop for 2 weeks at a time but somehow it ends up costing me the same as a month’s worth. It’s called “grace math,” I think. God knows we need it and so somehow by His grace it just works! It’s a mystery to me but try it, you may be surprised!
One thing I have done to make this easier is to make up an excel sheet with a week’s worth of meals and a coordinating shopping list for those meals. I printed and laminated each week separately. Then I gathered the recipes required for that week’s meals and hole punched them all into a binder. Now I have 16 weeks of menus and recipes in my binder.
I purposefully made some weeks with easier meals and some with recipes that were more involved so that I could choose my menu based on the week I knew we were having. Now, I am able to choose 4 weeks and all of the work is done for me. Since it’s laminated, I take a vis-à-vis marker and shop my pantry, fridge, and freezer and mark off anything I don’t need on the shopping lists. THIS was a game-changer for me. I can go shopping for even less and this makes it doable month after month with very little thought or stress.
Cut back on snacks and cereals.
Another way we save on groceries is to cut back on the snacks and cereals. Not only are these usually carb and sugar-laden but they are also expensive. One box is gone in my home in a matter of seconds and the real kicker is they end up even hungrier in ten minutes than they were before. I am THAT mean mom but if they want a snack they go for the fresh fruit or veggies or oatmeal (not the packets. Those are a rip-off!). This also means that they actually end up eating the supper that I cooked because they are genuinely hungry by then.
–Like the convenience of Oatmeal packs? Learn how to make Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets for less!
Buy your meat in bulk.
My last grocery tip is to buy your meat in bulk. You can go in on buying a quarter or half of a cow or you can just go to the store and buy it in bulk. Talk to the meat department manager and ask how much you would need to buy to get a discount. If you don’t have the money to pay for a huge portion upfront find a few families that you can share with each month (ask on Facebook if you have to). The price savings for bulk meat shopping was substantial for us.
–Find more tips on Buying Meat in Bulk here.
I like to buy a bunch of ground beef and portion them out into 1 lb sections. Then I place 6 of those 1 lb hunks in a 9×13 pan and bake it in the oven at 350 until the center is no longer red (I have been known to do 4 pans at a time). Once it is done, pull it out of the grease and let it cool on a plate. Letting it cool completely is important. The steam turns into moisture inside and the air and moisture lead to freezer burn. After it is completely cooled, put the hunk into a ziplock bag and smash it up with your hands. It crumbles easily in the bag. Then squeeze all of the air out, lay it flat and seal it.
Now you have precooked ground beef for tacos, chili, Korean beef, spaghetti or whatever else you throw ground beef into and you didn’t spend all day standing at the stove! You can do the same with chicken if you want for shredded chicken and once you’ve done that most of your meals just got a lot simpler too! And when I have simpler meals I don’t mind cooking from scratch or at home near as much making it sustainable for us!
–— Learn How to Cook a Whole Chicken Easily in the crockpot to save time and money.
Ways to Save Money on Toiletries as a Large Family
Now for cleaning and bathroom items. One of the biggest costs in our home is the toiletries. We don’t really think about it because they seem like such a necessity but honestly, it is one place we all waste a lot of money. My family has found ways to make almost everything cost pennies instead of dollars. Here are a few quick tips.
Stretch your storebought soaps and make your own.
Buy a store-bought soap that has a foaming top and once it is gone fill it ¾ of the way with water and add a Tablespoon of Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile soap to the top. If you’d like, you can add some antibacterial essential oil drops as well. Put the pump back on and give it a little shake and you are good to go. The large Dr. Bronner’s lasts my family of 7 probably 6 months and that’s with us all home most of the day homeschooling!
For cleaning, we buy Basic H concentrate soap. This is a similar idea to the handsoap. It is a small amount put into water and you have cleaning supplies for the home for months. It is much more natural than most too!
–Make your own cleaners with these 9 DIY Recipes For Homemade Cleaners That Actually Work.
I started making homemade laundry soap with laundry bar soap, borax, and washing soda when my son started having horrible eczema as a baby and it turns out that it is incredibly frugal!
We also buy our shampoo by the gallon from a soap making supply company online. There are many to choose from but it saves us a lot of money. It is usually fragrance-free too and saves us from the eczema monster as well!
Cut back on Disposable Products
We use cute target dish rags for napkins and paper towels ($20 upfront but it saved me the nightmare of sewing them and it was the best darn birthday present I ever got myself! Ha ha…seriously the life of a wife/mom!)
—Learn how to make DIY Cloth Napkins and Un-Paper Towels.
I use a reusable menstrual cup – don’t knock it until you try it! Not only does it save us tons of money but most of the time I forget I’m even on my period. It’s truly a game-changer! And if you buy a few pairs of the ‘period panties’ or reusable pads then you are totally self-sustained in this area. And saving around $20 dollars per month per lady in your home.
–Sew your own menstrual products with this Homemade Cloth Pads Tutorial and Pattern.
Toilet Paper- I wasn’t going to go here but with the Covid-19 toilet paper shortage…I guess we must! I must be honest that I was very much against the entire ‘family cloth’ idea but after just returning from Kenya where you had to show a receipt to get the toilet paper at the local mall, I have now been forced to see that it is truly a luxury. The frugal and most palatable way to go without toilet paper, I think, is with one of those post-partum squirt bottles and some washcloth type napkins to dry off. That’s as simple and easy as I can see …but this is one area I hope to not have to budget cut if you know what I mean!!
Teach yourself to cut hair.
This one is a bit trickier. It took 12 years to convince my husband to let me cut his hair. I started on my boys when they were babies, and no one cared what they looked like. With time, I am now successfully maintaining my preteen son’s ‘Pompadour.’ With 4 boys in my house, we easily save $60 a month right here. Take a leap and give it a try!
Saving Money on Clothing as a Large Family
Buy Second Hand
And last but not least is clothing. I don’t have any huge epiphanies in this area but I do have one tip that helped me with my mindset. We buy all of our items used on Facebook marketplace or thrift stores.
—Learn How To Shop for Frugal Clothing at Consignment Stores.
I limit my kids to 5 play outfits, 5 leaving outfits, 2 PJ’s and 2 church/dress outfits. Let me define “play outfits” and “leaving outfits”.
A ‘play outfit’ would be clothes they can lounge around in at home or go outside and play in. They are functional but not always pretty. These don’t get folded in my house. They are tossed into a crate in their closet. It saves me so much time and honestly, they’re just going to mess them up the first time they pull something out anyway. These are also marked on the tag with a “P” for play. That way even littles can do their laundry!
A ‘leaving outfit’ is something I would not be embarrassed to be seen in public with them wearing. Ha ha…ok but for real, that’s my standard! No holes or stains if we can help it. The items match (more on this in a bit) and they are not ‘balled up in the corner of the closet’ type wrinkly if you know what I mean?
So here’s my system with this. My oldest son D- gets one dot on the tag and a number. The pants and shirt that match both get the same number. Since he only has 5 ‘leaving outfits’ they are numbered 1-5. Then when it gets passed down to my second son C. I will just add another dot. He knows he has 2 dots and the numbers can stay the same. If the outfit isn’t nice enough for leaving anymore, then we put a “P” on the tag and now they are play clothes. All leaving clothes get clipped together as an outfit on a pants hanger in the closet. Guess what – they always have matching, wrinkle-free clothes when it’s time to leave and their room is not a mess from them tossing clothes EVERYWHERE. No more “Mom, does this match?” questions. It’s all done!
Pj’s don’t get folded either. All of the socks are all white and have the same dot system – Blue for boys, pink for girls. There is no need to fold and tire out the elastic in those socks either. Toss them in a small basket and move on. Dress clothes get hung up just like leaving clothes. Shoes – 1 leaving, 1 play, and 1 church (girls only, boys leaving shoes double as dress).
How is this frugal? It is frugal because you only have what you need. You didn’t spend money on those 5 pairs of colored pants for your daughter that don’t match any of those shirts you bought. Always buy clothes in a pair so you know you have a match. And once you have a simple streamlined closet, you will realize you don’t need as much as you think and didn’t spend money on items you will never get the use out of.
—Want to create a capsule wardrobe for your child? Learn How to Minimalize Children’s Clothing. This works for adults too! Follow these Steps Towards Building a Minimalist Wardrobe for yourself.
These are the things that I have learned raising our 5 little ones and that has helped us so much over the last few years. I hope that these frugal tips for large families will help you save time and money too. I know many have done it better than I have but these are practical and not too overwhelming in my book and I hope they can at least get you started.
What are your best frugal tips for large families?
My name is Kelly Nussbaum. I am a follower of Jesus Christ, married to a wonderful man, and the mother of 5 fun children ranging in ages from 12 years down to 3 years old. I have been a stay at home mom for 12 years and have been homeschooling for the last 8 years.
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I practice most of these! Lol I’m still working on the clothing thing, though. We’re in the process of packing to move and between me, my husband, and our two children, we have over 10 trash bags full of nothing but clothes! My kids are 3 and 10 months old and my husband has more.clothes than all 3 of us combined! 🤣
Fabulous! I’m retired, but always get ideas from this type of article. It reminds me of the Tightwad Gazette.
YES! You got her too?
Thank you. The clothing idea is brilliant! Our 5 have more clothes then we know what to do with because of our families generosity.
I also plan a menu, but we do shop every two weeks for fresh items.
We have also cut out snacks and I am a mean mom too 🙂
My 3 boys are close in age. When they were in their teens, they took the same size socks – almost. Since socks are sized with some leeway, and all 3 boys wanted dark socks, I would buy packages of black socks for the 3 to share. Of necessity, they shared a bedroom with a bunk bed and a trundle, and a large dresser. The socks were tossed without “mating”, into one drawer. No matter which boy reached into the drawer, he simply got 2 socks and was happy; and so was mama!
YES!!! All of this is true for us as well even the trundle HA
Thanks Merissa! I always look forward to your Monday emails with so many helpful tips. To bulk up meat dishes I add any of the following to my ” base ground meat”: crumbled firm tofu, chopped veggies like eggplant, carrots, bell peppers, celery, potatoes/or yams. It makes the dishes healthier with half the meat used.
Barter! Service for service, stuff for stuff.
Teach your older kids about vehicle maintenance, home repair, cleaning, etc. so that you don’t have to hire as much.
I raised 4 sons on a mostly single income. I did work as a child care provider when they were young. This enabled me to stay home with them but the income wasn’t regular. That and the huge appetites my boys had necessitated some tight budgeting. I was fortunate that I got a lot of clothes from 2 sister-in-laws and my mom regularly sent a box. Anything else they needed I bought second hand or at a discount store. I set up a box system on basement shelves that my hubby built and they were labelled by size. I would “shop” in the boxes for clothes before heading to the store. Socks and underwear were bought in bulk of a single colour so no matching needed. I shopped for food in bulk usually once a month with pit stops for fresh stuff once a week and we made do with a lot of casserole type meals, crock pot dinners etc. For snacks the boys ate simple foods like peanut butter on celery sticks or popcorn. I baked a lot of muffins, granola bars, healthy cookies – stuff for their school lunches. Surplus went into the freezer. I also kept an extensive veggie garden and did canning and freezing. I can sew so I made things like their bedroom curtains from sale fabric, quilts from squares cut from old worn out clothes etc. I also would recycle things – ie. an old worn old bath towel would get cut down for a tea towel or wash clothes. I would cut down old sheets to make pillow cases or they would become the backing for a quilt. I never did the menstrual cup thing as they weren’t available back when I needed that sort of thing but I did buy no name brand pads at a discount bulk price. We have nearly always stuck to one car. The kids learned early on to bike or take transit. We also car pooled a lot. Lots of ways to save money if you look. My kids have learned to employ lots of what I did. The recent times have made that necessary.
Although I have already brought up my family, there are so many things that can still be used in my smaller household. Please carry on put these tips up for us as they are really helpful.
I love your frugal clothing tips!! Gonna put some of these to use! Thanks for sharing!! 🙂
We have two bathrooms in our house and in both we have put toilet seats that have a bidet function and a set of specific wash cloths for drying it was a cheap investment and saves so much money.
Hi Kelly, thank you for a wonderful article. I wonder, what is the name of the company where you buy your shampoo and conditioner bulk?
I believe Kelly gets her shampoo and conditioner from a local Amish/Mennonite store in Ohio.
I raised 4 boys mostly on one income and followed a lot of these tips for grocery shopping and planning menus etc. Even with all the planning my grocery bill was more than my mortgage payment at one point but it would have been much worse if I had not taken the frugal steps that I did. My most recent household tip is to use old towels cut up attached to a Swiffer mop instead of buying the Swiffer products. I use the towels wet or dry depending on whether I’m dusting or washing the floor. With clothes I also lucked out with having 2 sister-in-laws who also had boys. For many years I would get a box of clothes from them when their boys outgrew them. My mom also sewed and knitted a lot of things for my kids which helped as well. I do sew and knit but was usually too busy to make my own things for my kids. We also stuck to one car as my hubby worked downtown in the city and could take a city bus to work. That let us save on insurance because we only had to insure it for pleasure use.
I read all of your post and always do., I like what you share about what you eat each week and inside and outside things happening on the home stead. I looked at your store too do you sale dried herbs or anything similar to that? I liked your idea of going thru your cabinets and freezer and taking inventory of what you have and marking it down, I think all start doing that. We lived by an Amish store one time the amazing spices and cooking essentials. Wow it was amazing. I found out I was pre diabetic that sure has changed my eating, looking at carbs, protein and calories and cutting out almost all sugar. I have borderline low potassium and received a sheet from my nurse foods high in potassium. I got book one hold at the library to read about what can I eat. All share when I am done if there’s anything interesting.
Right now we only sell food through our local coop but I do hope to have some seasoning blends and teas up on my homestead site sometime in the near future.
Some great tips here. You mentioned buying clothes second hand, but another option is to check with your church and other churches in your community when they have clothing closets and clothing giveaway days. My husband and I volunteered a number of times when we had it at our church to sort out and set up for the giveaways. It was a major undertaking with dozens of volunteers. We had people bringing in truckloads of clothes. We had the sanctuary full of clothes as well as the fellowship hall, with clothes sorted by men’s, women’s, children’s, coats, shoes, etc. some of the clothes were like new, and we were praying that the thousands of items would go, so we would have room to hold services the next morning. So please take advantage of these events, whether you are meeting the needs of your family or contributing clothing you no longer need.
We have a garden with fruits and vegetables we grow, we eat fresh, plus can and freeze both. We also share with family and friends. During the harvest season, a number of members at our church, who are hobby farmers, that intentionally grow more than they need, bring in surplus from their gardens to share, seeing tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, squash, etc. on a table for others to take home and use rather than go to waste.
Home haircuts are definitely a great money saver, and I agree that it is best to start doing them when the children are young. It gets them used to the process and you get a lot of experience over the years as they grow. My two teen boys, the older one is now going to community college, both still have my husband do their haircuts every month, as they like his work. I have him trim my hair every couple months and I help him with the back doing his haircuts. I get compliments on my hair, and a couple friends of mine, plus my mom regularly have him cut their hair.
We have a lot of deer on our property, and my husband usually shoots a couple each year. The two his took this year were a good size, so he put over 150# of venison, steaks, stewing and ground meat in the freezer. We love it, and we enjoy it in stews, chili, tacos, jerky and other dishes. Some may argue that hunting is not frugal, but he is not driving a hundred miles and staying in a motel to hunt, he is going a couple hundred yards from the house to hunt on the farm. He enjoys it as a hobby and there is a return, versus spending thousands on golf equipment and green fees, I would say that our garden is a hobby as well. We get fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs that tastes better than the grocery store.
We also bought a wood burning stove that sits on the hearth of our fireplace. They installed a stainless steel sleeve up the chimney and the stove provides a lot of heat. The wood is cut and split here on the farm, so there is labor involved, but we are not buying truckloads of wood. So we are not keeping the thermostat set at 60 degrees. Loading up the firebox in the evening keeps the house toasty warm, even through to the morning when we add more wood.
No cable or satellite subscription services, an antenna that provides 26 channels over the air free, plus cable internet only.
We also use a clothesline to dry our clothes, the clothes smell so fresh and clean and I believe that they last longer versus using the dryer. We do use the dryer at times, but less than a third of the time.