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How To Feed Your Family When You Are Absolutely Broke

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Photo Credit: Ian D. Keating via Compfight cc

When you experience a sudden financial emergency such as a job loss or sudden unavoidable expense such as taking care of a flooded basement, it can leave you struggling to get by. You may feel like you are going to starve until you get back on your feet, but if you are resourceful, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you get by.

First of all, check your pantry. It may sound obvious that if you had food, you would be feeding yourself, but seriously, pull every food item you have out of the cupboard, look in your freezer and fridge. Make a list of everything you possibly have that is edible. Chances are, you can probably get at least a few meals out of the items you already have in the cupboard if you plan well. For example, even when I feel like I have “nothing to eat” in my house, I can scan the cupboards & fridge and find a handful of things to make a few meals. We usually have bread, tortillas, pasta noodles, eggs, potatoes, perhaps a can of chicken noodle soup for an unexpected sick day, sliced cheese, butter, frozen vegetables, ramen noodles, rice and usually a package or two of chicken or pork chops in the freezer that we had forgotten was there. From these items alone, I can think of these meals:

  • grilled cheese
  • scrambled eggs (for breakfast)
  • quesadillas (with cheese only or you could cook up the meat from the freezer and toss some in, or add scrambled eggs for a breakfast quesadilla)
  • egg sandwich (either just egg and bread, or add cheese for variety)
  • chicken noodle soup from the can
  • baked chicken with baked potatoes or homemade fries (if we have bbq sauce or Italian dressing, pour a little on the chicken before baking for flavor. Homemade fries – chop potatoes into strips, drizzle in oil, salt & pepper, and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until done)
  • baked pork chops with rice or baked potatoes (again, if we have sauces in the fridge, add some for flavor & variety)
  • Spaghetti in a butter sauce with veggies on the side (I may have to add a few spices from the cupboard to make this more flavorful, but sprinkling in a little garlic seasoning and italian seasoning can make this more tasty. Also, if I have a jarred spaghetti sauce, I could use that instead)
  • Chicken fried rice (cook up the rice and the chicken, saute them in butter, add frozen veggies, some garlic seasoning, and soy sauce. You could even scramble some eggs up and add them in. Also, this recipe is good as a vegetarian meal, without the chicken or eggs)
  • Asian noodles (cook up the ramen noodles according to package, but don’t add the seasoning packet. Drain the noodles. Cook similar to chicken fried rice above)

So there you go, that is about a week’s worth of lunches and dinners if you can stretch these items into a handful of meals (you may need to repeat a few meals or eat leftovers at another mealtime). Now obviously, you don’t have the same things in your cupboards that I do, but odds are, you can scrounge around and create at least a few meals out of what you have in your cupboard. Also, if you have nearly everything for a specific recipe but a certain item, decide whether to make a quick trip to the store or only deal with the items you have. It is your budget, your pantry, and your family you are feeding, so you are best able to decide how to work with the items in your house.

After you have determined what meals you can already make, determine if you are able to make a trip to the grocery store. Do you have enough money or is your bank account already negative? If you are able to make a trip, try to be as frugal as possible. Consider shopping at a “bargain” store such as Aldi or Costco. I had thought that I was shopping cheaply by going to Walmart, but after I switched to Aldi, I realized that I was wrong. Search for items on sale, or items that are already cheap. Some items that are usually cheap are Ramen noodles, rice, beans, canned soups, and canned veggies.

If you are absolutely unable to make a trip to the store, consider ways you can make a few dollars quickly. There are ideas all over the internet, but here are a few off the top of my head:

  • Sell something – Nearly everyone has a few things that they don’t need right now that they could sell. Have your kids grown out of some of their clothes? Sell a small bundle of their old clothes. Do you have too many pairs of shoes? Sell a few. Did you buy a treadmill and never use it? Sell that darn thing! Your family needs to eat. Would you rather have an exercise machine you never use and 30 pairs of shoes, or cash in hand and 25 pairs of shoes? I promise you, your family needs food more than you needed those items. You could sell on craigslist, garage sale, or a facebook swap page, or even get ahold of some friends to see if they want to buy any of the items you have decided to sell.
  • Pick up a part-time job – This may not be feasible for everyone due to childcare costs, but if you are able to, get a job delivering pizzas or stocking shelves at the grocery store. Also, think of things you could do from your home, if childcare would be an issue with a part-time job. Babysit a friend’s kids for a few evenings, knit a scarf and sell it, etc. Think of things you can do to earn some money, even if all you do is babysit for one evening and earn $20,that is more money than you had before and, when used wisely, can feed your family for that much longer.
  • Reach Out – If your family is truly struggling, don’t be afraid to talk about it. Your friends may have no idea that you are unable to make ends meet, but I’m sure that someone you know would be more than willing to lend/give you even as little as $20 to help you out in a tough time. Your friends love you, and are there for the good times and the bad. Obviously, this can’t be a consistent means to feed your family, but it can help in a tough time. You may even find that your friends will either invite you over for dinner if you are struggling or make a freezer meal to give you. If you are involved in a church, talk to your pastor. Many churches have programs in place to temporarily help struggling families to get back on their feet.

Okay, so you have now scrounged around some money and have perhaps $20 or more in hand? Good. I’m not saying the $20 will perform miracles, but consider spending it on items that can stretch over multiple meals. Some ideas are bread, eggs, rice, pasta and beans. But you know what your family will eat, so search for cheaper items that you know your family will eat and that can stretch over more than one meal. Consider going to your local food pantry. If you don’t know why food pantries are there, they are for times such as this, when normal people have found themselves unable to get by and need a little help. Don’t be nervous about going there, all of us have struggled at one time or another and the food pantry is there to help. There is nothing to be ashamed of when making sure your family is taken care of. Also, shop at discount stores. They really are cheaper. I was spending nearly $5 on shredded cheese, but spent half that for the same amount at our local Aldi store.

Lastly, if you are not currently completely broke, but have been reading this blog for the helpful tips, consider planning ahead. You never know when you may run into a tough time, so follow these tips and you will be better prepared if you ran into tough times:

  • Put money away – If you are not currently in the throes of a crisis, make a point of putting money away for emergencies. A goal to aim for would be having 3-6 months worth of expenses in a savings account. But, every little bit helps, so even if you can only put away $5 a week, start doing it now, and you will be that much more prepared if something happens.
  • Stock up on sale items – Is there a sale on chicken? Buy more than you were planning on and freeze the rest for another day. Is there another item you frequently buy on sale? Buy extra and freeze or store it for another day. If an emergency happens before “another day”, then you already have a few things to help get you by.
  • Make freezer meals – This is on the same lines as buying extra and freezing. Are you making a family favorite for dinner tonight? Buy enough to make double, but put the second batch into the freezer. You will then have a meal for another day, or be prepared if an emergency happened because you would have that meal(s) in the freezer.
  • Begin frugal habits – If you are already shopping frugally, it will be easier to put money into savings, as well as continue to shop frugally during an emergency. Some ideas are to buy a whole chicken, rather than breasts. It is cheaper per pound, and when you are done, you can make broth from the bones that you can use for various recipes and soups. Always shop sale items. One thing that our family started doing recently was to participate in Bountiful Baskets. You spend $15 plus $5.50 in handling fees and you receive two laundry baskets full of produce. I started doing this in an effort to help our family eat healthy without breaking our budget.
  • Don’t let your groceries go bad – We have all done it, you buy meat or produce at the store, and before you know it, you are throwing it away because it went bad before you had a chance to use it. Try not to let this happen. If you planned on making a roast for dinner, but you just haven’t gotten to it yet, put it in the freezer before it goes bad. Then you can thaw it on the specific day that you want to use it. If you struggle to realize exactly when your items will go bad, put all your meats into the freezer when you get home and thaw them on the morning that you plan to cook them. Also, if your produce is about to go bad, chop it up and freeze it. Frozen veggies are good for soups, stews or casseroles, and frozen fruits are good for smoothies or desserts. Also, consider putting your meats and veggies together into a freezer meal as discussed above. You can usually find recipes online that fit the specific items you have on hand. If my Bountiful Basket produce is looking less than fresh, I try to find a way to get it used or into the freezer before it goes bad.

There you have it. Just a few ideas of how to stretch that grocery budget when it seems impossible. What about you, have you tried any of these tips? Do you have other tips? What works for you in this situation? I’d love to here from you! Feel free to comment below.

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How I Got Soft Hands Again

A few weeks ago, I entered a giveaway over at Bargains with Barb and guess what!? I won! I know, right? Who ever wins these things? Well this time it was me. The prize was a bar of ‘Tingle’ soap from Creamed Gourmet Body Treats. So, it arrived in the mail last Friday. I tried it out and thought I’d give you guys a review (This is not a sponsored review, I receive no money if you decide to purchase this product, just the joy of referring you to a good product)

Now, let me share something with you guys. It is the middle of winter in Iowa and my hands are DRY, I mean duh-rye! I don’t know if it is the hand soap at my office or just the winter conditions getting to me, but my hands are so dry they are cracking in a few places. So when I got the chance to enter to win a new (to me) soap named Creamy, I was like “heck yes!” I figure if it’s named creamy, it must make your skin soft, right?

Now here’s another share for you: I have sensitive skin. It’s not so sensitive that I have to buy special soaps or wash my clothes with special detergents or anything. Not everything messes with my skin, there have been a few random occasions where things have made me break out in splotches all over my body.

I was still eager to try the soap out, I just knew it could be good or bad for me, so I approached it with a cautious, but open mind.

Tingle Soap from Creamy

Tingle Soap from Creamy

So here is what I received. A cute packaged soap in adorable pink packaging. Immediately after opening the smell of peppermint filled my nose. It smelled great! Of course I had to try it out, so the next time I used the restroom, I washed my hands with it. Even when it lathered it was creamy, not super bubbly like most soaps. So far, living up to the creamy name. Immediately after I dried my hands, I could feel how much softer they were. I was amazed a soap could do that!

Tingle Soap from Creamy

Tingle Soap from Creamy

Now that it’s been a few days, my hands are showing improvement, but still slightly dry. Hey, you can’t expect the soap to work miracles on these horrible hands of mine. But I can definitely feel a difference. They are softer than they have been lately. I am excited to keep using the soap and see how much the soap continues to soften my hands.

Also, Creamy is an organic soap, so there are only natural ingredients, unlike the randomly named things on the ingredient list of most soaps at the grocery store. The ingredient list on my Creamy soap includes things like coconut oil, shea butter and peppermint essential oil (hence the peppermint smell, Yum!!), among other things. I can understand what all of these ingredients are! They aren’t some crazy unpronouncable thing fabricated from some factory in the middle of who-knows-where. It is handmade soap with REAL ingredients.

Overall, I am loving it! Great product! If you want to learn more about Cream, visit their etsy page here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/CreamedSoaps?ref=l2-shopheader-name or contact them at get_creamed@yahoo.com or on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CreamedBodyTreats?ref=br_tf

What about you? Do you have dry hands? How do you combat dry, cracked hands in the winter? Have you tried homemade soaps? What results did you experience?

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