My Story: Single Mom's Tips for a Frugal Life

contributed by NYC Lady

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Being a single parent, I am able to feed my 18-year-old son, my 6-year-old son, and myself for under $200 per month. It's remarkably easy and we all eat healthy.

There are three different supermarket chains and hundreds of other stores competing in NYC. I go online to see which items are loss leaders in an attempt to pick up the lowest cost groceries. We avoid junk food, soda, coffee etc. We have learned to really love rice and pasta dishes as well. I prefer fresh veggies and fruits, but I buy fresh, frozen and canned fruits and veggies depending on which are loss leaders.

All of our breakfasts are made from scratch, such as muffins and pancakes. I have even learned to make my own pancake syrup using maple extract. We no longer buy bread. I don't have the patience to wait for bread to rise. So, we eat corn bread and banana bread, which do not require yeast.

Juice is too high in concentrated sugars. So we eat real fruit instead. I make my own desserts such as chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, banana cake, chocolate cake, and peanut butter cookies.

For protein, we eat eggs, chickpea, peanut butter, and peas. We still eat some meat, but I buy chicken that is on sale and other meat as long as it costs less than 3.00 per pound. I don't use dry milk since the cost is almost the same as regular milk. We treat ourselves to homemade cocoa almost everyday with fresh low fat milk.

I also mystery shop. By doing this, I get a lot of take home food or food that I can't finish at restaurants. I stretch those leftovers with rice, pasta, and veggies for more than one meal at home. By reducing my food bill (now that I am separated and receiving good child support), I only have to work freelance 60 hours a month. I am able to keep my dream house by reducing my food bill so drastically.

I have also reduced my electric bill by washing dishes by hand and keeping the gas heat set at 60 degrees during the night and when no one is home. 80% of my income goes towards my mortgage, but there are so many free things to do in NYC. The school district is one of the best.

I also cut my own hair, take good care of my clothes so I will not need to replace them, and have reduced all my bills by shopping around for better rates. I exercise to tapes at home and walk.

Life is great and simple. On the outside, it might seem that I have a solidly middle-class income. I live in a comfortable area and I do feel rich when I see dozens of muffins and cookies cooling on my counter. I can join the rat race someday, but I doubt I will. I do have a college degree. But I would rather have time to read, study, and practice frugality.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money please send it by

Additional Resources

Child-Care Subsidy Hotline   (800) 424-2246
There is help for high daycare costs! The National Association of Child Care Resources is a federally-funded agency that will provide helpful information about assistance in your area. They will help you find all the options for child care payment assistance programs.

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