Here's how she saves!

My Top 3 Ways to Lower a Food Bill

contributed by Olivia W.

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Like most people, recent times have made me take a long, hard look at my food bill. After all, it's the one expense I have complete control over month after month. I started with just looking at my receipts and figuring out what was costing me the most and questioning it. From that experience, comes my top three ways to lower the grocery bill.

  1. Straight away I noticed that I was buying two rolls of paper towels a week. That's eight a month! What kind of mess was I making that I went through eight rolls a month to the tune of about $10 a month or $120 a year?

    So I decided to give up paper towels. Just kidding. I could hear the gasps out there. How could I possibly give up paper towels? Well, the truth is I didn't, but I did drastically reduce their use. I bought 20 or so washcloths at a discount store and put them in a basket directly under the paper towel dispenser (this is key to getting them used). Then I simply told my family that when they really needed to use a paper towel for a bug or a truly awful mess to go ahead but for anything else to please use a wash cloth.

    I also set up a basket with a lid in the kitchen for the used wash clothes to go into. I simply toss them in with the other towels when I do laundry, so it didn't even increase my amount of laundry loads.

    Now I would say we use maybe one roll of paper towels a month. That's a huge savings of 84 less rolls of paper towels a year that I don't have to buy. And it added up to about $105 of real savings just this year.
  2. So then I looked at my hygiene products. No, I did not give up or reduce my toilet paper! But I did look into alternatives for soap, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, tooth paste, mouth wash, etc. And here is what I found, most things can be made at home very cheaply and the information is at your fingertips on a variety of sites including this one.

    Every time you put something in your shopping chart, you should ask yourself, "Can I eat this?" If you can't, then ask yourself, "Is there a way to make this?"

    Then experiment. Not everything is going to work for everybody. You have to be willing to try different things to find what works for you, but once you do, you'll be raking in the savings.

    What was my biggest, simplest change? I use plain baking soda on a (make-up) powder puff as my deodorant. I don't even have to do anything special to it, although I do like to put it in a pretty container. I apply a dusting of it after I dry off from my shower but am still damp. It works like a charm. It takes keeps away any smell and I have to think it is much healthier alternative to the chemicals found in commercial deodorants.
  3. Take the TDS Pantry Challenge.
    Clean out that pantry, fridge and freezer and see how much extra cash you can free up this month!

  4. I also save on cleaning products now. You knew I was going to go there, didn't you? With cleaning products, there are many ways to throw your money down the drain, literally.

    Now I know you've heard of using a half solution of vinegar and water to clean with, but have you thought about all those refill products you buy for your different cleaning gadgets?

    The internet is a vast realm of videos showing how to open those refill containers and refill them with the cleaner of your choice. In my automatic shower sprayer, I use hydrogen peroxide. I feel good knowing there are no chemicals being sprayed all over the surfaces I use to clean up, and there's no mold anymore either!

    Inside my Swiffer® WetJet® is my trusted 50/50 vinegar and water blend. I learned how to open that cleaning solution bottle on YouTube and haven't looked back since. And instead of the disposable pads, I jerry-rigged on a microfiber cloth I got from a dollar store.

So, you get the idea. Go look at your receipts to see what you are spending money regularly on that's not food. Ask yourself how much you could save if you found a way to reduce your use of it or if you eliminated it completely.

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Think about things you don't eat like cleaning, hygiene, and paper products. Even over-the-counter medication can sometimes be replaced with alternatives that work just as well.

In my family, we use a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar when we get heart burn and rub on oregano oil where there is muscle or joint pain. When you consider how expensive over-the-counter medications can be, you start to realize the savings that can be had when you find something that works.

In part two, I'll discuss my adventures in learning how to coupon and the top three ways I learned to save without using coupons. Here's a little hint... it won't be what you think.

"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 to

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