Thanks to the pandemic, bottlenecks in supply chains, and the current war in Ukraine, inflation is soaring. Last month, our family surpassed our budget. Luckily, we had extra income to cover the overages, but I don’t plan to have another month like that. I can’t afford to. Instead, I’ve made a conscious effort to change my habits to stay within budget even when higher prices are making that difficult to do.
My Strategies to Fight Inflation
Our family is utilizing several strategies to fight higher prices:
Cancel Extraneous Services
One of the first things I did was to cancel extraneous services. We have teenagers in the house, so we had a lot of streaming services—Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, Paramount Plus, Discovery Plus, and Amazon. We canceled the first three, saving us about $300 a year.
Reducing Gas Consumption
The next thing we did was look at our driving habits to reduce the expense of gas.
My husband has worked from home through much of the pandemic, so he’s only going to work two times per week. Some weeks, he works the entire week from home.
I have also minimized my driving by combining errands. For instance, my daughter had a doctor’s appointment some distance from our home. When we were in the area, we stopped by the two grocery stores nearby and did our weekly shopping, so we didn’t have to go out again later.
Buying Gas at the Cheapest Prices We Can Find
When my husband fills up, he uses our loyalty card from the local grocery store, saving him 10 to 20 cents off per gallon.
When I get gas, I go to our local Costco, which has prices typically 30 cents or less per gallon than other grocery stores in the area. Also, since my vehicle has a large gas tank and is expensive to fill up, I try to fill it up when it still has half a tank. Then I’m never paying for one large fill-up at once.
Reducing the Price of Food
Buying groceries is one of our costliest expenses. I used to love to make cheap food like homemade bread, but for the last decade, we’ve been gluten and dairy-free because of food intolerances. That type of diet can be more expensive, so we’ve had to change some of our habits and get rid of some of the kids’ favorites (processed) foods.
Eliminating Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Replacements
My kids love dairy-free yogurt, but it’s pricey. I only buy it now when it’s on sale or clearance. Likewise, we’ve tried to cut back on buying gluten-free bread. Instead, I’m trying to find naturally gluten-free and dairy-free recipes like stir-fries that don’t require specialty ingredients that cost more.
Finding Frugal Recipes
I’ve also made a concerted effort to look for frugal recipes. One of my favorite sites for this is Budget Bytes. Not only are the recipes tasty, but I can adapt them to our dietary restrictions.
I’ve also tried to find recipes using cabbage, beans, tofu, and potatoes because those haven’t increased in price. Using these ingredients has led me to many international recipes, which make our meals more interesting. Indian food has become a favorite of my family. Hari Ghotra has many frugal Indian recipes.
Use Less Meat
Rather than having meat, a carb, and veggies for a meal, we’re choosing recipes that use less meat. We often make soup that only uses half a pound of chicken or beef. This reduces our grocery bill and makes feeding our family of five more economical.
Altering How I Grocery Shop
Besides eliminating gluten-free and dairy-free replacement foods and finding frugal recipes, I’ve also altered how I grocery shop.
Buy Clearance Items
I’m regularly searching the food for clearance items. Recently, I found gluten-free, dairy-free bread crumbs on clearance for $1 a bag. I snatched those up and used them to make fish patties and breaded chicken.
I’ve also found grass fed beef on clearance for $2.99 a pound. I bought as much as my budget would allow and used it to make about 10 freezer meals. I’ll use those meals sometime this summer during weeks when I don’t find many cheap groceries, which will help me keep my grocery costs low.
I’m not much of a couponer, mainly because we don’t buy many processed foods. However, I’ve made an effort to search the digital coupons from our local Kroger affiliate. Recently, I purchased $163 of groceries and household supplies like toilet paper and cat litter. However, because I had clipped digital coupons, my total decreased to $134, saving $29.
Not Buying a Car Now
I’ve saved the most important way we’re fighting inflation for last. My husband and I prefer to buy new cars and keep them until they die. He currently drives a 2013 Subaru Outback that has 100,000 miles on it. (We did buy this vehicle used.) I drive a 2004 Toyota Sienna with 230,000 miles on it. We were hoping to replace the Sienna this year so we could have a reliable vehicle for long road trips to visit relatives 2,000 miles away.
However, we’ve decided to put off buying a new vehicle indefinitely. We can’t justify paying such high prices. Instead, we’re putting aside $700 a month in our new car fund. When prices drop, we’ll have a large down payment set aside to purchase the vehicle. We don’t know when we’ll buy a vehicle, though.
Inflation is crushing many Americans’ budgets. If you continue to financially live your life as you used to live it pre-pandemic, you may go into debt. To stay in the black, you’ll likely need to revamp your budget, your habits, your purchases, and your plans. That’s what we’ve had to do. I’m confident this plan can keep us on solid financial footing, even during these difficult days.
What are you doing to fight the high cost of inflation?
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Melissa is a writer and virtual assistant. She earned her Master’s from Southern Illinois University, and her Bachelor’s in English from the University of Michigan. When she’s not working, you can find her homeschooling her kids, reading a good book, or cooking. She resides in Arizona where she dislikes the summer heat but loves the natural beauty of the area.