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Ways to Save Money as a Stay At Home Mom: 57 Ideas
Getting to stay home to raise your babies and take care of the home and homestead can be extremely challenging and rewarding simultaneously. It can represent some financial challenges too as you and your family live on one income. But it can also represent a great opportunity to learn how to live frugally, take tasks like cooking and budgeting into your own hands, and learn just how rewarding a simpler life can be.
I grew up in a single-income home where my mom stayed at home to raise and home school the 7 of us kids. Now I’m a stay at home mom with a toddler myself. I’m no stranger to living frugally, so I wanted to compile a list of different ways that I’ve saved money for our family to hopefully give you some ideas and encouragement in this space.
57 Random Ways to Save Money as a Stay-At-Home-Mom (in no particular order)
Make a Multi-Surface Cleaner with Orange Peels
This simple 2-ingredient cleaner will turn your scrap orange or lemon peels into a versatile household cleaner- without any of the nasty chemicals or additives found in the store-bought cleaners. It costs less than $1 to a 32oz batch of concentrated cleaner- or 64oz of ready-to-use multi-surface spray.
Brew Your Own kombucha
Kombucha is a delicious drink and great source of gut-healthy bacteria. Unfortunately, at more than $3 for a 16oz bottle, a kombucha habit can also turn expensive. Brewing your own kombucha is extremely simple- and a great way to save money, while giving you total control over the ingredients and quality of the kombucha you drink.
Make Your Own ACV
Like kombucha, real, raw apple cider vinegar is a huge boost to your gut health and a delicious kitchen staple. Buying raw apple cider vinegar at the store can be several dollars per quart. Making it yourself just takes time, apple scraps, a bit of sugar, and water- pennies a quart- plus you’ll know exactly what’s in it.
Cook From Scratch
Cooking from scratch is shorthand for a whole bunch of money-saving kitchen habits. From meal planning to meal prepping to buying in bulk, cooking from scratch is an unbeatable way to save money. The more meals and ingredients that you know how to make yourself, the less that you’ll be forced to “just” run to the store for. And the healthier you and your family will be eating. Cooking from scratch can be an intimidating habit to get into, but I’d urge you to start slow and take a shot at it. Look for an entire post all about getting started with cooking from scratch in the future.
Bake Your Own Bread
When I was growing up, my younger sister was a baking phenom. (She certainly still is) So baking bread was never something I felt like I needed to master. Since growing up and getting married, I’ve started to finally tackle baking my own bread from scratch consistently. After a few months of a weekly batch of bread, I can see significant improvements- and significant cost savings. We don’t eat very much bread, but to go from paying $4 a loaf, to only pennies a loaf, is still a significant savings over time. I have a basic yeast bread post here to give you an easy place to start baking your own bread too.
Pancakes From Scratch
I used to keep a bulk bag of krusteaz pancake mix in the pantry at all times. If my husband slept in on a Sunday morning, I’d whip together a batch of batter, using eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and milk instead the plain water the bag calls for. It finally occurred to me that I wasn’t saving myself any time by buying the pancake batter. I haven’t settled on a perfect recipe yet, but even so, I’m having fun (and saving money!) with this little experiment.
Biscuits From Scratch
I’ll admit that I haven’t -quite- perfected this one yet. But given the mystery ingredients, and less than great taste, of store-bought biscuit dough, I’m dead-set on getting it down. Basic biscuits only require flour, salt, baking powder, a fat, and a liquid; which means that a batch of homemade biscuits will only cost you a few cents. I can’t wait until I have this recipe down.
EDIT: I have finally worked out a great biscuit that uses whole wheat flour! You can find my whole wheat biscuit recipe here!
In the same vein as cooking from scratch, buying ingredients is a great way to save money. The bag of flour you buy can be transformed into bread, cake, cookies, muffins, biscuits, noodles, roux, frying batter, crumble topping, etc. The bag of dried beans can become refried beans, chili, bean dip, a salad topping, etc. Shopping for ingredients will both save you money and give you more freedom over what you can cook.
Don’t Snack (much)
This one may sting a little, but snacking less (or not at all!) will definitely save you money. Snacks are expensive, eat more at your meals and skip them altogether. Or reserve your snacking for special occasions and road trips.
If you can’t break the snack habit, don’t want to, or also have small kids- go the homemade route. Cooking snacks from scratch is just as big of a budget boon as cooking your meals from scratch. Hard boiled eggs, pickled eggs (recipe), pickles, sourdough discard crackers, homemade granola, milk, cheese, quick bread, cookies (recipe)… options abound.
Stop Drinking Soda
See “brew your own kombucha”- it’s better for you, cheaper, and you control the flavor. Home brewing water kefir, drinking cold herbal tea, drinking milk or cold coffee or water… Kicking a soda habit is a great way to save a few bucks off your grocery bill every week; and it’s a boost to your health.
Buy in Bulk (beans, rice, flour, sugar, etc…)
Buying in bulk isn’t complicated. In most cases a bigger package of an ingredient is cheaper by unit than a smaller package. I buy flour in 50 lb bags from a local restaurant store. Buying beans in 10 or 20 lb bags brings the unit price down to about 50 cents per pound. (Versus $1.27 for a 1lb bag of beans) CostCo, Sam’s Club, Food Max, WinCo, Walmart, Azure Standard… options for bulk shopping abound. You’ll be buying groceries less often and saving money doing it- win win!
Buy Meat in Bulk and Freeze
If you can buy half a beef or a whole pig from someone, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of from-scratch cooking for several months. It’s a great way to support your local farmers too. But if freezer space is a concern, or locally grown is out of the budget, you can often find deals on meat in bulk other ways. For example, WinCo often sells 10lb packages of ground beef for $17. That’s $1.70/lb, and is sitting on the shelf right next to 1lb packages of ground beef for $3-5/lb. You can bring home the larger package and freeze it in one pound increments for the convenience of the smaller package at the lower price of the larger.
Grow Your Own Meat
If you have the space and inclination, growing your own meat can save you money, yield a higher quality product, and connect you to food and the land deeply. We raise all of our own meat here (except for any deer we shoot and the occasional tri-tip roast bought on sale). 2 or 3 pigs each fall give us the bulk of our meat, and cost about $2.30/lb to raise in the end. Our homegrown chickens and turkeys aren’t a savings over the grocery store birds, but the quality of them makes up for it in my mind. If you have a little space, homegrown rabbits, quail, or even a few chickens are a good place to start. (Read about how much it cost us to raise our pigs in 2022 here)
Render Tallow (or lard)
Whether you raise your own pigs and beef or not, rendering your own tallow and lard can be a significant cost savings over buying it. Extra trimmings can often be had from butcher shops or grocery stores for pennies a pound. After rendering it (a simple process you can do on the stove or in a crockpot) you’ll have shelf-stable cooking fat that can be used for frying, baking, sauteing, etc. Plus this rendered tallow can easily be made into your own lotion- a great way to save money, improve your skin, and ditch some of the gross store-bought products.
(You can find my step by step tutorial for rendering animal fats here)
Cooking from scratch and buying in bulk naturally begets cooking in bulk. I grew up in a family of 9, but have kept the “cooking big” habit up to today. Having leftovers means that my husband’s work lunches are ready to go the night before- no need for a gas station sandwich. With enough leftovers from various dinners, I’ll usually end up cooking just 5 nights a week, and eating leftovers the other nights. You con’t have to eat the leftovers exactly as they are either, you can add extra veggies, a new side, top with an egg, etc.
Wash Laundry Less Often
Even if you have a well, washing laundry less often can be a way to save a little bit of money on utilities. A standard washing machine uses about 20 gallons of water to wash a load of laundry. Plus electricity to run the machine. Plus energy for the hot water heater. Plus all of the detergent you use. I wash my laundry weekly, my husband’s laundry weekly, and baby’s clothes get washed with her diapers (twice a week). No sorting out jeans/colors/whites/towels- just a bulk load of everything we’ve worn in the week. The key to washing less laundry is to wear, some, of your clothes more than once.
Shower/Wash Your Hair Less Often
Some of this is, admittedly, due to having a super-velcro toddler. But over time I’ve noticed that washing my hair less often is also resulting in less-greasy hair and using a lot less shampoo and conditioner. Dry shampoo can help while your hair’s adapting to the new routine.
Use Less Personal Care Products
In the same vein as the last idea, using less products is going to save a lot of money over time. Reducing the amount of makeup, lotions, serums, oils, etc. that you use day to day can take some adaptation, but you may come to find over time that you don’t miss it. That home rendered tallow can really be a benefit here.
I have a whole post (in the works) about how I introduced solid foods with my daughter last year. I didn’t follow any specific “baby-led weaning” program (and in fact she’s not weaned) but I basically fed her little bits of whatever foods we were eating, starting at around 6 months. This meant skipping the expensive purees, pouches, and puffs; going straight to the things she’ll continue to eat as she grows. Starting with little tastes will help your baby learn how to handle various textures and tastes and prevent choking or gagging, as they grow you can give them bigger bites and let them feed themselves, confident that they know what to do.
This is less about where in your room baby sleeps, and more about baby sharing your bedroom. We didn’t spend a dime on a nursery for our daughter because, frankly, she didn’t need it. All she wanted after birth (and throughout this first year + of her life) was to be close to me and to nurse. We didn’t need a new paint job, special changing table, or IKEA crib to meet her needs. Buying a used crib and setting it up side-car style (or skipping the crib entirely) is going to go a lot further than a Pinterest-worthy nursery.
I’m not going to wade into the “breast is best/fed is best” controversy. From a purely financial standpoint, breast-feeding is cheaper. And extended breast-feeding means your little baby is getting more of those breast milk-derived nutrients for longer, meaning less need for the purees, puffs, “baby foods”, and store bought milk than otherwise. (Another piece of this is your breast pump. I don’t have one & haven’t needed one. But if you do need one, most insurance policies will cover it)
Use Cloth Diapers
This is probably my number 1 “hack” for raising a baby on a budget. I made about 2 dozen cloth diaper covers and 3 dozen cloth diaper inserts while pregnant with Baby. She used a pack of newborn diapers during the meconium stage, and about 3 small packs of disposable diapers during trips to visit family over the past 17 months. Otherwise, it’s all been cloth diapers from the stash that cost me about $250 to make. I’d suggest sewing your own, asking for them at a baby shower, shopping used (I’ve found covers at goodwill for 99 cents!), or ordering from Amazon. (Like these) The best part of cloth diapers is that the longer you use them the better of a deal they end up being. My stash will last for at least a few more babies- if we’re blessed enough to add to the family. (Washing them is super simple too, you can read about my cloth diaper routine here)
Shop at Goodwill/Consignment for Baby Clothes
I couldn’t decide if this or using cloth diapers is a bigger money-saving hack for babies. It could be a tie. Babies grow so quickly that buying all new clothes in every size just doesn’t make much sense. I was given a handful of new outfits for Baby, and bought the occasional new onesie or new socks, but the vast majority of her clothes were and are second hand. You’d be amazed at how many baby clothes get donated or consigned with the tags still on them. (My Mom brought dozens of baby clothes when she came to visit, all of which she’d picked up for a dime a piece in a bag sale! If you start shopping before baby’s born you’re sure to have a good stash of clothes built up on a budget)
Make Your Own Sourdough Starter
This is less of a money-savings than just baking from scratch in general. That said, maintaining a sourdough starter will save you on the price of yeast, and the perpetual discard will have you in the kitchen, finding new ways to use it, often. My sourdough starter lives in our kitchen window (so the sun can warm it) in a quart canning jar. It’s a super simple process to get a starter going, it just takes time. Start with equals parts (by weight) of flour and water, continuing to feed it daily until it’s up and running.
Homemade Laundry Detergent
Fels Naptha + Washing Soda + Borax = homemade laundry detergent. It’s significantly cheaper than the store bought stuff, and you can end up with a whole bunch of it. I found that it didn’t clean -really- dirty clothes all that well (think muddy and post-butchering work pants) but lots of folks online swear by it. Soap nuts are another option, but I haven’t tried them myself.
Buy Tea in Bulk
I’d never given the cost of tea a thought until I was supposed to be drinking 3+ cups of red raspberry leaf tea a day at the end of my pregnancy. The local health food store (the only place I could find the tea nearby) sold 15 bags for $6. Yikes. I ended up finding Mountain Rose Herbs and have since ordered and re-ordered all of my herbs for tea from them. (Find them here)
Buy Store Brand Coffee
Folger’s fans don’t @ me. If you’re brewing your own coffee at home (and you should) store brand coffee is cheaper than the name brand stuff- and it’s usually the exact same coffee. I buy a cannister for $5.68 that lasts me nearly 4 weeks: just 2 cents a cup.
Save the Leftover Coffee
This one is a little bit of a hack that I’ve taken up the last few months. In the afternoon, after we’re done drinking coffee for the day, I pour all of the leftover coffee from the pot into a quart jar and store it in the fridge. Then I can sip on “iced coffee” throughout the day or the following morning.
Buy Store Brand Paper Products
Do a little bit of mathematics next time you’re grocery shopping.You’ll probably find that the store brand paper products have a lower unit price than the name brand. And what do you know, the cheaper ones will wipe up spills or rears just as well.
Use Less Paper Products
Switching to the store brand will definitely save you money on paper products. Not buying them at all is like getting 100% off. I still buy 1 pack of paper towels every month or 6 weeks. Using wash cloths and sponges for day-to-day spills cuts down on their use significantly.
Wash Dishes by Hand
Besides the electricity and water saved, not running the dishwasher also means you’re saving on the dishwasher soap. I’ve found that hand washing the dishes keeps the kitchen cleaner too, since I’m not letting the dirty ones stack up long enough to get a whole load’s worth.
Turn Off the Lights
My parents will laugh at this one. After years of scolding us kids to turn off lights when we left a room, I finally see their point. When the sun comes up each day, I open the curtains and rely on the (free) sunlight as much as I can. If you’re paying PG&E prices for electricity you know why I’ve picked up the habit.
Turn Down the Heat
We have kerosene for heat. It’s pretty efficient, but even so, the less we use the better. During the day and overnight we keep the heater on low, running it warmer for a few hours in the evening. I think this is another one of those things I learned from Mom & Dad.
I’m a sucker for a new (to me) book. But I can’t stand new book prices. Thriftbooks has become one of my favorite websites for buying books- low prices, quick shipping, and a great selection. Plus they’ll email you when a book you’re looking for becomes available. Check them out here.
Save Food Scraps for Chickens/Pigs/Meal worms/Compost
I’m not claiming that getting chickens or pigs, etc will save you money. It probably won’t. But if you have chickens, feeding food scraps will save money on your feed bill. If you have a compost pile, adding food scraps will help too. If you don’t have a use for food scraps or kitchen waste, maybe you can find a local chicken keeper that can trade eggs for feed? Or maybe take this as your sign to dive into chickens- ha!
Homemade Mop Solution
Ditch the mystery yuck and fake fragrances in a store bought mop solution. Dish soap + vinegar + lemon juice (or some of the DIY citrus cleaner concentrate) in a sink full of hot water and you’re ready to mop. I mop at least once a week, switching to this simple vinegar mix has surely saved me a few dollars at each grocery shopping trip.
Grocery Shop Every Other Week (or less)
I kept an extremely predictable routine of grocery shopping every Tuesday for 3 years straight. A 35 – 45 minute drive each way, with multiple stops and all the exhausting frustrations of a day in town. After Baby was born I started to really dread running errands, and started to skip weeks every now and then. I’ve gotten to the point this winter where we’re going to town for groceries only every 3 weeks. And what do you know, I’m buying less unnecessary stuff, less food’s going to waste, less wear and tear on the car, and I’m wasting less time.
Try a Pantry Challenge
In January of 2023 I tried my hand at my first pantry challenge- only eating & cooking food you have at home in your pantry. It was an eye-opening and kind of fun challenge. It revealed a lot of the cooking ruts I’ve been in lately, and made it obvious just how little grocery shopping is actually necessary. For more info on pantry challenges and bulk shopping, I’d suggest checking out Three Rivers Homestead on Instagram or YoutTube.
Learn How to Can
The initial investment into canning may seem like a lot. BUT you can reuse the jars and rings (and the lids a few times too) and the pressure cooker or water bath pot can be used for so many other things in the kitchen. Canning is a great way to save food that you’ve grown yourself or food that you’ve bought in bulk. Even leftovers can be canned and saved for a quick meal at a later date. I have several easy canning tutorials on the blog, including canning meat and canning carrots.
Skip the Audio Subscription and other eBooks
My mind was blown when I discovered the Libby app. All you need is a library card and a device that can access the internet, and libby will allow you to rent audiobooks and eBooks- for free- for 1 to 3 weeks at a time: just like having a library in your pocket. (Find the app here)
Podcasts are Free!
I feel like this one doesn’t need any elaboration. BUT the Apple podcast app is free, Spotify is free, YouTube is free… Don’t let being on a budget keep you from learning, take advantage of the expansive, and free, encyclopedia we call the world wide web.
Buy Seasonings in Bulk
You’ll have to do some mathematics next time you go to the store, but you’ll probably find that you can get spices and seasonings at half the unit price (or less!) by buying bigger containers. Th restaurant store, Grocery Outlet, CostCo, Food Max, and Walmart all have good selections of bigger spice containers. Local health food stores and WinCo even sell loose seasonings at lower prices than the pre-packaged ones (bring them home and store in canning jars- easy peasy).
Don’t use a Keurig for Your Coffee
$5.68 for a container of store brand coffee that brews a pot a day for about 25 days.
Each pot is ~8 cups of coffee.
So, 8 X 25 = 200. $5.68 / 200 = $0.0284 per cup.
24 Keurig pods at Target today are $15.99.
$15.99 / 24 = $0.66625 per cup.
I’ll let the math speak for itself on this one.
Use Tupperware (or other reusable containers)
I have no idea how much good Tupperware costs, but I can almost guarantee that it’s worth the price. My husband’s been taking the same tupperwares to work 5-7 days a week for at least the last 5 years (when we first met). The same tupperware stores dinner leftovers here at home too. If each one is used 3 times a week, for 5 years, that’s 750 uses apiece. And they’re still going strong. Use glass if you’re worried about food and plastics, they’re equally durable, or even moreso.
Buy Plastic Bags/Plastic Wrap in Bulk
We started buying plastic wrap in bulk just for wrapping the chicken and pork we butcher at home. But it’s just as good of a deal to buy it in bulk and use it in the kitchen. You can get 3,000 sq ft rolls of plastic wrap (or “food service film”) at Costco or the restaurant store. Buying gallon and quart ziploc bags is cheaper in bulk too.
Buy a Chest Freezer
The key to buying in bulk, or growing food in bulk, is having a way to store it. A chest freezer is worth its weight in gold around here. We bought ours used off Craigslist for $200- an 18 cu ft Montgomery Ward that runs like a champ. We can hold 3 pigs, several turkeys, chickens, venison (and more!) inside, and head into winter every year with the frugal security of a year’s worth of meat.
Use a Clothesline
Using a clothesline is a great way to harvest the (free!) power of the sun to dry your laundry. Leave the dryer to gather dust and save on the electric bill. I love using the clothesline for the baby’s cloth diapers especially because it helps with staining and smells.
Use Sponges Instead of Paper Towels
In the same vein as using less paper products, use a sponge to wipe down your counters instead of paper towels. A scotch brite scrubbing sponge is a little less than a dollar each, but it will last 2 weeks + on counter duty.
Use Bowl Covers Instead of Plastic Wrap
I’m in the process of whipping some of these up, but basically it’s a fabric & elastic combo that will fit snugly over a mixing bowl for covering leftovers, rising dough, etc. You can also use beeswax-soaked cloth covers to do the same thing. Not crafty? Check out Etsy for listings.
Brew Tea in a French Press or Tea Ball
At the same time that I began buying herbs/tea in bulk from Mountain Rose herbs, I also started to brew tea in reusable tea balls and the french press. I use the tea balls for cups of hot tea, and the french press for cold herbal tea. Ditching the tea bags will save you money, and reduce exposure to some of the yuck in store bought tea bags. Plus- you can make your own flavor combinations to suit your tastes.
Close Doors to Extra Rooms
In addition to turning down the heat, closing doors to your spare rooms or unused rooms can reduce your heating bill. The less space that needs to be heated, the less energy it will take to heat it.
Shop Second Hand for My Clothes
I’ve been a committed thrift store shopper since I was a kid. If you can ditch the “I need it today” aspect of shopping for new clothes, you’ll save a LOT of money on clothing. Saving money by shopping second hand is just one piece of the fun- you’re also reducing your personal environmental impact (goodbye horrors of fast fashion) while supporting the local economy and nonprofits. Plus it’s just a fun sort of treasure hunt.
Open the Windows
Depending on the season, opening windows first thing in the morning, or later in the afternoon, can help regulate the temperature of your home- for free. I’m a big fan of letting in the fresh air every day, regardless of the season. Getting into this habit can reduce how much you need to run the heater or the AC too.
In the same vein as shopping bulk and grocery shopping less, reducing how often and how much you drive is going to save in spades- less money in gas, less wear and tear on your car, less purchases you didn’t really need… I run all of our errands the same day as much as possible. Some weeks I have to take a trip just for feed or hay, but I try to keep everything limited to one day.
Mend your clothes
It doesn’t have to be pretty, but if it is that’s a bonus. Mend everything you can and wear it until you can’t.
Ditch the yuck that is commercially-made period products. Sprays on that cotton and chemicals throughout have no business being down there. Buy (or make) a few reusable period pads, and wash them just like you would cloth diapers. Your bottom and your bottom line will thank you- ha!
Saving money as a stay at home mom is truly only limited by your imagination. Take this list as a jumping off point- adjust to suit your life and your family. Saving money may not be your only motivating factor to being a stay at home mom, but it’s an undeniable benefit. And remember, a penny saved really is a penny earned.
Thanks for reading, and happy homesteading!