It is no surprise that our economy is, to say the least, not at its best right now. I know…tell you something you don’t already know!

Well, as hard as higher gas prices are and higher grocery bills are becoming, let me encourage us all (because I need to hear it as much as you) that simple steps can be taken to make life bearable throughout this ride (however long it may take us).

My husband and I are no strangers to living day-to-day. We have spent the past 6 years, making changes in order to make ends meet. I was struck with how far we have come this weekend while doing my grocery shopping. I was in line waiting on the receipt to print out (printer problems so I was there a little while) when I noticed the lady behind me. She was carefully putting all her items on the conveyor belt and with each item she had a coupon. The cashier, who knew her, asked how she was doing. She mentioned she was working two jobs and trying hard to make ends meet. Later at another store, I overheard 2 women talking. Lady One asked, “Do you want to get this?” Lady Two said, “No. We don’t buy that anymore.” Lady One responded in shock, “Well, you don’t shop like you used to!” Lady Two almost sadly said, “We can’t afford to anymore.”

I told you this because there are many dealing with this economic hardship. Many are making changes. Many are reinventing the wheel. My husband and I have been at it a little longer than others. For us it has become a way of life. For others it is new, frustrating and just plain hard. We felt the same. But none of us has to stay frustrated and it certainly doesn’t have to be hard!

Here are a few things we did. Obviously these are things that helped our family. Maybe they would help you. Maybe it will just get your mind racing on ideas for your family. Or maybe you are way ahead of me and have more advice you want to add.

We did the obvious things first. We cut back on those monthly bills we don’t have to have to survive. You know the ones…the cable bill, gone. The house phone, quiet (and I do not miss it!). Just a few little bills that added up to a lot of headaches when we were trying to find the money to pay them each month. So gone were those headaches and what we gained was a little extra cash to put toward the needs.

Next I started making changes in how I shopped and what I shopped for. Around our part of the U.S.A. the best tasting milk is of course the most expensive. I switched to an off brand and boy did I hear about that! So we had to compromise on this little problem. I quit buying cereal (the biggest source of milk overuse around here)! So not only did we keep the milk we like but we dropped the bad-for-you-cereal. Yes, I now have to  get creative with breakfast foods: eggs, pancakes or waffles (not the frozen kind!), made from scratch muffins and the list goes on but it is so worth it.

I also (and I LOVE this) quit shopping at Wal-Mart. Yes, you heard me. QUIT WAL-MART! Most people find this unbelievable but if you try it, you just may discover a crazy thing: you get more bang for your buck. Our pantry has more in it now than when I shopped there. It takes a little extra work but the reward of not shopping there, it so worth it.

I will go over my whole grocery list making another day but for now know that I simply check out the weekly ads and shop accordingly. If I have a hankering for some roast but there is no roast on sale (or not in a price range I am willing to pay, well we don’t have roast that week.) Which leads me to only buying if it is on sale. There is a little saying at our house. If it isn’t on sale, I don’t buy! The kids hate that saying but it has saved us lots of money…especially when one or more of the kids are with me while I shop. I can say the magical words and they know the discussion is dead. Now let me quickly clarify…this does not mean if you need soap and there is none on sale, that you don’t buy. That would be crazy and a little smelly. 😉  Obviously you will need to buy some things even if they aren’t on sale. Just be reasonable and realistic. You can also plan ahead. If the soap is on sale today, get it today. Nothing like being stocked for when you do need something!

I am guessing that you are wondering if I coupon. No, I do not. I have found that the only coupons I can find for items we actually use are for toiletry items and not for food. And while using coupons for those items might save me, I don’t have the time to clip or match and rarely even remember to use them anyway. I also find that by buying off brands (especially when on sale), I am saving a great deal. I take advantage of BOGO sales too. It truly is just a matter of knowing your prices, keeping an eye on the sales, stocking up on the BOGO items and being very mindful while shopping that you are truly getting a good deal (i.e. check the unit prices). I can’t tell you the number of times that a brand name item has been on sale but I look and the off brand is still cheaper. One time I was shopping for tissues. I initially grabbed the off brand but noticed that Puffs (which I prefer) was on sale but when I realized the Puffs box had more tissues, I realized per unit, I was getting a much better deal for the very brand I preferred! Do the math!

Another plus and this, too, seems silly for mentioning but that is plan your meals to stretch out a couple of meals. I love buying a whole chicken, eating it for dinner one night and then using the leftover in a casserole or soup. I will at times take the leftover beef stew and use it the second night over noodles.

And probably the biggest thing any of us can do during these lean times, is pray. I was reading Luke 11 last night and was reminded while reading the prayer Christ modeled for his disciples, that the first petition was for “our daily bread.” He wants us to pray for our basic needs. God knows our struggles and our financial woes but I believe praying for our needs to be met, is a great way to say to Him, “I don’t know how You will provide, but I trust You to take care of it.”

What are you doing to compensate the rising gas and grocery prices?