If living in a frugal way conjures up images of living off boxed mac and cheese in a one bulb room, then don’t despair! 

You may not be heading to the Opera anytime soon, but there are lots of things you can do to help stretch your cash and still enjoy life.

Living frugally doesn’t mean cheap, it just means taking a look at every corner of your life and seeing if you can make changes to help save a dollar here and a dollar there and getting value for your hard earned money.

You may not think a dollar or two will make that much difference, but you will be amazed just how much it can add up if you shave some expenses here and there.

Groceries – This can be a big ticket item, so stick to the outer aisles and stay away from any packaged foods.  They may seem cheap but many of the packaged foods need you to add ingredients, and although they say it may serve 4, I personally have found that really means one or two!  Plus they are full of salt and additives that are not healthy for you.  Try and get value for your health and your pocketbook.

The outer aisles are your fresh foods.  Stick to any vegetable that is in season, it will be cheaper.  Plus find a grocery store where you have to bag the groceries yourself, these stores tend to be a bit cheaper across the board for foods and will have many sales.  They may not carry some of the luxury items, or high end cuts of meat or look that pretty, but they stock lots of healthy vegetables and other foods.

Make a menu for the week.  Try to come up with meals that can be stretched into two,  such as using a pound of ground meat for two dinners, by splitting it and creating for example, pasta and meatballs for one meal, and then a casserole for the next.  You can stretch any ground meat with affordable canned beans.  These will add protein for an affordable price and can double up on meals.

Canned beans, such as kidney, white, or black beans can be a great budget stretcher for your protein and taste good added to meat dinners. Just make sure to drain and rinse them well before using.

Once you have your meal plans for the week, make a list and stick to it.  If you stick to your list, you will save money on groceries.

Living in a Frugal Way(95809)Credit: morguefile.com

Farmer’s Markets – these are a great place to get vegetables in season and other goods.  Many towns will have one on the weekend.  Also research any vegetable stands in the area and visit often.

Backyard garden – If you can create a vegetable garden, this will help with the grocery bill.  One great way to make this work is to split veggies with neighbours.  If you for example grow great tomatoes, then trade some for what your neighbour grows, for example cucumbers! 

You can also plant some veggies in planters on your balcony or patio.  These are great budget stretchers and taste great.

Living in a Frugal Way(95808)Credit: morguefile.com

Things to Do for Fun and Zero Dollars – We tend to expect to be entertained more these days, and are willing to pay the price for it.  Why not try going back to when you were a kid and think of the things you used to do for fun?

Parks – there are many town parks that are free to use.  Get a few friends together and play Frisbee or throw a ball, or simply walk your dog or play with your kids or toboggan in the winter.  You can bring a sandwich and skip the vendor carts.  Invest in a thermos, you will save on drinks that can add up.

Just because you are watching your money, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. 

Dust off that library Card – Get some books out, and start reading in your spare time.  Learn a new hobby, read a novel, or simply enjoy all the things your local library offers now.  Many libraries offer free internet, borrowing movies, and other fun activities for free!

Bartering – This has been around for centuries and still works today.  Offer to do something for your neighbour or friend in exchange for their services.  If you have a street full of talented people this can really help out when you are in a pinch for money.

Offer to babysit in return for some garden work.  Or offer to cut your neighbours grass in exchange for some veggies.  We used to help a neighbour with some yard work in exchange for a swim in their pool!

Living in a frugal way just means getting creative.  Do you remember when you were a kid and all you had was your allowance and it had to go all week? I remember pooling what was left of my allowance to get something together.

My Uncle farms in Manitoba and he quite often will borrow a tractor in exchange for a service he could offer a neighbouring farmer.  So, three small farms are literally sharing equipment between them to save on each having to buy the same duplicate thing.   Living frugally is a way of life for them.

Living in a Frugal WayCredit: morguefile.com

Bundle or get rid of some services – We all get so busy it can be easy to simply pay bills and move on.  But when was the last time you really, I mean really spent about 10 minutes really looking at that phone bill or cable bill or even your car insurance?

After careful study I realized I was paying way too much for my car insurance, as I was rated for driving to work for over 50 kilometers a day!  I realized that when I moved, and began working from home that I didn’t need that kind of coverage.  It was only after talking to my agent that she discovered I could actually have full insurance for much cheaper since I was no longer going the same distance to work.

On my phone bill, I was paying for a service that I didn’t need anymore.  So, take the time and really study your bills, and take a day and phone the companies and get excess services removed, or simply cancel any service that you are not getting the benefit from.

My daughter got rid of her home phone as she is on the road all the time and uses a cheap cell phone, so that is now saving her 50 dollars a month.  It took a day of phone calls to get it cancelled but she did it.  Now how many other bills are like that?  Do, you really need them?  Is there any way to make them cheaper?  Can you combine your cable with your cell or reduce the cable package.

I like to watch 3 channels on the TV that is it, so I lowered my package to a better rate. 

Just taking the time to check things out will have you living in a frugal way without feeling the pinch and leave you with more money in your pocket which should make you smile!