Increase family savings

Use these creative cost-cutting techniques to save more on everything from kids' clothes to family meals.

Steal money-saving secrets from America’s Cheapest Family

Shop less and cook more efficiently with smart tips from Steve and Annette Economides.

America's cheapest family

When the couple who wrote the book Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America’s Cheapest Family first married, Annette wanted to be a home­maker, but Steve was earning only $6.50 per hour at a printing company. So they began pinching some serious pennies. Today, the family saves about $7,800 on groceries each year with these budgeting and shopping strategies:

Tip 1: Plot out a month’s worth of meals

“Planning saves you time, and it’s not as difficult as people think,” Annette says. “Spontaneity will cost you big bucks.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to do all your grocery-shopping prep once a month instead of every week? Not only is the monthly method easier, but you won’t be tempted to spend money on takeout if you’ve already committed your nightly meals to paper. Here’s how Steve and Annette do it:

  • Write down favorites: Make a detailed list of the recipes you know how to cook or want to try (keep this for future planning sessions, too).
  • Take stock: Inventory what’s in your pantry, fridge and freezer so you know what you already have and what you need to purchase. (Have food left over from the last great sale? Add it to the new plan.)
  • Browse ads and sales fliers: Circle, then write down, items you need and super deals you want to stockpile for later. If the ads aren’t appealing, be creative! Maybe sausage isn’t on your meal rotation, but it’s on sale for $1 per pound. Look up recipes on the Internet, pull out your cookbooks or call a friend for ideas so you can take advantage of the sale.
  • Gather coupons: Match up your clippings with the sale items and stash them in a separate envelope for your upcoming shopping trip. (However, do take all your coupons to the store so you can pounce if you find a fabulous unadvertised markdown.)
  • Map out meals: Sit down with your lists and pull out the family calendar. You’ll probably want to cook easier meals on activity-heavy days; schedule more time-consuming dinners, such as roasts, on less busy occasions. Draw up a chart with rows and columns or use an online calendar (try