Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Working at Home

I have been fortunate to have been home for all the 21 years of our married life.  At times, I've worked part time (through self employment) but that work was always from home.

This past year, I pondered a possible return to the workforce and what that change would mean for our family.  My husband's work has him unavoidably away from the home a minimum of 12 hours/day (often 13), so the bulk of the everyday home and family management lands squarely on my shoulders.  With a large family, this is no small task.

The lure of a second income was always the reason for me considering outside employment, but when we discussed the impact on the family and the lack of time for home keeping if I was at work, we always came back full circle and decided that it was best for me to continue doing what I'm doing.  Rest assured - I love being at home and I enjoy my "job" very much, so this isn't a hardship for me :)

Earlier this year, I decided that I'd make this work of home keeping/budget stretching my official JOB and I'd work at it as if I was a paid employee on someone else's time.  Not that I was ever lazy, no - I've always been a "doer", but what I mean is that I decided to stop procrastinating and start doing more to reduce both our expenses and our dependence on buying things (thereby reaching two goals with one focussed effort).

Because food is our single largest expense after our mortgage, I decided that my main goal would be to reduce our food bill but with the added challenge/bonus of increasing the quality of the food we eat.  I also decided that I would work to eliminate those small incidental purchases that add up quickly to hundreds of dollars (mostly wasted) per month.

What did this mean for me this year? 

1) I planned and tended a bigger garden than ever before.  I gardened like my life depended on it and it was most definitely a full time job (although immensely satisfying).

2)  I decided to actually USE AND STORE what I grew.  I pledged not to let that produce go to waste so I've been canning, freezing and dehydrating... for WEEKS.  I'm a little sick of it now, but in a few months time, when the ground is covered in snow, I'll be VERY grateful that I worked hard in August and September :)

3)  I decided to stay home more and do a whole lot less running around.  Spending time in town means spending money and wasting time that could be spent much more productively at home.   I take the kids to their classes and run necessary errands then, but not just for the sake of running around.  If I don't need anything, I read a book or take a walk.

4)  Buying in bulk from local farmers means that I have nearly eliminated the need for trips to the grocery store.  I buy in bulk a few times per year, so we always have something on hand for supper when combined with garden offerings.

5)  Stockpiling.  I watch those fliers and stock up in a big way when staples go on a very good sale.     Building a stockpile slowly at rock bottom prices means that I'll have a decent selection of ingredients on hand always.

6)  Not wasting food.  This is HUGE.  I work hard at planning our meals around what needs using up.  I designated a shelf in my fridge for leftovers (it's even labelled!) so that I can easily find and clearly see what I have to work with.  I am now in the habit of checking that shelf before I plan a meal so that I can use up those bits of food instead of having them sit for days/weeks only to be thrown out.

7)  Regularly visit thrift stores but in a disciplined way.  I have had excellent luck finding good quality clothing and needed household items for a fraction of the cost of buying new.  I am diligent about not bringing things into the home that I don't have a clear need/use for.  Adding clutter to the home and wasting money is counter productive to my efforts.

8)  We've taken better care of our things.  Through maintenance and proper care, we have avoided breakdowns and the need for repair and replacement of many household items.  Vehicles, appliances, furnace, hot water tank, air conditioner, tools, small appliances, tractors, electronics, etc. all benefit from a little TLC to lengthen their lifespan.  Simply tending to this task on a routine basis prevents money from being wasted on repair bills.

9)  I watch my resource usage (fuel, power and natural gas).  I use the clothes line as much as possible and avoid turning lights on if not necessary.  Blinds block out heat in the summer, and I use the sun to passively heat our home in winter.

10)  I learned to make my own.  I now make soap and many other household items instead of buying commercial products loaded with chemicals.  A huge expense deleted!

This isn't an exhaustive list and I by no means have it all figured out.  It's a work in progress for me and I have a feeling that I'll be working at it all the days of my life :)  What I do know is that by taking my job seriously, I've seen results.  We are spending less, eating better and improving our overall lifestyle and health.  Less money going out the door means more money saved and that's a very satisfying reward :)

What works for me, may not work for you.  I am just an average woman, learning, trying and making mistakes.  I am not an expert and my way is not the "right way".  There are many goals yet to reach and still a lot of ways to save more money.

I'd love to hear how you are stretching the budget - hit me with your ideas! :)



  1. I have been down this path many times and realised that I am better off at home. There is enough stress on a mother without her having to go to work...and I only have one teenager at home now. I found that I couldn't cope with everything that had to be done and things like nice healthy meals fell by the wayside. Then the housework falls apart too. Since giving up full time and then part time work, I have saved more money than when I was working :)

    I do worry whether we will have enough money to get us through retirement though, so a strict budget is in order to accomplish a comfortable retirement.

    I like what you have in your list.

    Wishing you a great day!

  2. Very good! You are a hard worker! On your list, I know I need to first, stop shopping and limit myself to once a week for groceries. Stop waste of food and non foods. Cut down on resources (years ago everyone here cut down on electricity, water, etc, but now it seems no one does). That is what I will work on right now. I should make a list of things I think I want to buy, instead of buying right away. After the list sits around, the items aren't as tempting to buy. I've never worked, I'm a bit timid about that and a homebody. love,andrea

  3. I really like this post. Its gotten me thinking about how I use my time and treating my work at home as a "real job". At the same time, I'm learning how to tell the difference between being lazy and expecting too much from myself.

  4. Oh yes, Rachael, there is always the issue of excepting too much from yourself. Especially in a time of high output such as pregnancy or a new baby. Those were years when I just didn't do very much other than love my family, get 3 squares on the table and keep all in clean clothes. There is a time in life for everything, and now is my time to work as hard as I can (without burning out of course). One's health and sanity is of utmost importance!

  5. Thank you for this post. I am just restarting the journey of being a homemaker/stay at home mom after working full-time and being the sole bread winner for the last 4 years. It is a little daunting trying to find ways to make up for the loss of income. Thank you for your list - this looks like a great place to start.

  6. I was excited to find a fellow Canadian who is working to reduce the costs for her family! I would love to see what kinds of meals you put together for your family that don't break the bank! I have two children (age 5 and 2) and I am really trying to keep groceries to around $300 a month. I am finding this harder all the time! Is that an unreasonable amount for a family of 4? Love the idea of stockpiling and really need to get on that more. Like my mother-in-law says, toilet paper never expires! :)

  7. Christal, I would imagine that it would be hard to keep to that budget. It's imperative to plans meals around what grows in your area and stockpile items that are listed as loss leaders in your local fliers. Legumes and beans will help cheaply fill the protein quotient of the food plan. Local food, too is usually cheaper and more easily accessible. Do you garden or keep hens?

  8. I had a small garden this year - LOTS of tomatoes, potatoes, and carrots. I got about two or three peppers off of my plants, and my corn was horrible. I have decided that next year most of my garden will be potatoes - we love them! I'll have to look around to see if I can get local food for less and find recipes that use beans. I only have a few in my regular rotation and they usually include at least some meat. Thanks for the ideas!