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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Your Budget


Living on less: Tips for stretching pennies

Karma Metzgar, Regional Director, Northwest Region, University of Missouri Extension


Weekly headlines in rural Missouri tell of layoffs, business closings and the financial state of the region. It’s not a pretty picture. To make ends meet, the "flexible" spending account of food is tapped because that may be the only budget item that has some give and take.

What can you do? This is the perfect time to plant a garden or have patio or sidewalk containers of vegetables. Read on to find out that gardening does more than put food on the table! We also can learn to live with less. Living on less can relate to money, food, transportation, clothing, entertainment and extras. Living on less doesn't always mean doing without, but it takes some management.

There are many ways to stretch what you have. An MU Extension guide, Money Management: Living on Less (GH 3600), includes more than 80 ideas to help you cut back in the areas of food, clothing, transportation, personal habits, housing, and managing money. Most of the ideas are practical, everyday things you can do to cut expenses. If you'd like the guide, it is free through your local University of Missouri Extension center. You can also view it on the Web at the link above or at

Here are a few of the suggestions to help you live on less food. This doesn't necessarily mean going on a weight-reduction diet. It means examining your food-buying habits and making your dollars stretch farther by purchasing the most nutrient-dense foods.

  • Shop with a grocery list organized by the store layout...and buy only what is on the list. This is called planned, controlled shopping and it will help you cut down on impulse buying.
  • Keep your food shopping trips to no more than once a week. This will save gas, time and money.
  • Plan how to use the leftovers. Millions of dollars worth of food are wasted each year. Use leftovers at another mealtime, for snacking, or create a new meal from the leftovers that you have on hand.
  • Break the vending machine habit. Vending machines can be expensive. Take nutritious snacks like fruit or oatmeal cookies with you to work.
  • Eat a variety of nutritious foods. If your family stays healthy, you will save on medical bills. Use the USDA’s MyPlate as your food guide. Use, a free online resource, to plan more nutritious, well-balanced meals.
  • Control the number of meals you eat away from home. Meals eaten away from home usually cost two to three times the cost of preparing them at home.
  • Plant a garden. Even a small one adds variety to the table. In addition to saving you money, gardening also provides excellent exercise as it involves:
    • Squatting - Exercises leg muscles and firms the thighs
    • Bending - Stretches the back and slims the waist
    • Spading - Strengthens the biceps, triceps and legs
    • Raking - Works the upper back, biceps and triceps
    • Loaded Wheelbarrow - Takes almost every muscle one has
    • Fresh Air - Good for the lungs
    • Sunshine - Good for the complexion, hair and smile, but wear a hat and sunscreen
    • Garden Beauty - Good for the eye and the soul


You may already be using some of these ideas, and not every idea will work for you. Choose the ones that will be the most helpful and be in control of living on less.



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Last update: Thursday, August 09, 2012