I grew up with depression era parents, and although my father had a really good, stable job, they were always very careful with money. They kept a garden (as much as an acre at a time), canned, froze, bought on sale, and reused things. My mother made clothes for special occasions, and learned to make everything from dolls to Christmas ornaments to wedding cakes. I'm pretty sure my dad has suits older than my kids. With one exception, all of the kids learned to handle money very well, but I've had to go much further in finding ways to stretch money, especially once I was a single mom.
I plan to post a variety of ideas and strategies. Some will be aimed at people who are downright desperate. Some will be for those just trying to save a little or even just be more environmentally friendly. And sometimes the same post will cover the whole spectrum. I'll probably aim at food more than other things since frugal cooking and food shopping isn't something most people know much about these days, and it's the area where people can usually cut the most. There are only so many ways, after all, to suggest to people that they turn the thermostat up or down and wear more sweaters.
So, where do you start? A lot of advice says to start by planning a menu, but to me, that's a bit backwards. Start by looking at the grocery ads for the stores nearest to you. Pick the one that has the best sales, and plan your meals around what is on sale, and make sure you look at the large pieces of meat, which are usually, but not always, cheapest.
Say it's a bone-in ham (this is concept, not exact recipes in this case). Buy it, bake it with potatoes, serve with a salad. Cut the leftovers up and refrigerate, including the bone. We usually slice up at least half of the leftover meat and freeze it for making sandwiches for my lunches. The second night, take a casserole dish, put diced onions in the bottom, cover with diced ham, add another vegetable that you like with ham and onions, sprinkle on cheese, then cover with biscuit dough or mashed potatoes and bake for a quick casserole dinner. If you're dieting, make a chef salad with diced ham for the protein. On the third morning, if you have a crockpot, put in the bone, cover with water or broth (at least an inch or two higher than the bone), some of the diced meat, salt and pepper. If you like beans, rinse and add them now, cover and leave to cook on low all day. When you get home, if you didn't add beans, now add either split peas or diced potatoes and any other seasonings you like (garlic and onion are particularly good). A family of 4, unless you're feeding a really hefty teen appetite, ought to be able to get 4 or 5 meals out of an 8 pound ham, and the meat can be cut up and frozen for use in later meals if you don't want the same meat several nights in a row. If you get the ham on sale and choose what goes with it carefully, this should average out to around $3 a night for a family of 4 for good meals that don't feel stingy.