28 Ways to Slash Your Grocery Budget

One Hundred Dollars a Month

I am your typical housewife living in high maintenance suburbia. I have a handsome husband, 2 kids and a flock of pet chickens. I try and feed my family with $100 a month. With the help of coupons, gardening and bartering I am able to squeeze the most out of our grocery budget and still manage to have a little fun along the way.

This is a Guest Post by the super amazing One Hundred Dollars a Month reader Mel. We LOVE you Mel! Thank you for all your wonderful posts.

If you’re the kind of person who has trouble resisting cute seasonal quilting cottons, boy do I have the sewing project for you. I think this idea actually started with a comment from someone else on this blog (maybe Lolly?), but I was still on the fence about making my own napkins after years of trying to keep our white cloth napkins clean, so I hadn’t actually pursued it. 

But our white cloth napkins completely wore out this spring right when paper products were selling out in stores, so I had to figure out something. I wanted whatever I made to be easier to clean and durable, so I decided to go with dark colors instead of white, and I decided to make them for every season and holiday to minimize the wear and tear on any one set.

That way, we’d automatically rotate through them, and if anything happened to one set, I’d have a year to crank out a replacement. I was also a little burned out on sewing from making so many face masks, so I decided to make smaller napkins that were square and just large enough to fold in half.

The smaller size was fast to sew, and they also take up far less room in the laundry. I love how they turned out, and they’ve been super functional, so I wanted to share how I made them.


If you want to spread out the time and the cost for making these, I recommend making sets as you need them throughout the year. That way you can shop sales for cute seasonal fabric and also make a dozen or two at a time.


1. Wash, dry, and iron your fabric.

2. Make a pattern from your cardstock by measuring, tracing, and cutting out a square. I made my square 8.5” x 8.5” for a finished napkin size of 8” x 8.”

3. Use your pattern to cut out squares of fabric, and then pair them up with right sides facing. Two squares will yield one napkin.

4. Use pins or sewing clips to hold them together.

5. Sew around the edge with a ¼ inch seam allowance, removing the pins or clips as you go and leaving an opening 2-3” long on one side. You can see the opening along the bottom edge of the napkin in the above photo.

6. Trim the corners.

7. Turn the napkins right side out using the opening. You might need to use a chopstick or pencil to turn the corners and edges out.

8. Press the napkins with the iron (making sure the edges and corners stay turned out) and then topstitch all the way around to close the opening and give the napkins a finished look. Stitching around the edges also helps the napkins keep their shape when washing.

St. Patrick’s Day, Spring, and Easter Napkins

Fourth of July and Summer Napkins

Back to School and Apple Season Napkins

Halloween Napkins

Thanksgiving Napkins

Christmas and New Year’s Napkins

Winter and Valentine’s Day Napkins

Breakfast Napkins (Used Year-Round)

In case you missed them, here are a few more of Mel’s guest posts: 

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Kathy says

January 13, 2021 at 8:11 am

There is no end to your talent Mel. . The napkins are beautiful. You make me want to buy a sewing machine and start sewing.

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 10:26 am

This is a great beginner project if you decide to go for it! I took up sewing a few years ago when I realized that many of the crafts I wanted to try required some simple sewing.

Kathy says

January 13, 2021 at 8:13 am

You are amazing Mel. I’m thing of buying a sewing machine. Any recommendations for a beginner?

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 8:21 am

Thanks! 🙂

My husband got me the Brother CS6000i when I decided I wanted to learn to sew, and it has held up well and been easy to use. I will say that I find the manual sort of assumes you already know a bit about how things work, so I found that tricky to use sometimes, but I found YouTube videos on how to do things like winding bobbins instead.

Lynda says

January 13, 2021 at 8:22 am

What a great idea! I’m on it.

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 8:30 am

Go for it!

Gail says

January 13, 2021 at 8:41 am

I’m interested in making these but was planning to make them larger and one-sided with a narrow hem. Now I’m thinking about making them your way. Just wondering why you chose 8”x8” since that doesn’t cover a lap.

Annette says

January 13, 2021 at 9:04 am

Your napkins are beautiful but I am not a sewer. I stopped buying paper but bought washcloths in white and seasonal colors. Great for one use and then in the washer and dryer they go. Love them and they are very inexpensive too❤️

Lesley says

January 13, 2021 at 9:57 am

Love this idea because of how well washcloths work for wiping. Why the white, though? I’m thinking of lipstick and spaghetti sauce …

Carrie says

January 13, 2021 at 10:13 am

We also grab for our kitchen wash cloth most nights instead of our cloth napkins. I think it started when the kids were little and they were so often used for spills. Now the boys fold all our goals and appreciate it because they are just folded in half as and quicker than our napkins. I just got new cloth napkins for Christmas after I realized how worn my 13 year old ones were!

We use the smaller bar mop dish cloths. I usually get them at Target. I have black/grey and usually buy some teal or blue because I find the pop of color makes me happy.

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 10:22 am

Great idea!

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 10:16 am

You can definitely make them larger, but I find 8×8 covers enough of our laps to be functional. Mostly, I didn’t want to have to do more than fold them in half when they came out of the dryer, and I realized that the square paper napkins are only about 7.5 x 7.5, and we never even unfold those when we use them. I do like the double-sided ones best because they are more substantial while still being pliable enough to wipe fingers, but you could do a solid color on the back for contrast instead if you were originally planning one-sided ones.

Kris R says

January 13, 2021 at 5:15 pm

These are so cute Mel! I have learned to buy black kitchen towels but I don’t have any cloth napkins. My husband likes the square paper ones so I know he will love these. I will make cute sets for the grandkids as well. Star wars? 🙂

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 6:52 pm

Oh yes. We also have black kitchen towels. I think black or maybe navy bath towels are next.

And I love the idea of kids napkins!

Jules says

January 13, 2021 at 9:44 am

We have used cloth napkins for awhile now bc I didn’t want to keep buying napkins. Plus cloth just works better. Thanks for the tutorial on making them. I’m going to look for seasonal fabric and make some more for Christmas gifts.

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 10:21 am

Great idea! I think they’d be a fun wedding or housewarming gift as well.

Loriann says

January 13, 2021 at 10:05 am

Mel, go onto pinterest and search for Folded Christmas tr ee napkins. I made 150 of these for Xmas gifts this year, quick and cute! These would change out your regulat napkins for a new looking style at Christmas.

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 10:20 am

I saw those! I considered them for our Christmas ones, but I realized they wouldn’t fold as neatly with the others in the drawer since they are a different shape.

Lana says

January 13, 2021 at 10:19 am

I started making cloth napkins 27 years ago and I cannot even imagine how much money that saved with 5 kids. Walmart used to have $1 cotton prints so that is where I started and then bought clearance holiday fabrics all year long to have holiday napkins. It took me years to find a fabric for birthday napkins but I finally did. We like ours big so I cut them 22 inches square and do a narrow him all around. We really do not like paper napkins anymore.

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 10:25 am

I wonder why birthday fabric was so elusive! I bought birthday fabric last year to make reusable birthday gift wrap, and there was a pretty good selection, but I did search for things like cake, balloons, confetti, etc. in addition to just birthday, so that may have helped. My plan is to just reuse the New Year’s napkins for birthdays since the streamer pattern works for any party.

Laurie says

January 13, 2021 at 9:52 pm

Where did you get your fabric? I would love to use your sources! Great idea.

Mel says

January 14, 2021 at 7:42 am

I typically use Fabric.com, Joann Fabric, and Etsy. I mostly used Fabric.com and Etsy for this project. Joann’s was having a difficult time keeping up with inventory during the first few months of the pandemic (maybe due to all the mask-making), so I tried placing orders there based on what they said was in stock, and then they would e-mail to cancel most of the order based on what was actually in stock. They’ve probably caught up on everything by now though!

Meg C says

January 13, 2021 at 10:52 am

Birthday fabric!?!? That’s brilliant!!! I’m on the hunt now!

S says

January 13, 2021 at 10:33 am

I want to make this comment anonymously 🙂 We use cheap paper napkins because invariably someone needs to blow their nose and uses the napkin!

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 2:33 pm

I put a box of Kleenex right next to the basket on the table with the current napkins, but I suppose a mix-up isn’t out of the question!

Gigi says

January 13, 2021 at 8:12 pm

I use the softer cloth napkins as a handkerchief and toss directly into the wash. Then again, I don’t reuse cloth napkins. I’d they make it to the table, then the next step, no matter how dirty, is right in the washer.

I love the 8” tea size. I just need to get darker ones or dye my whites.

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 8:52 pm

Yeah, I don’t reuse ours either. I made enough that they only need to be washed once a week or so.

Tammy says

January 13, 2021 at 10:46 am

Great idea for making them smaller! I’ve always hemmed my napkins, and made them larger. This looks a lot quicker, both for sewing and for folding.

For those who don’t have the time or a sewing machine, you can always find cloth napkins at the thrift store! I have found so many sets of new (with tags still on) or like-new napkins at my local thrift stores. It’s very economical to buy them at the thrift store, usually around $.25 to $.50 each. Even though I sew, most of my cloth napkins have come from the thrift store.

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 12:57 pm

Yes, the single fold has been super convenient when pulling them out of the laundry. I think the smaller size and double-sided design also help them resist wrinkles better.

Good idea about thrift stores—either for fabric or napkins themselves. I initially tried shopping on Etsy for them, but it was going to be way too expensive for the number I wanted. I haven’t shopped in any real stores except for groceries since last March, so I haven’t had much chance to shop around.

Meg C says

January 13, 2021 at 10:51 am

Boy, do I feel dumb! I have made various collections of cloth napkins for my family over the years & it never once occurred to me to make them double sided! Duh! Next set …
Also, my kids are in charge of our napkins (we are maybe weird in that we use 1 set for a few days & then switch) with meals. It’s fun to be surprised with which they choose on any given day LOL
Thanks for sharing your tutorial!

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 3:11 pm

That’s so funny about the kids. If I haven’t refilled the basket on the table with the current season’s napkins when they come out of the wash, my husband will grab the most random ones out of the drawer. Nothing like Halloween in December!

Linda Practical Parsimony says

January 13, 2021 at 2:06 pm

About 30 years ago, I started having a gathering once a month, often outdoors. I decided to make napkins and made them about 22″ square. I used a rolled hem on my serger. I bought fabric for these, sparing no expense, and still have them today. At one time I decided to make napkins from scraps I had in my sewing room. I had all sizes of napkins and found that 10″x10″ was as suitable as the larger napkins. Even though I have about 30 of the original large napkins, if I ever decided to make more, I will make them 10″ or possibly 12″ square.

When making napkins, I had strips left that were perfect for making long bags to hold plastic bags, the kind of bag open at both ends and a hanger. Once, I had a lot of cheap Easter material, so I made Easter placemats.

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 3:10 pm

That’s a good idea for using the leftover scraps!

Linda Sand says

January 13, 2021 at 2:17 pm

Your napkins are lovely but I don’t care for most cloth napkins as the seem somewhat slick rather than absorbent. I bought a huge batch of small microfiber cloths which we now use for napkins. I love how absorbent they are! They quickly clean up any spills as well as cleaning fingers, wash well, and never look wrinkled. Do not use fabric softener when washing them, though, or they will stop being so absorbent.

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 2:24 pm

I know what you mean. Most quilting cotton doesn’t have that sort of slick feel, and I think making them double-sided also helps, but you really do have to feel the cotton to know for sure. I made a set of reusable “paper” towels, and I did flannel on one side and birdseye on the other so they’d have sort of a scrubbing texture on one side and an absorbent texture on the other, but microfiber is a great alternative!

Deb says

January 13, 2021 at 3:16 pm

I’ve been sewing my own napkins for the last 40 years. I was raised with cloth napkins. I think you waste a lot of fabric by doubling them up. You could have twice as many napkins without doing that. I start with a 15 x 15 piece of fabric. Turn the edges under twice, 1/4” each time. Use straight stitch or zigzag. Single layer is much more economical.

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 4:06 pm

Definitely use a single layer if you can get away with it! I unfortunately can’t. My husband is pretty rough on all things fabric (I finally trashed our last set after he used them to clean a bike chain), so we really need them to be double weight. I made single-sided ones to use when we packed lunches for work, and they wore out in just a few months. I also find they are more absorbent and more wrinkle resistant when they’re double-sided. It all depends on your needs, I guess!

Susie Janov says

January 13, 2021 at 4:53 pm

Okay, if my husband used one of our fabric napkins to clean a bike chain, he might have been trashed with the napkins!!! And thanks for the great idea…I have so much fabric left from making masks and, like you, I’ve gotten a bit burned out. I foresee Christmas gifts for everyone this year!

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 5:12 pm

It really would have been less vexing if we didn’t have a bin in our linen closet labeled “Rags–Use for whatever you want.”

Mable says

January 13, 2021 at 5:02 pm

I have been doing it for a few decades, too, and agree with you. Also, they are less trouble to make when you are not turning them inside out after sewing them and then having a hole to close up. I also find they look better after washing since the fabrics don’t wrinkle or bunch up independently. On the other hand…I don’t like with someone who is hard on them, like Mel seems to. Holiday ones do make great gifts, too, for the non-sewers among us.

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 6:49 pm

That’s so interesting how everyone’s approach differs! I find it very hard and tedious to hem edges, so I much prefer turning them out and topstitching. I don’t have the bunching issue though, perhaps because I topstitched all the way around.

And yes, my living circumstances are…unique. 😉

Sandy says

January 13, 2021 at 4:52 pm

Awe-this reminds me of my 92 year old Dad who would only use cloth napkins. We would even bring them with us when traveling. He passed away last year-and this made me smile.

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 5:25 pm

That’s so charming! I’m glad it reminded you.

Lisa says

January 13, 2021 at 5:29 pm

What a Great sewing idea…my birthday is in two days…all of last year I wanted a sewing machine! What a great self gifting idea and first sewing project! Thanks Miss Mel

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 6:46 pm

My husband got me my machine for my birthday a few years ago!

And Happy Birthday!

Laura L. says

January 13, 2021 at 6:18 pm

Hi Mel,

Great post as usual and very helpful pictures. How did you learn to sew, meaning did you buy a book, or just hunt for YouTube videos, etc.? I have an older Bernina Sport and it sews very nicely but although I made some things many years back, I gave up because I never thought I sewed well enough. Yep, that perfectionistic way of thinking can derail just about anything, (saying to self).

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 6:46 pm

The mom of a friend of mine gave me lessons when I was a kid, but it was very basic and a long time ago. When I decided as an adult I wanted to take up sewing, my husband got me a machine for my birthday, and I used a free tutorial online to make pajama shorts. I made a few of those using the same pattern to get a feel for the machine, and then I started making my own patterns. I decided I wanted to make my friend an insulated water bottle bag as a Christmas present that had pockets for her wallet, phone, etc., so I kept hunting Pinterest tutorials and then eventually made my own pattern for it. I still make some things that don’t turn out (mostly when I go rogue), but if I stick to free patterns and tutorials online, it usually works out.

I still don’t sew many things correctly, and I sew very slowly, but I mostly just don’t care if things are perfect. I’m usually the only one that can tell, so it only bugs me. I think this year was a big shift for me in thinking because I suddenly needed to make 40 face masks in a week back in April. They needed to be functional, but I could not afford to make them truly perfect because the need was so urgent.

Terena says

January 14, 2021 at 11:09 am

A very dear, older friend who was a marvelous quilter and sewist used to tell me “Done is better than perfect”. She also said “No one ever refused the gift of a handmade quilt because the points dont match perfectly”. Sometimes we’re too critical of ourselves. Well done to all of us for trying!

tia in boise says

January 13, 2021 at 6:48 pm

My mother made us a set of cloth napkins about…20? years ago, and at the time I thought, how weird. Well, we have used them! (And they get softer and softer over the years!)

I enjoyed them so much that about 10 years ago I made sets for Christmas for all my teaching partners/friends. I’ve made them for wedding presents, too. Since many members of our staff have changed, it was time for cloth napkins for Christmas again this year!

Mel, yours look awesome! I love the double-sided idea–then people couldn’t see my uneven stitching. (I drive my mom crazy because I like to sew FAST!) and the corners wouldn’t be so wonky….

I purchase fabric at thrift stores and repurpose it–lots of sheets, tablecloths, curtains–I’ve found some really cute shower curtain fabrics!

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 8:49 pm

Thanks! And I’m so jealous you can sew so fast. I’m so slow!

tia in boise says

January 14, 2021 at 12:41 am

I’m fast but not very straight/accurate. (I think I like to speed because I figure if I’m going to mess up, I might as well do it quickly and get it over with!) Mom insists if I slowed down, then I wouldn’t make mistakes. Ha! I really prefer the sound the machine makes on high-speed—low-speed is a “foreign” sound. 🙂

Elisabeth says

January 13, 2021 at 6:48 pm

I love the napkins! So do-able and CUTE! Thanks!

Get well soon, Mavis!

Mel says

January 13, 2021 at 8:50 pm

No problem!

And yes, I hope Mavis is on the mend!

Lynda says

January 13, 2021 at 10:46 pm

I have tons of cloth napkins that I’ve gotten dirt cheap at thrift shops and flea markets….heavier than quilting cotton, too. They often sell for 10 to 25 cents each…

Mel says

January 14, 2021 at 7:46 am

Yes, that’s a great alternative if you can go! My shopping trips have been very restricted this year, so that wasn’t an option for me. We haven’t done any nonessential in-person shopping in 10 months!

Joanna says

January 14, 2021 at 9:37 am

Hi Mel—

Thank you for your great idea and easy to follow steps….. I have tucked your article away for when I get a moment to try it! Honestly I have and come up with more ideas then I have time to accomplish them, especially since I also bake and cook among many other things……I can spin out more ideas then a F5 tornado can rapidly spit out a bale of straw one piece at a time and go back for another! lol

When I am out and about riding in the car and I am eating a messy meal or snack to keep my shirt clean and stain free I use a pure cotton nappie, but you have sparked an idea that perhaps I could make an “extra large” more colorful “nappie-napkin” to tuck into my shirt! lol

One tip you might want want to try is to get a genuine “Purple Thang” by Little Foot……it costs $4-$5—it makes poking out corners and flatting inside seams a breeze. It also has a 1/4” measure on the flat end that makes taking a quick or simply double checking that common measure a breeze. Honestly when I purchased one hoping to replace my chopstick corner poker-outer, because no matter how “gentle” I was it tended to poke through my fabric when I was turning out corners…..I didn’t think that I would come to use it almost every time I sew something.

I look forward to reading some more of your ideas.

Mel says

January 14, 2021 at 3:18 pm

I don’t have one of those, but I have a similar tool! They are quite useful.

And yes, I also often have more ideas than time. Today a friend asked me to make the cake topper for her wedding cake, so I guess that’s next!

Lorrie says

January 14, 2021 at 10:58 am

Have you ever tried using flannel? My niece makes single layer 8″ for napkins and 11″ for paper towels and serges around the edges. She rolls the paper towels on a tube as they adhere to each other. She has enough to last her a few days and just washes them when needed.

Mel says

January 14, 2021 at 3:16 pm

Yes, I made reusable “paper” towels with flannel on one side and birdseye on the other. It works well for that, but ours have gotten a bit pilled from using and washing, so I’m not sure they’d work as well for napkins. But we seem to have some durability challenges that others don’t. 😉

Gwenn says

January 15, 2021 at 3:16 pm

Awesome post Mel!

For fabric type you mentioned “quilting cotton”, is there a specific weight or blend to look for? I don’t want to have to iron them all the time but I do want the fabric to be soft.

Nancy Kirkpatrick says

January 14, 2021 at 2:42 pm

You had be at a little burned out making so many masks! Been thinking about making napkins. And after too much thinking, I haven’t made a single one! I made sets of mixed Christmas print cloth napkins decades ago for hostess gifts and presents for friends and relatives. Single layer, turned hems. Didn’t want to do that much work again. I’m going to do your method! So much more appealing! Thanks!

E. K. says

January 14, 2021 at 4:11 pm

I boughtt my first serger years ago for making napkins. I use squares 12×12 or larger and do a rolled hem. I have them for all seasons. It’s great. I use up scraps 12×12 or larger. They don’t seem to wear out so I have a great collection. I am starting my son and daughter-in-law with napkins too. I see them used so I will make more for them.

I just put a basket in the middle of my table. When I have clean ones, I just put them in. I like the randomness. Happy sewing.

Karen says

January 16, 2021 at 6:23 am

I love this idea, I think it’s the idea of something pretty on the table. How do you wash them though? Do they shrink?

Lolly says

January 17, 2021 at 3:51 am

If you wash and dry (and press) the fabric before you cut and sew it, they won’t shrink. Also they can just be tossed in with your regular laundry….with like colors! Easy-peasy! I wash all my clothes on cold, so I don’t have to worry about temps and such while washing. But the napkins are cotton, so wash with like colors, and like temps.

Karen says

January 17, 2021 at 4:32 pm

Thanks Lolly, and I can’t wait to try your kitchen towel idea!

Lolly says

January 17, 2021 at 3:37 am

Omg, yessss!!!

And these suckers will last FOREVER! I know you mentioned worrying about wear and tear… I JUST tossed the very first napkins I made like this….and they were AT LEAST 10 yrs old! Prolly 12+ yrs! But having ones for each different season is soooo FUN!!!

The ones I’ve made with a white background get eh sooner…stained or whatnot…but I use all other colors, and they work fine!

I love that they can be made in any size! And my FAVE is that they only have to be folded in half!! I used to have the big, square cloth napkins that had to be folded 80 million times…and once I had kids…that was just too much folding! I make mine 8.5”-9” tall and 10”-10.5” wide….depending on the fabric.

Hope everyone LOVES making these!!!!

Lolly says

January 17, 2021 at 3:48 am

I have a stash that I made specifically for our rv! Using cute campers fabrics!!

And these make GREAT gifts!!! I have a wedding next month, and making 2-4 per holiday/season makes for a sweet wedding gift! And I almost always make some napkins or dish towels for Xmas gifts for SOMEONE!

The dish towels are made similar, but I back mine with just a cheap white cotton. (Always washed and dried first, cause ugh on shrinkage!). I cut mine either 17”w x 22” long or 15”w x 18”long. Depends on how much fabric I have. They are colorful and fun and I hang a new one on the stove every am to dry our hands.

We are a paper towel free family. I have a basket next to the sink full of dish wash cloths, and a drawer full of pretty dish towels, and another full of cloth napkins.

Another fun thing is making square hot pads! It’s been a yr or two…I think I cut them at 9” square? And use TWO pieces of the heat reflective fabric which can be bought at hobby lobby and prolly joanns. One square of it wasn’t enough to keep me from being burned. And two squares of pretty fabrics for the front and back. A loop to hold it, too! Clip those corners, lol! I usually quilt a few lines across the front of it after it’s been turned, pressed, and topstitched. And they wash up easily in the washing machine!

Lolly says

January 17, 2021 at 4:05 am

Mel, you are GENIUS for how you fill your drawer with the napkins. I always just set them down flat…standing them on end will fit a bazillion more!!!! That makes me happy to know!! 🙂 🙂

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