Today, my tip would be to accept anything you are offered. Within reason, of course.
This past week at Bible Study, for instance, there were a number of people with loads of extra produce. Now, normal me would take a handful of plums, a zucchini or two, and maybe a cucumber. You know, the socially acceptable amount.
Well, all three people who brought stuff had said something about wanting people to take it all... so I swallowed my pride, and said... "I'll take whatever is left."
So, I walked out of there with a few pounds of plums, a stack of yellow summer squash, a zucchini, three cucumbers, some lettuce, and something else I haven't been able to identify (but it tasted great!)
My kids were able to eat a couple plums a day all week. I used half the yellow squash in a stir fry, and the other half I chopped up to stretch spaghetti sauce. We had a salad. The zucchini is still there (what do you do with ONE zucchini?), and we dunked cucumber slices in dressing for a snack one day.
A week where there is NO WAY I could have purchased fresh produce, and we did eat fresh fruit and veggies every single day.
The people who gave out the produce have the good feelings attached to knowing how badly we needed it, and I had far less stress -- aside from that involved in opening my mouth and admitting that I really needed the produce in the first place.
This applies to more than food... I have had friends give us clothing, and it always seems to happen precisely when we need it most. I make sure that I use what I can, and bless someone else with the rest.
I've had that experience with schoolbooks lately too. Many homeschoolers are incredibly generous with their stuff. Some go way above and beyond the call of duty, in fact. But even at the most basic level, that of lending a resource out for a day or a week, it is so wonderful to be able to try things out a bit before spending the money. My list of borrowed or given school items right now is rather lengthy, so I won't go on about it. Many of the people who have been so generous with their homeschool belongings read this blog -- so thank you, you know who you are.
There is something rather difficult about admitting that you need help. But there are people around you who can help, if only they know of a need. They may have things sitting around that they haven't wanted to bother with selling, but knowing you need it, well, that would be easy. So, don't be shy about mentioning things you need, or things you really wish you had. My kids right now, for instance, are wishing for a coffee pot. Ours broke, and they much prefer the normal Mom to the coffee-less one...