I just wrote a post featuring Mary Ostyn, the author of Family Feasts on $75 a Week, and I so appreciated all the comments on that post on how to save money on groceries! In fact, I thought they were so good I’d turn them into a Baker’s Dozen of ways to save money on food:
1. Clip Coupons, coupons, coupons.
They work! And if you don’t know where to get coupons, or you don’t know what’s on sale at different grocery stores, don’t worry! You don’t even need to keep track of it anymore, because the website Coupon Surfer helps you find coupons for all your favourite brands, and print them out–right away!
Guaranteed to cut your grocery bill–as long as you only take the coupons for stuff you would actually buy. Remember: buying stuff you don’t need or won’t use just because you have a coupon for it doesn’t cut your grocery bill–it makes it bigger! Savings is only savings if you spend less on what you would otherwise buy, not if you just find a good deal.
2. Meal Plan to Cut your Grocery Bill.
When you know what you’re going to eat, you buy for what you’re going to eat. You don’t buy a lot of stuff that’s just going to sit in your cupboards (or turn to green mush in your vegetable drawers). If you can’t handle the thought of getting that organized, let someone else do it for you! Check out Dine Without Whine . They provide the menus and the shopping lists, and it’s easy.
3. “Bulk Up” your meals with things other than meat.
Pasta makes meat and veggies go a lot farther. And you don’t need a lot of meat in spaghetti! Try to start cutting down on the ground beef and substituting more veggies. Even if your kids hate veggies, if you buy one of those food choppers, you can chop celery, carrots, and mushrooms so fine that they can’t even be recognized. But they let you use about half the meat. It’s healthier, and a lot cheaper!
You can do the same thing with shepherd’s pie: If you’re using ground beef, chop up lots of veggies really finely and throw them in, too.
If you’re making a skillet chicken dish, try replacing half of the chicken with chick peas or navy beans. They’re tons cheaper, and they soak up the flavor so they still taste good. In fact, beans can bulk up lots of meats. If you cook beans until they’re really soft, you can mash them up and add them to meatloaf, or shepherd’s pie, or sloppy joe’s, and replace about 1/3 of the meat. They still taste good (I would even argue it tastes better quite often), and it saves a ton of money!
4. Use cereal wisely.
Think of it as a main course once a week, say Sunday after a busy day. Don’t eat it everyday, unless you can buy it on major sale. For quick breakfasts, do toast and fruit with a boiled egg, or instant oatmeal. It’s usually more nutritious, too.
5. Stretch out one meal into more.
Cook a big chicken, but then use the leftovers in a chicken pie. Then use the bones in a soup stock. Freeze all leftover meat. You can make 3-4 meals from one chicken or one beef roast like that. I always freeze all the little bits that are leftover, even if it’s just enough for one person. That makes a soup that will feed four. And if you combine those little bits, you’ve now got enough for a stroganoff or a casserole. Just keep a tupperware container in the door of your freezer where you can add little bits of leftovers until there are enough for a meal.
6. Buy only what you like.
Don’t buy on impulse because you “should”. Stretch yourself certainly by trying a new veggie every now and then, but remember: you’re unlikely to eat it if you really don’t like it. I once bought liver sure that I would make us all eat it. I lectured the kids backwards and forwards on not grousing about it. I told them I would make it and they would eat it and be grateful, because we all needed the iron. Then I went to cut it and it squeaked. Meat is not supposed to squeak. I threw it out, and that was the end of that.
So often when we decide to go on a binge and actually cook right and eat right we do it by buying a ton of fresh produce. And a week later it’s all a green slimy mess. Plan your meals and only buy what you will actually use. Don’t buy a ton of produce because you’ve decided to go on a health kick. Buy what the recipes call for, and if you run out, congratulate yourself and go buy more!
7. Shop on days that the supermarket reduces the meat by 50%.
Freeze it that day, and then it’s still fine. Ask your grocer what day they reduce the meat.
8. Don’t buy pre-packaged foods.
Nothing hikes your grocery bill more than buying processed, ready-made foods. Make it from scratch. If you confine most of your grocery shopping to the outer aisles of the store–the produce, the bread, the meat, the dairy–you’ll find you spend a lot less. And you’ll be a lot healthier!
9. Invest in a freezer.
You can get a good one for a few hundred dollars, and then stock up when stuff is on sale. When bread is on sale, buy a bunch and freeze it. We also buy half a cow at a time, cut the way we want it. It’s so much cheaper (and healthier, because we buy it from farmers we know).
10. Buy some “splurge” meals.
Here’s a tough one to come to terms with when you’re trying to shop cheaply: sometimes you SHOULD buy quick frozen foods. We all have those nights when we’re too tired, or too sick, to cook. Or maybe we’re just in such a hurry that we can’t get a meal together. And what do we do when that happens? We call for pizza. That’s spending $25 on a meal, at least. But if you buy frozen pizzas when they’re on sale, you can get two for $10 and then pop them in the oven when you’re desperate. It actually ends up saving you more.
The key is to not reach for the frozen pizzas on nights when you DO have time to cook, but you just don’t want to. Exercise some discipline, use them wisely, and accept the fact that you can’t always make a great meal.
11. Keep track of what’s in your pantry and–here’s the important part–ACTUALLY EAT IT.
Often we go to the grocery store and buy stuff we already have. Make it a challenge to eat through your cupboards. The average family has $275 in groceries in their house at any one time. If you need to save a few hundred dollars this month, then, just eat what you already have.
12. Cut your meat yourself.
Buy whole chickens and chop them up. Buy big cuts of beef and then cut them for stir fries, stews, etc. Cut it yourself and it’s cheaper. Even companies that sell meat in bulk and you chop up some of it can save you a lot of completely cut meats.
13. Get food free!
Find out when restaurants throw stuff out, and ask to have it. One woman wrote that she found an Italian restaurant that routinely throws out fifty pounds of pizza dough every Saturday night. So she collects what she wants, and the family has pizza pockets, pizzas, and more!
That is the accumulated wisdom from these blog readers! Hope that helps you! Now go get your recipes and pantry organized, and write a menu plan for the week. And good luck! You can do it!
Products Featured in this Post:
Family Feasts on $75 a Week
Coupon Surfer–Print out coupons for all your favorite foods before you go grocery shopping!
Dine Without Whine – A Family Friendly Weekly Menu Planner
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