Recap – our grocery budget is about $200/month plus $25/month saved towards summer produce. This isn’t a competition with anybody except yourself. My grocery budget is 100% separate from supplies and eating out. There are three parts to this thing (blog subject) so far and I plan on following it up with some of my favorite, lower cost recipes. Part 1 is done, this is part 2 and part three will be next Friday. The list of recipes and other stuff will be the following Friday! Because I’m not getting other blogging done, I’m staggering this out.
6. Cultivate a list of meals you like that use very inexpensive ingredients
I don’t only eat beans and rice… but you know what? Dry beans and rice are CHEAP! And very healthy! There are certain “expensive” ingredients that go on sale regularly… so I buy those when they’re on sale and sometimes I buy them full price and I mix it up with inexpensive ingredients. Yummy and less spendy. It’s a compromise for us. But I do stick with a more limited range of recipes and therefore only have to have a limited range of ingredients. It’s still a lot of food, but I do tend to stick with basic things like flour, rice, beans, hamburger, canned tomatoes, cheese… you get the idea. There’s little purchasing cans of prepared foods (condensed soups, american cheeses, convenience meals, flavored bread crumbs, preformed patties, ricotta cheese (buy cottage instead), pre-cooked rice, fresh herbs, etc)… I like those things, but they aren’t the cheapest way to eat. And if there’s one thing I am, it’s cheap.
7. Stock up on good sales
This has made one of the biggest effects on my budget. There are certain things that I only buy on sale… because I know they will go on sale. Significantly! (I like canned chopped green chilis, but those tiny cans have almost no nutritional value and cost $2.50 or so! Ouch! So I buy them with coupons when on sale and get a bunch so it’s worth my time to coupon) The most I spend on a loaf of bread is $1.25. It used to be $.79 but I just can’t seem to find that anymore. (and there is a certain bread I prefer that is kinda a mid-level bread… not the super cheap or super expensive stuff. It’s regular price is $2.79 or something a loaf) I never spend more than $2/lb on chicken breasts. I try to spend less than $2/lb on hamburger, but that can be harder. (and I only buy 80% lean or better) I get really excited when I find tortillas for $1 per 10 pack and I stock up since they freeze well. I am still waiting for another cheese sale. I used to buy it at $2/lb. but now I am happy if I can find it for $2.50 or even $3 per pound. Sometimes the shredded cheeses go significantly on sale and then I really stock up and fill my freezer with pizza cheese. Anyway – if there is a good sale on a staple, get enough for several months if you can.
8. If your kids don’t like grown-up foods like mine, don’t buy more expensive convenient foods for them.
My kids love happy meals and those little lunchables. But if I bought those, I would more than double our food budget just on feeding the kids! Our kids also like less expensive foods that satisfy their limited tastes as well as their nutritional needs. We’re unusual in America for eating food that varies so much every day. I tell that to myself when I see my kids eating pbjs and noodles day in and day out. They’re happy! I don’t usually buy boxed macaroni and cheese… it’s more expensive, though a pretty cheap convenience food. (Anna loves it – may need to buy some boxes to get through first trimester here!) We put cheddar or parmesan cheese on the noodles. Sometimes a little butter.
9. Shop at less expensive grocery stores
This is one that is rough for my sister. She lives 10 minutes from a grocery store with high prices and over 30 minutes from a less expensive store. I do my main grocery trip at Winco if I can make it. They have certain things that are just WAY less expensive there… yeast and nuts come to mind (or almost anything in their bulk). In general, their prices are just lower. They don’t have sales that I try to pick up… but I haven’t chased deals frequently lately. My sister is stuck much farther from cheap stores… I have it pretty easy, being close to many good stores. If I were her and had the time, motivation and energy to plan, I would head to town when I could hit a couple stores and pick up multiple good deals at once on my big day out. Just typing that is making me tired, though.
10. Don’t buy as much produce
I didn’t realize I didn’t buy much produce. Ok, I kinda realized that, but never thought about it. I don’t, though. I always have onions, I sometimes have potatoes and it’s not unusual for me to pick up some apples and bananas. But the fruit runs out before my next shopping trip. Sometimes I buy salads – lettuce and carrots…. I can’t wait for spring, though… we’ll eat LOTS of salad then!!! But I do save lots of money and lots of spoilage by cooking mostly from stored/preserved type foods. (flour, rice, canned tomatoes, etc.) So Lindsay, I don’t go buy fresh stuff much during the summer. I do cook some meals with fresh stuff, but I cook pretty seasonally. So this spring/summer I will have loads of fresh produce and will have to remember to cook things in the right order so they don’t spoil. But during the winter, we eat our home canned fruit and tomatoes and eat cheap winter prodcue like potatoes, onions and such.
Part 3 coming next week!
Can you share your favorite lower-cost recipes?