80 Very Doable Ways To Save Money On Groceries

0
Digg thisPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on RedditShare on LinkedIn

source: greggavedon.com

We spend more on food than we do on anything else… even rent. To counteract this, I’ve made a list of all the food tips I’ve gathered over the years. My hope is that seeing it all in writing, will motivate me to do something about my disgraceful food buying habits.

I’ll update you in a few months and let you know if it worked!

Sales

  • Everyone know the importance of buying food on sale. But most people don’t buy nearly enough to maximize their savings. The Tightwad Gazette suggests purchasing enough of the sale product (if the price is really excellent) to last till the next big mark down.
  • Study the sale patterns. Most stores have a certain pattern in which things go on sale. For instance, my favorite grocery store in Baltimore put flour on sale about every six weeks. Once I realized this, I shopped accordingly.
  • Stock up on candy after the holidays. Obviously it’s healthier to skip the candy altogether, but if you must have it, themed candy goes on sale after the holidays are over. I once bought several enormous bags of M&Ms right after Halloween for an discount.

Meal Ideas & Planning

  • Consider going vegetarian a few times a week. Beans, eggs and peanut butter are all a lot cheaper than meat.
  • Serve breakfast for dinner.  A meal of pancakes or french toast plus fruit is very frugal and makes a nice weekend meal.
  • Omelets are a cheap source of protein, quick to make and a good way to use up leftovers. How does a cheese and spinach omelet sound? Yumm!
  • I love mix and match recipes because if one ingredient is too expensive,  I can always substitute a cheaper alternative. Here are some mix and match recipes for  baked potatoes, rice and bagels.
  • Add a few simple meal ideas to your repertoire for nights your too busy to cook a a “real” dinner. Throw together baked potatoes with toppings, scrambled egg sandwiches or grilled cheese sandwiches. Add fruit and a few sliced vegetables for good nutrition.
  • Make a list of all the most frugal foods that your grocery stores sell. Then look up recipes featuring these foods on the internet or in cookbooks and create meals based heavily on these foods.
  • Menu plan according to the sales. Scan the flyers to find out the best buys and plan meals around those items. Potatoes on sale? Buy several bags and make potato soup for dinner, potato salad for lunch, and potato bread for breakfast.
  • Many years ago I read about something called the “pantry game”. To play the pantry game, see how many meals you can cook just using the things already in your kitchen. Try to use up the three ounces of pasta, can of mushroom soup and unopened jar of pimentos that have been sitting around for months and you find a few “free” meals that you didn’t know you had. I consider this meal planning in reverse.
  • Serve very little meat. Instead, use beans, barley and other foods to round out the meal and add some plant based protein.
  • Try a few vegan meals each week. I often have black bean soup and salad makes a cheap and healthy meal.

Coupons & Rebates

  • Only use coupons if practical. But don’t overdo it. If an bought with a coupon is still more expensive than making the item from scratch, you still haven’t saved any money.
  • Don’t choose your groceries on the basis of rebates. However, if you happen to qualify for one, make sure you send for it before it expires.
  • Think twice before sending in rebates for free gifts. Many times shipping is so high, the “free gift” is actually overpriced.

Places To Shop

  • Shop anywhere you find great prices. This includes grocery stores, dollar stores, farmer’s markets, pick-your-own farms and any where else that sells food.
  • As a general rule, avoid smaller stores and convenience stores. You will usually pay more. Larger stores have bigger buying power and sometimes they pass the savings on the consumer.
  • Consider shopping at Aldi. If you are lucky enough to live in one of the states where an Aldi supermarket is located, definitely check it out. If you don’t mind off brands and very limited selection, you may find this turning into your first stop each week.
  • No Aldi in your state? Then try Save A Lot. Save A Lot is very similar to Aldi and boasts that you will save an average of 40% each time you shop. I visited the Save A Lot in Baltimore quite a few times, and even though they didn’t sell everything I was shopping for, their prices were amazing.
  • Try your local co-op. I have never shopped at a food co-op, so I don’t have first hand experience with this tip, but I have heard they are very economical. Co-ops are cooperatively owned food stores (hence, the name). In exchange for working a few hours a month or paying a small fee, you are able to purchase a small variety of products at close to wholesale prices. Several kinds of fruits and vegetables and maybe some bread are the kinds of groceries they have available. Returns are not an option at co-ops and bags are not usually available.
  • You may want to start your own mini co-op. How? Get together a group of four people and assign each one a different place to shop. Each person delivers what he or she picked up, to the other members of the group. For instance, one person goes to the bread thrift shop to pick up day old bread and cookies. Anther stops by the farmers market to get the fruit and veggies. A third shops for paper goods at the warehouse store, etc.
  • Pick-Your-Own Farms exist in almost every state these days. Why not combine a fun Sunday outing with a money saving excursion? Just call ahead to find out what is currently available and the prices per pound.

Cookbooks

  • Everyone needs a good, basic cookbook. Betty Crocker, Joy of Cooking and Fannie Farmer and the classics for new cooks.
  • When choosing a new cookbook, leaf through it first to make sure it doesn’t require a lot of processed ingredients. For instance, instead of purchasing a book that lists jarred Alfredo Sauce as an ingredient, buy a cookbook that teaches how to make the sauce from scratch.
  • Look for recipes in Indian, South American and African cookbooks. These cookbooks, plus others from poor countries are most likely to use low-cost ingredients and/or feature a lot of vegetarian recipes.

Shopping Tips

  • Only purchase groceries at the grocery store. Anything else, such as stationary or deodorant, can probably be found cheaper elsewhere.
  • Only buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. The produce will be much tastier than out-of-season choices and will also save you a bundle at the checkout.
  • You can sometimes save money buy buying in “bulk”. Frequently, the larger sizes of products are cheaper than the smaller. But, not always. Be sure to use your calculator to determine if bigger is better. Unless you’re a math whiz, that’s the only way you can be sure you’re really getting a good deal.
  • Many stores have a “reduced” cart or shelf. Here you will find the dented cans, crushed boxes and semi – wilted produce. Check it out for unexpected bargains.
  • Tightwad Gazette recommends keeping a price book. A price book is a list of the cheapest prices you’ve ever found for various foods. A price list has columns listing the kind of food, where you saw it, and the price. By using a price list you will always know where to get the cheapest buys.
  • Always eat a large meal before you go shopping. After a big meal, you will have no temptation to buy things you shouldn’t.
  • To cut down on impulse purchases, consider buying online. The lack of immediate gratification makes it much easier to stick to a list.
  • Sign up for loyalty cards if they are free or low-cost. In some stores the savings are small, but in others, you’ll save big.
  • Sort through the back of shelves to get the best sell-by-dates. Older cans, jars, bottles are usually in front, since stores rotate to the back as they stock.
  • If you have no willpower to skip the goodies, try to shop only once a week. The more often you’re in the grocery store, the more you’ll be tempted and the more you’ll spend.
  • Many places reduce the cost of ready-made food at the end of the day. I get half price bread from the bakery, fried chicken from the grocery, and salads from the deli. All I need to do is come in 30 minutes before the store closes. Not all places do this, so you have to ask around.
  • Shop without the family in tow. Kids beg for candy and husbands beg for steak. Both are distracting and expensive.
  • Don’t feel uncomfortable about returning anything not up to par. Cheese that molds the day after you get it home or freezer burned frozen carrots need to go right back to the store.
  • Be sure to get the news from your favorite grocery stores. This is where you’ll find out about special offers, double coupons promotions and sales. Most stores offer either websites, email newsletters or a Facebook page to keep you up to date.
  • If your store doesn’t offer online updates, check the fliers. These will be delivered to your home or found in the newspaper. If you can’t get hold of the flier by these methods at least grab it as soon as you enter the store. It still isn’t too late to adjust your list accordingly.
  • Always go with a list. A list is your best defense against impulse purchases. It’s much easier to think sensibly at home, without all the yummy snacks and gourmet foods right in front of your face.
  • On the other hand, be flexible. If your favorite brand of yeast in on sale for half off, buy several, even if they aren’t written down on your list.
  • If you tend to overbuy, no matter how much you plan ahead, bring just as much cash as you need. That way you have no choice but to stick to your original plans.

Leftovers

  • Always recycle your leftovers. Stews, soups, quiches and even sandwiches can always use a few additional veggies or a piece of meat.
  • Never throw out stale bread. It can be used for stuffing, croutons, bread pudding and french toast.
  • Start a weekly leftovers night. That meal will consist only of remainders of other meals. Just make sure they were frozen or otherwise stored correctly.
  • Keep track of what needs to be used up and plan your meals accordingly. I do this all the time. Before making anything new I always check the fridge to see what needs to be eaten.
  • Bits of leftover fruit can also be used up. Add to breakfast cereal, frozen fruit pops, smoothies and fruit salads.
  • Repackage last night’s leftover dinner as today’s lunch. Soup or stew in a thermos makes a wonderful lunch time meal. Meatloaf in a sandwich or a meatball sub is also delicious.
  • Turn leftovers into toppings. Use small amounts of meat, cheese, vegetables as toppings for pizza, baked potatoes, salads.
  • Add leftovers to starchy side dishes. Rice pilaf, pasta and other starches all benefit from savory add-ins. I love to add bits of cooked vegetables to barley pilaf or couscous.
  • Other places to stash your leftovers: Curries, pot pie, sauces, croquettes and tacos.

Cooking Tips

  • Don’t be too shy to substitute ingredients when you cook. Replacing mushrooms with celery when making a stir fry, or white wine with beef bouillon while cooking a stew, can amount to big savings over time.
  • Do some of the processing yourself. You’ll often pay more if you purchase food chopped, shredded, or slice rather than whole. Cole Slaw Mix is nothing but shredded cabbage and shredded carrots but it costs 25% more than if you do your own shredding.

Gardening

  • Gardening is a great way to save money if you enjoy doing it. Personally, I don’t have the space or the back for a large garden. But even I sometimes grow kitchen herbs on a sunny windowsill.
  • Barter with a gardener. If you don’t garden, but your neighbor does, ask her about making a trade-off. Eight tomatoes and a watermelon in exchange for three loaves of your homemade bread would be benefit to both of you.

Food Storage

  • Make sure your refrigerator and freezer are set to the correct temperature. It’s no use saving money at the grocery store just so you can throw it away in your kitchen.
  • Know what you can and can’t freeze. Bread and cake all freeze well. Potatoes don’t.
  • Put food away as soon as possible.  No matter how good your food storage system, it can’t make already rotting food become fresh again.

Restaurants

  • Try to avoid eating out whenever possible. If time is tight, try cooking ahead, eating simpler meals (like baked potatoes and cheese) or setting up a slow cooker before you leave for work in the morning.
  • If you do eat out, try going for dessert only. You’ll save a ton of money, but still get to enjoy all the pleasures of eating out.
  • Another alternative is to have a hearty snack at home before going out. I do this all time. I grab something at home before going to the restaurant so that I can either order less, or split a meal with a friend.

Pantry Items

  • Learn to make condiments, sauces, dressings and and spice blends from scratch. Seasoned salts, spaghetti sauces, gravies and salad dressings are just some of the things you can easily make. Take the time to learn how to prepare these items and you will be glad you did.
  • Convenience foods are never a good idea. Instead, make your own mixes up ahead of time and use them when you need a super quick meal. Here is a link to a site with hundreds of free mixes. I’ve tried several and I’ve been happy with the results.
  • Learn to make delicious bread. Irresistible bread is one of the cheapest ways to fill a hungry tummy. For extra nutrition, all some whole grains.

Healthy Diet

  • Weigh what the charts advise. You’ll save a lot of money if you are not paying for the calories to maintain an extra 30 pounds of weight. I know, I know, easier said than done!
  • You don’t need to serve a dessert every night. Dessert is expensive and unless you choose fruit and/or go heavy on the whole grains, usually not healthy.

Frugal Substitutions

  • If fresh herbs are just one of many ingredients in a recipe, substitute a dried herb. The general rule is to substitute 1/2 teaspoon of dried herbs for every tablespoon of fresh herbs. If the fresh herb is a substantial part of the recipe, this won’t work.
  • Don’t purchase heavy cream if you only need a spoonful or two. Instead, substitute cream cheese mixed with a little milk. To make Light Cream just add more milk.
  • Canned chicken or beef broth is expensive. Instead, combine a bouillon cube with water to make the broth.
  • A good substitute for tomato sauce is crushed tomatoes seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried basil. Just keep adding the seasonings till you like the taste.
  • Don’t cut into an entire onion just for a few tablespoons. A teaspoon of onion powder can replace one chopped onion.
  • Nuts can be the most expensive ingredient in baked goods. Instead, substitute oatmeal or raisins for the crunch. If the taste is also essential, use a small bit of almond extract.
  • Crushed red pepper makes an inexpensive substitute of hot peppers. Plus, the exact degree of hotness is easier to control.

Herbs & Spices

  • You don’t need to own fifteen spices. Salt pepper, garlic and onion powder basil and oregano will probably comprise 85 percent of your flavoring needs.
  • Ignore the tip above if you’re a great cook. A great cook can make virtually any inexpensive food taste great with the right spices. If you’re not a great cook, but want to become one, get The Flavor Bible by Karen Page.
  • Calculate carefully before buying spices in bulk. Yes, you save money when you purchase in large quantities, but cheaper prices can be offset as spices lose potency, and you need to use more. Decide for yourself if you want to go for cheaper prices, or a more potent spice.

Cooperation

  • Explain to the rest of the family what you’re doing and why. They’ll be more helpful if they understand the reason behind the new rules.
  • Ask for input. Your family members will be a lot more cooperative if they feel like their needs are being taken into consideration.
  • Create a mutual goal for the savings. It may be a vacation. Or, it could be a new car for the adults and a new toy for the kids.

Avoiding Waste/Picky Eaters

  • Never give your child a larger portion than you believe he or she will eat. He can always have seconds later.
  • Always give out sample sizes of new foods. Nothing is more annoying than large pieces of food being thrown out because of picky eaters.

Book Recommendations

  • Tightwad Gazette, by Amy Dacyczyn, is the bible of the frugal movement. Food is only a small part of the book but it doesn’t matter. The material is amazingly useful.
  • Good Recipes For Hard Times, by Louise Newton, is an oldie but goodie. You’ll need to get a used copy of this book as it is no longer being published. Some of the recipes, especially in the first chapter, are rock-bottom cheap
  • Eat well for $50 A Week, by Rhonda Barfield, is also out of print. In addition, the prices are tremendously out-of-date. However, Rhonda helped me to understand that the grocery store is far from the only place to buy groceries. Wonderful book.

Comments: 0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

  • General
  • Food
  • Thrifty Living
  • Interests
  • Homeschooling
  • Meta Information