Here we are at part 4 of our series. In this post, I will share with you how you can make your groceries stretch.
I have SO many tips that it is hard to know where to begin! Here we go….
1. HAVE SOUP ONCE OR TWICE A WEEK.
Soup has so many benefits! Having it once a week makes a ton of sense financially, but those benefits can be extended if you make a pot big enough to serve your family for two meals. Freeze one batch for later if you don’t want to have the same thing two days in a row. It never bothers us. In fact, we all universally agree that soup is always better the second day. Another benefit of soups- they use all those ingredients you have left in the fridge.
Now, I do recognize that it is June, and it is supposed to be 96 degrees where we are today. Soup is not necessarily something that everyone can eat at this time of year. For us, having it once a week, no matter what time of year, is never a problem. My husband works in a freezer, and we pretty much are inside enjoying the air conditioning on the hottest days. Besides, on a cooler, rainy summer day, a little beef stew can get my thinking about fall and winter days to come.
Soup is a great way to feed a large family, not to mention, it is healthy. We can fill it with vegetables, which are notoriously difficult to include in a child’s diet. I puree those vegetables if the children are funny about eating them. Bone broth has gotten a lot of attention for its health benefits over the last several years, so I really like to include bone-in meat in my soups and let them simmer all day in the crock pot. Some veggie-filled soups make a great side dish or compliment, like chili.
2. EAT CASSEROLES
Just like soups, casseroles can be made in large quantity and enjoyed the second day or frozen. They also can include those little leftover items, AND you can hide veggies by pureeing them if necessary. Most casseroles include pasta or potatoes, so they may not be as high on the health benefit list, but they can pack a big nutritional punch if you are wise. Casseroles are a little more difficult to enjoy in the summer. While I can use the crock pot all day, and it won’t heat up my kitchen, using the oven will. This means that casseroles are most often used by our family in the winter, but we may enjoy them on the cooler days of summer (or when the budget is tight if we need to use them to stretch the budget to the max).
3. EAT THE SAME THING TWO DAYS IN A ROW
I have already mentioned this with soups and casseroles, but any dish can be made large enough to be enjoyed two days in a row. This will not only cut your grocery savings, but your other expenses, too. You have to cook half as much and wash half as much. Think about how much you will save on your water and electric bills! Not to mention, all the extra time you will have! Eating the same thing two days in a row may seem boring, but it doesn’t have to be if you spruce it up. Spaghetti can become baked spaghetti with a little extra cheese. Meatloaf can become meatloaf sandwiches with gravy. Taco filling can be used for baked enchiladas (not authentic, but tasty). Even if the meal doesn’t change, just reheating a meal that was delicious in the first place will bring the smell and memory of the great taste back to your mind. Double your meals, and enjoy the savings (and maybe read a book).
4. USE MEAT AS A COMPLIMENT RATHER THAN THE DISH
Our family is very fond of Asian cuisine, and I heard this idea when I was watching an Asian cooking show. The chef said that, in their culture, meat is used for flavor and as a compliment, not the dish itself. Meat can be an expensive element to add to a meal, and its health benefits are debated. Our family prefers not to consume too much meat. I almost never use an entire package of meat for one meal. One occasions, we will enjoy a hamburger or meatloaf. Whenever someone in the house is pining for one, I usually add it on the menu plan because I feel very strongly about listening to your body. Still, on a regular basis, meat is a part of the meal, rather than the star.
Here’s how I cut meat- I use half and double the vegetables. Whenever a recipe calls for a pound, I use half a pound or less. Adding more veggies compensates for the loss of bulk. Then, I add some carbs if necessary, like breads, potatoes, or rice. I want my family to be full even without the meat. It’s also important to add seasoning, and I don’t mean salt and pepper. Learn to make flavorful meal, then you won’t miss the meat as much. When we make coconut curry chicken, there is so much flavor with the curry and the coconut milk that the meat is really there for some texture. In chili, too much meat is really too much. It takes away from the chili flavor. Learn to cook with herbs or specialty seasonings.
5. USE INEXPENSIVE FILLERS
I am always playing with recipes and using fillers. This is because, first of all, I want to add as many vegetables as possible to our meals. Secondly, I want to reduce the cost of each meal. Rice is my go-to filler. One time, I was making manicotti, and I did not have anywhere close to enough filling to make those big noodles plump up. I did have some extra rice, so I added it to the chicken, cheese, and veggie mixture that was to go inside. Honestly, I was a little concerned about how it would affect the taste. It was delicious. Of course, you know that I add veggies everywhere I can. Rick loves to make omelets, and he fills them with whatever we have on hand. He has had pizza omelets, southwestern omelets, and Asian omelets based on only what was in the cabinets. Again, soups and casseroles are excellent dishes to fill with inexpensive ingredients. Also, think of restaurants. They serve salad and bread before a meal to fill you up inexpensively. Having salad and healthful breads available will keep your budget low and energy high.
This is really how we handle snacks. Let me explain why I ration.
This weekend, our church had a ladies fellowship. After the fellowship was over, there was some food left, and I was able to take some of the extras home, including a couple of bags of chips. They were open, but they were large bags and still had a lot left in them. I arrived home around 5PM Saturday evening. We were scheduled to have the BBQ chicken sandwiches that I had prepared, and everyone wanted some chips to go with it. I thought that was no big deal. There was plenty to go around. I was planning to add the chips to our Sunday afternoon lunch options, except the chips were all gone by that time! I had had about a handful of the chips the evening before, as did Briana. Three men in my house devoured both bags. I didn’t even think that I needed to divide them up and ration for a mere 12 hour time span. I was mistaken. In case you were thinking, “They were hungry. Let them eat the chips.” Remember, my goal is nutrition on a budget. There were plenty of healthier, more filling options, including celery, carrots, and other salad fixings. Of course, who’s going to choose the healthy options when they have a choice? I remember getting bagfuls of cookies in my lunchbox and eating them first. Adults have their grown up version- grabbing the snacks every time they want something. This is why we ration.
When we get snacks, I try to divide them up. Take your large bags of chips and divide them into smaller bags to be eaten one at a time. Take boxes of cookies (if you buy them) and set a limit on how many can be eaten in one sitting. We try to limit cookie consumption to one or two at a time if they are store bought. Homemade ones are a little harder to stop at 1 or 2, but we don’t let that go beyond 5 (maybe 6 😉 ). Rationing is necessary to make those expensive, non-healthy items last.
One more suggestion when it comes to rationing snacks. Last week, I went shopping with a friend of mine who asked for help with their grocery budget. She was attempting to shop for one month for her family of 5 and keep the budget as low as possible. We went to a discount grocery store, and she proceeded to put several snack foods into her cart. When she kept looking at the snack foods, I asked her how many snacks they needed for their family? She was kind of taken aback by the question, and replied, “I don’t know. One a day.”
I was a little shocked and needed some clarification. “One a day?” I asked, “So, you mean 30 boxes of snacks for a month?” At an average of $2.50 for each snack, that’s $75 just for snacks.
Then, she started thinking. “Well,” she said, her little one “eats a box a week.”
“So, a box a week for each member of your family for 4 weeks. That’s 20 boxes.”
“Me and the little one share”
“OK. 16 boxes for the month. Is that right?”
She shook her head yes. I told her that, if she is going to cut her budget, she has to plan ahead how many snacks she is going to allow her family to eat. It’s easy to walk through the store and grab something because it is a “good price,” but even good prices add up if they are not necessary. I will also add that she was not choosing the least expensive snack options. She was choosing what she wanted at the moment. That’s a big grocery savings no-no!! Remember, organization and discipline are the cornerstones to sticking to a low budget. With 16 boxes of snacks a month, she will not be able to keep her grocery budget as low as mine, but she will be able to reduce her spending overall and be comfortable. That’s what I want you to do. Take some of these tricks and apply them to your grocery shopping experience so that you can find a place that is affordable and comfortable for your family.
One more lesson from my friend’s experience. When we were shopping a little later, she tried to explain to me her reasoning for wanting more tomatoes. I told her that I would not say a word about buying a large amount of fruits and vegetables, provided the price was good and they fit in the budget. Fruits and vegetables are only rationed in my house in times when extreme savings is necessary. This is to make sure that we have some every day and people don’t go overboard and eat 4 bananas at a time, like some people in my house have been known to do (and regret it in the end). Generally, eat them all you want. Ration snacks.
These are my tips for stretching your groceries. Next week is our last in the grocery budgeting series. I hope you will follow along as I give you 8 tips to make the most of your grocery budget.
Click here to read the rest of the series:
NEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We make a video update every six months, and the new one is just out. Check it out to see us grocery shopping and take a peek at our bi-weekly grocery haul. Here’s the video-
You can also find the bi-weekly menu plan on the blog. Click HERE to check it out!