It’s the last week of our grocery budgeting series. I hope it has been a blessing to you and your family.
This week, I am going to share with you 8 tips to make the most of your grocery budget.
#1- ALWAYS Buy ONLY What is Least Expensive
What I mean by this is that, in order to get your grocery budget down to the lowest possible cost, you will need to only buy what is least expensive. I may be in the mood for hamburger, but if chicken is on sale, that is what we are getting. In the end, that may mean we have chicken almost every night for two weeks. If that is how it has to be, that is what we do. It normally doesn’t happen that way. Most of the time, I have a variety of different foods on hand that I am supplementing with the items I buy on sale. Then, when I make my menu plan, I rotate items we have in abundance so we don’t have one thing night after night. If I have to make the same thing, I try to vary the preparation. I might baked chicken one night, have chicken soup another night, chicken tacos the next night, and follow that with an Asian inspired chicken preparation. This rule does not only apply to purchasing meat. It is relevant whether you are purchasing pasta or vegetables.
Produce is a specific area of your grocery budget where you should only buy what is the least expensive. The good news is, this is usually seasonal produce. Good for you, and good for your wallet. The bad news is, organic is never cheaper than non-organic. My family will almost always opt to pay for organic if the price difference is only a few cents. If a bag of non-organic carrots is $0.99, and the bag of organic carrots is $1.29, I am buying organic. If the difference is greater, I may have to purchase non-organic and use a vinegar wash. My family is always careful when we buy one of the “dirty dozen.” The truth is, though, there are other less expensive ways to eat produce.
#2- Grow a Garden/ Farm/ Eat Locally
As you may know, we are experimenting with our first garden this year. It’s not going well, in all honesty. Even if it completely fails, we are learning lessons that we can use for our next attempt at gardening. I WILL master it because I must. The cost of fresh fruits and vegetables is rising all the time, and I don’t know about you, but I have trouble keeping up. Gardening is a necessary skill if you want to keep your grocery costs as low as possible.
I have met families that only eat what they grow or raise. It is so impressive to me to see them living self-sufficiently. If you have enough land, you can learn animal husbandry in addition to gardening. By raising your own food, you can eat for less.
If growing your own food is not possible, consider eating locally. I don’t have enough land for an apple orchard, so every year, we go to orchards in our area to get apples. It doubles as a field trip and is one of my favorites! We eat apples for weeks. We also buy bags of “seconds” (imperfect in looks, but not taste) to make apple juice, sauce, and vinegar. We have also found deals at our local farmer’s market when certain produce is in season. When everyone has bushels of corn, it’s easy to make a deal. Even better, you are helping to support members of your community.
#3- Freeze/ Can What You Have
Don’t let that good produce go to waste. Freeze or can what you have. I already mentioned how I froze all of the “fixins” from my church’s sub party. In fact, I freeze foods all the time for convenience. It’s a lot easier to grab a handful of already chopped, frozen onions and peppers when you are making homemade pizza. So, when I have some time and the produce, I just start cutting and freezing.
Canning is something I am still learning. I started that for the first time last year. Buying the cans to get started is not exactly the cheapest thing I have ever done, but they are an investment. I just purchase them little by little. I also accept gifts of cans from others who don’t can. It seems like almost everyone’s grandmother has canning supplies, but not everyone wants to keep them. In that way, I have been building my collection. I also found some supplies at thrift stores and yard sales. My pressure canner, new in the box, was purchased at a thrift store for $18.00. My apple corer/slicer, also new in the box, was purchased at a thrift store for $3.00. Look around, and you will find good deals on canning equipment. On that note…
#4- Do Not Waste
The Bible says in Proverbs 18:9
He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.
It means that, it is the same thing to be lazy as it is to waste. Don’t let your food go to waste. This doesn’t mean force feed your children. I have seen families who let their children fill their plates high and then get angry when they don’t finish it because the child was “wasteful.” My friend, teach your child to get a small helping. Then, allow them to refill as often as they would like. As I said, our priority is health. Teaching your child to gorge himself for the sake of not being wasteful is poor health and poor economy in the long run (medical bills are expensive). If my children find themselves to be full with food on their plate, it can go into the compost pile to help us grow more food. It’s much better off there than making my child sick.
When I say do not waste, I mean, don’t let anything go bad. Make sure you know the expiration dates of the food in your house and use it before passes. Don’t take out meat and neglect to make it (I have done this and feel incredibly guilty afterwards). Don’t let your produce go bad. Make sure you know the grocery items in your possession and how long they last. Use what is going to go bad first. Of course, if the “goodness” of something is questionable, throw it away. Health first.
#5- Make One Person In Charge of Groceries
You need a Grocery Czar (my official title). Someone who knows what you have, in what quantity, and how long it will last at all times. In most houses, that’s mom. One family I know has three teenage daughters, and the oldest two handle the groceries and menu planning. It doesn’t matter who it is, but there must be some place where the buck stops. I have found that families where both parents work struggle to save on their groceries. The reason is that both mom and dad are buying groceries and “planning” meals. Dad doesn’t know that mom took out burgers for the grill, but he wants to help make her night easy, so he runs and grabs a pizza. It’s such a sweet thought that Mom smiles. She’ll just make the burgers the next night, but the next night, soccer practice runs late and everyone just wants a quick bite. The family eats out and the burgers at home are thrown away. The problem is, this situation happens just about every week. Dad and mom are trying to share the load, but neither is really taking ultimate responsibility for the family’s meals. What seems to be a good thing, is really a costly thing. One person needs to be in charge of the groceries and meal planning. Then, they need to communicate those plans with everyone else in the house. Post the menu plan. If it is posted regularly, the family will know to check the schedule. You will save tons if one person is willing to step up and take control (and the other person is willing to let go).
#6- Follow a Meal Schedule
Have your meals at regularly scheduled times. This will ensure that no one gets too hungry and wants to eat unplanned snacks between meals. Without a schedule, some would skip breakfast, be hungry for lunch around 10:30, then not be able to eat dinner until 6 or 7, so they have a huge snack at 3, which really interferes with their appetite at dinner, which makes them starving the next morning. Don’t do that to yourself or your family. Have breakfast at the same time everyday. Do the same with lunch and dinner. If you want to have snacks, plan a snack time. No matter what meals your family plans to eat, put them on a schedule and stick to the schedule. You may need to force yourself to plan ahead. Just keep it consistent. One a side note, this will make your family happier, too. Nothing is worse than when Momma is hungry. At least, that is how it is at my house 😉
#7- Use Pinterest/ Experiment
I mentioned last week that I helped a friend with her groceries. One issue she was having was that she didn’t know how to cook too many different meals. My first suggestion to her was to learn. I asked her if she had any internet access at home. She did not. I asked her if she had any cookbooks at home. She did. I asked her to hand me one. She did, and I told her that her homework assignment was to pick one dish that she was unfamiliar with and attempt to cook it at least once a week until she had mastered every dish in that cookbook. Then, she should get another cookbook. If you don’t own any, try the library. Expanding your cooking knowledge will allow you the ability to use different, possibly cheaper ingredients. You need to make this a priority.
If you do have internet access, I suggest using Pinterest. It is full of great recipes that other Grocery Czars have already pinned and some have even tried. If you haven’t already, be sure to follow me on Pinterest. I have a ton of great recipes, and I really do try most of mine, though I haven’t gotten to them all yet. If you aren’t sure about it, send me a message and ask. I would be glad to tell you my experience with a particular recipe.
Don’t be afraid to experiment, just have a back-up plan because there will be failures. When I first started making pizza crusts from scratch, they were awful. I checked other recipes because I knew there had to be something wrong with the one I had, but it turned out, they were all the same. So, I knew it had to be me. I kept trying over and over again until I mastered the pizza crust. Now, my family prefers my homemade pizza. Don’t be afraid to make changes. One of my family’s favorite meals is tortellini soup. The recipe we use is VERY spicy, and I like spicy! The first time I made it, according to the recipe I loved it but almost died 😉 It was WAY to hot for my taste. I knew I could tone down the heat and it would be perfect. When I make this one now, I use only 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon chili powder as a substitution for the dried chili peppers. I also use Hot Italian Turkey Sausage. It’s much more palatable. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Try. Fail. Try again. Try it another way. Keep trying and learn to make as much as you can.
#8- Always Take What is Freely Given
We started this post with always buy what is cheap, but let’s not neglect the things that come to us for free. Free is always better than cheap! This time of year, members of our church start bringing extra produce from their garden to share. It is such a blessing to have different varieties of homegrown tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, and squash. The fact that it is free is a bonus. Enjoy the things that others are willing to give to you.
You may also be able to glean. Maybe your neighbor has a fruit tree, and they don’t use the fruit. Ask if they would mind if you take some. Years ago, I lived in a house that had a plum tree (this was before I had learned to be frugal). That tree made a huge mess on my sidewalk when it dropped its fruit every year. I was glad when a neighbor asked if they could pick the fruit. It was less for me to clean up later. There is a property that neighbors our family. It is vacant, and the owner has said we can make use of their large persimmon tree. I don’t know what I am going to do with it yet, but I will do something. Another neighbor has blackberries. I am happy the things that others may not be using because I appreciate the preciousness of our resources. If someone is willing to share, we are happy to receive.
That’s it! The very last of my grocery budgeting lessons. There is SO much more I want to say, but there only so much space. If you can think of anything else you would like to know about grocery budgeting, please let me know. I am so happy to have been able to share what I know in this 5 parts series. To check out the other parts, click the links below
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!
Shared at Welcome Home Wednesdays