Since getting laid off in December I’ve been trying to find ways to reduce my grocery expenses. I always felt justified on keeping that budget the same because we have to eat for heaven’s sake! Plus I really like to cook….
But times being what they are, we need to conserve on everything right now, including the grocery bill. So I’ve been learning how to save money and still make healthy (but not so gourmet anymore) meals for my family.
Here are the tips I’ve learned so far:
- Plan out your meals. I keep a calendar above my stove that tells me and my family what’s for dinner. I plan out these menus a week in advance, make my grocery list and then buy only what’s on my list.
- Make things from scratch. Thanks to my Silent Generation mother I have a really good example of how to make things from scratch. I now make my own bread, my own noodles, my own pasta (it’s just eggs, flour and water, baby), my own cereal, etc.
- Buy in Bulk My family goes through about 1 loaf of bread per week. A nice, healthy loaf of bread costs now about $4.50. That’s $18 a month. $216 a year. Whereas if I buy my own wheat (50 lbs for $50) at Honeyville Grain I can get 200 cups of flour if I grind it (at my mom’s house). My recipe calls for about 10 cups of flour and makes 4 loafs. This way, each homemade, healthy loaf coasts me only $1.6. This really only works if you buy in bulk. You can buy wheat flour, but it’s getting pretty expensive, so grinding your own wheat is the way to go. Wheat grinders run about $200-$300 but they last forever.
- Use Kitchen Towels. I’ve figured out that I can save over nearly $200 just by using hand towels instead of paper towels. We (especially) I always grab more paper towels than I really need. And I like those kind that have the smaller sections you can tear off, but why not just eliminate this cost altogether and just using kitchen towels to clean up spills, dry your hands, etc.?
- Make Your Meat Go Further. Meat’s expensive. I just served a pork roast to a dinner party of 8 and it alone cost me $30. Why did I do a pork roast when I could have done two chicken roasts that look just as fancy (with a little rosemary rub) for $8!! Here’s what I hate about chicken. You get sucked into buying boneless, skinless, chicken breasts because they’re uuuber convenient. But as I’ve been retrenching, I’ve realized I can get SO much more out of chicken if I buy the whole thing. The entire chicken costs only $4-$5 bucks for a 4 lb bird. And it’s really not that hard to clean, tear off the neck (I know it sounds gross) and roast. But you can get a nice roast the first night – and eat the wings and legs), then shred the breast for chicken enchiladas the next night and then take the rest of the meat and make chicken noodle soup! It’s so easy. There’s no waste this way. I boil the bones and everything and get a nice chicken stock. And add carrots, the rest of the meat, some cream of chicken and homemade noodles and you have a fantastic soup. Three easy meals for my carnivorous boys for less than $5 each.
- Go Italian. Pasta is so cheap. Even if you don’t want to make your own pasta, you can buy hard pasta at the grocery store for under $2 and get two major meals – plus leftovers – out of it. And I always make my own sauces. Alfredo is simply parmesan, milk, cream cheese and garlic. Marinara is easy to make with garlic, tomato paste and canned tomatoes. If you keep it vegetarian and just add frozen vegetables you can make these Italian dinners for under $3 each.
- Beans Beans Beans Baby. Beans are the biggest steal right now, if you buy them dry. Cooking with dry beans takes time, but very little effort. You can soak them overnight and then boil and simmer them in water for about 30 minutes to an hour. (If you don’t want to soak them you don’t have to, it just speeds up the cooking time). Or I’ve heard you can cook beans in the oven, which I’ve never tried. But I’m learning to make a lot of things with my bulk beans. I made homemade re-fried beans the other night. And I can make white-bean chili, regular chili, and black bean soup. These meals can save you so much money. Canned beans are about $1.7 and only yield about 1 1/2 cups. But a 16 oz bag of dry beans yield about 8 cups cooked beans and are only $2.5. So that’s 30 cents a cup vs. $1.13 a cup. Did I do the math right?
If you have any additional tips of thing to do to save on your grocery budget, share it here!