Jul 6, 2005

How Do You Do It???

Whenever I tell people I can buy a months worth of groceries for $300 (or $200 in a pinch) they ask HOW do you do THAT?? Well, it's really not as hard as it sounds. The key is organization and planning. Here are a few tips for newbies to the world of frugal grocery shopping.

Stock up! Your first grocery trip on your road to saving is actually to spend a little more than you are used to. Items that are staples in your pantry should be purchased in large quantity if possible. These include items such as flour, sugar, pasta, dry beans, rice, oatmeal, canned goods, etc.

Plan your menus. Before you head off to the grocery store, make a list of the meals you plan to prepare. If you shop every two weeks make a list of two weeks worth of meals. Take a look at what you have on hand and what is on sale in the weekly circulars from the grocery stores before you plan your meals.

Use Coupons. If there is a particular item you always purchase look for coupons. If an item is on sale and you have a coupon then buy that item. Don't use a coupon just because something is new or trendy, only use coupons if they will save you money.

Buy Store Brands. It's true that all the ads on TV and in magazines make the name brand items look much more glamorous, but often times the store brands are just as good if not better. Actually, many store brands are manufactured by the same name brand companies we all know and recognize.

Shop on sale days. Our local grocer offers specials every Thursday. They range from a one day meat sale to a Pillsbury brand sale. No matter what the theme is for the week, the prices are always great!

Don't buy convenience foods. It's so easy to load up a grocery cart with frozen meals, instant boxed dinners, individual serving sized juices, pre-packaged lunches and junk food. However, not only do these items offer little nutritional value for your family, they are a huge waste of money. Which is why I almost always...

Cook from scratch! The more you can prepare meals from scratch, the more money you will save. Home cooked meals are also higher in nutrition and you know exactly what you are eating, unlike many pre-made meals. From scratch doesn't have to mean a lot of time and clean up. A simple meal like baked or grilled chicken, steamed vegetables and rice can be prepared in under 30 minutes with minimal clean up.

Freeze Things. I always try to prepare a double batch any time I cook anything. It saves me time and effort for future meals and on days that things get really hectic I don't have to worry about what is for dinner. I also freeze bread ends to make my own bread crumbs (which I store in the freezer), leftovers to use for future lunches, bananas for breads and muffins and anything else that might otherwise get thrown out and wasted.

Keep a Price Book. When you shop take a few moments to jot down what you buy and how much it costs. Make a master list of items and the prices (include prices from each store that you shop). When you take the time to do this you will know if it's worth it to go to a different store to stock up on a sale item. It is also a great way to calculate how much you will spend before you get to the grocery store. I actually use a software called Home Cookin to keep my Price Book.

Only take what you plan to spend. If you use a debit card, take your draw from the ATM in the amount you plan to spend for groceries. Then leave your card AT HOME. That way you won't be tempted to spend more than you have budgeted.

Eat Your Leftovers. Have beans leftover, make refried beans. Stale bread can be made into bread pudding. Chicken from last night's dinner becomes chicken salad. Leftover pasta sauce can top a pizza. Don't prepare a new meal until all the leftovers are gone.

Forget the junk food. My theory is if you don't buy it then you can't eat it. We RARELY buy sodas, chips, cookies, ice cream, pastries or any other junk food. I give my kids healthy snacks and we drink a lot of water. I do make them Kool Aid, lemonade and tea but they don't miss the junk food because they are not used to having it.

By following these simple guidelines I have been able to keep our budget down and our nutrition level optimum. It's really not that difficult once you give it a try!

7 comments:

kassy said...

"Don't prepare a new meal until all the leftovers are gone" That is an absolutely fabulous tip that I am going to start using as soon as I get home tonight and am asked what's for dinner. It will stop food being wasted and keep my fridge tidier looking.

Braque68 said...

Another suggestion would be to cook for the first 3-4 days (double the recipes) and alternate eating the leftovers for the rest of the week. I don't like to cook something every night. I try and cook a pasta dish, a roast or a slow cooker or a vegetarian.

Great suggestions.

Katie said...

At our local grocery store, the smaller bag of spaghetti is cheaper ounce per ounce than the bag twice as big.

As we focus on buying in bulk to save money, grocers occasionally apply our strategy to their profits by hiking the price. Your tips help me realize these tricks... and how to overcome. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

We have a leftover night, usually the night or 2 before garbage day, to clean out the fridge. This works great. Kinda like a "buffet" style dinner.

Michele said...

Kassy, that is one of my favotite ways to save money... by using up the leftovers first.

Katie, I learned that trick from The Tightwad Gazette book. It really does make a difference!

Anonymous, I grew up doing the same kind of "buffet style" leftovers night and now my husband and kids look forward to doing so as well. We often do ours for lunch on a Sunday.

Anonymous said...

We do the same and call it the "Refrigerator Raider" night. The kids love saying it and reallly dont mind the leftovers.

Michele said...

Anonymous, love the "Refrigerator Raider" idea! My kids would like a name like that, I will have to give that a try! :0)