Slashing the Grocery Budget by Melissa Norris

Sharon February 22nd, 2008

The food budget is one place that most people can save tremendously. As energy prices increase over time, the prices for any food purchased in grocery store will naturally increase as well. Many of the foods you buy travel hundreds of miles before they end up on your plate.

My goal is to spend less than $50 a week for a family of 6 people, 2 adults, and children ages 13 to 19. I am able to maintain extensive stores as well as feed my family daily with this amount of money.

These items are included in my food budget: any food purchased at the grocery store, farmer’s markets, restaurants, farm stands etc.. and any seeds or garden plants, also canning supplies. I count the cost of lids but not the cost of jars.

Here are some of my favorite ideas.

A few things I rarely ever or never buy: mixes, convenience foods, hot dogs, lunch meat, white anything (rice, pasta, bleached flour,ramen noodles) I don’t buy much meat in the stores either. My husband hunts and that supplies most of our meat. Chicken and pork is purchased from organic sources.

Drinks: We drink milk, tea (herbal, decaf we don’t drink anything with caffeine, use honey for sweetener), lemonade (from real lemons), real juices, cider, tomato juice. We rarely have kool aid or pop. We also make lots of fruit slushies with fruit, yogurt, ice, and some oats or wheat germ blended into it.

Garden: I raise a huge garden and can everything I can get my hands on. I also get a lot of excess produce given to me from other people’s gardens. I will can it and give them some of it to repay them for their generosity. We are able to put back about 1000 jars of home canned foods and lots of stuff in the freezer as well.

Do you need to plant trees around your house??? We planted a few oak trees and then we decided that every other tree we planted would be a fruit tree. Now we get peaches, apples, pears and cherries right here on the homestead. Every year we plant at least three or four new trees. I plant them anywhere I can find a little spot that I think they might thrive. We have also started grape vines, shrub cherries, hazel nuts, blackberries and raspberries. I always think the day may come when we will be extremely glad that we have these items here on the place.

Do not be shy about asking people for their excess fruit. Ask if they would like to sell any of the apples off of their trees. Most people who are not using them will tell you to take them, and you can give them something nice like a fresh apple pie, or home canned applesauce to repay their kindness.

Forage for what you can.. You may find mushrooms, berries, nuts, wild greens and much more right in your yard or woods.

Cook from scratch, Yes it is the only way to achieve black-belt tightwad savings on food. It is much better for you too. I am able to use my own eggs, and real butter, honey, whole wheat flour, etc… to make rgood, high quality meals. If you aren’t a proficient cook, head to the library, don’t buy a lot of expensive cook books. You can go to the library and check out 3-4 books every few weeks. Go through them to get new ideas that make your cooking more exciting, using basic ingredients you have on hand. Practice really does make perfect. As you develop the habit of cooking from scratch, you will wonder in amazement why you ever felt that gravy had to come from a jar.

Start an herb patch. For literally a few dollars worth of seeds, you can have hundreds of dollars worth of fresh herbs right outside your door. I grow basil, parsley, sage, dill, garlic, chives, oregano, marjoram, and much more.

Plan your meals early in the day. I know what I am having for supper before I eat breakfast. I have found that planning it early helps me to get myself organized and I am not standing looking into a full freezer at 4:00 in the afternoon, wondering what to have. Planning and organization are key to saving money on food. Using what is available in the garden or what needs used in the larder are both essential tools to saving in the food budget. If you have tomatoes going bad in the garden, but you are eating canned items from your stores, that is bad planning. Use what needs used first.

When you are in the grocery store, look for unexpected bargains and specials. You never know what you might find. I do not shop with a predetermined list, except for the really good sale items I want to get. I go looking for the best deals, then I cook according to what I have available. Never NEED anything. I always try to have things ahead, so that I am not desperate for something, because without a doubt if I have to have something, the price will probably be double.

I always shop with cash. I only shop at about 3 stores, but I don’t always go to each one every week. I look over the sale papers and check for the lowest prices. Most stores have some fresh fruits and veggies on sale each week. I buy a good supply of these when they are marked down.I don’t normally use coupons. Very rarely I will find one for something I would actually buy. They seem to be mostly for gimmicky foods, not real ones, so I never got into the coupon habit.

Eat oats. I can buy them in bulk very cheaply and they are the best breakfast you can get. I wil not buy any sugary cereal. I pay less than $1.50 a box for cereal. But my kids are not big cereal eaters, so I don’t need more than a box a week.

Soups are the cheapest, easiest foods you can make. Very filling and nutritious for a family or single person. I have soup at least twice a week in the fall and winter months. My husband came from a family that was used to having big platters of meat on the table. However they always had money troubles, and never owned their own home. I truly believed the money they spent on meat alone would have bought them a nice house. I told my husband that we would have to eat a lot of soup to own our own house. We were able to build our home mortgage free. With no debt and everything paid for on an income of less than $20,000 a year for the last 20 years.

Leftovers: Use all food you buy or prepare. I try not to waste anything. I use all the leftovers to make a soup or casserole. Save bits of things for snacks, or make your own homemade TV dinners. Last night’s stew was made from leftover boiled potatoes, carrots, a jar of deer meat, a jar of tomatoes, a small onion, lots of herbs, and a spoonful of hot mustard. It was very healthy, good and there was plenty for us and for company and some leftover as well for lunch today.

On the rare occasion I have to throw something out, I give it to the chickens, so they have a treat and we still get some eggs.

Think Healthy- In the last few years, I have made a commitment to not buy certain things. I do not buy anything with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil. When I started reading the labels I was shocked at everything it is in… I do not use bleached flour, white anything (flour, rice, pasta, ramen noodles etc..) I have found that while whole wheat is a bit more expensive, by cutting out the other things I am still spending less and less money.

Snacks are a nice treat. Our family enjoys a good snack. I try to make most snacks from scratch or using healthy natural foods. One of our recent snacks was pumpkin bread, popcorn, apples slices with caramel dip,and peanuts. To drink we had apple juice I heated up with a cinnamon stick and some cloves. It was so warm and good. This whole snack costs about $3, which is less than a bag of chips and a bottle of pop, but was much healthier and nutritious.

Stocking up is the key to really saving money. Sometimes I feel like I should spend less, but then I realize that with the amount I am spending I have a lot of food put back also. It takes a while to get ahead so you can stock up, but the peace of mind is worth it.

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