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Stretching the grocery budget - Page 2

post #21 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by GirlBoyGirl View Post

The USDA website has a monthly meal plan (broken down by weeks) for cheap and easy meals:

http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/MiscPubs/FoodPlansRecipeBook.pdf


Awesome resource!!! Thanks so much for sharing. :)

post #22 of 44

Karenwith4, how did you learn to be so frugal with groceries? I am also inspired by you!
 

We get most of our groceries at one or two big chain stores. We do go to the farmers market in the summer but it seems really expensive. What do you suggest? Where do you find recipes?

 

Thanks

post #23 of 44
Thread Starter 

I think most of my challenge lately has been traveling with dh for work. It has put a whole new spin to things. I've had to figure out prices at new stores etc. Since we're in a camper (and a really small one until we get our own in a few weeks) it really limits me on having much stocked up. It was a lot easier when I had freezer/pantry stores and now that isn't really possible. When we get the new camper I will at least have a full size fridge again and more storage space than I do in here. Right now my 'pantry' is 2 small cabinets. Ugh! I am going to try container gardening when it gets time so that I can hopefully have at least a little of the veggies we use most. I can't wait until we can get back home to property and have animals and a garden. Some really good tips here though thanks so much!

 

 

 

 

post #24 of 44

Purchasing in bulk really helps our budget.  I buy sucanat, oats, spices, & olive oil. I would buy more but we have storage issues.  We were eating a ton of breakfast cereal--I use coupons but it's still expensive and not terribly good for you.  I bought a 25 lb of oatmeal and starting serving oatmeal for breakfast twice a week.  We like it with maple syrup (which isn't cheap) or dates and walnuts. I've also found tons of 'baked oatmeal' and crock pot oatmeal recipes--depending on how much time you have in the AM.  25 lbs of oats did not last as long as I thought it would. 

 

Dried beans are your budget's best friend.  I try to serve beans at least once a week.  I add black beans to our taco meat, about 50/50 mix.  DH rolled his eyes the first time but never mentioned it again. smile.gif Bean soup (with or without meat), hummus, refried beans, beans and rice (make it mexican, italian, southern, or indian with different spice/bean/topping combos), kidney beans on green salad, cold bean salads (tex mex or italian).  Wow, i think I have a bean obsession. 

 

I have also found that OAMC cooking/feeding the freezer is a budget saver for me because there is less waste.  Also the knowledge that there is a perfectly yummy meal in the freezer keeps me from stopping for pizza on the way home. 

post #25 of 44

Do you have any Asian markets? Both where we live now and in Brooklyn, they are a great place for cheap fresh seafood, fruits and veggies, spices, noodles, rice, etc.

 

We also buy stuff at the Middle Eastern grocery store (not as cheap), BJs, and Sams Club.

 

The best thing I've found is meal planning... either planning out the meals a week or two in advance or simply having a Monday is spaghetti type thing.

 

Also, if you keep track of the items you like...you'll figure out their sale schedule.  Like OJ.  I can almost always find it for 2 for $5 or at max $3.  Frozen veggies (we use mixed veggies a lot) go on sale about once every 2 months for $1/bag, etc.

 

I don't buy packaged snacks much anymore.  Usually, I'll make up two big batches of muffins... oatmeal chocolate chip and applesauce/apple (depending on what I have).  Then I pop them in the freezer, and give the kids one each day.  I've also started baking bread at home using the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes method.  Usually, once per week, I'll use one of my dough portions to make pizza.  I buy shredded mozzarella at a warehouse store, use either spiced up tomato sauce or left over spag sauce, and then we add veggies, left over chicken, etc.  Tonight I served it with red lentil soup, but other times, I'll have it with salad or fruit or whatever.  

 

In our house, breakfast and lunch are always vegetarian...except for Saturdays when we do popovers and turkey sausage.  That saves a lot of money.  I buy Quaker Oats in bulk at Sam's Club.  I think it's $6 for a giant container which has 100 servings.  I'll add brown sugar, cinnamon, and fruit to it for the kids...or let them do it themselves.  We also do homemade pancakes, eggs, cold cereal, etc.  

 

Lunch, for me and the kids at home, is usually peanut butter sandwiches or leftovers.  I change the fruit and the sides.

 

We also cook big pot meals that last longer than one night.  So, if I make a big pan of macaroni bechamel (Egyptian dish similar to pastito), I know that it will last two nights.  Yet, it doesn't cost me much to make as I buy the pasta on sale and the meat was bought in bulk.  

 

For us, our biggest expense is fruit and veggies.  We buy most of them either at BJs/Sams Club or the Asian market.

post #26 of 44

Not Karenwith4, but I can tell you that going to a farmer's market at the end of the day can be very fruitful (har, har, couldn't resist).  Oftentimes you can get great deals just because they want to get rid of it. 

 

For recipes, just google whichever fruit or veggie you have on hand.  You'll come up with tons of ideas!
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by youngspiritmom View Post

Karenwith4, how did you learn to be so frugal with groceries? I am also inspired by you!
 

We get most of our groceries at one or two big chain stores. We do go to the farmers market in the summer but it seems really expensive. What do you suggest? Where do you find recipes?

 

Thanks

post #27 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by youngspiritmom View Post

Karenwith4, how did you learn to be so frugal with groceries? I am also inspired by you!
 

We get most of our groceries at one or two big chain stores. We do go to the farmers market in the summer but it seems really expensive. What do you suggest? Where do you find recipes?

 

Thanks



Thanks innocent.gif

A couple of suggestions for getting deals at farmer's markets - in season make sure you are buying direct from farmers rather than resellers, buy in season, let them know you are interested in seconds for canning etc, make an offer at the end of the day - often they are happy to sell off things at the end of the day, don't be afraid of quanitity (assuming you can store it - you can always freeze things) .   In the winter be smart about what you buy ie I can get the same quality local potatoes/carrots/onions/cherry tomatoes/citrus fruits etc in the grocery store for less than I can get them in the market but I am willing to spend a bit more to get greens, green beans or snow peas, etc at the market because they are fresher, generally in better shape and will keep longer.

 

Talk to the farmers about when to buy things. I try to buy maple syrup and honey in bulk twice a year - usually just before and just after harvest. I let them know I am willing to buy large quantities at that point so they can plan for it.

 

As for recipes - I like allrecipes.com

The baked oatmeal recipe I tripped on linking from a blog but I can't remember which one now.

I have some very frugal girlfriends who teach me a lot and I learn a lot from reading here. There are also some sites like $5 dinner which have good ideas.

http://www.5dollardinners.com/recipes/recipe-index

 

I think its important to use frozen foods wisely. There's no point in using fresh peppers for something like sausage and peppers or enchilladas unless I get a great deal on them. I'd rather use them for salads, veggies and dip, stirfries etc. Same with frozen beans - which are great for chicken pot pie, sauteed veggie dishes where there are other veggies that can provide the crunch etc. Save the fresh ones for steamed or raw dishes. In the summer I buy a bushel of peppers for $12 - 15 dollars. We chop and freeze at least one bushel and this summer we also bought another bushel that we roast and freeze and I use those for dishes that are going to get cooked/baked for a longer time.  Frozen carrots aren't a deal where I live. I can get a 10 lb bag of fresh and local for less that I can buy a small bag of frozen carrots. I'd rather have fresh and they store well.

 

I can't make $5 dinners very often as we have 4 kids but when I meal plan I aim to make at least 3 dinners a week that cost less than $10 for the whole family and that include a leftover for my husbands lunch. So that's about $1.50 a person.  On the rotation for that are things like sausage and peppers, chicken pot pie, soups, pasta dishes, veggie stirfry, an egg dish/breakfast for dinner and I usually do a big meal in the crockpot with something that has been on sale (usually pork) and traditional sides (carrots, potatoes etc) and a salad.  We homeschool so cheap lunches are easy.  Breakfasts in the winter are typically oatmeal, granola, eggs, home canned or homemade applesauce/toast.   Snacks are usually veggies and dip, fruit, home baking, popcorn.

 

I keep about 25 - 40% of my groc budget set aside just for stocking up. This week butter was on sale at one of the groc stores for $2 a lb. It's usually about $3.30 here for the cheap stuff. I bought 16 lbs and froze it. Heinz ketchup was $2 a bottle - I bought 6 and that will do us for the year. Ribs were on sale so I bought 3 packs and tossed 2 in the freeezer.  They will make a $10 dinner in a couple of weeks If I do a big stock up week because there are good sales we just eat more from the pantry that week or I plan more of the $10 or less dinners. Pay attention to seasonal sales too. Baking stuff usually goes on sale before Christmas for example, ethnic foods around festival times.

 

The other thing I try not to do is buy much in the way of convenience foods. It costs pennies and takes about 5 minutes to make a pie crust for chicken pot pie. It would cost me $3 to buy premade frozen ones. I can make 4 loaves of good quality bread for the price of one loaf in the bakery. I can make a litre of plain gelatin free yogurt for about 1/3 to 1/4 of the price to buy it and then we can flavour it w honey and frozen berries. Salad dressings are so fast and easy to make and cheap if you have bought the oil on sale.

hope this helps

Karen

 

 

 

 

 

post #28 of 44
This is probably common kowledge but I just discovered it so I'm going to share anyway. smile.gif I haven't had any chicken broth in the house for a few weeks so I've been putting a chicken breast in my soups raw with water and some salt and a few herbs instead of broth. I used to broil my chicken then dice it and add it to a soup. Putting the chicken in raw flavors the water amazingly on its own. It's delicious! And it saves quite a bit of money too. A 32 oz carton of broth is about $3 and I probably use that much or 3/4 of a carton for every pot of soup I make. I just simmer the soup until the chicken is cooked then shred it or dice it and put it back into the soup. No need for storebought broth! smile.gif
post #29 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by JessicaRenee View Post

This is probably common kowledge but I just discovered it so I'm going to share anyway. smile.gif I haven't had any chicken broth in the house for a few weeks so I've been putting a chicken breast in my soups raw with water and some salt and a few herbs instead of broth. I used to broil my chicken then dice it and add it to a soup. Putting the chicken in raw flavors the water amazingly on its own. It's delicious! And it saves quite a bit of money too. A 32 oz carton of broth is about $3 and I probably use that much or 3/4 of a carton for every pot of soup I make. I just simmer the soup until the chicken is cooked then shred it or dice it and put it back into the soup. No need for storebought broth! smile.gif


We do that too... poach most of our chicken.  Also, whenever I have a leftover rotisserie chicken, I use it to make stock.  I throw it in the pressure cooker (faster, but you can just use a normal pot) with a cut up onion, a few carrots, salt, pepper, and let it go for 20-30 minutes.  If I don't have any veg--it still makes good stock, better than store bought.

post #30 of 44

3 words: reduced.produce.rack.  My local grocery store  is very concerned about looks.  They take any produce with bruises or spots and repackages them in styrofoam packs(ugh)  reduced for quick sale on one rack hidden in a corner of the store, same as yesterdays baked goods and dented cans.  I frequently find 3lb bags of apples for $.99 or 2lbs of strawberries for $.99 or whatever.  It's hit or miss obviously but it's worth looking at before you buy produce for full price.  And usually the produce is organic or at least some of the items in the package are organic because obviously less pesticides and chemicals to ripen and make the food LOOK good means they go bad faster so they are on the reduced rack faster.  It has saved me SO much money knowing about this rack.  It's not uncommon for me to leave the grocery store with 15lbs of apples and 10lbs of strawberries to go home and make applesauce or freeze the berries or make strawberry jam or whatever.  I canned applesauce this past fall with my mom and I still have some jars left even though my kids go through a quart per week usually.

post #31 of 44

I planted a garden last summer which has helped a lot. It was my first, so I'm still learning how much to plant of what. The biggest items that saved the most were:

potatoes -lasted 5 months but now I've started buying store potatoes again to save the last bit of small garden potatoes as seed potatoes. Seed potatoes are expensive!

tomatoes-I made a whole lot of pasta sauce and froze it all. I have a couple meals worth left then I'll need to buy sauce again. Next year I'll make more sauce. 

green and yellow beans-easy to grow, easy to harvest and freeze. A quick veggie to add to almost any meal.

zucchini- this one is borderline. It's not really used as a meal, but as filler. I grated a lot of zucchini to freeze. I use it in cakes, as filler in pasta sauce, soups, stews etc. 

 

I bought fruits and veggies when they were in season and priced cheaply.

Apples- I sliced up and froze them in bags which are used in apple crisps/cobblers, muffins etc. I also made applesauce (delish!) and froze them in small portions. Good as snack, on pancakes etc. 

Carrots/turnip/onion-bought on sale, prepared, sliced in chunks and then froze in mixed veggie bags. Quick and easy to open a bag for stews or soups. A lot of work last fall but it becomes my cheap convenient food in winter. 

Strawberries, blueberries etc-I made some into jam, froze the rest to use in winter for the occasional treat. Next year I'll do more!

 

I try to shop less. Going to store equals less impulse buys. 

I try to eat less (been tracking calorie intake on Sparkpeople-Yikes!)

I try to eat less packaged foods.

I would like to buy meat in bulk, maybe next year.

Meat is used as a seasoning, not a main dish.

 

I rely on our freezer too much. I did a lot of 'firsts' last year so gave myself permission to freeze everything. This year I'd like to learn how to can and to get a dehydrator. 

Milk and cheese are an expensive problem area (I find).

 

 

post #32 of 44

Amen to all that has already been said. We have a large freezer. We buy a full pig and a 1/2 of beef every year. So right now, its filled to the rim so no feeding the freezer for me for a few months. But check out the thread I started in meal planning literally years ago that is still there regarding feed the freezer.

 

I also budget a part of my grocery $$ for stocking up. Things go on sale seasonally. Such as Nov/Dec, baking supplies are dirt cheap. Chicken goes on a great sale every 6 weeks or so. Stock up on what your family eats. I make my own stock out of whatever we have. Such as the turkey carcuss from thanksgiving made a super stock.

 

I like the idea of the 4th week, eat what you have on hand. We have several meals for just that purpose such as a big salad, pizza, grilled meat and whatever veggie over noodles...

post #33 of 44

The other thing I try not to do is buy much in the way of convenience foods. It costs pennies and takes about 5 minutes to make a pie crust for chicken pot pie. It would cost me $3 to buy premade frozen ones. I can make 4 loaves of good quality bread for the price of one loaf in the bakery. I can make a litre of plain gelatin free yogurt for about 1/3 to 1/4 of the price to buy it and then we can flavour it w honey and frozen berries. Salad dressings are so fast and easy to make and cheap if you have bought the oil on sale.

hope this helps

Karen


 


Thanks so much for all of your advice, Karen! I will try to implement many of your ideas and will def. check out the five dollar dinner site. Sorry to bug you for one more thing --- but could you share the pie crust, bread loaf, yogurt, and salad dressing recipes/how to. I have tried to make some of these on my own before but would love your recipes if you have time to share.....especially bread and yogurt since I have no idea how to make those on my own

post #34 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by youngspiritmom View Post

The other thing I try not to do is buy much in the way of convenience foods. It costs pennies and takes about 5 minutes to make a pie crust for chicken pot pie. It would cost me $3 to buy premade frozen ones. I can make 4 loaves of good quality bread for the price of one loaf in the bakery. I can make a litre of plain gelatin free yogurt for about 1/3 to 1/4 of the price to buy it and then we can flavour it w honey and frozen berries. Salad dressings are so fast and easy to make and cheap if you have bought the oil on sale.

hope this helps

Karen


 


Thanks so much for all of your advice, Karen! I will try to implement many of your ideas and will def. check out the five dollar dinner site. Sorry to bug you for one more thing --- but could you share the pie crust, bread loaf, yogurt, and salad dressing recipes/how to. I have tried to make some of these on my own before but would love your recipes if you have time to share.....especially bread and yogurt since I have no idea how to make those on my own


I'm not Karen, but I've been making bread from the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes method and I simply love it.  It can stay in your 'fridge up to 2 weeks, but our dough never lasts that long. I put some in a loaf pan for sandwich bread.  I make pizza from it.  I make pita bread.  I make cinnamon buns.  I love it. :)

 

I use their basic boule recipe, but use 2-1/2 cups of whole wheat flour and the rest unbleached all purpose.  http://www.breadin5minutes.com/

post #35 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by wrenb View Post

We eat vegetarian 95% of the time to save money. Instead of meat we eat tofu, beans, eggs, and cheese. When I do buy meat it's usually a whole chicken which can then be at least 3 meals: roast chicken, chicken pot pie, and chicken soup.


We do this too. We do not make meat a main thing we buy but instead it is special. For instance we do have a meat meal on the meal plan this week because we could afford it. I don't buy cheap meat in bargain bins but since we don't buy a lot of meat, the cost doesn't bother me. I don't really even know what meat in the grocery costs so I don't know how much more I am spending. We buy a whole chicken about once a month. We make it stretch and then I boil down the bones for broth.

I really believe that the best way to save money in a budget is to stop buying meat. We do a lot of bean. We have a curry night once a week. There is always consdierable amounts of leftovers for lunches or other dinners. Thsi week we did a sweet potato, chickpea and spinach curry with brown rice. Inexpensive, healthy, so delicious and SO MUCH FOOD!

DS is allergic to eggs, but dh and I eat them on the weekends. I also make ds pancakes in bulk and freeze them. he loves that so he get s a special breakfast. Lots of people frown at tofu but I am fine with putting into our meal plan once week, we do tofu sticks, scrambles, cubed and marinated with rice and veggies.
post #36 of 44

Use spices! If you can get them in bulk, get a little bit of several kinds- not very expensive- and it will add Tons of flavor- so that you can have chicken (or whatever) several times in a row (or in a week, or month) and it can be very different each time, depending on the spice theme. One time, use rosemary, another time, try curry... variety goes a long way in making our family enjoy meal time.

post #37 of 44

I realize this costs money up front, but my biggest way to slash my grocery budget is to buy in bulk.  I but a half-cow at a time, and that reallllllly helps.  I bought a 25-pound bag of (expensive, gluten--free) steel-cut oats from Bob's Red Mill and even with the shipping, it beat the pants off of the local store's price.  If you have a local HFS, go to the customer service desk and ask them to price a 25 pound bag of a particular item for you, they sometimes give 10% off the regular price, then compare that to what you can get it for online and see if that helps you out.  That 25-pound bag of oats is almost gone, we'll finish it off within the next two weeks.

 

Try to deal directly with the farmer or go to a farmer's market anywhere you can.  I can buy potatoes in bulk at the farmer's market for about half per pound of what the grocery store wants for a 10-pound bag, and then store them.  Ditto for apples.  Find some friends to go in on it with you if you can.

 

Know what's in season and when.  Look up your state Ag website and see if they post wholesale prices daily.  Ours does in NC- http://www.ncagr.gov/markets/mktnews/RA_FV001.txt  Look at it daily as part of your morning routine and compare it to a chart of what is in season so you know when prices are bottoming out and you can buy it cheap.  If you get a good deal, even if some of it goes to waste or you have to give it away, you've still saved money.  Last year, my husband swung by the farmer's market on a whim near closing time and came home with 35-pound boxes of tomatoes that were close to going bad.  He got them for $5 a box and he could have gotten much more had I had time to process them.  I went to work and was able to can most of them, each box just had one or two tomatoes going mushy.

 

We dropped meat for breakfast and lunch, unless we're eating leftovers.  We do a LOT of soup and bone broths.  If you order that side of beef, talk to the butcher about the bones.  Tell him you want A-L-L of them and emphasize that you really do mean all.  Our butcher puts them in 5-pound bags and I can make enough stock to keep us in rich, gelatinous stock for the entire year.  Good stock is protein-sparring and is a valuable way to get nutrients.

 

Keep a list of what's in the fridge (produce, dairy, etc...) on the fridge, including the leftovers and the date they need to be tossed.  Make sure you use it up before it goes bad.

post #38 of 44

We are vegetarians so we save a lot on not buying meat.  But produce can get a bit pricey, especially since I buy mostly organic.  I've just recently started cutting back on my organic produce because I just can't afford it anymore.  We also buy a lot of all natural products.  I refuse to buy crap or products with a ton of ingredients I can't pronounce so that adds more to our bill.  When I went on maternity leave I started doing meal plans, which does help, but I seem to be spending more now and I don't know why.

post #39 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by youngspiritmom View Post

The other thing I try not to do is buy much in the way of convenience foods. It costs pennies and takes about 5 minutes to make a pie crust for chicken pot pie. It would cost me $3 to buy premade frozen ones. I can make 4 loaves of good quality bread for the price of one loaf in the bakery. I can make a litre of plain gelatin free yogurt for about 1/3 to 1/4 of the price to buy it and then we can flavour it w honey and frozen berries. Salad dressings are so fast and easy to make and cheap if you have bought the oil on sale.

hope this helps

Karen


 


Thanks so much for all of your advice, Karen! I will try to implement many of your ideas and will def. check out the five dollar dinner site. Sorry to bug you for one more thing --- but could you share the pie crust, bread loaf, yogurt, and salad dressing recipes/how to. I have tried to make some of these on my own before but would love your recipes if you have time to share.....especially bread and yogurt since I have no idea how to make those on my own



Sure!

My pie crust recipe is the same as this one. The key is to chill the shortening and the water.  There are lots of online video tutorials about how to make it - there's a good one on all recipes I think.

Your best bet for yogurt is to buy a starter from the health food store and follow the directions there til you get the hang of it. The basic idea is that you heat milk to a certain temp - I think it's 88 degrees F, let it cool  to 44 degrees and stir in your starter and then incubate it.  I use a small hardsided cooler, put the unset yogurt in a large mason jar w a lid and then fill the cooler with hot water (about 140 degrees) put the lid on and cover it with towels over night. I think Soulemama had a tutorial on her blog to show the steps and if you google there are lots.

 

Salad dressings I make on the fly depending on whats in the salad and I don't really measure. I aim for 1/2 oil 1/2 vinegar plus whatever flavourings we are adding. My kids love a poppy seed one and I can dig out the recipe and post it for you and I have a nice creamy italian one as well. We also like maple basalmic which is 1/2 cup oil/ 1/2 cup basalmic vinegar, 1/4 cup maple syrup.

 

Bread - My kids love this recipe.  Again tonnes of good tutorials on line. A friend of mine has a tutorial that is a good one and I will dig it out and post but I am on the fly

Sorry - more later.

Karen

post #40 of 44

Read the grocery store circulars. I find them particularly useful for finding deals at stores I don't normally shop at. Coupons, coupons, coupons. Coupons used during 1 big shopping trip will pay for the year subscription to the newspaper containing the coupons. Most stores are doubling coupons less than $1. Be smart. Only cut out those you know you'll use. Watch out for coupons requiring you to buy two or more items -- make sure you really need that quantity. Make sure your grocery cards are linked to your correct address. You can register at grocery stores online to make sure this is the case. Grocery stores send out valuable coupons in the mail for things they know you buy. Don't ignore the coupons that come out with your receipt. Sometimes there some good ones -- $2 off your next visit, etc. These add up and pay for the lattes I need to get through dreaded meal planning, grocery store fiascos! Also, Walmart and stores like that are carrying more quality, specialty foods. I try to go to Walmart first before the grocery store. Keep in mind, though, that a grocery store special usually is going to be cheaper that Walmart's every day low price.

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