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How do you stretch your grocery budget ?

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

How do you guys make your grocery budget stretch out more ? I am a STHM with 6 kids , ranging in ages between 15 years and 9 months .

Over here , we hardly have any coupons at all , and usually only the ones , that take like , for example , 50 cents off the most expensive item , so they are not really worth bothering with . 

But other than that , what do you do , to make the most out of , what you are buying ? 

I am already making my own bread 95 % of the time , and I hardly ever buy convenience products , but it still seems like EVERY . SINGLE . MONTH we are over what I wanted to spend !

So frustrating !

post #2 of 28

Maybe you need to redo your budget some?
I make everything from scratch.. Buy in season and in bulk where reasonable (for example I don't see the need to buy bulk toilet paper sine it gets ruined before it gets used but I buy bulk flour sine we go through it quickly). I use to have a small garden but can't any longer (not allowed in our lease). My kids get water to drink, on special occasions we do milk or water down juice. We don't eat cereal, if we do oatmeal its from the old fashion type and then sweetened ourselves.. Little to no convince foods.. Everyone eats the same meal, I don't do separate things for each person, even for lunch and breakfast.

post #3 of 28

Meal planning has really helped.  I meal plan every week and make a list.  I only buy what is on the list.  We make everything from scratch.  If we want something, we have to make it.  We make our own bread, jams, etc.  The only things we buy are ingredients.  We also shop at Bottom Dollar.  When we shopped at Wal-mart, we spent way to much money on non food items and food at the regular grocery store was marked up quite a bit. 

post #4 of 28

Do you eat meat? I cook meat about 2 or 3 tines a month. A roast, a ham, turkey or chicken, bought on sale and frozen. Then meat is the main course one day, then leftovers in a casserole, tacos, fried rice, or whatever for 2 or 3 days, then soup. Depending on the size of the original meat, we may also get a few sandwiches. We are fine with meatless meals a few days a week.

I have never had any luck with coupons either, but I do watch for sales and stock up on things that keep. I buy cases of fresh veggies in season (and cheap!) and can or freeze them. A small freezer was one of my all time best investments. When I had 6 kids at home, I would have loved a larger one but had nowhere to put it. Now that my family size is decreasing, the little one does us fine.


Popcorn and fresh fruit are the main snack foods around here. We drink mainly water and tea. None of us are really breakfast eaters, but we like eggs or pancakes for dinner occasionally.


I guess what I am trying to say is that I think we save more by our style of eating and cooking, than the actual shopping.

post #5 of 28

I also wanted to add that we have started eating less meat as well which has helped our budget. 

post #6 of 28
Thread Starter 

We don´´t do much convenience food either , there were maybe 5 times in the past year , that I bought pizza and it was because we were so busy renovating our house ( an ongoing process dizzy.gif) and the kids helped sooo much on that particular day , that I thought , we really deserve a treat !

Other than that , it´s just too much , apart from the obvious being unhealthy .

I just wish , we had farmer´s markets around here , that is one thing I definitely miss from the States 

Meatwise , we really have cut down a lot , I buy 25 kg from a local farmer every 6 months or so and have him grind abound 60 % into ground beef and the rest I use for stews and things like that .

More expensive , but I don´t want to sacrifice the animal´s welfare , so that is one place , where I don´t want to get cheap !

The special meal thing is a point for me too , one of my sons doesn´t eat potatoes , due to an intestinal issue , so there is a bit of a challenge sometimes . 

I was thinking about getting sneaky too , by bulking out stuff with things like red lentils , beans or that sort of thing ! Anybody ever try that ? 

I am open to any kind of idea , recipe whatever .... 

post #7 of 28
Yes that's the kind of thing I used to do a lot of before I had to revamp my diet... Things like brown rice & beans are super cheap here so they used to form the bulk of our meal, no meat or dairy, but now I can't do that for health reasons. I also used to (and probably will again when I start cooking more in the fall!) combine fresh & frozen veggies in the same meal. Mixing some fresh veg or herbs into a mostly-frozen-veg dish kind of brightens it up and takes away the blah-ness of frozen veggies. Frozen veg are often way cheaper here (and don't go bad).

Right now since it's summer, produce is very very cheap, so one meal a day is almost always a salad, and breakfast is usually fresh fruit with yogurt or whipped cream. The last meal is often leftovers or snacky things, I've only been cooking maybe 3 times a week. Snacks are usually fruits/veg/nuts/hummus.

Mostly we just rely as much as we can on cheap foods. Around here that tends to be apples, bananas, oranges, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, squash, grains, beans, peanut butter. After 17 years veg*n, I am pretty picky about my animal products being organic & pastured, but I save money by focusing on the ones that are already on the cheaper side -- chicken, ground beef, cheap frozen fish like pollack, eggs, and yogurt... and we use cheeses as accents rather than stand-alone components. There are many things I wish we could afford -- more exotic fruit & veg, more variety in meats, special dairy products like creme fraiche or goat's milk yogurt, etc. but we reserve those things for special occasions (and I guess that's a cheaper alternative to ordering out!) We only drink water, no milk or juice, and make all our condiments, sauces, and dressings (except mustard for some reason!) from scratch.

We don't exactly do special meals but I do buy things DS & DH can eat that I can't (fruits I'm allergic to, or beans/grains) and make meals that we can all share. So if we have taco night, it's make your own, & I will have mine as a taco salad, & theirs will have the same ingredients plus tortillas and beans. Or if we make fish & veggies, we might make rice on the side for DH & DS (which makes the veggies & fish go a bit further). Or in your case, if one kid can't eat potatoes, I'd just cook the potatoes separately and make sure there is enough protein/veg for your DS to have a bit extra of that. One good thing about cooking mostly the same for everyone (besides lest work cooking!) is that everyone can eat any leftovers, so there is less waste.

But, the bottom line is, nutrition is so important, that sometimes it's worth spending more than you'd prefer, as long as you can somehow make room in your budget for it. So if you are already cutting back however you can, it might be worth looking at some other aspect of your spending to save money. For a bit of perspective -- less than 100 years ago, Americans spent about 25% of their income on food, and now on average spend only about 10% on food, while many other countries spend upwards of 30-50% of their income on food.
post #8 of 28
Thread Starter 

Yes , the leftover thing has started working well for us , especially in terms of for example rice , make it one way one day and then for example fried the other

It´s just hard sometimes , with food being so expensive , where I live and there is a lot of good food around , but it´s also a premium prize

Just the other day , I saw a container of fresh strawberries for the equivalent of 6 US Dollars and everybody else was like " oh , that´s a good prize " jaw.gif

I do not buy those though , since we really try to stay away from the stuff on the dirty dozen list , but still , can you imagine , how far a pound of strawberries would go with 6 kids ? 

post #9 of 28
Yikes! When strawberries go up to $3 a pound here I stop buying them!!! Is there produce that grows well locally? Theoretically it might be cheaper, even if the foods seem a bit foreign to you at first...
post #10 of 28

Yikes, things are Sooooo expensive in Scandinavia :(

A couple of thoughts. I would ask the farmer you get your meat from if you can get off-cuts or soup bones for cheap. Even not-so cheap....I've re-used soup bones for broth multiple times, and soup is one of the best ways I know to stretch the food budget. Also, I remember most people where we visited having balconies. If you do, maybe you could grow some leaf lettuce during the summer and bring it inside during the winter? Or herbs, or something small? It won't save you earth-shattering amounts of money, but it could help a bit.

We eat paleo/primal, so not necessarily what you're looking for, but things that we do: I keep a freezer bag in the freezer into which I put most veggie scraps, and all chicken bones. When the bag is full, I make broth. We don't buy any processed foods, almost exclusively single-ingredient foods. We don't buy snacks. If someone's hungry between meals, there is almost always something leftover to eat. Otherwise, there is fruit or hard-boiled eggs. We don't buy any juice, only milk, and coffee for the grown-ups. I strain and save the grease from bacon and sausage to use for cooking, so we almost never have to buy fats for cooking. Butter is for flavor, and olive oil for salads. For me, also, having little treats make me more able to stick to a budget. So, I make ice cream about every 10 days, and usually some sort of cookie or whipped cream creation once during that time. Otherwise, I'm at the grocery store thinking, I want something to eat that's FUN. I make a grocery list out a few days in advance, then go through it a few times. I have a checklist so that I won't miss something. II find that the less times I give myself an opportunity to spend money, the better, so forgetting one thing can easily be an extra $15 at the grocery store, because I'll remember something else while I'm there.  And then something else....I buy everything "necessary" first. If there's money left over in the budget, then we get "extras". I usually buy a whole chicken, because that's the cheapest, but if cut parts are on sale, sometimes that makes them cheaper, so I try to be flexible with meal-planning. Since paleo is basically a "meat and veggies" meal plan, that makes it kind of easy. I also have a 3-day rule and a 7-day rule. If a meat product is in the fridge 3 days (7 days for veg), it gets eaten or frozen. Nothing gets thrown out. I was wasting more than I realized, a few years back. If things are really tight, we go to only buying salad fixings fresh, and everything else is frozen.

We spend more than we'd like on food, but healthy food is a priority for us, so we have definitely cut back in other areas. And, I continue to try to cut back on our food budget, without compromising quality.

post #11 of 28
Thread Starter 

Well , this is potato country , but then we have the problem , that I have to find something else to find for one of my sons , who cannot digest potatoes well due to an intestinal problem .

Other than that , really a veggie garden next year , if we can get the back yard into the shape , we want to get it . 

It´s just so hard , since I am alone now , and juggling EVERYTHING with all I have on my plate , leaves little room for maneuvering 

That paleo diet does sound interesting , I have stumbled across the name a couple of times .

Can you tell me a bit more about it ?

I really do like healthy food , I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian for many years ,  and I really believe in the benefits of healthy food 

post #12 of 28

The paleo diet involves eating meat/fish, veggies (roots in moderation), fruits, nuts, seeds, and I think eggs are okay too. It excludes grains (including corn and rice), legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts), dairy, and all the usual processed stuff.


It sounds pretty healthy to me (depending on your exact interpretation... the idea that eggs fried in bacon grease is healthy for you is a little more questionable), but I don't think it's something you can do cheaply if you live in a place where it's hard to get cheap produce. It cuts out all the cheap stuff! Plus the meat is supposed to be grass-fed pasture-raised animals.

post #13 of 28
Thread Starter 

So basically , look at how people used to eat like thousands of years ago , when they still had to chase after their steaks and more or less follow that menu

Doesn´t sound like a bad idea , I don´t know , about the legumes part ( I LOVE beans ) , but mostly everything else sounds definitely doable and also quite healthy ( even though I am with you on the " eggs fried in bacon " point ) 

post #14 of 28
I've been loosely following a paleo-ish diet since January and it's amazing. It has improved some of my health issues quite a bit. It also helped me to finally lose about 20 extra [impossible to lose] pounds really quickly. I have been eating dairy and I don't eat quite as much meat (and no bacon) so it's not true paleo but avoiding grains and beans (which I, too, loved!) helps me to feel so much better and I have a lot more energy. I'm still toying around with it and trying to see what works for me, I was hesitant to eliminate beans and soy at first, and really resistant to not eating peanut butter, and may eventually try to cut out the dairy, or not... but I am impressed at how beneficial it's been for me without even being super strict, and it's remarkably easy to stick to once you get over the initial carb withdrawal of the first couple of weeks!
post #15 of 28

*hugs*  I  sympathize.  Being single and having small mouths to feed and having to do everything yourself is hard.  I'm a single mom to 3 and I'm lucky that we live in the US and get food stamps.  Before we had that, there was a lot of eggs and pancakes at every meal.  :(

post #16 of 28
Thread Starter 

Oh yes , it is so frustrating sometimes , especially since I want them to have lots of fresh , healthy foods , that are good for them .

It´s such a juggling act ! 

We don´t have food stamps here , but everybody , who has kids , gets a certain amount of money per child , until they are 18 and I just found out , that being a single Mother now entitles me to some extra , to basically make up for being alone with the kiddos ! 

So , I guess there is something positive about it eyesroll.gif

The lady , I talked to , said it would take about 2 to 3 months for them to process my application , but then I get it back paid from the day , I apply , which will be absolutely glorious for X-mas joy.gif

post #17 of 28

That's wonderful!!  I'm so glad.  One less Christmas to worry about.  

post #18 of 28

We're currently living on less than half our previous grocery expenditure (it wasn't really a "budget" before!) - NZ$100 a week. It's TIGHT, even with our small family - two adults, a 4-year-old and a baby.


What we're doing:


-No more glasses of milk - we just drink water

-Cut way down on desserts, baking and having guests over (which kinda sucks, but hopefully it'll be temporary)

-Currently, we're not buying eggs - if the chickens don't lay, we just wait until they do. Kind of cute to watch DD run in saying "Wingdings laid an egg! Now we have three, we can have pancakes!"

-I abandoned my principles a few weeks back and got non-free-range chicken - a big bag of frozen chicken pieces. It was dirt cheap, but a) I felt guilty and b) it tasted really gross. I started buying free-range chicken ages ago for the ethics of it, not the taste, so I was surprised - the battery-hen meat tasted really bland and dirty. So I won't be doing that again.

-We're eating a lot less meat. Beans and rice tonight, cooked in chicken stock made from Sunday's roast chicken, and with a bit of a ham hock in it for flavour. So it's by no means vegetarian, but it's minimal meat - the meat provides the flavour but not the bulk of the protein. Chicken stock also makes soup, which we have every Tuesday night, and leftovers for lunch on Wednesday. I think I might start making soup twice a week, it's good weather for it.

-Baked potatoes for lunch a few times a week

-Buying veggies more seasonally. No capsicums for us at the moment!

-Porridge for breakfast most days


It's a stretch, and it requires more thinking ahead than usual (for instance, I forgot to soak the pinto beans last night... they're doing a rapid soak now)... but we're surviving. I get cash out, go to the fruit and veggie store first (where we also get milk and cream), so that whatever happens next, at least we're not skimping on veggies! Then off to the supermarket, muttering the whole way round while I count. We don't really have couponing in NZ, sadly.


The other thing we're doing is trying to cloth-diaper part-time again. We only have a few cloth nappies in DS' size, and we can't use them 24/7 because he gets a rash. But we slipped into the habit of always using sposies, and I figure if we use cloth in the daytime even 3 times a week, we'll end up buying one packet less every six weeks or so, which is another $8 for food... you know? And I'm trying to convince DH to use cloth wipes instead of wet wipes... there's no good reason not to as far as I'm concerned, but he doesn't like the idea. Strange man. Still, he's been meekly chowing his way through plates of beans, so I can't complain.


Oh, and I meal plan. Highly recommend that. We're not super organised, but we have a few habits - roast chicken on Sunday, leftover chicken meat for lunch on Monday (in toasted sandwiches, on a platter with cheese and crudites, or in pasta), chicken carcass made into stock for soup on Tuesday night, leftover soup for Wednesday lunch.... that sort of thing. Pretty often dinner makes enough for leftovers the next lunchtime, so I try to factor that in. And we have a few tricks for meatless meals that don't feel "vegetarian", like flatbreads dipped in olive oil with crudites and boiled eggs, or soup and bread.


I do garden, but... ineptly. Hopefully in a couple of months we'll have broad beans, and I have some dubious-looking broccoli growing... I don't think I'll be skipping the veggie store any time soon, but I have the space, so I figure I may as well chuck seeds in the ground and hope we get a few free tomatoes for our trouble, you know? Last year we were swimming in zucchini, at least. And this year I plan to grow lots of sweetcorn.

post #19 of 28
Thread Starter 

Yeah , the coupons I miss over here , too . Here , we do have some , but you can choose for example from  2 types of xy brand and one will be 15 swedish kronor and the other will be 25 with a 5 kronor off coupon , so it´s really not worth it at all .

One thing , that has worked well for especially the little ones lately is me making a huge pitcher of hibiscus tea in the morning ad they drink that throughout the day , they haven´t asked for juice at all , which was a big issue for us before . 

The meat is a disappearing factor as well , we are not big meat eaters , only bf was , but he is out of the picture (joy.gif) so I think , we will be cutting that out even more . But I do will still get consciously raised , not organic , it´s not widely available where I live , but the meat I buy comes from a farmer , I know personally , and he raises his animals really well !   

I am so glad for your guys´support , great tips and ideas , this has given me hope , that we can make this work !

post #20 of 28

Food is indeed more expensive in Scandinavia... though I think your budget works out because of all the free healthcare and cheap university education.


When I spent a month in Iceland as a student, we were super broke, and we tried to eat local food, which ended up being lots of fish, rye bread, and then cucumbers, tomatoes, and bananas (!) which they grow locally in these steam houses (now I know). And DAIRY. I hope you drink lots of milk because it seems like people's diets were like 60% dairy there. A typical Icelandic breakfast was a big bowl of yogurt, which they flavoured by pouring cream on it! And then a big glass of milk on the side. Then oatmeal. LOLZ awesome.

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