money-saving tips for groceries/meals? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 18 Old 03-03-2003, 04:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm a soon-to-be single mom, and our food budget is going to be seriously diminished. I'd love to hear any tips for saving money at the grocery store, money-saving recipes, etc. Oh, part of the issue is that I strive to buy organic, whole foods items as much as possible. Looks like that's going out the window!

Thanks!
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#2 of 18 Old 03-03-2003, 04:39 PM
 
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Bulk and coupons. Well, and sales. Generally, the larger the quantity, the less per serving. I buy organic flour in a huge bag and it is less than buying the small non-organic bag in the grocery store. I fill my cannister and keep the rest in the freezer. I stock up on sale items (dried beans, pasta, canned beans) when they're on sale. I refuse to run around to multiple stores because what I save is usually not worth the extra time/gas/effort. Planning ahead helps a lot too. Check out the menu plenning co-op thread. Take stock of your cupboards and buy what you need for a week. That way there is less waste. Buy extra of what is on sale and figure it into future menus. I also like to double up on meals. Like make two dinners at once and freeze one for another night. Or do some changes to make a new meal out of a lot of the same ingredients for the next night.

It's hard but do-able.

Good luck
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#3 of 18 Old 03-03-2003, 07:23 PM
 
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well i am a single mama, of 2 boys, and definitley shop on a budget. i guess i try to buy things that aren't really pre- packeged, and i do shop at my local co- op but its seems like i spend 50 dollars in there and walk out with 2 bags, so i can't really afford it every week. i do use coupons sometimes, make a lot of homemade things thats about all........ Goodluck =)

Valerie

"If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere." -Vincent Van Gogh
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#4 of 18 Old 03-03-2003, 07:26 PM
 
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Whole grains and beans - especially from the bulk section at your natural food store - are affordable even when organic. They are filling and nutritious. Use them in soups, burritos, veggie burgers, stir fries. You can keep eating organic even on a budget. It's usally the processed and prepared foods that cost so much. For example, breakfast cereal is so expensive but rolled oats cost pennies per serving and oatmeal is quick and easy to make. I also make porridge out of leftover millet and rice too. Just add milk, cinammon and heat. Then add dried fruit and nuts at the table.

Cathe Olson, author The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook, Simply Natural Baby Food, and LIck It! Creamy Dreamy Vegan Ice Creams Your Mouth Will Love.  
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#5 of 18 Old 03-03-2003, 07:38 PM
 
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I stock my kitchen with staples.

The ones I use are rice, lentils, polenta, potatoes, flour, sugar, cooking fat (olive or canola oil), milk powder, baking powder, salt, yeast, herbs/spices.

I can make a plain meal out of just these things, or jazz it up with whatever else is on sale or in season.

--AmyB
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#6 of 18 Old 03-04-2003, 12:06 PM
 
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I belong to a buying club/Co-op. Several families form a co-op, and once a month we place an order with a natural foods distributor. The food is delivered to us directly from this distributor (who also supplies food for the local natural foods stores) The prices are usually about 30-40% less than in the store. For example, I just got six 8oz bags (a case) of organic spelt sourdough pretzels for less per bag than the grocery store brand. You can always split a case of something with another family.

This distributor - Federation of Ohio River Cooperatives/Northeast Cooperatives - only serves a few states in our area, but I am sure that there is something similar in your area. There might even be a link on their website www.northeastcoop.com
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#7 of 18 Old 03-04-2003, 12:09 PM
 
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They do have a link - www.azurefarm.com distributes in the northwest.
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#8 of 18 Old 03-04-2003, 12:50 PM
 
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Mmmmm....millet. I love millet! And quinoa! So good for breakfast.

You most surely do not have to have "whole foods go out the window" when you shop on a budget!

In my experience, cheese and meat are the single most expensive items in my grocery basket. Here's my money-saving tip, which maybe some of you will be able to put to use: there is a very high-end deli/grocery store near my house which, about once a month, cleans out their deli section and packages all the little leftover bits of deli meat and cheese and puts them in a clearance section. Dh and I check there once every few weeks and often come home with just a little bit of (cheap!) exotic cheese and meat...enough to make one meal with. If you have a deli near you, maybe you could look into whether they do this - or suggest it to them!

As for organic produce, we buy an organic box from an organization that brings together farmers and consumers through the "Good Food Box." We buy directly from the farmers (i.e., not through a grocery store), who get ALL the money from our purchase. All packing and distributing of the boxes is done by volunteers! Check it out online at www.foodshare.net if you like. Again, you might be able to start something similar in your neighbourhood or town!

I participated in a pricing study for the organization that prepares the Good Food Boxes and we found that the price for organics is comparable to the price for non-organic produce charged at the grocery store. Plus I love having what arrives in the box be a surprise!!

In the summertime, we go to a local organic farmer's market. I know from my work with farmers that they really depend on regular customers to make their living. So shop locally from your local organic farmers! (Many of the local organic farmers who supply the market and the Good Food Box are old order Mennonites, FYI.)

My other main suggestion is crock pot and dried beans and legumes (as others have suggested) as much as possible. I try to eat legumes or beans plus a green vegetable every day. You can make large amounts of stews, chilis, soups, etc. and freeze them to give yourself greater variety. Or start a community kitchen with other moms and cook large amounts together! Sometimes you can use church or community centre kitchens that can handle a lot of people.

OK, and one more - grow your own produce in the summer! And sprouts all year 'round. Hope those help!!
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#9 of 18 Old 03-04-2003, 04:52 PM
 
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One tip I have heard for saving money at the grocery store is to only shop the perimeter and to not walk up and down the iasles. The bulk food, produce, dairy, meat (if you eat it) tend to be situated around the outside ring and all of the processed, pre-packaged food tend to be in the middle and are the bulk of the cost at the register. It seems to be true of my local stores...I am working on eliminating the pre-packaged stuff from our diet, but it is a struggle for me because it seems that the lay-out of the stores directs you to walking up and down the iasle and get you to make that impulse purchase.

Having a menu and a shopping list, as well as not going to the store hungary, also helps me stay on budget as well.

Mama to three small people; wife to one big person; pet-person to cats and dogs..."Be the change you want to see in the world"-- Gandhi
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#10 of 18 Old 03-04-2003, 06:31 PM
 
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In the "Complete Tightwad Gazette" Amy Dacaczyn (sp?) points out a few flaws in the "buy bulk; shop the perimeter of the store" commonly held belief. She says that although the fresh produce, meat and dairy indeed are on the perimeter and the packaged nonsense in the aisles, so are the things usually required to cook from scratch (flour, baking powder, cocoa, seasonings, oil, etc.) You can add to that the vinegar, baking soda, borax and washing soda (the latter two in the laundry detergent aisle) for making your own cleaners for just about *every single* cleaning requirement in your home.

The truth about bulk buying is that you have to make sure you work out the cost per lb in each case - sometimes she has discovered, the cost for bulk foods can add up to more than the smaller quantities bought on sale. So it pays to always do this calculation.

Make space for establishing a pantry which you stock with items on sale.... a hall closet, under your bed, any available space can double as a pantry.

If you have the space and sulight available, grow a few herbs: sage, thyme, oregano and chives are great perennials (meaning they last for more than one year, usually) and can be used in so many dishes (to buy fresh herbs in the supermarket is prohibitively costly). I grown other herbs in the summer in the garden and can dry them in the fall and restock my herb cannisters this way w. organic herbs.

She also makes use of several other money-saving ideas in her book - well worth a read....see if you can get it at your library or through an interlibrary loan.

Good luck - we're living through month 4 1/2 of unemployment and still going :-/

Michelle
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#11 of 18 Old 03-04-2003, 06:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I can't thank you all enough for the fantastic suggestions! I'm inspired!
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#12 of 18 Old 03-05-2003, 01:03 PM
 
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Oooh, I loved this thread!!! Thanks everyone!!! As a single mom to a 2 1/2 year old living on welfare and goign to school full-time, we try VERY hard to eat organic, but sometimes it's VERY tough. We survive on the kindness of others much of the time(hand me downs and such). But our little secrets are much the secrets everyone else has given. I definitely buy in bulk as much as possible. Watch for sales and take the tiem to clip coupons. It's worth it!!! I found chocolate rice milk on sale today at our local large commercial food store(quite the shocker!!!) for just 99cents. It was worth it to get two at that price. I also make sure to buy cheaper, if only 20cents cheaper. That's 20cents that you can use towards something else you need and it adds up after a while. No amount of money is too small to save!!! Also, I got a beautiful new sewing machine for christmas from my parents and I have started making all of Madyson's summer dresses(i'm not much of a sewer but I made cloth diapers for her when she was smaller and I bought a pattern for a simple a-line dress with a facing and some fabric on sale for $1 a yard) . This enables me to spend less on clothign and more on food. The way I see it, each penny less I spend on us for clothign and non-necessities is one more penny more for organic "good" foods. So proud of myself!!! He he he. But I think you will find that times are tight as a single mom but it's worth it to save and be thrifty. Definitely take up sewing if possible because it DOES save you on clothing. Cloth diapers and wipes if you haven't already started on them. They save TONS of money.
Good luck.
Meg and Madyson 7/23/00

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#13 of 18 Old 03-05-2003, 01:26 PM
 
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About this bulk buying, I guess there must be two definitions. When I think buying bulk items, I am referring to the bulk bins at the health food stores where you can get whole grains, beans, flour, dried fruit, nuts etc. at a much lower price and without the packaging. That is a great way I have found to save money.

Cathe Olson, author The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook, Simply Natural Baby Food, and LIck It! Creamy Dreamy Vegan Ice Creams Your Mouth Will Love.  
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#14 of 18 Old 03-06-2003, 09:04 PM
 
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I always plan a menu for the week. And we stick to it. The kids have input so it is stuff we will all eat. It has really helped us.

HEATHERH

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#15 of 18 Old 03-07-2003, 12:25 AM
 
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We belong to a CSA- Community Supported Agriculture- and purchase a share in the farm. We get a huge bag (some weeks 2 garbage bags full) of veggies for about $25 a week through the harvest season. There is plenty to freeze for the winter, although last year I was too busy to freeze much and gave many veggies away. There is no distribution cost- the money goes directly into the organic farm.

Being right is not always fair, but being fair is always right
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#16 of 18 Old 03-07-2003, 09:13 PM
 
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In terms of bulk purchasing, I do compare prices and occational find pre-packaged is cheaper than bulk, but it is rare. The biggest thing I buy in bulk is spices. The price differnce between buying them at the grocery store and in bulk from the health food store/co-op is obscene. For example, a bottle of whole cumin at my local grocery store is between $3-5, depending on the name on the bottle. The cost for the same amount of cumin at the food co-op from the bulk bin is about $.50. I have found this to be true for most spices that I buy. The only spice that is comperable in price in both place is black pepper. I also buy all of my spices whole, as they stay fresher longer. I bought a $20 electric coffee grinder and grind them myself and they are SO much better (and often I don't have to use as much, since a lot of recipes are assuming they the spices are pre-ground and often call for more to compensate for them being stale). I also store my spices in glass bottles (from all of the spices I bought from the grocery store before I realized the price difference was so dramatic), which seems to help keep them fresh.

Alas, I stray from the topic somewhat........

Mama to three small people; wife to one big person; pet-person to cats and dogs..."Be the change you want to see in the world"-- Gandhi
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#17 of 18 Old 03-09-2003, 10:59 PM
 
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We do many of the things already mentioned. I would add: Use up everything as much as possible. Those leftover veggies or whatever can be thrown into a container and put in the freezer to be added to a homemade soup later (I've even used leftover boxed mac & cheese - which my kids will NOT eat re-heated - and put them and veggies into a veggie pot pie). Making broth with lackluster veggies is another good way to use 'em up. I make a big pot full and freeze in jars (peanut butter jars, salsa, etc.) in two cup measurements , since that is just a bit more than what is in a can and what most recipes call for are can measurements.

Drink lots of water. Our soy/rice milk is pretty much used just for cereal and cooking. Other than that, the only other thing I really buy is a case of organic orange juice through our buying club once a month. Occasionally I'll get other juices, but nobody really requests them and we've been drinking water for so long that that's just pretty much what they expect - at home and on the road in their thermoses.

Along the lines of fewer cleaning products and cloth diapers/wipes, I would say don't forget about using cloth napkins, rags in place of paper towels, and may I suggest cloth menstrual pads. Not only are these things environmentally sound, but the only thing I get from the paper asile is t.p. - and some people even use rags for that too!!! BTW, I know THAT little change wouldn't fly with MY family, but if it's just you and baby, who's to say, "boo" about it?

ANYWAY, those things, plus being vegetarian are things that I count as positives toward being able to spend more money on the kind of food I want to feed my family.

Bedtime for dd's. I'll add more later if I think of any.
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#18 of 18 Old 03-10-2003, 12:42 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you again for all the fabulous suggestions!!
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