As a family of six, I’ve always been conscious of our grocery budget. And as our oldest boy approaches pre-teen-hood — he’s starting to pack it away, man. He’s stick-thin and eats like a horse and there are three more after him. If he gets an unlimited meal plan, we may actually save money when he goes off to college.
So here are a few things I try to do to keep our grocery costs down:
1.) Buy in-season produce. It’s cheaper and better quality.
2.) Or buy frozen. Frozen fruits and veggies are often healthier than fresh because they’re picked when they’re ripest and frozen immediately. Fresh vegetables are picked early and trucked in, making them more expensive but not really better for you (source: msn.com) Watch for on-sale frozen produce.
3.) Bake your own bread. Don’t freak out. It’s not hard…and it’s cheaper, even with the cost of a medium-grade breadmaker (you didn’t think I spent 3 hours making bread, did you?) Our store-bought bread was costing me about $2.50/loaf on-sale, which was $5/week for us. It takes a couple of months to recoup the cost of a breadmaker but then bread costs just cents a loaf (if you need recipes, try this rosemary bread).
4.) Meatless — or almost-meatless — meals. This is a great time of year for soups, chilis, and pasta. In our family, one package of meat is too much for one meal, but not enough for two. We cook all the meat one day, then take the leftovers and toss them into a chili or pasta sauce to stretch it for another meal, which makes the voracious carnivores around here very happy. (This chicken noodle soup is good for that, too).
5.) Buy on-sale. And stock up, if you can. Glance through the grocery flyers before you go, and decide your list from that.
6.) Re-use containers. We switched out sandwich baggies for re-usable containers. Cheaper…and better for the environment. Even if when everyone loses them halfway through the year and you have to buy more. We’ve also mostly eliminated paper towels for thrift store cloth napkins.
7.) Invest in a good Thermos. Like the breadmaker, pay a little money up-front to save later. We were bad at using up our leftovers until I got the kids each a Thermos. Now they take soup and chili to school, keeping us from wasting it and giving them a nice, hot lunch.
8.) More oatmeal, less cereal. We’re Breakfast People. For a long time, I just slapped some cereal in front of everyone and called it good. But then they wanted two and three bowls-ful each morning and it got expensive. Oatmeal costs about the same, but lasts longer and is so much more filling. Add in apples or raisins, or make granola or baked oatmeal.
9.) Get the re-packed eggs. Grocery stores go through their eggs about once a week, getting rid of broken eggs and re-packing the good ones together. Then, they mark down the re-packed boxes — I usually get mine for 50% off. Some stores do this on the same day each week, some don’t. It doesn’t hurt to ask, so you can plan your shopping.
10.) Eliminate dessert. We went from dessert being a special treat, to having it several times a week, to having it every night. We had to quit cold-turkey, and it’s now rare that we have it at all (though I’m sure we’re having Halloween candy tonight, unless I eat it all while the kids are at school).
If you do want to combine the tips above with using coupons, I’d suggest reading Ruth Soukup’s Beginner’s Guide to Coupons at Living Well Spending Less.
And you? Do you have any simple tips for saving on groceries? I’d love to hear them in the comments!