In keeping with the spirit of my $unday $avings post from the other day, I've been asked to share some hints on cutting down your grocery bill. In all honesty, groceries are pretty rough to save on (although there are things I do to stay within the budget!) because with our diet (avoiding processed foods and several dietary restrictions), the foods I buy are whole foods, not a lot of coupons available for our diet/lifestyle. There are some, however. Just yesterday, I learned of a coupon from Earthbound Farm yesterday ( Earthbound Farm ) - take a quiz and get a $1 off coupon. I was able to print 2 and got two pounds of carrots for free. Other ideas for saving money on groceries follow. I am able to save so much money on health items (shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc) and household items (cleaning supplies, laundry supplies, freezer bags, etc) that I have extra to buy what we need in the grocery budget. My savings on these items is near 85%, so, that saves a lot of money.
For my family, cooking from scratch is our main way of saving money on groceries. Limited convenience foods are used. This cuts down costs dramatically, and is so much more healthful than the SAD (Standard American Diet - clever acronym, huh?). Simple, nutritious meals include one or two veggies, possibly a serving of fruit, a whole grain and a protein. I've had to simplify meals because of dietary restrictions - I have a newly discovered dairy allergy and am reacting to virtually all processed grains. So, instead of making two meals, I make one meal and just take what I can eat, possibly skipping the grain altogether. The boys love rice and pasta (I use whole grain pasta, but this is not something I can eat), so I still make it, but I just don't eat it. This is easier and more economical than making different meals. In this same vein, eating in season and growing your own garden are two easy ways to save on your grocery bill. It is not a difficult task to grow a couple of tomato plants, and green beans, peppers and eggplant are among my boys' favorite snacks. I recognize that my family is in a bit of a different situation than most, but we also raise our own meat (rabbits and chickens) and have laying hens for fresh eggs. The chickens free range in every season except Winter, so our cost to keep them is minimal. This all saves on our bottom line.
As far as coupons go, there are a few fairly nutritional products that offer coupons. I use coupons for yogurt (at the Kroger, where I can double coupons) - the one thing I have to do with products like this, however, is to remember to check ingredients. There is still HFCS in a lot of yogurt. If this is they case, buy the plain variety (not vanilla, which still can contain the offending ingredient) and add your own honey or fruit. Peanut butter is another product I buy with coupons. As long as you're not brand-particular, there are some good coupons to be found for a few items for even the most restricted diets.
If your store has a sale on a particular item that you use a frequently, buy as many of that item as you think you'll need until you predict the store will have the sale again. (Many stores put things on sale on a cycle. Walgreens, for instance, has Dawn dish soap on sale at least once a month. I know this and buy some at each sale - with coupons, of course!) The same concept can be applied to all of your consumables... rice, flour, sugar, beans, etc. Always having the basics on hand is most helpful in creating simple but tasty meals. Which brings me to my next point...
Meal planning is a vital part of grocery shopping on any kind of a budget. Knowing what you're making, when you're making it, how you're making it and what you're doing with leftovers is key in not wasting food. Last week, I made a small turkey for dinner. So, that night, we ate turkey. With the bones and skin and fat and random meat on bones, I made stock (into the freezer for use as a meal starter at a later date) and I re-boiled the fat and bones with the giblets and used froze that stock for use for bland dog food for when a dog gets an upset tummy - we have one that gets sick every Winter and needs a rice diet for a week. The leftover meat was used for hot turkey sandwiches a few days later. And there was enough left over for a couple sandwiches for lunch the next day. I even ground up the bones (after they'd been boiled soft) for the chickens- Calcium for nice strong eggs! I always try to make the most out of preparing meals, using all leftovers quickly and efficiently so that they're not forgotten.
I hope this helps someone with ideas for making the most of your grocery dollar. Food is expensive. I save a ton of money on household needs and am able to not skimp on the grocery budget. We raise and grow our own food and buy bundles of meat from our local butcher. I buy extra meat (chicken and ground beef) when it goes on sale, usually buying in larger quantities and breaking down large packages into smaller amounts that I use for one meal, ensuring no waste. Careful meal planning and cooking those meals from scratch round out our grocery savings plan. Using all leftovers in creative ways furthers stretching our grocery budget.
What are some of YOUR favorite ways to save money in your grocery budget? Share with us!