Friday, February 27, 2009

the art of saving on groceries...a never ending learning process!

Over the past few weeks, I've been thinking of ways to cut down on our grocery spending. With prices rising on pretty much everything, I really just want to be the best steward of money that I can. Normally, I plan our meals out week by week, but I'm attempting to start making a menu for the month, even if I still do my grocery shopping on more of a weekly or every two weeks basis. I've grown tired of having to coming up with a list of meals and groceries every week...I think it will cut down on stress and leave me with more time if I can think more into the future, and also buy a little more in bulk. We'll see how this next month goes...I've planned out all our meals for all of March, and am hoping to cut corners by doing so.

Here are some things you can do to save money, and be more healthy on the way. I do some of these things, but others are goals I have in mind:

Keep an inventory of things in our freezer and pantry-so we can plan some meals around these items. This sounds like it would take a while, right? Well, I actually did it yesterday and it didn't even take one hour. You might just be surprised at how many almost empty little bags of things like pecans you have that if you combine them, will be plenty for that batch of cookies, etc., or that you have two half-used bags of frozen spinach that is plenty for a side for dinner.

Freeze half of some of the meals I cook-this saves money by cutting down on waste, and there's nothing like an already made home cooked meal waiting in your freezer to be defrosted! And it cuts down on so much time, because you only cook half as often.

Start baking more and more of our breads...I would love to get a great whole wheat bread recipe I can use for sandwiches (please send me one if you have it!).

Cut down on processed foods. I used to be really good about this, and have been realizing lately how easy it's gotten to slack in this area. By buying things such as bags of beans and different types of rice, rather than buying the boxed versions with lots of processed ingredients, you can save money and be healthier. It may take more time to prepare, but since I'm a stay at home mom, I don't think this is an unreasonable goal.

Save ALL leftovers! This sounds like an obvious one, but it can be soooo easy to dump those last few uneaten bites left in the pan...but if you keep these, it means buying less for lunches or being able to have a "buffet" style dinner one night a week.

Freeze the cheese! Instead of opening a bag of cheddar, using half, and then keeping the other part in the fridge till it's gone bad, if you freeze it, it's fine to use in cooking. It might not be good for adding to cold foods like salads or for toppings on tacos, but if you're going to pop it in the oven or cook it on the stove, it's fine to use frozen cheese. And it cuts down on waste! You can also freeze things like remaining broth and buttermilk you aren't using, among many other things, for later use.

Freeze lunch meat in portions, rather than putting it all immediately in the fridge and then ending up wasting some.

Instead of throwing out bread ends or unused hamburger or hot dog buns, why not make bread crumbs out of them? Store in freezer bags and keep frozen until you need them.

Make homemade chicken and vegetable broth, rather then store-bought. Again, takes a little more time, but saves money and is healthier.

I LOVE the 10 for $10 veggies at Kroger. You save nearly half the money, and they are a life saver some nights!

It is always great when you find good deals on meats in the circulars-like bags of chicken. Buy more than one and keep frozen.

And you ALWAYS save money by going shopping less frequently! It is almost inevitable that if you go on the spur of the moment that you will end up buying odds and ends. I find that so often it's not big purchases, but the little $2 here and $5 here that will push you over your budget!! Those little things can really sneak up on you.

The more you plan ahead on your menu, the less likely you are to grab dinner on the way home. If you compare the cost of a couple dinners out to your weekly grocery budget, it might just motivate you to cook the next time!

Like I said, I already do some of these things, and others are goals.

I find it somewhat hard to get a lot of use out of coupons. Some women master this and can a ton of groceries for a few dollars. I admire these women, but so far, it just doesn't seem like I have this gene! I think it's hard for me for three reasons: A) Most of store brands are still cheaper than the brand names are, even when coupons are used. Every now and then, I find an exception to this, but for the most part it seems to hold true. And B) Coupons are almost always for processed foods that I very rarely seem to need. C) I do not have the time or energy to learn the art of rebates, double days, and all the other technical things that people know who really benefit from coupons. If YOU know how to do this, please teach me! I would love to know.

I added a column on the right called "Living frugally", with links to some blogs and websites that have good tips. Some of these, I have found through friends' blogs, and others just through random other sites. There are some good tips on many of these!

So, what do you do? Seriously! I would love to know what little ways you find to cut back on things, homemade recipes for little odds and ends you have, if you like to use coupons (and how), if you buy week to week or if you've found you save more by having one large trip a month and a few other smaller ones for fresh produce and dairy, etc. Please feel free to leave comments, or links to blogs you have found helpful!

I know it has been a few days since I've posted any recipes. I haven't had to cook dinner since MONDAY! We've just had different things at night, or it has just been me at home, and I don't usually cook for just myself. I do plan to post some more soon, though!

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