- Determine a food budget for each week/month, so you know exactly how much you have to spend.
- Taking a cue from many of our grandmothers, come up with a meal plan--like Pizza Friday (homemade), eat out Saturday, Grill Sunday (and grill some extras), Monday Soup and Salads (use some of the grill extras), Tuesday Fancy Sandwiches (like clubs and panini), Wednesday Pasta, Thursday Meat and Potatoes.
- Avoid the processed stuff that we all fall back on (like cereal bars, and packaged snacks) because they cost more money.
- Shop when you aren't hungry.
- Budget for white wine. It makes the planning easier.
- Create a perpetual grocery list for your pantry, fridge and freezer made up of all the ingredients you could possibly need and only stock up on these things when they are needed.
- Join a co-op or local CSA (community sustained agriculture). If you find that you're getting too much food in your shares, split it with a neighbor or friend.
- Can and dry as much as you can.
- Eat more pasta and soup to keep prices down.
- Prepare slow-cooker meals which can use cheaper cuts of meat.
- Plan your menus. Plan your menus. Plan your menus.
- Sit down with your newspaper circulars and plan your menus based upon what's on sale that week.
- Create a binder of "keeper" recipes according to specific ingredients so that you can reference this when certain foods are on sale.
- Try to get more than one meal out of a sale ingredient.
- Only clip coupons for the things you already buy.
- Have a dollar amount in mind that you are trying to spend (or don't want to exceed). Every time you throw something in the cart, make a tick mark on your list--(the four little lines, with the fifth slash across)--each dollar you throw in the cart gets a tick. It's an easy way to keep an eye on the total so that there are no surprises at the checkout and keeps you from impulse buys when there's no money for it. (the "ticking" job would be great for your children to do)
- Keep a list of your regular meals and try to work in a new recipe or two. (ideally when those unusual ingredients are on sale).
- Keep all your menu plans in the same notebook so that you can go back and say, "hey, that was good. We haven't had that in awhile."
- Buy all the produce you can at your farmers' market, if you can't afford the organic items in your grocery store. Carry the budgeted cash in your pocket for this trip, too. And when trying to be 'green', shopping at your farmers' market is actually a better step than purchasing organics at your grocery store.
- Buy 5 pounds of hamburger at a time. Brown it all then freeze it for adding to spaghetti, tacos, etc.
- Buy a whole chicken. Cook it in the crockpot, then debone, chop and freeze for use in tacos, enchiladas, sandwiches, etc.
- Have breakfast for dinner. It's usually cheaper.
- Buy in bulk because prices are usually better: flour, dried beans and fruits, oats, etc. And if these portions are too big for your family, split them with a friend or neighbor.
- Cook from scratch. It's cheaper. Tastes better. (and your children will remember this about you.)
- Mail-order pantry basics. King Arthur Flour (yeast and cornmeal). Penzey's spices. And watch these sites for shipping sales.
- Buy a cow. Well, usually it's a steer--and split it among a few families. Or many farms can let you buy a half or quarter if they are already planning to butcher. The price per pound is much cheaper. And often you can pick what cuts of meat you want. (the hard part here, for me, at least, is the up-front cash, but the long run savings are very good.)
- Eat with the seasons. Good advice: start with the in-season ingredients and the plan your recipes around them instead of deciding on the recipe and then buying the ingredients. And when you decide to try a new recipe, base it on what's in season.
- Shop at the same stores each week. It helps you stay focused on what you really need. (and it's much faster!)
- Shop the perimeter of the store first. It helps you spend your budget on the healthier items like dairy, fruits and vegetables. Then you have less money to spend on the processed, packaged items that aren't as healthy and are usually more expensive. (This is where the ticking system would come in handy.)
- Try to prepare recipes that call for similar ingredients.
- To change up your menu without making another trip to the store, try swapping ingredients with a neighbor.
- Shop with cash in envelopes so you always know what you have. Or, load up a grocery store gift card at the beginning of each month if you don't want to carry around the cash.
- Keep a price book where you write down the prices of regularly purchased items. This way you know which store has the best prices for the things you need.
- Make your own bread, pizza dough. Can spaghetti sauce.
- Use the resources in The Tightwad Gazette.
- Try the Saving Dinner cookbooks.
- Sometimes improvising dinner with just what you have is a great creative challenge that can save you money. (some of my best dinners were improvised)
- Make an extra portion at supper to use for packed lunches the next day.
- Walk to the grocery store. And if you have children, bring the stroller. It severely limits the amount of items you can carry home. And you save money on gas.
- This Fall, use the apples(you can often get seconds from your orchard for this. They are much cheaper and fine for sauce and butter) for homemade applesauce and apple butter.
- Try batch cooking. Buy ground beef on sale (10 pounds at a time), and do a beef "session" like five pounds browned with chopped onion, bagged in 2 cup portions and frozen for future uses (tacos sloppy joes, casseroles, spaghetti); three pounds of premade meatballs, flash frozen and bagged; and then maybe two 1 1/2 pound meatloaves frozen unbaked. Do this with chicken, beef, beans, vegetables, cookies, fruits, etc. The possibilities are endless.
- Try setting a budget per meal. When some meals are much cheaper, it allows for the occasional luxury meals.
- Send your husband for milk and bread--because that's all they'll come back with.
- If you need just a small amount of an ingredient for a new recipe, get it from the bulk bins so you're not left with lots leftover that you won't use up.
- Stock up on pantry items when they go on sale. Watch for good sales on pantry items around the holidays.
- Try only making a big grocery shop every three weeks and a weekly fruits and vegetable trip.
- Record what you spend on groceries. (if you are brave enough). It helps you see where your money goes. Think of it as a challenge to keep those expenses low.
- Control portions. Watch how much you are preparing and how much your family is eating. Keep it within healthy boundaries.
- Plan your menus--BUT, be flexible by what's on sale.
- Buy things on sale in larger packages and freeze them in smaller packages.
- Have a garden.
- When you bake, freeze some cookie dough for later. Make an extra loaf of bread and freeze for later.
- Save the end pieces of your bread in a bag in the freezer. When there is about half a bread bag full, make croutons (olive oil, herbs, salt, 250 degrees until light and crisp), bread pudding or stufing.
- Use the tremendous resources found in vintage cookbooks.
- Choose nutrition over convenience.
- Check the book resource "Totally Organized", especially the section on "organizing your budget".
- Bake snacks, rather than buy them. (I'd love some recipes to link to here...)
- Organize your pantry with clear bins and label the fronts so that you know exactly what is in your pantry. Hide the "desirables" (ie. unhealthy stuff) in white bins, so that they aren't visible to little eyes searching for a snack.
- Put up a list on your cupboard/pantry door of everything that's inside, that way you're using up all that you buy and don't forget about that stray can of refried beans or lemon-herb marinade sitting in the back. And when you don't know what to make that night, it can provide some inspiration without having to go out to the store for something new.
- Try this list for inspiration.
phew! So there it is. Let's write a book, shall we??!! My goodness, you all are full of fantastic suggestions for saving money, eating healthy and taking good care of your family's need to eat. I'm encouraged by how many of you strive to eat local and support your community's culture of agriculture--something that is near and dear to my heart.
If I've missed a good link, or piece of advice please let me know and I'll add it to this space. One missing link I see is that many of us are looking for some healthy snack ideas--things we can make/bake for our family. I'd love to add some here or in another post, so let me know if you have some suggestions.
Thank you again for the outpouring of long, detailed comments on the original post. It was wonderful, encouraging, enlightening, and inspiring. I hope this list will be a great resource for you as much as it has been for me.
I wanted to link to the blogs of each of you that left a comment. You deserve the credit. Originally, I was going to put a link with your piece of advice, but that was too complicated. Instead here's a list of all the contributors. And I hope you don't mind my rewording and adding my two-cents of advice here and there as well.
THANK YOU TO: