Friday, January 24, 2014

Frugal Friday: Ideas for Saving on Food

I think I was supposed to post this last week, but with the goat babies and the cold and snow and some other stuff, I didn't get it done. Oh well, better late than never!

Right now J and I spend about $120 a month on groceries for both of us. We still spend close to that on eating out a month as well, but we're working on cutting that down a little more. (that is our only weakness though so I'm not going to stress about it too much!)

So here is what we do. We eat reasonably healthfully by my standards. Not too much processed stuff, and a pretty good balance of things. There is always room for improvement but its not like we're eating ramen and hotdogs to make the grocery budget!

Without further ado, the suggestions!

  • Have 1 person responsible for the shopping, and go alone. Not as much fun, but its easier to get everything you need and not spend twice as much on treats and things you weren't planning on! Speaking from experience, folks...
  • DON'T SHOP HUNGRY. The same thing happens.
  • Try grocery outlets if you have one nearby. We have one about 10 miles from here, and it is totally worth just going every other week and making the longer trip compared to going to Food Lion which is 2 miles away. The only trouble with grocery outlets is they don't have everything all the time, so stock up on uncommon items when you have the chance.
  • Don't throw stuff out because it expired yesterday. It won't hurt you, trust me! The date is there mainly for inventory control, so if it looks and smells okay it probably is!
  • Grow a garden if at all possible! Its good for you to get outside and work, its a great learning experience for kids (if you have them) and if you don't use a bunch of fancy equipment and sprays from the store, you can have awesome produce for a fraction of the cost.
  • Then, learn to freeze or can the extras. DON'T throw them out just because you have too many! You'll love it come winter! Freezing is easiest, just wash, chop, and throw it in containers in the freezer. Canning is a little harder but then you don't have to worry if the power goes out and some things are better tasting canned. More on this come summertime!
  • Don't run to the store every time you run out of something. Make do, or make something else. If you're like most people, 1 thing will turn into 6 things and it adds up!
  • Use the crockpot! This is a glorious invention! Check out Pinterest for crockpot ideas, you can make just about anything in it. Need a couple baked potatoes? Throw them in the crockpot on high for a couple hours. They taste great and you didn't use nearly as much electricity.
  • Eat leftovers for lunch, or reinvent into something new for another day.
  • Change up breakfast and make muffins the day before to grab in the morning, or make grits or oatmeal. You can buy hot cereals in bulk and they're much cheaper (and have less sugar!) than the cold cereals. Plus they stick with you longer and you don't crash mid-morning.
  • This is controversial, but I'll say it anyway - make friends with a hunter! I never get the chance to hunt as much as I would like, but we love the meat. We have a friend who hunts all.season.long and he is tickled pink to bring us a deer or two and some squirrels. Game meat is lean, tasty, and about as "green" and "all-natural" as you can get! With a little instruction it's not hard to cut it up and freeze for later use. Then you can make sausage, burger, jerky, whatever!
  • If you raise chickens, consider raising out extra roosters for meat. When you butcher several, cook in the crockpot with water and some homegrown herbs. Then you'll have precooked chicken to use in recipes AND chicken broth.
  • Quail are the most economical egg and meat bird you can raise, though. While both come in smaller portions than the chicken variety, the feed to meat/egg ratio is much, much higher. Plus they are really easy to hatch and raise. 
  • If you find a bread machine on sale, buy it! I found one several years ago on sale at Ollie's for $32. It needed a part that cost $15 with shipping, so for $47 I have a great little machine that makes making breads and pizza dough SO much easier. Plus, it doesn't heat the house up like the oven does. And store bought breads tend to be very high in sodium, you can limit whatever ingredients you wish by making it yourself. And no "Its Sunday night and we don't have bread for lunches!" panic.
  • Speaking of lunches - eat leftovers like I said earlier, or sandwiches, or something else you packed. Get a cute little lunchbag if it makes it funner. I pack about 99% of the time, J eats out on Fridays and that's all. Even if you spend $3.50 on the Dollar Menu, that is about $875 a year on LUNCH for one person! You can make lunch cheaper than that, trust me.
  • Buy in bulk, and I don't just mean flour and oatmeal and "normal" bulk items. Buy bigger bags of chips and divvy them up in reusable containers for lunches. Same goes for applesauce, other fruits, yogurt, etc. 
  • Save the big yogurt containers, jars, etc. for freezing foods and for lunches. You can end up with quite a horde, trust me! But then you can get away from using plastic baggies.
  • Make your own jelly, spaghetti sauce, pancake syrup, cooking spray, cream of chicken soup, mayonnaise... if you can think it, you can make it. Check Pinterest. (I will try to post tutorials someday but this info is already out there!)
  • Pack snacks, breakfast, lunch... pack pack pack when you go on trips! We used to just get everything along the way but now we pack everything but one meal. Normally we get lunch out and eat packed stuff for supper because we're trying to get home by suppertime and lunch in an unfamiliar place is more interesting. Plus lunch is cheaper :)
  • Compost or feed the chickens whatever you truly cannot use. That way it isn't really going to waste. 
  • Eat seasonally. Of course I like a salad in the dead of winter, and lettuce and stuff is normally available and decent (I haven't figured out this 4-season gardening stuff yet.) But tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries - a lot of really warm weather produce is shipped in for long distances and so it costs more and doesn't taste as good. So stick with root vegetables, brassicas, and things from your freezer for the winter. You won't get scurvy, promise.
  • Ask! If someone has a fruit tree that's loaded and they aren't harvesting the fruit, ask them if you can pick some! Most people are just overwhelmed with how much the tree produces and would love some of the fruit cleared out. So get what you want, plus some to make them a pie or something in return.
  • On eating out: use coupons when you can find them, drink water (although J loves to get a beer so we still do that) split an entree, and don't order dessert. Be SURE to tip well though so its still worth your poor server's time! 
That's everything I can think of for now. I realize some of these are not new ideas. Actually, very few of them are, most of these have been around for years and its actually newer that we aren't doing them! True, its a lot of work sometimes, but would you rather spend some more time at home doing things that can be interesting and fun, (such as cooking more and gardening) or even more time at work to be able to eat?

I love my job, but I'll take the first option!

This post shared on: Farm Blog Hop


  1. We have cut way down on waste, mostly using leftovers as you pointed out in addition to composting. Saves a lot of money to make 2-3 meals out of one cooking. We usually have one night a week designated for eating out, and even that's not sacred if the money is needed elsewhere. Good read!

    1. Glad you liked it! Thanks for commenting:D

  2. Good suggestions!
    You got a lot of good life experience growing up on the ole homestead. ;)

    1. I was paying more attention than you think. ;)

  3. I love this post and although as you mentioned many of the tips have been around, it's good to get a reminder. I'm almost militant about not wasting food (it's puzzling, I never remember going hungry a day in my life but I will NOT waste food!) Thankfully RancherMan is very tolerant of both leftovers and remaking yesterday's supper into something different today. My dinner plan will always revolve around what needs to be used before it goes bad. I also love your tip about not running to the store for one item. If you do the math & include the gas you used to drive to the store, that loaf of bread was REALLY expensive! LOLThanks for sharing this post. (visiting From The Farm hop)

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

    1. Hi! Thanks for stopping by! Same here - I never went hungry either but I HATE wasting anything!

      Headed over to see your Ranch now!