There was a time in our not-so-distant past when our family had a very limited grocery budget. Each and every penny was dear.
I knew, just knew there were resources out there to help me. I knew that I wasn’t the only one. So I dug through the internet, and all the cookbooks and e-books that I could get my hands on so I could find some frugal solutions to bolster my courage and expand my knowledge of the art that is grocery shopping.
And what was most important to me? I wanted to be as frugal, but as healthy with my choices as possible.
I wanted to pass on some of the things that I learned for anyone who is where I was. I still practice a lot of these things, though our grocery budget is slightly larger than it was in previous years.
1. These items are at the core of any frugal meal.
- canned tomatoes of all kinds
- herbs & spices
- frozen veggies
2. Shop the sales and build meals from sale items. This goes hand and hand with meal planning.
3. Meal plan. I use this printable from Just a Girl and Her Blog. It’s got a newer design but it’s the same one I use. I write the sales items from local grocery stores on the back, as well as meal ideas. Then the names and dates of the meals go on the front of the shopping list.
I think of it as a game. I use a sale ingredient, good. I use it twice or even 3x or more, very good. See how many ways you can stretch the same ingredient.
Example: celery. I use it in chicken noodle soup, then I use it to make casserole spaghetti. I dice up the rest and freeze it for when I make chicken or beef bone broth.
4. How much do you need?
Believe it or not, when I was newly married I thought I had to follow a recipe exactly and I often made way too much food. Nowdays I will cut a recipe in half or even in fourths to suit my family.
I know about how much meat we will eat (1/2lb-slightly over 1lb, depending on recipe) and what size of pot, pan or baking dish I will need. When you know what everyone will eat, second helpings and all, you can plan better and save money.
What Is In Season?
1. Fruits and vegetables that are often cheap and available (but not always locally in season) year-round:
- bell peppers
- sweet potatoes
2. Here are some (typically) cheap, in season foods for October and November:
- some citrus fruits
It is good to pay attention to The Clean 15 and The Dirty Dozen. But don’t get hung up on it. If you can afford organic, awesome! If not, remember you are still caring for your family by buying them good and fresh produce. Eat as well as you can afford and don’t worry about the rest.
1. Shop the perimeter of the store.
It is typical for produce, meat and dairy products to be on the outskirts of the grocery store. This is a common tip, but still worth mentioning 🙂
2. Buy (selectively) in bulk.
When you see something on sale that your family loves, buy as much as you can.
Example: when our favorite bread goes on sale for BOGO, (Buy One Get One free) we buy 4, sometimes 6 if our freezer space allows.
Staples of course are good to buy in bulk. My family is small and my children have tiny appetites so much of what we buy in bulk is shelf stable. Honestly lately I have not bought much in bulk.
3. Buy and preserve favorite fresh foods.
When a fruit or veggie is in season and your family loves it, see if you can buy a very large amount and preserve it in a way that they would most enjoy.
Freezing, canning and drying are all options. This often works best if you buy as close to the source as you can. This way you can maximize your savings and get the freshest and best produce. I’ve done this with apples, plums and corn this year.
4. Know when to spend.
I know. That’s not frugal. Well no it’s not. But knowing when to spend and when to save can save your sanity, which in my opinion is priceless.
Know when to cut yourself some slack and buy convenience foods or non-sale pricier items. For me, when I was pregnant and when my daughter was a baby I let a lot of things slide. My tastes, cravings and energy all varied by day and my goal was simply to stay healthy and get out of the store as quickly as I could.
1. Explore MYO.
I learned early on from reading frugal cook books that one of the easiest ways to save money is to make your own convenience food. That may sound backwards but let me explain.
By making your own mixes, snacks and baked goods you have created a special stash of healthy or at least home cooked food for your family. Is it convenient in the sense that it saves you time? Well, not always. But consider the amount of time you spend going to the store and shopping. Is it faster to make some cookies or to buy them?
I maintain a balance of store bought things vs. homemade. Sometimes I make my own, sometimes I buy it.
Generally I make all my own spice mixes…taco seasoning, chili powder, pumpkin spice, etc. I do make my own granola bars because it’s cheaper, healthier and fresher that way.
2. Reduce waste.
There is this awesome blog Don’t Waste the Crumbs that got me started on this. It is amazing the amount of food I waste. It is an almost continual process to brainstorm ways to save as much as I can and make sure it is all used.
Example: save vegetable scraps for bone broth.
And that’s a lot of what I’ve learned!
It takes practice, but it can be done. Being frugal can be a challenge, but it can also be fun if you look at it as a game 🙂
A few resources:
Grocery shopping list printable from A Girl and Her Blog
Complete Mix Recipe Index from Budget 101
12 Simple Ways to Avoid Food Waste from Don’t Waste the Crumbs