Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Grocery Budget Challenge - helpful tips

     Last week at MOPS mom's group we had our final discussion on grocery budgeting. It was interesting to share tips and to find out what others were doing.
     We divided into discussion groups based on how much we spend weekly on groceries. There was a small table of $75 and under, another small table of $150+, and the bulk of us were at the $100-150 per week tables. I chose my category based on spending nothing one week, and several hundred another. I figured my inconsistencies averaged out to around $100-125 per week.
     Our group discussed tips and challenges and I got some good ones. I would have been interested to hear what the under $75 group is doing. The $150+ group was mainly ladies with large families or who do a lot of entertaining.
     Some of the tips I learned:
  • Buy meat the day before grocery store sales go into effect, to get discounted items (usually stickered "50% off" or whatever percentage discount it is.) It is important to check the "best before" date and you will most likely need to freeze the items for later use. Meat is typically marked down on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
  • Plan your weekly menu around what's on sale that week, and when reviewing the flyers, the best sale items are on the first and last page.
  • Chicken thighs are way cheaper to use in stews, soups, stir-fries etc. than chicken breast
  • You can make lasagna and not spend a mint by making "poor man's lasagna". I will have to Google and investigate this one.
  • Entertaining doesn't have to be expensive. You can serve pasta, lasagna, etc.  (Let me add my 2 cents here: you can build a freezer stash of good cuts of meat bought on sale for company; while I agree you don't have to go all-out when entertaining, I do like to treat my guests well.)
  • Use your crockpot regularly. Cheaper cuts of meat become super tender and tasty when slow cooked.
  • When making spaghetti sauce, buy the huge containers of crushed tomatoes rather than multiple cans of them. Again, I will have to investigate, having never noticed such huge cans. ("My what huge cans you have!" "Why, thank you!")
  • Make your own applesauce (especially when you have a ton of apples hanging around) using cinnamon and brown sugar. Make it chunky ('eat with a fork') and the kids will love it.
My tips:
  • Buy store-brand products whenever possible, so long as the quality is there. We save a fortune on diapers for Lauren. A big box of President's Choice diapers for her is $17.00, while a similar package by Pampers is $34.99. The savings is a nice bottle of wine, half the cost of a pedicure, lunch out at a restaurant...you get the idea.
  • If you bought fresh vegetables or fruit and you won't use them before they go bad, wash and cut them up and freeze them for later use. Items like green beans can go straight into a freezer bag. Items like strawberries have to be frozen on baking sheets first, then throw the frozen berries into a freezer bag.
  • When cooking dinner, make a little extra so you have leftovers for lunch or as a component for another dinner.
  • Make at least one meatless meal a week, since meat is usually the most expensive ingredient. (unless you're cooking with saffron, pine-nuts, etc...)
  • Don't deprive yourself. I still say a good meal at home is cheaper than a meal out at a restaurant. Life's short so sometimes you have to belly up to the bar or buffet and just dig in.

1 comment:

  1. Agree with everything except the 'meatless meal' idea. My take on that is that you need to get the agreement of all household members before trying it. Otherwise, other half may rise from the table and blow the $$ saved at McDonalds while out on 'errands'... :)

    The huge cans of tomatoes (I prefer the whole plum tomatoes in sauce, but they do splatter when you crush them so going with crushed may be neater) are great - just be sure to have freezer containers with good seals and that you don't mind getting permanently tomato-stained, on hand unless you plan to make a huge batch - there are a lot of servings in those mega-cans! Once opened, it is good to break the remaining up into 'making spaghetti sauce' sized portions - for us that is usually 3 batches of spaghetti sauce to a giant can.