So, this blog has been a little bit dusty lately - chalk it up to full time job, kids (one a toddler), exhaustion, PTA duties, trying to lose those pesky last baby pounds.
Since it's been a LONG time since I've done a general frugal food post (and I've fallen off the wagon a bit), I wanted to share my basic frugal food philosophy and tips.
When you are looking to save money on your groceries, there are a few ways to go about it:
1. Don't waste food. This is a no-brainer. If you opened it, finish it before it goes bad (or figure out how to "save it" - freeze it, repurpose it.) Think: putting stale tortilla chips into soup, freeze leftover meats. If you don't like leftovers, don't make so darned much. If you DO like leftovers but get sick of them, immediately put them in your freezer and LABEL THEM (I'm bad at this). I bought a bunch of these containers on Amazon which are great for seeing what's in there. Also great for homemade chicken stock (you don't just throw away your chicken bones do you?)
2. Figure out how to get what you DO eat regularly cheaper. Drink a lot of milk? See if there are stores that give you a discount for buying two gallons. Like whole wheat pasta? Track the sales and buy a bunch when it goes on sale for the minimum amount. This is where a price book is very helpful. A price book has a listing for each item you buy regularly - you list the cheapest price at each store INCLUDING SALES. Eventually, if you are like me - you get it in your head and you can tell at a store if it's the best price. A lot of sales are not advertised - meaning you cannot find it in the weekly flyer. The idea here is to buy as many things as possible at their rock bottom prices.
Examples of items in my mental price book:
brown rice: 5 lb bags at Smart and Final
beans: 10 lb bags at Smart and Final
broccoli: $1/lb is the best price I've found
whole wheat pasta: $1 per box
cheese: basically Costco cannot be beat
carrots: Tri county produce (0.50/lb)
chicken: Trader Joe's frozen chicken strips are very reasonable, and it's hard to find chicken breasts for cheaper
cream cheese: Trader Joe's regular price is the best ($1.79), but grocery store sales come in at $1.
Do you prefer to eat local/organic? Get to know your farmers! I love sugar snap peas. They are in season right now. At the farmer's market, they are $3/lb to $5/lb. I've tried them from 4 different vendors. One of the $3/lb vendors was not very good, but I did find a good one! Buy grass fed meat from the farmer direct, in bulk.
3. Figure out the price per serving of your regular meals - and increase the frequency of the cheap ones.
Breakfast - what do you eat? Cold cereal? Oatmeal? Toast? Eggs? What do they each cost?
Lunch - sandwiches, leftovers?
Dinner - meat, seafood, beans and rice? We really like "burrito bowls" - spanish rice, cooked beans, cheese, toppings. This is a pretty cheap meal (as long as you don't go crazy on the toppings).
Oatmeal, purchased in a bulk bin (on sale or not) is cheaper than cold cereal. Homemade bread is pretty cheap too. If you like oatmeal, eat it more often.
Leftovers, if made from cheaper foods, are generally cheaper than sandwiches. Deli meat from the store, fresh sliced, is more expensive than cooking it yourself. Peanut butter is cheaper than turkey. Eggs are cheaper. Cooked chicken is cheaper.
The same goes for snacks - what is cheaper where you live, apples or oranges? Strawberries or blueberries? Can you buy tubs of yogurt instead of the smaller ones? Do you need crackers or can you eat homemade bread? Do you have to have string cheese, or can you slice pieces off a big hunk of cheese?
4. Substitute. Say you really like grilled tri-tip and fresh vegetables. Have you ever tried a meal of homemade bread and vegetable soup? You love asparagus - what about carrots and cabbage? Learn to try, and like, cheaper foods. Nobody is telling you to give up asparagus, just stick to it in the spring when it's $2/lb.
Substituting includes saving money eating out. Like smoothies? I love Blenders smoothies, but I can make a banana-strawberry-blueberry-yogurt smoothie for about 1/2 the price of one at Blenders. (I still buy my husband Blenders gift cards for Christmas/ Birthday/ Father's day).
These are the basics of saving money on groceries.