Times are tough. Even though my husband has stayed employed and we haven’t had any catastrophes (well, unless you count the brain surgery; speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy; the new-to-us house repairs that went from a little fixing up to major renovation, termites, gum disease, etc.), it seems like everything just costs more than it did a few years ago.
Haven’t we all already resorted to coupons, buying in bulk and only shopping with a full stomach?
Here are some ideas that are helping us trim our grocery store receipt even more:
1. Instead of setting a weekly grocery budget, set a daily budget. I’m heading for about $35 a day – not much when you consider we are feeding eight people breakfast, lunch and dinner. That’s about $4.30 per person per day. Once you stretch that money to cover three meals and a snack or two, it doesn’t leave much room for messing around. If you want to splurge a little on dinner, sacrifice at lunch and go for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This system keeps you from ending the month in the dregs.
2. If you’re dying for a fast food fix or if you just happen to be on the road at meal time, cut the French fries and sodas and you can feed seven people for under $20. (That’s a Quarter Pounder, 4 cheeseburgers, and 30 Chicken McNuggets.) Take advantage of the indoor playscape and you’ve gotten fed and entertained the kids all for a measly 20 bucks.
Our large family eats about a large box of cereal a day. That’s about $3 to $3.50 A DAY!!! A pound of white rice is about 70 cents. Mixed with a little vanilla, sugar and milk, a half pound of left over cooked rice will feed us a yummy breakfast plus a snack. White rice is highly processed and enriched; but let’s face it, so is boxed cereal. For every day we eat rice instead of cereal, we see a savings of about $2.80.
4. Half the meat, add the beans. When you make a recipe that calls for meat, substitute beans or lentils for meat to your heart’s desire. With ground beef nearing $3 a pound and dry beans at less than a dollar a pound, you can shave quite a few pennies off your meals without compromising on taste. One can of pre-cooked beans or 1/3 bag of dried beans (after soaking and boiling) can be substituted for 1/2 pound of cooked ground beef. Chilies, spaghetti sauces, soups and stews work brilliantly with this plan.
5. Substitute reconstituted powdered milk for conventional milk in recipes that don’t require the fat content of milk like pancakes, oatmeal, smoothies and bread. I grew up using reconstituted powdered milk in cereal, but that will be a last resort around these parts.
6. Skip the cookie and sweets aisle – if you want it badly enough, make it yourself. Premade goodies are quite expensive if you think about it. A decent box of cookies will run you in the neighborhood of $3.00 – about the price you’d pay for a pound of beef. You’ll wind up eating less sweets and being more cost effective when you do indulge if you make them yourself.
7. Eat more potatoes! Instead of buying that 5 pound bag, for just a dollar more you can usually get 10 pounds. Just don’t do like I do and buy the 10 pounds and only use 5 pounds before they go bad. Potatoes go great with just about anything – eggs, pot roast, soups, etc. And you can even turn a potato and salad into a pretty tasty meal with a little bacon or ham thrown in.
8. Get to know your blender! We make delicious smoothies out of yogurt, juice, bananas and frozen fruit that are much cheaper than ice cream.
9. Serve bread and salad at every dinner. Bread and salad can be a healthy way to take a bite out of hungry appetites and cut down on the amount of expensive meat required to feed your family.
10. Don’t forget the eggs!
Eggs are an inexpensive source of protein, and most kids love em! Breakfast for dinner is a great way to turn the most time consuming and expensive meal of the day into a break on both fronts. Just a quarter pound of bacon diced up, cooked, and thrown into scrambled eggs can give a whole batch enough flavor to satisfy even the lumberjack in your family. Add some oven fried potatoes, pancakes or waffles and you’ve got a crowd pleaser.
How about you? Anybody else trimming down the grocery bill even after you thought you couldn’t get it any lower? What are your tricks?