You’ve written a budget and gotten your envelope system started, now what? The best next step is to take a closer look at each category and decide where you can cut back. Food and entertainment are probably the two categories that you have the most control over. So today, lets talk about ways to save money on food.
(This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of them, I could get a small commission which I will probably use to buy more chickens. Please see my full disclosure.)
If you search around online, you will find hundreds of “right ways” to save money on food, and, frankly, if you try to do all of them, you’ll drive yourself crazy. We all have different lifestyles, budgets, and dietary needs, so what works for me probably won’t work for you. So, as you go through this list, consider how each option fits for you and your family.
1. Couponing. When we lived in town, I was one of those “crazy coupon ladies”. You know, the ones that get shopping carts full of food for $5? However, when we moved out here and I started working towards a more natural lifestyle, I had to let a lot of my couponing fall by the wayside. But, I still go on coupon binges when I can get a product that I use and love for really cheap or free. There are a lot of great couponing sites out there that show you the deals and tell you how to get them. One of my favorites is Hip 2 Save. I find her match-ups (weekly articles that “match up” the store deals with coupons) to be well organized and timely, plus she just seems like a really fun person. 🙂 And, of course, coupons are everywhere from newspapers to iPhone apps to sites like Coupons.com.
2. Buying in bulk/stocking up. While I would like to produce all of our food, getting to that point is a very long road. So, I love buying in bulk. It gives me the opportunity to learn to preserve food (by canning, freezing, dehydrating, etc.) before I am sitting there at the end of summer with hundreds of pounds of produce rotting away and no idea what to do with it! I save money, and, many times, bulk packaging cuts down on the waste we produce. For example, I mentioned buying 50 pound bags of organic oatmeal for 87 cents a pound. That is a great price, plus, the waste from that 50 pounds of oatmeal is a paper (compostable) bag! Imagine how many containers would have been thrown away if I had bought the same 50 pounds in the standard 42 oz oatmeal containers. And, in case you’re wondering where I keep 50 pounds of oatmeal, I store it in 5 gallon buckets with gamma seals (a screw-on lid). 🙂 My favorite co-op is Azure Standard. I can order on-line and meet their truck at a monthly drop-off point 20 minutes away from me. Check out Michelle’s tips for ordering from Azure Standard and maximizing your Azure Standard order.
3. Growing your own. This is, of course, my ultimate goal. No matter what your situation is, I encourage you to do what you can, even if it just means a few tomato plants in containers on your apartment balcony. Of course, if you have a yard, you have so many gardening options. Some municipalities even allow a few hens for fresh eggs. Animals such as chickens and rabbits can also make cost effective meat sources.
4. Discount stores. Look for discount stores in your area. Bakery outlets can be great money savers. Be sure you check for discount days and rewards programs. Ours gives you a free item for every $5 spent and runs manager’s specials and % off days! I also LOVE Aldi‘s. If you have one in your area and haven’t checked it out, please do! You need to bring a quarter to “rent” your shopping cart and your own shopping bags, plus they have shorter hours (8am-8pm). But, their produce prices can’t be beat, their store brand stuff is good, and they have a growing selection of organic and gluten free options.
5. Cook from scratch. Both your checkbook and your health will thank you for this one. I know it can be intimidating if you’ve never really learned to cook. Trust me I’ve been there! But, the best advice I can give you is take one thing at a time and don’t be afraid to experiment. I’m definitely still learning and am sure that I always will be, but I’m so far beyond the girl that couldn’t cook a grilled cheese without Parkay Margarine in the squeeze bottle. Here are some super easy recipes for that oatmeal we mentioned above–and they’re not all for the kitchen!
6. Seek out local farmers. Depending on your area, farmer’s markets and roadside stands can be great places to get in-season produce. Plus, you are supporting a local small business!
7. Meal Planning. This is the one thing that I think EVERYONE should do. Make a meal plan with a grocery list and stick to it. It will help you avoid impulse buys, multiple trips to the store, and waste. As you plan, consider recipes with overlapping ingredients. For example, a whole chicken can be roasted chicken one night, the leftover meat can be shredded for a casserole the next night, and the bones can be used to make broth for a soup the third night.
Planning a menu can be as easy as writing your meals on a calendar or you can purchase programs that will let you enter your recipes, select the ones you want for the week, and print a grocery list. I personally use Build A Menu. I am more likely to plan my menu if I can do it on the computer, so the cost it worth it for me.
Bonus Tip: Confession time. I usually do pretty good about not getting sucked into impulse buys. But, for some reason, Wal-Mart gets me every time. So, I am so excited about the new service they are rolling out in some of their stores! In select locations, you can order your groceries on-line and pick them up without even getting out of your car!
It’s super easy! Go here, choose at least $30 worth of groceries, select a pick-up time, and pay on-line. I just tried this out, and, on the day of my pick-up, I received a call letting me know that my order was ready. The employee asked me to let them know when I was 10 minutes from the store. As soon as I pulled into the reserved space, he came out and loaded my groceries into my car! No checkout lines. No unloading all of the kids. No run-ins with the people of Wal-Mart. No impulse buys. And, best of all, it’s FREE! What’s not to love?
Want to give it a try? Use this link to get $10 off your first order of $50 or more!
Do you meal plan? What do you do to save money on food? What would you like to try?
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