A lot of people ask me how I save money like I do without the time to do it. Here are a few simple things I do on a regular basis.
1. Shop early in the morning. This way you will find markdowns and get sale items. You wait to long and they will sell out and you will have to get a rain check. Dairy and meat will almost always have mark downs.
2. Buy seasonal-I work my meals around these items. Potatoes are super cheap so we've been eating a lot of them. Apples are in season so the girls eat a lot of those for snacks. This alone will save you a lot of money. Chicken seems to be on sale a lot too so stock up on it. Just buy as much as possible, take home, pull the skin off, put in freezer bags and in the freezer. Buy now when its cheap and eat later.
3. Produce-Apples are on sale for pretty cheap right now so when you buy them, pick the smaller ones. You wont know the difference when you eat it, plus your paying less because they weigh less.
4. Clean out your fridge before you shop. No reason to buy something you already have or go to use something and find out its expired. Its a good excuse to clean your fridge too.
5. Buy dried or dehydrated things. They will not expire and you use them when you need them. I always have powdered milk for when I bake or cook. That way I can use fresh milk for my girls to drink or in our coffee. This is a great option for people who don't like to drink milk but need it for cooking. This way they don't throw out milk from expiring. Saves a bundle. I even use it instead of fresh milk when were broke. Once its cold , you cannot tell the difference between it and the fresh. If you can find a large box for under $10 grab it. Ive seen it as high as $18 for the same size. So if you can afford it, grab it. You can easily get 5 gallons out of it. That's only $2 per gallon.
6. Produce-don't buy too much at one time. I buy just enough for the week. Enough for my girls lunch's for school and enough for snacks for the rest of us. This way your not throwing out fruit that you couldn't eat fast enough and wasting money. I buy whats on sale and in season each week.
7. Try too cook with what you have. Look at your pantry and think outside the box. Ive came up with some creative dinners this way. Only have a half a pound of meat and some noodles? Make Burger Helper. Just brown meat up in a pan, add noodles, add water till it covers noodles, and cook until noodles are done. Once done, add a couple spoons of sour cream(or half % half, or plain milk) and spices of your choice. Done! Kinda like hamburger helper but healthy. Ask friends and family for idea's. My neighbor and I always tell each other what were cooking so we can get inspired off each other.
8. Rethink things. Do I really need this? Am I going to suffer later when I don't have enough money for something when I should of not bought that item earlier in the month? Most the time I don't need the item. Just would be nice to have it. So rethink things.
9. Coupons-only use them if they are on a item that you must have or can get it for almost free. This is how the companies get you to buy their stuff. They give out coupons and we go buy them because of the coupon. Most coupons are for unhealthy foods. Now days more and more organic companies are offering coupons which is great. Since I cook everything from scratch, I rarely ever use a coupon.
10. Buy in bulk when you can. Some stores are more expensive this way but discount wholesale stores are cheaper. Winco for example is the best place around here. Your not paying for packaging and you buy as much as you want or as little as you want. Good place to get baking items and dried fruit. Anytime we travel I buy dried fruit. . Plus whatever we don't eat while traveling,I can use later for baking muffins and what not. When you buy in bulk it also means less packaging. Bring your own and remember to weigh it before you add food in it. Many stores will allow you but make sure to ask before you do it.
11. Shop discount stores. Our local discount store is Grocery Outlet. They are pretty cheap anyways but when they mark down stuff, its super cheap. I get all our snacks from them. Crackers, granola bars, etc. They are usually $1 or less a package. When big time shopping, I will go there first. I don't know how many times Ive shopped there after the big store and found things I just bought for 3 times the amount. And I'm so anal that I will buy them again and return the others. So now I just shop there first and save myself frustration, gas and money.
12. Don't always stick to a list. Like I said before, I cook around seasons. Summertime its lots of salads, fall its lots of apples, winter its squash. You get the idea. Cook around the seasons instead of buying that crab that you had to have and spend a pretty penny for. Eat crab when its in season. Or buy a ton of it and freeze it for when you will crave it later. You will save yourself a ton of money this way.
13. Can or freeze. When it comes to produce, I will buy a ton of it when its super cheap and bring it home to freeze. Red bell peppers were 4/$1. I bought a bunch and brought them home. I rinsed them, cut them into strips, put them on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer. Once frozen I pull them out and put them in a freezer bag. Done. You have ready to cook bell peppers for up to 3 months. I do this will all our berries, beans, meat, produce, and baked goods. My freezer is always full. Saves me money down the line. This month again is tight but I'm using up the chicken that I got on sale for 99 cents per pound and will be good until the end of the month.
14. Bake-instead of buying baked items like muffins, cake and etc. Make it. You can control how much sugar goes into it and make it healthier.
15. Fresh or frozen is best. Don't buy premade or packaged meals. You will waste your money and usually its not healthy at all. I don't trust companies anymore, they will put in lots of preservatives, anti cake who know whats, and are usually stuffed with fat and sodium. I feel much better about making all our food. Sometimes it takes longer but its worth it.
16. Crock pot-I could go on forever about the pros of cooking with a crock pot. Just know that if you don't have one, invest in one or find one at a thrift store or get from someone getting rid of theirs. I cook all soups this way, and our beans. Uses less energy, and you can throw food in and forget about it until dinner time. Worth every penny to buy one. I soak dried beans, and cook them in a crock pot for up to 6 hours. Once done I separate into freezer bags (2 cups per bag) and we use beans a lot with our meals. I use only 1/2 lb of meat per meal with 2 cups of beans to make our meat bill smaller. Meat is expensive when your cooking for 6. And beans have lots of protein so we sub with them. We eat a lot of Mexican dish's so it works for us. And I usually have enough beans to add ham to. My girls love ham and bean soup so I make enough extra for their school lunch's. Same with black bean soup. Endless idea's. So buy one!
17. Stop buying soda or anything unhealthy. We drink RBST free milk, water and lemonaid which we make (1 cup organic sugar, 1 cup lemon juice and fill with water). I sometimes buy seasonal drinks for the girls. Currently we are drinking organic apple cider which I found on sale for half price. Otherwise its usually water or milk.
18. Stop buying fancy coffee. I admit that I still do drink them but not nearly as often as I used to. Only if I have the extra money (which isn't often). There are ways of getting a fancy coffee for free. You know those punch cards they have? Buy 6 drinks get 1 free? Tulley's has this card and I found a way of saving me a bundle. Whenever we shop at Fred Meyers (Tulley's is in it) I get a child's cocoa for the girls if they are good. They are only$1 and the workers will split it into 2 cups for my twins. It will take me a month or two to fill the card because we only go every once in a while. Once I get 6 punches, I will then save the card for when I'm broke. When I don't have any money at all and were in the store, I will pull my card out and I get $5 credit towards any drink I want. Espresso Shake here I come. FREE! Its worth it to me. My girls don't always get cocoa so it varies how long it takes for me to fill my card.
So I hope this helps you save some money. its small little things but if you try them all, you will start to see the savings.