Thursday, September 16, 2010

Simple ways to reduce your grocery bill REVISED

Back in 2008 when I started this blog I was concerned about my family being healthy and trying to live a frugal lifestyle more than being green.  My blog was only a month old when I wrote a post called simple ways to cut down your grocery bill. Well its 2 years later and I have changed my buying habits completely.

I thought I would revise my list and tell you my mistakes and how I changed them. Ugg here we go....

1. Shop early in the morning. This way you will find markdowns and get sale items. You wait too long and they will run out and you will have to get a rain check.  Dairy and meat will almost always have mark downs.

2010-I rarely ever go to the store anymore. Because I no longer buy many things prepackaged, I find it not necessary to even bother going to stores looking for markdowns.   I now only buy my meat from Whole Foods when they have sales and we eat 50% less meat than we used to. Whole Foods meat counter wraps all their meat in paper so there is no more plastic wrap or Styrofoam to worry about.  The only dairy we buy is large organic yogurt and its only 2 times a month if at all. We do go through our share of sour cream though...I just cannot kick the habit.

2. Buy seasonal-I work my meal planning around these items. Potatoes are super cheap so we have been eating alot of them. Apples are in season so the girls eat alot of those for snacks. This alone will save you alot of money. Chicken seems to be on sale alot 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.

2010-Same rule applies today. But I buy from Marks NW Fresh Produce which is just right up the street. He buy all his produce from local farmers who are organic or use green practices. Plus he lives in my neighborhood, hey Mark! Each week I buy enough to get us by for a whole week. Enough for snacks, meal planning and for my daughters lunches each day. If Mark is selling his produce for super cheap, I buy a lot and freeze or dehydrate it. Currently its red bell peppers which I chop up and freeze for later. This stretches our money even further. I use my own fabric mesh bags and large bags of course.

3. Produce-Apples are on sale for pretty cheap right now so when you buy them, pick the smaller ones. You wont know the differance when you eat it, plus your paying less because they weigh less.

2010-Not sure why I did number 3 because I pretty much covered it in number 2. Oh well. Apples are in season right now and I have been buying them a lot. I recently bought a ton of apples and dehydrated them for snacks later. Mmmm love apple rings.

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.

2010-I have done this way too many times in the past. But I have been doing much better. Uh wait, I lied. I bought a 10lb bag or organic sugar and when I went to put it away I found 2 of the same thing half used in the back of my baking cabinet. It made me mad because I thought we were out of sugar for a week. Urrr! The night before I need to get groceries I go through my whole kitchen and writing down what we need.  I have a horrible memory so I cannot count on it anymore. I blame the kids.

  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 cereal or our coffee. This is a great option for people who dont like to drink milk but need it for cooking. This way they dont 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 differance 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. Thats only $2 per gallon.

2010-I have changed this one completely. I do not buy dehydrated milk at all anymore. I now realize that I have no idea where this milk is made, who made it, and if it's even organic or not. I was buying fresh organic milk for a while but its really expensive so I stopped that. I now buy organic milk from Whole Foods for only $5. We drink a ton of water now and have cut our milk drinking in half which has saved us some money. We recycle the plastic container the milk comes in or my girls use them to do upcycle crafts. They make great bird feeders.

6. Produce-dont 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 couldnt eat fast enough and wasting money. I buy whats on sale and in season each week.

2010-Seriously didn't I cover this already? Sheesh! I blame the lack of coffee.

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.

2010-Same rule applies. If I am days away from payday (my current status) I try to use what we have.  I still make homemade hamburger helper but try to make it different each time so we don't get bored of eating it.  Sadly I no longer live in that town and don't speak to my friend often and I miss that. I miss you Cathy! It was so much fun hanging out with her and trading recipe's. I also miss trading idea's with my other neighbor Tessie. I would always go to her when I needed help canning or preserving food. Miss you guys!  

8. Rethink things. Do I really need this? Am I going to suffer later when I dont have enough money for something when I should of not bought that item earlier in the month? Most the time I dont need the item. Just would be nice to have it. So rethink things.

2010-Well I am happy to report that I no longer do this.  I do think this to myself but no longer buy things I do not need.  Since I avoid plastic and packaging, I no longer buy things we don't need. No more hair products falling out of our cabinets because I bought them on sale and "had" to have them. I only use all natural shampoo and conditioner from Whole Foods and just recently added some all natural gel. No hair spray, shine spray, or hair products of any kind. I'm loving all the cabinet space I have now. I live a simpler life with things that we need and not full of things I think I need. Ahhh it feels good.

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. If I need the item, or can get it for almost free, and its less than the store brand then I will buy it. But only then. I have a organized brain for coupons. Once I clip them out, I know in my head that I have that coupon. So when I go shopping, I look up and down the aisles and clearance and will remember I have that coupon. It gets easier after time.

2010-Again happy to report I no longer do this. Just now are they coming out with coupons for healthy organic items. Not many but at least there are some around. Now the only time I use a coupon is if its right by the item or if I happen to read the store flyer. I do not buy the Sunday paper for coupons, do not print out any coupons, and rarely ever use them at all.  Ive stopped buying preservative and sodium filled food. Most coupons are for these type of items.  I also know that just because its free or almost free, I don't need to bring it home.  Well unless its produce which I will never refuse.  I now make our snack items from scratch. homemade muffins, bread, cookies, etc. I control how much sugar, sodium and health benefits by making it myself. Plus no having to recycle or throw out packaging. 

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. It never goes bad and its just as healthy as fresh produce. Plus whatever we dont eat while traveling,I can use later for baking muffins and what not.

2010-Pretty much the same now. If I can get organic options for as cheap as Winco I will do so. Winco I only buy a few things from now. Bulk noodles, rice, beans and baking items such as baking soda.  If I buy anything else from them it will have to go through my list. Is it made local? Packaging cannot be plastic.  Is it healthy? If its not all of those on my list, I do not buy it.  I dehydrate my own fruit so there is no need to buy those anymore. Ive recently learned to dehydrate grapes to make my own raisins. Ive never been a raisin fan until now. When you buy in bulk you save a few ways. No packaging means less you pay for the item.  Less I have to recycle.  I bring my own mesh bags to put bulk items in (available at  the dollar store) so no more plastic bags in my home.  Occasionally I have to use a plastic bag for spices but I recycle them and reuse when I can.

11. Ship discount stores. Our local discount store is Grocery Oultet. 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 dont know how many times ive shopped there after the big store and found things I just bought for 3 times the amount. And im 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.

2010-This one I no longer do at all. No more sugar, sodium and preservative filled foods in my home. SWEET! We now snack on fruits or veggies from Marks NW Fresh Produce or snack on muffins or cookies I have made from scratch.  Its supporting local farmers, saving me money and also keeps us healthy. Win win!

12. Dont 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.

2010-Same rule applies but I buy local now. I do not buy any produce from big name stores.  I buy it from Marks NW Fresh Produce or from a local farm.  During the summer and early fall I grow my own produce in my very own garden.  This saves me a ton of money.  My neighbor's have garden's too so we swap produce often. Just yesterday my neighbor Christy gave me some plums from her mother's garden.  I also scored a HUGE zucchini from my friend Jessica which I will be shredding and freezing. It will be used in almost all of my muffin's I will make later in the year. I love zucchini fresh, and in muffins but do not like zucchini bread. Weird huh? 

 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 im using up the chicken that I got on sale for 99 cents per pound and will be good until the end of the month.

2010-Same applies now although I didn't can anything this year.  We bought a medium size freezer which is in my garage. This is where I put all my frozen goodies which I do not use everyday. Currently its filled with jams, beans, oats, and shredded zucchini. Soon to be filled with lots of pumpkin puree. I'm so excited. 

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.

2010-Same goes now.

15. Fresh or frozen is best. Dont buy premade or packaged meals. You will waste your money and usually its not healthy at all. I dont trust companies anymore, they will put in lots of preservatives, anti cake who know whats, and are usually stuffed with fat. I feel much better about making all our food. Sometimes it takes longer but its worth it.

2010-Couldn't of said it any better even now 2 years later. 

16. Crock pot-I could go on forever about the pro's 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. Use's 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 seperate into freezer bags (2 cups per bag) and we use beans alot 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 alot 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!

2010-I still do the same thing today.  My crock pot is still going strong.  I have now added a bread machine to my kitchen now so my crock pot is no longer lonely.  

17. Stop buying soda and fresh juice. This alone will save you a ton of money. I admit we do buy soda every week months but only when its in season and super cheap. $6 for a 24 pack is all we will pay. Otherwise we dont buy it. We drink water, milk, or Crystal Light (store brand). Crystal light taste just the same as kool-Aid but it has no sugar. My kids love it. Walmart has it for $1.50 and you get 5 quart size containers out of that. Plus during the summer we make our own frozen pops out of it. Yummy! My girls have a multi vitamin so they get all their needs from them. Plus they eat plenty of fresh fruit. So dont feel like if you dont buy juice (frozen or fresh) that they are not going to get their vitamins from it.

18.  This has changed slightly.  I do not buy Crystal Light anymore because of Aspartame. Since fruit juice is so expensive when its not filled with high fructose corn syrup, I usually make my own lemonade.  1 cup of lemon juice, 1 cup of organic sugar and fill the pitcher with water. This is way cheaper and my kids just love it.  We also drink way more water now which we add sprigs of lemon balm or mint from my garden.  

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 isnt often). There are ways of getting a fancy coffee for free. You know those punch cards they have? Buy 6 drinks get 1 free? Tulleys has this card and I found a way of saving me a bundle. Whenever we shop at Fred meyers (Tulleys is in it) I get a childs 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. I will fill my card this way. Once I get 6 punches, I will then save the card for when im broke. When I dont 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. Expresso Shake here I come. FREE! Its worth it to me. My girls dont always get cocoa so it varies how long it takes for me to fill my card.

2010-I now rarely drink coffee from fancy coffee shops.  Ever morning I make my own coffee in my own coffee machine. My friend Dulcimer gave me this really cool machine that came with a metal reusable coffee filter. No more paper filters!  Thanks Dulbs!  I put my coffee grounds in my compost and pour any left over coffee in my plants. This is why my plants and I get along so well.  I buy bulk organic coffee from Winco for only $5.99 per pound which is a great deal. Any coffee gift cards we receive I will buy coffee beans and put in the freezer for when we need them. I will then grind them and store them in the freezer. My coffee always taste fresh this way.  Anytime we travel I try to pick up some signature local coffee. We had some amazing Montana coffee all summer that I picked up in Montana on our vacation. Mmm yummy. My husband was given some Chinese Coffee on a work trip earlier this month too. It was good but weird. All i'm saying is that squirrels were involved and if your squeamish than its not the coffee for you. Just sayin...

So there you go. Never get too comfortable with your purchases and always be willing to change. Just look how far I have come. 

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