Cook from scratch.

Eat in season food.

Shop sales.

Visit different types of stores (warehouse stores, dollar stores, damaged goods stores, etc...).

Check clearance shelves.

Buy your groceries with cash or the envelope system.

Make a menu plan and grocery list.

Price match.

Use coupons.

Sign up for food freebies (they often come with coupons too).

Eat out less.

Make a price-book to keep track of the lowest prices.

Buy in bulk.

Eat leftovers.

Grow, hunt, fish or raise your own food.

Learn how to best store produce so it lasts longer.

Eat the right portions.

Limit food and drinks with empty calories.

Check unit prices to see what's really cheapest.

Buy generic brands.

When possible cook with scraps (ie: using veggie peels and scraps to make broth).

Drink water instead of more expensive beverages.

Fill up on cheaper foods and use more expensive foods sparingly.

Shop your own fridge, freezer and pantry before going to the store.

Go local (farmers markets, roadside stands, bountiful baskets, etc...).

Keep track of your grocery budget.

Eat more meatless meals.

 

If you missed the previous posts here they are!

Eating Healthy on a Budget #1: Produce

Eating Healthy on a Budget #2: Protein

Eating Healthy on a Budget #3: Breads & Grains

Eating Healthy on a Budget #4: Dairy

 

This post is linked at Frugally Sustainable and A Blossoming Life.

 

Amy

I keep my list and any coupons on my clipboard while shopping

When I first thought about sharing how I come up with my menu and grocery list, I thought maybe it was too simple of a thing to share. After all, lots of people do it, what can I share that you don’t already know? Then on the other hand I thought about when I was first married and how my menu planning consisted mostly of just thinking of what sounded yummy  then buying the needed groceries for those meals. Now I put a little more strategy into it and spend  a lot less money. So all of you seasoned menu planners out there, may know all of this, and probably have some tips for me, but anybody else, who wants to lower their grocery bill read on!

  1. Usually the first thing I do before making my menu is to look at the sales online to see what good deals are out there. Shopping at more than one store to get the best deals at each is a great money saver,  but I know not everyone lives close enough to multiple stores. I usually just stick with HEB, Albertsons for any great deals, and Sam’s Club. I drive right by Albertsons on my way to HEB, so stopping in doesn’t add any extra gas and only a little extra time.
  2. Once I’ve seen what items are on sale I shop at home. I see what I already have, especially things that won’t last much longer and need to be eaten.
  3. I see what coupons I have. I don’t do a lot of couponing, but if I see a coupon for something I usually buy, I’ll use it. Occasionally if I know I’ll be buying something that’s name brand I’ll check online to see if I can find a coupon for it.
  4. Now it’s time for me to make my menu plan using what ingredients I found on sale, with a coupon or that I already have. I also keep a few other things in mind:
  • I try to always have a few quick and easy meals planned for busy days (ie: grilled cheese sandwiches or frozen pizza).

    I try to cook a couple of meatless meals every week.

  • I plan a few meatless meals. Meats are one of the most expensive foods we buy, so using  dry beans or eggs as the protein in a meal is a great way to cut the budget (ie: bean burritos, lentil soup, stir fry with egg as the protein).
  • And I always try to keep things healthy, serving veggies and fruit, and mostly whole grains.

5.  Once my menu is planned out I see what needs to be added to my list, whether it’s  ingredients for the meals, something I wrote on my white board that I was running out of, or maybe some toiletry items.

6.  When I write my lists I try to keep them kind of categorized (ie: produce together, refrigerated items together). This makes it less likely  that I’ll have to be running back and forth in the store.

7.  And lastly, I keep an open mind. If I see some clearance or good deal I didn’t know about, I’ll tweek my menu. I don’t have a certain order we need to eat the meals or anything. A lot of weeks we don’t even end up eating every meal I listed because of leftovers, going out or I simply opted to make a simpler meal. The side dishes I plan for each meal get swapped around with other main dishes, I mostly just list them, so I know what I can make.

  1. I might change my menu if I find a great clearance or sale I didn't know about.

I know every one is different with their groceries and menu. I’ve recently started doing my menu plan for 2 weeks. I do a big shopping every other week, and only stop in the store in between if I need something. It saves me a lot of time and I also have less temptation to buy things on whims. On the other hand, it is harder to keep produce fresh for 2 weeks. I’m learning how best to store it, and I try to eat produce that goes bad quickly first. For example, I might serve salad earlier because lettuce doesn’t last long, and serve sweet potatoes in the second week, as they last a long time. The other disadvantage of shopping every other week is that stores usually do their sales every week. So I may be missing some great sales on the weeks I don’t shop, but for me personally, the time I’m saving is worth it.

Anybody have anything to add? How do you menu plan and grocery shop? What have you found saves you time and money?

This tip is shared at Tammy’s Recipes for Kitchen Tip Tuesdays.

 

So I watched some of those “Extreme Couponing” shows. Part of me was listing all the reasons I don’t coupon like these people, and the other part of me was second guessing myself and wondering if I should be couponing more. I mentioned a little about couponing in my Smart Shopping post, but here’s more details on my humble little opinion on coupons:

  • It’s usually for something I don’t already buy. I notice a lot of coupons for dog food, soda, premade pizzas, etc…things that I just don’t buy. For example if I had enough coupons to get a candy bar for 5 cents, that’d be a great deal, right? But what I’d be better off just doing, would be just not buying the candy bars at all!
  • It’s not always healthy. This kinda goes along with the first reason. But they don’t have coupons for fresh produce or meat. It’s usually frozen or canned items.
  • It’s not generic brand. The other day I printed off a Cream of Wheat coupon, but when I got to the store I realized that the generic brand was still cheaper than using the coupon with the name brand.
  • It takes a lot of time. On the show the people admitted that they spent hours preparing for a single grocery trip. Some even considered it a job.
  • I don’t have a lot of space to stockpile. If you’ve read Tour My Little Home, then I don’t need to say anything here. =)
  • Those were EXTREME couponers. We have to remember that even though those people would spend under $10 on purchases that originally were hundreds of dollars, these people are the extreme of the extreme. They got the most extreme people for the show, and they showed they’re most extreme trip. They don’t necessarily save that much everytime.

Here’s a quote from Amy Dacyczyn in her “The Tightwad Gazette”:

“Readers frequently send me sales slips to demonstrate how much they save using coupons. With bold sweeps of colored markers they circle the figure that shows how much the coupons used added up to. They’re circling the wrong figure. The most important figure on your sales slip is how much you spend on groceries…not how much you save using coupons.” And this is coming from a lady who fed a family of 8 with $180 a month!

I don’t want people to think I’m against the show or people couponing, not at all. The show has just got me wondering and I want your opinion now! So all that said, I have to admit the show did inspire me to check out coupons a little more often, and maybe see if I could combine them with sales, but I don’t have plans of becoming as extreme as them. But now I want YOUR opinion! Do you use coupons? If so, how extreme are you? How much do you save? Where do you get your coupons? What tips would you give us “non-extremists”?

Oh! I almost forgot! If you’re interested here’s another bloggers opinion.

My Chicken is Ready to Be Cooked

Of course there’s many ways to use a whole chicken, oven roasting, cuting it up to use the various parts in different ways, but here’s how I have started cooking my chickens. I got the basic recipe (I varied it a little) from my Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook. It’s easy and you get broth from it too. Around here whole chickens usually run at about 88 cents a pound, but my last 2 I got for 79 cents a pound at Sams Club (reduced for quick sale).

So here’s how I do it:

  1. Open the package and drain off any liquid. Then just plop the chicken in your crockpot. (note: depending on the size of your crockpot you may need to only buy smaller chickens, mine ususally just barely fit)
  2. Wash and cut up some onion, carrots and celery (don’t forget to throw the celery leaves in too). Add them to the crockpot along with any seasonings you think would be good. I usually just add salt pepper and maybe a bay leaf.
  3. Fill the remaineder of the crock pot with water. Turn it on high or low (low cook 8-10 hours, high 5-8).
  4. Once it has cooked long enough and looks cooked through, take it out and let it cool a few minutes on a plate, so you can handle it.
  5. Now you need to seperate the good chicken from the throw away  parts (skin, bones, etc…). It comes off the bone super easy!
  6. Your chicken is done and now all you have to do is strain out the brothand you have chicken broth. I like to freeze the chicken and broth in baggies until I need them.

    Straining My Broth

The last chicken I did made about 5 cups shredded chicken and honestly I can’t remember how much broth, I think 3-5 cups.

Here’s a few random tips:

  • To waste less, save the chicken skin for your cat or dog.
  • This is a great way to use those veggies that are too limp to be yummy raw.
  • You can cook the chicken in a pot on the stove, it will go faster.
  • To make the broth less fattening, let it cool in the fridge until a yellow layer forms on the top (that’s the fat) and remove it. But honestly I never do this, I think the fat adds flavor.
  • You can use this shredded chicken in so many ways, but my favorite are quesadillas, sandwhiches and chicken tortilla soup.
  • My favorite ways to use the broth are to cook rice in it to add flavor or in chicken tortilla soup (can you tell that’s my favorite soup?)

The Shredded Chicken

Sorry all the pictures are blurry! I didn’t notice the blurriness until I loaded them onto the computer today.

My Clearance Purchases

Wanna know a great way to get some rock bottom prices on food? Check out any clearances at your local grocery store! I’m not talking about the weekly sales, although that is a great way to save on groceries.  I’m talking about things being sold because something’s wrong with them. The store I do a lot of my shopping at has a “Blowout Clearance” section and I try to always check it out, just in case I see something I want. This last week I was able to get 3 boxes of cereal for 50 cents each (I rarely buy cereal, but with that price, how could I pass it up?). I also got some wheat crackers for a buck, because the box was a little bent up, and a bag of mini chocolate chips for 75 cents. I don’t buy chocolate chips very often either, but thought they’d be a nice addition to some muffins. Some stores will sell produce when it’s starting to get ugly. I’ve bought browning bananas before and froze them. Also see if your store has a “day old bread” section (it might not be in the bakery section). A lot of times there will be bread, donuts, pies and all kinds of things there that are still fine to eat. And as I’ve talked about before Reduced for Quick Sale Meats are a great deal too! Just make sure to cook or freeze them right away.

And in case anyone wants to know I spent $37.10 on groceries this week. This should allow me to make it through until April. And it brings my month’s total for groceries up to $258.47, which I’m okay with. My main goal is to keep it under $300, but lately I’ve been trying to lower it to $250 a month. This is just for food items.

Here’s how I saved this week:

  • 10 cents by using store brand
  • $5.62 for buying on sale items (grapes, broccoli, lunch meat)
  • 50 cents for using a tabasco coupon

My total savings was $6.22. And I feel like I got a good amount of food for $37.10.

Groceries

There are many strategies to lowering your grocery bill. I’ll share mine with you. For my husband, me and my 2 year old girl we’ve been spending about $300 a month on groceries. This month I was able to decrease it to about $255, and I wanna see if I can keep that up. This does NOT include nonfood items like shampoo, paper towels, detergent, etc… It also does not include eating out, which this month was over $100 (I know, that wasn’t very frugal!).

So here’s how I do it:

  • Generic brands – Almost everything I buy is the cheap store brand. A few items I have decided I like name brand, like sour cream. It doesn’t seem to get smelling weird as fast as the generic sour cream. But for the most part I buy the cheapest.
  • Sales- You can plan your meals around what’s on sale that week and/or stock up (as long as it won’t go bad before you get a chance to eat it). For example, my husband likes Tabasco sauce and I have made a personal goal to not ever buy it at full price, as it goes on sale every now and then and I can stock up on it.
  • Buy in season and grown locally – this mostly applies to fruits and vegetables. For example living here in West Texas I almost never buy berries, as they’re expensive from being shipped here. So instead we eat a lot of cantaloupe which grows great out here and is therefore cheap.
  • Cook with cheap ingredients – This can vary, but usually some cheap foods are: pastas, rice, beans, potatoes, etc…
  • Warehouse stores – I have a Sam’s Club membership and recently did a rough calculation of how much we save buying certain items there and was pleasantly surprised to see that in cheese alone we easily cover our $40 a year membership (plus some).
  • Make a price list – This idea I got from “The Tightwad Gazette” by Amy Dacyczyn (highly recommend). Keep track of the unit prices of items you buy often and see which stores are cheapest and when sales really are a good value. This has been really handy for buying things at Sam’s. A lot of things are cheaper there, but not everything.
  • Coupons – Okay, so actually I almost never use coupons for 2 reasons:
  1. They’re usually for name brands, and as I mentioned before I usually buy generic.
  2. They’re usually for items I don’t buy, like pre-made frozen meals.

But on t he occasion that I find a coupon for something that I usually buy and in a brand I usually buy it in, I’ll use it. The other day I printed off a coupon from the Tabasco website and saved 50 cents.

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