By far my most pressing and concerning questions from readers have to do with getting their grocery bill down. I’ve written on 7 Ways to Save Money on Groceries, and The Frugal Farmer’s Guide to Feeding Your Family for Less.
Get Creative With Cheap Ingredients
When you plan your menu (yes, you NEED a menu plan to get the most for your money at the grocery store), focus on some basic cheap ingredients, and then get creative. For instance, I can get a 25-pound bag of rice at the warehouse club for a bit over $10. From that bag of rice I can make a variety of inexpensive meals, such as:
– Spanish Rice (with meat or without)
-Chow Mein Hotdish (light on the hamburger to save $$)
-Cheese and Broccoli Rice
-Veggie Fried Rice
-Veggie Stir Fry
– Cinnamon Rice
You get the message. At 4 cents per cup of cooked rice, you can’t beat those prices. Some other cheap ingredients?
-Dried Beans of any kind.
Having trouble coming up with meal ideas for these ingredients? Pauline over at Reach Financial Independence opened my eyes to the search bars on a variety of websites that allow you to find great recipes by ingredient. I tend to use All Recipes. Just punch in the word “rice” and up pops hundreds of great recipes you can make with rice. Get creative!
In our house, at least half the recipes use the above ingredients as the main ingredient, saving us hundreds of dollars a month on food costs.
Creative is good, basic is too. Some of our super cheap, basic meals?
-Popcorn. We’ll have, a good twice a month, a popcorn/movie night for dinner. Super cheap meal and the kids think it’s fun. 🙂
-Pancakes. Made from scratch with a variety of toppings from syrup to home-canned jelly. Another tip to cheapen your pancakes? Use half milk and half water instead of the whole amount of milk.
-Mashed potatoes w/steamed veggies. This isn’t the kids’ favorite, but we’re on a serious mission to get out of debt, so tough bounce. 🙂
-Noodles with butter, salt and pepper. Easy, and you just can’t beat buttered noodles on the comfort food level.
No, these simple recipes aren’t always nutritionally the best, but throw in a veggie of some sort, and you can have a pretty decent cheap meal.
Use What You’ve Got
Take that can of tomato sauce and do a recipe search for a new recipe using what you’ve got in the house. Look for ways to put together the ingredients that already exist in your pantry, especially the ones that have been sitting awhile, looking for a home in your tummy. What you create might surprise you.
Ask your friends, your mom or your grandmother what types of meals she made for dirt cheap and/or how they save/saved money on groceries. Those living in and soon after the Great Depression have a plethora of tips for saving money on food. One of my favorite books, which highlights LOTS of cheap and delicious meals, is called Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories and Recipes from The Great Depression. Littered with funny stories, Clara shares her favorite super-cheap family recipes. This would be a great book to put on your Christmas list.
We’ve been feeding our family of six this year on roughly $450 a month. I’d really like to drop this number to under $400 a month, and I think if we stick to following the tips listed above, we can get it done. And you can too!