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More Ways to Save Money on Groceries

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In our quest for an ever-smaller grocery bill, we are constantly on the lookout for ways to save money on groceries.  We’re now managing to feed our family of six for around $400 a month.  Yeah, some families do it for cheaper, but we’re trying to balance saving money while still eating things other than beans and rice, so our journey to a lower food bill is going a bit slower than other people’s. 🙂  Here are some of our latest and greatest money saving grocery tips:

Buy Fresh Produce When it’s on Sale, and Freeze it

If you like to eat things like green beans, asparagus, carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower and the like, load up when it’s on super sale, then blanche it, freeze it and store it in freezer safe bags, preferably using a vacuum pack system.  It’s a good way to have an abundance of cheap and delicious produce year-round even if you don’t grow a garden. What’s that, you say, no freezer space?  Get all of that processed crap out of the freezer to make room for your stock of frozen veggies. 🙂

Make a List of Your Preferred Price Points

For things that you buy regularly, make a list of the lowest price you’ve seen it on sale, or can get it for, and when those prices come around, stock up big time.  We’ve gotten our favorite spaghetti sauce for $1 a jar (regularly $1.38), our favorite frozen pizzas for 98 cents (regularly $1.58) and loaves of bread for 88 cents (regularly almost $2.00!).  We buy LOTS when they go on sale, and then store them up or freeze them to use during the year.  Yeah, we get some weird looks at the grocery store, but we save tons of cash. 🙂

Get Creative with Cooking

There really is so much more you can do with cheap ingredients like rice, beans, potatoes and pasta, if you’re willing to take the time to learn.  Just do a Google search on “best _________ recipes”, and a whole new world of yummy stuff will open up for you!  We’ve been working on this for the last month and have already added three great recipes to our permanent recipe arsenal.

Switch to Homemade

I cannot over-emphasize the cost savings here.  Instead of buying granola bars or store-bought cookies, make a double-batch of your favorite cookie type, put them in half-dozen increments in baggies, freeze ’em, and you’ve got ready-to-go snacks for the entire family.  Same can be done with muffins, brownies or whatever.  Also, it takes just a few minutes to whip up a super cheap batch of biscuits to go with dinner, instead of buying the store-bought stuff, and it costs just a fraction of the amount that the store-bought stuff costs.  Same goes with other processed foods like mac & cheese, homemade stews and soups, and the like.  You can make up just about any meal, put it in a freezer/microwave safe container, and have a plethora of cheap and delicious meals at your fingertips.

Choose to Settle for Less

Rick’s lunches each day consist of two sandwiches with cheese and meat, and a baggie full of his favorite chips, or a bag from a variety pack if we can get them on sale.  We skimp a bit on the meat for him, and we generally can do his lunches for a buck, two bucks max.  That’s a whole lot less money than the minimum $5 item at his work cafeteria.  His work guys give him grief for his simple meals, but we’re laughing all the way to the bank.

This same concept applies to other meals as well: use less meat in casseroles and soups, or don’t use any meat at all.  Choose to use just a bit less cheese than you’d like to on your meal.  Have one egg instead of two with breakfast. It’s the little things in money that really do add up.

With a little effort, you can reduce your grocery bill even a little bit more than you already have – you just have to get creative. 🙂

65 comments

    • Laurie says:

      The great thing about PF is that it is definitely personal. We try and find a good balance between having a healthy diet and spending less. We are one of the few couples we know at our age who aren’t in need of prescription medication, and we’re only mid-forties!

  1. I think I need to make a list of my preferred price points. My wife is much better in knowing what price is a good price, but now that I’m shopping more…I’m getting more knowledgeable. Often times, I’ll see “sale” and assume it’s a great price. They’re very tricky in those supermarkets! I definitely need to freeze stuff so it doesn’t go bad, but it takes forever to defrost…

    • Laurie says:

      Andrew, you’ll likely memorize quickly once you start making that list. It’s a great relief on our budget when I can look at a “sale” price and know whether or not I can find it cheaper somewhere else, escaping the traps of that false advertising. 🙂

  2. We do a lot of the same things Laurie to keep our costs down. We get questions as to how we can feed a family of five on so “little”, but the thing is that we get what we want and need, we just do it for cheaper. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      It works, doesn’t it, John! People are often amazed, but all it takes is the willingness to learn and take the time to set those habits into place, and soon enough it’s no big deal.

  3. Brit says:

    Great post! When it comes to recipes Google is my best friend! What I do is that I stocked up items that are on sale for the season. This month (last month) I stocked up on cereal. This will last me for a while until they go on sale again. When is baking season that’s when I stock up on flour and other baking goods. This helps me keep my grocery list low. I’m also going to start a small garden this year to help bring my grocery cost down.

    • Laurie says:

      I am always amazed at the great recipes I find with a quick google search. Stocking up during sales really does save a ton of money, and like you said, keeps your grocery list small too. We bought flour in bulk at Sam’s Club, and it is so nice now that I don’t have to lug an extra 5 or 10 pound bag of flour in the cart on every trip.

    • Laurie says:

      Leftovers are HUGE. Nowadays when I feed us leftovers for a meal, all I can think is “Free meal! Free meal! Woohoo!” 🙂

  4. We freeze and preserve a LOT of our garden. Things we don’t grow, we buy in season in bulk when prices are low. We also make pretty much everything from scratch. Not only does this save money, but we eat much healthier too.

    For my husband’s lunch, I make 3 PBJ sandwiches, and add a couple pieces of fruit (apples, bananas, oranges, whatever we have) and some veggies (carrots, celery, broccoli, etc). If I have fresh cookies or muffins I’ll throw one in too. Sometimes I give him leftovers (especially if it was something the kids complained about the night before).

    • Laurie says:

      You do lunches the same way we do. Leftovers for Rick are actually quite a treat for lunch – there’s usually not much for leftovers at our house. 😉

  5. The biggest cost we are trying to cut back on is meat. Everyone in our family loves it but it is very expensive. Right now I’m trying to have 2-3 meals per week where meat is not the main dish. That’s tough for a family where the kids don’t really care for soups or noodle dishes.

    • Laurie says:

      HUGE cost savings there, Brian. We just ordered a half a cow, however, and got the grass-fed meat for roughly $3.50-$3.75 after butchering costs. That should last us a whole year, even after we section off some to sell to Rick’s brother.

  6. E.M. says:

    I am always on top of “sale” prices. Sometimes I have to laugh at what they consider a sale. I’m glad I know better! I do tend to stock up when something is an amazing price. When I used to eat sandwiches, I would literally put maybe two slices of meat and cheese on them. My boyfriend scoffs at that, but he’s fine with the cheaper brands, so it’s not too bad. He’s also been on a PB&J kick. His coworkers also make fun of him, but they’re 27 and still living at home. They don’t understand financial worries.

    • Laurie says:

      Tell me, E.M.! I hate when they try and pull one over on unsuspecting consumers! We have Rick’s co-workers scoffing at him too, but we know where our frugal habits are leading. 🙂

  7. Liz says:

    We made homemade chipotle burrito bowls (basically beans and rice) for dinner last night and they were delicious. Beans, rice, tomato, avocado, onion and a little cheese was all we used for this recipe. They were inexpensive since we didn’t use meat. I think part of what made them so good is that they were “Chipotle” burrito bowls : )

    • Laurie says:

      We just talked about having a Chipotle burrito bar at home for dinner one night. You could easily do that for under $15 for our family of six. Yum!

  8. This year grocery bill reduction has big a big part of our financial plan, and definitely knowing price points is a big factor. If you know that items you normally buy, can be reduced big a significant amount, then you can be patient. I also agree with the “less is more.” We have cut back significantly on how much food comes into our house, and the three of us are all healthy, fed and happy. It is sometimes just an emotional game to make the switch of behaviors more than anything else.

    • Laurie says:

      It’s amazing, Shannon. I think we are convinced in this country that if we’re not full all of the time, then we’re starving. But like you mentioned, if we can get our emotions in check, it’s all good!

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    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, it works well when done right. Obviously, we prefer to freeze our fresh garden veggies, but we’ll take store-bought produce if we have to. 🙂

  10. Great tips, Laurie! You really can freeze quite a bit of food and it almost always taste better than processed or canned. Meal planning is a big deal for me. Otherwise I’m just picking up random things in the store, which rarely leads to good decisions. I admit we are not big on leftovers either so I have learned to adjust my cooking to make what we will eat so there is no waste. People throw away so much food and that is literally throwing money away.

    • Laurie says:

      Shannon, if you, with your busy schedule, can make the time to meal-plan, then anyone can!! I agree about the leftovers too. It’s smart to adjust your cooking if you don’t eat them. Sometimes things are good when re-heated, and sometimes, not so much. 🙂

  11. I definitely agree with the “go homemade” point. We eat very few foods that are processed (out of a box or other package) because I make real meals and also bake. It’s easy to make your own bread, for instance. I’m also amazed at co-workers who don’t know that you can make soup rather than getting it from a can. They just think it’s way too much work.

    • Laurie says:

      Funny, isn’t it? And homemade soup really is easy, and tastes SO much better than the store-bought stuff. And especially for lunches, you can make a huge batch and have two weeks’ worth of lunches in the freezer, in little ready-to-heat containers. HUGE money saver there!

  12. We try and have some go to recipes every week. I want to try and eat less meat, but the bf is all about having meat in his meals. We also try and meal plan along with looking at the flyers for good deals. It works every now and then.

    • Laurie says:

      If you’ve got a meat-lover in the family, the best thing to do is stock up on sales if you’ve got freezer room. When I think about how much money we’ve saved in that area, it’s amazing! I know what you mean about go-to meals too, Amanda. They’re a great fallback for a menu plan.

  13. I really do need to keep a list of price points for the things we buy often. I keep a mental list, but I’m sure that falls prey to the grocer’s arsenal of marketing gimmicks, coupons, and advertisements. Better to have something in dollars and cents, and on paper. Now, how to make this seem particularly manly when I use it in the store…

    I think I need to find a notebook with, like, a Harley on the front.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, there you go – love the idea of the notebook with the Harley on front. Personally, if I saw a guy with a notebook in the grocery store, checking prices, I’d be thinking what a studly man he was. 🙂

  14. I do the freezing thing, unfortunately my items don’t last very long, for example frozen fish barely lasts 3 weeks before it starts looking old. I don’t know if it is because it is not industrial fish which is full of chemicals or because the tropical weather makes the freezing not that efficient but even at -20C freezing I have to be careful about not forgeting my frozen food too long.

    • Laurie says:

      Wow – that’s interesting, Pauline!! Not sure what the problem is there, it seems like the temp is sufficient. Our meat lasts a good year in our deep freezer. Let me know if you find out.

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, I get that, Charles. We used to eat out a lot too. Now that I’m home, it is easier to make sure we’ve got a meal prepared.

  15. I’ve never thought about freezing fresh veg after buying it in bulk when it’s on sale. Great idea Laurie. I’ve been compromising quite a bit on food over the last year and have managed to successfully reduce my food shopping bill by half. However, I’ve been eating way too much pasta and rice and hardly any meat or fish. I think I need to allow myself an extra £20 per month to buy some protein!

    • Laurie says:

      That’s amazing, Hayley, that you’ve cut your food bill in half! Yeah, veggies and proteins are definitely good for you. You should throw some beans/lentils into the mix!

  16. Great tips! We buy fresh produce when it’s on sale and freeze it. Actually we might buy a chest freezer to better take advantage of this. I also plan on putting in a few raised garden beds this Spring so we can get planting.

    • Laurie says:

      DC, our chest freezer was one of the best purchases we ever made. It really allows us to take huge advantages of the sales on meat, veggies, processed foods, and everything. It’ll easily pay for itself in no time.

  17. I bring my own lunch to work each day, but I never settle for less. I do settle for awesome leftovers though. On Sunday I smoked baby back ribs for a friend’s bday. Guess what I had for lunch yesterday? left over smoked ribs….the smell floating through the office bay caused half a dozen people to stick their head in my cube and ask what smelled so good. Tonight’s tacos for dinner is tomorrow’s Taco Salad for lunch. Wednesday’s chicken alfredo for dinner will be Thursday’s Buffalo chicken sandwich for lunch. Who has two thumbs and LOVES leftovers? >>> This guy! <<<

  18. I hope Rick is getting lots of fruit and veg at other times of the day because his lunch is a little short. I am in my late 40s and my eating focus is long term health combined with being very frugal.

    I only buy food that is on sale and I stock up. The only thing that I buy at full price is milk because it never goes on sale.

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, he is definitely NOT a veggie lover, but at night I “strongly encourage” his veggie consumption by preparing a fair bit of them. 🙂 Plus, in the summer time, we hook him up big time too. 🙂 I know what you mean about combining healthy with frugal – at our ages, you really have to.

  19. Your are on the money about making homemade. Normally most people already have a lot of the needed ingredients in their pantry. Truth it is more time consuming to prepare, but its cheaper and taste so much better.

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, and once you get the hang of it, it really can start to go much quicker. People are always amazed at how quickly I can whip up a batch of garlic cheddar biscuits or chocolate chip cookies. 🙂

  20. Making the list of preferred price points is a great idea! I used to be better at keeping track of a lot of price points in my head, but these days hubby is doing more of our shopping so when I go the numbers are as fresh in my mind as they used to be. Great tips!

    • Laurie says:

      You’ll have to make him a price point list, Dee. 🙂 I rarely send hubby to the store for groceries, because he has a serious case of falling prey to deals in anything junk food. 🙂

  21. Great post! I have been working to read your blog beginning to current and have finally reached it! I have contemplated making a price list in the past, there are a few prices I have memorized, but it has always seemed like a lot of work. After thinking about it more, it may be a little bit of work at first, but it will pay off in terms of savings. Thanks for sharing!

    • Laurie says:

      SO glad you are liking the blog, SHNM! I think you’re right when you say the short-term work will be outweighed by the long-term benefits. Try it and see. Thanks so much for reading. 🙂

  22. Great tips, Laurie! I have gotten really good at familiarizing myself with the different price points of the items I buy. I find most pantry goods that are cheaper at Target, than the grocery store. But grocery stores generally have the better price and selection when it comes to fresh produce and meat. I always go through the sales flyers now to see what’s on sale and plan next week’s meals based on them. And I think I eat pretty darn good. Ummm… sometimes probably too darn good! LOL! I used to be terrible at brown bagging it for work and if I ever return to Corporate America, I definitely plan on a being a much smarter with bringing my lunch. But a good lunch. Those meals in a tray just don’t rock my world and would probably make me want to splurge and eat out!

    • Laurie says:

      We use the flyers too, Tanya. Rick used to do the meals in a tray too, but just couldn’t handle them anymore. They are seriously lacking in so many things. 🙂

  23. Great tips! I definitely want to try freezing a bunch of things this year, especially fresh marinara sauce. So much tastier (and cheaper) than buying a jar at the grocery store. I may finally try canning some things, as well.

    • Laurie says:

      Marinara is a great thing to free, Addison! We are starting slow on the canning thing, as it intimidates me, but we’ve got pickles down and salsa down. On this list for this year, homemade jams/jellies, and tomato or spaghetti sauce. 🙂

  24. I just made a big batch of kale chips (my first try making them at home) and they were delicious (and WAY cheaper than store bought). One bag of kale cost about $3.00, one container of pre-made chips about $7.50 at our local organic store-crazy! I also keep a price point log (well it’s really sort of in my head).

    • Laurie says:

      Wow – HUGE cost savings there, KK. My price point log is in my head too. One thing I do have a good memory for is numbers. 🙂

  25. I’m really ashamed at all the produce we’ve probably thrown away over the years, mostly due to laziness. Having a wok has been great. Everything goes in there at the end of the week for stir fry, and then it gets frozen if there is too much. Fruit gets frozen for smoothies. There really is a way to use just about everything in one form or another.

    • Laurie says:

      Smart idea about the end-of-the-week Wok fest, Kim!! I know other people do stews this way. We tend to have “leftover days” on those days when the fridge is getting too full of plastic containers. 🙂

  26. Whenever I find produce on sale, I buy lots of it to either flash freeze or to make sauce (like, with red peppers and tomatoes). I still have have a batch of strawberries in my freezer from the summer which I might use to make sauce for yogurt (using your “switch to homemade” tip). I never thought of making lists for preferred price points though- will give that a try.

  27. Daisy says:

    While saving money is certainly a priority for me, so is eating healthy food, so I take the approach of your first point most often. At a grocery store near my work, I’ve found that every Thursday evening they put their produce that I guess they see as near spoiling on sale for 50% off. It’s usually fine and will last for at least a couple of days before taking a turn for the worse, so I can cook with it or eat it raw. It works great.

    • Laurie says:

      Kudos to you, Daisy, for finding that gem of a deal! Depending on what it is, you could blanch and freeze it too. And fruit could be saved to make jellies and jams for later. Great job!

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