Happy Tuesday, friends! Sorry I’ve been out of the loop here for a few days – lots going on which I will likely share in Friday’s post. But The Frugal Farmer family is back, sharing great tips today on how to save money on groceries.
I’ll post later on about how we blew out July budget out of the water, but suffice to say it’s put us into overdrive to make August expenses as little as possible. So, where’s the first place we turn? To the grocery budget, of course. When we first started our journey to get out of debt, we planned a grocery budget of $300 a month for our family of six. We’ve been averaging closer to $400 a month, but we’re determined, out of necessity, to get back on track and do it well for August, so here are some of the money saving tricks we’re going to use:
1. Plan the menu around the sales. Yep, menu. We never grocery shop without a menu for the month, and you shouldn’t either. Throwing stuff hodge-podge like into the cart will only leave you with a house full of ingredients you’re not sure what to do with, and a likely expanded eating-out budget as you wonder what to feed your hungry family.
We always menu plan, but this month, for the first time, we’ll make meals that specifically target what’s on sale at the store. In our area this week, chicken breasts and hot dogs are dirt cheap, so dinners will be filled with grill nights, chicken wraps, chicken hot dishes and chicken soup. We also have a great deal on flour tortillas this week, so there’s be lots of tacos/wraps/quesadillas here too.
Before planning your monthly/weekly menu and doing your grocery shopping, check the sales first, and then plan your menu based on what’s cheapest for main ingredients.
2. Use less. Wherever you can. Use less meat in your casseroles. Use water instead of milk in your pancakes or biscuits. Drink water with meals instead of milk, juice or pop. Cut your detergent usage in half. Use less cheese in your mac and cheese and less meat in your sandwiches.
Really, you’ll be ok. I promise you won’t starve if you use two pieces of turkey on your sandwich instead of four. 🙂
And, you’ll save money on groceries like never before. I estimate that we cut at least 10% off of our grocery bill by using this method.
3. Garden. Or barter with someone who does. Or hit the farmer’s markets. Growing your own food is amazingly cost-effective. Here’s a good post that will tell you how much you need to plant to feed your family for a year. One tip I have for those wanting to grow their own food is to only plant what you like to eat. Don’t plant eggplant if you hate it. We focused on planting only foods we love in our garden this year: tomatoes, peppers and onions for salsa and salads, carrots to eat fresh and to freeze for casseroles and soups, cukes for making pickles, green beans for eating fresh and freezing. You get the picture. Figure out which veggies you’re buying weekly, and focus on planting those in your garden.
No garden capabilities? Swap services with someone you know who does have a garden. Ask them if you can buy some of their veggies, share their garden space, or make a trade for a service they need done. Or find a community garden through your town or your church.
Gardening not only helps you save money on groceries, the organic, home-grown veggies will likely increase your vegetable consumption – they taste fabulous!
4. Cut the crap. No more chips, or at least cut down. Get rid of the processed foods. Forego the weekly 12-packs of pop in favor of fresh, clean water. If you’re on a super-tight budget and are needing to get grocery costs down, there’s no better way to save money on food than to get rid of the extras.
5. Brown bag it. HUGE money savings here. We’ve got friends that, although they manage their money well, it always makes the wife cringe when the hubby spends $10 a day on food at work. Rick’s been brown-bagging it since January 1st, and our average meal for him runs about $2 – $2.50. Skip the cafeteria or the fast food place and bring your own lunch to work: you’ll save money on food like never before.
6. Do homemade. Desserts, breakfast breads, mac and cheese, soup: most all food is much cheaper if you make it from scratch instead of purchasing pre-made. Like fried rice? Throw some rice, carrots, peas and onions in a pan, fry it up and season it with some salt, pepper and a bit of soy sauce. Way cheaper than the local take out place. Make cookies for your brown-bag lunch instead of buying packaged desserts. Make biscuits from scratch instead of using the refrigerated stuff. Huge cost savings here.
7. Meal share. I read about many families who plan one meal a week with family or friends in order to cut grocery costs. Grab 1 or 2 other families and have a spaghetti dinner. One family brings the pasta and salad, one brings the bread and milk, a third brings the sauce/meatballs. And besides saving money on food, you’ll create some great memories with loved ones as well.
There’s always ways to save money on food if you are willing to work at it, so try these tips and see how much money you can save on food.
What are your best money saving tips for groceries?
Great Tips. I think the planning your meals around sales is a big money saver. My wife and I aren’t picky eaters and are pretty flexible. Whatever is onsale, we’ll get that (unless it’s junk). I bring lunch to work pretty all the time…it definitely saves a lot…cafeteria food is not cheap. I don’t have a garden as I live in an apartment…I would definitely have a garden if I had a backyard…my parents love their garden.
Sounds like you’ve got your grocery saving down pat, Andrew. And I SO agree about the brown-bagging it. Huge cash savings there. Maybe you guys could find a community garden there? Not sure if they do that type of thing in such a big city, but I would imagine so.
When I leave my job, we definitely plan on starting a garden. I cannot wait!
I can’t wait for you to leave your job – yea! 🙂
Great tips, Laurie. I love the brown bagging it idea because that’s what I do. I spend about the same as Rick does for each lunch which is much cheaper than anything I could get in the cafeteria (probably healthier too). My wife and I are terrible at menu planning, but we’re focused on trying to get better at it.
Good for you for brown-bagging it. Rick gets some grief from the guys about it sometimes, but truth be told, I think they’re just jealous because he’s saving so much cold, hard cash. 🙂
Menu planning is the one thing I really want to work on and it’s great to find someone who does it successfully. I don’t have great grocery sales in my area but it can be done. Right now our freezer space is limited but as soon as we get a chest freezer (should in the next two months) I will start the monthly meal planning.
Good for you, Tara! Our chest freezer has been a life saver, money-wise. We now buy beef direct from the farmer at about $3.80 a lb., and stock up big time on bread sales so we can freeze it, and we freeze our garden veggies too. That will be a great purchase and help for your menu-planning too b/c you can cook a bunch of stuff in one day and just freeze it so it’s ready to go. Keep us updated on your progress. 🙂
Hey there. You might consider getting some big rubber tubs to keep things separated and easier to locate. This worked very well for us. Really enjoying this website. Thanks!
Great idea! Glad you are liking the site, Shirley – that’s our goal 🙂
Great post, Laurie! My Grandpa said that his family’s garden definitely helped them make it through the depression! Keep up the good work!
People like your grandpa are my heroes. Anyone who could survive through the Depression must have some serious strength, will and creativity.
Meal sharing is something I would love to get better at. I live with two other people and yet we never make joint meals.
Also this: “One tip I have for those wanting to grow their own food is to only plant what you like to eat.” I wish I could convince friends of this. Their strategy is to only plant what’s easy 🙂
Mario, for years we would plant bunches of stuff we didn’t eat and then end up tossing it. Now we’ve finally learned. You and your roomies should try the meal sharing sometime – I bet it would be fun!
I’d also add, grow what makes sense financially. Yes you may eat a lot of potatoes but they are so cheap at the store it probably doesn’t make sense to take up garden space with them and the weeding and watering time, unless you’re growing some uncommon variety not available at the store.
Around here peppers, asparagus and snow peas are costly so if you like those, that would save you more. Sometimes the advantage of growing your own is the ability to grow unusual varieties (red lettuce, heritage tomatoes) or have fresh herbs available at your backdoor. It may not save you anything but adds variety and flavor to your meals.
That’s a terrific point! Would not have thought of taking that into consideration. Thanks for the comment. 🙂
I’m still working on waste, especially fruit and veggies. Now I cut up and freeze fruit if we don’t eat them fast enough and am a smoothie machine, but still let some veggies go too long… Trying to be way better about that!
That’s the way to do it, Mrs. PoP. Freezing has saved us a ton, or else we’ll quick make up some muffins with fruit that’s going and freeze the muffins, or chop up the veggies to use later for soup.
I keep a large yogurt container in the freezer and add bits of leftover plain steamed veggies after dinner. Once it’s full (about 3cups) it’s time to make ministrone soup. I used to buy vegetable broth for the soup but I’ve now got another yogurt container in there to collect the water left after steaming veggies. I can’t believe it never occured to me to save the water from steaming beans, carrots, brocolli etc and then to go out and buy vegetable broth to make the ministrone. Duh! Just proves there is always something else you can add to your arsenal of money saving habits.
Great idea! Now that’s frugality!
I have been planning meals around sales lately and I have only been spending around $40 a week on food. Of course, I am just feeding myself and two preschoolers but I still think thats pretty good. I have also found major savings my bringing my lunch to work.
Alexa, that’s amazing! And you’re right about bringing your lunch – that’s a huge help money-wise, and like Jake said, probably healthier too. Keep up the good work!
Definitely some great advice here. I bring lunch every day and that definitely saves a ton of money. My wife cooks dinner, which is also a huge money-saver. We’re not into gardening yet, but maybe when we get our own place. I would love having fresh veggies easily available.
Matt, they’re so yummy! Salads right out of the garden are so delish you’ll want to eat them every night. 🙂
Great tips Laurie! We do many, if not all of them. Now that we both work from home it makes saving on food much easier as we don’t really go out at all. Our tip is to only shop once every ten days as opposed to once a week. It has virtually gotten rid of food waste and it forces us to use everything.
That same strategy has really helped up too, John. When you force yourself to not go to the store as often, you’re stuck eating what’s in the house.
I freeze a lot and it has almost cut on any food waste. We don’t mind too much the amount of the bill as we like to eat good things but I hate waste so at least I want everything we buy to be eaten.
Freezing has been a huge money-saver for us too, Pauline. It’s amazing how much waste you can cut if you force yourself to find ways to use things up instead of just opting to throw it away.
Great tips! I don’t have a garden and I wish there was a food market nearby where I could buy my veggies and fruits, but the closest one is a Tube ride away and I choose not to go (perhaps something to re consider). Have you tried a no meat or no fish week? That could save lots of money. I am a vegetarian but I know how expensive this stuff is and I’m glad I don’t eat it.
Great point, Girl. We do lots of veggie only meals. I’ve gone meatless for long periods and I definitely feel better when I eat less meat. Thanks for the comment!
Great tips! This year we bought a semi-ruin of a house in a village nearby and can’t wait to start growing our own vegetables next year. We were planning on growing a bit of everything, but indeed it makes more sense to only grow what we like.
And regarding the chips and pop – not only that you save money by cutting them down, you also eat and live a lot healthier!
So true!!! I just saw a guy today walking out of the buying club with several cases of pop. It just made me cringe, all of the money he had spent, and the effect on his health too – yikes! I used to be an occasional diet soda drinker myself, maybe once a week or so, but I’ve committed to cutting it down even more. It’s just not good for you!
Yeah, if only we could get there. Sorry to hear your July was crummy too that way. Standing strong with you, my friend!
Lots of good tips here! I just had a post on brown bagging it; not surprisingly lots of us PF bloggers do it :). I think making meals from scratch and not buying pre-packaged things is key. I really need to work on that. Most of the time we can make things cheaper, and it will be healthier because we know what we’re putting into it. I also eat at my grandma’s house once or twice a week which cuts down on things. Oh, and I already use less – I like my sandwiches thin!
LOL, yeah, us PF bloggers and followers of bloggers are in a league of our own, aren’t we? 🙂 I think it’s great that you eat at your grandma’s: good cost savings, and bonding time too!
Great tips! Brown bagging our lunch can really save as a lot on our food expenses and cutting down on processed foods can help us feel and be healthier.
We’ve found the same thing, Mark. Definitely worth the effort, not just monetarily but health wise as well. Thanks for the comment!
I’d love to try meal sharing. I’m not sure how popular that is in my area, but I bet there are some people doing it. I do fear thought that I’d be too picky (I only eat chicken and turkey). Bf would be thrilled to do meal share because he’d finally have red meat meals cooked by others.
LOL, yep, that’s the typical guy: they love their red meat. Rick is not a meat fan at all, which is odd for a guy, apparently. He’s happy as a clam with a great veggie salad.
We regularly have a SWAP listed on our menu plan. That stands for Salad with a protein. We make a giant salad for each person and then we all add either various leftover meats or just add cheese and chickpeas for an all veggie option. It’s a great way to clean up leftovers. Last time each of us had a different meat on top: ham, chicken, shrimp and steak. When we cook steaks we often cook one extra so we can have fajitas or steak topped salad the next night without cooking. Otherwise buy very small steaks, or cut some in half and freeze them individually. If only one person wants steak you don’t have to cook a lot of it. We always freeze meat portions individually on wax paper on a cookie sheet, then dump them all into a freezer bag. When one of us wants chicken and another wants red meat we can defrost just a single serving of each.
Love the idea about the SWAP, and about freezing meat portions. You are a wealth of frugal information, JMK!
Drink more water is a great tip. I certainly wish we had the will to give up soda! I am very tempted not to cook on days when I work, so it helps if I cook lots on days when I’m off. Freezing and making leftovers in to stir fry helps us not to waste food. I think you do amazing things with your grocery budget and meal plan. Always a pleasure to see your recipes.
Thanks, Kim! Soda is a tough one to give up, I hear. We’ve never been huge pop drinkers, so we’ve never had to deal with giving it up. That being said, when there’s a gathering here, and we have pop, the kids suck it down like addicts on a binge. 🙂
Great tips laurie. Yeah my friend has garden and they grow many stuffs there and save lot of money. I also save good money by preparing at home
Totally, Rita! You can save tons of cash by following those two tips!
There’s so many ways to save money on groceries, and you’ve listed many of them, Laurie! For our family the best way to ensure we stay on track with our grocery budget is to plan, plan, PLAN our meals and know exactly how much our bill is going to be when we walk up to the cash register. Not going to the store hungry also prevents us from putting unneeded things in our cart!
SO true, Travis! We do the same thing. Being prepared ahead of time is what allows us to have a smaller grocery bill, that’s for sure.
Five and six are our biggest ways to save beside bulk shopping. I dont think it would work to well if we shared with other families. We still would end up needed to spend more money to feed them and our greedy monsters as well. Knowing our kids they would still be hungry and require us to cook when we get back home.
LOL, yeah, two teen boys will do that to you. When they’re grown and have their own families, you’ll have to make sure they invite you over lots. Payback time for those hungry teen years. 🙂
Meal planning is huge. When I race home from work, I have a 3 hungry people waiting for me. I don’t have time to stare at the fridge and figure out what to make. I have to already know! Otherwise, you’re right, it’s very easy to pick something up on the way home. I can definitely see how having a garden would be a huge benefit and I am jealous of all your fresh vegetables. Our backyard is tiny so we actually put down tiles to make it a patio and extend our living space. We love it but no place to put a garden.
Shannon, you’re right on track! Your life is a prime example of how food budgets can easily go out the window without proper planning. I can just see the hubby and kids, staring at you like “Umm, we’re waiting. Where’s the food?” after a long day of work for you both. That could easily be stressful enough to make a person turn to takeout. Good for you for planning it out.
I do all the meal planning and shopping, but after that the cooking is done by whoever gets home first. Every morning I take something out of the freezer and put it in the fridge. I leave an itemized list on the counter. As people arrive home they look for the list and gets started.
Tonight – chicken thighs are defrosting for the BBQ (with teriaki glaze). Leftover rice from last night will become fried rice tonight, and I’m leaving it to the first person through the door to choose either green beans or brocolli. We’ll be cooking 2 extra chicken thighs without sauce because tomorrow’s lunch is chicken quesadillas. Intentional leftovers are the best way to reduce the time you spend cooking!
I’d have to think hard to remember a week when chicken enchiladas didn’t follow a night or two after a whole chicken was baked. Fried rice is best made with leftover rice. Without fail we always cook extra pasta so we have the start of a casserole or salad for the next night. Why cook again the next night if you don’t have to? Saves on gas/electricity and time.
Wow – more things I never thought of before. Thank you. 🙂
Value-based spending, Troy, that’s what it’s all about! We’re on a tight food budget now, due to necessity, but I often dream of the day when I can wander through the grocery store picking out our heart’s delight for dinner. I’m quite sure that after the debt’s paid off our grocery bill will double. 🙂
All of these are great tips! I try to do all of them and the most important thing I try to do is make sure we eat what we have. That way we don’t have to throw anything away!
SO important, Holly. Food waste is a huge expense in most families – one that’s easily avoidable!
We are trying to follow your first tip of planning meals around sales. It keeps dinner more interesting and saves us money. I like the list!
Agreed about keeping dinners more interesting. It’s a good way to change things up. 🙂
Great tips! My best money saving tip for groceries is – if you live in an urban area with a good diversity of people – check out the non-traditional markets (Asian, Mexican, etc.). You can save 50% or more on vegetables, fruits, and even meats without doing ANY additional planning or thinking when it comes to your grocery shopping.
You can find more details and a comparison of common items against Safeway prices in my post “Cut Your Grocery Bills By More Than Half!” at http://survivethevalley.com/2013/09/06/cut-your-grocery-bills-by-more-than-half/
Wow – great tips!!! I’ll definitely be checking out your post – thank you!
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