Sunday, April 6, 2008

Whittling Down the Grocery Budget

Anyone else noticed groceries going up dramatically? I usually buy the cheapest box of lasagna at Wal-Mart. It went up from $1 to $1.39! Both grocery stores in town have raised bananas to 69 cents a pound! I'm furious! Even celery went up by about 30%! Since I'm trying to cut out a bit of my grocery budget in order to put it towards our minivan fund, I'm finding that it's taking MORE and MORE effort than ever to whittle down the grocery budget. So here are some of my tips:

*Definitely shop around. Because both grocery stores are within 2 blocks of our home, it's well worth the minimal extra time to shop both stores each week and catch the "Loss Leaders" at each. It even pays off big time to go to Wal-Mart 2 or 3 times a month (30 miles away) because of the way lower prices in food there.

*Plan lower cost meals. I shoot for inexpensive meals, with one or two nice meals per week thrown in. Some of my low-cost favorites include: spaghetti (we like it meatless), Tuna Gravy on homemade biscuits, Roast and potatoes (elk roast free from my dad), Stir fry, Homemade pizza, homemade soups or chilis. For fun I will throw in a more expensive meal, like lasagna, fettuccini alfredo, or Indian tacos for date night or special occasions.

*If something isn't a really good price in your mind, go without. This means planning your weekly menu around the sales and not being too brand loyal to things. I refuse to buy things that are out of my target range. From now on our bananas will come from Wal-Mart (at 48 cents a pound) or we'll buy off the ripened reduced rack (39 cents a pound.) Contrary to what our culture teaches, you DON'T deserve a break today and you SHOULDN'T buy what you don't have money for.

*Splurge on one thing at a time. Every Friday I try to make sure we have something "special" for our in-home movie night together as a couple. Whether it's making sure we have ice-cream (my hubby's favorite snack food) or some peanuts or homemade cookies made up, I like to have a treat for us both to look forward to. However, I have to remind myself that ONE treat is enough. This week I wanted to buy my husband a few of his favorite snack foods and then realized it wasn't in the realm of our budget. So, he got ice-cream this week and he'll get his favorite peanuts next time!

*Quit being lazy. There is no doubt about it, laziness costs money. Our family can live off a lot less if I am making my own bread, which is more nutritious and filling and is great snack food for the kids, rather than loaves at $3 a loaf. Rinsing out cloth diapers may take a few extra minutes but it saves so much on diapers to use cloth during the day! Making your own laundry soap is a breeze and a huge relief to the budget. Being willing to cook my pizza and biscuits, and desserts from scratch and cutting up my own fruit and veggies rather than buying them pre-prepared really does cost a lot less. There are definitely seasons of life where paying extra is worth it (morning sickness or having the flu or having one of "those days") but if laziness is your usual habit, you will find your grocery budget climbing.

*Be creative about snacks. Instead of crackers, pop some popcorn on the stove and lightly salt it for the kids. A bag of raisins in bulk or on clearance makes another good kid snack. Make up a big batch of pancakes or waffles and keep them in the freezer for quick snack fixes. Use Crystal's tips over at moneysavingmom to get snacks/crackers/cereals for free with coupons.

*Plan ahead. Nothing is more tempting than hitting up the drive through if you are shopping away from home with hungry kids or you are headed home from the park and are too tired to think about making lunch. This is why I find it helpful to plan my meals ahead of time, prep for supper early in the morning if possible, and pack snacks and drinks for car trips/park trips and shopping trips out of our town. Eating out can be a fun treat now and then but it's crazy how much one family with only tiny kids can spend on just one lunch out. We prefer not to eat out too often since one meal in a restaurant could buy our family of four nutritious and delicious meals for a few days!

*Have a "Clean Out the Pantry Week." I shop the great deals and clearances to stock our pantry, so when we are having a lean week sometimes it's fun to do a weeklong challenge of trying to use up what we have in our freezer and pantry. Often there are things stuffed at the back of the freezer you have forgotten about or cans growing dusty on the shelf in your pantry.

5 comments:

Heather Hanson said...

Great ideas, Linds! And I LOVE your new blog design--really easy to read and very professional-looking! How'd you do it?

Meredith said...

Good tips. I think I read somewhere that the cost of food is rising due to rising gas prices...costs more for the companies to get it on our shelves. I'm looking forward to summertime - growing our own veggies or buying from the farmers market.

Mrs. Gunning said...

Meredith mentioned what I was going to: gardens. Even if one lives in a tiny apartment, they can get a few potted veggie plants. :)
Thanks for a good post. :)

Mrs. Taft said...

Good ideas :D The new blog design is gorgeous as well :)

the momma said...

ACK! You changed things here! sigh. why do things have to change?!

well, it does look pretty & I'll suppose I'll get used to it soon enough :-)

great tips ~ I tell you what - feeding my bunch has become quite challenging!

hope you have a blessed week ~ t.

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