Q and A

A friend (do you want to remain nameless?) asked for some money-saving tips for feeding a family.

I am so flattered by this, but first must admit that while I am usually frugal with grocery shopping, I make many mistakes and do over-spend. We also eat out too much. Living at a place where others get away to, means that we end up getting-away to Jackson and restaurants, or end up on the road during meal times, thus spending too much money on eating out.

But back to groceries and money-saving tips. These are going to be random and all over the place.

1. Prioritize what's important for your family.  What do you really want to put on your table? Organic milk for the kids and meat for Tuan--that's our thing. We eat meat at nearly every meal. I'm trying to incorporate more and more produce into our meals as well, so that's where our spending priorities are. 

2. Make your own baby-food and look for alternatives to expensive baby foods when you can't make things.

a. unsweetened plain applesauce in a big jar stretches much further than individual servings of applesauce. 

b.For convenience, fruit and vegetable cups from the veggie aisle (GV brand) cost far less than buying the baby food versions.  Do read ingredients though and make sure the peaches aren't floating in sugar or splenda, for example! 

c. I made my own baby cereal. Rolled oats thrown in the clean coffee grinder worked just as well as baby cereal and I only had to buy a box of oatmeal for us and the kids, plus a giant box of oats cost less than a box of baby cereal. 

d. Frozen/fresh vegetables steamed and processed in the food processor, plain yogurt instead of  "'Yo baby"

3. Buy bread at a bakery outlet. At the Sara Lee outlet in Richland, I can get loaves of the multigrain, expensive bread for more than half off. I once got three loaves of the expensive stuff and two packages of English muffins for around five dollars. Keep it in the freezer until you need it.

4. I keep a mental price book in my head of how much things usually cost. Some folks do this in a notebook that they take grocery shopping. I usually shop at kroger and spend less money, but there are a handful of things that are cheaper at Wal-mart and I go there for them. This also helps you know if a sale is really a sale!

5. Don't assume Wal-mart is cheaper. It isn't always!

6. Kroger.com has weekly ads online. When I make time for this, it helps me plan ahead, especially with meat purchases. I also try to hit Kroger in the morning, when the produce is being marked down and/or on Thursday when a lot of things are being marked down. I let the produce mark-downs influence the menu, too.

7. Whenever I'm at a store, I check the clearance area and day-old breads, as well as the fancy cheese/butter area. If something is marked down that we will use, even if not immediately, I'll go ahead and get it. Or, if a high-quality item is marked down to the equivalent of the usual thing I buy, I will stock up. For example, this summer I was at Kroger and organic butter was marked half-off. I bought around eight pounds of it and kept them in the freezer. It cost the same as regular butter, but tasted so much better. That's also where I often find more "indulgent" things, like olives or capers. I bought four two gallon jugs of organic applejuice that was marked down, for example. 

8. Don't be afraid to stock up and freeze stuff. This also means leaving room in the budget for these kinds of purchases. They will pay off in the long run.

9. Shop by unit price rather than package price. For example, Kroger has Boston butt pork roast on sale for .97. It probably won't come in a two pound package, but spending ten dollars on a pork roast that I can divide and freeze pays off later. 

10. I don't usually bother with coupons unless it's something I would have bought anyway. The ones I find are usually for processed food and I come back with all sorts of snack foods I wouldn't have bought otherwise. 

11. Shop the perimeter (dairy, meat, produce) and only duck into the inner aisles for specific things. 

12. Unless the taste is discernable, store brands rock! GV mustard, however is gross.

13. Mix high and low foods to balance things out. One of our meals may involve avocados (I wish every meal did!), but another meal may be egg salad, bread and fruit.

14. Plan menus strategically. For example, if you want to make a snazzy carrot salad, be sure to include carrots on that week's menu again so that you use up the package and don't end up with the same carrots limping around in your fridge two weeks later. Likewise, triage your produce so that the most perishable things get eaten first. (strawberries, bananas, grapes, apples)

15. Buy beans dry, boil a big batch up and freeze what you don't need for later. It is much cheaper to buy dry beans. 

16. Salvage stores. These are great fun and I used to shop at one once a week when we lived in Mt. Olive. If you don't live near one, go in with the intention of buying a lot. This situation is where the mental/written price book comes in. Refried beans and chickpeas for twenty-five cents a can? Absolutely! Canned veggies for .75? nah, not worth it.  I buy only canned, jarred and wrapped things at salvage stores and get some good deals and fun things to try.  This summer, I was at one and found canned salmon for 1.25. I knew that at the grocery it went for around 2.29 a can--that was a substantial savings! I picked up around ten or so cans that day.

17. Cook from scratch when it's worth it. 

18. Go to Sam's with a friend who has a card and shop with a discerning eye. We save so much money buying tea in bulk once or twice a year. The same with a few other things. 

19. Know that some things are worth spending money on. Many processed foods are cheap, but not nutritious. 

I hope this answered your question without seeming super didactic. I drank coffee around eight and am up at 1:30 writing this all out! I'd like to share some menus and recipes with you, but probably should not at this hour, so I'll do that later.! If you have more questions, please ask again!


Gracie said...

Good tips! I totally agree with trying to shop the perimeter! Also I am learning about paying more attention to prices. Before I would just buy what I wanted, but just buy the cheapest brand, but I am finding that it is better to buy the specials when they are on sale and stock up then.

As for couponing, you are so right that there are lots of coupons for junk out there. I have been reading moneysavingmom.com and I really like her approach of using coupons to buy things to cook with not just as substitutes for cooking.

Can't wait for some recipes!!

guitta chaiban hogue said...

i concur with all of that. you did a great job writing all that out. keep those tips coming. by the way, we tried the one-ingrediant ice cream and it is fantastic.