Food and household supplies are a large expenditure for most of us, yet the costs are somewhat variable. This means it is a great place to save money in your budget. How are you doing compared with the national averages? The USDA publishes data on average food plans based on family size, ages of children, and four tiers of spending levels (thrifty, low-cost, moderate, and liberal).
Click here for the most recent data:
So where do you fall within the spending levels? What could you do to improve? Keep in mind the cheapest food prices may not be the best value if you have to spend your savings on healthcare. Healthy choices should be considered an investment in your family’s health. That said, the savings potential on this category is worth the extra attention it takes to save.
1. Menu planning. Plan dinners for the month to take the guesswork out of cooking. Plan on “left-overs” for lunches either the original way you served the meal or “reworked” in sandwiches or salads. Don’t forget to plan for quick week-day breakfasts and special big breakfasts on weekends.
2. Grocery shopping. You can’t cook what you don’t have in the house. Check your supply of staples and make a large “stock-up” shopping trip once per month. This is the one time I like to go to Aldi for lower prices on staples and produce in addition to my Kroger trip. Stick with your list for fresh produce, fish, and dairy on your weekly “fill-in” trips. This type of plan will help eliminate those extra trips which tend to really add up.
3. Coupons. Match weekly specials to coupons for deep discounts. To save time, check websites like www.couponmom.com to see the sale items at your store of choice matched with coupons in circulation for them. They rank items by percentage savings. Consider stocking up with a one to three month supply for deeply discounted items as most grocery items typically cycle sales with the best deals coming every three months. Remember coupons are no bargain unless they bring the unit price below other brands.
4. Pork. Buy a pork loin when on sale for $1.99/lb. and have the butcher slice it into ¾” pork chops. Repackage into the number of chops your family will eat at one meal and freeze. Buy precooked half hams on sale and ask your butcher to slice thin for sandwiches. The price is significantly less than deli meat and equally delicious.
5. Snacks. Purchase snacks such as crackers and pretzels in larger packages with the best unit price. Then, package individual snacks into snack-sized zipper bags and keep in a basket in the pantry for lunches or afternoon snacks. I use a popcorn popper to pop our own corn with coconut oil and a little salt for a high fiber, no preservative, snack about once per week. Another of our family’s favorites for packaged-at-home snacks is Cheesy Ranch Chex Mix.
6. Chicken Broth. Make a Roasted Chicken once a month. Serve roast chicken for one meal. Use leftover meat for chicken salad, chicken tacos, homemade chicken soup or a casserole for another meal. One chicken can yield two meals for a family of four and 8 cups of broth. Feel free to double the recipe for a large family.
7. Laundry Detergent. Save big by making your own. There are many different recipes available that are easy and long-lasting. About $10 in supplies lasts our family for about six months with some ingredients left over. I use this one: http://justalittlenutty.com/he-compatable-homemade-liquid-laundry-detergent/ and add Gain scent booster crystals for fragrance.
8. Salad Dressings. Make your own salad dressings to save money and get rid of undesirable ingredients in bottled ones. Most are oil, vinegar, or mayonnaise based or some combination of the three. Our family’s favorite is Honey Mustard for tossed salads and Red Wine Vinaigrette for salads with fruit and nuts with bacon and feta cheese optional.
9. Manager’s Specials. Kroger has a mark-down rack in the bakery where I buy the occasional loaf of French bread, croissants, or dinner rolls. Pop them into your freezer and use within the month for freshness. Also, look for markdowns in the meat case. Beef roasts nearing expiration are great to stock your freezer or ask the butcher to grind them for ground beef. I typically have roasts ground rather than using the “tubes” of ground meat even if the price is equal so that all my meat comes from the same cow. It significantly reduces the odds of e. coli contamination and keeps the pink slime away. Yuck!
10.Grow Your Own Produce. Okay, I’m no big gardener. BUT, it truly is easy to put a couple of tomato plants out in a pot on your porch or in a flower bed. It’s not too late to pick up some vegetable plants and get them in the ground. It can save you big not having to buy tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, herbs, or whatever you find yourself constantly making trips to the store for.
What are your family’s favorite ways to save on groceries? I would love to hear your comments!