Saturday, January 31, 2015

How I Save Money...on Groceries

Something that crops up in my Facebook feed every now and then is one of my friends asking for ideas on how to save money...usually specifically on groceries. While I don't claim to know everything, I do have some experience, so I decided to share what has worked for me.

Set a Goal

Last year I challenged myself to start keeping my grocery budget at $50 per week. I had read all kinds of blogs that were doing $300, $250, and $200 per month, and I was thinking that there was no way I would be able to come close. Our food budget at the time for two people was $400 per month. I was aiming to slash it in half.

Now I'm sure some of you are wondering why I would try this goal when I was almost certain that I would fail. The reason is that I felt that I needed to try. Even if I failed at $50 per week, I was sure I would save some money simply by trying. I chose a specific goal to give me something concrete to aim for rather than the ambiguous "Save Money."

I got a few negative reactions when I mentioned this goal to people. They were concerned that I was not eating healthy, or enough. Granted, I was pregnant at the time, and that was a concern. The thing is, I was eating really well, possibly even better than I had been on the larger budget.

Cook From Scratch

One of the biggest things, and this could help anyone, is that I started cooking mostly from scratch. Pinterest was a wonderful resource for recipes to make homemade versions of my favorite convenience foods. I've made Hamburger Helper, Rice-a-Roni, Pasta-Roni, macaroni and cheese, even my own "cream of" soups all from scratch. It's not much more trouble than from the box, and it's so much healthier for you. And cheaper. Always remember that. It's cheaper.

You can check out my personal board for this below. I've indicated which recipes I've already tried.

Follow Ashley's board DIY Mixes on Pinterest.

Take Advantage of Sales

So I was buying mostly staples, meat, and produce. I shop predominately at Aldi and Sprout's. Aldi has wonderful prices on almost everything--although I keep a running list of what is cheaper at Walmart. Sprout's sales on meat and produce are wonderful, and the quality is outstanding. Even if you don't have those stores in your area, most grocery stores have weekly sales ads. You can check your newspaper, but most stores are now putting their ads on their websites for even easier access

If you don't have a great deal of freezer storage, meal planning is probably a really good idea. Fortunately I have a deep freezer that allows me to stockpile, so I don't have to be quite so rigid in my meal plans. I slowly built up my freezer and now it's pretty full of meats and vegetables that I can pull out to make a quick meal.

So there you have it. My best advice based on my experience saving money on groceries. Set a goal, take advantage of sales, and cook more from scratch. Doing this, I did manage to hit my goal of $50 per week on groceries. I actually kept it closer to $40 per week on average. Sweetie was pleasantly surprised with my success. I hope this has given you some ideas to save money yourself, or even just encourage you in your quest to pinch those pennies just a little tighter.

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1 comment:

  1. I think this is really good advice. I also love Aldi; they're so cheap and their quality is often impressive. I also think cooking from scratch is one of the best options--it not only saves money but can be much healthier too, because you're using more whole ingredients and fewer processed foods.

    I've found another great tip that I've found is to shop at ethnic groceries. Some regions of the U.S. have better options than others, and people in big metro areas are usually better off, but multiculturalism is on the rise, and I'm seeing ethnic groceries even in smaller stores. The prices on certain goods can be WAAAAY lower at many ethnic markets, and a good reason for this is volume and economy of scale.

    For example, I've found that rice, soy sauce, sesame oil, chili paste, and fresh seafood are all much cheaper at Asian supermarkets. Vietnamese markets are cheaper for fresh herbs, Korean ones for green vegetables. Indian and middle-eastern stores for spices, rice, and dried fruits and nuts. Most ethnic stores are cheaper for loose-leaf tea. Russian stores can be cheaper for kefir, smoked fish, and whole grain breads. Mexican stores can be great for dried peppers, beans, and tortillas.

    I also have discovered new staple foods, many of which are very affordable, in ethnic markets. For example, I love kimchi, and my housemate has figured out how to make it from scratch. I also discovered sprats, a very inexpensive fish that is usually smoked and canned, at the Russian store. At Mexican stores I've discovered many types of peppers that I didn't eat previously, and at Asian stores I've discovered new types of cabbages and green vegetables, and fresh herbs, and also dried mushrooms and dried seaweed. And I've discovered new fruits, like plantain (big in Latin American cooking), blood orange, mini bananas, and also root vegetables, including jicama, taro root, and yuca. Many of these are cheap enough to make them staple foods.

    With more options to choose from, I find that I can just go to the store and buy whatever is fresh and cheap. I rotate stores that I shop at: one week I'll hit up the H-Mart (Korean), next week the Russian market, next week I might go to Aldi or Trader Joe's, and so on. I buy whatever is cheapest at each store. Each store (and each culture) has its own unique strengths. I find that by doing this I end up eating an incredibly diverse diet of very high-quality foods, but spending very little.

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