Although we’ve always looked for ways to save on our grocery bill, a recent and hopefully temporary shift in my workload has forced us to buckle down, take an even closer look and get creative. It’s also helped me to examine our family’s weekly rhythm and make a few positive changes. I’m seeing how these two things go hand-in-hand.
A good friend loaned me the book Miserly Moms, and it’s giving me some good ideas and, better yet, it’s helping to spark some of my own ideas that will work for my family. Some of the stuff in the book I’d already figured out through common sense and have been applying for years, but other parts are purely inspiring, such as the idea that being frugal doesn’t mean you’re depriving yourself. A-ha!
I’ll skip the obvious money-savers, but I thought I’d share some of my own tips and tricks that I’ve been using over the years and a few new ones that just came to me within the last week. I hope some of them are helpful to you and your families! After that I’ll share our updated family rhythm, which combines my recent goal to get more organized and our family’s goal to spend less money on groceries.
1. We buy generic brand groceries whenever possible. Whenever possible actually means whenever we can tolerate it. For some products, the price savings just isn’t worth the sacrifice in taste or quality.
2. We only buy chicken and beef when it’s on sale. We stock up on chicken especially when it’s on sale so we’re not without it during all the weeks it’s not on sale.
3. We’re going to try making homemade treats, like cookies or brownies, and breads, instead of buying ready-made ones at the store. This is a no-brainer for those like me who love to bake, but it’s going to take my husband some time to adapt. He loves his Entenmann’s. As for breads, we buy sliced bread and Italian loaves for sandwiches and sometimes rolls for specific meals. We always eat the bread, but the rolls sometimes get forgotten or we just can’t finish them. This is when I should be making time to bake bread and/or freeze the remainder of store-bought rolls before they get stale. I plan to experiment to find out what baked goods freeze well, and which doughs freeze well so we can pop rolls in the oven when we’re short on time. I’ll keep you posted!
4. We’re going to have breakfast for dinner at least one night each week because it’s so inexpensive. Last week my T.J. made quiche Lorraine; this week I’ve already made French toast. Eggs and bread are cheap and we can often find bacon buy-one-get-one free. For breakfast sandwiches and quiche, you can cut the pound of bacon in half and use just half of it now. Wrap and freeze the second half for later.
5. We’ll also have pasta at least once a week. My husband makes his own tomato sauce, which is dirt cheap, and we freeze it in batches. We’ll need to get creative in this area, as he prefers having chicken or eggplant parmesan. I’m dying to add zucchini or summer squash to my pasta and tomato sauce and have is sans meat.
6. We need to try much harder to eat everything that we buy, including leftovers. Too often, we don’t eat all of something or we don’t finish our leftovers. I’ve always felt bad wasting food, but now I feel even worse when I think about all the cold, hard cash we’ve been wasting over the years. Since we had to throw out everything in our fridge after the snowstorm and power outage, we’re starting with a clean slate—a perfectly clean and still empty-looking fridge. I hope this will help us see and notice what’s in there so we actually eat it before it gets too old. Same with our freezer. (P.S. – This is going to be harder than it sounds because my husband has been ServSave Certified and he knows more about food safety than your average person. He won’t let us eat food that’s more than two days old.)
7. Labeling leftovers. I mark Nathan’s leftovers so our babysitter knows what to feed him for lunch on the days I work, but I’ve always neglected to label our own. Who wants to open an oddly shaped foil package of who-knows-what only to guess at how old it might be? That’s an intimidating task, one we all to often skip, letting perfectly good leftovers go to waste.
8. As soon as we get our groceries unpacked and put away, we write up a menu for the week. We’ve been doing this for years to keep track of what we have on hand, especially for dinner, our main meal. It stinks finding out that you’ve let vegetables go bad because you forgot about your plan to make stir fry later in the week. Also, writing out our weekly menu helps us identify which meals need to be made earlier in the week while the ingredients are still fresh.
9. We plan to stretch our meat further than we’ve ever stretched it before, although I don’t have a plan for this one just yet.
10. We’re trying to use less paper towels by using rags and reusable cloths to wipe down the counters. We’ve always used regular hand towls for drying hands and dishes. But I won’t give up paper napkins just yet… I have enough laundry to do, thank you!
I hope these tips help some of you or maybe hehlp spark some ideas of your own!
Weekly Menu & Daily Rhythm: