The hike in grocery prices is making things more difficult for even the most resourceful parent. Although I lay out careful and well-thought menu plans, we have had to increase the amount we are spending these past few months since the hike in the grocery prices. Regardless of how much I am spending though, I know that we are still saving money by eating at home versus dining out. I try to remember this as I see the totals on our receipts, and concentrate on the fact that we eat as well as we can for the amount of money we have budgeted. With the economy slump, I must be honest and say that I am just thankful that we have food on our table to eat.
I wanted to share a few tips though that have helped us with our grocery budget and ways that I am able to feed our family well for a lot less money than most. Here are a few ideas to help decrease your grocery spending without sacrificing all the good eating in the process.
Good Research Goes Far
Keeping track of prices is the best way to insure that you get the best deals on the items you buy regularly. I know that this seems like a time consuming process, but it is definitely worth your time if you are trying to stay on budget. Start tracking the prices on the items that you buy regularly and keep this information in a little notebook that you can take with you to the supermarket. If you have a wholesale club membership, look online and check the pricing on the items that you buy regularly on their site as well. Armed with this information, you will be able to see if those bigger boxes really pack a better punch or if they actually are costing your family more money and more space. When you see the prices dip, stock up and up and up on the items you use regularly. If you are a coupon cutter, couple this with your coupons and you will have some killer deals to help to keep your pantry stocked when the deals are leaner.
Crush the Condiments
Condiments can be a huge drain to the grocery budget and don’t add any real benefits to your diet. Skip the condiment aisle altogether and learn how to make some simple dressings, homemade meat marinades, barbeque sauce, croutons, and even your own special ice cream sauce for a fraction of the cost. A quick search on the internet should yield some great results for making all of these yummy additions for pennies versus dollars. Not only will you be helping your grocery budget, but you will also have control over the quality of the ingredients and the amount of sugar and salt you put in them. It is a win-win situation!
Hold the Meat
Plan one or two days each week to skip the meat or at least focus a little less on meat in your entrees. We try to plan one night where we do breakfast for dinner and have waffles or pancakes instead of our usual meat and potatoes type of meal. If your family is not open to going meatless one night, try finding dishes that take the focus off of the meat. Pasta dishes or casseroles might have meat in them, but one pound of meat will stretch a lot further than one pound would as a main dish. Stretching or eliminating meat can have a truly positive effect on your grocery budget and you might be surprised that with a little creativity, you won’t miss it at all!
Grow Your Veggies
I am a novice gardener and began gardening last summer. I had low expectations for what I would be able to grow, but my garden did surprisingly well for a black thumb like myself. Growing your own herbs and vegetables will save you a ton of money at the supermarket. If you are just beginning gardening, like me, start with a small garden or even just a container garden before making a large investment. Check out books from the library and spend your winter researching ways that you can improve your garden each year. Involve your children in the whole process, as it can be an invaluable teaching tool for them, and make your gardening a family event. It is amazing how much you can the save and learn from just a few plants.
Ditch the Disposables
Did you ever think about how much of your grocery budget you are actually just throwing away? Disposable napkins, paper plates, wet wipes, and paper towels can drain $30 or more each month on your grocery budget and you have nothing to show for it. We decided to make the switch to cloth napkins, dishrags and microfiber cloths for our counters, washcloths for little one’s faces, and reusable plates for eating on each day. The cost savings has helped us to stay on better track with our budget, and we also have the side benefits of doing our part to help in the green movement towards making our environment a little better. Try replacing just one of these budget drains and you will see that it is so worth your time and effort.
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Research proves that we lean towards buying the brands and products that we have grown up with. It is also known that we tend to gravitate towards stores that are the easiest or most familiar for us because we think it saves us time. Are we really saving any money though when we just pick the most convenient or buy the brand that we have always bought? Probably not! With the grocery prices going up, now is a great time to begin exploring other stores in your neighborhood and trying generic or cheaper brands on the products that you buy. You just might find a new favorite store or brand- you only need to be open to trying it.