Over the holidays, I picked up a copy of the book, “Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half,” by Steve and Annette Econimides. That’s an appropriate last name. Don’t you think?
Anyway, I thought maybe they’d have a few tricks I haven’t thought of yet. Basically, their strategy is not much different than my own: plan out your meals, shop once a month if you can, and cook in batches whenever possible.
Plan Your Meals
This, by far, is one of the fastest and easiest ways to lower a grocery bill. If you plan out the meals ahead of time, before going to the store, you are less likely to impulse buy.
Plan a week or more ahead, make a list based on what you need, and stick to the list. Choose and plan to cook only those that you know everyone in the family will eat. You are not a short order cook.Your kitchen is not a restaurant and there will be no mystery meat casseroles during this challenge. You will save time and money if you only buy and cook those things that everyone in the family likes.
Also, never go grocery shopping when you are hungry. Walking the aisles of a grocery store while hungry is like holding a honey pot under the nose of bear just out of hibernation. Everything looks good and you’re tempted to buy it all! Trust me, make the list. Stick to the plan.
Shop Once a Month
It may seem hard to do at first, however with a little planning, it is possible to do the majority of your monthly shopping all at once.
As a busy mom with lots of little ones, I like shopping in bulk. I usually start at Sam’s Club and then comp sales at Wal-Mart for the things I don’t buy in bulk or can’t get at Sam’s Club.
Now I do realize that Sam’s Club is a wholesale club that requires a yearly fee. Don’t let that deter you. There are ways to get that $45 yearly membership for less.
Consider teaming up with a friend or close relative and share the membership. That’s what I do. My mother-in-law has the membership and I’m tagged on to it. So, with that, I’m only paying $22.50 a year for a membership. Will I save that much by shopping at Sam’s? You bet! Here’s how.
Buy in Bulk – Save on Gas
You’re planning your monthly meals. Right? You know what you need. Wouldn’t it make sense to buy a 10 pound bag of boneless, skinless chicken breast for $1.87/lb once a month, instead of making a weekly trip to the local supermarket for chicken $1.99 a pound? Yes, that’s the key. Plan ahead. Buy in bulk. Save on gas.
I have found that there are some things that are great to buy in bulk and some things are better bought in small quantities.
Grains, rice, beans, flour, baking necessities, spices, pastas, mashed potatoes, and toilet tissue are great to buy in bulk. There’s no risk of the item going bad or stale before it’s used. Also, meats, canned goods, and frozen juices are great bulk buys.
We have a chest freezer. I keep it full of chicken, canned juices, bread, and quick meals I’ve made ahead of time. I also buy an industrial can of spaghetti sauce or pizza sauce. At home, I put the sauce in a big pot, add my own meats and spices according to my family’s preferences and then I distribute the sauce into pint containers and freeze until I need them.
Cook in Batches
Several years ago, when I was a young mom starting out, I was introduced to concept of Once a Month Cooking introduced in a book by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg.
Their strategy was similar to my own, but exhausting. They made the list, bought in bulk, and then took one whole day a month to cook and freeze almost everything their families would eat that month. As a mom of many children, that’s not practical nor possible. However, batch cooking is possible and in long run, will save you time and money.
Utilize your slow cooker as much as possible. During your busy day, let that slow cooker be your cook. While you’re tending to home, work, and school, Mr. Slow Cooker over there in the corner can be cooking your chicken or simmering your stew. When dinner-time arrives, dish out what you need for this meal and freeze or refrigerate leftovers for another meal that week or later in the month. The slow cooker is also great for soups, stews, turkey, corned beef, pot roast, and chili!
Let the Kids Help
If you do find you have a little extra time on your hands one day, bring your kids in the kitchen and make a few homemade pizzas, pans of lasagna, or enchiladas. We do this on rainy days. We’ll make 3 or 4 at a time assembly-line style in our kitchen and then freeze them until needed.
Does it really save money cooking this way? Yes, first of all, if you use the slow cooker instead of the oven or stove, you will save on your electricity bill. Also, plan your meals and batch cooking around seasonal grocery sales. For example: turkey goes on sale in November. I bought an 18 lb turkey in November for $5.22, ($.29 per pound). Buy several of those if you can. I also bought two turkey breast roasts at $.99 per pound. These little beauties fit into my slow cooker! If you can buy meat for under a $1, by all means buy it in bulk. If you have the storage capacity, buy 6 months to a year’s worth at a time. It may be a big purchase at the time, but over the year, it can save a family a huge amount on their groceries.
Buy what’s on sale. Plan your meals around what’s on sale. Buy in bulk and in the long run, you will save time and money because you planned ahead.
Fresh Produce and Diary
It is possible to buy almost everything you need for a month all in one day, but keep a little money budgeted for fresh produce, dairy, and eggs. I’ve found that these items aren’t good to buy in bulk.
I know there are moms out there who freeze milk or use powdered or canned milk. I personally like buying it fresh every two weeks. The same goes for fresh produce like spinach and lettuce or fresh fruits. These are things that most families like to purchase fresh at least every two weeks if not weekly. If I buy most everything else I need on that once a month trip, then it is easier to go in just for milk and produce every two weeks while I’m out running other errands. It doesn’t take very long. I’m not making an unnecessary trip, because I’m already out running errands or taking my children to lessons; and my family gets the benefit of fresh milk, produce, and eggs, while I keep my budget in tact.
The Pantry Challenge
“Did I cut my bills in half after reviewing this book? No, I didn’t, because I was already doing most of what they discussed, but here’s my challenge to you.
See if you can cut your grocery in half by incorporating these ideas. Let’s call it a pantry challenge. That’s the name of one of my favorite Yahoo chat groups. The challenge set before the group was to use as much of what you had on hand as you could until there was nothing left to make a meal out of. Then it was OK to go shopping again. We’re not going to be that drastic, but I do want you to take the challenge seriously and report in to me at the end of the month how you did.
In the comment section below, let me know what meals you planned? How much you spent and how much you saved on groceries for the month compared to what you had been spending the months before. Let me know what you learned during your challenge and how that has changed how you shop for groceries and how you feed your family.”