One of the most common questions I get asked is how to save money on groceries, especially when you’re feeding your family nourishing whole foods. As the primary grocery shopper for our family of six, I’ve learned a few simple tricks that have really helped keep our grocery budget under control.
While I am a huge fan of the money savings brought on by meal planning, whether you do it a week or a month at a time, what I’m talking about here is planning before you go grocery shopping.
Shopping without a list is dangerous for your budget. Especially if you’re hungry. All sorts of things tend to end up in the cart that don’t need to be there and that you’ll probably regret eating later.
Before you go to the store, make a list of everything you need. It could be a pen and paper list or on a smartphone app like Out of Milk. Then, check out the flyers for the stores you frequent (most are online now).
I’ve had several instances where most of the items on my list are on sale at one store. It pays to plan ahead.
And then, you know, you just stick to the list…
Buy Single Ingredients
I think a lot of people’s food budgets end up spent on pre-packaged foods, healthy or otherwise. Why? They’re easy and seem like a great deal when they’re on sale.
But the price per ounce usually ends up being much higher than just buying single ingredients and making food yourself.
If you’re in a position where you don’t have time to cook, check out The Complete Tightwad Gazette (just ignore her advice about eating margarine – ew). It has some smart ideas for cooking from scratch when you don’t have time. I also invite you to check out my 4 ways to save time in the kitchen.
However, many of us do have time to cook our food from scratch, it’s just a matter of doing it. My solution for that is to meal plan, which makes it much easier to get meals made (also, I’ve found that when I have a menu up, my husband usually starts making dinner :)).
Even snack foods can be made from scratch. If you’re looking for healthy (and delicious) snack recipes, check out this search portal. It only searches sites that offer real food recipes and other green living solutions (it’s totally free). Or you can check out my list of gluten-free snacks you can make easily.
Research Food Sources
When it comes to grocery shopping, most typically drive to one store, maybe two, grab all of their groceries, then head home. That’s not how I shop.
Instead, I roll The Complete Tightwad Gazette style and obtain food from many different sources. I’ve done a lot of research over the years, and have learned which places have the best prices on the foods I buy and plan to shop accordingly.
It is less convenient than one-stop shopping, but once you get a routine down (which is doable, even when shopping with four kids), it goes quickly.
Here’s where I get food:
- Trader Joe’s
- Farmer’s Market
- Fred Meyer
- Cash and Carry
- Raw milk herd share
- Friends’ gardens
- Local co-op
That may sound like a lot, but most of it is in nearby Bend and I only shop their once a month. While I’m there I hit those stores.
I’ve also gotten food from Amazon and Azure Standard. Do your research and see what’s available to you.
Eat Less Meat
There once was a time where I fed my family (we had less kids at the time) on a food budget of $180/month. And I stuck to it pretty well.
Well, as I researched more ways to save money, I became interested in green living. Which eventually led me to an interest in real food. That, of course, opened my eyes to the fact that the meat I was feeding my family was full of stuff I really didn’t want my kids to have.
Unfortunately, meat that is free of all that junk can be pretty expensive, bulk or not.
Because of that, we simply eat less meat. I typically by a few pounds of ground beef and a couple of whole chickens (which eventually end up in homemade chicken stock) each month. Most of our meals are vegetarian, using eggs or legumes for protein.
When we do use meat in our meals, they usually contain lots of veggies, some gluten-free starches (jasmine rice, rice noodles, potatoes) and a little meat. Here are a few things we like to make that stretch our meat budget:
- Fajitas: We can easily stretch chicken by sauteéing it with lots of onions, bell peppers and fresh, minced garlic. We like to serve it with beans and rice.
- Stir Fry: Thanks to a friend who spent many years in Thailand, I know what the secret sauce is—fish sauce! We mince some fresh garlic into a wok with heated coconut oil, toss in carrots, broccoli, zucchini and cabbage in easy-to-cook chunks and stir fry. Near the end I add some gluten-free soy sauce and a few splashes of fish sauce. We like to serve it with jasmine rice, rice noodles or bean thread.
- Soup: I like to make soup with fresh chicken stock, whatever veggies we have on hand and a little bit of meat. Sometimes I’ll throw in rice or potatoes. We like to serve it with fresh sourdough bread.
- Salad: There are so many yummy salads that you can throw together with veggies you have on hand and just a tiny bit of meat. Our current favorite is taco salad.
As you can see, we eat well. 🙂
Want more help?
I got access to the Grocery Savings Made Simple through one of the ultimate bundle sales (pssst, the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle will be available during a flash sale next week!). But I had it for a while and didn’t use it. Well, I finally decided to take the course when I realized that my food spending had gotten crazy out of control (we used to be able to feed our family on $180/month, remember?).
I was so impressed.
So much of what she mentioned I’ve done before with great results when it comes to saving money. And I even learned a few new tips as well that I’ve put into play. And the best part? It really is simple.
If you’re looking for an excellent resource for saving money on groceries, you must check this out. It’s so good.