1. Buy meat only when on sale or if not on sale in bulk. I buy 3-4 kg of skinless boneless chicken breasts at a time which is the basis for a lot of our meals. Usually I buy it at Costco but once in a blue moon the grocery store will have it cheaper. You need to know your price per pound at wholesale rates in order to be able to recognize if a sale is really cheaper than the large bulk price. We love chicken legs and once in a while local grocery stores will have them cheap. I then stock up. We don't usually eat other bits of the chicken though as whole chickens and other parts are more expensive in our area. Your area might be different. Beef is incredibly expensive here, but sometimes I can buy reduced steaks far lower than hamburger - so we eat steak! I use them in stews and we bbq them. We eat a lot of pork as it is relatively cheap and leaner than beef.
2. Buy or raise the best produce you can afford - and don't let it spoil! I bought a cantaloupe the other day and cut into it yesterday and it was spoiled. Fortunately it was on sale for $2 but spoiled produce is just money down the drain so I will try and prevent this in future. I usually have apples, oranges and bananas in the house. If the bananas go south they get frozen for muffins. The apples last almost forever in the fridge and if they get a bit mushy they get cooked into apple sauce. Oranges are great in smoothies which I make a lot of so usually never have a chance to go bad. My tomatoes are all coming ripe at the same time right now. We had them in a salad on Wednesday, Thursday we had bacon lettuce and tomato sandwiches made with $1/loaf bread and $1.49 day bacon and tonight we are having a hamburger tomato ragu dish made with some pasta and hamburger both bought on sale.
3. Stock up on foods that don't go bad easy and that are staples. Pasta, rice and potatoes are staples in my house. You may have different staples, that's fine, just stock up in bulk or when at lowest price. In a couple of weeks when our weather cools down I intend to buy a large amount of potatoes, carrots and onions from our local farm market before they shut for the year. I can store these in the garage where it is cool. I bought 40 lbs/18 kg of jasmine rice September 2015 for $26.88. Even with eating it about once every week/10 days I still have enough to likely get me to November/December (see original post here). Whenever I cook rice for a stir fry I always cook extra. Cooked rice can be turned into chicken and rice soup or one of our recent favorites, fried rice. Cooked rice lasts really well in the fridge and makes cooking suppers much faster. Of course, if you have 40 lbs of rice you need somewhere to store it. I found 4 2 gallon glass jars at the thrift store in January of 2016 for $4 each/$16 total which fit the bill nicely. I store them in a lower corner lazy susan cupboard so they are out of the way. I have smaller jars that are refilled for daily use in the wall pantry.
|Storage Jars found January 2016 at the Thrift Store -|
If you live in a city you likely have access to buy food grade storage buckets but I couldn't find any in my area.
4. Try and stick with whole foods. No, not the retailer! I mean non-additive foods like meat, fish, fruit, veggies, rice, beans and grains like barley. There are a few exceptions of course but generally processed foods are more expensive and not nearly as good for you.
5. Keep a well-stocked spice cabinet. This does not have to cost a fortune and if you have access to spices in bulk you could buy a small amount of each so nothing goes stale between uses.
6. Use coupons only for things you would already be buying. I use very few because in Canada couponing is not great due to strict rules. I do find that I can use a coupon along with a rebate program like checkout 51 to my advantage so do that for most of our non-food items.
7. Make a list - but don't buy it if you can't get a decent price. Right now I have nothing on the list. Cumin was on it until a few days ago when I managed to buy it in bulk instead of the expensive little jars. What is on my list is which stores have what on sale so that if I am in the neighborhood I can pop in and buy the loss leaders. This is compiled from weekly fliers that I go through every Thursday. I will not use extra gasoline to go buy one loss leader, that simply doesn't make any sense but yesterday I bought bread, sour cream, bleach and lettuce on sale all for $1 at the expensive neighborhood store as they had dollar days. We eat very little bread these days so I bought 2 loaves, used some in our BLTs and will freeze the rest. I also use the app Flipp to find out what store has items on my list on sale. I have three main stores I shop at plus the farmers market in summer. One is generally the cheapest but has the worst meat so I rarely buy it there, buy most everything else though. One is super expensive but has great mark downs on meat and occasionally great loss leaders. The 3rd has $1.49 day and is within a block of our house so very handy but usually more expensive on most items so I really have to be careful there.
8. It's ok to buy expensive ingredients - just use them wisely. We regularly eat shrimp. It is usually on sale at least once a month so I keep it in the freezer for when we want a fancier meal. Last week on holidays I brought shrimp, scallops and steak from our freezer. All were purchased at the absolute lowest price so even though we had a calorie rich week it didn't cost us a fortune. If the budget was lower we would not be eating shrimp. The scallops were a splurge from earlier in the summer as we hadn't eaten them in a couple of years so I bought a bag from Costco, not cheap but worth every bite. Last week we ate them with pasta and it was scrumptious!
9. Disregard best by dates - they are usually sell by dates. Use your nose, if it's off you will know rather quickly. Eggs and milk are a prime example of this.
I don't meal plan more than a day or two in advance, that way I can take advantage of what's on sale and eat it immediately. We also work from home so it is one of the little pleasures we take in planning what we are going to eat for the day. If I worked out of home I would plan more than that but it works for us. Why did I make this list? To remind myself that if I really try I can stay on budget and I need to live up to the title of this blog.
Right now it is the 25th of August. The budget is $550 for the month and I am at $484.77 so as long as I keep hubby out of the store(he is a budget killer!) it is doable. Could we afford a higher budget? Yes, we are in that time in our life where we have paid all the debts and mortgage off and have extra money to spend...but I prefer to spend it in other ways like having fun and traveling. How are you keeping up with increasing grocery prices?