Monday, June 10, 2013

Mommy Monday: Saving Money on Your Food Bill

Tip 1: Eat vegetarian at least once a week
While our family is not vegetarian choosing to eat meatless meals at least once a week saves our family money.  
When we do eat meat, our portions of meat are typically half  what is recommended in a recipe.
For example, our family of four will consume 3 chicken breasts.  Or if I am making a recipe that calls for 1 pound of beef, I will use around a quarter pound of beef.
**buy ground beef when it's on sale in bulk, if you have a food scale brake down into one pound and freeze.**
Tip 2: Buy from the bulk bin
Most large grocery stores now have bulk bin food items.  Many only carry spices in bulk bins, other stores like Winco carry pasta, cereal, baking items (flour, flax, oatmeal), nuts and beans. 
Tip 3: Buy staples when they are on sale
We just finished wrapping up the holidays, and many of you noticed lots of baking staples on sale.
I stocked up on chocolate chips, flour and sugar during the holidays.
After the holidays, I noticed packages of dinner rolls at a discount of around 75% off.
Tip 4: Know the best price
Ignorance isn't always bliss.  
Knowing the best price for your frequently purchased items {and what store those items are at their best price at} is one of the best ways to save money.
 Some people do this by keeping a food price diary.  I just keep a running total in my head.  
I've been grocery shopping long enough that I can usually name off the best price for the item {it's a wonder I've never been on The Price is Right!}
A food price diary helps if you shop several stores.  For example, the best price for lunch meat is at Winco.
This food price diary also helps if you haven't ever paid attention to price per ounce before and are just now becoming a savvy shopper.

Beware: prices change often!
My favorite salad dressing {Brianna's Real French Vinegrette} vaires in price at Winco from $4.59 a bottle to $2.49 a bottle.  Guess when I stock up?

Bigger isn't always better.  
Sometimes buying the larger box or jar, isn't saving you money. 
Do some math and find out if you are actually saving money by buying the larger size.
It's one way manufacturers like to "trick" the consumer.
We almost always assume we get a better buy if we buy the larger size.  It isn't always true.

Tip 5: Don't be loyal to just one store
It isn't rare for me to shop at three different grocery stores in one week so that I can stock up on the best prices on the items our family uses.  I follow the loss leader sales by reading the grocery store flyer, and if there are three or more items below my max price that our family needs, then I will visit that particular store.  There are several stores that I frequent only a few times a month.  Winco and Costco {when I have a membership}.  
If you only shop at one store, you are missing out on the deals and loss leaders that another store just down the block is offering.  Don't limit yourself and your wallet!

Tip 6: Buy fruits and vegetables in season
I love love love fruits and vegetables! The best deals to be had {and the best fruits and vegetables to be had} are when the item is in season in your area.  During the summer, I frequent our local farmers markets and fruit stands to get healthy organic produce at a fraction of the cost.  It's not hard to know what fruits and vegetables are in season, usually the price dictates the seasonal items.  For instance, right now oranges and grapefruit are in season. My kids know that during the winter, it's rare for them to get watermelon.  Sorry kids, but mama doesn't pay more than $6 for a HUGE watermelon.  Stock up on the in season items, and be cautious about those that aren't in season.  

Tip 7: Shop less often
Fridge size in Europe limits the amount of food that Europeans can buy, forcing them to grocery shop nearly every day.  But we are in America, the land of super sized and excess, our fridges are large {like our booties...wait did I just say that?} and we don't need to grocery shop every day.  

But we've all done it.
Quickly run into the store to buy "just one thing" and walked out spending $50.
Grocery stores love it, our wallets do not.
Meal planning for the week as well as shopping with a list can help you combat this "quick trip" problem.
Many grocery stores having thriving hot food or convenience food inside taking advantage of the "quick dinner run".  
Failure to plan is planning to fail.

Tip 8: Shop the discount bins
In my grocery or produce store, I always head to the discount bins first.  Meat after a big sale is typically deeply discounted, ripe produce is ready to purchase at a fraction of the cost, and day old bread is never stale but always cheaper.  Sometimes grocery stores discount an item simply because the product has new packaging.

Tip 9: Shop discount food outlets
I have access to a few discount food outlets like The Grocery Outlet and a day old bread outlet.
I usually shop at the bread outlet at least once a month.  Bread freezes well, so when I go, I stock up.
I can usually buy a loaf of bread for around $1.  The same loaf would cost me around $4.29 at the store.  I've looked!  The Grocery Outlet is hit or miss.  You would be surprised at some of the food I have found.  And don't discount an outlet store if you are on a restricted diet.  I found lots of gluten free pasta marked down to around $1 a box, and I often times buy rice milk for half the price as the store.  I do always check expiration dates {though I rarely find expired items}.
**I wouldn't be able to stock up on bread the way I do if I didn't have an extra freezer.  Look into the expense, it may end up saving you money.**
Tip 10: Make Lunches
Our three kids take a lunch to school every day and my husband brown bags it to work every day as well.  Not only are my kids eating healthier {don't get me started on school lunches}, they are also eating cheaper. The average school lunch is around $3.00 for my kids, and if my husband was eating lunch out, we would be spending around $10 for each meal.  For the cost of one school lunch, I am able to feed all four of my lunch packers.
Tip 11: Rethink Prepackaged
Individual sized packages of apples, jello, fruit cups, yogurt and pudding are super cute and very convenient, but very pricey.  I make individual servings of my own lunch add in's in small ziploc container cups.  I can make pudding and jello and fill each cup full as I make it and put them in individual servings in the fridge easy to pull out when I make the kids lunches.
These days, more than school lunch items come in packages.  Pretty much any food can be found processed and packaged up.  Even your lettuce for a salad.  Unless you have a coupon, and the item is on sale, most prepackaged items come at a higher price tag.  
Tip 12: Eat at home
Eating out is expensive and you would be hard pressed to find a cheap fast food meal that is better for you than something you can whip up.  Our family eats out about once a month.  Total. That's it.  I cook meals at home nearly every night.  I've even started teaching my husband and 14 year old son how to cook.  They have both been quite surprised that reading a recipe isn't that difficult.  Once they get the hang of reading a recipe, then they can start experimenting a bit knowing that just because a recipe calls for a particular item doesn't mean it can't be substituted by another item and become something equally delicious and just as easy.  
Sometimes eating out seems more convenient, but it isn't always.  Planning your meals ahead {and by planning ahead, I mean think about what you could have for dinner when you are eating breakfast} prevents you from getting in the trap that you have nothing to make for dinner.  If you know you will be busy at night with various events, start a crock pot meal.  Have a few meals that your family loves, that are quick to make {less than 30 minutes} and that you always have the ingredients on hand for.  
Tip 13: Give up drinking
O.k. so not all drinking all together, but in an effort to save money {and in turn save the environment} I stopped buying bottled water.  All five of us have camel back water bottles that we use {several were bought at garage sales for 50cents} and fill up when we need them.  We don't buy soft drinks {they aren't good for you}, and rarely have alcohol in the house {it's too pricey}.  I don't buy juice boxes unless I find a great sale.  Milk is a staple drink and for the nutritional value, provides quite the bang for the buck.  I won't pay more than $2.49 a gallon for milk and rarely have a problem finding milk at that price.
Tip 14: Shop the perimeter of the store
This probably isn't new information for you, but the basic produce, meat, and bread items are found on the perimeter of the store.  Rarely do I find myself needing anything down the center aisles of the grocery store.  I don't buy a lot of processed, prepackaged foods {see tip 11}, so unless I need pasta, cereal, or beans, I'm rarely down any aisle. 
Tip 15: Don't be brand loyal
There are a few items that my family will not let me buy the generics or store brand of {nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips anyone??}, but on the whole, you can buy the generic or store brand and save money.  We all have seen the reports that most of the same manufactures of our beloved name brand food items, are also the same manufacturers of our store brand items.  Don't be afraid to try it.  

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