Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lowering Your Grocery Budget

Our homeschool group has a newly resurrected group for Mom's of elementary aged children and younger. A friend of mine and I head it up. We have a Mom's meeting every month and a field trip each month. This months meeting is about Lowering Your Grocery Budget. These are the tips that I put together for our meeting. Hope you find them helpful. Menu Planning – Planning your menu greatly cuts down on waste and impulse buys. Our paychecks are bi-weekly. My budget works best when I do one big trip with every paycheck (I do usually have to go back for milk and sometimes bread.) It also is a big help when I plan very specifically all the way down to snacks. For my family I have used a weekly breakfast/lunch/snack menu and a bi-weekly supper menu. Low Cost Staples – Rice and Dried beans are a big help in a budget menu. I buy my rice in bulk at Sam’s and keep it in a 5 gallon bucket. We’ve been using the same bag for at least a year. In the past I allowed the time commitment to keep me from using these things. I often bought canned beans and minute rice. I have since learned to cook the rice in the microwave while I’m preparing the rest of the meal and I’ve learned to cook dry beans in the Crockpot. Microwave Cooking Directions for White Rice Ratio: 1part rice to 2 parts water Place Rice and water in a covered casserole dish. Cook on high for 5 minutes. Then cook on Medium for 15 minutes. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. You may need to adjust the times slightly for your microwave. These are a general guideline (I think we do 6 minutes on high). You can also do an internet search for cooking brown rice in the microwave. No-Fail Crock-pot Beans (Starting w with one pound of beans) 1. Sort dry beans, removing any small rocks or dirt pieces. Put the beans into a strainer/colander. Rinse well with cold water. 2. In a large pot, heat 6 cups of water and 1 tsp. salt to boiling. 3. Add beans; simmer for 10 minutes on the stovetop. 4. 4. Pour beans and hot liquid into crock-pot and cook on low setting overnight (8 to 12 hours) You can now use these beans in a recipe or freeze (2 cups would be equivalent to a 15.5 ounce can of beans). Shop at the Bread Store – Bread stores don’t just sell “day old bread”. They often sell the same bread that you find on the shelf in your local grocery store at a much discounted price. Deep Freeze – Owning a Deep Freeze really enables you to buy in bulk when things are on sale. You can pre-cook many things to help eliminate convenience foods and store them in the freezer. We bought ours for $150 5 or 6 years ago at a used appliance store and I’m certain it has helped us save much more than that. I suggest an upright freezer, as it takes up less space than a larger chest freezer and it’s much easier to know what you have in the freezer, which helps eliminate waste. Frozen Vegetables – Frozen vegetables are generally cheaper than canned veggies and are more nutritious as they typically do not have additives. Buy Whole Chickens – Buying whole e chickens is much less expensive than buying them pre-cut. I can often get them at Sam’s for $.87 per pound. I do not butcher them and use them that way, but they roast very well for a meal and the leftovers are great for using to top salads or make chicken salad, etc. I also boil them whole, shred them and freeze them in meal sized portions and freeze the broth. This makes meal prep easier and saves money. A great way to do this with very little time investment is to cook the chicken overnight in the Crockpot. Cutting the Meat – I have over time realized that when I use half the ground beef a recipe calls for we don’t miss it. We’ve also completely cut out the meat in things like stir-fry. When we are eating things like chili and it doesn’t have as much meat, you really don’t have to worry about the protein factor. This has saved us a lot of money. We still have meat almost every night for supper, but occasionally I omit it and I often use less than called for. Cut out Convenience Foods – Breakfast - Make things from scratch. It takes very little time to make pancakes from scratch and they freeze well. Make up a big batch this week, then use the freezer leftovers next week. Make your own biscuits. You can freeze the cut out biscuits and pop them in the oven just like the store bought ones. Make your own instant oatmeal: http://www.stretcher.com/stories/00/001009e.cfm Snacks – Try things like muffins that you premake and keep in the fridge or freezer. It’s a much heartier snack and saves money. Try peanut butter crackers or cheese crackers the old-fashioned way. Make them yourself. Whole wheat cinnamon toast is a great snack or cheese toast. Don’t buy gimmicky snacks that aren’t filling (fruit gummies, roll-ups, etc.) The heartier the snack the less your children will snack. Lunch – Make up homemade soups, etc. and freeze in lunch sized portions. Also, try new things. One of my kid’s favorites is tortilla pizza. This is very inexpensive and very quick. They use one tortilla, pizza sauce and cheese. If we don’t have pepperoni we will sprinkle Italian seasoning on top for added flavor. Stop Buying Paper Towels – Some time ago we ran out of paper towels and I decided to try not buying them anymore. I cut up a couple of old t-shirts for window cleaning and dusting. I also cut up some old towels for cleaning spills. We barely missed them. I do intend to make some cloth napkins soon. The only time that we have “needed” paper towels was the rare occasion that we cooked something greasy and would have liked to have them to absorb the grease. Make your Own Cleaners and Detergents – Laundry Detergent - http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/laundrysoap.htm I have found most of the ingredients for this at Publix. I think I spent around $8.00 for my ingredients and have made many gallons of detergent from them. I do use this in my front-load washing machine. Cleaners - http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/homemadehouseholdcleaners.htm www.thefamilyhomestead.com has many money saving hints and tips.

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