If you have read/listened to/watched the news lately, it's obvious our economy is not in the best shape. The stock market is up, no wait, it's down, it's a double dip recession, no, it's a recovery. It all makes me want to hide under the covers!!
So I don't go crazy, I am trying instead to save money where ever I can. You can't really control the cost of rent, and hello it's 104 degrees outside so I am keeping my thermostat right where it is, thankyouverymuch, so I see the grocery bill as the easiest place to cut costs without cutting the quality of my life.
While I am super interested in the whole couponing craze that is going around, who has time to do that?? And who really wants to be the crazy lady who hoards toothbrushes just because they were free?? Not I!! I also don't think that couponing lets you eat the best foods. I have never seen a coupon for lettuce or apples!!
So if you are, like me, trying to save money on groceries without eating a steady diet of chips and Oreos, or without becoming the crazy coupon lady, these tips might help!
1. Make a list of meals that you eat often. Try to come up with 15 or so. It can be hard just to sit down and list out 15 meals, so think of what you have eaten in the past week. If you still can't think of anything, open a cookbook or google some recipes that you would like to try. Come up with a list of the main ingredients for all the recipes.
2. Each week, look at the sale papers for all the stores in your area. That means the hippie shop down the street, the Mexican market across town, the Super Target where everything is twice as much, or anywhere else that you have access to. If the sale ads don't come in the mail, look them up online. Most places will send you a weekly email if you sign up, which will save time. It sounds like it takes a long time, but it doesn't once you learn where to find everything. Make a note if there is anything for sale that is on your list of ingredients. If you see a great deal on canned tomatoes, or BBQ sauce, or anything else that you know you will use, put it on the list!
3. Make a menu of the things you are going to eat that week. Write it down on a calendar, put it in your phone, or tape it on the side of the fridge. Just don't lose it!! Try to plan your menu around the sales that week, especially for fresh produce.
4. Go shopping. Go to all the little stores that have the great sales on one or two things and DON'T BUY ANYTHING ELSE THERE but DO STOCK UP on what you will use. Get as many cans of crushed tomatoes for $.45 as they will let you have! Yes, it will take more time to shop in four different stores, but when you are only getting 1-2 things there, you wont be there long. And most likely, you wont go to each store every week. If all the stores in your area have that great of sales, please tell me where you live. I want to move there! Yes, you can go to Wal Mart and they will price match, but I try to stay out of Wal Mart as much as possible since it kills my soul to go there. Also, don't you want to support local business?
5. Go to your regular grocery store and get everything else you will need for that week that wasn't on sale.
As you continue to do this, you will start to find that your weekly list at your regular grocery store gets smaller and smaller. Pretty soon, all you will be buying is produce and the occasional special ingredient along with all your sale items. For example, there is a store in town where antibiotic and hormone free chicken breast go on sale for $1.77 a pound! Every time I see that in the add, I go and buy 8-10 pounds. Steve packages it up into one pound portions and we freeze it until we want to use it.
If you still feel like you are spending too much, here are a few additional tips:
1. Pack your lunch. I know this is so obvious, but it still is a mystery to me how people I work with can complain about not having enough money and then go spend $8 on lunch. Hello! That's $40 a week! $160 a month!! For a not so good lunch from Subway!!
2. Eat less meat. I know. I live in Texas where meat is the main dish, side dish and sometimes dessert. But trust me, you will not die if you do not eat meat one or two days a week. If this is hard for you, try starting with Mexican food. Somehow a bean burrito or cheese enchiladas seems less 'meatless' than veggie lasagna or bean soup. Or maybe that's just me...
3. Make it yourself. Instead of buying bread, make a loaf! Instead of buying cookies, make a batch! It's a lot cheaper (I figured once that it cost me less than $1.00 to make a loaf of whole wheat bread) and it's also better for you. It wont take as much time as you think it will, I promise.