Lots of good ideas here. I'd just emphasize to build your menu around what's in season and on sale. That way, you can eat cheaper and it tastes better too.
It does pay to be flexible and to have a little room in your freezer. If you stumble across your favorite meat or frozen veggie on sale (with a coupon or on clearance is even better), buy a couple and stash them in the freezer.
Check your store's flyers each week for the specials. You'll figure out pretty quickly what's really a true sale and what's just there to make you look. I actually kept a price book for quite a while on the things I bought most frequently--thankfully it's all in my head now. If you have more than one store close by, pick 10 things that you buy a lot and compare the regular prices on those at each store. That might help you pick which store to do the bulk of your shopping at, and which to just cherry pick the specials and deals.
If you think you might want to coupon (it's not for everyone), check out Coupon Mom's web site. She has a downloadable booklet with all her tips on how to get started. Hot Coupon World is another great site with a newbie section of how to's.
1. if you give us the list of what you're buying, we can give you better suggestions on where you may be able to save. 2. shop around. for years around here if you wanted to buy quinoa in the regular grocery store it was between 5.99 and 8.99 for an 8 to 10 oz package. during that same period at whole foods [yep, the place nicknamed whole paycheck] it was 1.69 for a pound bag. at least in my area it's still the cheapest for quinoa and shelf stable non-cow milks. knowing where to buy what can really cut your cost down. 3. especially if you're buying from a premade list like sparkpeople's menu, edit it before you buy everything on the list. in other words a computer generated program doesn't know that bagels and english muffins come six in a bag, so it might give you one english muffin in the week and two bagels, which translates to a bag of each on your list. if you look through the week's plan you can see if you only use one or two of something you can just mentally swap english muffin for an ounce of bread and just buy a thing of bagels to get you through this week. odds are you may be able to eliminate a package of flatbread and a loaf of bread from your list by buying just one kind of bread product. and you can do the same with fruits or veggies or protein. if you can buy a whole chicken for cheap this week, use chicken in place of beef in the stir fry called for. and the same goes for all sales and your list. if your plan calls for an orange with breakfast every day this week and oranges are $6 for a 3lb bag, buy the bananas that as 54 cents a pound this week and have a banana instead of an orange with your breakfast. and that works when you're stocking up a new pantry as well. spices can add up, particularly if you aren't using ethnic spices or bulk spices. the badia brand spices are less than half the cost of the regular spices, and imo trekking through the aisles to find where they squirreled them away is worth getting spices for 40% of the regular price. same spices too. and going to the ethnic markets is even better. garam masala is like 3.99 for a little bottle at the grocery store. if i go to the indian market i can get three pounds of the stuff for 2.99. yes, i said three pounds. and if you go the ethnic market and bulk route, bring a few friends. the last time i did this five of us got together, each of us bought a different three pound bag, then we split each bag five ways. so we each ended up with about 7oz of five different spices for the cost of one 2.99 bag. but if you're just starting up, don't buy twenty different spices or sauces in one week. pick one to three to have this week that you can rotate thoguh, then do the same next week. this way you can gradually build up your pantry sauce/spice staples without having to spend 30 to do it in one week. 4. my singleton's tip for learning to cook and manage stuff is to rely heavily on frozen [for perishable items] when you're starting out. it's really hard to learn the balance in what you can use up before it goes bad. so instead of throwing away stuff all the time [a huge waste of money], start with very few servings of things that will go bad, and supplement with frozen. you can always run back to the store if you do run out of fresh early and will use more. i try not to have more than one or two things that will go quickly in my fridge at once. it's easy to find something to use up one or two ingredients that are about to go. it's really hard if you have ten different things that need to be used up now. on that note i would say that having a forgiving lasagna recipe and a forgiving vegetable curry recipe are the two greatest things i have for using up what is in my fridge. once you have a good base recipe, it's a great use for all those little odds and ends you haven't used up that need to be used up. as a bonus both also freeze well. make sure you're checking your fridge every other day or so for what needs to be used up. using up saves you from waste. and again, it's easier to do the more time you give yourself to use it up. so if you bought cabbage last week to make lo mein and only used half, make sure you find something else to use the second half in this week. and yes, that may mean cutting out buying a new vegetable to accommodate that. and by the same token check the freezer for what you already have. homemade frozen meals won't do you any good if they just sit in your freezer. and this works for the pantry too. date things when they come into your house of when you make them. when you actually eat them, pay attention to that date when you actually eat them. if it's taking you a year to get through things, you can buy less unless it's a really good deal [i once stocked up on kashi at like 40 cents a box. i was perfectly happy having extra kashi around for the next six months because i bought it for 40 cents a box. but if i was only saving 40 cents a box it wouldn't make sense to have a six month supply of kashi taking up room in my cabinet]. most things go on sale about once a month. so having more than a month's worth in your house is tying up your money in your shelves. again, unless you found a really great deal on it that balances out the storage you likely don't need more than a month, maybe two of groceries at your house.
Fitness Minutes: (5,920)
3,791 8/14/13 7:10 A
Money savers: check out Aldi's prices eat more homemade soups coupon read frugal blogs embrace meat sales
typically cheaper healthy foods include: carrots, frozen greens, cabbage, head lettuce, cucumber, banana, brown rice (if you eat grains), chicken, tuna, eggs (seek sales), evoo
Fitness Minutes: (4,418)
8/14/13 6:54 A
The key to eating cheaper for me is tons of pre-planning. I plan my recipes for the week around the store sales. The meat in my freezer is pre-portioned, so I can pull out as many servings as I need. If there is a great price on non-perishable/freezable things, I buy in bulk (usually meat - chicken breasts, ground beef, fish), then portion them out. Frozen veggies can be really cheap and an easy addition to any meal. Try the bulk bins for nuts. Visit the local the ethnic grocery stores, you can find amazing deals on things there (fruits and veggies and meat mostly). Aldi's is my to-go place for a lot of the staples. Also, you can make some things by hand instead of buying them - hummus is a LOT more economical to make fresh. Soups are a great way to eat on the cheap. Make your own stock from leftover veggies and bones, fill it with lentils/legumes (buy them dried, they are ridiculously cheap), whatever veggies are on sale, and viola, a meal for a few days! Consider using a slow cooker, it turns cheap cuts of beef into succulent meals... Know the contents of your kitchen in and out, know what needs to be used by when so you don't forget something until it goes bad. You can totally eat healthy on a budget, with a bit of preporation and some work.
Fitness Minutes: (41,531)
27,154 8/14/13 4:02 A
I totally disagree with Judy! Eating healthily can still be done on a shoestring .... I know because I practice it, having lived off the smell of an oily rag for many years!
There ARE things you can do to reduce prices. You don't need to buy organic. One of my favourites involves using dried lentils and/or dried split peas in soups and casseroles - even pizza - to help eek out the meat. They help replace the protein, but unlike meat, are a good source of fibre. They are also TONS cheaper.
I make the casseroles/soups/pizza in bulk - that cheapens the cost again because you are using one lot of power/gas to do so. It reduces the cleaning up overall so that is another savings. And then of course there is saving your time, so you have more energy and time for exercise or doing other things. Just freeze them in individual portions, and don't forget to label and date them before freezing. I can make 3 reasonable sized skinless chicken drumsticks do up to 5 meals because I casserole them with a few dried apricots, chopped onion, carrot and capsicum, and lentils which also thickens the casserole. Other times I will leave out the apricots and use mushrooms and leeks instead. A lot of people peel vegetables - I don't! I eat the skin, too - why pay for what you are going to throw out, and anyway, a lot of good nutrients are in that skin. I also use the entire leek - green top to the root.
Take good advantage of the specials. Build up your pantry with staples like cans of beans - baked beans, red kidney beans, cannellini beans and chick peas. Have brown rice, wholegrain couscous on hand. Use cans of tomatoes. Have cans of sardines, salmon, tuna or smoked fish on hand. Buy as much as you can when it is on special, and you shouldn't have to pay much at ordinary prices. Make your own hummus - heaps cheaper and you have more control over what goes into it.
Check out the meat. I bought some lamb today (for a treat) at 1/2 price because I used a Store Card. Make as much use of Store Cards, and other coupons/specials as you can. Often you can buy it at a big mark-down because it is near it's use-by date. If you aren't going to use it that day, put it in the freezer for another day. Lots of money to be saved there. You can look for the yoghurt, too.
If a big bag of carrots is on a good special, buy that. If you haven't got a lot of fridge space, and you aren't going to use them quickly, cut them up and freeze them ready to add to casseroles or to just cook on their own. My daughter often buys spinach in a bag, but if she hasn't used it all within a couple days, she freezes it and then just takes what she wants from the freezer for smoothies or to add to casseroles.
I grow some of my greens in pots on my deck. I have Swiss Chard, Spinach, Parsley, and mint. Tomatoes are good grown like this, too. My grandson (lives with me) has started some chillies.
My mother had a rather large roast of beef given to her - she can't eat it so gave it to me. I cooked it today. I plan on making some Roast Beef and Horseradish sauce sandwiches and putting them into the freezer to take out some other time. Zapped in a microwave they are yummy. They go really well with homemade vegetable soup, and that makes a wonderfully, healthy and filling meal.
It CAN be done. It just takes time to learn, and patience.
I eat chicken thighs more than beef due to the cost, and shop at Aldi's for veggies/fruit, oil, eggs, and butter. The meat & cheese I buy at a small Amish meat market. The other great thing about small stores like the meat, fruit, or fish market, is that they don't have a chip/pop/bread/cracker/sweets aisle.
I find farmer's markets to be incredibly expensive. I eat 2000 calories a day for about $150 a month. If you eat less meat than I do ( under 1.25 lbs a day ), you can save even more money.
A Aldi's I can buy:
plums for 29 cents each 3 lbs of oranges for $1.79 12 eggs for $1.19 1 gal milk for $1.89 pasta $1 a lb ( 8 servings ) soup for 99 cents a can Bread for 89 cents a loaf canned veggies for 59 cents each 7 ozs cheese for $1.79
The Amish market sells me b/s chicken thighs for $2.19 a lb.
A 99 cent can of soup with 2 servings of pasta ( 25 cents ), and a plum ( 29 cents ) = $1.53 for a huge lunch. Lettuce and tomatoes can make you a cheap salad if you want( I don't like salad ). The chicken is about 55 cents for a 4 oz serving. Eggs are 10 cents each. I think with a little bit of searching, you will find that eating healthy is actually about half the cost of not eating healthy, not to even get into the health care costs.
I recommend shopping the perimeter of the store - this usually means fresh produce, raw meat and seafood, bulk foods, dairy section. Things that are pre-packaged/ready to eat are generally more expensive than things you prepare yourself, you're paying for convenience when you buy stuff in a box. The same goes for things like salad mixes vs buying the ingredients.
My value buys: rice and pasta make a good side dish (these are calorie dense, so you want to limit your portion if you're restricting calories). Chicken is cheap and can be worked in to almost any dish - I like to buy a whole chicken, roast it, eat a serving, put the rest away for the next day, and put the carcass in the crockpot with some water for stock. Depending on what part of the country you're in, fish can be inexpensive as well - remember that a serving is only 3-4 oz, so for two people I'm only buying half a pound. Buy in-season produce - it costs a lot more for them to ship clementines from Chile than it does to get corn from the farm an hour away. Beans and lentils can be a cheap, protein-rich, filling substitute for meat (which can be the priciest items on your shopping list).
Most importantly, remember that food you buy but don't eat (or food you only eat because you bought it, not because you want it) is food and money wasted. Don't just buy stuff because it's on sale, buy stuff that you'll actually use!
Healthy eating *can* be more expensive, especially if you're not used to where to look, but once you practice a little and learn to plan ahead, it can be cheaper. I will fully admit that my grocery bill is a smidge higher than it used to be, but when I work at it, it's actually lower.
Buy ingredients, not products. This is probably the #1 most important thing. A can of soup costs about $1.50, at least around here. A large chicken, a few cups of brown rice, a pound of carrots, a pound of celery and a couple of onions costs around $10, but it will stretch a lot farther than the 7 cans of soup you could buy for the same price. You can get a couple of plated meals *and* a very large pot of soup out of it.
Buy local, seasonal produce. Farmer's markets are great for this, but even at the regular grocery store, certain items are cheaper at certain times of year and you can make the most of that.
Clip coupons and shop sales, but don't be suckered into buying something unhealthy and/or not particularly useful *just* because it's on sale. In short, buy chicken instead of pork if the chicken is cheaper this week, but don't load up on chocolate milk just because you have a coupon.
Prepare your shopping list ahead of time but have a few backup meals planned so you can switch it up based on current prices; don't deviate from the list for any other reason, unless you see a *useful* sale that could be used to bolster your pantry, and have the extra funds to make use of it.
Buy in bulk whenever possible, but try not to buy more than you can actually use. Dry goods and herbs/spices in particular are *much* less expensive this way. Frozen and canned produce is often as nutritious as fresh, unless they come with additives.
Consider meatless meals once or twice a week, if you don't already do it, and make up those meals with whatever produce/grains/etc you can get cheaply right now.
Batch cooking saves time and money. Not only can you buy based on sales, but it allows you to later eat things that are off-season (it's nice to have summer veggies in the winter) *and* use up bulk or perishable purchases before they have a chance to go bad.
Edited by: BITTERQUILL at: 8/13/2013 (16:38)
8/13/13 4:18 P
Eating healthy isn't cheap, but without knowing what you bought it's hard to give advice on where you can save.
If you have a farmer's market in your area, try there for local fresh produce. I've heard they can be cheaper. I don't have one near me so I can't verify that. I buy at the local grocery store by following the sales flyer. Some items, like potatoes, bananas and watermelon (my favorite) I pick up regardless of the price. Other things like strawberries, blueberries and melon I wait until they go on sale.
Otherwise, plan your weekly menus based on what's on sale that week. After you follow the flyers for awhile you'll notice a pattern of when certain items go on sale. Stock up and buy in bulk when you can afford it.
Read labels for nutrition and ingredients. Sometimes you have to sacrifice price and pay more for a better quality item.
Edited by: JUDY1260 at: 8/13/2013 (16:20)
Fitness Minutes: (4,769)
32 8/13/13 4:10 P
I just went today and did a full week's worth of grocery shopping...and it was so expensive even though I tried to buy the cheaper stuff. Is there a way around this? Or a way that I can get coupons/deals? Where should I even begin looking? I'm new to this whole shopping & making home cooked meals thing so any tips/tricks would be helpful. thank you!!!