Ya gotta eat!
This list was so good that I just had to quote it from Mrs. Frugalwoods:
- Shop from a list. Create a list while you’re in your kitchen and can clearly identify what you’re out of. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to wing it (oh I THINK we need another bag of onions), only to discover we already have two bags of onions… Make life easier on yourself and only buy what’s on your list.
- Buy in bulk. Larger quantities are typically cheaper, so stock up and save.
- Buy raw ingredients–not packaged or pre-cooked. I make my own bread, hummus, salad dressing… you get the picture.
- Economize where you can. Here’s an example: I buy organic salad greens, but conventional bananas because they have peels protecting them from pesticides.
- Don’t shop at an expensive grocery store. Ok I know this sounds really obvious, but seriously, there are cheap stores and there are expensive stores. I’ve shopped in all of them and the marginal benefit of the expensive stores is just that: marginal. Look past the fancy displays and lovely music and focus on the prices.
On our end, let’s go through how we do it here at 182.
- Shopping from a list is not something we normally do in the sense of two bags of this, a can of that. We do try to go through the refrigerator and the pantry before setting out to shop, and if we really need something we write it down. We tend to use up eggs, for instance, pretty quickly, so if we have an extra dozen in the refrigerator, it’s not an issue. The same with onions. Fruit is something that needs to be eaten up fairly quickly, so that is usually something we do check on – what’s lurking in a drawer.
- Buying in bulk is a definite no-brainer. The amount, though, is what you need to think about. Do I need ten pounds of walnuts? Not likely. Three I’ll settle for. The question is, how many people are you feeding? Buying ten pounds of carrots is not wise unless you plan to use them.
- Buy raw ingredients. Yep, ya gotta cook, ya gotta eat, and ya gotta do the dishes. And because you spend less on raw ingredients, you have money in the budget for a decadent extra, like that $3.00 Valhrona dark chocolate bar . . . We make bread occasionally, and we do make hummus, and so on, and we also buy premade foods like tortillas (even though we do have a tortilla press). Overall, though, we do make our own food from raw ingredients.
- Economize where you can is important. It is also important for you to understand what you consider to be important to economize. We really don’t like washing lettuce, even though we do have salad spinners. Thus, buying pre-washed, packaged mixed lettuce is a worthwhile item in our budget. Canned beans are not, but we buy 1.5 lb. bags as they are the perfect size for our slow cooker.
- Don’t shop at an expensive grocery store. I agree. However, don’t drive 50 miles to save $5.00. That is a bad trade-off. Rather, choose what works, and if there are a few stores nearby, each offering different things, then it might not be wrong to shop at a few stores. We usually pop out to Trader Joe’s for our groceries, because they have good deals on certain things, with prices lower than other stores. Sprouts is another we have near us, as are Whole Foods, Vons, Ralphs, and so on. I can hit other stores, like Aldi, Stater Brothers, Vallejo Market, or Valley Produce on the way home from work. I have a lot of buying options. The only place we buy meat, though, is Costco, unless we want ground turkey, and then TJ is the best choice.
Not everyone has the variety of choices we have; we live in the ‘burbs near a large city. This helps. Living in the middle of nowhere, though, makes choices limited. However, anyone who wants to economize on food can make choices. Sadly, for people on severely restricted budgets or on food stamps, this ability to choose may be severely restricted in ways I don’t know about, but having read stories of people trying to live on $134.00 / month for one person, I don’t think this is very easy.