November 10, 2014

Frugal Living Series: Food and Groceries

I dislike grocery shopping, and as the prices continue to go up, I dislike it even more.

It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't feel like it was an exam in nutrition, finances, and marketing every time I entered a new aisle.

Think I am kidding? Here is the overriding question I answer each week:

Find healthful,
tasteful, and
economical food
for 5 people
without HFC
which is appealing to children and teens.

Now, add to this food for one person (me!) that does not contain:
soy, and
peanut butter.

 Preferably, find all food within less than an hour and pay way less than our budgeted amount.

It is easy to see why I need these tips! Maybe your grocery listing is simpler. However, each one of us can apply some or all of these techniques to save money.
~ Dorie

18 Frugal Food & Grocery Tips {which we actually use}

1. Clip Coupons - Of course, coupons only work if they are products you will actually use. If you are willing to buy a different brand make sure it is cheaper than what you would normally pray for your typical brand. Clipless coupons are available on electronic devices.

2. Shop Sales - Like most stores, our local grocery stores cycle sales. Learn them. Purchase in bulk, when possible, during the sales. If you can combine with the coupons, then an even better deal is gotten!

3. Compare Unit Prices - We taught our children this technique at an early age. We didn't want them to compare just the prices, but the cost in comparable units. Then, we could discern what was the better deal.

4. Make Your Own Food - Seriously. For instance, feeding my family gourmet organic hamburgers which were bought with a coupon during a sale ($7 for 6 burgers, almost $1.17 per burger) is cheaper than one of us going out to eat ($9.99 for a gourmet burger at a local restaurant during lunch time hours). However, making our own hamburgers only cost $3.50 for 6 (about $.58 per burger). Considering we had to run the grill whether we bought pre-made burgers or made our own, we did not factor this into the comparison. (Side note: We would have had to tip the waiter at the restaurant and that would cost more than the fuel for the grill.)

5. Make Your Own Cleaners - Even offsetting the typical purchase of dish washing detergent, laundry detergent, and household cleaners with the occasional homemade version can save lots of money.

6. Buy in Bulk - When it is practical, buy the larger quantity, but only if you will use it. Most things are cheaper in larger quantities. If you will use it, buy it. We purchase a 15 pound bag of uncooked rice which lasts us about 6 months. (We eat rice once a week.)

7. Grow a Garden - Every year, we grow, or attempt to grow, a garden. This year, we used left over seeds from last years garden to start plants. Our cost for this past year's garden: storage space, time, and effort. Since we had a summer with adequate rains, we barely had to water the garden. Twice, it needed water which we supplied from our rain barrel.

8. Dry Your Own Herbs - For the second year in a row, I grew basil. This year's crop was not as plentiful as I had hoped it would be. I wanted enough to give homegrown dried basil as Christmas gifts, but the crop was not as successful as I had hoped. Nevertheless, I have enough basil dried and stored in a glass jar which will be used over the winter. Last year, I used it weekly for the entire winter.

9. Set a Budget and Keep It! It is easy to over spend in the food department. Keep your budgeted amount in mind as you cruise the aisles. Tally your total bill as you place items into your cart. This can be a great task for children if you have some along.

10. Choose Before You Go - Make a list, and stick to it. Also, estimate how much organic and natural products your family needs or wants before you get to the store. It can be easy to overspend in the name of healthful products. However, going into debt to provide 100% organic food is certainly not frugal and, really, it just is not wise.

11. Buy Local - Food from neighboring farmers is fresher and often more cost effective. Research possibilities in your area. Food co-ops, Farm co-ops, and other food programs may be available in your area.

12. Minimize What You Use - Do you have to have all those condiments? spices? snacks? Could you offer your family less choices each week? Perhaps you could rotate favorite snack foods instead of buying every kind each week.

13. Buy in Season - Fresh fruits and vegetables are cheaper when in season. (simple supply and demand - economics again!) We only buy fresh cranberries and clementines when they are in season. Other family favorites, like blueberries, are bought fresh year round. However, we buy larger amounts when the blueberries are in season and freeze some for future use.

14. Have a Rotating Menu - Having a routine for meals makes preparation easier. It also makes shopping for supplies easier.

15. Experiment with Food - Some of our cheapest meals have been by combining left overs into a new creative meal, or using supplies we had on hand in a new way. Forewarning: Until you get used to the balance of flavors, some experimental meals will be a bust. When in doubt, cover in cheese or serves my children well.

16. Use the Oven Sparingly - For all those electric oven using sisters (I have the electric bill to prove my ownership) don't just make one thing while baking, make a few. There are times when I make two meals at once to cut down on oven operation cost.

17. Bake Once, Eat Twice - For another time saving, utility cutting idea, double the recipe. Then your family can eat half of it, and freeze or give away the other half.

18. Go Out to Eat - Being frugal doesn't mean being cheap! We still take our children out to eat on special occasions. We just try to follow a few frugal ways. We choose a restaurant wisely. It needs to be a restaurant we will all enjoy and one we can each find something to eat. We use a coupon. We go on a kids eat free night or another special offer night. We set a budget and try to stick to it. Sometimes, we pick up food. This eliminates cost of drinks. It also proves to be a fun way to picnic as a family or have a late night dinner date.


  1. Until recently I COUNTED on my leftovers. Every meal I prepared other than tacos, pancakes, or spaghetti seemed to have plenty of leftovers. Now, the kids eat. :)

    We do lots of these, too. Great ideas!

    1. Left overs! You are so right. I forgot about them, because well, I rarely see leftovers these days. The older my children get the hungrier they get - especially those teenaged ones :-)


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