I find it to be almost a challenge to see just how much I can save on groceries and feeding my family. I realized as I served supper last night that we have not had the same meal twice in the last nine weeks. I have had something for dessert each evening too. I have become quite resourceful and my family seems to be really enjoying it. As I think back over the last 20+ years but especially the last 9 weeks I know that without certain things in place, feeding my family would be a source of stress. Since I do not like stress, here are some things that are in place to cut down on our cost for food:
(1) Casseroles can be made out of almost anything. I combine all sorts of things to make casseroles out of either leftovers or what I have on hand. Here are some ideas I have used:
*Leftover chili beans in a casserole with a cornbread topping. Once the cornbread was cooked browned cheese on top
*Leftover beef stew with left over mashed potatoes on top.
*Cooked and shredded chicken with a can of cream of mushroom mixed with sour cream all topped with seasoned bread crumbs.
(2) Don't feel obligated to have a 5 course meal each night. I aim for a main dish, vegetable, and a bread. We then enjoy dessert after that. One dish meals (casseroles) are easy way to get the meat, vegetable, and bread all in one place.
(3) I don't shop for "weekly" groceries. I shop for deals...good deals! I shop for my stockpile. I fill my freezer when meat is on sale. My grocery store puts markdown coupons on meat to move it. Even if I just stop to get milk, I make a dash through the meat department to see what I can find.
Here is a deal that I got last week:
My grocery store had turkey legs and wings in packs of three for $4.50-$5.50. Each package had $4.50 in coupons attached. That made each pack $1 or less. A few were free. So I got all that they had. I will soak some of them in a brine one day soon and roast them.
(4) I am blessed in that my family will pretty much eat whatever I fix. I have known men that would not eat but certain cuts of meat or certain dishes. My husband is thankful for whatever I prepare and is not picky. That saves us a lot of money.
(5) Know what the usual price for things are. The biggest mistake that I think some people make is that they have no idea what a good deal is. They think a sale price is a great deal at one store when the regular price at another store is better. I am a "numbers" person so I remember the prices. If you are not that way, make a list of the things that you buy most often and keep a check on the regular prices.
(6) COUPONS!!!! I cannot stress this tip enough. Without coupons, I would not be able to feed my family. Because I do not shop for "weekly" groceries, I find deals when they are a deal and I stock-up on them. I don't have a HUGE stockpile, but I have enough. I buy things on sale and with coupons.
(7) For things that I may HAVE TO have one day that I do not have a sale+coupon deal to take advantage of, I go to Aldi. They have good prices on things for when I have to pay "full price".
(9) Keep staples on hand. I cannot stress this enough. Various types of flours, cornmeal mix, butter, milk, eggs, sugar, buttermilk, sour cream, canned milk, dried beans, hamburger meat, spices, flavorings, bread, etc are some of the things I always have on hand. In a pinch, I can make a meal. If you have to go out and buy staples only when you know you are going to use them for a particular recipe, you will overspend all year long.
(8) Final tip: LEARN TO COOK AND TO BE RESOURCEFUL!!! Don't let cooking intimidate you. My mother will be the first to tell you that she did not teach me to cook. Everything I have learned I have taught myself. I started out with simple recipes and after nearly 20 years of marriage, I have become almost too comfortable in the kitchen.
Being frugal does not mean that you are cheap. It means that you are smart. I use whatever we have, reuse whatever I can, and make the most of what we have. I did not just start this when the economy took a hit. This is how we have lived for nearly 20 years. If you live like this all the time, it is your way of life and not a drastic change in times when things are hard.