Thursday, September 22, 2011

How to Save Money on Groceries

Welcome to Day 4 of Family Friendly Food Week! Today's guest post is all about how to save money on groceries. But first a reminder to stop by the week-long party and link up! We're sharing all kinds of recipes, tips on meal planning, couponing strategies, snack ideas, and more. If you link up a post and link back to me within your post(s) you'll earn an automatic entry in this week's Giveaway from Planner Perfect! Be sure to check it out--you can enter to win an eBook on Organization.

Today, I'd like to welcome Ann Marie from white house, black shutters. I can't wait to read her tips and tricks for saving money on food, and eating healthier at the same time!

Hi, Serenity Now readers! I’m so excited (and flattered, really) that Amanda has asked me to guest post during Family Friendly Food Week! My name is Ann Marie and I blog over at white house, black shutters.

I’m a mom of two, and will have three children under age three in January! My blog covers a whole mess of topics: home d├ęcor, green living, cooking, DIY, repurposing, garage sailing, vintage decorating, enjoying a simple life, but it all really centers around one thing:

Like most of you, things are tight and we’re looking to cut costs anywhere we can. Some months are harder than others. Some months I can go thrifting and buy fabric, other months that money has to go towards food and diapers and I have to use only what I have on hand.

If you don’t have money, you can’t spend it. Plain and simple. You cut out the fun shopping trips, cable, new shoes, Starbucks, new fabric, that Craigslist steal, and all that, buuuuut…

When Amanda posed a question on her facebook page,

I commented that we try to stay under $200 a month and shop mostly at Trader Joe’s and Aldi. When I started to think about it, it’s probably closer to $200-300. I don’t have a set budget. Some months I spend more than others, but there are a handful of tips that I use to keep the grocery bill low:

If I had to condense this post into one tip, that would be it!

These include fruits, veggies, beans, oats, potatoes, bread, rice, noodles, yogurt, milk, eggs, cheese, meat, fish, butter, oil, spices, condiments.

Even if you are shopping organic for some of these items, you'll find that sticking to the basics will save you money overall. Try to shop mostly in the perimeter of the grocery store; it's where the majority of these pantry and fridge staples are found.

Isn’t meat expensive?! Oh my gosh! Sometimes I want to cry walking through the meat section.

We buy meat only when it’s on sale. I usually try to spend under $4 for a meal’s worth of meat; which for our family, is about one pound. If the price is more than that, I don’t buy it or I’ll stretch it for more than one meal. A whole chicken will give us enough for two meals, a roast will give us leftovers for lunch, and adding a can of black beans to a pound of ground beef stretches it in a delicious way!

If you have a deep freezer look into buying a portion of a cow, pig, or chickens. Since you are buying in bulk, the price per pound is cheaper than the store. Fall is usually the time to do this, you can check out to find a source near you.

What?! When I heard this, it almost seemed silly. Why!? Boneless/skinless is so EASY! And I hate eating chicken off the bone (unless it’s fried).

Well, not only is the regular bone-in chicken way cheaper, it tastes better too. The bone and everything else will give you a better flavor than any pre-packaged piece of chicken ever could.

I still do use boneless, skinless breasts, but I don’t use them all the time. If I do use them, I buy them frozen, without breading, and in bulk to save money.

I love meat probably more than your husband does, but sometimes a meal will taste just as good without meat. Plan a night or two a week where you have a meal without meat or fish to save money.

Italian meals, casseroles, soups, appetizers as dinner, one-pot meals, and big salads are good for this. Use plenty of spices and add eggs, beans, cheese, and/or hearty veggies and you won’t notice the difference!

This is where it gets tricky! If you really want to save money on meals, start cooking almost everything from scratch. It sounds like a daunting task, but only takes a few extra hours a week longer. I started doing this when I realized that the MSG (monosodium glutamate) and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) in most processed foods were triggering my nasty migraines. Once I cut out those ingredients, I felt better, and I found myself making most everything homemade because those ingredients are in practically everything.

Invest in good knives and maybe a food processor to save time. Cut all of your veggies at once and freeze them to save time the day of a meal, maybe even cook meals ahead of time or make double and freeze meals.

It shouldn’t be cheaper to make a box of rice-a-roni than it is for fresh fruits and veggies, but sadly, this is the case. I’d love to buy everything organic, sometimes I can afford it but most times I can’t. You’ll find that fruits and veggies are cheaper when in season, buy a lot of them on sale, cut them up yourself and freeze them for another day. When frozen foods like broccoli or corn are on sale, I stock up. If I’m not getting tomatoes out of my garden, I use canned.

Fall is a great time to buy fruits and vegetables in season! Go apple picking, go to a pumpkin patch, pick up a few extra squash everytime you go to the store and use them throughout the winter. Last year I used only squash and edible pumpkins in my fall decor and once it was time to switch to Christmas decorations, we ate them!

Find a place to pick your own fruits and veggies here!

Last year the bunnies attacked our garden, so this year we got serious and built a big garden.
And we’ve been saving money! It is hard work, but it’s a great family bonding experience. My 2 year old, Lily, gets just as excited to go to the garden as she does to go to the park.

And it’s not too late for you to start your garden! September is the perfect time for planting fall crops such as kale, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, garlic, and more. These plants prefer the cold weather and actually taste better if you plant them during this time of year rather than in the spring.

Plant some seeds in an empty spot in your landscaping, clear out your summer annuals, skip a mum and plant something you can eat. Don’t have a spot? Find a pot, rubbermaid container, whatever, and PLANT SOMETHING!!!! You have a spot, I can promise you that.

My favorite sources for seeds (cheap and quick shipping!) include:
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and The D. Landreth Seed Company. I know it’s not “grocery shopping” but I think it’s related.

I said “try,” because it’s hard. It’s SO hard. Maybe it’s harder for me than it is for you. I swear Starbucks and all those other places have a whistle that only I can hear. Salted Caramel Mocha? What the crap?! That sounds amazing...But forking over $4.55 for a grande (not including tax) every day really adds up, that's over $30 a week!

When you’re thinking of grocery shopping as a numbers game, it’s a bit harder to justify how much you really are paying for that meal or treat. You could make that $15 plate of Chicken Alfredo from Olive Garden for $3, or that $4 coffee drink for pennies.

Not only will you be saving money, but you’ll be eating better. I still stop here or there (It’s hard not to), but now we go out to eat only a handful of times a year. If you’re going out, check to see if you can find a local place with a coupon, or a gift certificate and try a new place!

Whew! I'm hoping you're still reading. As you can probably tell, this is a topic that I really feel passionate about! Healthy eating is really important to me, and it's hard to budget when it comes to something that impacts your life SO much. Challenge yourself to think of thrifty grocery shopping as a game, cooking from scratch as a new adventure, and the task will be a lot easier to take on!

If you get a chance, come visit white house, black shutters, we’d love to see you! Thanks so much, Amanda, for inviting me over!

Big thanks to Ann Marie for taking the time to put all of this together! I know I learned a lot's time to start perusing the meat section at the grocery and look for sales.

Please do stop by the link party and share a few posts of your own. I'll be featuring some of the posts along with a few other resources tomorrow to open up this weekend's Weekend Bloggy Reading party.

I hope you'll come back tomorrow to link up YOUR best post of the week to Weekend Bloggy Reading. Recipes, crafts, home decor, book reviews, funny stories, you name it. Come prepared to showcase your blog and find some great weekend reads.
Weekend Bloggy Reading


  1. Fantastic tips!! I will definitely be willing to give the bone in a try for a change.

  2. Very insipring! I'm definitely a boneless, skinless gal & everyone has always told me to buy otherwise to save money. This just gave me the push I needed to do that :-) Thanks!

  3. Great tips! I am glad I found your blog.


  4. These are really great pointers. I try to do the same....and as a result , I think, people will find that you will become a healthier more active person. That was the result in my house!

  5. One thing I am seeing more of, are stores that are "dented can" stores, like Sharp Shopper here in VA. It is worth the drive, 1 hour 15 min, for me to shop there. Even with the gas cost, it is still so much cheaper. The other thing I do, is buy ground turkey instead of ground beef, it is almost always cheaper. You can use it in most recipes that call for ground beef, and honestly I don't notice a difference in taste, and its better for you. You can grind your own chicken or turkey as well. Thanks for the tips!!

  6. I had so much fun, thanks so much for letting me meet your readers! :)

  7. These are SUCH good tips. Since we've been cutting out packaged foods and meals, we've saved a bundle. Also, working with what we already have instead of going to the store just because we haven't in a week has helped. I also like the tip for staying in the perimeter of the store. I do that, too. Then, I'm not tempted.

    I've never thought to add black beans to meat to make it last longer. Are there certain recipes that this works for?

    Also, this post reminded me to buy meat when it's on sale. I usually shop Aldi, so the prices are lower there anyhow. But, I don't even really know what a good price on meat is. I need to learn that.

    Thanks for the great post.

  8. i try to buy meat on sale and stock up when it is. i've always bought boneless, skinless chicken though, i'll have to try w/ the bone-love all these money saving tips-thanks!

  9. Great tips! I really do need to do better about buying meat on sale. And we actually plan to get a beef again soon. Thanks for these!

  10. Kim @ NewlyWoodwards: I usually use the half black bean/half meat trick when I'm cooking anything Mexican, but if you're doing something with rice or corn or any of that it'd probably work! I've also done the trick with chicken and THAT was good!

    I had no clue what meat prices were good or not, but I guess once you're looking you'll start noticing. I love Aldi's meat prices, esp the pork chops, chicken, and fish. They had ground pork there today for $2.29 a lb! :)

  11. Thanks so much Ann Marie. Like you I also have to avoid anything with msg in to prevent my migraines. Ever since we started doing this we have eaten so much healthier.

    I have never tried the black beans added with meat though. I think my husband would really like this... especially with Mexican food. I will have to give it a try. It's also nice to hear you are able to feed a family of four for betweeen $200-300 a month. For two of us we spend $250 and sometimes I stress about the extra mouth we have on the way. You give me inspiration that it can be done though.

  12. Some great tips Ann Marie! I make as much as I can from scratch. My husband always comments on how I cook three meals a day and feed us soo well. = ) But meat IS crazy expensive. Chicken prices here in Canada are highway robbery. A club pack of chicken breast, not on sale, is easily $22!!! For six chicken breast! I definitely only buy when it's on sale. Great post.

    Thanks for sharing Amanda! : )

    ~ Catie

  13. This is great! Thanks for sharing!

  14. Fantastic tips! I need to go to your boot camp Ann Marie, haha... I am so bad at saving money. Maybe I can start slow and incorporate all these tips into my lifestyle?

    Thanks again!!


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