Frugal Menus – Ideas to Keep Meal Costs Down save at the Grocery Store

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Groceries is one of the items on your budget that you have control over. You may not be able to change your car payment or mortgage payment but you can certainly control how much (or little) you spend on groceries.

In General

Cook from Scratch

Cooking from scratch is almost always cheaper than buying prepared foods. When you make your grocery list from your weekly menu, take the time to look up each recipe and find out the ingredients needed for each dish.

Often times when shopping without a meal plan, we are tempted to buy convenience foods. Convenience food may save time, and may be easier, but they do not save money.

Don’t Cook Too Much Food

We are always looking for ways to cut back on our grocery store spending.  Many of us use coupons, we buy in bulk, and shop sales, but have you ever considered buying and cooking less food?

According to the Obesity Action Coalition, 93 million Americans are obese, and low-income populations are more likely to be overweight.  

Sadly, the reality is that casseroles, pastas, and foods heavy in carbohydrates are considerably less expensive than say buying organic fruits and vegetables.  

It is very easy to fall into the trap of buying the less expensive foods in bulk, cooking more than we need to cook, and as a result eating more than we should.

Differences in Portion Size and Serving Size

  “Portion size is the amount of a single food item served in a single eating occasion, such as a meal or a snack. Many people confuse portion size with serving size, which is a standardized unit of measuring foods—for example, a cup or ounce—used in dietary guidance, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.   Portion size is the amount offered to a person in a restaurant, the amount offered in the packaging of prepared foods, or the amount a person chooses to put on his or her plate.   For example, bagels or muffins are often sold in sizes that constitute at least 2 servings, but consumers often eat the whole thing, thinking that they have eaten 1 serving. They do not realize that they have selected a large portion size that was more than 1 serving.” Source: CDC.gov

By  eating recommended portions of food, and not overcooking,  we not only cut back on our grocery bill, but we can cut back on our waist (and waste!) line as well.

At Home

Plan Meals in Advance

I plan my meals by the month. I have a huge magnet calendar on the side of my refrigerator and once a month I sit down and write each meal for each day. I then shop by the month. This allows me to buy in bulk and share ingredients. Others will plan by the week or 2 weeks – figure out what works best for your family.

Plan Your Meals Around What Is on Sale & Your Coupons

Both of my local grocery stores have their weekly sale flyers online. When I am ready to plan my meals for the upcoming week, I use the flyers to help me decide which dishes to prepare. Don’t forget to check the store flyers against coupons you have, because when you combine a coupon with something on sale, you often get a fantastic deal.

Once a Month Cooking

freezer

Once a month cooking (also known as freezer cooking) can help you save money and time. Click here to find out how to do it!

Plan On Having 3 Non-Meat Meals a Week

You can buy pasta, beans and eggs a lot cheaper than meat.

Create a Grocery List

Shopping from a list is a huge money saver.

To plan your meals, write down a weekly plan of what you will be serving each day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then make a grocery list of all items you need to make each meal.

Don’t forget to check what you have on hand so you won’t double up on items you already own. Now when you go to the grocery store and stick to your list, you won’t buy extra things that you do not need.

Create a Price Book

A price book is a homemade book where you keep track of the items you buy, and the prices at different stores. An easy way to make a price book is either with your smart phone, or with a spiral notebook. Each page of your notebook is dedicated to one item.

I use my iPhone to keep track of prices at grocery stores. For example when I need to buy diapers I can look at my price book and see which stores sell my brand the cheapest. It helps me to recognize sales also.

  • When you have leftovers freeze them to reuse in future recipes.
  • Eat less meat and fill up on vegetables and pasta.
  • Plan meals around what is on sale and what is in your pantry.
  • Cook from scratch
  • Serve bread with every meal
  • I try to stick to this price plan for meat: I don’t pay more than $2.00 per pound for steaks, pork and fish. I shop till I find it and then buy in bulk
  • When your store has a good sale on items you use a lot, stock up.

At The Store

Don’t Go to the Store Hungry!

You are more apt to buy something you don’t need just because it sounds so good. Not a big surprise, or?

Try to Shop Alone

Or, what I want to say is: leave the kids at home … if possible. I always end up buying things that I don’t need because my child will see something and ask for it. I don’t give in to the cash register stuff like gums and candies – but I usually cave when it comes to a bag of chips, or cookies.

Use Coupons Only for the Items You Normally Buy

Coupons can be great money savers if they are items you normally buy. Don’t let a coupon be an excuse to buy something you wouldn’t normally buy just because you’ll save $40! Another thing to consider – coupons are generally for name brand items. Many times the off brand items are cheaper than the name brand items with a coupon. Shop smart!

Shop at Aldi’s or Other Discount Grocery Stores

We cut our weekly grocery bill in half when we switched from our regular grocery store to Aldi’s.

Cut Back on Fast Food

When you know what is for dinner ahead of time, you won’t be tempted to spend money on fast food or pizza delivery. That is because each morning you will know exactly what to take out of the freezer to defrost. You won’t panic at 6:00 and order pizza because you can’t think of anything to have for dinner.

Buy the Exact Quantity of What You Need

While it is true that buying in larger quantities can save you money by lowering the price per unit, it isn’t always the case. This is especially true in the warehouse club type stores. When you make your list (and quantities!) from your weekly meal plan, you will buy exactly the amount you need for the week, and you won’t spend money over buying.

Recommended Books

Not Just Beans: 50 Years of Frugal Family Favorites: Not Just Beans is a collection of frugal recipes and tips from the cooking expertise of three generations of Tawra Kellam’s family. Using these tips and suggestions, Mrs. Kellam shows how anyone can tighten his or her food budget. In the book, Tawra shares the secrets of how she spends an average of $125 per month feeding her family of four.

Not Just Beans is designed for the beginner as well as the more experienced cook. It contains over 540 recipes and 420 tips explaining how to eat well while slashing your grocery bill. The recipes are easy to cook with ingredients readily found at your local grocery store. With hard-to- find frugal recipes like buttermilk, enchilada sauce and granola bars, classic favorites like slow cooked roast, hush puppies and apple crisp and old-fashioned comfort foods like watermelon pickles, lemon bars, rice pudding and fried green tomatoes, Not Just Beans has it all.

Miserly Meals: Healthy, Tasty Recipes Under 75 Cents Per Serving: Learn how to prepare inexpensive, delicious and healthy meals that are easy to prepare. The book includes main dish recipes, appetizers, beverages, soups, vegetables and side dishes, the “Twelve days of Turkey”, slow cooking, breads and muffins, sauces and dressings, mixes, as well as desserts and snacks.

Feed Your Family for $12 a Day:This is an update to the authors book “Feed Your Family for $50 a Week.” Contains a lot of the same information so you don’t need both books.

Cheap and Wicked Good!: 5-Ingredient Budget-Friendly Recipes for Everyday Meals

Traditional Meals for the Frugal Family: Delicious, Nourishing Recipes for Less

The Flat Broke Cookbook: Thrifty Meals & Shopping Tips for Tough Times

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