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How to Save Money on Groceries

 
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How to Save Money on Groceries

During these times, grocery store prices are going up so maybe now is a good time to find ways to save on groceries.

So how do we save money on groceries? Do you have some tips or suggestions?




Here are some ways that I use to save money:

I make a weekly menu before going to the store.  This is just a simple list of main course things like:

Meat loaf, chicken fried steak, spaghetti, swiss steak, etc.  These might change depending on the prices and availability of things on sale.

Planning ahead like this maybe the key to saving money. Also setting up a budget will help.  Something as simple as planning to spend $100.00 and not going over that amount.




Pick budget friendly meals.

Before going to the store check out what ingredients you already have.

Don't buy those bagged veggies.  Save money by buying the whole vegetable and prepping it yourself.

These are just a few things that I thought might help.  Do you have some tips to share?

Here are some suggestions for budget friendly meals:



Tuna with Mac and Cheese



Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup



Vegetable Soup made with Ground Meat

Here are some threads that might help:

https://permies.com/t/48146/Healthy-Home-Cooking-dollar-plate

https://permies.com/t/118912/Making-Food-Drinks-Cheap-Lazy

https://permies.com/t/33767/kitchen/Learning-love-cheap-cuts-meat

https://permies.com/t/60582

https://permies.com/t/134370/kitchen/Freezing-Portion-Sized-Meals

https://permies.com/t/103149/kitchen/History-Meatloaf-Ways-Eat


 
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Buy a small chest freezer so you can buy and freeze in bulk, and have "emergency meals" ready to go for the day when everyone is too tired to cook. This pays for itself almost instantly, and saves a fortune over time.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Get to know somebody who likes to sharpen kitchen knives. Preferably someone who will trade for jam or homemade wine. Dull knives are a significant barrier to home cooking, and cost you time and money.

If you can pull a bit of meat out of your chest freezer and start rhythmically chopping veggies you have on hand, a meal plan will present itself.

Late Addition: Especially if you pour a glass of wine and put on some Benny Goodman. That's a winning strategty around here.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Find a cool, dark spot in your abode where larger bags of veggies that keep can be stored. Onions. Potatoes. Cover with a highly breathable blanket if needed.

Then buy restaurant size bags of essentials that keep for a while. Split with a friend or a neighbour if you wish.

Consider yellow onions. Last year I bought a 50-lb bag. It saved me 75% on a foundational ingredient for home cooking. My DW thought I was nuts, and I had to keep turning them a little to keep airflow and pluck out any that had been dinged by mechanical handling, but there was practically no waste.

Recognize that  you're paying a fortune for handling and packaging) when you buy in small volumes.
 
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I second the meal pan and buying staples in bulk.
Although that was difficult for a while, it just happened that when I was due to buy more rice and soap it was all gone.
I also buy my herbs and spices online from a bulk retailer which is a lot cheaper and uses a lot less packaging than those tiny supermarket boxes.  
We cook a lot of curries though so they don't have a chance to get old.
 
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[Aside: folks, kindly pardon the spelling errors in my  posts above. It seems I need a microscope to read the micro font in the full reply window. Darn it anyway.]
 
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Make a list and stick to it. But if you turn up at the shop and they have a load of X that you don't need today marked down to clear take it, but only take it if it is something you would normally buy.

Echoing earlier comments, a large freezer or at least as large as you can fit/afford. old ones are often free if you pick them up and even a big 400L chest is not particularly heavy to lift in and out of a trailer (well I say this we threw out a 1970's freezer that must have been 100kg!)

Always have some convenience meals in the house, doesn't matter if it's home made or a few frozen pizzas. just something you can throw in the microwave/oven and call dinner.

Shop every 2-3 weeks each trip to the supermarket is another chance for those clever marketing people to get you to buy extra.

Once you get going keep an eye out for offers, hubby loves a specific brand of remoulade it's horribly expensive at 30DKK ($4.6) a bottle, so whenever it goes on sale at 10DKK we buy 2-3 bottles (It only keeps a few months) we virtually never buy it or Mayo or any other expensive condiment full price.

If you are looking for spices it is (here at least) much cheaper to go to an ethnic store and buy them there, same price for a packet but 10x the size. I've also found that the quality is better.
 
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When I was 18, someone gave me a copy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette as a joke; little did they know it was one of the best gifts I've ever received.  In the book, the author talks about her "pantry principle," which is basically track prices and stock up when something's cheap and store it wherever you have room (like in closets or under beds, literally anywhere).  This is how I learned about grocery store loss-leaders (hot sale items the store sells at or below cost to get you into the store).  Most stores in my area don't operate on this model anymore, having switched to an "earn points for a gas discount or a free turkey/ ham/ whatever" model, but there's still one that does.  So whenever there's a sale on something I would use, I buy as many as they allow and keep it in the pantry or freezer.  My mom is a coffee and laundry detergent hoarder; those two things come around on super sale ever 2-4 months.  When blueberries are in season they sell them for like $5 for a flat of 6 pints.  Around Thanksgiving they do 5lbs of sweet potatoes for $1.50- $2.50 (depends on the year).  When meat goes on sale, we buy a lot and freeze or can it.  There's kind of a pattern to a lot of it, either on a cycle of every few months or special for a holiday.  I mean, all this stuff is crap industrial food, so it's not a strategy that works for purists.  

I always check the clearance and discount rack and look in every aisle for discontinued items.  One time I got like 6 or 7 tins of Twinings loose leaf tea for $1 each, normally $5 (discontinued because the packaging changed).  Ten+ years later and I'm down to my last tin (and honestly it tastes fine, I'm no connoisseur).  

We also go to the local farm stands and buy baskets of seconds when they look good.  Lots of times I can get baskets of wrinkly peppers or bruised fruit for like $1.  Every 2-3 years we buy 100 ears of corn for like $22 (which is pretty cheap for around here) and spend a day processing it to freeze.  A lot of the produce around here is still more expensive than canned or frozen vegetables from the grocery store, though.  

My mom won't eat venison, so we don't pick up roadkill, but my neighbors do.  That's a big savings on meat for them.

I live close enough to Amish country that it pays us to take a day trip a few times a year to go to the bulk food store and stop at roadside stands on the way home.  The one I go to (Echo Hill Country Store in Fleetwood, PA) has a lot of organic and hard-to-find stuff, in smaller quantities and cheaper than I could buy online.
 
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Skandi Rogers wrote:If you turn up at the shop and they have a load of X that you don't need today marked down to clear take it, but only take it if it is something you would normally buy.



I hew to an opposite philosophy.  In normal times (not during the pandemic, when all my household's shopping is curbside pickup only after online ordering) I haunt the distressed produce rack, the expired containers bin, and I look all over the store for half-off clearance pricing on about-to-expire items.  Not only do I get entertaining luxuries that way, like fancy jams and jellies that cost no more than the cheap stuff I normally buy, but if there are ten pounds of produce that will be moldy in two days, I'll take it home and cook it or preserve it.  At least a third of my big cooking projects (where I make food I can eat for a week) are inspired by some huge load of produce I bought for next to nothing.  It's not so much "would I buy this anyway" as "can I think of a way to prepare this cheap food resource in a way that I'll eat?"

 
Dan Boone
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General money-saving grocery tips:  

1) Eat a lot of legumes, pasta, grains, and frozen vegetables.  All of these cost roughly a dollar a pound if you shop carefully and don't insist on "organic".  A pound of legumes will cook up to feed 4-6 people, depending on how hungry they are.  

2) Watch the "expensive" pain points in your food budget and do something about them.  I have taken to making and pressure canning vegetable stocks because others in my household like to buy them at $3.00 a quart and I have lots of uses for them too.  

3) Cook one-pot meals, as large as your biggest pot will allow.  Store the extra in single-serving or one-meal quantities in your fridge and freezer.  Don't let them go to waste: eat what you store.  Being willing to eat the same noodles or beans half a dozen times in the same week is important here.
 
Skandi Rogers
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Dan Boone wrote:

Skandi Rogers wrote:If you turn up at the shop and they have a load of X that you don't need today marked down to clear take it, but only take it if it is something you would normally buy.



I hew to an opposite philosophy.  In normal times (not during the pandemic, when all my household's shopping is curbside pickup only after online ordering) I haunt the distressed produce rack, the expired containers bin, and I look all over the store for half-off clearance pricing on about-to-expire items.  Not only do I get entertaining luxuries that way, like fancy jams and jellies that cost no more than the cheap stuff I normally buy, but if there are ten pounds of produce that will be moldy in two days, I'll take it home and cook it or preserve it.  At least a third of my big cooking projects (where I make food I can eat for a week) are inspired by some huge load of produce I bought for next to nothing.  It's not so much "would I buy this anyway" as "can I think of a way to prepare this cheap food resource in a way that I'll eat?"



Unfortunately they don't really discount short date/damaged things here, they started some "reduce food waste" shops in Copenhagen.. so they ship it all down there to sell and get brownie points with the green lobby. Those of us who live in the poor outskirts of the country have to pay full price.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Skandi Rogers wrote:[Unfortunately they don't really discount short date/damaged things here, they started some "reduce food waste" shops in Copenhagen.. so they ship it all down there to sell and get brownie points with the green lobby. Those of us who live in the poor outskirts of the country have to pay full price.


Perhaps you could chat with the store manager or the produce section manager? I find that they often have some discretion in these matters. If they ship it Thursday morning and you stop by every Wednesday evening, they may not mind helping you out. It never hurts to ask.
 
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I'm in the same boat as Dan; When I go shopping I've looked at the flyer, so I know what's a really good price (that I will use) and I'll stock up.  Other than that, I never go in with an idea of what to buy.  I just look for great deals and expiring stuff.  Frozen veggies can be much, much cheaper than fresh, expiring bacon is always a winner and they'll blow stuff out if it's discontinued.  

I used to shop at farmer's markets almost every week.  I'd haggle and I bought enough over the years as a regular to get better deals.  The best, though, was to show up at 1-1:30 when they closed at 2.  The meat was always packed back up, but produce would be dirt cheap.  18 lbs of grapes for $5, a box of mangos for $3-5, etc.  I'd also ask if they had anything not good enough for humans but fine for my animals and I'd get lots.

If you went just after 2, there was always a pile of produce that didn't sell.  I could get that for free but there were some people who needed it more, so I'd leave it and go pick up the dregs of the dregs later for the chickens.

I buy large quantities when things are on sale, especially if they're not perishable.  I try to buy TP when it's 66% off, once or twice a year.  3 or 4 years ago they were selling women's pads for 75% off and they were the ones my daughter uses.  I say 'uses' because she's still got some left.  Maybe a little overboard, but 75% savings for 4 years, lol.  Storage is my issue now.

A couple of years ago I had one of my daughter's friends move in as he wasn't in a good spot.  He was 23 and I took him shopping.  I was stunned that I had to explain cost/unit to him.  No one had ever taught him how to save money when shopping and it's one of the most useful life skills.  
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Timothy Markus wrote:I was stunned that I had to explain cost/unit to him.  No one had ever taught him how to save money when shopping and it's one of the most useful life skills.  


Argh! Totally agree. Good save, Timothy.
 
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S Tonin wrote:When I was 18, someone gave me a copy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette as a joke; little did they know it was one of the best gifts I've ever received.


Hahah, we are well met: I have a very well thumbed copy of the Tightwad Gazette II. The best of the three books, I think. She is a good writer, and I still enjoy reading the thoughtful, philosophical mini-essays that are sprinkled through the book.  
 
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:
Perhaps you could chat with the store manager or the produce section manager?  


that gave me a little laugh, not because it's not a good idea, but because none of the shops are big enough to have a produce section manager! I kind of miss "real" supermarkets it gets old having to shop in 4 shops every time to get everything one wants.  never mind that means four shops full of junk to navigate.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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LOL, no worries, it's really about working your way up the food chain (as it were) to find a helpful manager with the power to bend the rules a little.
 
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Tacking back to the OP:

I have been trying to bulk up the plant protein quotient of all meals. If there isn't a ton of protein, I'm hungry again in an hour. I'm an omnivore, but meat is comparatively spendy, and using it as a flavouring instead of the core, sort of a 50/50 method, is a great (and painless) way to save money. Chickpeas work with everything.

Western Canada is one of the top producers of chickpeas and lentils in the world; but we export it all overseas. Granted, it is produced through industrial farming methods which have issues, but still it's insane that we don't eat what we grow.
 
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I try to stay away from carbs as much as possible, so that makes it harder to eat for cheap.  I think it's going to cost me about $3.00/lb for quail, probably the same for chicken, and I'm guessing $4/lb for the ducks.  I'm raising all of these.  I've raised rabbit before, purchasing all the feed, and they came out to about $2/lb.  I also got all the guts for free.  Cheapest way to get great meat, if you can do it.
 
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Rabbit is on my radar as a protein source. I have the land and grazing space for it. My knowledge is incomplete, and I know it. I see rabbit-eers (is that a thing?) in my area who supply restaurants, and those are the folks I want to connect with. Nothing beats local experience.
 
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If I were trying to raise animals for food on the cheap,  I would choose chickens, but only because I could probably source all of their food from waste streams.

My local Kroger's doesn't cut meat on site anymore,and when they have bones available,  they cost as much as actual meat.
I'm hoping a real old school butcher might have cheap bones for stock.
 
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A good friend of ours keeps chickens and rabbits, and says that when it comes to time plus labour in processing terms, rabbit meat wins hands down. Given how easily we grow grass here, and since our chickens eat plenty of it, I'm thinking that we could add rabbits into the blend and it would cut the amount of time spent dressing on butchering days.
 
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I find that saving money is directly related to how much time you invest in the processes of shopping, prep, storage, and cooking.

Keeping track of what's available (types of stores, types of sales, types of discount rack things) and forward planning can help you catch good prices and also avoid waste. We rotate between 3 stores (greenmarket/butcher, normal grocery, large bulk buying store like Costco) and keep a good eye on what we have in order to draw down before buying again. The stores all have sales flyers so I can plan ahead. I also only have a car once a week now, so I've gotten pretty good about not forgetting things.
I never used to menu plan until the pandemic left me with a pantry full of weird things, now I enjoy it. Menu planning is complicated, since I also take into account my work schedule (how much time I'll have to cook) and the weather (soup night, or warming up the house with the oven). But I'm enjoying it and I plan to keep on doing it.

For the record, I'm with Douglas. Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey.... a little music in the kitchen makes the food better.
 
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So many good ideas here. I will add a couple. In line with the bulk buying, knowing how to process and store the extras helps a lot. I also buy onion in large bags, like 50 pounds. Typically, I will turn about half of them into caramelized onions which I freeze in large 1/2 cup ice cube trays, then pop them out and store in bags. Some are left to use fresh. Sometimes I can some, although these need to be used fairly quickly as they can turn to mush. And sometimes I pickle some.

I always buy red bell peppers at Costco, so much cheaper. I use a couple fresh and then slice the rest up and freeze them. No need to blanch or anything.

Also, knowing what function an ingredient serves allows substitutions for what you have, like beer is often added to a recipe to provide some bitterness, coffee is a good substitution, or vice versa, depending what you are likely to have.
 
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Stacy Witscher wrote:

Also, knowing what function an ingredient serves allows substitutions for what you have, like beer is often added to a recipe to provide some bitterness, coffee is a good substitution, or vice versa, depending what you are likely to have.



I agree. As an adjunct to your statement, I think that expanding your range of cooking skills is an excellent way to save money; once you master more cooking techniques, you can squeeze more variety and taste out of even the simplest ingredients. Starting with traditional French cooking is honestly a good way to go. People tend to think "fancy-schmancy" when they hear the words "French cooking," but traditional French cooking a la Julia Child is basically the result of centuries of peasant cooking experience, perfected. How many things can you do to a cheap yellow onion? Ask a French country cook! It's basically all about process; French onion soup is the prime example. It's just onions and beef stock and butter, but if you don't know how to follow the right process, it won't be French onion soup.

This is not to mention expanding into canning, fermenting, etc.. I'm just getting into fermenting now, and knowing I can make some sort of awesome sauce or pickle causes me to jump on more of those good bulk deals on veggies.
 
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L Allen wrote:

Stacy Witscher wrote:
French onion soup is the prime example. It's just onions and beef stock and butter, but if you don't know how to follow the right process, it won't be French onion soup.



I've got one of Julia Child's cookbooks, which I got when I was in university.  The first thing I made from it was French onion soup.  Took 3 days, start to finish from making beef stock to the soup, but it was absolutely the best FO soup I've ever had.

 
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:Tacking back to the OP:

I have been trying to bulk up the plant protein quotient of all meals. If there isn't a ton of protein, I'm hungry again in an hour. I'm an omnivore, but meat is comparatively spendy, and using it as a flavouring instead of the core, sort of a 50/50 method, is a great (and painless) way to save money. Chickpeas work with everything.

Western Canada is one of the top producers of chickpeas and lentils in the world; but we export it all overseas. Granted, it is produced through industrial farming methods which have issues, but still it's insane that we don't eat what we grow.



Here are some of my thoughts on buying in bulk:

https://permies.com/t/93304/kitchen/Stocked-Food-Storage-Pantry#768610

Buying bulk plant protein for my family would be pinto beans. The problem with storing bulk pinto beans is that they get hard or tough which makes cooking take a lot longer.  And then they still might be crunchy.

What I have found helped is to use the Food Saver to seal the air out.  I recently tried an experiment to put the Food Saver sealed beans in the freezer.  If you can store seeds in the freezer then why not beans?

Canning bulk beans is also a great way do store them.  Here are some of my thoughts on Canning:

https://permies.com/t/93304/kitchen/Stocked-Food-Storage-Pantry

Thanks everyone for making this a great topic!  
 
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I just lightly read through here. One cost I did not see addressed is the cost of freezer space.  To pick easy target, consider how many pounds of hamburger can be stored in the same amount of freezer space as a family sized frozen lasagna dinner.
 
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:Buy a small chest freezer so you can buy and freeze in bulk, and have "emergency meals" ready to go for the day when everyone is too tired to cook. This pays for itself almost instantly, and saves a fortune over time.



We did this and it’s been wonderful. We always cook large batches for just the two of us, and we portion out a few individual servings and pop then in the freezer. When we have those meals we never grab fast food or a pizza, it’s faster to pop a really good meal in the microwave for 5 minutes.
 
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Thats a good way to save in groceries. thank you for the tips.
 
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