Since so many moms are trying to cut costs in order to live on one income and stay home with their kids, I felt it would be appropriate to share some tips for how to cut your grocery bill. This is an area where most people can realize huge savings without compromising the quality of their lives.
Your budget will probably be very different from mine, unless you also have a big family, but the principles behind saving on your grocery bill are the same. I shop and cook for a family of 9, plus guests and my mother on most weekends. Our monthly food bill is about $450, and has been about that for the last year. This is less than half of what most families our size spend. (Before I started buying farm fresh milk and eggs, it was reliably $400 monthly, but adding these into our diets has pushed up the costs.) So you won’t need to spend that much since you won’t need as much food as us.
I’ve heard the complaint that to be healthy, you need to spend a lot of money. And sometimes, it does seem like that. Yes, there are lots of costly options, but there are also lots of affordable options. And affordable options don’t mean that we have to limit ourselves to oatmeal everyday for breakfast, and beans and rice for all other meals to stay within a budget.
Since there are so many things to share, I’m going to spread out my points into separate posts to keep this easy to read for you! Firstly, as I said in my post about menu planning, I make almost everything from scratch. Not only is it cheaper, it’s lots tastier and healthier to boot. Many moms will insist that it takes them time they don’t have and they are willing to pay for the convenience. I think we too often underestimate how much we spend for conveniences to save ourselves time, and overestimate how much time it would take to make something from scratch.
Today I took a son out for pizza (he redeemed one of his coupons from the holidays) and he commented how much money people waste on eating out. I explained to him that there’s a benefit to eating out, and the more someone else does to your food, the more expensive it gets. The example I gave him was pizza: we make our own pizza, which means we make the dough, the sauce, and then we sprinkle the cheese on. That’s the cheapest option (and my kids think it’s also the yummiest – and they like that they can eat much more than I would let them buy if we went out!). The next option would be to buy a ready made pizza crust and pizza sauce, slightly more expensive still would be the frozen prepared pizza, and most expensive is fresh pizza at the pizza shop. Is there a huge qualitative difference in what you are eating? Not usually. So what accounts for the cost difference? How much work someone else has done to get the food in edible form to you! The more you are willing to do, the more you can enjoy wholesome and tasty meals at a fraction of the cost it would be to purchase them, and it doesn’t take nearly as long as most people would assume.
Tonight a neighbor stopped by to borrow a can of chickpeas. I’m really glad I could help her out, since this is something that I happened to buy at a really excellent price, but generally, I don’t have things like this in my pantry. Why not? I don’t need to pay someone else to soak a handful of beans and then cook them for me. How much time does making your own chick peas or beans take? It takes about a minute to fill a pot with water, throw in the peas/beans, and let them soak. After a few hours, rinse them, fill the pot with fresh water, and let them cook on low for a few hours while you’re doing other things at home. Total hands on prep time? Maybe 3 minutes. But you’ve easily saved 50% or more on your expenses.
Multiply the above technique a number of times in a week, and you are starting to save some serious money. Take an honest look at all the things you buy ready made: sauces, pie crusts, cookies and cakes, granola, etc. I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy anything ready made, but look at what the price of convenience is for you. Don’t forget to factor in the time you spend going to and from the store to buy all of this stuff, because that adds up, too. Cut out bakery goods as much as possible. It’s cheaper to buy a cake mix, and cheaper still to bake from scratch. But if you like the convenience of a cake mix and would like to enjoy the savings advantage of cooking from scratch, consider spending 15 – 20 minutes making up a number of batches of your own mixes and store them in separate labelled ziploc bags until you’re ready to bake.
To get you started, here’s a recipe for Dark Rick Chocolate Cake Mix (makes one 9×13 pan):
1 c. white flour (I use white whole wheat flour)
2/3 c. whole wheat flour (again, I prefer white whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 c. sugar (I use sucanat)
3/4 c. cocoa
1/4 c. dry milk powder/rice milk powder
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 T. instant coffee
Measure all the above ingredients directly into a gallon sized ziploc bag.
When you’re ready to prepare it, mix together:
one pkg of your mix
2 c. water
1/2 c. oil
Put it in a greased 9 x 13 pan, and bake at 35 – 40 minutes.