When I was growing up saving on groceries meant cheap, dented, tasteless food that my mother would gather from grocery store for pennies. And while she was able to “feed” the three of us for $15 a week at one point, often times our food was thrown away or choked down in misery! In her defense she was a working mom with two jobs and didnt have the time or the internet to help inspire her. And I did learn a lot about where to shop and how to save from my mother. When I had a family of my own to care for I really wanted to bless them with wholesome nourishing and delicious foods at home. At first I spent twice as much as I do now per person and used a lot of prepackaged ingredients. We ate well, but as our family grew our budget was not able to sustain that kind of menu. So necessity was the mother of invention, I needed to stretch what we ate with out sacrificing nourishment.
Now before I plan my menu and write down my shopping list I score the internet for frugal inspiration. Last week I stumbled upon Ben and Me and the 5 P’s of Grocery Savings and was totally vindicated in our weekly use of Popcorn, Pasta, Homemade Pancakes, Potatoes and Homemade Pizza! I was so inspired I posted it on Facebook in which someone piped in about a blogspot post in the making. There are 5 things that consistently aid us in a frugalish grocery budget..
Plan.. Of course that is the first thing you hear when people talk of grocery savings, make a plan.. But Im saying stick to the plan! I plan every detail of what my family will eat in a course of a week, from snacks to sides. It helps me to use what we have. It also helps that I have an
arsenal of meals that we regularly eat so that I can take advantage of sales. I plan breakfasts and lunches the same every weekday. Oatmeal for breakfast and leftovers or soup and sandwich for lunch. Week nights all have a theme as well. Monday is Stew, Tuesday Casseroles, Wednesday Bean dish, Thursday Pasta, Friday Pizza, Saturday Fish or Meat dish, Sunday Roast. Sides are mainly the same as well. I have 4 to five recipes for each category and I rotate them or keep the ingredients stocked at all time. They all have the same basic items in them and I just need to change up something to prepare each one. Like Pasta night I have spaghetti, homemade mac and cheese, Bacon Cheddar Ranch Pasta, and Goulash as my recipes. Spaghetti and Goulash use different pasta but the same sauce seasoned differently. The other two dishes use cheddar cheese, cream cheese and milk with different shaped pasta and spices. The sides are always Salad or bread. Is planning scary? There are LOTS of free menu plans with shopping lists available on the internet to get you started. There are also some great menu plans for a small fee.
Prepare. Another great tip I learned from other meal planners is to prepare in advance your foods. Can you chop all your veggies for the week when you get home? Can you cook extra beef or beans and freeze ahead? Can you make crockpot freezer meals after you get home from the store? What about using a 10# can of tomato sauce and make several nights worth of Spaghetti sauce to freeze for a quick goulash or old fashioned spaghetti. I like to survey the kitchen being sure we have enough tea and homemade bread for the next day, and pull out any meat for the next day while Im at it. Sometimes the best I can do is to think about lunch and dinner after breakfast and get them started either in the crockpot or thawing. Thats where my plan comes in handy. Im not searching for a food idea this way. I look at the plan and prepare what I need for that meal.
. Make a purposeful plan for leftovers. Often times when I make chili I will quadruple the recipe and save two portions for meals like Frito Chili pie, Chili dogs, or serve over baked potatoes for a baked potato bar. When I make my giant batch of spaghetti sauce I remove a two cup portion and season it for pizza sauce or if the portion is small enough I will puree and use for Pizza sauce. And of course there’s always the Rubber Chicken
idea (or in our case two or three chickens). Another way to have purposeful leftovers is to freeze the entire meal TV dinner style for work lunches or a TV dinner night. When you brown ground beef cook twice as much as you need and freeze the rest. The same can be done with beans, make double or triple the dry beans you need and freeze in two cup portions for adding to recipes. Beans are a HUGE money saver and can be added to any dish with meat to stretch it. Black beans to beef and white beans to chicken. Try making a few meals a week with Beans as the main dish, like Lentil Tacos or Black Bean burgers. Yum.
Pot Luck. We have lots of Pot Luck meals at our house to use up those leftovers. Saving up all those one or two serving dishes, heat them up and have a Pot luck style meal where everyone gets to sample all or pick and choose what they love. This is a great way to see what is a favorite dish or what recipe needs to be recycled.
. Learn to cook a few dishes really well. Be picky about your ingredients and dont settle for a box mix. Have you ever had homemade hamburger helper? Or a homemade biscut or cake? You will be amazed at how easy these recipes are and what a rip off tasteless prepackaged foods are. Also, when you have learned to cook foods your family enjoys the temptation to splurge on eating out is nearly gone. Lots of times we will eat somewhere and everyone will enjoy a dish so I will find a way to make it at home. My homemade version is usually better and the next time we eat out we are disappointed. When I was growing up my Mother was an awful cook, (its okay, she knew it) and when finances werent as tight, we ate out all the time! I used to struggle with the desire to eat out because the food was just better, but when I learned to cook delicious meals for my family I am just not interested in eating somewhere else. Though I would love to skip the clean up!
And a few thoughts on Pizza, Popcorn, Potatoes, Pancakes and Pasta.. Pizza is a great place to throw leftover veggies and use Low Moisture cheese, learned that one the hard way. Another way to do pizza is rolled out jelly roll style, stuffed with cheese and meats and cut into swirls before baking. Dip these pizza rolls in pizza sauce for a different spin. We also have made our own stuffed crust! YUM! We buy Popcorn in huge bags from Sams Club. But keep it in the freezer. We love to make “hash” from potato, sweet potato, squash, apples, onion, garlic, peppers and sausage or franks. Potatoes also are in all our casseroles, soups, and are often a side in our meals, we use both white and sweet. Pancakes can be so fun! We have made them from oats, cornmeal, whole grain, apple, banana, chocolate and gluten free. These are great to freeze for another night. If your glueten free a pancake makes a great bread substitute for sandwiches and wraps and so forth. And Pasta, we buy in bulk at Sams or Costco and make our own sauces in stead of the jar or canned versions. Much less expensive.