Four Ways to Lower Your Grocery Bill
On average, American’s spend $151/week on food. My family’s food budget averages about $120/week for 2 adults, 1 toddler, and 1 baby.
Before I dive into 4 ways we keep this amount in check, it’s worth mentioning our eating “habits” (I don’t like to use the word “diet” because that implies a temporary state). 2 1/2 years ago we decided to fade out our meat consumption and focus instead on whole, plant-based foods. We love meat, it was the main component of our meals and we eased into this change by adding bacon to just about every “vegetarian” meal. Motivated by the undeniable fact that we felt much better, we stuck with it and within a year had ceased to buy meat. Exceptions were holidays, the occasional “lazy week” of grabbing some precooked meat (chicken/kielbasa/hotdogs), and eating out. Our protein now comes from a variety of beans and grains like quinoa. We focus on consuming fruit, veggies, whole wheat grains/pasta, nuts, legumes, etc. We strive to first buy local, then natural (not certified organic but similar practices), then certified organic, then non-organic. Organic may be expensive, but meat added up really fast too, and sometimes I feel like our new eating habits are cheaper on average.
Whether your eating habits are similar to ours, or the complete opposite, you can try out one or all of these tips.
Four Ways to Lower Your Grocery Bill
1) Meal Plan.
If you do nothing else, do this. Meal planning saves me from impulse buying items, especially if I shop when myself (or the kids) are hungry. Here’s how it works: Pick a day each week to buy groceries, for me this is Thursdays. Look up enough recipes to get you through the week to the next shopping day. For 2 adults, a toddler, and a baby, I typically pick 4 dinner meals, and assume 3 days of left overs. I love websites like Oh My Veggies that show you their weekly meal plan. Sites like that can be a great source for quickly finding recipe ideas. I put all the ingredients into the shopping app “Out of Milk” so I have a shopping list that I won’t lose because I always keep my cellphone on me. “Out of Milk” can also be synced with other phones in case you need to send a list to your spouse to grab on their way home. For me it’s simple: If I don’t meal plan, I blow the food budget, every time.
2) Make Your Own Sandwich Bread.
Between the kids lunches, and packing my hubby’s lunch, we go through A LOT of sandwich bread. It’s easy to spend $5/loaf here, especially if you want whole grain and healthier. Then there’s the concern of high fructose cornsyrup and preservatives in the bread. By making my own bread, loaves cost us about $2.oo and I understand all the ingredients and its delicious! **Full disclaimer: If I didn’t have our KitchenAid mixer with the dough-hook attachment, I might not be so keen to make my own. A mixer makes it SO EASY. Here is my current favorite recipe for Soft 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. Follow the detailed directions with lots of pictures. Don’t add more than the recommended flour (even if still a little sticky) and it should come out great! Since it make’s 2 loaves, you can wrap one in two layers cling wrap, two layers of aluminum foil and freeze for 4-6 weeks. Tastes like it was just baked when thawed! *Lately I’ve been trying to sub the oil or healthier butter. Will update when I’ve perfected it!
3) Don’t Buy Snacks.
Nothing will drive my food bill up faster than snack foods (think cookies and sweets). I’m not saying don’t eat snacks and sweets, just avoid buying them. If you get a sweet craving when home, MAKE your own cookies/brownies/cupcakes/etc yourself. Not only is making them yourself cheaper and probably healthier (no preservatives), but I find that having to make them myself, results in eating less sweets overall. If there are cookies in the pantry I’ll sneak them all day long. If they aren’t there I’m more likely to procrastinate making a batch for several days. Plus baking is a great fun activity to do with kids!
4) Buy in Bulk.
A no-brainer right? Everyone can assume that buying in bulk will save you money in the long run, but WHERE do you buy in bulk? After several months of research here is our source list I’ve complied. We live in Maryland so you may find some items on this list specific to East-Coasters. Also, we don’t get enough from wholesale membership stores like Costco to justify buying a membership, so we find a friend that has a membership and tag along with them to the store 1-2X a year and make a giant purchase.
|WHAT||PRODUCED BY||QUANTITY||PRICE PER POUND OR EACH||NOTES|
|Natural Almonds (IPM etc practices but not certified organic)||Briden Wilson Farm. www.HomeGrownAlmonds.com||25lbs||In 2014, we paid $6.15/lb. I believe it's $7.15/lb in 2015.||Freeze in gallon bags in a chest freezer. Lasted us one year. Uses included making almond butter and almond milk.|
|Organic Walnuts||Haag Farm. www.walnuts.us||10lbs||$8.43/lb||Freeze in gallon bags in chest freezer. Lasted us 6 months. Use in homemade granola and baking.|
|Organic Valencia Peanuts-Raw & shelled||Purcell Mountain Farms. www.PurcellMountainFarms.com||10lbs||$5.10/lb||For health reasons we prefer Valencia over standard peanuts. Freeze in chest freezer. Use to make peanut butter and trailmix.|
|Maple Syrup||Ben's Sugar Shack. www.bens-maple-syrup.com||1 gallon||$59.95/gal||I divide into smaller containers like glass quart jars or older syrup jugs and store in fridge or freezer.|
|Organic Cranberries (fresh or frozen)||Fresh Meadows Farm. www.FreshMeadowsCranberries.com||15lbs||$3.90/lb||I bought frozen and keep in chest freezer. Makes great cranberry juice that I canned. Delicious in baking too (like yummy breakfast scones!)|
|Unrefined Sea Salt||Celtic Sea Salt (light grey, course)- ordered on Amazon.com||5lbs||$5.05/lb||We chose this for health reasons over commercial salt. Can easily be ground for table salt too.|
|Organic Quinoa||Costcos-"Nature's Intent"|
Mom's Organic Market-"Arrowhead Mills"
|Honey||Buy local! Often found in health stores or at farm stands.||12lb glass jugs||$3.56/lb at our local store|
|Local produce (in season):||Local farm stands, PYO farms, etc||Often sold by 1/2 or full bushel.||Discounts often given for the more pounds you buy. Ex-we've paid $0.79/lb for 30lbs of tomatoes. $12 for 32 red peppers. $10 for 24lbs of apples.||Can or freeze these to have in the off-season (future post about this!)|
|Onions||Costco (or other wholesale stores)||10lb bags||$0.53/lb||Organic isn't necessary with onions and garlic. They naturally ward off pests.|
|Organic canned tomato sauce||Costco-Kirland Brand||12, 15oz cans||$0.67/can|
|Organic canned tomato paste||Costco-Kirland Brand||12, 6oz cans||$0.56/can|
|Organic canned diced tomatoes||Costco-Kirland Brand||8, 14.5oz cans||$0.75/can|
|Organic Short Brown Rice||Mom's Organic Market (a health food store). "Lunberg" rice.||25/lbs ((Ask your local store if they will sell larger amounts than what's on-shelf))||$1.80/lb||Store in cool/dry place. We use 5 gal buckets.|
|Organic Oat Groats||Mom's Organic Market (a health food store).||50/lbs ((Ask your local store if they will sell larger amounts than what's on-shelf))||$1.26/lb||We store in 5gal buckets and use for steal cut oats.|
|Unrefined Coconut Oil||Aldi's Stores-"Simply Nature"|
|We buy Unrefined for health reasons.|
|Butter||Buy Local||Ask local dairy farm if they will sell larger quantities to you for cheaper cost.||We buy in 8lb blocks at $3.50lb||Divide into 1lb chunks, wrap and freeze in chest freezer until needed.|
|Dry Beans-Kidney, White, Pinto, Garbanzo, Black||Commercial Grocery Store Brand ("Giant" brand for us).|
Also at Aldi's
|1-2lb bags.||$1.00/lb when on sale.||We watch for sales and then buy a ton. Store in a dry place. Since dry beans are washed and cooked several times we aren't as concerned with them being organic.|