Lots to say on this. Ideally I would grow all my own produce, make everything from scratch, awake before dawn every day to make fresh bread....HA! I have a full time job. I have kids. I want my sanity. Although I completely admire people who do these, it is just not in the cards at our house. However, I have put together a list of tips that work for me.
What if you do not already have a set grocery budget?
If you do not already have a food budget, I recommend you track ALL your spending on food (including eating out) for a few months. Just keep all the receipts. Then sit down, go through them carefully and look to see where you should be cutting costs. Even if you have a set budget, it never hurts to review. I try to track our spending for three months every year just to analyze what I am spending the most money on, where I can still cut back, etc. Of course you have to consider seasonal expenses, etc. but it is a good place to start.
OK - Tips...
1. NEVER go to the store without a list (plan ahead).
You don't need to plan your weekly menu down to the finest detail, but if you do not have a list you could come home with a lot more than you actually need. Or less, which will just mean additional trips and additional spending on gas and food.
2. Read the flyers. Every week.
Even if you are not going to the store - this will help you know where the best prices are, but you will also learn in time what the rotation of sales on specific items tend to be at specific stores. This really helps with items such as cheese, fresh chicken, laundry detergent, and fabric softener.
3. Shop once a month, plus once a week.
What? How does that make sense? Do one big shop a month for any pantry items, meats (use your freezer) and household goods you might need. After this, shop once a week (or less as needed) for fresh produce and dairy products, and bread if you do not make your own.
4. Make as much as possible from scratch.
You know what your time is like. Figure out what you can do. I love homemade spaghetti sauce - I just make a couple big batches in the summer and it lasts the whole year. I do a fair bit of canning and freezing during the summer as well. But I do splurge now and then on pre-made pie crusts. Like I said, you know your time vs. money ratio so figure out what works best for you. But I say this - pre-made bread products (bread, muffins etc) are so much cheaper to make yourself.
5. Make ahead and freeze as much as possible.
More on this in a future post.
6. Limit or avoid cold cereal.
I know some of them are good and very tempting but hot cereals are much cheaper and often healthier (hello oatmeal!!).
7. Buy in bulk - but only if you will use it before it expires.
Buying lots of stuff that goes to waste is waste of money and resources.
Speaking of food - dinner is boiling over on the stove and my son is yelling for me so......Part 2 will be coming later.