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04-06-2005, 12:19 PM #1spiritgirl34Guest
Frugal Shopping: Tips for Cutting Your Grocery Bill, Part II
Frugal Shopping: Tips for Cutting Your Grocery Bill, Part II
By Kim Tilley
16. Maintain a healthy weight -- once you begin eating better and
dropping some pounds, you will notice you tend to eat less. This
saves money and your health. Not only that, if you maintain a
comfortable weight, your clothes will fit and you won't have to buy
bigger ones, not to mention all the great deals to be found at yard
sales where people sell their "skinny" clothes.
17. Substitute (or eliminate) expensive ingredients for less
expnesive ones -- Does the recipe have to be made with the expensive
item? Can a cheaper version be found and taste just as good? Can you
eliminate the ingredient all together? I have found no taste
difference between real vanilla extract and imitation. When we have a
fancy Christmas get together and want to serve a seafood platter, we
serve imitation crab instead of shrimp. It is cheaper, still tastes
wonderful, and keeps for much longer than shrimp. If I buy the crab
meat when Cub Foods deli is having a sale, I can get it for around
1.49 a pound (reg $2.50), that beats $8-$18 a pound for shrimp any
day. The same can be said for many expensive ingredients: look for
alternatives and substitutes.
18. Can't substitute? Then cut down on expensive ingredients -- If
you just can't live without that certain something in your recipe,
try cutting the amount in half and see how it tastes. Keep cutting
down the amount until the recipe starts to suffer, then add a little
back in, until it tastes the way you like. You may be surprised at
how little you actually need.
19. Grow herbs yourself -- Still want to use bundles of fresh herbs
in your famous pasta sauce but hate the price? Plant some! Herbs are
so easy to grow and so useful. Many are perennial: sage, oregano,
lavender (yes you can use it in cooking), mint, lemon balm, chives,
the list is extensive. Biannuals will reseed themselves if you let
them go to seed, these include: basil, parsley, dill, nasturtium,
pansies (great in salads as decoration). Even saffron ($16 a pound!)
can be grown at home. Saffron comes from the saffron crocus, a bulb
plant, which blooms in fall. Plant some in the spring and you will
have one of the world's most expensive seasonings at your fingertips
for very little money.
20. Gardening -- Growing a few herbs may give you the courage to grow
a full-fledged vegetable garden. Or you may want to try edible
landscaping - putting plants in your landscape that give you food
too, like fruit trees, berry bushes, etc. The best books I have read
on gardening come from Elliot Coleman. He is a market gardener who
grows food organically. He hosts a TV show on The Learning Channel
called "Gardening Naturally". Check out books from the library, read
a few gardening magazines and pick some gardening friends' brains.
The most important advice: have fun and grow food that you actually
eat. I have grown a few "cool" foods that went to waste because the
family wouldn't eat them and I didn't know what to do with them.
There are many cookbooks on using garden harvests, so check those out
too. Many are arranged seasonally so you can take advantage of what
is fresh and abundant (even if you don't garden, these are handy).
For more gardening information, check out our favorite gardening
21. Canning and Drying -- As you become more accomplished both in
cooking and gardening, you may want to can those special sauces,
pickles, and jellies for even more savings. There are many excellent
food preserving books in the library and bookstores s well as online.
Don't have time to can or is it too hot? You can freeze some things,
like berries, to make into jellies and sauces later on, when the
weather is cooler and you have more time.
22. Shop Alternative sources for food - Get creative and keep your
eyes open. Check out the farmer's markets, food co-ops, farm co-ops,
undamaged freight stores, restaurant and baking supply companies,
wholesalers, roadside stands, health food stores, etc. Don't forget
to ask about grocery store "seconds" those foods that may be slightly
damaged and not quite perfect enough to sell at full price. Check out
grower's seconds, as well as drops from fruit orchards. There are
always cheaper alternatives, just keep looking and asking.
23. Buy and use in season veggies and fruit --They are usually
fresher and cheaper. When tomatoes are in season, make lots of tomato
sauce and can it, and plan to eat lots of BLTs. Make strawberry
shortcake when strawberries are at their best and cheapest, usually
in June and July. Cook with more root vegetables in winter, when they
are at their best and summer veggies are out of season. Check out
seasonal cookbooks at the library for more ideas.
24. Learn the sales pattern -- This is best done using your price
book. Not only are there better seasons to buy some veggies than
others, but meats and other food staples tend to go on sale according
to season, holiday, and what store you are shopping at. Hams are
usually on sale around Easter and Thanksgiving, turkeys are always on
sale in November and December. Learn the sales patterns of your
favorite stores and stock up.
25. Try store brand and generics -- As with substituting cheaper
things for the expensive, try lower cost items. Keep going down in
price until you notice a change in the quality, then move back to the
next brand/item up. You may discover that most brands are created
equal and some generics are pretty good too. Some basics, like sugar
and flour, really don't change from brand to brand, so go with the
lowest price and/or what is on sale.
26. Use coupons and rebates occasionally -- I only use coupons and
rebates if I like and buy the item regularly, and I can't get the
item at a lower price by using store/generic brands. Sam's club
sometimes has some very good refunds on items I use, such as
disposable diapers (theirs are cheaper than most stores and good
quality). Another refund I look forward to are the underwear refunds
around back to school time. Usually there are coupons and refunds for
the undies at the same time. So use discretion, don't go nuts on
coupons and rebates. Your price book will be a great help in
determining whether a coupon is really a good deal or not.
27. Free Food Sources -- Yes, there is such a thing as free food!
Here in Illinois, we go mushrooming in the spring at my mother in
laws' farm. We pick bags and bags of morelles (store price: $16 a
pound)! We also go berry picking. The trick to any kind of wild food
foraging is that you absolutely MUST know what you are picking, no
guessing. Free food is not worth it if it makes you sick or poisons
Some other alternatives: extra produce from relatives', friends'
neighbors' gardens, fruit trees in your yard, or picked from with
permission if they are in someone else's yard. You may be surprised
at what you get if you just ask. Check out the WIC program if you are
pregnant, nursing or have kids under 5, this is an excellent source
of free foods (milk, juice, eggs, cereal, peanut butter) for those
who need it most. Also check out local charity programs, such
as "ShareFood", where you do a little bit of work and get a bag of
groceries for $13. There are no income restrictions and the food
varies, but some of my friends have tried it and liked it very much,
especially the volunteer work.
Also consider bartering. Perhaps you could mow your elderly
neighbor's lawn in exchange for a bushel of apples. Get creative.
28. Menu Planning -- Build your meal plans around: A) what you
already have and B) what is on sale. You could also plan around what
is in your garden and in season locally. Use all of the methods here
to plan a loosely constructed menu plan. I try to think of many
different ways to use what I have so I won't spend too much, but I
can't seem to keep to a strict menu. We eat everything I cook and
improvise with leftovers. So try it out, but be flexible.
29. Once a month cooking -- Ok, it doesn't have to be once a month,
it could be once a week or twice a month, or just bulk cooking. The
secret is to make every cooking session count, this way you are not
only saving money, but time as well. For more information, check out
the invaluable book Frozen Assets: Cook for Day, Eat for a Month!
(click for full review and ordering info.)
30. Keep it simple -- You don't have to give up gourmet foods, but
keep your daily meals simple. Don't feel like you have to make "five-
star" restaurant meals every night -- make them special. Here in the
Midwest, the cuisine is very simple, much to my dismay (I LOVE
gourmet foods). I find my husband and kids are happiest when I make
the simple, humble meals, instead of fancy spreads, and I find that I
am more relaxed. I compromise by making up some wonderful, gourmet
foods for myself, freezing the dishes in one person portions and
eating them at lunch. I can have all my favorites and no one turns
their nose up. The best of both worlds