Frugal Shopping: Tips for Cutting Your Grocery Bill, Part II

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      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

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Budget101 Discussion List Archives Budget101 Discussion List Frugal Shopping: Tips for Cutting Your Grocery Bill, Part II