Over the last few months, I have been able to reduce our monthly grocery bill by about $400. I have to admit, at first, it was not intentional. I just wanted to make meals more simple. Here are some things that helped me:
Stick with Whole Foods
If you are not able to raise any of your own foods at home and/or you do not have access to a food co-op, then it’s still possible to feed your family with food choices that are better than others. For example, the best way to stay with whole foods is to shop along the perimeter of the store, in other words, stay close to the wall. At my local grocery store, the wall takes me to the produce, cheese, meat, and dairy sections. Internally, I may buy canned fish, 100% Grape Juice (for kefir), paper products, pinto beans, safflower oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, etc.. Granted, this is not my ideal (which could be a different blog entirely…), but, it suits the place in life that we are in right now. There is always room for growth!
Bulk Foods Worth Buying
For items that are not sold at the grocery store, I buy a lot of items in bulk from the internet (and a food co-op if there is one where we are living at the time). Some of the online purchases I have made include:
50 lbs. dried fruit (un-sulphered apricots, apples, peaches, plums, etc.)
Bulk nuts (e.g. – almonds)
50 lbs. wheat berries, spelt, millet, oatmeal, or buckwheat
Bulk Rice (e.g. – Lundberg Brand Brown Basmati Rice)
1/4 or 1/2 of a grass-fed, all natural cow
Pastured chicken meat
Pastured lamb meat
Keep a Master Shopping List
I used to spend about 1/2 hour each week making a new schedule of what we were going to eat each week. I still had a master schedule with the majority of items that I bought frequently. I would just highlight the items I needed that week. My meals tended to be elaborate and each requiring ingredients that were specific to that meal only. One week I might need: basil, feta, sundried tomatoes and capers. The next, I might need: cilantro, fish sauce, peanuts, hoisin sauce, etc.. The open bottles would then sit in my refrigerator until I felt “inspired” to use them again, thus wasting hundreds of dollars over time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for good food! But when you have four children four and under, it’s not the time to make a cover dish for Bon Appetite, if you know what I mean.
I considered making a meal schedule that repeated itself according to the day of the week, but every mother I met that did this ate really boring foods that were mostly from a box or can, and definitely not healthy. However, I was eventually able to make a weekly, reoccurring menu to everyone’s liking. After a close evaluation of what we liked as a family, I was able to make a list of foods such as grilled chicken thighs with grilled vegetables and potatoes, whole wheat pizza (that can be frozen) for Sundays, and a host of other meals that we liked. Now, I have one shopping list (I just cross off items that I don’t need), and meals are easier to make.
Bigger Quantities / Less Items
Instead of buying five different fruits each week, pick one or two and buy a few pounds more (we go through about 6 pounds of fruit per week, plus bananas). This will also cut down your shopping time! I look for what’s on sale. Right now, it’s apples, pears, and clementines/oranges. Instead of five different carbohydrates, I might use potatoes for four different meals (e.g. – garlic-mashed, baked french fries, hash browns, and baked). I know…I know….potatoes cause cancer when cooked at high temps…I’m not convinced yet, though. Look at the Irish! Also, I try to keep my vegetables simple: leaf lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, and a few others. I have found that I waste much less buying this way. Plus, nothing is bought on a whim, thus decreasing the possibility that it will just sit on my shelves.
Hope that helps, and please let me know if you have any questions or comments.