I’ve come a long way in my adult life when it comes to managing my grocery budget. When I first moved out on my own I would fill my fridge with food that I thought I would eat and it would inevitably go bad and I would end up throwing away. It was like throwing my money in the trash, just because I didn’t cook/eat the food in time. Compared to back then, I look like a hyper organized kitchen queen. Follow the rules or OFF WITH THEIR HEAD. OK maybe that’s a little extreme. I can be flexible too!
I hate waste, we live in a world were we are consumers. And while this is good for the economy on a whole it is bad for the individual and their wallet. I rarely throw food away, unless there is a meal disaster that just tastes awful. Everyone burns dinner once in a while, nobody is perfect.
The following is a compilation of all the things that I’ve learned in my adult life. Some are not revolutionary or even new ideas but they are still good and will help you reach your financial goals by reducing your spending.
1. Make a Plan – A meal plan that is! Start by taking your week and write out all of the meals that you plan on having. I write this out and post it on my fridge so that my family knows what the plan is. It’s perfectly acceptable to put ‘Frozen Pizza’ or ‘Leftovers’ always check what you have on hand and make an effort to shop your pantry and freezer before you go to the store.
2. Make a List – Nothing derails a shopping trip faster than not going in prepared. You already know what you want to make for the week and have checked to see what you have on hand, so you should know what you need. Make a list and stick to it!
3. Shop at Discount Grocery Stores – There are many grocery stores out there that are designed to save you money. Why not take advantage of them? I’m talking about the Aldis and the Pricerites.
4. No Processed Foods – We were in the habit for a while of buying those premade frozen dinners. We would justify the purchase by saying “A $5 pizza is cheaper than one from a restaurant” And while this is true it’s also much more expensive than cooking from scratch. You can make a pizza from scratch for $1.26! It’s true I did it last week.
5. Eat Your Leftovers – Make it your goal to eat all of the food that you cook. The easiest way that I found to do this is to freeze anything that won’t be consumed in a week and to have your leftover dinners for lunch the next day. You can also remake your dinner foods into something new for another night such as: Leftover taco meat becomes nachos, left over chicken goes into a pot pie or chicken soup.
6. Deals on Meat – This is the only area where I would say it’s OK to deviate from your grocery list. Sometimes there are crazy good deals on raw meat that is near or on it’s expiration date. I got some whole chickens for $0.79 per lb. I bought 3 of them and would have bought more if I had a bigger freezer.
7. Use Your Freezer – Any time I get a good deal on meat I separate it into meal size portions for cooking later. Make sure to take an inventory of what is in the freezer at least twice a month so that it’s up to date when you make your meal plan for the week. If you want to save your self some time during the week cook your food ahead of time. Portion them into bags with enough meat for 1 meal. Most meats, soups, rice and beans will freeze really well.
8. Stretch Your Protein – Skillet dishes are a great way to make your meat last. Add veggies and/or beans to add flavor and to bulk up your meal.
9. Go Meatless – There is a lot of reference to “Meatless Mondays” out on the internet. Your meatless meals can be as simple as rice and beans or as intricate as an eggplant curry.
10. Take the Tightwad Challenge – If you love competition and challenge based games. This challenge helps you reevaluate the way you grocery shop. Join me in the comments as I up date you on my own progress.