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How to Save Money on Groceries

 
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How to Save Money on Groceries

During these times, grocery store prices are going up so maybe now is a good time to find ways to save on groceries.

So how do we save money on groceries? Do you have some tips or suggestions?




Here are some ways that I use to save money:

I make a weekly menu before going to the store.  This is just a simple list of main course things like:

Meat loaf, chicken fried steak, spaghetti, swiss steak, etc.  These might change depending on the prices and availability of things on sale.

Planning ahead like this maybe the key to saving money. Also setting up a budget will help.  Something as simple as planning to spend $100.00 and not going over that amount.




Pick budget friendly meals.

Before going to the store check out what ingredients you already have.

Don't buy those bagged veggies.  Save money by buying the whole vegetable and prepping it yourself.

These are just a few things that I thought might help.  Do you have some tips to share?

Here are some suggestions for budget friendly meals:



Tuna with Mac and Cheese



Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup



Vegetable Soup made with Ground Meat

Here are some threads that might help:

https://permies.com/t/48146/Healthy-Home-Cooking-dollar-plate

https://permies.com/t/118912/Making-Food-Drinks-Cheap-Lazy

https://permies.com/t/33767/kitchen/Learning-love-cheap-cuts-meat

https://permies.com/t/60582

https://permies.com/t/134370/kitchen/Freezing-Portion-Sized-Meals

https://permies.com/t/103149/kitchen/History-Meatloaf-Ways-Eat


 
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Buy a small chest freezer so you can buy and freeze in bulk, and have "emergency meals" ready to go for the day when everyone is too tired to cook. This pays for itself almost instantly, and saves a fortune over time.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Get to know somebody who likes to sharpen kitchen knives. Preferably someone who will trade for jam or homemade wine. Dull knives are a significant barrier to home cooking, and cost you time and money.

If you can pull a bit of meat out of your chest freezer and start rhythmically chopping veggies you have on hand, a meal plan will present itself.

Late Addition: Especially if you pour a glass of wine and put on some Benny Goodman. That's a winning strategty around here.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Find a cool, dark spot in your abode where larger bags of veggies that keep can be stored. Onions. Potatoes. Cover with a highly breathable blanket if needed.

Then buy restaurant size bags of essentials that keep for a while. Split with a friend or a neighbour if you wish.

Consider yellow onions. Last year I bought a 50-lb bag. It saved me 75% on a foundational ingredient for home cooking. My DW thought I was nuts, and I had to keep turning them a little to keep airflow and pluck out any that had been dinged by mechanical handling, but there was practically no waste.

Recognize that  you're paying a fortune for handling and packaging) when you buy in small volumes.
 
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I second the meal pan and buying staples in bulk.
Although that was difficult for a while, it just happened that when I was due to buy more rice and soap it was all gone.
I also buy my herbs and spices online from a bulk retailer which is a lot cheaper and uses a lot less packaging than those tiny supermarket boxes.  
We cook a lot of curries though so they don't have a chance to get old.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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[Aside: folks, kindly pardon the spelling errors in my  posts above. It seems I need a microscope to read the micro font in the full reply window. Darn it anyway.]
 
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Make a list and stick to it. But if you turn up at the shop and they have a load of X that you don't need today marked down to clear take it, but only take it if it is something you would normally buy.

Echoing earlier comments, a large freezer or at least as large as you can fit/afford. old ones are often free if you pick them up and even a big 400L chest is not particularly heavy to lift in and out of a trailer (well I say this we threw out a 1970's freezer that must have been 100kg!)

Always have some convenience meals in the house, doesn't matter if it's home made or a few frozen pizzas. just something you can throw in the microwave/oven and call dinner.

Shop every 2-3 weeks each trip to the supermarket is another chance for those clever marketing people to get you to buy extra.

Once you get going keep an eye out for offers, hubby loves a specific brand of remoulade it's horribly expensive at 30DKK ($4.6) a bottle, so whenever it goes on sale at 10DKK we buy 2-3 bottles (It only keeps a few months) we virtually never buy it or Mayo or any other expensive condiment full price.

If you are looking for spices it is (here at least) much cheaper to go to an ethnic store and buy them there, same price for a packet but 10x the size. I've also found that the quality is better.
 
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When I was 18, someone gave me a copy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette as a joke; little did they know it was one of the best gifts I've ever received.  In the book, the author talks about her "pantry principle," which is basically track prices and stock up when something's cheap and store it wherever you have room (like in closets or under beds, literally anywhere).  This is how I learned about grocery store loss-leaders (hot sale items the store sells at or below cost to get you into the store).  Most stores in my area don't operate on this model anymore, having switched to an "earn points for a gas discount or a free turkey/ ham/ whatever" model, but there's still one that does.  So whenever there's a sale on something I would use, I buy as many as they allow and keep it in the pantry or freezer.  My mom is a coffee and laundry detergent hoarder; those two things come around on super sale ever 2-4 months.  When blueberries are in season they sell them for like $5 for a flat of 6 pints.  Around Thanksgiving they do 5lbs of sweet potatoes for $1.50- $2.50 (depends on the year).  When meat goes on sale, we buy a lot and freeze or can it.  There's kind of a pattern to a lot of it, either on a cycle of every few months or special for a holiday.  I mean, all this stuff is crap industrial food, so it's not a strategy that works for purists.  

I always check the clearance and discount rack and look in every aisle for discontinued items.  One time I got like 6 or 7 tins of Twinings loose leaf tea for $1 each, normally $5 (discontinued because the packaging changed).  Ten+ years later and I'm down to my last tin (and honestly it tastes fine, I'm no connoisseur).  

We also go to the local farm stands and buy baskets of seconds when they look good.  Lots of times I can get baskets of wrinkly peppers or bruised fruit for like $1.  Every 2-3 years we buy 100 ears of corn for like $22 (which is pretty cheap for around here) and spend a day processing it to freeze.  A lot of the produce around here is still more expensive than canned or frozen vegetables from the grocery store, though.  

My mom won't eat venison, so we don't pick up roadkill, but my neighbors do.  That's a big savings on meat for them.

I live close enough to Amish country that it pays us to take a day trip a few times a year to go to the bulk food store and stop at roadside stands on the way home.  The one I go to (Echo Hill Country Store in Fleetwood, PA) has a lot of organic and hard-to-find stuff, in smaller quantities and cheaper than I could buy online.
 
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Skandi Rogers wrote:If you turn up at the shop and they have a load of X that you don't need today marked down to clear take it, but only take it if it is something you would normally buy.



I hew to an opposite philosophy.  In normal times (not during the pandemic, when all my household's shopping is curbside pickup only after online ordering) I haunt the distressed produce rack, the expired containers bin, and I look all over the store for half-off clearance pricing on about-to-expire items.  Not only do I get entertaining luxuries that way, like fancy jams and jellies that cost no more than the cheap stuff I normally buy, but if there are ten pounds of produce that will be moldy in two days, I'll take it home and cook it or preserve it.  At least a third of my big cooking projects (where I make food I can eat for a week) are inspired by some huge load of produce I bought for next to nothing.  It's not so much "would I buy this anyway" as "can I think of a way to prepare this cheap food resource in a way that I'll eat?"

 
Dan Boone
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General money-saving grocery tips:  

1) Eat a lot of legumes, pasta, grains, and frozen vegetables.  All of these cost roughly a dollar a pound if you shop carefully and don't insist on "organic".  A pound of legumes will cook up to feed 4-6 people, depending on how hungry they are.  

2) Watch the "expensive" pain points in your food budget and do something about them.  I have taken to making and pressure canning vegetable stocks because others in my household like to buy them at $3.00 a quart and I have lots of uses for them too.  

3) Cook one-pot meals, as large as your biggest pot will allow.  Store the extra in single-serving or one-meal quantities in your fridge and freezer.  Don't let them go to waste: eat what you store.  Being willing to eat the same noodles or beans half a dozen times in the same week is important here.
 
Skandi Rogers
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Dan Boone wrote:

Skandi Rogers wrote:If you turn up at the shop and they have a load of X that you don't need today marked down to clear take it, but only take it if it is something you would normally buy.



I hew to an opposite philosophy.  In normal times (not during the pandemic, when all my household's shopping is curbside pickup only after online ordering) I haunt the distressed produce rack, the expired containers bin, and I look all over the store for half-off clearance pricing on about-to-expire items.  Not only do I get entertaining luxuries that way, like fancy jams and jellies that cost no more than the cheap stuff I normally buy, but if there are ten pounds of produce that will be moldy in two days, I'll take it home and cook it or preserve it.  At least a third of my big cooking projects (where I make food I can eat for a week) are inspired by some huge load of produce I bought for next to nothing.  It's not so much "would I buy this anyway" as "can I think of a way to prepare this cheap food resource in a way that I'll eat?"



Unfortunately they don't really discount short date/damaged things here, they started some "reduce food waste" shops in Copenhagen.. so they ship it all down there to sell and get brownie points with the green lobby. Those of us who live in the poor outskirts of the country have to pay full price.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Skandi Rogers wrote:[Unfortunately they don't really discount short date/damaged things here, they started some "reduce food waste" shops in Copenhagen.. so they ship it all down there to sell and get brownie points with the green lobby. Those of us who live in the poor outskirts of the country have to pay full price.


Perhaps you could chat with the store manager or the produce section manager? I find that they often have some discretion in these matters. If they ship it Thursday morning and you stop by every Wednesday evening, they may not mind helping you out. It never hurts to ask.
 
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I'm in the same boat as Dan; When I go shopping I've looked at the flyer, so I know what's a really good price (that I will use) and I'll stock up.  Other than that, I never go in with an idea of what to buy.  I just look for great deals and expiring stuff.  Frozen veggies can be much, much cheaper than fresh, expiring bacon is always a winner and they'll blow stuff out if it's discontinued.  

I used to shop at farmer's markets almost every week.  I'd haggle and I bought enough over the years as a regular to get better deals.  The best, though, was to show up at 1-1:30 when they closed at 2.  The meat was always packed back up, but produce would be dirt cheap.  18 lbs of grapes for $5, a box of mangos for $3-5, etc.  I'd also ask if they had anything not good enough for humans but fine for my animals and I'd get lots.

If you went just after 2, there was always a pile of produce that didn't sell.  I could get that for free but there were some people who needed it more, so I'd leave it and go pick up the dregs of the dregs later for the chickens.

I buy large quantities when things are on sale, especially if they're not perishable.  I try to buy TP when it's 66% off, once or twice a year.  3 or 4 years ago they were selling women's pads for 75% off and they were the ones my daughter uses.  I say 'uses' because she's still got some left.  Maybe a little overboard, but 75% savings for 4 years, lol.  Storage is my issue now.

A couple of years ago I had one of my daughter's friends move in as he wasn't in a good spot.  He was 23 and I took him shopping.  I was stunned that I had to explain cost/unit to him.  No one had ever taught him how to save money when shopping and it's one of the most useful life skills.  
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Timothy Markus wrote:I was stunned that I had to explain cost/unit to him.  No one had ever taught him how to save money when shopping and it's one of the most useful life skills.  


Argh! Totally agree. Good save, Timothy.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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S Tonin wrote:When I was 18, someone gave me a copy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette as a joke; little did they know it was one of the best gifts I've ever received.


Hahah, we are well met: I have a very well thumbed copy of the Tightwad Gazette II. The best of the three books, I think. She is a good writer, and I still enjoy reading the thoughtful, philosophical mini-essays that are sprinkled through the book.  
 
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:
Perhaps you could chat with the store manager or the produce section manager?  


that gave me a little laugh, not because it's not a good idea, but because none of the shops are big enough to have a produce section manager! I kind of miss "real" supermarkets it gets old having to shop in 4 shops every time to get everything one wants.  never mind that means four shops full of junk to navigate.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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LOL, no worries, it's really about working your way up the food chain (as it were) to find a helpful manager with the power to bend the rules a little.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Tacking back to the OP:

I have been trying to bulk up the plant protein quotient of all meals. If there isn't a ton of protein, I'm hungry again in an hour. I'm an omnivore, but meat is comparatively spendy, and using it as a flavouring instead of the core, sort of a 50/50 method, is a great (and painless) way to save money. Chickpeas work with everything.

Western Canada is one of the top producers of chickpeas and lentils in the world; but we export it all overseas. Granted, it is produced through industrial farming methods which have issues, but still it's insane that we don't eat what we grow.
 
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I try to stay away from carbs as much as possible, so that makes it harder to eat for cheap.  I think it's going to cost me about $3.00/lb for quail, probably the same for chicken, and I'm guessing $4/lb for the ducks.  I'm raising all of these.  I've raised rabbit before, purchasing all the feed, and they came out to about $2/lb.  I also got all the guts for free.  Cheapest way to get great meat, if you can do it.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Rabbit is on my radar as a protein source. I have the land and grazing space for it. My knowledge is incomplete, and I know it. I see rabbit-eers (is that a thing?) in my area who supply restaurants, and those are the folks I want to connect with. Nothing beats local experience.
 
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If I were trying to raise animals for food on the cheap,  I would choose chickens, but only because I could probably source all of their food from waste streams.

My local Kroger's doesn't cut meat on site anymore,and when they have bones available,  they cost as much as actual meat.
I'm hoping a real old school butcher might have cheap bones for stock.
 
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A good friend of ours keeps chickens and rabbits, and says that when it comes to time plus labour in processing terms, rabbit meat wins hands down. Given how easily we grow grass here, and since our chickens eat plenty of it, I'm thinking that we could add rabbits into the blend and it would cut the amount of time spent dressing on butchering days.
 
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I find that saving money is directly related to how much time you invest in the processes of shopping, prep, storage, and cooking.

Keeping track of what's available (types of stores, types of sales, types of discount rack things) and forward planning can help you catch good prices and also avoid waste. We rotate between 3 stores (greenmarket/butcher, normal grocery, large bulk buying store like Costco) and keep a good eye on what we have in order to draw down before buying again. The stores all have sales flyers so I can plan ahead. I also only have a car once a week now, so I've gotten pretty good about not forgetting things.
I never used to menu plan until the pandemic left me with a pantry full of weird things, now I enjoy it. Menu planning is complicated, since I also take into account my work schedule (how much time I'll have to cook) and the weather (soup night, or warming up the house with the oven). But I'm enjoying it and I plan to keep on doing it.

For the record, I'm with Douglas. Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey.... a little music in the kitchen makes the food better.
 
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So many good ideas here. I will add a couple. In line with the bulk buying, knowing how to process and store the extras helps a lot. I also buy onion in large bags, like 50 pounds. Typically, I will turn about half of them into caramelized onions which I freeze in large 1/2 cup ice cube trays, then pop them out and store in bags. Some are left to use fresh. Sometimes I can some, although these need to be used fairly quickly as they can turn to mush. And sometimes I pickle some.

I always buy red bell peppers at Costco, so much cheaper. I use a couple fresh and then slice the rest up and freeze them. No need to blanch or anything.

Also, knowing what function an ingredient serves allows substitutions for what you have, like beer is often added to a recipe to provide some bitterness, coffee is a good substitution, or vice versa, depending what you are likely to have.
 
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Stacy Witscher wrote:

Also, knowing what function an ingredient serves allows substitutions for what you have, like beer is often added to a recipe to provide some bitterness, coffee is a good substitution, or vice versa, depending what you are likely to have.



I agree. As an adjunct to your statement, I think that expanding your range of cooking skills is an excellent way to save money; once you master more cooking techniques, you can squeeze more variety and taste out of even the simplest ingredients. Starting with traditional French cooking is honestly a good way to go. People tend to think "fancy-schmancy" when they hear the words "French cooking," but traditional French cooking a la Julia Child is basically the result of centuries of peasant cooking experience, perfected. How many things can you do to a cheap yellow onion? Ask a French country cook! It's basically all about process; French onion soup is the prime example. It's just onions and beef stock and butter, but if you don't know how to follow the right process, it won't be French onion soup.

This is not to mention expanding into canning, fermenting, etc.. I'm just getting into fermenting now, and knowing I can make some sort of awesome sauce or pickle causes me to jump on more of those good bulk deals on veggies.
 
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L Allen wrote:

Stacy Witscher wrote:
French onion soup is the prime example. It's just onions and beef stock and butter, but if you don't know how to follow the right process, it won't be French onion soup.



I've got one of Julia Child's cookbooks, which I got when I was in university.  The first thing I made from it was French onion soup.  Took 3 days, start to finish from making beef stock to the soup, but it was absolutely the best FO soup I've ever had.

 
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:Tacking back to the OP:

I have been trying to bulk up the plant protein quotient of all meals. If there isn't a ton of protein, I'm hungry again in an hour. I'm an omnivore, but meat is comparatively spendy, and using it as a flavouring instead of the core, sort of a 50/50 method, is a great (and painless) way to save money. Chickpeas work with everything.

Western Canada is one of the top producers of chickpeas and lentils in the world; but we export it all overseas. Granted, it is produced through industrial farming methods which have issues, but still it's insane that we don't eat what we grow.



Here are some of my thoughts on buying in bulk:

https://permies.com/t/93304/kitchen/Stocked-Food-Storage-Pantry#768610

Buying bulk plant protein for my family would be pinto beans. The problem with storing bulk pinto beans is that they get hard or tough which makes cooking take a lot longer.  And then they still might be crunchy.

What I have found helped is to use the Food Saver to seal the air out.  I recently tried an experiment to put the Food Saver sealed beans in the freezer.  If you can store seeds in the freezer then why not beans?

Canning bulk beans is also a great way do store them.  Here are some of my thoughts on Canning:

https://permies.com/t/93304/kitchen/Stocked-Food-Storage-Pantry

Thanks everyone for making this a great topic!  
 
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I just lightly read through here. One cost I did not see addressed is the cost of freezer space.  To pick easy target, consider how many pounds of hamburger can be stored in the same amount of freezer space as a family sized frozen lasagna dinner.
 
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:Buy a small chest freezer so you can buy and freeze in bulk, and have "emergency meals" ready to go for the day when everyone is too tired to cook. This pays for itself almost instantly, and saves a fortune over time.



We did this and it’s been wonderful. We always cook large batches for just the two of us, and we portion out a few individual servings and pop then in the freezer. When we have those meals we never grab fast food or a pizza, it’s faster to pop a really good meal in the microwave for 5 minutes.
 
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Thats a good way to save in groceries. thank you for the tips.
 
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A few more:

It's not a bargain if they won't eat it.  Learned that the hard way with a huge discount on ground turkey.  It ended up being dog food.

Corollary: It's worth the extra quarter to satisfy a picky eater.  My husband will only eat French's mustard; I've tried to fool him with less expensive brands, but it never works.

Healthier foods can be cheaper in the long run.  Grass-fed beef vs. grain-fed.  Or eating better to stave off disease.

If your SO takes lunches to work, dish them out from the night's dinner FIRST; otherwise, in our house, everything will get eaten just because it's there.

Designate a day: It wasn't until I was well into adulthood that I realized there's no such thing as "Candy Day."  Growing up, we were allowed to buy and eat candy on Saturdays only.  I thought that was a normal thing.  Likewise, Dessert Day was for Sunday dinner.
 
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Every household is different, and now it seems that even within one household different eaters bring different preferences/ethics/restrictions to the table that a cook is expected to accommodate.  

So I'd start by looking at my trash, and asking some questions.   What am I throwing out?  If it's lots of packaging, then I know that money I need for nutrition is being spent on disposables.  I'd ask myself if there was a way to obtain or create that particular comestible such that I was actually getting food someone would eat, rather than inedible cardboard, glass, or plastic.

I'd ask myself whether it's absolutely necessary for that person to continue eating that item with that frequency or consistency, just to keep the peace - or whether I could find recipes for home-made alternatives that might actually become new favorites.  Maybe even learnable - so that person could prepare food for themselves should I disappear.   Now that we're all at home, we might even make some good memories in the kitchen together making a big batch of granola or oatmeal "breakfast cookies."

If I saw lots of take-out containers in my trash, I'd look closely at whether they are empty or have scraps.  YUCK!!! You'll say.  Well then, take a look before they go into the trash.  But if eating "out" is a big part of your life (and it is for most Americans), think about how to order food that will come with component parts you can use for another meal.  Just as home cooks often deliberately prepare meals that will produce leftovers, you can accomplish the same result when you order from a menu or get delivery.  A simple example: Half a serving of mashed potatoes can become a wonderful soup combined with the broccoli that Johnny wouldn't touch and some grated cheddar cheese, all stirred up with milk and a cube of chicken bullion.  Vegetables of any sort - and yes, even French Fries, can be chopped and combined into a filling for omelettes.   With a little practice, you'll find that you can harvest lots of useful flavorings and spices too.  Chop those bits of pickled ginger that come with sushi into little bits - They add great flavor to any simple salad dressing or veggie dip.  I use scissors to snip those decorative strips of Nori into cabbage slaws - so good!  Ideally, the only thing you'll have left is that ornamental plastic grass.

You get the idea.  I know we're trained to think about food only as passive consumers, thinking only in terms of what we can spend - not what we've been given and the abundance all around us.
 We can change that.  Cooking and eating can be active manifestations of our creativity, our generosity, and our instinct for gratitude.
 

 
John F Dean
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We have reduced our grocery shopping to once a month.  That greatly reduces impulse buying.  We shop off of a planned menu, that doesn't mean we never fix a meal by impulse, it does mean we have less waste because we have a plan to use things before they go bad. In general, the costs of our shopping trips have been cut in half.
 
pollinator
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Elva Alice Hunter wrote:
So I'd start by looking at my trash, and asking some questions.  


That is a clever approach.
Here in Germany we have two separate bins for packaging and for other residues. While the mixed residues is usually very little (bin emptied every two weeks) there is still a good deal to improve with the packaging (emptied every two weeks as well).

I try to reduce packaging. We almost don't buy prepared meals (only in an emergency) and never buy take-out but there are still the containers of canned tomatoes, potato chips (I feel guilty) and similar. I try to compensate by buying as much simple produce as possible, e.g. potatoes in a sack from the roadside box, loose veggies I bag myself into a reusable mesh bag in the grocery section, flour, oats and sugar in paper bags, barilla pasta that comes in a cardboard box with only a tiny foil window etc. I try to buy milk, cream and vanilla yoghurt in deposit bottles and make my own plain yoghurt or sour cream with those bottled ingredients.
I also compensate by baking all our bread, especially the sandwich bread produced about two plastic bags a week.

Same with cookies, cakes, beverages and similar: If it comes prepackaged it is less sustainable, more pricey and probably less healthy. It is easy enough to prepare those in batches and have them at home for snacking.
 
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Great topic. It is almost impossible to spend less than $100 each trip.
My tip would be to purchase spices in the bulk section. Depending on the store of course as some cost more in the bulk. But there are a few stores that have superb spices and you can fill a 4oz bag for a great price. So I start with massive amounts of spices and set up my own containers of choice.

Secondly, bulk beans, flours, can goods to last you a month or more means less trips to the store and more cost efficient.

Lastly,  eat more plants. I followed a plant based meal plan for a long time and not only did I feel amazing, I would only spend $50 to $60 a trip! Amazingly tasty foods, healthy and affordable.

Bonus tips. Make as much of your own foods as possible from scratch. Broth, bread, crackers, juice, jams, etc. Obviously many of you talented people already do this!
 
pollinator
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Watch for seasonal sales.  Here in the US somethings are always on sale at certain times of year.  
I get winter squashes in October store them in my basement and eat them all winter.  Butternut Squash is my favorite to stock up on.  
Other examples include frozen turkeys in November, baking supplies in December, cabbage in mid March, eggs around Easter  and so on.  
Other stuff goes on cyclical sales and if you track prices you can buy at the low points.  

I prefer to get cuts of meat with the bone in.  That way I have a steady supply of bones for bone broth.  I use bone broths in my cooking all the time.  It is great for slow cooking of tougher cuts of meat, soups, gravy, and cooking rice in.  It add a lot of flavor for very little additional cost.   I put the bones in the freezer till I have enough to make a large batch.  I pressure can or freeze it in meal sized portions.  

Save the fat!  I save the bacon fat and other animal fats from cooking to use later.  This is amazing stuff if you can get it from pasture raised animals.  It saves me money, I use a little more of the animal and I need less, butter and coconut oil.

Grow sprouts herbs, and baby greens indoors.  I do this in the winter when the garden is frozen solid and covered in snow.  Sprouts are surprisingly easy to grow and can be done in the smallest of apartments.   I already have seedling trays, potting mix ,lights and shelving for growing seedlings so growing baby greens in the off season is easy.  I will also grow sunflower shoots for my laying hens.  Potted herbs are an easy one to grow and use. I cringe at the price of "fresh" herbs in the stores.

Buy whole spices in bulk and grind your own seasoning mixes as needed.  So many spices overlap in seasoning mixes that you can buy the whole seed of a fairly short list and be able to add easy to grow herbs to create most meals.  I buy peppercorns, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamon, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, dill, celery, cloves, allspice, anise all in seed from small specialty stores or order online in bulk.   This selection with a bunch of dried hot peppers and a growing assortment of culinary herbs from my garden makes low cost foods taste amazing.  I use an inexpensive coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle to grind what I need.  This saves money,  whole spices keep longer, and saves precious space in my small kitchen.    

I batch cook and left overs are always divided up into serving sizes and frozen.  This saves time and keeps us in easy heat and eat meals when we are busy or I am not feeling well.

Learning to can, dehydrate, blanch, freeze, and ferment foods also allows you to take advantage of good sales, free produce from from people you know, and foraged foods.  I canned 6 quarts of pear pie filling from pears a friend gave us.  I also have 3 gallons of autumn berries in my freezer to can into pie filling and barbecue sauce. We also have wild black raspberries in my freezer to can up that we picked this summer.  All of that produce was free to us other than labor.  

Batch cook with your friends. When my friends and I were broke in our early to mid 20's we used to have dinner partied where you brought the ingredients for a dish to the party and we all cooked together.  It was fun, low cost, and I learned so much about cooking since my fiends were from all over the US and the world.
These days one friend of mine and I will  get together and batch cook something like chili, soup, or jam.  We both have tiny farms and her husband hunts.  We will pool our ingredients spend half a day cooking and chatting.  We split the finished meals and save some money while we are at it.  Meals to be cooked are decided based on who has what ingredients on what free and or low cost ingredients we each have.  










 
Skandi Rogers
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In September we did a no pre prepared foods month. it cut the food bill in half. Most of that saving was no takeaway, but also no cold meats. Those open danish sandwiches? well that is a standard lunch here and they use a lot of toppings, twice as much as a double sided sandwich (obviously!) they are sold in little packs of 90-100g (3-3.5oz) and cost 10-20dkk. ($1.5-$3) for two people you need a pack a day and that soon adds up. a loaf of rye bread costs 20- ($3) but a kg of rye flour is 7 ($1) and makes two loaves of bread, white bread costs about the same and the flour is even cheaper. yeast is very cheap (15c for a 50g block of fresh yeast) so making bread even after adding in electricity is much cheaper than buying it.  Other places we saved are on made products, like sausage horns, frozen pizza, tomato ketchup, snacks etc. instead of buying them I made them.

So for us cutting out buying all prepared foods including bread/cold meat/convenience foods/condiments halved the food bill it did at least triple the time spent in the kitchen to begin with, and you really do need to stock the freezer with some home made junk food for those days when you just cannot be bothered. but it most certainly worked for us.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Never go shopping when you're hungry!

This is a winning rule for me. If it's late in the afternoon and I'm starving, all sorts of stuff starts falling into my cart. You'd think it was magnetized.

If I'm hitting the wall, and don't have food in the car, I will first stop at a fast food joint (the horror!) and invest in a $2 snack burger to take the edge off.

That $2 will save me $20-40 in silly purchases. That's, what, a 1000-2000% return on investment in under two hours. Beat that, stock market!
 
pollinator
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One general technique which applies to all spending, not just spending on food, can be to track it.  With groceries you might decide what sort of categories to break it down into, at least roughly speaking.  For years I would do a break down into eating out, general groceries, and junk food.  This was mostly to see just how much I was spending on junk food and restaurants.  Then using my "real hourly wage" I'd evaluate how much of my life I was working to pay for these things and decide if I was getting fulfillment equal to the cost.  If I wasn't then it was really easy to painlessly stop doing it.  The main point was to become aware.

Some categories you might consider seeing what you are spending in might be meat, heavily processed foods/ready made meals, basic fruits/vegetables/grains, and restaurant meals.  

For myself I have gone to a pretty much whole food plant based diet.  I find I spend less on groceries, though I when buying fruits and vegetables I usually shop for what is on sale/in season.  However, even before buying food I am trying hard to readjust my thinking to first "shop" around my homestead, utilizing whatever is growing in the gardens or can be wild foraged.  That will be the best, most nutritious, and cheapest food.  However, there is still a strong ingrained habit to regularly go shopping for groceries even when I don't really need to.  Then I feel the need to eat that food I bought before it goes bad, thinking the stuff in the gardens/yard can wait because it hasn't been picked yet.  Repeat with another round of ingrained shopping and what seems to happen is that I end up missing the harvest season on things because I'm always trying to eat that purchased food going bad.
 
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I don't have much time to buy in bulk, prepare them for freezing/canning or chase prices. I follow mostly what is said before, never buy precooked stuff and so on. What made a huge difference on my budget is to learn new recipes. At first it was completely unintentional, I am trying to get on a better diet. There are many recipes that will fill you up with minimum number of ingredients. You don't need everything in a market to cook. Simple-cooking, as I call it, is cheaper, way faster and -I think- healthier. Search for recipes of the world cuisine that have 5 or less main ingredients. Or try to simplify your recipes.
Couple of examples might be,
Chılbır, boiled eggs (boiled without shell) put on yogurt with garlic
Pumpkin desert, cut pumpkins into pieces pour on some sugar and put it into the owen. If you have ginger, you can add some.
Mushroom casserole. Cut mushrooms into two or three, add some chopped pepper, butter, tomatoes if you have any, salt oil etc and straight to owen.
Flapjack with honey, just recently shared by way out west blow-in blog YouTube channel.
You can make hundred different of meals by salad, egg, rice or pasta being the main ingredient. Fried chicken with salad, menemen and so on.
You can find many simple recipes for carnivorous diet too. Grilled heart (cut in leaves) for example. Heart goes cheap here compared to other parts of the animal.
Freezer always helps if you have time. Fish is seasonal in Istanbul. You can buy wild fish when it is cheap - also meaning it is its season. Cut bonito into two longitudinally -like fillet- but with bones and skin. Put some tomato sauce, oregano and salt, straight to owen.
Sorry for any typos
 
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