Monday, June 18, 2007

Saving Money at the Grocery Store, Part 3

I have a few final ideas about saving money at the grocery store. I’m just listing them by subject as that seems easiest.

Breakfast:
I’ve heard so many ladies say they can’t cook breakfast—they’re too rushed in the morning--so the children and husband have to start their day with cold cereal, which is not only expensive, but very unhealthy. I allow it once per week, on Saturday morning. I look for the cheapest one on the shelf—my limit is $1.50 for a standard sized box (one whole box will be consumed in one sitting at my house). If it is a treat and not a daily staple, then the children will take whatever they are offered. Personally, I do not believe that a cooked breakfast is a big deal to produce. I cook breakfast nearly every morning, and except when I have a newborn under six weeks or the absolute worst morning sickness, my husband gets a cooked breakfast everyday he works a day shift. That has been my practice since we were married almost 16 years ago. Even when I can’t get up due to nursing or nausea, I arrange something hot for him—toaster waffles or a plate he can heat in the microwave. I feel my husband and children are too important to me to shove a cold bowl at before they start their day. You can make lots of nice breakfasts the night before. If you do an internet search for make-ahead breakfast, you’ll get more than you’ll know what to do with.

Eggs are a good value as far as protein goes, especially if you are going light on meat to save money. They are also easy to cook. Our standard breakfast is scrambled eggs and toast with juice. I can make a big pan of scrambled eggs (I scramble 8 at a time for me and 5 little people), and 8 slices of toast in less than 5 minutes. Oatmeal is probably the cheapest choice for breakfast, but everyone I know has a definite limit as to how much of it they can tolerate. I have a hard time with the texture and can’t eat it very often. We usually have it with milk to drink, so it’s a complete protein. My children like applesauce spooned over the top.

Juice is outrageously priced. We have one glass (6-8 ounces) per day, usually at breakfast. Any more than that is really unnecessary as it is so high in sugar. Children (and adults) should be taught to drink water when thirsty and not require a flavored drink. That will lead to a soda habit later on. Whole fruit is much better for your body, anyway.

Lunch:
If I don’t have any leftovers, then I have a rotating schedule of lunches that the children and I eat everyday. My husband takes a lunch to work, but wants the same thing everyday. If I had to pack a school lunch for the children, I suppose I would make a rotating schedule for them, utilizing the least expensive things I could find. I think putting individual servings in small reusable containers would be cheaper than single-serving containers. Also making sandwiches from leftovers would be more economical than deli meat.

Milk:
Milk is unnecessary. There, I said it. Cow milk is meant for calves; people do not technically require cow milk to be healthy. There are tons of good (even better) sources of calcium. Broccoli is one. If you cannot afford milk, you shouldn’t feel bad—unless of course you can’t afford milk in order to buy cigarettes or something. Just investigate other good sources of calcium and work them in. If we have 2 8-ounce glasses per day (the recommended amount), this would be 1 and ¾ gallons per day. At $3 per gallon, that would be $36.75 per week in milk alone!! I cannot fathom spending that on a beverage. If you have milk, treat it as what it is—a protein source, not a beverage.

Baby items:

Formula: I nurse my babies for 6-12 months and wean them to milk in a soft spout cup, so I don’t have any advice here except WIC.

Diapers: Cloth are better for the environment as far as trash goes. Money-wise, take the cost of laundering them into account. I use disposable at present, at my husband’s request. He doesn’t want the extra wash water in the septic tank. I have used cloth in the past. I like cloth and would switch in a minute to save at the store. I buy Wal-Mart brand or Luv’s. They perform at an acceptable level and are not too expensive for me.

Diaper wipes: Unnecessary, but SO convenient! A big stack of white face cloths are very cheap at Wal-Mart or a similar store. Of course you have to treat them like cloth diapers as far as washing goes.

Baby food: Not needed. Mash table food with a fork, mix in milk or formula or whatever they are drinking at the time. A baby food mill can be found at thrift stores or fairly cheaply at a discount store like Wal-Mart. It is a real help, especially for meats.

Pet items:

Dog/cat food: I spent years buying an acceptable inexpensive cat food. I then read that a good quality food is a better value in the end. The reason: less waste. The animal requires a smaller serving of high quality food and uses more of it for nutrition. Consequently, they produce smaller, less-smelly piles of waste. I believe this. I switched to Iams cat food (dry). Our cat eats about 1/3 less of it than she did of the Wiskas we used to buy. She now only has one pile in her litter box daily. She used to have much more—and they smelled A LOT worse.

Cat box litter: I also spend more here to get better results. I buy the white crystals, which cost a bit more, but they cut the smell so well I don’t mind. Now that the cat goes less, the crystals last longer than they used to as well. I have to remind the children to stir the box daily, though, when they scoop it, to dry the urine.

Produce:

Buy fresh produce in season from local growers. I wrote about this here. If you can garden, do so. Even a tomato plant growing in a bucket will cut down what you have to buy. I can’t afford all fresh so I buy some frozen and canned as well. Frozen is preferable to canned, as it retains more of the health benefits of the food. I plan for fruit at one meal every day, as well as a glass of juice at breakfast, and at least 3 vegetables. I try to plan different colors everyday for health benefits. When planning a menu, I don’t count potatoes as a vegetable. I count them the same as bread.

Meat:

We are carnivores at my house. However, I try to have a “meatless Monday” on my dinner schedule, as well as a soup night and dried beans every week or so. My husband doesn’t like fish so much, but the children and I LOVE it, so we have it while he is at work. You have to investigate meat prices and cuts, so you know when you have a good price. I will not go above $2.39/lb for boneless, skinless chicken breasts. When I lived “down south” (in the lower 48), my limit was $1.99. Everything is more expensive here—except fresh salmon, but it’s not as cheap as you’d think unless you fish for it yourself or have generous neighbors.

We also eat wild game meat that my husband hunts and we process ourselves. Moose is delicious, as is caribou. I never cared much for the white-tailed deer we had in the mid-west, but if you have the opportunity and inclination, do try to supplement with game meat. Even just fishing a little in the summer will bring down the food bill.

Cook from scratch:

Most convenience foods can be reproduced with a little effort. I use thick white sauce instead of cream of whatever soup in casseroles. I also use white sauce with cheddar cheese in it over macaroni instead of boxed mac-n-cheese. Cookies are fun and very cheap to make (healthier than store bought, too). Ultimately, bread is better to make at home, too, but this is an advanced step for most people. Home made pancakes, biscuits, noodle and rice mixes, even my beloved cappuccino mix is cheaper than pre-made, processed packages from the store. Try just one item at a time if the idea of scratch cooking scares you.


I hope you are blessed by this information. I recently had to cut my grocery money by $10 per week, from $125 to $115. I did really well this first grocery trip, but am always looking for new ways to save. Please add your favorite grocery dollar savers in the comments, if you are so inclined.

Warm regards,

Shannon

2 tasteful comments:

Tanya said...

I liked your comment about the milk. I was just reading in book called WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW KNOW MAY BE KILLING YOU. He said that humans are the only species that continue to drink milk on into adulthood. I found this funny but true. Thanks for the blogging. Love your site.

http://reutersramblings.wordpress.com/

Vicki said...

I am new to this site and I am loving it! My tip for saving on groceries is to go the extra to buy those little 'shower-cap-style' food covers (they are washable and reusable) and save a ton on plastic wrap and sometimes on foil. I am finding out that reusable anything is freat for reducing my grocery bill. Thanks for all the savings.
Vicki