The first thing I do each week is to plan the meals for the entire week and shop accordingly. Of course I watch the specials in the papers and see what is on sale at a particular time. I always write up the menus and check the cabinets and see what is on hand and write out the grocery list for the things we will need for the week. I rarely use convenience food and often shop at a large store like Sam;s to get large packages of a particular food that can be used several times. I try always to have leftovers on hand to make for lunchs, snacks or second meals. We don't all alwyas eat at the same time, so leftovers are very prized at our house. And some leftovers are used to make a different meal entirely. I love to get fresh if possible, but sometimes the frozen vegetables are just as good and at a much cheaper price. Some frozen fruits are this way also. When buying meats for lunchs I try to buy something that can be used in various ways. For example, a precooked large turkey breast from Sam's can be sliced and put into a sandwich, a low carb pita, or low carb tortilla. Or it can be cubed to toss onto a salad, or cut into sticks for finger food along with sticks of cheese that can be eaten on a drive to work or across town for a meeting when there isn't time to stop for lunch At another time when whole chickens go on sale, is the perfect time to get a couple to roast at one time. One can be eaten at one meal and one can be deboned and chopped for a casserole on another day. The whole point in planning ahead is to watch how much money you spend and try to not have to keep going back to the store for this and that. The more trips you make, the more impulse buying a person will do. In our house, whoever is tired of something in particular, has the chance to offer or propose a different food. With eveyone's input, we actually have some great meals and are able to cut corners on more expensive options. The staples at our house are eggs, peanut butter, yogurt, vegetables in various forms and some fruits, cheeses and meats in various forms. And ground flax seed is a constant in the diets for all of us. I buy one loaf of 12 grain bread about every 3 or 4 weeks. I bake sugar free sweets that are definitely low carb friendly and also make my own recipe for "granola" bars. All of us get things we like to eat and still stay within our special diet range. But the big thing we do is plan and try never to impulse buy. unless it is something that we can immediately see letting us get several meals out of it., and it has to be a good deal or on sale. This is the way we manage things for us. Maybe someone else has a better way to do things. I would love to see how others manage.
With 6 kids? I decided to plant a few veggies around my yard to help a bit.
Trips to local farmers markets toward the end of the day provides some slightly bruised, still useable veggies and fruit:) Buy one get one free on meat at local grocery stores help.
Also, Check online for a possible local "food Coop" Here is one: http://www.angelfoodministries.com/
It is a great help for us.
This is not exactly comment related, but I've had a problem with this for a while, now. Everyone talks about how obese USA citizens are, how obesity is rising, etc. Yet, look at the prices of things! A loaf of regular, white bread is 89 cents; yet, a loaf of high fiber bread with half the slices is $3 something! Hamburger and mac n cheese are inexpensive, yet fresh vegetables and fruits are so much more expensive! If there's going to be a real change in the obesity levels, someone HAS to do something about changing this!
There have been lots of great tips posted. I do a combination of bulk buying and cooking, usually refered to on online sites as once a month cooking (oamc), investment cooking etc. Check out http://www.menus4moms.com/bulk/index.php for a lot of ideas.
If you haven't heard of OAMC before, it's basically cooking 2 or more weeks worth of meals at a time, packaging and freezing them. I use software on my computer called "Mastercook". It helps me to buy exactly what I need, no more, no less. Sometimes I'll cook several weeks worth of meals up on a weekend (about 16 recipes, done in bulk), or I'll do a triple or quadruple batch of two or more meals per week. That way the freezer always has a variety.
The savings come from buying sale items in bulk, in buying exactly what you need (rather than food going bad in the fridge), and portion control. You're less apt to order take out or eat store bought frozen entrees (usually high in salt and/or fat), you have portion control, and you're eating home cooking.
On nights that we heat up an entree from the freezer, we cook up some converted long grain rice or whole grain pasta, or baby potatoes, throw together a quick tossed salad, and voila, dinner is ready.
I also use the slowcooker at least once a week. Cheap cuts of meat cook up incredibly tender and delicious using a slow cooker. It's also the best way, in my opinion, of cooking beans, soups and stews. I've posted a few recipes on my blog for the slowcooker.
I buy dry beans rather than canned: the same dollar will get me either one pound of beans-with-water, or one pound of dry beans that will cook up to four or five pounds.
I have multiple supermarkets within walking or bicycling distance; this and Internet-based specials flyers make it easy to compare prices, and purchase at whichever store has the best specials.
Supermarkets in the "bad neighborhoods" have gotten a bad rap for no/poor fruits and veggies and inflated prices, but those that cater to specific ethnic groups may have unusual cuts of meat at very good prices; also, you can cut around the bad parts of veggies and use the good parts, and pay a lot less.
Whole birds can be used multiple times: after the meat has been carved off the carcass, the carcass can be stewed in water to get off the last pieces of meat, veggies added, and you have what is sometimes called "Brunswick Stew".
Buy what is seasonal; it is usually cheaper. If it is something that freezes well, buy extra and freeze it for when it's out of season.
Portion control. Weigh everything. Measure everything. It sounds stingy, but if the money isn't there to overconsume, paying attention to portions can make the same amount of food last longer.
I joined a food co-op and bulk buy staples once a month. Also, occasionally I will come across a co-op and will buy an 1/8 of beef straight from the farmer and they generally supply sausage, chickens and eggs too. It is expensive initially, but then you spend less during the month, and if you are picky, you can find organic grass fed beef for less than supermarket prices. It also lasts a long time in the freezer. I buy bread for the family on a weekly basis, unless I have time to make it, and pick up whatever is cheapest at the supermarket. So our menus are generally dictated by which vegetables and fruits are on sale!
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