Thursday, September 4, 2008
The Frugal Foodie
If you know me, you know that I love an amazing bargain...on anything. I want to find the best deal on everything I purchase and that comes to groceries too. I'm sort of a goal-oriented person and in July I decided to set a crazy goal for my grocery budget that month: $275 for a family of five and that includes diapers and toiletries. A few disclaimers: we were gone for about a week of July (but that still leaves 25 days) and my kids do not yet eat tons of food. I am not a coupon nut (I simply don't have the time) and I do not go to 5 different grocery stores shopping sales. I do clip some coupons and I use them from time to time but that is not how I have saved a lot of money. What's my secret? A bit of planning, using what we have, preparing inexpensive meals, and shopping at a dive of a grocery store once a month.
It's no secret; planning menus in advance saves us money, time, and stress. I am not known for being a good planner but it's really not tough to write a week or two's worth of meals on a dry-erase board. Second, shop your pantry, freezer, and fridge. What do you have? Got a random can of pumpkin? Look on the internet to find a recipe for pumpkin muffins using stuff you have. My kids love those for breakfast and snacks. Just this evening, I spied a few gnats hovering around 6 very ripe bananas. I mustered up the energy to throw together a double batch of banana oat muffins. (I always have flour, sugar, eggs, oil, etc. on hand so it's a no-brainer.) Now my kids will have yummy and hearty muffins when they wake up in the morning. Got a can of tuna and a bag of egg noodles you've had for a year? Presto! You've got tuna noodle casserole for dinner. Have 2 cups of Bisquick in the cupboard? Have breakfast tonight. What kid doesn't love pancakes for supper? I serve mine with some turkey bacon and fruit and you have a well-balanced meal. One of my favorite web-sites is supercook.com. You type in any ingredients you may have in your house and it spits out recipes for you. How cool is that? I have made many a new meal during lean times with rogue canned items, a bag of pinto beans, and the internet. Look at it as being resourceful and creative!
Third, don't you just love those fancy grocery stores with bakeries, a cafe, calculators on the shopping carts? I do. But I never shop at those. My grocery haunts are Wal-Mart, Aldi, and a salvage grocery warehouse 25 minutes away that has ridiculous prices. On my last visit I got cans of chickpeas for 10 cents, canned pumpkin 4 for $1.00, and boxes of power bars for 99 cents. (Just to name a few of my bargains.) It's sort of hit or miss. You never know exactly what they'll have but if you don't mind being flexible and making meals around the bargains you find, it's great. This place is full of dented cans, health food items that the Kroger in Paducah, Kentucky just didn't have the clientele for, and Hunts spaghetti sauce with Spanish labels. For me it's a grand adventure and sort of a treasure hunt. I realize that not everyone is down with shopping that way but I sort of enjoy the "cultural experience" of it all. Oh and they play this hysterical old-time-religion gospel music really loud while you shop. It's a riot. I've attached a picture from my latest trip...two carts of groceries (all that you see here) for just $118.
Well, I didn't hit $275 but I did spend less than $300...and I still had a lot of things left that took me into August. Plus, my sweet hubby had been given a $25 Starbucks gift card at work (that he didn't tell me about) so he saved it and surprised me with it as my reward at the end of the month. I slurped that gift card down in about 8 days...so sad.
Stay tuned for my next post where I'll share recipes and talk about what I actually feed my family.