Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Saving Money: Groceries

I am challenging myself to lower our grocery budget by 25% in 2013.  This wasn’t necessarily a New Years resolution, but a way to save money so we can pay off our mortgage in 24 months.

In the past, I set a budget of anywhere from $200-250/month for groceries depending on how much meat we needed to purchase or if we were having company over.  There are just two of us, and this budget was doable without much hassle.  I like to spice things up when things get comfortable so why not challenge ourselves.

Our new grocery budget for 2013 is $187.50 or $62.50/month less than what we are accustomed to.  I am confident we can live off of this amount of money for our grocery budget without too much of a change in the way we eat.  This is what we have done and are going to continue to do to lower our grocery budget.

Grow a Garden and Preserve its Abundance
It goes without saying that growing your own food is one way to lower the grocery budget.  We have two established gardens which will require no additional expense other than planting seeds and patiently waiting for its provisions.

Starting a garden can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you make it.  In years past, we put a substantial amount of money into creating our garden spaces.  Luckily, it was a one-time investment and we are ready to start planting our garden(s) with no additional expense but a lot of sweat and labor.

We have a water bath canning system as well as a pressure canner (my new toy!) so I will be able to preserve whatever we are not able to eat and put it up in the pantry to eat throughout the rest of the year.   

Decrease Consumption of Processed Foods
Very few items in our home are processed.  We like to make our own meals from scratch and for the most part, stay away from processed foods.      

Limit Grains & Dairy
Todd and I try to eat a Paleo-type diet which is gluten, dairy and sugar-free.  That being said, we seldom purchase flour, rice, pasta, sugar, milk or other dairy products.  We try to keep our way of eating simple so as not to require the more expensive alternatives out there such as almond/coconut milk, almond/coconut flour, agave nectar and other gluten/dairy/sugar-free items.  Our meals include some form of protein and a lot of fruits and vegetables.

Buy Sale Items in Bulk and Preserve
Oh how I love a good sale.  I am known to go a little overboard with sale food items: meat and produce alike.  Now that I have a pressure canner, I can put those great sales on meat to good use by canning the meat for future use or to make our own heat and serve stews and soups.

When we buy from local farms (pick-your-own farms or produce stands), we try to buy enough to last us several months.  There is nothing like opening a jar of strawberry jam in February which was preserved the previous year.

We purchase 3-4 bushels of deer apples a year for $3/bushel (a bushel is approximately 45 lbs) at an orchard near my father’s house.  Deer apples are apples which have fallen to the ground.  Some people have a problem purchasing fallen fruit; however, the majority of the fruit is perfectly fine.  The damaged or bad fruit is fed to the chickens and they love it!  With this fruit, I am able to make applesauce in crock pots and can enough to last us the entire year as well as give some away as gifts.  I also make apple pie in a jar with these apples and it comes out perfect each and every time.  You really cannot beat it for $0.07/lb which is why I will continue to purchase deer apples each fall.

Meatless Meals
Once in a while, we like to eat meatless meals such as 3 bean chili, black bean burgers, loaded baked potatoes or a large salad.  Dried beans (and even canned beans) are very inexpensive to purchase versus meat and they keep our bellies full for an extended period of time. 

Shop Amish Salvage/Thrift Grocery Stores
In Northeast Ohio, we have a lot of Amish.  A few months back, I learned about Amish “dent and salvage” stores which are grocery stores in the heart of Amish country offering dented canned food items at a steep discount or food items coming close to their expiration dates. 

Todd and I try to visit these stores once every quarter.  It is incredible what can be purchased for less than $50.  It is enough to stock up our pantry (and then some) for very little cost. 

Simply put, we drink a lot of water.  When we have company, we try to purchase their beverage of choice: some like tea, others like Pepsi, and when there are kiddos around, we get juice or flavored water.  Fruit juice is a thing of the past for us.  One thing my husband is addicted to is tomato juice, which can be expensive; however, he has learned to make it himself using tomato puree from a can for a fraction of the cost.

As with everything in life, little savings (and expenses) here and there add up.  We do not feel like we are depriving ourselves and we enjoy a good challenge. 

Do you challenge yourself to save money where you can?
What techniques do you use to save money on groceries?   

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