Groceries

Ideas for keeping a grocery budget down and still eating local/organic?

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  • CSA (community supported agriculture) box can be pretty decently priced, as can farmer's markets (but they vary). Shop in-season for better price. If you're buying a bunch at a time, ask if you can negotiate a better price. When you get a good price, buy lots and either freeze or pressure can veggies.

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  • Have you read budgetbytes blog? I like her ideas or batch cooking, relying on cheap staples and rounding it out with small amounts of pricy/flavorful items like meat and cheese. 

    We buy a lot of organic staples at Costco (not local obviously) and get good deals. 

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      • Orchid Mantis
      • Ecologist on hiatus
      • Orchid_Jackal_9a45b17ee
      • 1 yr ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

       +1 for Budgetbytes. That website is great. I also like Plan To Eat. I used to use Pepperplate but I recently switched and despite the fact that it's a paid service I do prefer PTE. But Pepperplate works too and is free.

      Also, if you don't already, maybe try planning meals from the same culture/background for the week. Eg one week Indian, one week Latin American, one week Southern-inspired recipes. That way, a lot of the ingredients can be purchased in bulk and used in multiple recipes rather than buying lots of different ingredients and some going to waste. For example, you can buy a family pack of tortillas, a bag of limes, a bunch of fresh cilantro and a bag of dried black beans and use it all up in a series of Mexican-inspired dishes in a week, rather than cilantro and black beans for one dinner, parsley and cornbread for another day, oregano and feta for a third. And as a bonus, leftovers often flow into the next meal really well. You can make a big pot of yellow rice and a batch homemade naan on Monday and use it for days, and if you have leftover chickpea curry it goes great with the next day's recipe of aloo masala. 

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  • I've heard Erin, in our Take Control of Your Food Budget workshop, mention that the key is awareness. More specifically, it helped me to be more vigilant about knowing what's ready to be eaten in my kitchen. If I have apples on the counter, and applesauce in the cabinet, I'll send the apples to school because the applesauce will keep. Or when leftovers build up, I'm careful to either freeze them or eat leftovers for dinner. That way, less gets wasted.

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  • Simply using a recipe and meal planning app with an integrated shopping list has cut about $100 a month off our grocery spending  and I also buy mostly organic. 🤑  I use Pepperplate, which frankly doesn't seem to be very well supported, but hey, it's free. Paprika is a highly rated one, you have to buy the app separately for each device. Granted, it'll likely pay for itself in the first month's savings, but I figure I'll hold off as long as Pepperplate works "well enough."  This has been THE biggest contributor to getting our grocery budget under control. We no longer impulse buy or lose food in the back of the fridge. And because we're not buying unnecessary food, junk or lots of processed stuff, we're now able to buy more healthy fruits and vegetables that always felt "too expensive." Plus, it's also helped me start taking leftovers for lunch, which saves me $20 a week. 

    CSAs are a great option, but it is an upfront cost that you'll have to budget for throughout the year, so depending on the cost of the CSA you go with, it may be a wash. And you have to be really committed to using up or preserving all the food or else it's a waste. Some farms will offer small shares or every-other-week shares, which can be a good option for someone who's new to CSA or for small families. 

    If you have a big freezer, buying an organic half or quarter beef directly from the farmer can save $2-3 per pound. This is also an upfront cost, but worth it for high-quality meat.

    Similarly, buy whole chickens instead of just parts. Cook one up and eat the breasts one meal and use the dark meat to make sandwiches or soup. Freeze the carcass until you have 2 or 3 of them, then boil to make chicken stock and freeze it. (Same with your thanksgiving turkey!) Right there you've made 2 or more meals for multiple people, plus stocked up on a staple item. Organic broth is around $2.50 for the organic private label kind or something like $4 for the expensive brands, so you'd be eliminating that cost entirely. 

    Visit the farmers market toward the end of the day. They might be willing to give good deals just so they don't have to take leftovers home. 

    Organic bread can cost $4-$5 a loaf, and if you go through it quickly, that really adds up.  I've started baking my own bread using the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day method, and...wow...it really works!  It's painless, tastes good, and the dough can be used for a variety of types of bread. And doing it this way comes to less than 50 cents a loaf.  Gluten-free bread is even more expensive, so it can be worth it to make your own. 

    And of course, grow your own (if you can). If you have access to a garden, grow foods that you eat a lot of and that store well. I don't remember the last time we had to buy garlic, onions, potatoes, carrots, beets or pickles. Even a window herb garden can save you money - those fresh herbs are expensive! 

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    • Wendy Allen I'm really enjoying Copy Me That as a free alternative to pepperplate!

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  • Don't forget the time-honored tips of having a plan when you go to the store and never shop hungry! 

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  • Not just "have a plan". have a plan that's based on sales and coupons, so pick up the Sunday newspaper... you're likely to get your money back for that $2 and then some. Also know which stores may consistently have the better price on things that you are constantly replenishing (assuming you have a choice of stores).

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  • Take the budgeted amount for groceries out in cash.

     

    Take only that cash to the supermarket, if you do not have enough cash, put stuff back on the shelf.

     

    I add up what we are buying as we go (easy cause the supermarket has self scan) which makes the putting back easier as you are not doing it at the till.

     

    Shopping this way, makes it much easier to stick to the budgeted amount because you literally cannot spend more than you have.

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      • JENocide
      • jenOCIDE
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      negrcian   This is what I do, too.  Works the best as far as everything I've tried.  I found that if i used debit card I'd just overspend and then rearrange my available amounts in other categories to cover the over spending... Now I plan the max amount I'm willing to spend per month and then every payday dole out 1/4 of that amount in cash... and when it's gone it's gone.  No more money until next week's payday.

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  • Our garden is small but we have a council allotment and grow our own veg. Do they have those where you are? I know they are called community gardens in some countries. It is as local as you can get and as organic as you make it. We use free horse manure in the autumn as fertiliser and grow comfrey and make comfrey “tea” to use as liquid fertiliser.

     

    Let it be generally known amongst friends, families and coworkers you will accept free garden food or will swap help or other food for it. Often people have a glut of apples that they want to give away. We had an amazing glut of cucumbers this year and I swapped some for fruit from someone else’s garden.

     

    If you are not a vegetarian wild meat is good too. I bought a whole deer that had been culled to protect the trees in our local forest. I even chatted to the guy who shot it, made sure I was happy with his technique of hunting. That deer didn’t know it was going to die until it was dead and I’m confident it had a natural wild life. I skinned and butchered the meat, though you could pay a butcher to do that if you have the money. One deer fed us with meat for a long time. A deep freezer is essential for this.

     

    Buying and harvesting seasonally is your only option if you want to eat local but you don’t have to eat seasonally. If you buy or harvest lots of raspberries in August you can freeze them and eat them in the winter. We grew enough corn this year to last us all winter. Onions, potatoes, garlic can obviously all be stored. We store cooking apples in a sack through the winter. There is so much info on the web about food preserving.

     

    For the hunger gap in March I find foraging good. Nettle soup (do nettles grow where you are?) is great in the spring. But we are getting better at planting food to harvest year round. Depends on the growing conditions where you live. Okay, I think I’ll stop the essay there!! Good luck, let us know how you get on. 

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  • Do you have an Aldi near you? That is where I do the majority of my shopping. They have lots of organic options and their prices are so much lower than regular grocery stores. Also, meal planning saves SO much money. Making a list of all your meals and the groceries you'll need to make them really makes it easy to plan and resist eating out. Avoid prepackaged/convenience foods as much as possible. I also buy whole chickens so that I can get organic/free range but still pay less than if you're just buying breasts.  I've been eating a clean paleo-ish diet and I've managed to stay around $500-$600 a month for a family of 4 using these tips.

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  • Still working on this here. Right now I use Paprika Recipe Manager to make a meal plan each week and then create a shopping list from that. I've started making bread (part fun and part saves us $$). I joined a meat CSA which I think is saving us money. I try to make double some items and freeze so that we avoid that last minute rush to a store for an unplanned meal. I also keep frozen meatballs and spaghetti and sauce on hand for the same. Right now my grocery bill is out of hand. Hopefully YNAB and the above will help me rope it in!

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      • Kate
      • Joyful Technical Writer 🌴
      • sweet_sunshine
      • 1 yr ago
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      NewYNABer BostonGirl What a good idea! I need to check that website out.

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