You know the drill. You walk into the grocery store with a long list
and a finite budget. The last thing you want to do is spend two weeks’
worth of grocery money on one week of food. But prices these days
make it ever more challenging to stay within a budget. What’s a smart
shopper to do?
1. Make a list and check it twice
Lists are tremendous money savers. Begin by thinking in terms of meals.
Before I head to the store, I scribble out ideas for two weeks of
dinners. Half the meals are family favorites: cheesy
chicken enchiladas, creamy
potato soup, and pasta
carbonera are regulars. I then thumb through cookbooks and fill the
rest of the two weeks with new and interesting-sounding recipes.
Once I’ve decided what we’ll be eating for the next couple weeks,
next I write down the ingredients that I lack for those
recipes. I skim recipes, check the pantry, dig through the freezer, and
check my cupboards, making sure that everything I’ll need is either in
my kitchen or on my grocery list. Once I have all the dinner
ingredients written down, I add the items we typically use for breakfast
and lunch, as well as goodies to make baking possible.
2. Go to the store less often
When you run out of something, write it on your grocery list. But
don’t race to the store the instant your list gets an item or two on
it. Every trip to the store is a temptation to impulse-buy.
So I challenge myself to go just a day or two longer between shopping
trips. We live 20 minutes from the store. The other day when I didn’t
want to run to the store just for hamburger buns, I made my own
fresh homemade rolls.
3. Expand the list of things you can make
Did you know that you can easily make
your own granola? Homemade white sauce takes 5 minutes to make and
costs a fraction of a can of cream soup. Homemade salad
dressing is equally fast and will save you a cool $2. Not bad for a
5 minute time investment. Even better if it saves you a trip to the
store where you would potentially spend much more on impulse buys.
Learning to make just one item per week will consistently give you more
money in your pocket. Remember, it’s not only this week’s new recipe
that will save you money. Gradually learning to make a variety of
things for yourself will make your savings snowball.
4. Stock up when prices hit rock bottom
And I mean REALLY stock up. Last October I bought enough ground
beef on sale to last til February, which effectively extended that
October sale for months, for me anyway. Around Christmas time I put lots of
$1.50/lb butter in the freezer, enough to make baking more affordable
all winter for us.
5. Don’t be afraid to try new recipes
To earn a repeat appearance in my kitchen, a recipe needs to be
tasty, easy to cook, and have ingredients that are affordable and easy
to find. Don’t overlook ethnic food. I’ve found Chinese, Mexican and
Ethiopian food to be both affordable and delicious. This West
African Peanut Chicken is a good example. And here’s another
bonus: ethnic grocery stores often have great prices on things like
spices, sesame oil, coconut milk, and specialty pasta.
6. Remember WHY you want to save money
I developed my money-saving strategies so that I could stay home with
my kids. You may be dreaming of finding enough extra cash to pay off
a car or take a cruise or have another baby. Keeping your goals
clearly in mind will make it easier to do the little daily things that
will move you towards that goal!