Sunday, September 6, 2009
tips and tricks to spending less
ok, brag fest over - well, kinda.
now, on to food.
We spend about $100 a week on organic/natural groceries for our family of four. We rarely eat out.
I agree, eating natural and organic foods is more expensive. But, I believe I counter that by paying more for individual items, but buying less stuff.
For example, I used to by 3 gallons of the cheapest store brand milk a week.
Instead of paying 2.99 a gallon for 3 gallons of milk a week, I pay about 4.99 for one. look at that! I just saved us about $4 a week!
So buy less, but pay more for what you buy?! Does my fridge echo? Is my pantry bare? no.
Here are some areas in which I have drastically changed the way I shop to be able to afford to eat almost all natural/organic foods....
Breakfast - I save a lot on cereal - we eat less. period. (which really helps with the milk consumption!) We alternate with homemade breakfast items, that I make and freeze, smoothies in the summer and homemade oatmeal in the winter.
Bakery - I don't buy frozen waffles or bakery muffins, we make our own. I have stocked up on organic whole wheat flours and go on baking sprees. I double or triple a batch and then freeze in. The waffles go right in the toaster in the morning the same way prepackaged ones do! The muffins can be defrosted or taken on the go frozen and will thaw by the time we need a mid-morning snack. Saturday morning pancakes turn into breakfast for many a rushed school mornings.
Fruit - I only buy what is in season (with the exception of a few frozen bags in the winter). Fruits not only taste best when in season, they are the cheapest too! I try to stock up and freeze for baking. Last summer, I stocked up on organic strawberries, blueberries, peaches,and grapes and froze. I can use in waffles, muffins, smoothies (no ice needed!) or pack the frozen grapes in lunches for a lightly icey treat!
Meat - We are eating less. We are eating MUCH less. For people who are used to eating meat at almost every dinner, this has been an adjustment. We went in with a few friends and bought a quarter of an organically raised, grass-fed cow and paid a little over $2 a pound. You can find farmers near you (in the U.S.) at www.localharvest.org
Spices - buy in bulk. Sure, 10.99 a pound sounds like a lot, but you are most likely buying just a few ounces at most.
Juice -I rarely buy this. The kids are eating plenty of fruits and at $3-$5 each, we don't really need the added expense. The kids are getting used to drinking water or non caffeinated orange tea. I fill a washable water bottle every day with water to pack in their lunches.
Sodas - I used to pick up 4 to 5 twelve packs at a time. We drank them like they were going out of style. My husband is still getting used to this one... but I have found some brands made with real cane sugar instead of HFCS. They are pricey, so I have only purchased one or two 6 packs at a time, but we have really stopped grabbing a soda 'just because'. A nice rum and coke here and there is still on my husbands 'don't take away from me' list!
The garden - Last year, we didn't get an overabundance of food - lots of fresh herbs, salad tomatoes, some cucumbers and peppers. Hey, every little bit helps! This year, with a lot more pre-planning and reading, we are tripling our garden space! Have a small space? Check out the square foot gardening approach! No time for gardening? Check out Farmer's markets and CSA's - find one near you (USA) www.localharvest.org
Costco - I am amazed at their organic pantry selections! Lets just say that I won't be running out of sugar anytime soon! They also carry various organic produce throughout the year. Be prepared to freeze or split with a friend. Most of the organic produce is sold in larger, bulk quantities but at a great price per pound.
Freezing - I am amazed at how many foods can be frozen! Buying in bulk and freezing in smaller portions (preseasoning for faster meal prep when possible), making double batches and freezing meals for busy nights, making homemade dips and sauces and freezing in ice cube trays, freezing soups, veggie purees, etc. Many dairy items can be frozen as well. Here is a great resource for freezing and the lifespan of frozen items
Shop the perimeter - the best advice for a diet, AND organic eating. Other than some cereals, sugar cane sodas from time to time and the baking aisle, I pretty much steer clear of the interior of the grocery store. Sure, there are items here and there, but NOTHING like my mega coupon days!
Markdowns/ Manager specials - You'll see a lot of the yellow and orange manager special stickers on the items I purchase. Why not? We are going to consume most of what is purchased within a few days. I have noticed that some of the typically 'more expensive' stores have the better mark downs on dairy and produce - so don't rule out the pricier grocery store near you! Check dates and plan! Many marked down vegetables and fruits can usually be cooked or chopped and frozen. Many dairy items can also be frozen!
Generic Organics - Many stores offer generic/store brand of organic items. These are usually more affordable.
Coupons! - As a former mega-coupon shopper, I get frustrated at the lack of coupons. I have however, noticed that many organic coupons have a much longer usage time with expiration dates well in the future. Some health food stores carry coupon books (often behind the counters!), all you have to do is ask! The Organic deals and coupons blog is a wealth of information and links for great coupons!
I also find that if you email the makers of your favorite products and ask for coupons, they usually send them in the mail!
Cutting back on processed 'kid' stuff - Coming up with fun lunch items that are not entirely from prepackaged lunch foods saves money. The few prepackage lunch items I have purchased are sticking around the house longer!! I have really been able to stretch out their consumption and save money in that area! Check out some of the lunches my children have enoyed this year.
and of course.... my blog keeps my spending accountable. I post pictures and track dollar amounts. Check out my shopping here.
We are a work in progress, but the progress we have already made is pretty darn amazing! I hope some of what I have learned will help someone else on their journey!