Blessings to you and your family!
Because, really, it is much more convenient to just hop in the car with no plan, credit cards in hand, and buy all the prepackaged, pop-in-the-oven meals that the freezer section holds. It's more convenient to do this until those credit card bills come rolling in requiring payment and our health begins to deteriorate from all the processed junk we've been ingesting.
And so I just want to end this series with a few more practical money-saving (and health saving) tips. As I've already said, some of you may find some of these ideas inconvenient or overwhelming while others may be ready to try anything. Only do what works for you and your family, but, at the same time, don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new!
Tip 1 Buying Organic
A reader said that she spends about as much as I do on my family of five as she does on her family of three. She asked if I buy organic because that really adds the dollars onto her grocery bill. So, I will say that I typically do not buy organic. I used to buy organic when both my husband and I worked because, although it was expensive, we had two incomes coming in and had more dispensable income to work with.
Now, having said that, all of our veggies are organic because we have a HUGE garden in the summer in which we grow massive amounts of veggies which we then preserve. This stock lasts us enough until the next garden is ready to harvest. This is such a blessing!
But that still leaves fruit, and I do buy a lot of fruit. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for me to fork over $4.99 for a small container of strawberries compared to $1.99 for regular ones. Same with all the other fruits. So I wash everything carefully and thoroughly. Apples, which contain high levels of pesticides in their skin, are a staple in our home during the winter. So anytime we eat an apple, the skin gets peeled off. And in the fall, we head to my grandparent's old farm and stock up on fresh-from-the-tree organic apples. Apples keep a really long time if you store them properly.
I had tried buying from a local farmer's market once, but they even admitted that they had to spray their crops to prevent insect invasion. This was quite disappointing.
There are also fruits that you can buy that do not contain high levels of pesticides. Fruits that have thick, inedible skins, are very safe to eat ~ pineapples, cantaloupes, melons, bananas, oranges, etc. So I buy a lot of these things when they are in season and at reasonable prices.
And the fruits that are some of the highest for pesticides, such as grapes and strawberries, you can wash them in a solution of water and vinegar. It's amazing the gunk that this solution gets off of the fruit.
What I do is dump the container of berries in a big bowl, pour about 1/4 cup of white vinegar in and fill the bowl the rest of the way up with cold water. Let it soak for five minutes or so and then rinse well. No, your fruit will not taste like vinegar, but it will be so much cleaner than if you just rinse them in the colander under running water for a few seconds.
Brad and I and my sister and her husband planted a pear and apple orchard back behind our house. It's been about five or six years since they were planted, so they will soon begin producing fruit. My dad also has a bunch of blueberry bushes that are grown organically, and they produce massive quantities of blueberries in July and August. Couple that with all the wild blackberries and the cherry trees that grow around our property, and we're usually set for the summer with fruit.
I do buy as healthy as I can within our budget. For example, I spend a little extra money to buy whole wheat flour and unenriched white whole wheat flour (both made by King Arthur) and any pasta I buy is whole wheat. I also buy 100% whole wheat bread which is more expensive than a loaf of white bread. So I buy very little in way of white flour products. I'm in the process of experimenting with making my own crackers and graham crackers so that I can have these products with whole grains.
Tip 2 Grow your own food.
Planting a garden has saved us a TON of money. I've already discussed the how's and why's up above. In addition to what we plant every year, I also want to try some strawberry plants one of these years. I put some in several years ago, but the plants all failed. Bummer.
I also have a herb garden that my wonderful hubby put in for me last spring for Mother's Day. I LOVE my herb garden. It runs the whole length of our back deck, right off the kitchen, and with easy access. Most of the herbs I planted are perennials so they will come back each year, and then I also planted some annuals such as basil, lemon verbena, and dill which I use a ton of. I'm still learning how to preserve herbs because I had such success with my plants last year, and, sadly, a lot of the crop went to waste because of my ignorance in how to properly preserve them.
And if you don't know where to start or you think you don't have enough land to garden, The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre! is a great book that discusses gardening and such, even if you only own a small plot of land.
Tip 3 Preserve Your Food
Along the lines of growing your own food, comes preserving all the yummy goodies that you've reaped. I freeze most of my veggies and fruits using my Food Saver because this locks in more nutrients than canning.
I do can jams, salsa, spaghetti sauce, beans, ketchup, tomatoes, relishes, and pickles. We have a can cellar in our basement where we keep all of our canned goods.
You can also preserve fruit/veggies/meat that you get on sale at the grocery store. I've never done this, but I was just talking to a friend this past weekend who bought a large amount of beef and was canning it in various ways. What a great idea!
Tip 4 Coupons
Oh, I am SO not a coupon girl. I maybe use three or four (at best) coupons per month. Not because I don't look at the coupons. I do! It's just that most of the coupons are for brand name items or convenience foods that I don't buy anyway. And usually, I can get off-brand names a lot cheaper than the brand name price even after the coupon discount. You have to be smart with coupons.
And I'm definitely not going to buy something just because I have a coupon for it. That kind of defeats the purpose in my mind!
If I do buy a coupon, it is most likely for a toiletry such as shampoo or shaving cream or toothpaste or deodorant. I would say that those are the coupons I use most often. And sometimes I get really lucky and my local grocery store puts one of those items on sale and they double coupons, so I get a really good deal! But that doesn't happen so often! So, I am, admittedly, not a coupon guru.
So, my advice is to use a coupon only if you would usually buy that product at full price. And check to make sure that the generic isn't even cheaper still than the coupon price.
Tip 5 Cook from Scratch
I am a big proponent of cooking from scratch. In fact, I make almost everything from scratch. Exceptions would be bread and yogurt (although I have been experimenting with making my own yogurt as of late) as well as some snacks like pretzels and tortilla chips. But all of my dinners and desserts are made from scratch. It's healthier and much more economical. I understand that it's difficult for working moms to cook all of their meals from scratch, so maybe you could commit to making two from-scratch meals per week, and look for meals that would utilize the crockpot (a lifesaver for busy moms.)
I love cooking from scratch. I find a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that my hands and hard work produced the end result. And it's fun!
Tip 6 Watch sale flyers
I always check out the sales flyers every week that I receive in the mail. However, most of my shopping is done at Aldi's and Walmart. Once a month I go to Aldi's and buy the majority of my food, and then I head across the street to WalMart for the rest. Shopping at Aldi's has saved me a huge amount of money. Check the Internet to see if you have one near you.
But if I find that our local grocery store is running a great sale, I will stop by if I'm going to be in town. I typically don't make a special trip in for sales. This is another area when my price book comes in handy because I can check from home whether the sale price really is a good price.
I also shop for the majority of my meat at this local store because they always mark down their meat at the end of the week (a lot of grocery stores do this) when it is reaching the end of its shelf date. Then I bring the meat home, divide it up into appropriate proportions, and freeze it in our deep freeze. I then mark what meat I have in the freezer on my calendar, and I then plan my next month's meals around that.
Thank you so much for reading along this week! It's been a pleasure to share this with you all, and I do hope that you find some of it helpful or at least feel motivated to find ways to save money at the grocery store. And please feel free to share any of your own tips in the comment section. I love new ideas!