The Frugal Table {Cutting Your Grocery Bill}

This week is dedicated to making mealtime monetarily manageable. (The Preacher made me write that.)

Whether you have six children, or one, you undoubtedly seek to cut down your grocery bill. Ease, nutrition, family friendliness, and culinary interest, have always ranked highly among the factors that go into meal planning for my family. But, as our family anticipates baby boy Number 5 (while the other 4 grow and eat like mad!), FRUGALITY now tops that list.

I’m eager to share with you some menus and meal plans that may serve your family as they have mine; however, as principles always make for better strategy, here are 10 simple tips, first, on cutting down grocery bills:

1. Buy bulk:

  • I always buy carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes in bulk. They are base ingredients to a great variety of recipes. In the beginning of the week, I cut up a quarter of the carrots, celery, and onions, and combine in large ziploc bag. This indispensable base is called mirepoix; think: chicken noodle soup, lentils, chicken and dumplings, chicken pot pie, stout stew, shepherd's pie (must share my recipe soon!), and Ugly Soup.
  • Large cans of applesauce, peaches, and tomato puree (for homemade tomato soup) are also purchased in bulk, and immediately separated into quart size freezer bags at home.
  • Sour cream, half and half, and cheese are useable in bulk when you plan accordingly. (You'll have it used up in a flash, if you plan to make mini quiches, baked potatoes, anything Mexican...)
  • For kids’ lunches, make your own snack bags of popcorn and goldfish with ziploc bags instead of buying pre-packaged portions.
  • I'm never without cans of tomato paste, cans of diced tomatoes, frozen garlic, and organic chicken base (purchased for around $6 at Costco!)

2. Know what’s already in your pantry, and plan meals based on what meats are available (in your freezer) or on sale at the store.

3. Use less meat. Cook with more grains and legumes. Save meals that feature individually portioned meat for special occasions.

4. If you choose to buy organic or hormone/additive/preservative-free, but cannot afford to do so with all groceries, prioritize items of greatest importance, and plan to use those ingredients wisely in your meals.

5. Try new recipes, but not as the norm for your meal planning. Once a week is a good rule of thumb.

6. Make large batches of soup or lentils, and eat on it all week for lunches. You'll be amazed at how much cheaper (and better for you!) it can be than lunch meat. The famed Dr. Oz suggests you "automate your lunch choices" for health and weight loss. I love the occasional nachos for lunch, but it seems that if I've got Ugly Soup ready to go in the fridge, I'm likely to eat wisely, than to be lead by my hunger and finickyness at lunchtime.

7. Go to stores like Trader Joe's with a list. Otherwise, you'll be spending half your grocery money on cornichons, ice cream mochis, and lemon curd!

8. When a recipe calls for "canned cream of" anything, consider making the gravy base yourself with butter, flour, sauteed veg/meat, and broth. Usually, it can be easily done within context of the existing recipe itself, and ultimately cuts down on cost, sodium, and preservatives!

9. Make your own artisan bread.

10. Don't go to the grocery store hungry!

These are just my humble suggestions that work for our family. I'm sure you all great ideas...please share them!