Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Stretching the Grocery Budget - miscellaneous tips

Over the last couple of years I have been on dozens of blogs out there reading up on different tips for eating healthy on a budget. And I have to say, most have been a let down. Deep down I think I was hoping for some miraculous tip that would revolutionize our budget.  That "miraculous" tip just doesn't exist though, or if it does I sure haven't found it! So those different sites did have a lot of helpful information, it was just my expectations that were off. That being said, I don't imagine the things I have to share on stretching the budget will revolutionize things for you. But maybe one or two of the things that have saved us will help you! Below is a random list I compiled of things that have benefited us through the years:

* Buy 1/2 or 1/4 cow or find local farmer to get meat in bulk. We did this last year and got an AMAZING deal. Our beef was not certified organic, however my brother-in-law is a food inspector for the state of Washington and had inspected this farm. They didn't use any pesticides on their feed or hormones on their cattle and their cows were all grass-fed. We were very happy with the purchase!

* Buy a whole chicken. This gives you the best price for the meat, plus you can make your own stock from the chicken (as pictured above). Do you know how pricey organic chicken stock is? This is a huge saver plus is far more nutritious! You can also use the fat off the top of the stock to saute veggies in.

* Buy meat on the bone and make stocks from the bones. You can also freeze the bones and make stock later if you can't get to it right away.

* Buy extra meat when you find sales and freeze it. An extra freezer by the way is an excellent investment!

* Eat vegan or vegetarian some nights. This honestly makes our budget doable since our meat choices are not cheap!

* Make your own foods from scratch. Yes this is time consuming, but it does get easier. I bake in bulk and freeze to save on time. Making our own bread has saved us a ton through the years, and honestly our homemade bread is soooo much better than store bought. If you have tried store bought gluten free bread you know that it isn't that great!

* Take advantage of the bulk bins at your local health food store. Bulk prices are usually a lot better than pre-packaged grains, beans, etc. We especially love buying our spices in the bulk section. This way we can get just what we need and don't have to invest in a whole spice jar that will go bad before we have used it all. I do highly recommend only getting what you need when shopping the bulk section, unless it is something you for sure use regularly. In the past I would buy extra thinking I would use it and so often it would just go to waste.

* Use frozen produce sometimes. While I mostly use fresh produce, frozen is not a terrible second option. It can often help with the budget and is nice for those times when you need something easy to prepare.

* Write weekly menus and grocery lists. I have been doing this for years and it eliminates so much waste! Everything I purchase has a specific known purpose so I don't have to worry about it not getting used. This also reduces that stress which comes at 4pm when you realize dinner is fast approaching and you don't know what to make!

* Take inventory of your fridge and pantry before going shopping. So many times I have purchased things that I already had and had forgotten about. Taking inventory can also give you ideas of what to cook using things you already have on hand, which will cut down on your grocery list.

* Check out your local farmer's market or consider joining a CSA for your produce. I love these options as they support the local farmers and result in fresher food. However I have not myself found either of these options to be very cost effective in Seattle. In fact they are some of the pricier ways to go. But I continue to keep checking them out and you definitely should give them a try if you haven't - you might find an amazing deal!

I am sure there are more things that have saved us through the years, but I will leave it with those few ideas for now. But please feel free to add on to the comments any ideas that have helped you stretch out your grocery budget! Next time I am going to share about some of the tough decisions to consider when navigating through your grocery budgets.

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