For me, to help people save money at the grocery store, it is usually easiest for me to say what not to buy. What a typical family buys are money wasters and usually not the healthiest of food choices either. If you feel you are spending too much money on your food bill, chances are many things are going in the cart that should not be hiking up your bill and calories. My family spends an average of $250 a month on food for 5 people, yet by National standards the average family of the same size spends between $700 and $800 a month. That is a huge difference and many people are shocked to find how little we spend and of course want to know how we do it. Here are a few things we do to keep our food bills low.
We do NOT buy: Kool-aid, candy, chips, pop, doughnuts, cookies or TV dinners. We do not usually buy anything that would be individually packaged or deemed as convenience foods such as frozen pizza, pot pies or microwavable meals. We do not buy Cold Cereal. We do not use coupons as they are for high priced name brands of convenience foods we do not typically buy. We NEVER buy meat at full price; the only time we buy meat is at the reduced prices or great sales. We do not buy syrup or pancake mixes, they are very simple to make and we make our own. We do not buy brown sugar, brown sugar is simply white sugar with a teaspoon or so of molasses in it.
We DO buy: Staples consisting of coffee, sugar, rice, flour, eggs, milk and butter which make up the basis of our grocery list. We buy peanut butter in bulk in 8 lb containers. We buy Oatmeal and Grits for breakfasts and add things to the Grits such as berries or some cocoa powder and sugar. We buy baking powder and baking soda and meats marked at a reduced special because it is nearing expiration dates; these are called loss leaders the store needs to move. We buy fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits. We buy 2 cans of juice concentrate per week. We buy cocoa powder, yogurt and cheeses. We buy molasses and chicken and beef stock. We buy tuna when on sale by cans of 10 or so, yeast and sometimes bread. We buy onions and a few simple spices as well we like to use a lot of. Believe it or not this pretty much consists of our food items, it is kept simple.
I come up with meals based off of what we purchased on sales using meat as sparingly as I can. We make a variety of vegetarian meals, quiches or stir fry type meals to stretch meat. I plan dishes that will make enough for 2 or 3 meals such as chili or chicken and dumplings. We make left over casseroles so nothing gets wasted. From the staples there are always biscuits, dumplings and pancakes that can be made. While we do not buy sweets, we love sweets and buy enough flour where we can do our own baking at home. We bake anything from fresh bread or soft pretzels to brownies, cookies, homemade puddings to cakes. These are our snack foods and get some great family time making them together. We make our own muffins from scratch and eat more rice than potatoes however meals like meatloaf you have to have potatoes to go with them! We do grow some of our own vegetables, but not enough to take it out of our grocery shopping at the moment; hopefully in the future we will be growing all our vegetable needs.
We go berry picking down the road for free and drink water mostly. However I do buy tea bags to make Sun Tea on hot summer days. With a little creativity you can make many meals from the items I listed that we do buy of. The expense of groceries is reduced dramatically by how much we make ourselves and not buying premixed packages or sweets. It really takes no more time to make pancakes from scratch as it does to use a box of Biscuit mix or other pancake mix. Pancakes also work just as well for a dinner as they do for breakfast and you can mix oatmeal in them and top with fresh fruit or yogurt for a healthier meal.