Tuesday, November 4, 2008

How we eat well on $35/week

This article came from Crystal at www.moneysavingsmom.com and she also has another site www.biblicalwomanhood.com.

Dear Friends,

As some of you know, we currently have a $35/week grocery budget. Often when people hear that, they immediately think we must subsist on Ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese.

Contrary to what some think, we actually eat really well on that budget and we've done so consistently for four years.
And yes, the $35 includes toiletries, laundry soap, cleaners, diapers, medicine, etc. It covers breakfast, lunch, and dinner for all three of us for a week, other than the one meal a week we eat out. I can actually do it for less than $35, but that allotment gives us enough room to be able to purchase more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, some organic food, and farm-fresh hormone-free milk and eggs.

Here are just a few basic things which have helped us to eat well on a small budget:

1. Plan a menu around what you have on hand and the store sales and stick to it.

The most important step in lowering your grocery budget is having a plan and keeping it. Second of all, don't just plan a menu, go through your cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer and use those as the basis for your menu. Start with what you have and creatively use that before you buy anything extra. Thirdly, check your store fliers (you can usually do this online) and see what is on a good sale and plan your menu around that, as well.

2. Shop at more than one store.

Unless you live somewhere where you only have one store to shop at, don't do all your shopping in one location. I try to hit two-three stores each week buying just the best deals from each. I almost always hit Kroger - as I have found them to consistently have the best loss-leaders and I love their double-coupon policy. Plus, they often have Catalina deals (where when you buy 2 or 4 of a certain item, you get $x off your next shopping order). I usually always go to CVS, as well (more on that in a minute), and then, if I have a few staple ingredients I need to get or the deals are rather weak or my cupboard is rather bare, I'll hit Aldi. It varies from week-to-week depending upon what the sales are.

3. When something is on a good sale (for me, that means combining the sale with coupons it is free, close to free, or something we use often and the price is considerably cheaper than the Aldi price), stock up.

To give you an example of how this works, this past week, combining coupons with store sales, I got the Cottonelle for Kids toilet paper for $0.50 per 4-pack. This is half the Aldi price, and the rolls are twice the size. Obviously, since toilet paper is something we use around here on a regular basis, I stocked up and bought eight 4-packs. The deal will still be good this next week and each package has a coupon inside, so I'll probably get at least eight more on my next shopping trip. I'm guessing this will last us for the next 6-8 months, at least - probably longer.

Instead of buying the cheap Aldi toilet paper when we were almost out and spending $1 each time, I bought higher quality toilet paper with twice as much on the roll, for half the price. So, in essence, I got it for 75% off the Aldi price. This is it works. By stocking up ahead of time, you stretch your grocery dollars much farther.

4. If you have a CVS nearby, become a regular customer.

By regularly shopping the ECB deals there and using their store coupons, $4 off $20 or similar coupons which often print, and stacking these with manufacturer's coupons, I rarely ever pay for toiletries or household items. This is how we paid for all disposable diapers we bought - using the overage earned from the ECB deals. Read more about CVS shopping strategies here:

5. Use a calculator and pay with cash.

I bring $35 a week in cash to the store with me and no extra. No checkbook, no debit card, nothing else. This is one of the most helpful ways I guarantee that I stay within budget. As I add items off my list to to my cart, I add them to my running total on my calculator. By adding it up as I shop, I'm able to know exactly how much I've spent so far and whether or not I have extra to buy some items which are reduced for quick sale.

Those are some very practical ways to save while shopping. Some other things we do:

-Cut back on meat. We rarely have meat by itself as the main dish (steak, roast, fried chicken, etc.)

-Drink water (We use a Brita pitcher to filter our water - I got this free with ECBs from CVS.) We do not drink milk or soda (pop, coke, or whatever you call it where you live). We drink fresh juice made in our juicer a few mornings a week and iced tea or herbal tea on occasion.

-Find out when your local stores reduce their meat and produce and shop at those times. This is how I buy the majority of our meat and vegetables. The prices are usually reduced at least 50% - sometimes even more like 75-90%!

-Cook from scratch. Eliminating processed foods and boxed mixes from your diet is not only more healthful for you, it will also save you a lot of money. Make your own baked oatmeal or granola instead of buying boxed cereal. Keep homemade cookies and muffins made up and in the freezer for snacks instead of store bought cookies or chips. Bake your own bread. Make cakes, pancakes, and so on from scratch.

-Grow your own veggies and herbs in the Summer. Or, shop at your local Farmer's Market. Be careful that you know your prices going in, though, as I've found some of the prices at certain booths to be much more than I would pay at the grocery store. Scout out the whole place before you decide what to buy and make sure you are getting a good price. Sometimes there is a huge variance of price between booths.

-Don't be brand-dependent. If you really want to cut your grocery budget, you have to learn to branch out and try new things.

-Keep it simple. Stick to recipes with fewer, inexpensive ingredients.

-Most of all, enjoy the journey! I have so much fun saving money on groceries and seeing God bless and multiply our little budget to feed, not only our family, but to have extras to give away!

There is so much more I could say on this, but that's just a quick overview on some things which have helped us. For much more detailed information and help, I highly recommend you check out my ecourse, Supermarket Savings 101:


As I mentioned above, one way we save a lot of money on groceries is by making things from scratch. Not only is it less expensive, but it also is better for you and tastes yummy, too!

Baked oatmeal one of our very favorite breakfast recipes. It makes a big pan so we refrigerate the leftovers and use it for the following few days’ breakfasts! Just reheat in the microwave or oven. We often just spoon out in individual bowls and reheat in the microwave. Be sure to top with butter, brown sugar, and milk. Delicious!

Baked Oatmeal

1 cup oil (can substitute butter or applesauce)
1 ½ cups sugar (can reduce)
4 eggs
6 cups oats
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups milk

Combine all ingredients in order listed. Pour into greased 9x13-inch pan. Bake at 375° for 30-40 minutes until lightly browned. Can refrigerate overnight before baking. Serve topped with butter, brown sugar, and milk.

Yields: Approximately 8-12 servings


shelley said...

That is a great artical. I have been trying to reduce our budget too. I cannot do 35 dollars because there are 5 of us (6-7 on alot of weekends), 2 dogs, 11 cats and 51 chickens. We dont do too bad though.
I am teaching my oldest daughter to cook and when we switch to homeschooling next year I will start teaching her to garden can. That should help too.
have a great day!
joyful homemaker

Tammy said...

Hi Shelly,

It's so great to hear from you. I know the feeling we are a family of 5 as well. 2 teenage boys eat enough for 2 more members. LOL I do ok with our budget I would love to get it down though. How old is you oldest daughter? Mine is 6 and she is very interested in everything to do with keeping a home and that thrills me to no ends!!!!

God Bless,

Linda said...

I made your Baked Oatmeal and wanted to say it was deelicious even warmed up the next day! My daughter loved it to, definitely a keeper :) Have a wonderful Day :) God Bless, Linda

Tammy said...

Hi Linda,I'm so happy that your family enjoyed the recipe. I cannot take credit for it,it is a recipe of Crystal from biblicalwomanhood.

God Bless,