Thursday, 16 February 2012

Slashing Your Grocery Bill - Part I

This was a title of a Tightwad Gazette article in the January 1991 issue.  I'm aware that our food bill has crept up to around £132 per month (the average for 2011) and after re-reading this article I can see some reasons why, in addition of course to the fact that food prices have actually increased a bit.  Amy recommended no fewer than 17 strategies, some of which we are quite good at, but not all.  I think we're pretty good at:

Buying Store/Generic Brands - Our main supermarket source has recently changed its generic packaging scheme (for who knows what reason), but until they did I would have said I had about the 'yellowest' shopping trolley in the store.  I've read and heard from too many sources that the packaging plants change the label, not necessarily the contents.  I always buy generic unless my experience tells me otherwise.  Recently Morrisons have started to stock only a limited amount of their generic brands, some of which are nearly half the price of the next best offer.  I will have to start shopping earlier in the day if I want the best crack at these bargains.

Free Food - We graciously gratefully accept all offers of free food and routinely pick blackberries when they are in season.   We did go pick some sloes, but I confess that they remain in the freezer until I get around to buying gin and figuring out which recipe to use.  (Suggestions welcomed!)  This gives us a crack at green beans, rhubarb, apples and, once, even gooseberries.

Preparing Foods from Scratch - On the rare occasion when we have custard, we make it from power not scratch and our Christmas puddings (sort of a fruit cake - Brits use the word 'pudding' like Yanks say 'dessert') come in a box.  I know it's also possible to make hot chocolate from cocoa, but I find the mix is cheaper than the ingredients.  Other than these exceptions I can't think of anything we don't make from scratch, e.g. if the recipe calls for a tin of cream of something soup, I make white sauce and add the something (or a substitute I have on hand).

Eat Fewer Meat and Potato Meals - We eat meat perhaps a couple of times a month at home, but usually order a meat entre on the odd occasion we're eating out.  When we have meat it is usually as part of a stir fry or casserole or used to flavour beans.  We both love our roast beef or ham, but meat does no favours for one's pocketbook or one's health.

Vegetarianism - Looking at our evening menu for about a two month period, we ate vegetarian 47% of the time.  This is quite inexpensive.  However, 45% of the time we eat fish or poultry, and these don't tend to be as cheap.  The other 5-7%  probably involve meat.  Lunches - particularly in cold weather - tend to be soup made from whatever leftovers are on hand.

Elimination of Convenience Foods - Of course this relates closely to Preparing Foods from Scratch, but one of Amy's pet peeves had to do with individually packaged single servings.  I must admit that we routinely buy four packs of a generic fruit yoghurts because by weight they are cheaper than a larger container of fruit yoghurt.  However, I can't claim to have done the math recently for whether they are cheaper than plain yoghurt with fruit, jam or honey added.

Next week, I shall be making my confessions about what we don't do so well...

Do you use any of these strategies to reduce your food costs?


Suburban Princess said...

WOW! I wouldn't be surprised if I spend 132.00 a week on groceries! I know people who spend 500.00 a week on food! It's the one area I refuse to cheap out on...I buy the best of each if possible for everything I can find. I do go to Costco and stock up on things we use a lot of like almond butter, granola bars, cheese etc.

At this stage in my life I prefer to pay for chopped veggies rather than buy everything and have to deal with it all and clean it up at home. There comes a point we have to put a dollar value on our time.

Beryl said...

I'm a from scratch cooker, but it's so I can keep the sat fat low for my health conscientious husband. It usually tastes better, but not always. I substitute extra olive oil and salt for most of the cheese in things I cook for him, so that explains why frozen lasagne is better than my homemade. And lots of homemade recipes are more expensive, often quite a bit more. But I can't resist all the wonderful fresh ingredients and playing around with them is my recreation.

LR @ Magnificent or Egregious said...

We are very lucky that my parents always send a box of food home with us whenever we go their place to visit 2 hours away (it's their 'thing', they do this with my siblings and other people), so we get a lot of canning, frozen garden veggies, sausage, farm chickens, lamb, perogies, etc. They know local farmers and get their meat from them. We are grateful for that. Lately, Hubs has been buying groceries for us when he goes to the States for work trips - canned goods, dry goods, cheese, cereals, etc are all cheaper in the US than in Canada -- we are gouged big-time for groceries here, it is ridiculous. If there's an item that is on sale that we use often like coffee, we will buy a few tins and stock up.

Otherwise, we try to eat fresh veggies, stir-frys, tarts & quiches, chili, smaller steaks, chicken, pasta, rice etc. I am getting better at meal planning so that we don't waste food.

Frugal Scholar said...

A wonderful blast from the past. HEr tips are truly timeless--no crazy couponing for Amy.

Anonymous said...

Franca at Apples and Oranges is making some sloe gin and as I recall, she posted a recipe for it sometime in the past month.

We have diminished our meat intake too and have tried to rely on fish that DH has caught or on occasion some of the birds he keeps. He eats more meat than I do. Beans (dried ones) are a major staple in our diets.

Shelley said...

SP, I'm not in the least surprised. I've never yet met a princess who chopped her own veg
:-). And if you the money to splash out on luxury food and still have enough for the other things that are important to your lifestyle, your child's education, your old age, why in the world should you? If I had a reliable opportunity to make more money with my time than I save by chopping veg, then I might do that instead . Most folks who talk about the value of their time don't use the time they saved for making money, though; they use it for watching TV or surfing the net and the like. I know I do - I'm retired after all! To each his own.

Beryl, Yes, isn't it funny how one's chore can become one's recreation? I must admit I tend to just half the cheese as my concern is not so much cholesterol as calories.

LR, Brilliant that you have such a wide variety of sources; bummer that you have to leave the country to get good prices! Stir-fries are my main-stay: one pan, chop it up throw it all in, stir a bit and it's done!

Frugal Scholar, I must admit I've never got to grips with coupons. I think it's about having a short attention span! Actually, you don't find coupons for the foods we prefer to eat.

Terri, I'll check out Apples & Oranges - I think I've been to that blog before. Wonderful that your husband fishes! I'd be scared of what might be attached to my hook when it came out of the sea! I love fish as food, but I'm ambivalent about fish as creatures...