Being a one income family in a two income family world, I have been stretched to find creative ways to cut down our grocery budget. I used to coupon and it was great! But nowadays, with three little ones, my time to coupon is slim. In fact, nonexistent. I can’t follow deals anymore nor do I want to be driving all over town to hit up three different Walgreens. So this is an update post on how a family can save money on your monthly grocery purchases, without messing with coupons. Yes, it can be done!
I hope this post is helpful, even if you just find one or two ways to save your family money. Any little bit helps!
Fruits and Veggies:
We buy primarily organic produce. This can be expensive, especially shopping at your regular grocery store. The way we have worked around our desire to eat organic and our desire to save money is taking advantage of our local farmers markets and getting a CSA box. If you hit up a farmers market at the tail end of the morning, say around noon, you can barter quite easily! I’m not much of a barterer, but it’s not so hard to grab up a bunch of peaches and offer a dollar less than advertised. Especially at the end of the day, when sellers are packing up. They are happy to get that produce moving!
CSA boxes are also a huge help here. There are so many now that you can chose from. The price is great, the food is fresh, you know you are helping support your local community. Our family uses Live Earth Farms from Watsonville. The quality is wonderful and we get tons of fresh veggies.
And be a seasonal shopper. Don’t buy peaches in December – they are going to be ridiculously expensive, not taste great, and they have a large carbon footprint considering they were shipped half way around the world to get to your store. Thankfully, the Lord has give us many wonderful fruits and veggies all year round – embrace apples and grapes in the fall, citrus in the winter, blueberries in the spring and blackberries in the late summer. I know, I wish I could enjoy perfectly ripe strawberries all year. But it’s just one of those things in life that we have to embrace the seasons of change, right? I can’t make my toddler a baby again, I can’t go back on my first date with my husband, and I can’t enjoy a vine ripened tomato in December. Ce la vie. (i’m joking, but there is some truth here!)
Lastly, if your budget doesn’t allow for all organic, shop for just the dirty dozen and clean fifteen. This will help you chose which foods to buy organic and which not to!
Here is one place where we’ve saved a lot. In the last year, I’ve stopped buying canned goods unless completely necessary. I’ve found we can make the things we used to buy canned, and make them cheaper. Such as black beans, jams, applesauce, pumpkin puree, salad dressing, enchilada sauce and chicken broth. For example, I can make a year’s worth of organic applesauce for $40 from apples at the farmers’ market. I would definitely spend more than that through the year if I bought it pre-made. It does take time, of course, to invest in making these things from scratch. But you can make this into a fun adventure for the whole family. Take everyone berry picking – kids LOVE picking berries. Make a day of it. Come home, let them smash the berries to bits with a potato masher and then work together to make jam. It’s super fun! Some of my fondest memories are staying up late in the kitchen with Andrew, boiling jars together, making a mess, and enjoying the experience together.
Word up to those of you with a Vitamix! You can make your own nut butters! So easy! Big savings for you folks!
The bulk bins and Costco are our friends! I can stock up on great organic deals in the bulk bins or by splitting grains with a friend at Costco. Buying a bulk bag of brown rice is pennies to the dollar cheaper than buying frozen packs from Trader Joes (which, I love by the way). It’s great to have time savers like this on hand, but if you are looking to cut back on money, try cooking the brown rice yourself. Double up the recipe and keep it in your fridge for a few days. You can even freeze it in your own bags and pop it out when you need it.
Another budget and health benefit is to limit or stop buying cereal. Packaged cereal is expensive for what you get, and it isn’t much of a health booster. Most “healthy” cereals are still packed with sugar and are refined carbohydrates, which your body breaks down into more sugar. All this to say, buying oatmeal (even better, steel cut oats) in the bulk bin, is a healthy better-for-you alternative and much cheaper. It took our family a while to get away from the cereal habit, but once we did I couldn’t imagine going back! Hot oatmeal, ladened with berries and nuts and milk and butter is just so much more delicious in the morning rather than cold cereal. If you really enjoy the ease of cold cereal, make your own granola!
Such as paper towels, napkins, diapers, and wipes … We just don’t buy them! This saves us big $ … Diapers alone in this house would run us upwards of $100 a month. Andrew jokes that I allow toilet paper in the house, haha – which I get when it drops to the lowest price and shipped for free to the door using Amazon prime. We use white clothes that I buy from Costco for about $11 – these last us at least 3 years per pack. We recently tried the norwex cleaning clothes and also find these super helpful. There are a zillion health benefits and environmental benefits for making the switch away from disposable paper products, but I will let you search for that information on your own if you are interested!
I make most of these. Toothpaste and deodorant is super easy to make and (in my opinion) work just as well as the regular stuff. I switched over to jojoba oil for a facial moisturizer and hair anti frizz. At $8 a bottle, it lasts a year and can’t be beat. Coconut oil is great here too. We use coconut oil as a moisturizer for the whole family. Nothing puts a baby into sleep mode like a bath, and lavender mixed into coconut oil! Vinegar is great for cleaning, especially with a few drops of essential oils to make it smell nice. Easy to save money when you don’t have to go to the drug store! There are some great websites out there with natural cleaning and beauty product ideas.
For things I don’t make (like shampoo, make up, etc) I take notice of sales and buy when they are cheapest. You can even find high end make-up and perfumes on sale (like bobbi brown and laura mercier) if you follow them online and wait until they do a sale. Yes, it does happen! I also enjoy the expensive Aveda hair products. By paying attention to their company, I’ve found they offer $20 off each purchase on Earth Day. I wait until April 17th each year to buy shampoo!
Dairy and Meat:
It’s just plain hard to find high quality dairy and meat on “sale”. Because we are able to save on all the above listed items, I do spend a pretty penny on our organic milk, and grass fed beef. This means, though, that we just don’t buy beef all that often. When we do, it’s a treat, and I try to find it at Costco for the best price. Same with salmon, which we love! Once a year copper river salmon goes on sale at Costco and we buy a bunch and freeze it. There are also wonderful opportunities to buy a quarter of a cow or be a part of a fresh fish CSA. However, these all require freezer space which our family does not have. I buy the large bag of frozen foster farms chicken at costco, because they are the only company that does not use hormones in their birds. Cutting down on meat is also the best way to save money in this area.
We chose to buy organic whole milk and whole milk yogurt. There are some good reasons for this which you can read about, but we do spend extra money here. Instead of purchasing individual cups of yogurt, buy the big tub when it’s on sale (or better yet, at costco where you can get two large tubs for under $7!). Then sweeten and flavor it yourself. We like fresh berries, honey or maple syrup, and a splash of vanilla extract in ours! Some of those preflavored “kid” yogurts have more sugar than an ice cream sundae.
Let me end by saying, there is something beautiful about investing time and effort into your family’s health by making foods that you might usually buy prepackaged. I’m certainly not above popping open a can of something for the sake of time. But it’s a great blessing to those you are feeding when you put the time into making your own version. There are health, taste, and budget benefits. You naturally avoid so many chemicals, salt, and sugar when you make canned goods yourself. And your bottom line will be a lot happier, too. Some of my fav “do it yourself” recipes are here.
None of us can make everything from scratch. I too enjoy the time saving advantages of many of the foods on the market – trust me with three kiddos they are super helpful. But even one or two choice to make yourself can help – not only with budget but with your enjoyment of food. I hope this post has helped in that quest towards making a few changes.
Ok, so that’s the low down! And, a disclaimer: Just in case you think I’m all miss healthy, floating around the house munching on carrots sticks and rubbing coconut oil in my skin – remember that last night my kids ate a premade frozen lasagna. Ha!