Thursday, August 25, 2011

Trimming the Fat: How I Cut My Grocery Bill in Half

I've been trying to find a way to share my strategy for slashing our monthly food budget, but haven't really had the time until now. A friend emailed me recently, asking for menu ideas to help her reduce her monthly grocery bill. Here is my reply.

When the hubby lost his job, I wanted to trim the fat on the budget. As far as groceries were concerned, I wanted to first make sure that my children were getting adequate nutrition. So, I got on and typed in our info to get free customized printouts of the exact amounts in each food group for recommended daily servings. I think for the youngest two, I had to google "daily recommended food servings" to get more specific info. At my house, we eat three meals, and two snacks (fruit and a dairy product) daily. So, I sat down with the serving sizes and actually divided it up and spread it out over 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. For example, at breakfast, I get 1 C dairy (usually milk because it's the easiest to measure), 1 oz protein (1 oz is an egg or 1 actual oz of cooked meat, or 1/4 C beans, or 1 tbsp peanut butter), and 2 oz grain (1 oz is a slice of bread. 1 C cold cereal, 1 C cooked cereal, grains, or rice), and 1/2 C fruit.

Then, the first week, I did my normal shopping which came out to $80 sans veggies (my veggies come from a CSA at $20 per week, but we won't be renewing unless the unemployment situation changes). That first week, I did all of the measurements and realized I still had 1/2 my food amount left over. So, the next week, I only had to spend about $40.

I believe in leftovers, especially now, since I have to make it count. So, when I make my menu, it includes lots of leftovers. I cook from scratch, which is very easy. When I go to the store, I only buy what's necessary to make the meals on my menu for the week. I also make sure I keep my pantry stocked with commodities and seasonings that I use regularly (ex. I always have onion, garlic, bell pepper, salt, black pepper, canned beans, and canned diced tomatoes).

I do not have a set menu plan or grocery list. Sorry. That is probably my next step. I did stop buying organic products this month because this is now going into month 4 and things are looking lean. If I don't have to buy commodities, I average $30-$40. If I do have to buy commodities, it's about $60-$70. This past week was $90 because I needed more commodities (sugar, flour, olive oil, etc) and I bought two loaf pans so I can start baking my own bread.

Here is an example of some things I cook:
-stir fry with whatever vegetables I have on hand and sausage or chicken
-spaghetti (again, I have resulted to buying the cheap metallic tasting Hunt's @ 99 cents per can and I add vegetables)
-baked chicken (we eat the chicken for 2 days and then I make soup and we eat for 2 more days)
-beans (usually from scratch. Canned is for the lunch soups)

Those are my staples. It's usually very little meat (expensive) and lots of grains and veggies.

This week's example:
Breakfast: (rotation)
Oatmeal/Grits/Pancakes (could do more if Andrew could eat eggs)
Milk/Orange Juice from concentrate

Home made fruit salad

2 veggies (so far, salad and sauteed zucchini or squash from the CSA box)

Red beans and rice
2 veggies from the CSA box
Tonight, I'm adding cornbread for variety

So, that's the whole week's menu. Spaghetti and Beans all week. But, we are in a different financial situation. You probably just need to do 2-3 nights of the same meal.

Anyway, lots of info. If you need more, let me know. Any suggestions from my readers would also be greatly appreciated.



  1. Wow! Thanks for sharing this. I have a tip that may help with your "cheap metallic tasting Hunt's." Wm and I haven't used spaghetti sauce in years. I get the least expensive tomato sauce I can find (or paste if I want a thicker sauce) and cook it with herbs and a splash of cooking wine (not to be confused the real stuff) and whatever aromatics and veggies I have on hand. It's still as inexpensive, but tastes better. Hope that helps!

  2. With your chicken, do you buy fresh or frozen? Hubby likes boneless breasts and when I was working, I would purchase bags of frozen pre-cooked for convenience. Now that I'm home, I have time to cook daily, and there is less food wasted from spoiling. I'm going to figure out the better buy. It's amazing....I LOVE a great sale when it comes to clothing, but I've never paid attention to food!