Mary Beth is not JUST a bargain-hunting queen. Each day, this wife, mother, and beautiful woman of faith manages to homeschool her four children, run a successful photography business, plan out nutritious meals, AND take care of the twelve chickens living in her suburban back yard (also home-schooled)...all before her morning coffee.
If Mary Beth can spare a couple of minutes to get organized before grocery shopping, I think my number of valid excuses just plummeted to a big fat goose egg (or chicken egg, as it were).
Eat Well, Save Well
By Mary Beth Phibbs
My husband and I recently had a down-to-business meeting about the "Family of Six" food budget. Tempers and nostrils flared, calculators buzzed, receipts fluttered. We both came to the realization that an absurd portion of our income was being spent at the grocery. After a bit of frustration and exchange of solutions like “we cannot afford to eat exclusively organic” and “I’m not going to feed my family junk,” we both agreed that sacrifices of time, ideas, and preferences needed to be made in order to lower our grocery bill.
Processed food is expensive. Really...have you seen the price of a bag of chips lately? Forget it, leave the crackers and such behind, you won’t miss it as much as you think! If it comes in a package, box, or bag it’s probably not very healthy. Focus on eating real, whole foods. Shop the lean meats, dairy, seafood, and produce. Try to stay out of the snack aisles.
Have a Plan and a List
Have a list and stick to it! There are many temptations lurking at the store. Look away, look away! With an organized list you should be able to get in and out of the store in 30 minutes. For every minute you linger in the store count on spending an extra $3.00-$4.00 per minute on items that are not on the list and somehow end up in the cart.
Shop the Ads
I used to make out a monthly menu. However, in order to take advantage of the sales I now plan our meals around what's on sale. Avocados on sale this week? Looks like we’re having soft chicken tacos and tortilla soup. I buy certain items at certain stores. Once you figure out when each store ad changes it’s not too hard to incorporate these stops into your weekly errands. For example, the Whole Foods sale changes each Wednesday. They honor the prior week and current week sale on that day. I keep a Sam’s, Whole Foods, Wal-Mart and Reasors list.
This might feel awkward at first...but once you see the potential savings, you'll have no problem doing this one. It’s easy...just get out your weekly ads and a pen, and circle the items you want to buy. Wal-Mart will match ads and coupons from other stores. Let's say that Aldi has whole pineapple on sale for 99 cents and the price at Wal-Mart is $2.88. Just show the Aldi ad to the cashier and you save $1.89! My list this week has Spectrum Coconut oil. I will purchase it at Wal-Mart (which is usually priced lower) and I'll use my Whole Foods coupon to save an extra $1.00. Serious savings can add up when you have a sale item AND a coupon to go with it. One of my favorite not-so-healthy splurges is Blue Bell All Natural Vanilla Bean ice cream (just milk, cream and sugar). It sells for about $6.28 for a half gallon at Whole Foods and Wal-Mart. No way I’m paying that. I wait until it goes on sale for $4.50 and then I print off a $1.00 coupon. $3.50. Now we're talking!
Buy Bulk and Stock
If you don’t have an extra freezer I highly recommend you get one. When butter is on sale for $2.00 at Reasors, I buy 10 and freeze them. We split a whole calf with family or friends. A quarter is a good amount for us per year. Not only do we know where and how the cow was raised, but it is much cheaper than buying beef at the store. The wheat germ I purchase goes for a little over $4.00 a jar. I recently refilled my jar for 40 cents by buying wheat germ in the bulk section at Reasors. You can also get organic oatmeal for 99 cents a pound in bulk. (Just buy from a source that moves product quickly to avoid rancid products). I purchase about 10 pounds of fresh chicken, marinate it, and grill it all at once. We eat it for dinner and cut and freeze the remaining for salads and other recipes needing chicken. We buy what's in season and freeze it. We bought a bushel of corn at Whole foods when it was on sale this summer at 4 for $1.00. The cashier gave my husband an additional 10% off for buying a large quantity. We shucked, blanched, and froze it and are still enjoying our yummy savings in January!
Homemade is Better than Pre-made
Not only is homemade healthier, it usually costs much less. We make our own granola, baby food, breads, batters, sauces, dips, salad dressings, desserts, salsa, snacks, pizza and pie crust. Lately I’ve been making homemade cleaners. Less chemical, less money. It’s working well. I’m always trying out new DYI ideas for the home and I find it is usually much easier than I anticipate.
Okay, this may not be for everyone, but it can be very rewarding. We have a back yard garden which is trial and error, but we learn more each year. Talk about fresh. There is nothing like a home grown tomato. Many people grow them in containers and raised beds. If farming isn’t your thing, I recommend getting to the nearest farmers market.
Let’s Talk Chicken
We are proud owners of a flock of happy hens that produce an abundance of farm fresh, free range eggs. While I would not consider the care and cost of them a bargain, if we were to purchase these eggs, the price would be in excess of $3.50 or more a dozen. Our chickens produce about 8-10 eggs a day.
Change and Compromise
While an occasional black bean could be found in my burrito, I’ve never been a fan of beans. However, in order to compromise I am willing to eat them. Why? They are quite nutritious and cheap. So, a meatless meal once a week frees up funds in the budget for more pricey items like a good olive oil or seafood. We’ve had dishes like Black and White Bean Soup and Spicy Crock Pot Beans. I have to admit, they were quite tasty! I also know that if I buy pricey items, I need to stretch them further. If I buy no-nitrite, no-preservative turkey lunch meat at $10.00 a pound (compared to the processed and chemically laden cheaper turkey at $4.00 a pound), I'd better make it last. First, I don’t buy it every week. I will also make two lunches from it. So, I don’t heap on the turkey on our sandwiches, but I don’t mind knowing it’s the healthy option. I haven’t had anyone in my home complain about turkey sandwich downsizing either.
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See you next week!
Katie and Barb