Cheap Meals, Stretching the Grocery Budget

This post has its origins in a  Face Book conversation. A friend of mine nearly had a heart attack when she looked at her bill for one week’s worth of food. She needed help.

A bunch of us stepped up to the plate. From offering inexpensive meal options {You really don’t need 4 or 5 different foods on the plate. How much of it really gets eaten?) to using coupons, to investing in an Energy-star rated stand alone freezer and how to fill it.

Thirty years ago, most women, at least, knew how to stretch that dollar. We learned from those who learned the hard way: My grandparents’ generation raised families through the Great Depression. The Greenies can go on and on about “Reduce, Reused, Recycle”…. those who had families in the late 30s into the 50s KNEW. It was part of their daily life, although they didn’t make a mantra about it.

So, back to C’s problem. $220 for a WEEK’S worth of groceries. And I don’t think she bought any garbage food. SO, how to cut down on that?

*Buy store brands. They are usually just as good as the brand names, but often about half the price.

*Watch the sales. This is where that freezer comes in handy. You can buy extra when it is on sale, or buy large cuts of meats and cut it down to portions suitable for your family’s needs. If you have space, you can also keep a well-stocked “pantry” of canned food… just remember to rotate the stock… they do have expiration dates. And USE COUPONS!!!!!! I have seen people save $50 to $100 off their orders with coupons. BUT… if it isn’t something you’re going to use, DON”T BUY IT! What’s the sense in getting four tubes of Crest toothpaste for a dollar when everyone in your family uses Uncle Tom’s?

*If you don’t hunt or fish, make GOOD friends with someone who does. I am blessed that my brother, a single man, hunts and fishes (including deep-sea)…and he SHARES. Bless his heart, bow, gun, fishing rod and hunting camp!

*Garden… even if you don’t have a yard, set up a few window boxes. Cherry tomatoes, beef steak tomatoes, herbs, bell peppers, hot peppers all do well in window boxes.

*Learn to eat SEASONALLY. These days, with the ease of flying foods all over the world at any time, we forget…local produce, in season, is cheaper and healthier. The same can be said for meats and produce, as well.

*Read the labels. This is more a health thing than a cost thing, but the more fillers and chemicals in your food… the less FOOD.

*Skip the frozen, pre-prepped foods. Frozen veg is fine, it doesn’t have a bunch of extras that adds to the price. The prepped meals, like lasagna, and even pizza, are more expensive and full of chemicals to put back in the nutrients and vitamins taken out by the processing.

*Buy things like rice, cereal and pasta in bulk, and keep it in air-tight containers.

*Some people forage wild. It’s a great idea, but you need to have a REAL good field guide. You need to know what you’re picking and how to work with it. Also, make sure of the area you are foraging in. Roadsides: NOT a good idea. Spilled gas, tars, trash, urine…. you get the idea.

*Use your left overs…fry up left over mashed potatoes for breakfast, chop meats into salads. An easy dish: left over hamburger/ground meat, left over veg and left over mashed potatoes. In a casserole dish, layer the hamburger, then the veg, and top with the mashed. Stick in the oven until the mashed is browned. You can sprinkle grated or shredded cheese over it, too.


Those are some of the things we came up with. Got any other ideas to share?

About Mad Annie, Bronwyn, Ann

I am a wife.mother, writer, cashier (hey, it helps pay the bills), Pagan who sometimes thinks too much. A jackie of all trades and mistress of none
This entry was posted in cooking, Saving Money and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Cheap Meals, Stretching the Grocery Budget

  1. lw says:

    All really great ideas. I do think making dishes from scratch and eating primarily whole foods saves a lot of money. Also, we Americans tend to eat a lot of meat in our meals and meat is more expensive than other sources of protein so making portion sizes of meat a little smaller and having one or two days of meatless meals can help stretch a budget. Our local grocery stores also have the quick sale meat bin where you can get deals on meat that is a day or two from its expiration date. I have found this meat to be perfectly good as long I cook it or freeze it right away. I also look at replacement options for things I really love. If I like a certain type of lettuce or apple but the price is high, I substitute another type that is similar but less expensive. A good trick if you shop at farmer’s markets is to go right before the market closes. You often get deals or will be given produce by the farmers because they know they will be unable to sell it before it gets overripe. If you garden, look into garden swaps or friends who you can trade with. I supply eggs to a couple of families and routinely am repaid in their extra vegetables.

  2. oldwolfmcmlxiii says:

    Simple make Yorkshire pudding a part of the meal … it will fill you up AND cut backon the rest of the stuff you need on your plate

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