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Top Ten Ways to Lower Your Grocery Bill

 

Eating Healthy and Well on a Shoestring Budget

On MTTD’s recent survey several of you asked for ways to eat healthy AND save money at the same time. I will share a few of those today and will share more in future posts.

1. Cook at Home and Use Real Ingredients

I think the Number 1 way to save money is to cook at home and to buy and cook with real ingredients. You pay a premium cost in both money and in health for the convenience of boxed and frozen meals. And boxed and frozen meals are high in fats, no matter what the label says; high in salt, and are often not made with real food but chemical substitutes.

Real food is a bargain. I try to show that by every recipes I share here. Even some of the fancier dishes I share are seldom more that $6 or $7 per person. That is far less than frozen, boxed, or fast food. And they are always healthier.

2. Plan, Plan, Plan

Plan your meals ahead of time and build them around the meat and produce items that are on sale. Use the weekly store flyers to plan your meals for at least a few days in advance. Make a grocery list and try to stick to it.

Grocery stores not only plan for, but actually build their stores, to cash in on impulse buying. According to e-How research has shown that “my $50/week grocery bill would be increased by $11.50 if I didn’t consciously make a list and only buy things on the list.” 

Buy up the advertised sales, or ‘The Enticers.’ Enticers are items that are sold at a loss to get you into the store in the first place. Even if it means having to go to several stores to get the “Enticers,” it is worth it if the savings is big enough. 

3. Stock Up on Essentials and Buy When On Sale

If you do not have a pantry now, start one. Buy in bulk when things are on sale. Buy items like chicken broth or stock, tomato sauce, tomato paste, soups, rice, beans canned fruits and vegetables, frozen fruits and vegetables, and pasta when they are on sale.

One of my pantries. I don’t have a walk-in pantry. So I have several smaller ones, this being one of them. I am covered for a blizzard or a depression.

4. Buy Fresh Fruits and Vegetables In-Season

Isn’t America great? You can buy almost any and all fruits and vegetables these days year round. It is wonderful to have that option. And I take advantage of it when I can.

But when money is tight buying fruits and vegetables when they are in season will save you money. About.com has an excellent month-by-month list of The Cheapest Fruits and Vegetables Month-By-Month. Click the link to get it.

This summer I have been running the Summer’s Bounty series where I have shared recipes using summer fruits. I am also going to be sharing more vegetable recipes as well, as this was also requested in MTTD’s recent survey. 

5.  Shop Farmer’s Markets or Food Coops; Buy Local When Possible 

Many times farmer’s markets have wonderful bargains. Don’t forget them when you shop.

Check out food coops too. This is a growing trend to help people find locally grown produce for less money. Do an internet search or use this site, Local Harvest, to learn more and find out if this is a good option for you. My nephew in Michigan uses a coop and loves it.

Many stores are now carrying more foods that are grown locally. Many times these foods are also less expensive. So buy locally if you can. 

6. Start a Vegetable Garden

Grow your own vegetables. Even if you live in an apartment you can grow a lot of the basics in containers. Growing your own vegetables like carrots, radishes, lettuce, and tomatoes can save you a lot of money since you won’t have to buy these items at the store thus leaving more money to but other food.

7.  Buy Staples at Drug Stores, 99-Cents Stores, and Discount Chain Stores 

Check your sales flyers for these stores too. Often times they will have fantastic sales on canned goods like broths, canned fruit and vegetables. Some of the dollar stores are able to buy discounted foods from the manufacturer simply because there is a mistake on the label, such as the ink ran or the ink was slightly the wrong color. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the food inside.

8. Buy Reduced Price Items

Most grocery stores have a reduced price aisle where you can find over-ripe produce, day old bread, and foods that are nearing their ‘use by date,’ or food in dented cans. You can buy these foods at bargain-basement prices. There is nothing wrong with the food. You will have to use it that day or the next most likely. But you can get super deals on these items. Sometimes I can’t even figure out what a piece of produce is on the reduced sale area. It looks fine to me.

Shop late in the evening and sometimes early in the morning and you can find fantastic deals in the meat case. I have found perfectly good pieces of meat or bacon for 50% to 75% off at these times. 

9. Use Coupons Wisely

Coupons can save you money if you use them wisely. But only buy those items you really need  or that you normally use. If you don’t normally buy something and you get it just because you get a few cents off, it probably is not that much of a bargain. Don’t buy something you don’t need just because there is a coupon.

And ‘double dip,’ as I call it with coupons. I cut out really good coupons (50 cents or higher for 1, not 2 or 3, items; and $1 and $1.50 or more coupons are the best) when I see them in the Sunday paper or a magazine I cut them out. But I wait to use it till I see the item on sale somewhere. Then and only then will I purchase the item. Right now I have 3 unopened bottles of clothes detergent in my garage. I paid $5.98 for each because there was a terrific sale and I used a $1.50 coupon on each bottle. 

Another of my pantries in the garage. Here I store paper products, some soaps, sprays and the like. I have enough toilet paper and paper towels to last me more than a year. Same for dish soap and hand soap. When my niece was up a few weeks ago she told me her dad does the same thing. I told her it is genetic.

Actually what it is, we were raised by parents and grandparents who survivied the Great Depression. Even though I was not alive during the depression I feel like I was because my parents talked about it so much. And my dad stocked up on canned foods and had a pantry in the basement. We learned by example.

To get back to coupns, I once had a store owe me 19-cents after I used all my coupons. I saved the receipt as a souvenir. I mean how often does a store owe you money???

It was a special deal. The store was enticing me to use their pharmacy and they sent me a coupon for $20.00 off my grocery bill if I transferred a prescription to their pharmacy. So I did. I planned it out and went through all my coupons for the best deals. The cashier was amazed. She thought she had done something wrong.

10. Switch to Generic

You can save as much as 25% buying generic or store brand items. You can save the most on generic cereals and spices.

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That’s it for now. But over the next few weeks I will do more posts on saving money at the store, eating healthy, and the tricks grocery stores use to get you to buy stuff you don’t need.

Featured Recipe
Fried Chicken Thighs with Vine Ripened Tomato Salad

In the most recent survey at MTTD  many people said they want to see more quick and easy recipes. Several people want to see more chicken recipes. Well this recipe from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine fits the bill on these two requests perfectly.

It is also a good example of eating healthy on a shoestring.

The tomatoes I used today are vine-ripened Ohio grown, and the chicken is from Ohio’s Gerber Amish Farm Chicken raised and processed in Ohio.

The recipe uses chicken thighs – one of the tastiest parts of the chicken and also one of the least expensive. I often think the thighs are the most underrated chicken part.

The recipe as published was for one. All I did was change it to serve 3-4. I also added some capers and black olives to the tomato salad. 

Gerber chicken thighs are big and meaty. The biggest I have ever seen. They are almosty as big as a chciken breast. Many times chicken thighs are small. If you buy small ones you will probably need two for each person.

This is what you need to serve 3-4 people:

4 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs

4 tablespoons of flour

Salt and pepper to taste

4-5 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

2 small vine ripened tomatoes

Here is what you do:

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.

Place the flour in a small bowl or on a plate and season with the salt and pepper. 

Dredge the chicken in flour, shaking off excess.

In a skillet heat 1-2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-low heat. I used too much oil. Do as Martha says, not as I do. 

Add the chicken skin side down. Cook until skin is browned, about 8-10 minutes. The Gerber thighs are bigger and thicker than most things and I cooked about 11 minutes on the first side. So use your best judgment. 

Turn the chicken over and continue to cook 8-10 minutes more. Look at that gorgeous golden color. Yummy!!

While the chicken is cooking wash and slice the tomatoes. Place 2-3 slices on each serving plate.

Chop the parsley.

In a small bowl whisk together vinegar, the remaining olive oil [1 tablespoon per person]. Add the chopped parsley and some salt and pepper.

When the chicken is cooked through drain on paper towels for a few minutes.

Then place the chciken on the plate with the tomatoes. Drizzle the dressing over the tomatoes. If you wish, add some capers and black olives as I did. 

As you can see, I also steamed some green beans covered them with a bit of butter melted with sliced garlic. Look how colorful and pretty this meal is.

This is a healthy meal even though the chicken is fried. First of all it is not deep fried. And I drained the chicken on paper towels which helps take some of the oil away. And I used oilve oil, a healthier oil than plain vegetable oil.  

But most importantly, look at the ratio of vegetables to meat. It is two-thirds vegetables to one-third meat. That is what you want if you want to eat both healthy and inexpensively. Vegetables are less expensive than meat.

Eat more evgetables and you save money. And you are also eating healthier. And three-fourths vegetable to one-fourth meat is an even better ratio. Or one-half vegetable, one-fourth grain like brown rice, and one-fourth meat. You will feel fuller longer and eat less meat which is usually the most expensive part of the meal.

If you follow those simple guidelines you will be eating healthier and less expensively easily and without giving up what you like to eat.

Bon appétit!!!

Cost

4 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs                 $3.24

4 tablespoons of flour                               $0.14

4-5 tablespoons olive oil                            $0.48

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar                  $0.08

4 tablespoons chopped parsley                   $0.06

2 small vine ripened tomatoes                    $1.27

Salt and pepper to taste 

Total Cost = $5.27 
Cost per person for 3 = $1.76

When you add in the green beans the Total Cost becomes $7.07 and the Cost per person for 3 becomes only $2.36. 

This meal is  definately a bargain no matter how you slice it.

Quote of the Day  

It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a home grown tomato. 

Lewis Grizzard

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