How do you save on groceries? : LUSENET : Country Families : One Thread

I know some of you do not get the Countryside magazine. So, lets have our own discussion on how we save money, or feed the family for less?! :o) I am looking for helpful hints to help me trim more money. ~~ We have our own chickens, so eggs and meat are not hard to get. I limit the amount of red meat I purchase and stretch it when I do make something with it. Just this year our raspberries produced so well, I froze them for winter muffins. I froze lots of produce from the garden (not enough to be store free this winter). I am working on developing "feed" gardens. Comfrey, wheat patch, Mangle Beets, etc. to help feeding the chickens. I put in some fruit trees to gather from, but that will be three years, or so, yet away. Wanting to start buying bulk, to see if that helps. I make quite a bit from scratch, when I'm not worn out. :o) Until it all starts coming together, I'm still paying $480 a month on groceries for a family of 7. How much do you spend? What do you serve? Inspire me :o)

-- notnow (, October 14, 2001


WOW! I'm impressed. I'm not sure $480 would've covered my grocery bill for a month with just two kids home. Of course, they ate like every meal was their last and had friends who ate the same way. Oh, well... better to know where they are even if it's inside your refirgerator. ;o)

I just did some math here and figuring three meals a day on a thirty day month you're feeding people for $1.31 per meal. I don't know how you're doing it, honestly. Congratulations.

-- Gary in Indiana (, October 14, 2001.

Thanks! :o) Maybe thats why it seems so challenging! I always make two or three meals worth and freeze some. Then I read about people feeding their family on $60 a week and I wonder how THEY do it! I love to make sauce from scratch and bread, etc. I dehydrate extra fruits before they go bad. We have black walnuts here too, but I haven't used those yet. (Still trying to figure out what the kids would eat with nuts in it.) Oh, I wasn't including chicken feed in my $480 a month. :o)

-- notnow (, October 14, 2001.

OH my $480 month my husband would have a cow. My food bill a month is about $160-180 for a family of 5. We raise our own vegies, meat, eggs, milk. Really the only things I buy from the store is sugar, flour, spices, and they are bought at the Amish food store in bulk. This year was a great year for our gardens I canned almost 2000 jars of vegies, 200 jars of meat, roast, sausage, taco mix, veg soup, chili, chicken noodle soup and more fruit then I'll know what to do with. I make my own noodles, breads. When it comes to feeding all the animals it cost about $60 month for feed (layer mash, chicken scratch, sweet feed, rabbit food) Our livestock always have plenty for green pastures, so in the summer I am able to cut back on the feedings to just once a day. A friend of mine works a at a store and is able to get me all their older greens, lett, carrots, celery for the chickens. Humm what do I serve? Lots of meat and potatoes. We eat alot of fruit and cottage cheese. God Bless Tracy

-- tracy emily in TN (, October 15, 2001.

We try to keep the grocery bill at $10 per person per week. Right now there is a man in our church who is helping us with groceries (totally his idea; well, no, he says it's something the Lord wanted him to do), but for years we have kept to our budget as much as possible. We have 6 very hungry children. I am wondering what food prices are in your area and what you buy. We cook from scratch, mix our milk with powdered milk, use powdered milk in baking, always buy store brand or generic (made ourselves get used to the taste of the things that were different), and shop the least expensive stores. Make a menu, carry a list and a calculator. If I've gone overbudget, I start putting stuff back. Some things, like cheese, we just don't buy unless it's on sale or I can fit it into the budget for pizza or lasagna. I have been putting less hamburger into my spaghetti; so far no one has complained. Check the tightwad tips thread for how we do soup. Also, there are 13 chicken carcasses in the freezer (the rib cage leftover from butchering) waiting for me to make soup.

I recently made a list of EVERYTHING (not just food) we buy on a weekly or monthly basis and am gradually checking off the things we can make or produce ourselves. Eventually I hope to be at least 90% store-free, using the grocery budget for garden seeds and animal feed until we have enough land to raise our own. Also, I am thinking of asking the farmer who owns the land around us if I can set up beehives on his land. (We have one acre and 6 young children; not enough room for keeping bees safely.)

I have not been able to buy in bulk yet (lack of storage space) but I've heard you'll need to save ahead for it, especially if you go with a co-op. They will want all the money up front and there is sometimes a minimum order.

-- Cathy N. (, October 15, 2001.

Cathy, in all the co-ops I deal with, you put your order in and two weeks later you need the money. There is a sign up fee.

-- Cindy (S.E.IN) (, October 15, 2001.

Thanks for posting this question. I had wanted to, but wanted to give everyone who gets the magazine the chance to read it first. Also I am trying to limit my questions to three a day to keep from overwhelming the board!!

Saving money is my favorite topic and I know I can do better in the grocery department. Food is important around here, as we love to eat good meals, and we entertain a lot and like to feed people good meals and snacks.

That said my current average for groceries for the year is $66.02 per week. I have kept track of every penny spent on food, seeds and garden plants, and chicken feed, since January 1st. I think this is a little higher than the total year average will be due to increased spending during the spring and summer months for seeds, and canning supplies. By the way I am STUNNED at 2000 jars of home-canned food!! I can a lot and love to do it, but I have never done more than 800 jars in a years time. I guess it will be a goal to shoot for!!!

Now that you know the cost,(and my goal is to decrease this to $50 a week) I will explain the methods I use because I think this is still a low amount for 6 people (4 kids ages 8,10,12,14).

MEAT: I don't buy a lot of meat. My husband will usually shoot a dear, and I grind some and can most of the rest. I will save some roasts and the loin for steaks. I cut some for jerky which my kids love. I do buy some beef, I will buy hamburger when it is on sale for around $1 a pound. I make patties with some and pack the rest in 1/3 pound packages. I buy meat when it is on sale for the season. Turkeys are cheap at Thanksgiving, so I buy many sometimes 5 or 6. Ham at Easter is cheap, I will buy 3 or 4. Chicken I buy year round when it is on sale cheaply. I don't buy lunch meat very often. Maybe some hard salami a few times a year and I usually buy some pepperoni (Aldi's has packages for $.99 that is enough for 2-3 large pizzas) I buy bacon and sausage once a month for Sunday breakfast. That is my basic meat plan. Buy only on sale. Many of our meals do not feature meat and I make sure I use every ounce I do buy. I package left-overs, and boil the bones to make broth.

Fruits and Vegetables: I grow a large garden and try to eat fresh all summer. I can all we don't eat fresh so I rarely have to purchase any vegetables. I also can fruit and we pick raspberries and blackberries. We grow peaches and apples. When I shop each week I usually buy about $5-8 worth of fruit like bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, grapefruit, peaches...I buy in season and we always have fruit in the house. Also watermelon and cantloupe in season.

I try to always purchase staples like flour, sugar, spices, pasta etc... on sale and then I purchase a large quanity at once.

The trick to lowering your bill is to never HAVE to buy anything. I keep things stocked far enough ahead I never run out and have to buy anything. This takes time to do, but once you are stocked you will like it.

Everyone knows the basic hints like cooking from scratch, buy on sale, etc... The hard part is doing it. My best plan is to figure out what I will cook in the morning for supper. Then I can use my high-energy mornings to get it together instead of standing in front of the freezer at 3:00 in the afternoon trying to figure out what to fix! Try to use what you have on hand, make substitutions and leave out questionable, high cost ingredients. Like to me, mushrooms are mushrooms so it doesn't make much difference what ones I use. I know tsome will not agree with this, but there is probably something you can leave out without messing up the whole recipe!

I'm sure that there are many, many other ideas I will come up with. But the most important part is the MIND part. MAKE UP YOUR MIND TO SPEND LESS AND YOU WILL. YOU WILL CREATE NEW DISHES TO SERVE, YOUR KIDS WILL EAT, THEY WON'T STARVE THEMSELVES. sorry hit caps lock ... Your husband will eat meat-less meals once in a while. For every reaosn you can come up with not to spend less, I promise it will work out!!!!

-- Melissa (, October 15, 2001.

We have an informal co-op here of friends and acquaintances that want to order organic and or stone ground flour from a mill in New Brunswick. Its cheaper to order it than pay the super market prices for the Speerville Mills brand. You need to have an order of 300 pounds before they will ship to you so when its time for an order (someone is out of stuff or what have you..maybe 2 times a year) an order is put together and sent off by our organiser Amy. I ordered a 25 kg bag of whole wheat flour and a 5 pound bag of sunflower seeds (hulled). Speerville carries lots of other stuff too like the Tom's of Maine toothpastes and stuff. It is cheaper to buy the no name flour etc but its not organic or stone ground. Thats my main bulk buy. My kids are quite snacky and so we go through ALOT of crackers, cheese, peanut butter and cereal bars. This year we put a side of pork in the freezer, a few chickens, and half a lamb. I feel so good at not having to fret about the cost of meat this winter (until our supply runs out!). My kids are chicken nugget junkies and I am thinking about breading some pork pieces and seeing if they will eat them as chicken nuggets. Dang ol' picky eaters! As a result of picky eaters and snackaholics (dh and myself included) our grocery bill is usually about $400 a month give or take...not including the 2% milk we buy from the milkman for the kids (we try to do powdered skim for the grownups). To combat that expense we are contemplating a milk cow. It'll be cheaper to feed her than buy milk. P lus you get a beef calf and excess milk or botched yogurts and cheeses go to the piggies in spring, summer and fall. plus I get another critter! heehee Guess its not all that practical. Cathy, have you checked out Canadian Parents Online? They have a frugal living board thats about 5 pages long if you set your viewing right. maybe you would all be interested. or is it .com of them will work..I have it set as a favorite so i never type it. there is homeschooling stuff there too..anything to do with being a Canadian Parent...or any parent.

-- Alison in N.S. (, October 15, 2001.

One of my big money savers is I plan my meals a month in advance. I know this takes alittle time but I figure 1 afternoon a month is worth the savings. I take inventory of everything and start there. I make simple but filling meals.I also try not to have the same thing twice in a 2 week period. I use everything. If I have chicken and noodles on evening, I have chicken soup the next.I can most of our fruit and veggies but still have to buy some to get us through.I also buy at a local Save-a-Lot store. I can get canned veggies and fruit for 21-29 cents a can.I make all my own soups with the exception of cream of mushroom(I can get it for 39cents a can ).Plan ahead. I find I spend more when I have to put together a meal in minutes. Hope this helps!

-- Micheale from SE Kansas (, October 15, 2001.

Okay...the Canadian Parents Online site is and they have a frugal section on their bulletin boards. Just wanted to clarify the address. Have a great day!

-- Alison in N.S. (, October 15, 2001.

I truthfully admire all of you for spending so little on groceries. Like I said though, I buy a lot of organic and that is 3 to 4 times as much as nonorganic. I do plan meals 2 weeks at a time and we eat very little meat. I do buy antibiotic, hormone free beef and that ground cost me $3 a pound. We don't eat steak and rarely roasts. I do buy chicken and since we only will eat white meat, and since there are only two of us, I buy only breasts. I buy organic, lactose free milk since I have a lactose intolerance and that is $4 a 1/2 gallon! We would never eat hot dogs, bologna or white bread. I believe in getting good nutrition and that is what we are paying for. It's more expensive to buy but I feel cheaper in the long run in less medical bills. We are rarely ever sick. I make most of our things from scratch - including grinding our flour and baking our own bread. Of course the wheat berries I buy are organic and I buy them in bulk. Today I am making pizza from scratch. I just don't use white flour and try to limit white sugar. We use honey and it is more expensive. Anyone else do as I do only cheaper? We raise a garden and I canned around 300 jars this year. Could never do 1000 because of back pain. We have our own hens for eggs but other than that, we buy everything else. Another example, the organic romaine lettuce I buy is $3. Head lettuce has NO nutrition whatsoever. So as the one lady who wrote in to CS said, we are buying nutrition, not just trying to see how cheaply we can get away with by buying nonhealthy foods. The $400 I mentioned does include dog food, paper products and cleaning supplies too.

-- Barb in Ky. (, October 15, 2001.

Like Michaele in Kansas, I, too plan my meals monthly. I check my pantry & freezer inventory and base my meals around what I have on hand. I also don't throw away anything (that's not already a science project anyway) and save bits and pieces of leftover vegetables for shepard's pie or chicken pot pie and leftover pieces of meat for spaghetti sauce. DH is paid monthly, so once a month we have steak. The rest of the time it's casseroles, soups, stews or whatever. Fortunately, my children are grown and DH isn't picky. I make homemade bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, etc. I also know my prices and only buy on sale. Hope this helps.

Wishing you enough.

P.S. I LOVE this kind of postings. I learn so much from everyone.

-- Trevilians (aka Dianne in Mass) (, October 15, 2001.

I totally agree on eating healthier. But I have found that the less I spend the more healthy we eat. Everything I grow is organic, and I guess the deer meat is organic too. I think as I try to spend less money I make sure I get the best impact for my food dollar. We don't eat any white flour, or white rice. I just watch for sales and stock up. I don't buy pre-packaged snack cakes, cookies, or granola bars. I do buy an occassional bag of oat bran pretzels or tortilla chips. I occasionally buy a 2 liter pop. And with kids we do eat hot dogs at a weiner roast a few times a year. I try to buy the lower fat ones. I buy chicken that has no hormones or antibiotics. I guess we are not fanatical about eating 100% healthy but overall our diet is low in fat and high in fruit and vegetable content. I think the trick to this is to buy in season and on sale. Even whole wheat flour and brown rice go on sale sometimes. I try to plan meals around what is available, cheap and healthy. We are rarely sick and we are a very active family. It seems like each week there are loss leader items that are fairly cheap in price. I don't understand why people think if you eat cheap it must be un-healthy? Some of the most expensive things I see in the stores are the things that pre- packaged: like frozen meals, snack foods, boxed foods, etc... rarely are the basic foods all that expensive.

-- Melissa (, October 15, 2001.

Melissa, it sounds like you do a great job! I admire you. You pretty much shop as I did when I had children at home. Now that I can afford to spend a little more though I do prefer to buy more organic and I probably buy more meat than you do since we don't like venison! I do the biggest part of my shopping at a health food store and believe me it is expensive. I don't buy snacks and the like rarely. I bake cookies for us if we need a snack. Also, that figure is for 3 meals a day, 7 days a week. We never eat out. And please don't get me wrong, I don't think an occasional hot dog is going to hurt your kids. It's just that we ate unhealthy for so many years that I feel we need to really make a concentrated effort to eat as healthy as we can now that we are older but we are by no means perfect! I do buy and stock up when things are on sale and we do eat a lot of brown rice. That may be another reason I spend so much, I probably have enough food stocked up to feed us for at least 6 months! Blessings to you and yours.

-- Barb in Ky. (, October 15, 2001.

Now there are only the two of us at home (yeah), but back in the day of at least 6-11 kids in the house at one time (foster kiddos plus our own), I always bought things in bulk..much cheaper. We were lucky to live close to a factory oulet kind of food store in PA..lots of foods with American companies but earmarked for other countries, e.g. boxes of Corn Flakes with the Kellogs' logo but all the print was in Hebrew...I make my own bread every day, and unless I got a great buy on boxed cereal from the factory store, I'd make french toast, or pancakes or oatmeal, etc, for breakfast...I refused to buy cereal when the prices went nuts..also used to secretly mix 2% milk with powdered milk..everyone swore they would rather die than drink powdered milk hee hee hee...I used powdered milk in all baking, never could tell the difference and had no complaints. In the Summertime, I made my own popsickles..bought the sticks in bulk and used to mix up Kool Aid and water and pour into molds my husband made....As far as snacks, used to make our own candy..the kids loved to help and it is not hard to do at all....anybody remember rock candy? All you need is granulated sugar, food coloring and a few pieces of string. Lastly, I recommend for those folks who do not have their own livestosk to find a good neighborhood butcher. I used to save tons of money by buying in bulk, re-wrapping the meat into smaller portions and then freezing it. Our farmer friends used to let us buy a piglet in the Spring from them..they would raise it and then we would pay for the butchering to be done..voila..175 pounds of pork in the freezer for no more than 25 cents a pound. God bless.

-- lesley (, October 15, 2001.

Sorry Barb, I did not mean you specifically! but even in the CS article people were intimating that people who fed their families cheaply must be eating just hot dogs and white bread!! I know we could probably improve our diet, but a little treat now and then is nice for the kids and for us too. In a weeks time we probably eat healthier meals than almost anyone I know. The one person said they spent $100 a month on meat, now even if it was $5.00 a pound that is a lot of meat in one month for I think 3 people!

-- Melissa (, October 15, 2001.

Melissa, I totally agree that $100 a month for meat is an awful lot. I also agree with you that the kids need a treat now and then. I only wish my daughter with 2 children fed them as well as you do yours. She spends plenty but it's things like expensive box cereal, those packaged lunch things for kids, and she allows them to waste so much. They might take 1 bite out of something then throw it away. I too love being frugal and if I weren't, I couldn't afford at this time in my life to shop at the health food store as I do. I am going to see if I can cut back some though because that does sound like an awful lot for 2 people but as I said, I stock up and always have plenty of food on hand. Unexpected company is never a problem for me. It used to be! Blessings to you and yours.

-- Barb in Ky. (, October 15, 2001.

I know what you mean Barb, my house is so stocked with food that I don't think I can fit anything else anywhere! My freezer is pretty packed, I have about 800 jars of home canned food, and my large cupboard is ready to overflow. we have potaoes and apples in the fruit cellar, and my cold frame is filled with several varieties of fresh lettuce. So we are pretty well ready for winter. I love to have company and have something good to eat. I will often make triple batches of quick breads like pumpkin or zucchini, to pull out and defrost if unexpected company comes.

Everyone keep giving those hints, I know some of you have many great ideas we haven't heard yet!

-- Melissa (, October 15, 2001.

Melissa- You are right, it is intimidating to read how little people spend on food. I believe it can be done (not that I do it as well as they) but the key is total organization and fixing the cheapest things from scratch.

I think you need only look at how a depression-era farm family ate or how they ate as pioneers. Dried beans with every meal--it is the cheapest source of protein--esp effective nutritionally with cheese or rice. And bisquits--made from lard or bacon grease.( because it was a byproduct of other things). Rice (you'llget more for you dollar with brown). Greens (You can't grow anything easier or more forgiving than collard, turnip, beet greens). Meat was not the main focus of the meal. Pasta (ok, not depression-era but cheap). Cornbread (great source of whole protein without meat if used with beans and cheese)-- cheap, cheap, cheap. Many of these things were only flavored with meat--not serving up whopping steaks there.

Think about the iced tea that is so common in the south--it is much cheaper than cokes.

We don't deny the kids some treats but they are limited. They get sugar cereal one day a week. You get to pick whatever HOMEMADE meal you like on your birthday. Hey--chicken hotdogs are cheap and good once in a while.

-- Ann Markson (, October 15, 2001.

This is really a ques. but fits here. There used to be program called SHARE where you paid $11 and had to volunteer some time but got quite a few staples. I really don't know if it was a good deal but I always thought it sounded interesting. Does anyone know if this is still around?

-- DW (, October 15, 2001.

I participated in the SHARE program a few years ago but didn't care much for the food. Some of the foods offered were okay but a lot of the items chosen for that time period were things I wouldn't normally purchase such as frozen egg rolls and prepared breaded mystery meat. The fresh produce was usually okay, though. I found I could do better using my $14/SHARE money by shopping carefully and cooking from scratch.

Wishing you enough.

-- Trevilians (aka Dianne in Mass) (, October 16, 2001.

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