08 January 2013

Saving $$$ on Groceries

Everyone likes saving money. At least I hope so.
So, this post is about saving money on your grocery bill. Just some tips that keep this family of four fed at or below $100 a week.
            The first step is to learn how to cook. This is usually the first step in eating healthier as well, so two birds, one stone. Convenience foods are more expensive and usually higher in calories, fat, and sodium. Plus, do you really want all those preservatives and junk? This is definitely one of those life skills that everyone should have. The bulk of your purchases should be fresh fruit and vegetables, dried beans, pasta, grains, meat and dairy products (if you do that).
My thanksgiving turkey...a steal at 69cents/lb!
My biggest saver has been discounted goods on their way to the trash bin. It is worth it to figure out when your grocery store rotates products. Produce is always iffy, but all packaged meats have a “sell by” date. Most stores will have designated spots for discounted items. They may be tucked into an aisle or set off to the side. Our Krogers has a small shelf for discounted produce, and the last section of the meat is labeled “Managers Special.” There is also a few shelves next to the magazines that has all sorts of non-perishable items, like dried and canned goods, medicine, spices, even utensils, as well as seasonal items. I have never bought an item from this section that is even near its expiration date. It is usually a dented can, an old package design, or surplus. Some of the best deals have been 16oz boxes (yeah, I thought it was weird, too) of organic pumpkin puree for $.99 each, ibuprofen 100 200mg tablets for $1.49, 5lbs of organic unbleached flour for $2.49, dry pectin for $.25 a box, and my kids favorite cereal, Koala Krispies for $1.49 when they changed the box. You can really find some great deals.
Of course, there are the steadfast rules of shopping on a full stomach, comparing generic brands, sticking to a list, and shopping during the day or at night to avoid stressful crowds. Couponing is infamous now, but I haven't seen it play out in my life. I do not have the time or resources to be that extreme. I do keep the coupons from the register. I almost always get one that will take off $1 off of a $6 purchase of organic produce. I have to admit that I primarily shop organic produce and other goods. It does cost more, but I feel better putting it into my kids. Organic meats are just too expensive for us right now.
International markets are wonderful! The prices are phenomenal. You don't have to be a Thai fan to benefit either...but all the better if you are! They have a wide variety of items, including produce, milk, eggs, cheese, etc. Don't hesitate to ask for assistance if needed. Every manager I have encountered has been all too happy to translate labels or help me find the right kind of nori.
Farmer's Markets...my schedule pretty much keeps me from going. However, they are a great way to support local farmers while saving money. Ask questions! Where are they located? What are their practices? If you buy X amount of dollars, will they throw in something? Try going at the end of the day. Prices can be negotiated down, as making some money is better than none. Plus, they have a lighter load on the way home. CSAs are a great way to support independent farmers, and they usually try to throw in extras whenever possible to show their gratitude.
If you are able, of course raising at least part of your groceries will help. Anyone can have a little patio garden. If you have a yard, get into it. If you are legally able, try a couple chickens for eggs, and, if you can stomach it, raise chickens or rabbits for food.
Then, there's the extremists. Fregans! This one requires some leg work and good people skills. Ask grocery stores and restaurants if you can glean from their refuse. It will always be different, but free is free!

Woot! Apple Cider on Sale!

My favorite benefit to canning is saving money. Yesterday, our grocery store had apple cider on clearance for $1.99 a gallon. The regular price is $5.99. I bought 3 gallons. Obviously, no one can drink that much before it turns, so I canned most of it.

        1. Sterilize jars while warming up the cider. I would discourage spicing the cider before canning. Some spices become more potent the longer it sits, which can leave it undrinkable.
        2. Fill leaving ¼” headspace.
        3. Process for 30 minutes.

    I am looking forward to opening some up in August, which is when I start craving it, instead of waiting for the store to start stocking it. I can be quite impatient when it comes to fall flavors. This is also why we have 10+lbs of pumpkin on the shelf.

    Another way to preserve that cider would be jelly. I did this a few weeks ago, when our store marked down organic cider to $1.49. This turned out very well.

        1. Combine 2 cups cider, ½ cup lemon juice. Stir in more of less 2 cups sugar, depending on how sweet the cider is, and bring to a hard boil.
        2. Add 1 packet of liquid pectin and return to a hard boil for 1 minute.
        3. Remove from heat and skim off foam.
        4. Fill jars, leaving 1/2” headspace. Process in HWB for 15 minutes.

    It is perfect with pork roast. Rub it down with salt and rosemary. Quarter a couple apples and one onion in the pan. Cover and bake at 325 for about an hour or until the center accedes 145. Glaze with cider jelly the last 15 minutes.