Sunday, August 14, 2016

16 Tips to Get Your Grocery Bill Under $25 Per Person Each Month



In this day of low minimum wage and extremely large student loans, money is a much harder to obtain and to keep than in days past. We don't spend money on clothes, cell phones, etc, but we've still got to eat. Over the years, I've wittled our grocery bill down to less than $50 per month to feed two very hard working adults. Now, we could probably survive on less than this but I want to do more than just survive. For $50 we eat as much as we want, we have a very wholesome diet, and we never get sick of what we eat (and trust me, at 6'4" with a crazy metabolism and hours of physical labor a day, my beloved Zachary can eat more than anyone else I know, but I still manage to keep him well fed). Food does more than just nourish the body, it nourishes the soul, which is why I always make sure I am full and satisfied at every meal. Here are some of my guidelines for saving money and eating well.  

**This is the first post in a series of two. To read about my monthly grocery list and price break down for each item click HERE.**

Cut Out Unnecessary Expenses, Like Dairy 
We do not buy dairy products, including milk, and that is that. While cheese and butter is tasty, it is extremely expensive, especially if you insist on buying organic, like myself. It is not that we don't crave it, it is just that we can't afford it, and we are probably healthier without it anyway. 

Buy in Bulk 
I can't stress this one enough. I really don't know why people don't do this more. Buying in bulk is a great way to get huge discounts of food and you don't have to run to the store every single week! We buy everything that we can in bulk and it saves us A LOT of money, not to mention that it cuts down on plastic food packaging waste going into the landfill. Just remember to compare prices around town and online and don't assume that it is cheaper just because it is in bulk, even though it usually is. Also, when it comes to bulk, bigger is almost always better. If you know that you can store it and that you will eat it, go for the 50lb bag over the 10 lb bag, it is almost always cheaper. 

*My favorite online bulk supplier is Honeyville. They offer a wide variety of conventionally grown and organic products at low prices. Plus they have a flat rate shipping fee of $4.99 no matter where you live (in the US) or how much you order. Not a sponsor, just love this company!*



My ginger growing!
Drink Water 
Drinks other than water are expensive, and more often than not, full of corn syrup and preservatives. We do not buy soda, milk, lemonade, etc. I do like to have a flavored drink every once in awhile, but I prefer to make it at home. I make always have a container of kombucha or jun going on the counter. Most tea is also inexpensive and can be made into ice tea easily. I will sometimes splurge on lemon juice, which can really add some excitement to a glass of ice water. If I am craving soda, I will make a ginger bug, which is not only healthfully fermented, but fizzy as well and gives me the freedom to make it any flavor I want.  Growing ginger at home is easy to do and can save a lot of money, allowing you to make not only ginger bugs, but switchel as well. 

Buy Staples and Splurge on Seasonings
While we eat many of the same foods each day, our diet is anything but monotonous! We save a lot of money by purchasing a handful of staples, such as rice, wheat, and beans, in bulk and seasoning it differently. It is much easier to pay attention to the price of five different items, instead of buying 30 different foods each month. In order to not get tired of these foods, we set aside money in the budget to splurge on a different seasoning or two each month, which often lasts much more than a month. For example, I have curry powder and smoked paprika left over from last month. I might buy chili powder and tahini in bulk this month and have plenty left over for the next several months. But next month I also have money in the budget to buy two more special seasonings, so now I have six different ones to choose from. Plus on top of all that, I grow and forage for my own herbs, so I always have a supply of ginger, rosemary, sage, cilantro, parsley, mint, hot peppers, etc. This system allows me to have some freedom to buy an ingredient for something that I am craving each month, on top of all the seasonings I already have. 


Eat Less Meat 
In the past 50 years, we've gotten into the habit of eating huge quantities of meat at a time in this country. This is not a common practice in most of the world. Meat is not only expensive, but it becomes unhealthy when eaten as the main part of the meal, taking the place of vegetables and healthy grains. A quarter pound of ground beef or venison is plenty of meat in a meal of two people when mixed in with a sauce, such as in pasta and sauce. That much will provide protein as well as a huge amount of flavor. Bone broth is a massive health food craze sweeping the nation right now, but did you know that you can boil the same large bones and make broth up to three times? When making bone broth, never throw your bones in the compost until they crumble easily in your hands, this way you know that you have extracted all of those wonderful nutrients and flavor from them that you can! Soup and broth is a great way to have meat in your diet without using large quantities of it. 


Eat "Unwanted" Cuts of Meat
If you must eat meat, there are plenty of ways to get it for inexpensive or free. A massive amount of meat goes to waste in this country, both in butchers' shops as well as on our roadsides. While it may be shocking to some (although it shouldn't be), roadkill is a great way to get fresh, organic meat for free and is often of higher quality than store bought. If you want to read more about how and why I eat roadkill and why you should too, check out my post 10 Reasons You Should Eat Roadkill. If roadkill just isn't your jam, there are plenty of other ways to get free or inexpensive meat. Many cuts, such as organ meats, bones, oxtails, tongue and other head meat, simply get thrown in the trash, which is so unfortunate because these are some of the tastiest and healthiest parts! Contact a local butcher to see if they will save some of these parts for you. While Western culture tends to shy away from these cuts, there is absolutely no reason for it as they as some of the most delicious and nutritious parts of the animal, they just need to be cooked a little differently, often slowly. It is especially easy to get these cuts from game processors, who throw away of hundreds of pounds of venison, bear, and moose, during hunting season. If you have an in, you can also get these cuts, and often much "better" ones, right from the hunters themselves. Hunting families with multiple children who hunt, often give away huge quantities of meat since each member gets an entire deer each year, just for the sport of it. Since people tend to trim off and throw away fattier cuts, this is a great way to get fat, which can be rendered down to lard and used in place of butter and cooking oil, saving a huge expense. 

Everything from Scratch and Don't Eat Out 
For $50 the two of us could eat out twice, maybe three times, each month. I'd much rather have three meals a day for four weeks instead of two, maybe three meals total so this one is just a no brainer. While eating out may be convenient, it just isn't worth it, except on special occasions. Store bought convenience food, such as frozen food, cereal, deli food, etc, is also prohibitively expensive. Instead we make everything, and I mean everything, from scratch. From pasta to pizza to bread, we make it all. Don't have enough time, eh? Well, cooking from scratch really does not take all that long once you get used to it. I also love to cook, so taking some time out of my day to slow down and cook a nice meal is a welcome respite, plus the food I make nourishes my soul as well as my body. I also make a lot of crock pot meals and freeze food ahead of time. I almost always have a crock pot full of beans in the fridge, ready to be added to just about anything for some extra protein. Meals such as cornish pasties or bean burgers, go a long way with few ingredients and can be frozen ahead of time, ready to be simply thrown in a hot skillet eaten within minutes. Canned food is the ultimate instant meal, as I can open up a can of soup just heat it up. As for bread, I simply make a large batch on the weekend and have enough to last through the week. If I don't have time for that, I will quickly whip up a week's worth of tortillas




I do not buy vegetables from the grocery store. I just refuse to do it. We have a large garden that supplies us with all of the vegetables we could ever want or need. So much so, that I am able to can hundreds of quarts of vegetables a year, which last us into the winter. Even if you do not have a lot of space to be growing vegetables, you can grow a surprising amount of food in a small balcony container garden or in a couple urban raised beds. If you can't have a garden, but would still like to can, you should take a trip to your local farmers market or pick your own farm. They often don't advertise it, but if you ask for canning produce, they will often have a box or two behind the table that they will sell to you at a very discounted price. This produce may be a little bruised or disfigured, but it will still be delicious! If you can go to a pick your own farm, call ahead and see if you can pick up the fruit that has fallen to the ground for free or cheap. You can also ask orchards for deer apples, which are sold in 50 lb bags at a highly discounted price to hunters for baiting deer or bears. Again, these may be a little bruised or funny looking, but will still be good for making applesauce or cider! 

Only Shop Once or Twice a Month 
I only go to the store once or twice a month. This not only saves me  time, but I don't waste money on unplanned purchases. Also, don't ever go to the store hungry. 

Stretch Everything and Don't Waste 
This one is really simple. The food that you do have needs to be stretched as far as it can, especially expensive ingredients, like meat. Need the pasta sauce to go a little further? Add some water and flour. Eating beets from the garden? Eat the tops too! While accidents happen, try not to let leftovers get shoved to the back of the fridge and go bad. If food does go bad, have a backup plan like feeding it to the dog or chickens, or composting it. Before you dump anything out, though, ask yourself if there is something else you can do with it. For example we never throw out pickle juice, but instead use it up in a variety of creative dishes. If you're looking for ideas on how to stretch food, take a few tips from your grandmother and use some great depression era recipes!

Shop The Sale Cart 
If your grocery store has a clearance cart or shelf, always check it. Don't buy anything just because it is cheap, but if you find something in there that you would buy anyway, go for it. I often shop the sale cart for special treats that I find myself wishing I could afford. For example, I often find myself gazing at pecans and walnuts longingly, hoping for some great sale, but they are always too expensive. Well, the other day I found a bag of pecans in the sale cart for just a dollar and was able to make a pecan pie! There is also one grocery store near us that has a sale cart in their produce section that is almost always stocked full of extremely inexpensive bananas. When I go to that store, I get a couple of pounds to freeze so we can make smoothies and banana bread. Avoid "discount" stores, like the dollar store, which make it seem like you are getting a good deal, but ultimately you are getting extremely low quality food that is simply packaged in smaller quantities. I read a blog post recently by a woman who was claiming that she got all these amazing deals on food at the dollar store. In reality, she purchased only a couple of days worth of food, and spent as much as I spend in a month, and on top of that none of it looked healthy, filling, or tasty. 



Forage 
Even when it is too early or late in the season for a garden, there are thousands of edible wild plants out there for the taking that provide plenty of green vegetables for us. One of my favorites in the springtime when the garden is small is nettles, which are great cooked in any dish like spinach. I do not limit my foraging to just the spring and the fall, though. There are so many great wild edibles in the summer time! One that I love dearly in particular is the mushroom. There are so many different edible mushrooms out there and they are nutrient dense, delicious, and often highly medicinal too! While it may seem daunting to a beginner, there are plenty of common mushrooms that are easy to identify, don't have any poisonous look alikes, and can be found in most parts of the US or even the world. Two of my favorites, oysters and chanterelles, grow in abundance throughout most of the United States. This summer, we've harvested several hundred pounds of chanterelles and filled almost 30 quarts with dehydrated mushrooms for winter!

Pick and Choose on the Organic 
I want to eat 100% so badly, but right now it just isn't an option, so I have to pick and choose what I want to buy organic.  I can buy 50 pounds of organic bulk wheat berries and grind it myself for just five more dollars than a 50 pound bag of conventionally grown wheat would cost. Plus wheat is a large part of our diet, so that seems worth it to me. I also buy organic tamari because soy is heavily sprayed. I desperately wish I could afford organic cooking oil, but for now, the best I can do is to buy ones that I know are non-GMO, like sunflower oil. When canning, I use much more sugar than I normall would, so I try to buy cane sugar, because sugar beets have been genetically modified. Most Domino sugar, which can be found in almost all grocery stores, is now non-gmo project verified, as well. When I buy my monthly luxury items and seasonings, I try to go for the organic. 

Know Your Prices and Shop Around 
This one is pretty self explanatory. Just pay attention to what costs how much where. Compare prices at your local grocery stores, but don't forget to look online as well. If you have a hard time remembering prices (like me), write down the five items you buy most often and record the prices you see at three different stores and online. That way, you can easily see where the best deals are. 

Dont Buy Salad Dressing or Condiments
Condiments are the biggest waste of money! Period. Salad dressing, mustard, ketchup, and other condiments are extremely fast, easy, and inexpensive to make. We use leftover pickle juice after we have eaten all the pickles to make delicious salad dressings, mayonnaise, and mustard. I also make my own ketchup and let it ferment for a day or two before putting it in the fridge- it is much more delicious and healthier by far than store bought ketchup! If there is a store bought condiment that you just absolutely can't live without, buy a bottle, read the ingredients on the back, and experiment with proportions until you find a suitable substitute you can make at home. You can also find "copycat" recipes from many different condiments online, even heinz ketchup



Raise Your Own Chickens 
Chickens are some of the cheapest and easiest livestock to raise, even if you only have a small urban backyard. Even if you aren't confident in your ability or willingness to slaughter your chickens, happy hens will give you an egg a day for years! Even two or three hens can provide a couple or small family with enough eggs to stop buying them from the store. While store bought grain is very expensive, especially if you want the organic stuff, it is not difficult to feed chickens on the cheap. Try mixing your own grain, feeding them scraps from the kitchen and garden, or raising or collecting insects. You can also go to your local grocery store (this works best with privately owned stores, not chains) and ask nicely if they ever have produce that they throw out that you could take home to feed your flock. For more ideas check out my post 12 Ways to Feed Chickens For Free! You'd be amazed at what chickens will eat, mine will even snack on extra kombucha scobies! 

**This is the first post in a series of two. To read about my monthly grocery list and price break down for each item click HERE.**

Thank you for supporting Stone Axe Herbals by purchasing products through our Amazon links! (it doesn't even have to be a product we advertise!)







Herbalist Courses for all levels
Disclaimer: This blog is just my own opinion, nothing more. While I try my hardest, everything may not be completely accurate or complete. Sorry, I'm only human, so do not hold me accountable for anything you do to harm yourself or the world around you. I do make money from this blog. If you click on any of the links in my blog I may make money from it, at no extra cost to you. I'm not sponsored by any of these people I just honestly love these products and want to give you the resources to find them. I am not a medical practitioner; consult a health professional before using any herbal remedies. I am not claiming to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any ailment.   

2 comments:

  1. I've been looking for a dirty/clean list for items beyond fruits and vegetables, like grains and meats. Do you know of any or have you assembled your own?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Check out this list: http://www.jesichashope.org/What%20to%20Buy%20Organic%20and%20What%20You%20Can%20Buy%20Non.pdf

      As far as grains go, most that are not labeled organic are heavily laden with pesticides. Most other countries do not allow as much agrochemical use as the United States so you are less likely to be consuming as many if you buy imported food, especially from Europe. This is also true with other foods than grains, though, such as olive oil. But there is no guaranteed way to know with this method so it is kind of hit or miss. At the very least I try to go for food that is non-gmo. I know that domino sugar is now mostly non-gmo and will be labeled as such in most stores. I also try to buy sunflower oil instead of corn or soy. I know that peanuts are heavily sprayed. As far as meat, eggs, and dairy go, buy local and talk to your farmer directly about their practices.

      Delete