We're all feeling it. The grocery budget crunch. The shifting economy. The struggle to keep food costs reasonable.
It seems that each time I go to the grocery store these days, yet another item that I regularly buy has risen in price. Each time I place my order with my co-op, Azure, another item has gone up beyond the price in the new catalog. The government decided to get it's hands in on the cow share I'm a part of, and is now charging us tax on our monthly maintenance fees for our raw milk.
And as I'm struggling with what to do, and worrying about how I can keep our budget where it is at and still feed us adequately (and healthfully) with a baby who eats more every day and a toddler who rivals me for eating at many meals (and that's really saying something!) and a husband who is recently needing to keep packaged snacks in his car because of his long work days and limited time for stopping to eat… I wonder what I can do that I'm not already doing.
So let's talk strategy, shall we?
Here's what I'm doing right now, to absolutely maximize every penny of my food budget. Many of these things I have mentioned (most of the links are to previous posts of mine), perhaps some I have not, and maybe not ever in a succinct compiled list.
I pray that this will help me to better evaluate what I am doing and where I could improve, and to encourage you with more ideas in your own efforts to steward your finances and provide your family with the best quality food possible.Hopefully we can all encourage each other as we share the different ways that we are getting by!
1) Trust in God and His provision— This is the most important. It is not up to me to take care of us. It is my job to steward what I have been given to the best of my ability, and trust that God will provide for our needs. Each time before we go shopping, my daughter and I pray, thanking God for taking care of us, for blessing us so abundantly, and we ask Him to be with us as we shop and to bless our efforts to use the money wisely. Not only do I feel that God has so many times answered my prayers through particular deals, but also sometimes through not providing a deal I had hoped to find, but giving my heart peace and rest instead.
2) Working within a budget— Quite simply, knowing my limitations keeps me very grounded in what I buy. I must consider the budget before I make my decisions, knowing that when the money runs out, that's it!
3) Menu planning— Careful menu planning enables me to thoughtfully plan my shopping trips, as well as to use what I already have in my house. Here are Part 1 and Part 2 of some menu planning posts I wrote many months ago, detailing my strategy for planning and how that works with my shopping and bargain hunting.
4) Using what I have— You'll see how this works for me in my menu planning posts, where I basically plan what to buy the first week, buy extra (whatever is cheap, on sale, etc.) and then plan my second week based on the excess. In doing this, every second week I am working with what I have and buying very little, so that nothing goes to waste and I clean my fridge out well before the next trip.
This has cut down on what I buy because it has drastically reduced my produce and leftover waste, by forcing me to really evaluate what we have and can be used. Also, here's a link to my style of cooking that really helps me in this area.
5) Stocking up on sales— Although I am a meal planner, I am also a stockpiler (more on this in a great post on stockpiling techniques from MomAdvice). When organic milk is discounted due to upcoming expiry dates, I grab anywhere between 2-4 gallons, use as much as I can to make yogurt (and now kefir, which I am addicted to!), and then freeze the rest, which I can later thaw to use in yogurt and kefir or cooking and baking (though raw milk is still a better choice for those things).
When ripe bananas are being cleared out, I take as much as I can get, then peel them, break them in half, and freeze them in large ziplocs. If our healthy bread goes on the discount rack, I stock up and freeze it. I buy from the sale catalog as my co-op as much as possible, and stock up from my meat supplier whenever they have sales. A full pantry and freezer (which you know you filled up with good deals) goes a long way to keeping costs low.
6) Asking for discounts– I have learned not to be shy when it comes to asking for a discount on things. More on this in this post I wrote last year.
7) Keep meat in a supporting, not starring, role— Although we do occasionally eat a meat main dish, our meat is usually kept conservative by adding it in to stews, soups, casseroles, salads, stir-frys, tacos or sandwiches with lots of veggies, etc. (See this previous post for more similar ideas on cutting costs in the kitchen)
8) Not buying drinks— Generally, I only buy tea and coffee (mostly for hosting others, though I do enjoy it myself a little), and raw milk for the health benefits, and that's about it. We drink water. A lot of water. My husband does really enjoy Club Soda with juice mixed in, especially in the summer, so that's a treat for us, but it's not usual. Drinks are expensive, and they are consumed so quickly! Besides, water is best for us anyways!
9) You'll have to come back next week for the rest… 🙂
There's so much to say on this topic (and many more ways that we keep our costs low), so I'll continue on with it next Friday, but are you feeling the crunch like us? What are your thoughts on the rising food prices and what are you doing to compensate for them?
More great frugal tips at Frugal Friday, hosted by Biblical Womanhood!