Frugality with Food, Revisited- Part 1

We're all feeling it. The grocery budget crunch. The shifting economy. The struggle to keep food costs reasonable.

Grocery store
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!

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  1. I’ve noticed the cost of eggs is rising considerably, and not just free-range ones. I’m lucky enough to have parents who raise chickens, but if I didn’t I think I would have a backyard flock. It’s a great money-maker too – you can always find people who want free-range eggs! I do a lot of my buying from local farmers – a CSA from a local farm, buying beef in bulk from local farms and I just placed an order for a bunch of chickens as well. They’re not as cheap as the ones in the store, of course, because they are pastured, natural chickens but it’s well-worth it, and I find that when my freezer is stocked with great food I hardly ever buy the expensive packaged stuff, so I end up saving money. We also buy from Azure, so I go to the store maybe once every 2 weeks, which saves me a lot on impulse buys!

  2. Yes this is a battle every time I go into the grocery store. My husband says just try and stay at where we are know. I have a 9 year old and a 6 year old and they eat alot! They are very good eaters. We eat veggies (3kinds) at lunch and dinner. We do eat meat, chicken, fish, some veg protein and alot of venison as my hubby is a hunter. I go to ur trailer for 6 weeks and will have to adapt again to a new store and really look and watch for those sales.

  3. I live and die by Azure. They are my favorite! I’m trying to use more of what I already have on hand. Darling blog.

  4. We have seen our groceries go up, and it comes at a time of very deliberate improvements in our diet. To some extent, we’ve accepted that eating well may cause a sacrifice in other areas if necessary. We are definitely having more meatless or less-meat dinners (for example, using 1/2 meat and 1/2 kidney beans in a dish that calls for all meat) to make it last longer.
    We just watched the movie “King Corn” and learned that people used to spend about 22% of their budget on food, then through subsidies to farmers made food cheap and unhealthy. Now our budget is about 10% for food on average, which we are used to, but may not be realistic if we want to eat well.
    I freeze every scrap of vegetable to use in soup stock, and I’m trying to figure out if there is something that I can do with things like cilantro ‘stems’ or if I can freeze lemon zest… It’s a challenge but I just really feel like God is working in this economic situation and telling us all to just slow down a little, and focus on the basics.

  5. I do find this very hard as well. We can’t even get all the things we used to get as our income (well DH’s) is the same, but the prices are way more. I try to remember that I have to just do my best with what we have been given by God (I mean with our money). We can’t always do everything the way that we want to, but doing something is better than nothing.

  6. Jen, that is a fascinating stat about how much people used to spend on their food! I told my husband that and he was really surprised. We currently spend about 10% or so on food, maybe a little bit more. I’d like to see if I can rent that movie from my library or something.

  7. Stephanie,

    I saved this post as new in my Bloglines so I can keep referring to it–great advice and ideas!

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