This week's 10 for Tuesday is all about saving money at the grocery store. I'm not sure if I have 10 tips in me. I'm sure that I waste a lot of food whether I intend to or not, though I'm trying to get better. One of my major struggles is making dinner. It is funny, because I love to cook, but I dislike cooking for just two people. I will make a big thing like a batch of chili or soup and not want to cook for days as I see the leftovers sitting in the fridge.
1. Shop the sale items. We don't have a car, so most of our groceries are delivered via Roche Bros or Peapod. It might not be thrifty, but it does give us the option of buying almost exclusively from the on sale items.
2. Don't be tempted by things you don't actually need. This is a real easy trap to fall in when you are shopping via the lists at one of these delivery sites. The sweets and junk food are on sale 2-3 times more often than produce or healthier alternatives. After a rough day, the quart of ice cream that you don't need looks pretty amazing.
3. Make a list. One of my friends makes sure to add staples to her list as a default. I should do that, because there have been more emergency grocery shopping trips based on I don't have every ingredient for the batch of cookies than is truly reasonable.
4. Estimate. When I was in college and right after college, I was pretty much broke all of the time. I would give myself a budget for my groceries and estimate the cost of each item on the list. If I had money left over either because of over estimating, sales or choosing a cheaper alternative, I would use that money for something I really wanted. Of course, being me that meant junk food. Don't be me. Your waistline will thank you for it.
5. Buy something with as little processing as possible. Dried beans are cheaper than canned beans. Boil in bag rice is more expensive than an equivalent weight of regular rice. Cut vegetables are more expensive than bulk vegetables (I love that a couple of grocery stores I use have cut up the mirepoix, so I don't have to. However, that doesn't make it a good idea to buy it). Pizza dough or pizza dough mix is cheaper than Boboli or frozen pizza.
6. Don't buy everything at the top of the price scale. Now, I used to eat Prince macaroni and cheese and the store brand. These were hideous, disgusting examples of macaroni and cheese. However, they were areas I was willing to take a flavor (and texture) cut in order to have money for something I cared more about.
7. Buy the vegetables you need and only the vegetables you need. Alternatively, prep the vegetables and freeze the extra so it won't go to waste. I have had (and I am not the only one) cucumbers go bad in the fridge, because I forgot they were there. It was disgusting. Heck, even thinking about it reminds me how disgusting. Don't be me. Liquid cucumbers were not meant to be.
8. Make food on the weekends. You don't need frozen dinners or other expensive instant meals. If you spend a couple of hours on the weekends, you can prep or make complete meals that you can store in the freezer and reheat during the week. I did that with stuffed shells and a homemade pasta sauce, which we finally ate this past week. Good candidates for this are lasagna and chili, but I'm sure there are tons more that I am forgetting.
9. Breakfast for dinner is a reasonably healthy alternative and often more affordable. So have pancakes or eggs or french toast and it is easy to make, so you have time (fine, I have time) for making fun things like cookies and ice cream.
10. Shop local and in season. It might not always be cheaper, but it is better for you and better for the environment (and well, in season is usually cheaper).
11. Garden. But not my garden. My garden is an exercise in expense, because I am feeding the squirrels more than I'm feeding myself. But maybe this will be the year where I will get enough red bell peppers or tomatoes to make up the cost of gardening. Even if my garden is pathetic, I do it anyway. I have blueberry bushes that should be ready to produce next year. These are the things I try to grow, because they are very expensive to buy in the stores. Having fresh blueberries and milk with a teaspoon of sugar was my favorite summer breakfast!