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Buying on a Budget

With rising food costs, gas prices that could skyrocket at any given moment, and the uncertainty of election year — there isn’t a lot of spare cash in most households.  This means that we must make our dollars work for us whether we are living in the country, the suburbs, or the city.  Perhaps now, more than ever, we need to be careful what we are supporting with our limited funds. You know?

So what are the best ways to cut costs regardless of where we live or how much time we have to devote to squinting at tiny ingredients labels or driving around looking for “locally grown” produce stands?

  • Create a meal calendar. Start small.  Just plan two weeks worth of meals and shop around that rough sketch.  Try and make the meat stretch into two or three days worth of meals.  Example: Make a large roast on Friday, have stroganoff on Saturday, and then stir-fry on Sunday.  You can use the leftover roast to slice up in the stroganoff and stir-fry.  See?  Not hard at all.  Here’s another great site to look at (click here).

  • Call around for price deals.  Don’t drive from place to place for one item. Find out which store has the most items at competitive prices and go there.  Stick to the list unless you find fresh produce on sale that you are able to preserve (canning or freezing).

twelve quarts of super-spicy salsa

  • Stop altogether or greatly reduce going out to eat in restaurants. Pack a little cooler with slices of bell pepper, cucumbers, apples, grapes — something to keep you from getting hungry while you are out and then paying exorbitant prices for food.

  • Know that it is not always possible or feasible to buy everything organic. So, here’s a list of the fruits and vegetables that are most likely to carry multiple harmful pesticide residues:  apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, lettuce, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, spinach, and strawberries.

  • Start an indoor garden (many of you can start it outdoors but I’m making this list for everyone) and grow your own bell peppers, tomatoes, and/or fresh herbs.

Do you have any other ideas/suggestions?  Please share!

A random commenter will receive a packet of basil from Seeds of Change and two coupons for Earthbound Farms Organics as a thank you for putting up with a post filled with pictures that I did not take (except for the salsa and the lunchbox).  Congratulations, Ann!

Looking for a new blog to read?  How about two?  Check out The Fishing Guy and If Only I had Super Powers.  I love, love, love them.

  • Rosa - We have a weekly budget and we hold to it! During the week, we eat mostly vegetarian and cheap meals, and during the weekend, we eat meat, cheese, etc… I cook EVERY meal too!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    Girl after my own heart… I am not surprised at all that you make every meal and are so savvy. I adore your blog and it certainly reflects an intelligent woman with many talents. Eating vegetarian through the week is a wonderful way to cut costs! We’ve done quite a bit of that thanks to a small ton of eggplant that this Georgia clay has produced! You rock, Rosa! -L.R.ReplyCancel

  • CrossView - We’ve discovered that “spicier” foods make us feel fuller sooner and longer than the more “bland” foods…. So I can make two meals out of one bag of chicken breasts, for instance, if I do them blackened (Cajun- not burnt =P) style. Whereas, a huge roast will be gone and having us feel a little snackish later, even though it was tasty and we actually ate more. So we can cut calories and our meat bill….

    And since my husband MUST have meat with his dinner, I shop local ads for what’s on sale and plan my meals accordingly… If ground beef is on a really good sale, then we’ll be having lots of ground beef recipes. The next week, something else will be on a great sale and I’ll pick up those meats and plan my next meals. And the Inernet is such a valuable tool for finding new recipes…ReplyCancel

  • YDavis - We always brew our own office instead of stopping at Dunkin Donuts or any other stores for our cups of coffee. And use a travel mug instead of buying paper cups and throw them away each time.ReplyCancel

  • Meadowlark - I’m not doing so well at planning, but CANNING… now THAT I’m getting! Sometimes it doesn’t SEEM cheaper, but since I know what I’m putting into my body, I feel a bit better about it.

    And your visitors can win a pathetic prize over at my house too! But you can take this part out if it sounds like the shameless promoting that it is. 😉ReplyCancel

  • CC - I do all of these, except the indoor garden. Cause nothing grows when there is no sun around here!!!

    I even had to switch from organic milk to RBST-free milk when all the prices went up (BUT, I found a store that sells LOCAL RBST-free milk!! woo hoo!).

    So, now what ELSE can I do to cut down on costs????ReplyCancel

  • Linda Sue - Invite company over for a brunch meal or have breakfast for supper – pancakes or waffles, home fries, small servings of a meat with eggs – I have a collection of breakfast recipes – everyone loves a big breakfast just not always in the mornings!
    It is just the two of us now and hard to plan meals so we don’t get sick of something – but I do freeze leftovers (please mark them – golly it is hard to tell frozen chili from frozen lasagna once it is frozen!)ReplyCancel

  • Robin - Hey Miss Lacy! :mrgreen:

    We haven’t eaten out in TWO weeks now! Weee dogggies. We have gone long stretches before but it has been a few years. I plan on making until my birthday without eating out unless my husband comes home. Then we’ll eat healthy. 😉

    We’re about 18 months from being debt-free! 😀 Have a great day!ReplyCancel

  • Sheri - I really really need to follow your advice. I have been meaning to start planning meals ahead of time instead of last minute like I usually do. Not only will the trips to the store be faster and less expensive but I can go less often and be somewhat organized. I am not sure I know what that means! Thanks, pretty lady!ReplyCancel

  • Tia Julie - The best cost cutting thing in the area of food happened to us this past week in our little town of Harvest. A Publix opened just a very short distance from our home! WooHoo, and we are super coupon savvy. We will be eating out less now and cooking more. :)As far as gas prices, well we just drive less, which makes me sad. I love driving and I miss you two. For clothes we shop clearance racks and thrift stores. I am a book-a-holic and my husband is a cd-a-holic, we both love movies, we only purchase used (mostly from thrift stores and yard sales).ReplyCancel

  • The Cotton Wife - We hunt and I could do SO much more with that – like buy a meat grinder. But I do freeze the venison and turkey and use it throughout the year.ReplyCancel

  • Ann - I pack my own lunch for work. I make my espresso at home, never do Starbucks (better for environment too!). We only eat out a few times a month (sushi). I am not an impulse buyer at all – I really have to love something to buy it!ReplyCancel

  • Kath - We will be back to meal planning this week. We are going to be only four of us during the week now so we need to learn how to scale down our recipes again.

    We buy our meat at Sam’s in the “case”. We then have to cut up the roasts to our family size and package it all. Ground beef the same too. Ask the butcher and sometimes they may even give you a discount.ReplyCancel

  • Spring in Your Step : Razor Family Farms - […] some congratulations in order from this post:  Ann of Velvet Lava Cafe won herself a packet of basil from Seeds of Change.  We are all very […]ReplyCancel

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