We eat big around here. Are there even ways I can actually cut our grocery budget?
This is what I’ve been exploring lately. What are some ways I can cut our grocery budget without causing more work or frustration?
I was so positively challenged by Reanna’s comment on this post:
If you are considering ways to save on your grocery budget you might consider buying more in “ bulk” and less single serving items. I’ve never bought individual applesauces, or other single serving items. I also only buy simple snacks such as fruit or crackers. We mainly concentrate on eating more during mealtime and not snacking as much. Snacks can be very expensive!
I 100% agree with her idea to avoid single-serve items, and I used to shop and serve food in just the ways she described. But with caring for so many little ones all while trying to keep up with our big kids (we’re planning another wedding, eeee!) – I have resorted to all kinds of convenience food items just to survive. (Our three littlest babies are each about 9-months apart in age, our three-year-old is potty training, and three days every week we enjoy our former foster babe, another three-year-old oy!)
My first thought when I read the comment was, “Yes, but not right now. Maybe after we get through this season.” But then I let her ideas simmer a while and I started to think about ways I could make some money-saving changes.
What I need to consider before I decide to cut our grocery budget:
- Is the money-saving change worth the time and energy it will take to make up for the convenience?
- Will it be worth the messes it might make? (We are already drowning in baby-made messes around here.)
- Is the cost savings enough to make a substantial difference? (As in, will I spend $6.50 instead of $7.00 but create a significant amount of additional work for myself? If so, saving $0.50 will not likely feel worth it.)
- Will any changes I make mean that we are eating less nourishing foods overall?
A word about snacks:
Well, three words about snacks: We eat them. A lot of them. Not all of us though – here’s how it works at our house!
Our three-year-olds, two-year-old, and one-year-old kids eat several snacks throughout the day. I would have some incredibly grumpy babies if I didn’t give them a mid-morning muffin (or something similar) and some berries. Sometimes I actually feel like all I’m doing is figuring out yet another good snack I can offer to truly hungry little ones.
I give them substantial meals, of course, but their little tummies can only handle so much at a time. We go through grapes, berries, apple slices, granola, cereal, and muffins like crazy – all eaten between meals.
Now, on the other hand, I almost never give our 6-year-old and 8-year-old snacks between meals. They are expected to eat their fill during meal time and I’ve found that if they eat a snack, they don’t eat a good meal later (which makes them need a snack later, which makes me want to cry later, truth). So the snacking is limited to the kids under 3 – and also to the hungry mom who rarely has time to sit and eat a full meal, thank you for understanding.
Ways I Can Cut Our Grocery Budget
I feel a little bit silly that I haven’t actually looked at cutting such obvious grocery spending options for so long. On the other hand, this mama is tired, has a lot of meetings, and hasn’t had quite enough sleep for approximately 1,460 nights in a row. So that’s why I’m so grateful that Reanna suggested that I consider a different way to shop and serve food.
I discovered peach cups and pear cups and applesauce squeezies a couple of years ago, loved how handy they were, and never looked back. And with that, I never really looked again at the price comparison either. Until I was challenged to consider the necessity of extra spending.
Pear cups cost $0.13/ounce. But a can of pears costs $06.7/ounce – half the cost of the convenient cups. Peaches? Same story. Half the price to buy a can instead of the little cups.
When we hit the road or need to pack food to eat at a soccer game or at the park, the cups will be wonderful and helpful with so many kids. But at home? I can easily open a can and dole out the peaches or pears in little bowls.
IT’S SO OBVIOUS. But I’ve been tired. So.
Meanwhile, the applesauce.
For the past three years, I have been buying cases and cases of applesauce squeezies. These gems are so helpful I can’t put it into words. And what happens when I give my littlest kids a bowl of applesauce? You don’t want to know, but I’ll tell you anyway. They paint with it. On their shirts, hair, feet, and under the table. I learned the hard way not to give them a bowl of applesauce, and there are too many of them eating (read: painting) at once to help them all eat it in a clean way.
Squeezies though? I can hand them out, and actually leave the room to go potty by myself. This is a miracle and though shalt not take my applesauce squeezies from mine house.
But do I need them forever and always? As it turns out, my 6 and 8-year olds are quite handy with a spoon. I can easily serve them applesauce in a bowl and save money on an entire case of applesauce squeezies every week. How about that? A jar of applesauce is $0.5/ounce while the squeezies are $0.15/ounce or more. Triple the savings! And if I’d ever get back to canning applesauce again, well, that’ll save even more.
What else can I cut or change?
I already buy almost everything in bulk. At Costco, at Sam’s, and through Azure Standard. And when I consider all the needs of our day, plus my lack of time to make more of our food from scratch, I’ve had a difficult time knowing what else I can cut.
But one thing I’ve committed to, besides buying fewer individually packaged fruit options, is to buy fewer individually wrapped items in general.
The only time I truly need individually wrapped snacks is when we go to tennis matches, soccer games, or other trips and outings. My goal right now is to keep items like this on hand but to save them for outings instead of resorting to handing them out at home during snack time.
Here’s a post filled with easy food ideas to pack and take to games and events.
What I don’t plan to change now (or ever?)
As I’ve shopped lately and done some price comparisons, here are some foods I’ve decided to continue to buy for the sake of convenience, even though they are a little more pricey.
- Diced Ham – For $0.24/ounce, I can buy a package of ham that’s all cut and ready to dump into an egg casserole or this soup. A whole ham costs about $0.14/ounce. But I have to cook it and cut it (which is fine when I make a whole ham for a meal and use the leftovers in soup and such). Having the diced ham in my freezer ready to help me put a meal together in 5-minutes is worth the extra cost by far!
- Frozen Shredded Hashbrowns – I buy 4-pound bags of Mr. Dell’s hashbrowns for $0.7/ounce. I can buy a bag of yellow potatoes for $0.4/ounce. Dude, gimme both. :) Those frozen hashbrowns save me so much time and make meal prep so very easy! They are delicious and the Mr. Dell’s brand includes only potatoes. So I feel great about using them for many of our meals. And whole potatoes? We use those too, and they are also an inexpensive convenience food in my book. But only when I make them like this or this.
- Pre-Made Pizza Crust – I keep these in the freezer at all times. Do I know how to make pizza crust? Yes. Is it hard? No. But right now it’s fantastic to go to the freezer and grab crusts already made for me. I then grab a couple of cans of pizza sauce, shredded cheese, and whatever other toppings I have on hand. We quickly make pizza and it’s super easy. It’s also a lot cheaper than ordering pizza.”
- Shredded Cheese – Talking about the shredded cheese for pizzas reminded me of the beauty of the gift of bags of pre-shredded cheese. I used to buy huge blocks of cheese and my kids would shred it in our food processor. Gone are the days. My bigs are either gone or don’t have time, and I have decided not to give my babies a cheese grater. Smart, eh?Grating cheese would never happen if I had to wait until I had time for the task. So bagged shredded cheese it is! Are there ingredients added to the bag to keep the cheese from clumping together? La-la-la! I can’t hear you, I don’t know what you’re talking about… :)
Well, I’m quite sure that as I consider ways I can save, I’ll be able to add to this list. Any other ideas you all want to throw out there?!
Stay tuned for more Big Family Food posts, where I share all about how I make food for our big family! And read here to catch up on other posts in this series you may have missed. :)
Space Envy says
Great tips on saving money on the grocery budget. Using up what you have is so important… there’s just so much food waste in general. I like the idea of using larger cans/containers rather than those individual cups. https://www.spaceenvy.net/
This was so helpful! Thanks for being real and giving some examples of some good shortcut options (with no guilt ;) )
I saved all our pouches for when out (now as my youngest is 3 he almost never gets them). Applesauce in pouches is a treat now ;)
I didn’t realize how much cheaper Walmart is compared to our local chain stores! Walmart is not close but if I have a list of stuff that’s quite a bit cheaper there I’ll go do a pickup! What brand of pizza crust do you use?
One way we stretch our budget is to add beans with our meat, especially in Mexican food. It gets more fiber in our diet and replaces some of the meat. For example, I make taco meat with 1 can of black beans to every 1 pound of ground beef. I also add a can of black beans to your 20 minute taco soup and it’s delicious!
Glad to see you still have your humor! I love your funniness :). Now, did you know that you can purchase reusable squeeze pouches on amazon? As long as the littles don’t figure out how to open the bottom, haha. No, I haven’t tried them, but seriously considered it. I think I definitely would if I were in your spot, though! :)
I have used those reusable pouches, and while it did save me money, I also had time to deal with them…..because it did take time to both fill them, but also to wash them–they have so many crevices, lol;) Just my thoughts…
One tip I’ve always remembered is to serve only one protein at each meal. No sausage and eggs for breakfast, lasagna only for special occasions.
Marie B. says
I’m so excited about the idea to use a variety of greens in smoothies and to freeze the extra greens with a little liquid before they get soggy. There’s a market near me that has amazing discounts on produce every week so it’s wonderful be able buy it in bulk and freeze them for smoothies!
Marie B. says
Oh, and Costco is my favorite place to get shredded cheese. Theirs is actually less expensive than their block cheese!
Gina M says
For everything there is a season! Glad you seem to have struck a good balance between convenience for sanity & frugality! I’m with you on the cheese at the moment. Would I rather shred my own? Yes, but then we’d never have cheese lol