You’ve heard this tip before, but I wanted to share it again because practicing it gave us significant savings last month! Here’s how I saved $480 on my grocery budget in September.
I have a very large grocery budget, so saving $480 was pretty significant. We feed 9 people three meals every day, 2 additional people at dinnertime most nights, and regularly have guests and friends eating with us. So we typically spend around $1,200/month on food.
How I Saved $480 on my Grocery Budget in September
Every once a in while, I feel the need to focus on eating what we have instead of continually stocking up. This is a little bit tricky, simply because part of the way we save money is to constantly have a nice variety of food on hand so I can “shop” my freezers and pantry when I make meals and snacks. Running out can potentially mean a super expensive shopping trip to make up for all the food we’ve used up.
On the other hand, I reached that point most of us get to in which I needed to use up the random items lurking in the back of the freezer and pantry. There were plenty of great meals that could be made with what we had on hand; I just had to get creative!
And so, after huge stock-up purchases at Sam’s last month and at Costco early in September, I decided to see how long I could go without grocery shopping.
What I had:
Rest assured, I took the worst pictures ever to show you my freezer and pantry stockpile. I hate being unorganized, and yet, so much of the time I live in a state of disorganization while focusing instead on caring for so many littles.
Cringe with me while you look through my (unorganized) full freezers, fridge, and pantry so you can see that I truly had a lot of food to work with while I challenged myself to avoid grocery shopping!
Ack, here’s what my fridge always looks like right after a Sam’s or Costco trip: we just stuff the food in wherever it fits until we can regroup. :)
The cases of canned and jarred food go on a shelf in the kitchen.
While at Costco early in the month, I’d picked up three boxes of fruit.
As you can see, we had loads of food to work with! But…
What I’d still need
There’s no way for me to buy enough milk, fruits, or vegetables to last an entire month. So I still allowed myself to buy dairy products and produce as needed through the end of the month.
- Three of our foster children qualify for WIC benefits. So each month, we are blessed to pick up around $180 worth of groceries (cheese, milk, produce, cereal, beans, and bread) at no cost to us. This is a huge help!
- When I refer anyone to Azure Standard, I receive a small credit to my account. I let the credit add up for several months, then I place an order for a few free groceries about three times each year.
With so many mouths to feed, these two perks are a huge help to us and we are thankful for the bonus groceries!
What we ate in September
Now for the fun pictures! Here are many examples of food we made and ate during our weeks of eating from our stockpile.
I’d had a ham roast in the freezer for over two years (see why I needed this challenge?!). I think I had avoided it because I didn’t know what to do with it.
Solution: Cook it. Eat it. Hmmm, why didn’t I think of that sooner?
I simply put it into the crock pot in the morning to cook on low all day. Later in the day I dumped on some barbecue sauce. It was brainless and turned out super tasty!
Here are the plates I fixed for the seven littlest that night: ham roast, green beans, cheesy noodles, and sliced fruit.
I had a bag of fish sticks in the back of a freezer, so I air-fried them along with sweet potato fries one evening. We had corn on the cob, strawberries, and these smoothies to complete the meal. (I got my huge 10-quart air-fryer at Sam’s. It’s perfect for us!
I made these snacks to keep on hand for all the littles – these are a lifesaver! Mudballs, Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Bars, and Snickerdoodle Bites
Here’s a plate I fixed one afternoon for two of our toddlers to eat at our small picnic table while they played outside.
One night before our 6-year-old’s soccer game, we ate an entire double-package of tortelloni with sauce, spinach dipped in ranch, and a bag of clementines. (I forgot to take a picture, so I grabbed this one from my files!)
One Sunday, I’d run out of time before church to prep anything for our lunch so I just dumped some Costco meatballs into the crock pot with barbecue sauce. When we came home, I warmed up corn and got out a big can of peaches and some fresh spinach to eat with ranch dressing. It was simple and all the kids loved it!
I had a 4-pack of beef smoked sausages from Sam’s. So I cooked two (but needed a third one, so cooked that while we were devouring the rest!) along with a bunch of quesadillas, peas, and sliced pears.
I marinated a big 3-pack of chicken legs, then smoked them early one afternoon. I put them into a crock pot to stay warm while we headed to Malachi’s tennis match. When we came home I steamed broccoli, warmed up leftover corn, and opened cans of mandarin oranges for us to eat before we headed to a little league soccer game for our 6-year-old.
I had three small packages of different meat in my freezer that had been sitting in the back simply because not one of the packages was enough to feed my family a full meal. I decided one day to thaw all three of the packages at the same time and smoke them to make a meal. So, one big pork chop, four chicken thighs, and five beef ribs made us a feast that night! I served the meat with smoothies, steamed broccoli, and tortilla chips with this dip.
A dear friend gave us a rotisserie chicken from Costco, so I used some of the meat to create an amazing Chicken Alfredo meal. Matt, Malachi, the littles, and I all ate it. A family friend joined us. Then later that night Elias came home with two college buddies and they finished it off. :) :) :)
On Fridays, we often like to celebrate the end of a school week with “French Fry Fridays” at dinnertime. I didn’t have any frozen fries but had a big bag of potatoes so I experimented by making homemade fries in the air fryer. They weren’t difficult to make but it did take forever to cook them in the fryer compared to cooking store-bought frozen fries. The taste though? INCREDIBLE.
I had a double pack of brats in the freezer so smoked them for dinner one night. Justus and Kelsey joined us, which was a treat! Then Elias showed up – so everyone was here except for Asa and Eva, who live in Lincoln. :)
I served the brats with steamed broccoli and cauliflower, steamed green beans, several boxes of mac and cheese, and a few sliced apples.
We have a lot of company coming mid-October and I wanted to get ahead on meal prep one morning when I had help around to watch the littlest kiddos. I decided that our October guests would get to eat whatever I had to work with on this day, during the last week of September. Lucky for them, I had all the fixings for Lasagna and Chili. So those are ready and in the freezer to thaw and serve to the company (14-22 per meal).
I had frozen cooked turkey in the back of the freezer plus two jars of homemade broth. So one morning when I knew I’d be gone all afternoon, I made a big pot of turkey and noodle soup to warm up and enjoy when we got home. (Made like this, except that I’d bought a huge bag of egg noodles at Sam’s and used those.)
Here’s a look at a lunch I served to our four littlest kids, plus Malachi, Matt, and myself. I didn’t think to take a picture until after half of our lunch was gone! But we did go through an entire loaf of bread, lots of meat and cheese, and half a watermelon. And that was without any extra guests or our elementary kids at home. Grilled cheese is a favorite!
I discovered some chicken in the back of the freezer that I didn’t realize was there (woot!) and had all the ingredients needed to make White Chicken Chili, so at the end of the month, I put that into the crockpot to slow cook all day. It was perfect as we headed into fall!
As we reached the end of the month, I was pleasantly surprised to see that we still had about a week’s worth of great meal options left. It did help that I’d allowed myself to continue to buy fruits, veggies, milk, and cheese as needed. Still, we’d saved $480 on our overall monthly budget so I feel that this was a huge win!
Have you ever challenged yourself to avoid the store and eat only what you have on hand for a few weeks? It’s actually pretty fun and a great way to save money!