This is the third part in a series “Gluten Free Grocery Shopping on a Budget” in which Heather shares how she feeds a family of 6 a gluten free diet for $350 – $400 a month. (And she says she could do with less if she really tried!)
6) Buy less expensive cuts of meat and less expensive produce. You can have huge savings in this category. Steaks are the most expensive meat we buy, and we don’t pay more than $2.29/lb when they’re on sale. No, we’re not getting the fancy cuts of beef or filet mignon, but it’s not worth the extra money to us. For chicken that we’re just planning on eating plain or barbequed, we buy chicken leg quarters and take off the skin. We do buy boneless skinless for casseroles and such, but for years we didn’t. Pork sausage rolls are bought on sale for $1.50 or less per lb. Etc.
For vegetables, we buy bags of carrots, cabbage (eaten raw and cooked), and frozen vegetables when on sale for $1/lb. We do treat ourselves to baby carrots, usually bought on sale or in bulk for less than $1.50/lb. For fruit, we usually have 100% juice, bought in frozen concentrate, because we don’t go to the store every week. It’s about $1 for 6 servings. When we buy fresh fruit at the grocery store, it’s bananas, or occasionally oranges when on sale. In the fall, from a local orchard, we buy apples for $12 a half bushel (21 lb) and peaches for $16 a half bushel (25 lb). Before we had a local orchard, we rarely had those fruits. Now, we can enjoy them fresh, and freeze some for pies later in the year.
7) Selectively have “normal foods,” when cheaper, for the rest of the family. I don’t want to make everything with a “mine” and “theirs” version, but some things are relatively easy to do. When we have pasta with spaghetti sauce, I make their pot of whole wheat pasta, and mine of brown rice pasta, and then I serve the sauce separately. If I have a busy week and want easy lunches, I buy the cheapest 100% whole wheat bread for sandwiches for the rest of the family. It’s much easier to feed one person for lunch on leftovers and hodge-podge than it is to feed two adults and four children in the same way!
8) Grow a Garden. We’re not doing this as extensively as in previous years. We have 4 3×20 beds of strawberries that this summer will yield over
60 quarts of strawberries. There was an initial investment, and no crop the first year, but every year after that, we’ve been able to expect approximately 50 quarts, or more in a good year. That means that for several weeks we don’t have to buy any fruit, and we’re able to freeze some for strawberry pancake syrup and other uses during the year. This year we also planted 3 cherry tomato bushes, a half dozen summer squash and zucchini plants, 24 cabbage plants, and 120 sweet corn plants. Selective gardening could help the food budget of many people, without too much work or too much space. A tomato plant is agood example of something that meets that criteria.
9) Make your own convenience foods to have for busy days. If you havea couple homemade casseroles, a pre-baked pizza crust, and a few dozenmuffins in the freezer (or a few of your ownjust-add-egg-oil-and-water mixes), you’re less likely to resort to expensive pre-made items. Even if I use dried fruit, I can make a gluten-free muffin mix that makes a dozen muffins for $2.50 or less.
10) Eat leftovers. It’s amazing how many people get rid of leftovers because they don’t like to eat them, or because they get lost in the depths of the fridge. We tend to eat leftovers for lunch, or have a leftover dinner night once a week.
We don’t use coupons: One thing that you may have expected to find on this list, but didn’t, is coupons. I don’t use coupons. One reason is that I don’t make food from scratch only to save money, but also for health benefits. Many of the items that have coupons (breakfast cereals, meals in a
box, freezer meals, cookies, etc) are not of interest to me. We don’t buy a local paper, and I don’t have any interest in keeping track of large numbers of coupons to use.
More Tips: Other money-saving things we used to do, but don’t any longer, are to eat non-meat meals 3 nights a week. These can be beans, breakfast at
supper (with eggs), spaghetti (without meat). We have meatless meals 1-2 nights a week on average now. Also, we used to eat much smaller servings of meat, but we’re a bit more generous with ourselves in recent years.
Occasional Splurges: And there are things we splurge on for health or taste reasons. We buy real maple syrup and brown rice pasta for the health benefits. Of course, there are taste benefits as well! I used to not buy flour
tortillas, but made my own. I used to not buy something like a giant box of unseasoned potato flakes. We used to have smaller servings of meat. But when we were married, my husband was a graduate student making $20,000 a year, and his income is substantially higher now. We could shave $50-$100 off of our budget a month if we wanted to or needed to. But, we’ve chosen to cut down on the number of grocery trips to maximize family time, and we’ve chosen to treat ourselves a bit compared to our strictness of previous years.
It’s not a contest to see who can spend the least on groceries, but about what’s important to your family. If your family has debt, would like more
money to spend on other things, want to be able to save more, etc, then it’s probably worth considering ways to slash your grocery budget. But, if you’re comfortable, then you certainly don’t have to.