On December 31, 2018 by Kim
We have spent a few weeks giving you tips on how to meet your goals for a healthy lifestyle this year. Now we want to talk about how to do it without going broke. By choosing to do freezer cooking, you have already made a huge step in the right direction. Two of the first tips you will hear anywhere for grocery budgeting are meal plan and make a grocery list – DONE!
But we have 5 MORE tips to help you save on groceries.
Still skeptical? Listen to Erin:
“$163 is all it took to make my first round of freezer meals! I put together a custom GFDF menu of 15 dinner recipes and was so surprised when two of the recipes made more than anticipated, and I had extra ingredients at the end to make an additional 2 meals. 34 dinners for a family of four at less than $5 a meal – I’m sold!!”
Another reader, Terri, says,
“Spent $80 on ingredients and 1 1/2 hours preparing this menu!!! Fun!” (about the Fall Dump and Go Mini Menu Vol. 1, which comes out to $8 per meal!)
Try these 5 tips to save on groceries when you are planning your freezer cooking day.
1. Keep it Simple
I’m sure somewhere along the line you’ve heard of the K.I.S.S. principle? I don’t know about you but sometimes I just get carried away with some fancy recipe with a long list of fancy ingredients and probably some new fancy kitchen gadget needed too! Before I know it, I’ve blown my whole grocery budget on one recipe, and then I just pray that I have lots of leftovers (not usually the case in my house of boys.)
It is completely acceptable to stick to simple recipes to save some cash. Remember that with our customizable menus, you can delete or swap recipes that are too complicated for your budget. Or you can make it even simpler and stick to our Traditional menu, which regularly includes family and budget friendly recipes.
2. Keep it Seasonal
One of the most important principles of efficient grocery shopping and meal planning is to purchase in season items. You probably know produce has different seasons when prices are the lowest and quality is the best, but almost everything in the grocery store has a “sale cycle”. We plan our menus around these cycles to help you, but if you are planning your own, you can see the sale cycle list here. This list is why you will see extra grilling meats on our menus in the summer and cranberries in mid fall. Learning the sales cycles can help you think ahead as well, so you aren’t tired of pumpkin recipes in September before they are actually at the lowest price.
Many readers report that they save the most money by printing their grocery list on the 1st, then they hunt grocery fliers and farmer’s markets for the best price throughout the month (freezing perishables until needed), and cook at the end of the month. You can also cook an extra Mini menu to take advantage of rock bottom prices on items like ground beef or chicken breast or preserve your annual apple picking trip.
Search for recipes by ingredient in MenuBuilder when you find a killer deal and want to stock up. For example, I keep seeing oatmeal buy one get one free this month, so you could pull up all of our recipes that contain oatmeal to use up your stash.
3. Make it Meatless
I love meat, but let’s face it – cheap it is not. I know the prices differ by region and even by store, but it has been a long time since I’ve paid less than a $1 a pound for any kind of meat. Beans, grain, or even extra seasonal veggies can be found for at least half the price. Customize any of our menus by replacing meat-heavy main dishes with vegetarian meals!
Never fear, you don’t have to cut out meat altogether. You can commit to one meatless meal a week, or you just make your dishes with less meat. For example, if a soup or casserole calls for 2 pounds of meat, you could use 1-1.5 pounds and just bulk up on the other main ingredients (veggies or grains). If you are cooking meat as a main dish (roast, steaks, etc.), you can serve smaller portions and add a large salad or a loaf of bread to your meal. Note: I know the Paleo crowd is panicking right now, but we do have a Paleo specific post on budgeting.
4. Make Substitutions
There will be times when a recipe calls for pork, but chicken is on deep discount. You may have a recipe that calls for eggplant, but your favorite vendor at the farmers’ market told you he’d practically give you a basket of zucchini. Maybe you shopped your pantry first (always a good idea) and found it chocked full of quinoa when you were looking for rice.
It is ok! You can improvise in the kitchen. Part of cooking is following directions, but part of it is also learning to use what you have on hand. Now is the time to let your creativity and confidence shine. If you aren’t sure whether your switcheroo will work, double check with a friend who is handy in the kitchen or check in with our Community.
5. Buy it in Bulk
This is an obvious tip for those who have a crowd to feed, but can work for others too. Ordering special items online in bulk (i.e. gluten free, dairy free, some paleo and real food) can save you a special trip. But guess what? We all buy in bulk every month when we freezer cook! (You know that weird look people give you when you buy several dozen eggs or 10 pounds of peppers.) Before you take your list straight to the grocery store, cross check your local sale fliers with online coupon sites. Find out if any of your local stores offer a discount for buying in bulk. I know that Whole Foods gives a 10% discount for buying items by the case, which has saved me on items like milk that rarely if ever go on sale.