Stick with a budget

The best way to control spending is with a budget.

One of the hardest things I deal with is sticking with a grocery budget. It is so easy for me to make an extra trip to the grocery store each week, and when I do, I end up spending a lot more than I should.

The only way to control this is to stick to a budget. You must be willing to make a budget amount and stick with it. One of the easiest ways to do this is to keep your budget reasonable. If you know that you need to spend at least $100 a week on groceries, don’t set your budget for $50. It will not work. You can try it for a while, but you will continue to fail. In this case, set your budget for $100, or even for $120. If your budget is too strict, it is just too hard to stick with it.

Another way you can stay on budget is by limiting your trips to the store. If your budget is $150 a week, plan two trips to the store each week and limit the amount you spend to $75. This is a great way to stick on budget.

I am an advocate of shopping at least twice a week. I feel like if I limit myself to once a week, I am always running out of things. I also like lists. As soon as I realize that I will need a certain product within a few days, it goes on my list. You can stick with your budget amount by buying only the items that you need and that you will use.

Check out discount stores

Plan your purchases as a way to make money.

One thing I have learned is that you should never buy certain things at the grocery store. I live in a relatively small town and we have one grocery store. It is locally owned, so therefore it is not associated with a franchise. I have learned that when I buy certain things there, I spend too much money.

The things I am talking about are the common things that people need every day. These are things like toilet paper, laundry detergent, dish soap and deodorant. Sometimes there are one or two of these things that I need and since I am at the grocery store, I end up purchasing the items there. The problem is that these items always cost more in a grocery store.

What I try to do to solve this problem is to keep a running list on my refrigerator of these items. If I am almost out of an item, I will put it on my list. I never wait until the item is completely gone, because this is when I tend to overpay for the item. Once a week I take the list to a local discount store and purchase all of the items there. If I have extra money, I will buy several of each item. This is a great way to save money and stocking up is a great way to never run out of the item.

I don’t know how much money I save by doing this, but I know that it is probably a lot of money. It takes a little practice to get into the habit of this, but it really works.

Stock up on meats after a holiday

Save money on meat by purchasing it when it is on sale

I have found that one of the best ways to buy cuts of meat is to stock up after a holiday. The price of meat continues to rise, and I am tired of paying so much for it.

It seems like just a few years ago, the price of ground beef was around $1 a pound when it was on sale. Now I am lucky to pay under $3 a pound for it – on sale! This is outrageous, so I make a habit of stocking up on large cuts of meat after holidays or when they are on sale. This is good for things like hams or turkeys, but it is also true for other meats too.

After Easter I always visit the grocery store to buy hams. Hams are very expensive and you can pay around $20 for a ham before Easter. If you go right after Easter, you can buy the same ham for less than $10. My family loves ham, and I make a lot of things out of the leftover ham. The nice part is that I buy a large ham for around $9, and it is good for three or four meals. We always eat the ham itself the first night. The next night I usually make ham and potato soup, and the night after I make a ham casserole. These meals end up being very inexpensive.

I also do this with turkeys because turkey is great to eat at other times besides Thanksgiving. My family also likes corned beef, so after St. Patrick’s Day I always stock up on these cuts.


Don't shop when you're hungry

You will spend more money if you shop while you are hungry.

Have you ever heard the rumor that you should not grocery shop when you are hungry? Well, I believe there is a lot of truth to that, especially if you are trying to find ways to save money at the grocery store.

I was reading a good article by Alice Park of Time, Inc. In this article, she explains that a person’s brain tends to crave junk food when the person is hungry. What this means is that if you shop while you are hungry, you are probably more likely to buy junk food that you normally wouldn’t have purchased.

This evidence was gathered from a study that was conducted by Yale University and the University of Southern California. This also means that not only will you buy more junk food, but you will also spend more money.

The best way to shop is with a list and on a full stomach. If you are not hungry, foods that are not on your list may not look as appetizing to you. This will help you stick to buying only the things on your list. I am a big list person, and this works well for me.

Before I shop I also like to think about if I will let myself buy anything that is not on the list. For example, sometimes I will have a frame of mind that I want to buy two or three snack items for my kids, even though they are not on my list. You can save money by eating before you shop, and always be sure to make a list before you go.

Planning meals helps save money

By spending some time planning, you can save money


I have learned over the years that one key element for saving money on groceries is meal planning. Planning meals is a great way to avoid wasting food and buying things that you don’t need. I like to plan my meals every Sunday afternoon. I will plan enough meals for the week, usually five meals total, and then each night I can choose which one to make.

By planning meals, I can immediately make a grocery list of the things I need. I always try to include meals that contain ingredients I already have on hand. This is a great way to use up some of the things in my refrigerator or pantry. After making a grocery list, I will go to the store on Mondays to buy the items I need. I will also buy enough snacks and other items that are needed to get through the week.

This is the best way I have found to reduce my grocery bill. I buy only what I need, and I throw away less spoiled food. This does take some discipline though. It requires you to sit down for about 15 minutes or so to create the list. It also may take a few minutes to look through the food you do have in order to choose your menu items. This is also a great time to choose a new recipe to try. I get really tired of making the same things over and over, so sometimes I will choose one new recipe to try during that week.

What are capers?

Capers are an item you may have never tried.

I was looking online for some recipes the other day and I came across one that looked really good to me. A chef demonstrated how to make this recipe called, “Quick Chicken Piccata.” As I watched him prepare this, he added something called capers. I think I have heard of these before, but I wasn’t sure what they were.

I live in a small town and we have one grocery store that is locally owned. I was not sure if they even sold these little items called capers, so I made a visit there. I could not find them anywhere. Finally I looked by the salad dressings and there they were. A small little jar of little green things called capers. This little jar did not contain a little price tag though. They were $4.00 for these little things. I have not yet tried the capers because I haven’t yet made this recipe, but I am planning on it soon.

From what I have learned, capers are all buds picked from a bush. They are sun-dried and brined in vinegar. After this process, it leaves the capers with a distinctive, sharp taste. They are often considered to be very strong and salty, and may resemble the flavor of an olive. Many chefs suggest rinsing these before eating them, but this is not necessary if you are using them in a recipe.

I can’t wait to try them in my Quick Chicken Piccata! The recipe is easy to make and I think it will have a wonderful taste because of these little things I have just discovered: capers.

The price of lunch meat

An all-time high?

Has anyone else noticed that the price of lunch meat is outrageous? I visited my local store the other day to get a pound of sliced turkey. It was a name brand meat I ordered, and I could not believe that it amounted to $8 a pound! I was astonished and couldn’t believe my eyes.

My family loves sandwiches. I sometimes buy the pre-packaged meats from the grocery store but I have noticed that these do not taste nearly as good as the deli cuts. If I buy the small packages of lunch meat, my family may or may not eat it. If I buy a pound of salami, turkey or ham from the deli, however; I am guaranteed that it will not go to waste. They will eat every single slice of this meat. Why in the world is it so expensive, though?

I am not sure what the answer to this question is, but I have also noticed that the price of meat, generally speaking, is very high. It seems to me that just a few years ago I could purchase a pound of ground beef for around $1, especially if it was on sale. Now I am lucky to purchase a pound for under $3. I am not sure what to do about this either. My family loves meat, although I could live without eating much of it. If I stopped buying meat, my family would totally flip out. I guess I will continue to look for the meats that are on sale and stick with buying those.

Make Use of Recipe Cards

Every once in awhile I find myself throwing a shopping trip in between running other errands. This is because the grocery store with the cheapest prices is in the next town over. Anyway, I don’t always have time to prepare a detailed grocery list. One problem that arises when I neglect a list is that I end up forgetting to purchase an ingredient that is necessary in preparing a meal. Fortunately, I found a great way to make sure I have everything I need without a detailed grocery list.

The other day I was looking at my recipe cards to decide which dinners I wanted to prepare that week when it hit me. The recipe cards all have the necessary ingredients listed right on the front of the card. All I had to do before running out to complete my errands was grab a few of the cards and place them in my purse.

Once at the grocery store, I can quickly take the recipe cards out and make sure all of the ingredients listed on the cards are in my shopping cart before hitting the check-out counter. It saves me from having to make a second trip to the grocery store if I forget something (and most of the time I don’t have time to run to the store a second time).  

Of course, I still try to create detailed shopping lists as often as I can, but this is a great solution for those times when I just have to up and leave and get a bunch of things done at once. Sometimes being a mom means improvising, and this is a great way to do it!

Where to Shop for Locally Sourced Groceries

Would you like to use more locally sourced foods in the meals you cook for your family, but just don't know where to find what you need? Shopping for local ingredients can be a bit of a challenge if you don't know where to look. Here are some tips to help you locate the best locally produced foods in your area.

Farmer's Markets: Don't overlook the obvious. Check out community farmer's markets for locally grown fruits and vegetables, homemade jams and jellies, and locally produced cage-free eggs.

Local Dairies: Do you have any dairies in your area? If so, check them out to see if their products are natural and hormone-free. Many dairies offer home deliver of milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, cream, and other foods.

Gardening and Agriculture Clubs: Make friends with your local gardening clubs and agriculture clubs. Find out if any of your plant-minded pals are growing a surplus of vegetables, fruits, or herbs you might need. Try to set up a food swap at the end of the growing season to share in the surplus of the harvest.

Natural Foods Markets: Grocers who specialize in selling natural, unprocessed foods often carry locally produced items, as well. From locally grown organic apples to an ultra-nutritious bread made by a local bakery, natural foods markets frequently offer a constant variety of the best locally sourced ingredients.

Grocery Stores: Yes, the regular old grocery store also offers locally produced ingredients. Look for juices, produce, nuts, baked goods, and cheeses produced locally. Ask a store manager to show you what is available.

When cooking with local foods, let the natural flavors of your ingredients carry the dish. Don't over spice or over-process your recipes. Enjoying local cuisine, made with local ingredients, is a great way to eat, and it's well worth the extra grocery shopping effort to make it happen!


While Variety is the Spice of Life, It is Also the Bane of Budgets

It is natural to want variety in the foods we eat.  Eating beans and rice for every dinner gets old and can lead to eating disorders.  While some people can be content eating oatmeal for breakfast and the same type of sandwich for every lunch, most of us need a little variety to keep us going.  The problem with too much variety, however, is that it can be very expensive.

Buying small amounts of ingredients in order to have very different dinners each night, for example, results in a much higher grocery bill than buying bulk and using basic ingredients at every meal.

Instead of creating a meal plan that involves separate ingredients for every meal, try creating a plan that revolves around basic staples for at least a couple of your weekly meals.  For instance, you could cook a big batch of rice for the week and use it in multiple dishes, all of which are uniquely different.  One night could be fried rice with chicken and vegetables, while the next night could be a cold brown rice salad, and a third meal pork chops with a side of seasoned rice.

Likewise, a big batch of beans can be used in burritos, soups and also cold salads.  The nice thing about staples like beans and rice is that people cook with them often and there many recipes available.

By incorporating inexpensive staples for most of your meals, you can save money while still enjoying a diet that is varied enough to keep meals interesting and nutritious.