- Skip convenience and packaged foods. Making everything from scratch really does stretch the grocery budget.
- Pay attention to coupons, but don't feel obligated to use them. Watching for sales that can be paired up with coupons is a good idea, but only if what you are buying is something you'd ordinarily buy. Also, I only use coupons if it lowers the price below the generic equivalent.
- Grocery shopping once a month. Shopping this way forces me to really pay attention to what we eat and what I buy. We do make a few trips back to the store throughout the month, but only for produce and dairy items. And usually those trips are done alone, often by my husband on his way home from work.
- Stick to inexpensive cuts of meat and stock up on manager's specials. I only buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts when the sale is great. Otherwise, we use whole chicken or chicken that I de-bone and de-skin myself. Manager's specials are a great deal too. I sometimes stick them in the freezer as soon as I get home and other times I cook them and incorporate them in freezer meals right away.
- Use a master grocery list and menu plan. My master grocery list is organized by the layout of our usual store and I list all of the things that are part of our regular eating and cooking habits. I fill out the list based on my plan for the month and that way I ensure we won't be buying anything we really don't need.
- Teach the family this mantra - "We only buy it if it's on the list!" From my husband to my three year old, they all know this mantra by heart. If someone asks "can we get this?" while we are at the store, someone else will chime in with, "only if it's on the list."
- Avoid expensive ingredients. I've learned to get creative with substitutions and how to avoid recipes with exotic or expensive ingredients. This doesn't mean that our meals are boring at all though!
- Use a price book. I don't really use a traditional price book. In fact, I usually only shop at one store so I don't have the need to compare prices from different stores. What I do instead is put the regular shelf price of all of our regularly purchased products right on my master grocery list. I cross them off and write down the sales price when applicable. That way, when I am preparing my list for the monthly trip, I can estimate our total before we ever go to the store and see where I need to make changes.
- Take a calculator to the store, or at least pay attention to the prices while shopping. I usually keep up a mental tally of all prices as we go through the store. When we get to the check-out, I can usually quote our total to within $10-15. There are always unadvertised sales at the store so by keeping track, I see where I can stock-up a bit.
- Creatively use up leftovers. There is nothing worse than throwing money down the drain, which is exactly what happens when you throw away leftovers. I'm always looking for new ways to use our leftovers and turn them into new meals. I also freeze leftovers whenever possible.
- Freezer cooking. I love freezer cooking. It's the only way I can make once a month shopping work. It helps with stretching our food and getting the most out of our favorite frugal meals.
- Eat meat-free at least twice a week. This is an important one. It's healthy and frugal. There are tons of options to create a complete-protein meal without using meat.
- Start the day right. Our breakfasts are always filling, complete and varied. By starting our day with a hearty meal we are less inclined to snack throughout the day which really saves money in the long run.
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