Saving on Groceries – Make do with what you have
Often, the first question I am asked by reporters and readers about saving on groceries is, “How do I save at the grocery store?” They are usually expecting the common answers like “use coupons” or “try warehouse shopping” and are very surprised when I say my biggest savings come not at the store but before I leave for the store, after I get home from the store and, as in the case below, when I don’t even go to the store.
This is just one brief excerpt from our Groceries On A Dime ebooks. I hope it gives you some ideas to work with.
Save on groceries by making do with the food you have.
Control your trips to the store. Not only does it save on time and gas, but money too. You know you always buy more than the one item you needed.
Every once in a while, you might even try to skip a week and not go to the store. You will find that by doing this you are using up a lot of food that would have spoiled or gotten old.
Even if you run out of something like bread, see what you can use in its place. Maybe the kids will have to take soup and crackers in their lunches instead of sandwiches. They might find that is a nice change. I have been without milk and bread at the same time before and I was shocked at all I was able to create without either one of those. For example:
- For breakfast – We had oatmeal, cream of wheat or scrambled eggs instead of cereal.
- For lunch – Instead of sandwiches, we would have soup and crackers, a bowl of chili or cottage cheese and fruit.
- For dinner – Instead of mashed potatoes (We had no milk to mash them), we would have boiled or baked potatoes, although in a real pinch I have used buttermilk or sour cream to mash my potatoes and both were yummy.
If you are out of bread and can’t bake any, here are some other things to serve:
- For breakfast – Make biscuits (from baking mix), shortbread, pancakes or waffles. If you don’t have baking mix, check out your copy of our cookbook for a recipe to make it.
- For lunch – Try peanut butter and crackers, cheese and crackers, stew or a chef salad instead of sandwiches.
- For dinner – Make cornbread, muffins or biscuits.
All of these things are pretty common foods. Often, we fall into a rut. Certain things become habits and if something interrupts our routine, we don’t use problem solving skills to solve the problem. We need to learn how to change those habits and think of different ways of doing things so we’re not running to the store every time we run out of one item.
We become lazy or relaxed in our thinking about cooking. We automatically think if we change the routine and try different things it will be harder. It’s easier in our mind to run to the store and get bread than to try and figure out how to substitute something else for it.
I know that at first it may seem hard to make yourself change if you feel you can’t think of anything, but the brain is an interesting organ– the more you use it, the more creative you become. Like all the other muscles in our bodies, the more you use them, the stronger and better they get. We have just allowed our brains to become weak (lazy?? : ) in certain areas so we have convinced ourselves we can’t do something.
What we really need to do is exercise our brains more. Like with any exercise, start slowly. Start by planning only 2 meals a week. Then when you get that down, plan 3 and keep going. We are often told to plan a week or 2 weeks of menus, but because many of us are not used to doing that, we become overwhelmed and quit. So start slow. One or two planned meals a week is better than none.
Now hit the gym (your kitchen) and start exercising. : )
PS. People often ask what kind of things are in our books and e-books, especially the Dining on a Dime cookbook. It includes lots of recipes to use to make things you may run out of like baking mix (Bisquick), sweetened condensed milk, pizza sauce, ketchup and ranch dressing. There’s also a whole chapter on substitutions, so you might want to check it out.