Ever since I started living frugally, one of the areas of my budget that continually leaves me feeling guilty is groceries. My husband is the cook, and he has extremely expensive tastes when it comes to cooking. I gave up trying to convince him to live on a beans and rice diet to save money a long time ago. To be honest, the idea of eating as cheaply as possible doesn’t appeal to me much, either. I absolutely admire those families who can feed four people for $50 a week, but we’re never going to be one of them. (We average about $60-$70 per week for the two of us. Judah doesn’t count yet.)
That doesn’t mean we’ve given up on saving money at the grocery store, though. We’re always finding little ways to cut costs without sacrificing the quality of our menus. Here are a few of the ways we do it.
Split chicken breasts
We cook with chicken a lot, because it’s versatile, healthy, and relatively inexpensive. We try to buy chicken breasts when they’re on sale, and stock up. A big way to cut costs on chicken breasts is to buy split, bone-in chicken breasts instead of boneless skinless chicken breasts. They require a little extra prep work, but they typically cost half as much as boneless skinless chicken breasts, so it’s worth the effort. Bonus: you can use the bones in homemade chicken stock.
Homemade chicken stock
At $3-$4 a quart, packaged chicken stock is one of the biggest rip-offs in the grocery store. For the cost of a bunch of celery, a bunch of carrots, an onion, some garlic, and discarded chicken bones, you can make gallons of the stuff. Just put aside the bones from split chicken breasts or the carcass of a whole roasted chicken. We keep them in a plastic storage container in the freezer until we’re ready to make stock. We make a few gallons every other month or so, and freeze them in 1-quart storage containers for later use. It is time-consuming, but not labor intensive. Just make sure you start in the morning on a day when you’ll be hanging out at home so you can keep an eye on it and skim it every so often. You can find our recipe for homemade chicken stock here.
In the summertime, fresh vegetables are cheap and plentiful. This isn’t the case in the winter. You’ll pay a fortune for fresh vegetables that have been trucked from across the country. It’s bad for the environment, and they’re typically poor quality anyway. When vegetables aren’t in season, we buy frozen. They’re not mushy like canned vegetables, and freezing generally leaves most nutrients intact. Broccoli, corn, peas, spinach, cauliflower, and carrots are all delicious.
Salads are a great way to sneak green vegetables into your diet, but Romaine is also one of the most expensive things per pound at the grocery store. Instead of paying for Romaine, we typically buy spinach instead. Unlike nutritionally void iceberg lettuce, spinach is full of vitamins and nutrients. It’s cheaper than Romaine, though. To save even more money, you can blend spinach and iceberg for a full salad that’s still nutrient rich. We also use spinach instead of pricey fresh basil for a milder version of pesto.
Water is the cheapest, healthiest beverage you can drink (especially if you filter it yourself instead of purchasing bottled water). If you want a little flavor, though, tea is an excellent frugal alternative to expensive coffee or soda. It costs pennies per gallon. For a little extra flavor, you can add some sugar or (my favorite) fresh lemon juice.
What are your favorite simple switches to cut grocery costs?
I like spinach a lot. So does Johnny! We call it “leaves.” haha! Anyway, if I’ve neglected spinach a little too long in the fridge, I like how you can cook it and it’s still perfectly fine. Can’t really do that with a head of iceberg, now can ya?
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I’m a big fan of frozen and canned veggies – tomatoes, beans, corn and mixed veggies!
The difference between skinon and skin off chicken here is maybe $5 at most, but I still buy it. And sometimes I bake up the skin cause the boy likes it all crisped up and brown (I hate chicken skin myself).
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Great tips! I ALWAYS have frozen corn and broccoli (my 2 favorite veggies) on hand, because they’re so easy to keep and work with. I also recently started buying spinach instead of romaine- not necessarily a choice initially driven by the lower one-time cost, but I’ve found that spinach tends to last longer than many other greens, so I don’t waste as much. And, like Kacie said, if it does start to wilt, I can sauté it and it doesn’t get wasted.
The tips I have are pretty general- buying generic when you can, buying in bulk when you can (beans, rice, etc…. easier to buy canned or “instant” varieties, but cheaper no to), using coupons when possible…
Also, when you see a deal that says, “2 for $5”, a lot of people think you need to buy (2) of the same item in order to get the discount, when in reality, you just need 1 :)
Good point! I would check with the store to be sure, though. In some cases, you do need to buy the required amount to get the discount. Not always, though!
Excellent post. Don’t forget to save your veggie scraps to make veggie broth. And then put them in the compost bin.