Thursday, March 12, 2009

Getting Control of the Grocery Bill Part II

This is what I posted over at this morning. Be sure to head over there to see all the FUN spring break happenings around Topeka next week!

Getting Control of the Grocery Bill Part II

This the second post in my series titled "Getting Control of the Grocery Bill." In the 1st post I discussed knowing how much you are spending and what a good amount to spend is. In this post I want to suggest food items that might create "waste" in your grocery bill.

In my personal opinion one of the biggest ways to waste your precious grocery dollars is by buying unnecessary snacks/convenience items. I say this because I have experienced it first hand. When we were 1st married with no kids our grocery budget was $25o.00 a month. After the birth of our 1st child and a job change we needed to cut our grocery budget to $160.00 a month. The most helpful way to meet my new goal was to stop buying snack and convenience items. It was a hard adjustment at first, but we slowly got used to it. (As a side note, my husband and I have since both shed those extra pounds we always said we wanted to get rid of!)

What I consider snack/convenience items:
I consider snack/convenience items anything that comes in a box... for the most part. Mainly for us those snack items are/were granola bars, little debbies, snack packs (individual 100 calories packs, or other convenience take along items), crackers, chips, cookies, pop tarts, frozen snacks (pizza rolls, hot pockets, lean cuisine meals), soda, ice cream, instant anything and even cereal.

The reality about most of these products is that they don't really add any nutritional value to your diet and they are terribly over priced! Below are some ideas to still have snack/convenience items in your house but at less of the cost.

Breakfast items:
Instead of buying frozen waffles, pancakes, toaster strudels or other frozen meals make things like muffins, breads, pancakes and waffles from scratch and then freeze them. The defrost button on the microwave works great for things like this. Pancakes and waffles reheated in a toaster are also a hit!

If you are cereal eaters try eating less of it (like only 3 days a week instead of 6) or buying it when it is a good price. Aldi cereal is around $1.70 a box and my thought when it comes to cereal is that if it doesn't beat the Aldi price I am not buying it.

Who doesn't love snacks? We love them in our house and have them regularly! Instead of buying little debbies and boxed/bagged cookies I just simply make my own sweet treats. I make a big batch of cookies and freeze them so we can have them on hand. As for chips and crackers I would say buy less of them and sub in more fruits and veggies.

Convenience/frozen boxed items:

These are things like Hamburger Helper meals, instant potatoes, instant rice pouches, frozen pizzas, etc. I know these make for a quick and easy meal but you can often make the same thing from scratch for less. Believe me I know time is an issue and I am not saying never use these items, just start using them less.

Keep in mind I am NOT telling you that you SHOULD NEVER buy any of the items I have mentioned. I am simply suggesting that if you find your grocery bill is out of control consider finding ways to cut these items out or buy them for less. I know it is a hard adjustment at first especially if you have children or husbands that are particularly used to these food items, but the savings is well worth it if that is your goal.

Now I will confess for a short time we really didn't eat many snack/convenience items because we simply didn't have the money to buy them. We still don't have much wiggle room in our budget, but I find through the use of coupons and smart shopping I am often able to have some snack/convenience items in our house for 75% of the actual cost or I get them for free. I do this by using coupons and the timing on this post couldn't have gotten better since Dillons is offering some great deals on snack items this week! You can get many of the items I mentioned in this post for at least 1/2 of the regular cost. Check out those deals here! If you are looking for inexpensive meal ideas made from scratch you can see what I use here.

The 3rd post in this series will come next Thursday and in that I will focus on the benefits of menu planning and how that can also help you get control of the grocery bill.

***The Hy-Vee post will be up later this morning... thanks for your patience on this!***

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