Coupons have always been like little pearls you find, enticing you with hopes and dreams of saving money. And if you use coupons, you really do save money! However, the way I cook and the way we eat over here is very specific, and coupons are of very little use to me.
Also adding in the fact that I am feeding 7 people every day, and we homeschool, and Ben works from home…that adds up to a lot of meals every week. Things can get expensive if you don’t plan ahead!Now, this can be a very touchy subject for women. If couponing works for you, then for goodness sake, keep couponing! What I’m saying is for anyone who doesn’t have the time to coupon, who has very specific diets, and who need another idea, this is for you.
So, let’s just take coupons out of the equation entirely. How can you still be frugal, spend your money wisely, and not sacrifice the quality of food you feed your family?
Think more for less.
Let’s break this down. This is how I see my grocery list. Do I have enough of each food group to serve quality, nutritious meals for every meal?
The 5 main food groups:
Grains – Bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, barley, quinoa, oatmeal
Fruits – apples, bananas, oranges, plums, grapes, cherries, peaches, pears, pineapple
Vegetables – zucchini, yellow squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, broccoli, brussel sprouts, green beans, corn, bok choy, cabbage, spinach, kale, lettuce, peas, turnips, beets
Dairy – milk, butter, yogurt, cheese,
Meat/Protein – eggs, chicken, lamb, beef, pork, turkey, ham, fish, soy, beans
Fats/Oils/Sugar – olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, canola oil, butter, lard, crisco, sugar, brown sugar, agave sugar
My contention with using coupons is that it doesn’t fit into my model of eating. I’ll give you an example:
The other day I was looking around on frugal sites, and I ran across a list of things someone bought for $51. And it was quite a bit of stuff! From that perspective, she really did make out like a bandit. But when I looked at her stash, it was all useless to me. The problem for me is that it isn’t going to make it very long in this house. This is what it broke down to –
- 2 frozen pizzas
- 4 bags of chips
- 1 bag of shredded cheese
- 1 package of butter
- 1 box of minute brown rice
- 1 bag of white flour
- 2 boxes of Cheerios
- 1 carton of vanilla ice cream
- 1 cucumber
- 2 heads of broccoli
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 package of chicken drumsticks (14 pieces)
- 3 cans of hormel chili
- 3 bottles of bbq sauce
- 1 gallon of milk
- 6 small bottles of laundry soap
Now, for $51 that is quite a stash! No two ways about it. I could probably go 2 days on this, which is pretty good. But frozen pizzas are not on our menu, ever. And chicken drumsticks are not very filling, especially for the brood we have growing here. And I don’t buy storebought chili, I make it myself. The box of minute rice might feed half the family, but it isn’t going to go very far since I make a pot of 4 cups of rice for dinner. And the 2 boxes of Cheerios aren’t going to last long…
So, even though it is a great stash, it isn’t practical at all for a large family.
What do you do, then?
Think more for less.
1) Instead of the 6 bottles of laundry soap, make your own laundry soap. I go through a large bottle of laundry soap a month for our amount of laundry. That averaged about $25/month, which is not a big deal. But when you add $25 to your grocery bill, on top of everything else, it is a heavy weight on the bill. Instead, I bought a box of borax, a box of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda, a few bars of Fels-Naptha and I made my own. Total amount for the material? $25. How long has it lasted me? Over a year. That is at least $300 savings, alone. That might not seem like much to some, but that is one less thing I have to budget every month, and it is fantastic. Think about what else you can make yourself in your home! Ever looked into vinegar for housecleaning?
2) Get your protein whole. This means, buy eggs as eggs. Buy beans as beans (not in a can). Get meat as meat. I stopped buying chicken pieces years ago and just buy whole chickens. Don’t think of meat as a “frozen lasagna,” or “frozen chicken enchiladas.” Think of meat as buying the meat. One whole chicken at Costco is $4. Buying a $20 50lbs. bag of pinto beans will last you months upon months. Same goes for rice. If you start freezing meats, it will last you all year!
3) No buying premade meals. These things are full of oils, fillers and cheap material. It isn’t worth it to you or your wallet to get them. Example: if you make taquitos from scratch, you only need to eat 3; as opposed to 12 frozen taquitos. If you make your hamburger buns from scratch, you only need one bun per person, rather than serving the fluff burger buns you buy in the store. Real food fills you up a whole lot more than premade food. I’m not promoting any philosophies that premade meals are all filled with weird things and made by machines in factories….what I’m saying is, you will get better nutrition and better bang for your buck if you make it yourself. Plus, you’ll look totally awesome doing it.
4) Break your list down. If you are buying something, especially in bulk, try to get it to $1 or less per item. This is hard to do, and it just takes a lot of practice, but it is a great habit to get into. For example, at one store bell peppers are $1.50. I need 2 or 3 per meal, so that’s up to $4.50 just in bell peppers. Same goes for tomatoes, apples and oranges. If you buy them in bulk, it’s about $5 for the bag, which comes out to $.80 per bell pepper. Also, look for fruit and vegetables that are big and cheap, like pineapple. One pineapple is $3. That is a great deal! A large bag of spinach will last weeks upon weeks, if you put fresh paper towels in the bag to absorb the moisture. That spinach can go in salads, smoothies, sandwiches, casseroles, stirfries…that is a good ingredient that doesn’t cost much that can go a long way.
So, just an example meal:
1 can of stewed tomatoes $1
2 sliced bell pepper $1.66
1 whole chicken $4
1 bag of gluten free pasta $4
Total = $10.66
That is what I’m looking for. Good, wholesome food with real ingredients that fills up the family and gives everyone good nutrition…without breaking the bank every night. One thing that I am in favor of is frozen vegetables, but notall frozen vegetables. Frozen bell peppers are fine. Frozen broccoli is squishy, so not fine. Frozen peas, fine. Frozen okra, very fine. Frozen carrots, absolutely forbidden.
Use more with less.
5) Invest in recipe books that suit your style. This will help you find out what to do with all this whole food! Now, I am not a crockpot person. To me, anything that goes into a crockpot is going to come out squishy, and it’s just not worth it. This is one of the reasons why I bought myself an electric pressure cooker: it suited my style of cooking perfectly. I can make a whole pot of chili from dried beans in an hour. I can make split pea soup from dried peas in 11 minutes. One whole chicken takes 26 minutes to cook, and I can use the broth to make rice in 8 minutes. This appliance suited the needs for my home, and it has been worth every penny to us. But if you are a crockpot cooker, put that sucker on the counter and use it every day! If you love baking, get out your pans and get to it!
Food is a major part of our culture, and homemade food is part of our lives. Make the most of it, and be good stewards of your food, your money and your time.