Thursday, May 3, 2012

Saving money with Mama

Lessons from mama is a weekly guest post from my mother, sharing different lessons on homemaking she has learned over the years. This was inspired after I interviewed her for the series "Teachers of Good Things."  You can head over to her interview to see a more complete list of the topics we will be covering (it is under the 5th question, What would you have done differently as a single woman to prepare for this?).

Money Saving Tips for Grocery Shopping

Shop once a week, stick to your list, and shop with cash. I am not great with the shopping once a week but I know it saves both money and time.

Unit Pricing--My best tip is be sure and check out the price per ounce/pound/piece. Just because it's in the big box, doesn't mean it's cheaper! Sometimes two smaller packages are cheaper than the big box.

Avoid commercial baked goods (breads, cookies, crackers, chips etc) . Popcorn is a very cheap snack and water and tea are cheap drinks.

If money is a major concern, start thinking of meat as a condiment. Use it in small amounts with lots of veggies or pasta or rice. Learn how to cook with dry beans.

If you are new to grocery shopping, you can learn what a “good” deal is by making a Price Book. Keep a record of the items you commonly buy with a date, the store purchased from and it’s unit cost. $1 a lb for apples is a good deal; Cheese should not cost you more than $3 lb; Buy cream cheese when it is $1 lb and $2 for butter is a good deal. These things you will have memorized after you have kept records for several months. Though prices have gone up, you can still find great deals.

For the healthiest and freshest foods, shop the perimeter of the store. Dairy, Meat and produce are usually found there. Convenience foods are found down the aisles and they are more expensive than cooking from scratch.

Alter recipes. Try adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup less sugar in your baking and drink mixes; you probably will not notice a difference. Reduce the amount of cheese you add to casseroles and sauces by one fourth..
Stretch recipes. Dilute concentrated juice a little further. We drink a gallon of tea a day. I started using 2 bags of tea instead of 3 and didn’t get any complaints. Add extra noodles, beans, and vegetables to casseroles and soups for additional servings (seasonings may need to be adjusted slightly). I’m not good with gravy so I buy envelopes of gravy mix but make them go further by adding corn starch and more liquid. I add noodles to Hamburger helper and rice to Rice a Roni.

Conserve electricity when baking and cooking. If you have an electric stove, turn off the burner three minutes before your pasta or rice directions call for. The residual heat will finish the cooking. In the summer I try to bake in the evening to avoid heating up the house during the day. .

Asian Markets – I have found one close to Walmart where I do most of my grocery shopping. I stop by “KoMart” on the way to Walmart. I often find great deals on produce. I can always find green leaf lettuce cheaper there. Seasonally they will have Great deals on fruit. I will buy up huge quatities of blue berries and freeze them immediately. Also I buy soy sauce and sesame seed oil there for much cheaper than anywhere else. Their soy sauce does not have MSG. Though everything is labeled in Korean (I think), it is also labeled in English.

Buy whole chickens. If you want only breasts, save the dark quarters, freezing for later use. Buying breasts alone is very expensive.

Turkey offers better value than chicken. Larger turkeys are more economical than smaller ones because they have a higher proportion of meat to bone. Freeze leftover turkey for use in sandwiches and casseroles later. I will frequently buy 6 to 10 turkeys in November. I will cook them all up, take the meat off the bones and freeze them in meal size zip locks. This is very convenient!

When I was first married I organized my permanent shopping list by the aisles of the one grocery store that I shopped in. I kept the list posted on the refrigerator and when I used things up I would mark it down on the list. This worked great for a couple years until the store rearranged their aisles.

A tip: put a can opener in your car, along with a plastic fork and spoon. Then you can run in, buy one can of a loss leader you're not sure you'll like, open and taste. Stock up on the spot, if it suits you.

A Substitution: Mashed potatoes for Cream of chicken or Cream of mushroom soup in casseroles. (Good way to avoid the MSG in canned soups)

I learned from my daughter to save the chicken and turkey bones and make broth from them.

When buying eggs check to see that none is broken. Aldis has their large eggs for 99c a dozen all the time. Their milk is also $2 a gallon all the time.

Get a rain check if the sale item is out of stock.

If anything you buy is spoiled, return it.

Watch as the sales clerk rings things up. Mistakes are common.

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