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It's July now, which means back to school sales are starting on school supplies in the United States. While most people know that they have a once a year shot to get the best prices on school supplies and now is the time to stock up on those items, what many of us aren't willing to do is discipline ourselves in the same way for food prices.

For example, we know that at back to school time, we can buy a box of crayons for .25, while the rest of the year we'll have to pay $1.99 to $3.29 for the exact same box. We're willing to only buy crayons in July at .25 to save for the rest of the year.

In order to keep food costs super low, we need to be willing to buy food only at the super-low prices.

Most sales in the U.S. run on a 12-week cycle. If you can buy enough of an item at its lowest price to last you 3 months, you can wait to buy that item again when it goes on sale 3 months from now.


For example: How many times are you going to eat pasta in the next 3 months? Is it 12 times? Then buy 12 pounds of pasta (if your family eats a pound at a meal) when it is at its lowest price for your area. (If you eat 2 pounds at a meal, buy 24 pounds, or if you have a smaller family and only eat half a pound at a meal, buy 6 pounds).

Some items don't come around every 12 weeks, but are like back to school sales: they are truly seasonal. Turkeys are on sale Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, but the lowest prices are in November for Thanksgiving. Hams are on sale for those same three holidays, but are lowest at Christmas and Easter.

Seasonal fruits and vegetables are the lowest prices in season. Corn on the cob is lowest in the summer. Broccoli is lowest in January. Grapefruit is lowest in December. Apples are the lowest in the fall. Peaches and grapes are lowest in the summer. Blanching, freezing, and canning can help you to get more at the lowest price to use later.

If you don't already have a price book, creating a price book for the stores in your area with the items that you buy will help you to determine the lowest prices in your area. In my area, grocery ads come in the mail. You can also look at ads online, page by page, on individual stores' websites.

Within a 3 month period, you can determine what the lowest prices are for the items that you buy, and which store usually has those items for sale. (If the item is never listed in the ads, you'll need to update your price book by writing in the prices per pound/ounce/kilogram that each store you visit charges for those items).

Once you know the lowest price for an item, do not buy it at anything higher than that price.

In my area, the lowest price for strawberries is $0.99 a pound. This price occurs when they are is season (of course). Stores still sell strawberries at other times of the year, but the prices can be as much as $4.99 a pound. I'll commonly see them on sale for $1.25 a pound a few more time a year, but $0.99 a pound is only once or twice a year. I won't pay $1.25 a pound, even though I would love to purchase strawberries more often. I wait for the best tasting berries in season at the lowest price ($0.99), and the rest of the year, I buy other fruits that are a lower price, and that are in season (plums and peaches are on sale for .99 a pound right now; some stores have them for even less!)

No matter how much I might want or need eggs, I won't pay $1.79 a dozen for them. I wait until they are at an acceptable price point for me and then I buy several dozen. Eggs will last 4-6 weeks past the best buy date, according to the American Egg Board, so if I am careful, I can stretch my eggs until they go on sale again.

I have readers all over the world, and I know prices are vastly different in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Germany. Even within the U.S. prices vary greatly by region. I've written a long and detailed post about my own personal price points here. Yours will vary depending on where you live. Find out your lowest prices and stick to them.

The key is discipline. Save your funds for the best prices and the money you have will go further.


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Cooking from scratch, rather than using a box mix or pre-prepared ingredients is an obvious money saver.

Taking it one extra step further by making the ingredients for those meals shaves a considerable amount from the grocery bill.
 
What can you make at home that will save you money (and also taste better) in the long run?

Balsamic Orange Vinaigrette The Prudent Homemaker
 
Salad dressing:
One of the first things that threw me off when I moved to France was that I could not buy bottled salad dressing anywhere. I ended up using vinegar and oil, but I kept thinking that it sure would be nice if I knew how to make salad dressing. What I didn't know was that salad dressing is considered so easy to make that even though the majority of women work outside the home in France, they consider whisking up a vinaigrette as a simple thing before that night's dinner.

When I moved to Switzerland, I found out a little more about making my own simple vinaigrette, from a German woman who always made the most amazing vinaigrette when I went to her house for lunch.
The dressings I make are usually:
Ranch (no recipe at this time)
 
If you prefer another dressing for your salads, do an internet search and try a few recipes for your favorite salad dressings. Most likely, you already have everything you need to create those dressings in your pantry. You might even have several recipes for salad dressings in your standard cookbook that is sitting on your kitchen shelf.

 
Bread:
Bread takes me about 3 1/2 hours, start to finish. However, most of that time is hands off time while the bread rises. If you're making bread, you'll want to be home, but you can do a lot of other things in the meantime. Just set a timer to let you know when to return to your rising bread to shape the loaves, and set it again to tell you when to put it in the oven after the second rising.

I usually make bread in the afternoon right after lunch, while we have quiet time. I have also started bread before dinner and it was done after dinner. I have done that while I am cooking something for dinner that is on top of the stove and not in the oven. I've started making bread before breakfast as well, to have fresh bread ready for lunch.

I usually make French bread and rosemary olive oil bread, but you can see the other breads I make here, including biscuits, chapatis, bagels, and all sorts of muffins, including lemon poppyseed muffins. A loaf of French bread costs me 25 cents to make, and it makes the best sandwiches.
 
 Whole Wheat Crackers The Prudent Homemaker
 
Crackers:

 

Spending $ 2.50  on a couple of cups worth of flour doesn't sound like a great price to me! Yet, that's what we're doing when we buy a box of crackers. Crackers don't need a rising time, and they contain simple ingredients that you already have at home: flour, water, salt, fat of some kind (oil, butter, or shortening), and possibly a teeny tiny bit of sugar. If you want to add a little more dimension to your crackers, you can add other ingredients, including spices.
Crackers are super easy to make. Mix the ingredients, flour the counter, roll them out and cut them.
 
The crackers that I make right now are:
 
 
 

Jams and jellies:

Jams are easy to make.

A friend of mine told me of a conversation that her neighbor had with the neighbor's husband. The husband asked why in the world anyone would make their own jam. It seemed like too much trouble to him.

My friend then gave them a jar of her homemade jam.

Once he tasted it, the man realized why people make their own! He was amazed at how much better it tasted!

The price of making your own jams and jellies will depend on the cost of your ingredients. I find it is best to buy your sugar in bulk. (If you prefer a low-sugar or no sugar version, there are recipes for that, too!) There are usually coupons out for pectin in June of each year, as well as for canning lids. Summer is the easiest time to find jars, and if you haven't canned before, you should know that the jars and rings are reusuable (the center part of the lid must be replaced each year). There are also reusable lids if you want to upfront (and then there are more expensive jars with rubber rings).  You can also make freezer jam, which doesn't need to be canned at all.

The main part of your jams and jellies is the fruit. The least expensive (and best tasting) jam is made with fruit in season. When fruits are in season, they are also the least expensive. If you're growing a garden and you're growing enough fruit to can, your costs are even lower. Pick your own farms (click here to locate one near you if you are in the United States) are another source. Craig's List and Freecycle are ways to find fruit for free that other people are growing but don't want. One of my readers cans hundreds of jars of fruits and jams all made with free fruit that she picked. Let friends know that you're looking for places to pick fruit for free, and opportunities to pick may come to you, too!

Apricot Vanilla Jam


I generally make:

Apricot Vanilla Jam (with apricots from my own tree and others that I pick for free)

Apple Butter or Pear Butter (with apples bought on sale, but sometimes with gleaned ones; I have made pear butter with gleaned pears and occasionally with a few from my trees )

Pomegranate Jelly (with pomegranates that I pick for free; you need a lot of pomegranates to make jelly and my tree hasn't made that many yet)

Fig Jam and Fig Jam with rosemary, honey, and cinnamon (with Mission Figs from my tree; a Mission fig fruits twice a year)

Hot Pepper Jelly (Made with hot peppers that I grow in my garden and green bell peppers that I find on sale and freeze for when I want to make jam)

I will occasionally make strawberry jam, but the price of the strawberries has to be fantastic. (We love low-sugar strawberry jam in our yogurt; the low sugar jam is very easy to stir in). I have also made rose petal jelly (from the roses in my garden), johnny jump-up jelly (from johnny jump-ups from my garden) and tangerine jelly (from gleaned tangerines).

As you can see, my fruits are desert fruits, because those things grow well in the hot desert. If I lived in a cooler climate, I would make elderberry jam, blueberry jam, raspberry and blueberry jams, currant jelly, etc. I could make grape jelly (as I grow grapes) but we have more than enough jams and jellies to keep us going with what I have. Instead, I can grape juice from our grapes.

 
 
Yogurt and Granola:
 
Making yogurt is super easy, especially in a crockpot.
 
I have been following these instructions for making Greek yogurt. I strain the whey and use it in homemade popsicles.
 
I like to have granola on my yogurt. Granola is very simple--combine ingredients, stir, bake, and cool. Your mixture can be very expensive, with lots of ingredients, or inexpensive, with a few ingredients, like oats and honey bought in bulk.
 
 

 
Popsicles:
 
Super easy, popsicles can be as simple as juice poured into a mold. Since juice is pricey, I usually use the following ingredients: leftover syrup/fruit juice from home-canned fruit, leftover whey from making yogurt, and any amount of fruits that I have, blended together and frozen for a few hours. I don't fuss over the measurements for the most part; it's usually a simple smoothie poured into a mold. Popsicle making is not an exact science. If you do not own popsicle molds, you can usually find them in stores right around now in the northern hemisphere. Amazon has lots of popsicle molds.  Here are my more specific recipes:
 
 
 
 
 

Sprouts:

Sprouts are very simple to make: Add 1-3 tablespoons of sprouting seeds to the bottom of a jar. Soak them a few hours or overnight. In the morning, dump out the liquid. Rinse the seeds three times a day, dumping out the liquid each time. You can use a special sprouting lid, or simply use a clean piece of pantyhose from a torn pair, held in place by the canning lid ring.

I sprout lentils, mung beans (those are what you get when you buy bean sprouts for stir fry), and alfalfa seeds, but you can sprout lots of sprouting seeds. You can also buy seeds for microgreens (I bought arugula seeds this way before), and both kinds come in bulk (they work equally well in your garden, too!)

Cookies:

One day, years ago, I was in the grocery store looking at eggs. A woman who looked to be about 20 years my senior came near to me with her cart and a young child in it. She was looking at the cookie dough. She saw me with my small children and asked if I knew where a particular cookie dough was.

I told her I didn't know, as I always make my cookies from scratch.

She said to me, "You must be one of those 'homemaker' people."

Indeed I am.

Several years later I was at the store with my then 5-year-old son. He asked me if we could buy some of the things he saw at the store. I explained to him that we were only buying what was on the list. As we walked toward a few different things that he liked, he asked if those things were on my list.

When he saw an endcap of cookies, he said, "Cookies! I know those aren't on the list."

I should mention that I grew up with store bought cookies. They were okay. However, every single time that I make cookies, my mom wants one. She always asks if I saved any for her. (The children will see her through the gate and mention that they had cookies for snacks). I'm making it a point to keep a cookie for my mom. She loves homemade cookies.

For my husband, there is only Nestlé's Tollhouse cookie recipe (without nuts and with extra chocolate; I always make a double batch). (A note to my readers outside the U.S. who have never had chocolate chip cookies; buy some chocolate bars and chop them into pieces and make these. They are wonderful!)

It's not the least expensive cookie to make, however, so I'll make others:

Fortune cookies
Oatmeal Raisin
Chocolate Wafers (good for making a chocolate pie crust)
Shortbread cookies with vanilla and almond extract

and then something different from different cookbooks when I want to have a change.

I don't make cookies real often, as they are expensive compared to having fruit from the garden, but they are fun, and I like cookies :) I do buy my ingredients in bulk to keep costs lower.



A few other random things that I make from scratch:

Steak sauce (this is really tasty on black bean burgers)
Fig Sauce
Spaghetti Sauce
Plum Sauce
Chicken flavored rice (like rice a roni)
Spanish rice
White Bean Dip
Pie crusts and tart doughs
Pizza Dough
Cheesecake
Whipped Cream
Carrot cake
Honeydew Sorbet



What fun things do you make from scratch? Do you make your own cheeses, or mustards? Both are on my list to try. I've been making a lot of Asian recipe ingredients from scratch lately, too. She Simmers has a great Thai Sweet Chili sauce. Do you give any of your homemade ingredients as gifts?


All posts in this series:

Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Introduction
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part One: Eat More Meatless Meals 
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Two: Buy in Bulk 
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Three: Make it From Scratch
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Four: Only Buy Food When It is at Its Lowest Price
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Five: Grow More in Your Garden
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Six: Glean
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Seven: Eat In Season Produce
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Eight: Eat More Soup 
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Nine: The Price Per Pound, or in Other Words, Comparing Apples to Oranges
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Ten: Snacks
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Buying in bulk saves me a lot of money. On most items, it saves me more than I can save on an item with coupons--plus I end up with a whole lot more of it. It's one of the fastest and least expensive ways to build your pantry.


There are lots of ways to buy items in bulk, but the simplest way is the way I go on most items:



Buy your food in 20, 25, and 50 pound bags.

If you have a large family, your family will eat through that food quickly. If you have a small family, your bulk purchases will just last you longer. If you're single, a single bulk purchase of an item can last you a year or two, or you can split bulk items with another single person so that you can get the lower price.

I had a roommate in college who used to buy a 25 pound bag of flour every few weeks. During that time, she would go through the entire thing, making her own bread, cinnamon rolls, cookies, etc. She had enough to feed herself and deliver to friends, and it didn't cost her much at all. Prices have changed since then, so chances are, she only spent $5 to make herself and her friends several weeks worth of bread and treats. Today, I can buy a 25 pound bag of all-purpose flour for $7.78, or bread flour for $7.94.

What items are easy to purchase in 20, 25 pound and/or 50 pound bags?

All-Purpose Flour
Bread Flour
Long-grain rice
Basmati Rice
Jasmine Rice
Brown Rice
Pinto Beans
Black Beans
Navy/Cannellini Beans
Rolled Oats (aka Old-Fashioned Oats)
Quick Oats (aka Instant Oats)
Sugar
Popcorn
White Winter Wheat
Red Winter Wheat

And the list goes on, but the ones I mention here are some of the easiest for most people in the United States to find locally.

(I know that I have readers all over the world, and buying bulk isn't always an easy thing to do in other places, so if you live outside the U.S., I would love it if you would leave bulk sources in other countries in the comments.)

If you are struggling to put food on the table, buying a 25 pound bag of rice and a 25 pound bag of beans will provide several meals for your family right away, give you a start on building your pantry, and be very little out of pocket. The next time you are able to go to the store, you could buy a 25 pound bag of flour and start making your own bread (or start with the flour, or just the rice, depending on how much you can spend). Make that bulk item your main grocery purchase for that time period, and build your meals from that. You will start to build up your pantry for very little in this way, and still have food to eat.

Can on the left is a #10 can of tomato sauce; the can on the right is a #303 can; a "standard size" can. As of today, the price for the can of tomato sauce in the #10 can is $2.72.

There are other kinds of bulk supplies as well, that come in smaller amounts. Many come in #10 cans (#10 refers to a size).



Here are some that I buy:

brown sugar (4 pound bag)
105 ounce can of tomato sauce
yeast (2 pounds)
chocolate chips (3 pound and 5 pound bags)
salt (4 pound box)
dried onions (#10 can)
dried celery (#10 can)
pearled barley (#10 can)
oil (gallon or 3 liter bottle)
vinegar (liter or gallon)
cheese (5 pound blocks or 5 pounds shredded)
carrots (5 pound, 10 pound, and 25 pound bags)
spices (in all sorts of sizes)
oil (1 gallon or 3 liter)
vinegar (1 gallon or 1 liter, depending on type)


There is another way to buy in bulk as well, but the packages are smaller. When you see a great sale on something at the lowest possible price, stock up.

pasta (.50 to $1 box)
butter ($2 a pound or under; I buy this in a 4 pound package)
Fruits and vegetables (price depends on the the item and seasonality)

Where you can buy in bulk?

You can buy in bulk at your local grocery store. Really.

Most stores carry 20 or 25 pound bags of flour, rice, pinto beans, and sugar. It's on the bottom shelf, right in the same section as the regular item that you normally buy in a smaller package.

Most grocery stores in the U.S. carry vinegar in a gallon size, and carrots in at least a 5 pound bag, with many carrying them in a 25 pound bag (labeled "for juicing", usually).

Some Super-Walmarts have bulk items in both the regular section and they have another bulk section, which also carries items such as huge jars of pickles (for around $4), #10 cans of fruit salad, #10 cans of other items, and bulk sauces and vinegars.

Sam's Club, Costco, and BJ's are bulk sellers in the U.S. While they don't have everything I listed above, they carry a lot of those items at fantastic prices. I find that the flour in bulk at my Sam's Club is fresher than at my grocery store, and it lasts longer. The turnover for bulk goods is higher there, and the flour comes in a thicker package as well. You can read my Sam's Club list here.

Winco carries lots of the bulk dry goods that I mentioned. Some items they have in bins, and some are in bags. Most items that come in bins also have a bag size and the price listed on the tags; you just have to ask an employee to get the bags from the back for you. They have some items  that are harder to find in other places, such as lentils, long-grain rice, and mung beans. The great thing about the bins is that you can also buy a small quantity at the bulk price if you want; there are other stores that have bulk bins as well.

Amish and Mennonite stores are great sources for bulk items, especially if you live east of the Mississippi River.

Then there are a whole slew of places that sell items in bulk online. Some places send out trucks, some you order with others through a co-op (and they send a truck), some ship UPS, etc. Some places are just for herbs, some for other smaller bulk items, and some sell tons of items, including organic options and lots of freeze-dried options.

Traditional size spice containers on the left; bulk sizes on the right

For these, I have a list here, but it is far from inclusive. There are a lot of options out there.

The container on the left is 1.6 ounces. For almost the same price as that container at Walmart of poppy seeds, mustard seeds, and cream of tartar, I can buy a pound (the bag) of the same spice from San Francisco Herb Company. As of today, 1 pound of mustard seed is $2.40, 1 pound of poppy seeds is $3.90, and 1 pound of cream of tartar is $5.85.

When it comes to buying in bulk, it works like any other item--you have to know your prices. Shop around and compare prices, including shipping if you are ordering online. Just because it is bulk doesn't mean it is automatically less expensive. Some bulk places are less expensive than others, and prices change all the time. Some bulk suppliers also have sales, which will bring your costs lower.

How do you store all this stuff to keep it from going bad?

Canning jar, extra-large pickle jar, spaghetti sauce jar (I make my own but you may have jars or  can ask friends for old jars), regular size pickle jar, extra-large pickle jar, and a 6 gallon bucket with a gamma lid [purchased separately]. The gamma lid screws off. You can purchase buckets with food in them or empty, in a variety of sizes [I use a 3 gallon size for flours and sugar], from online bulk sellers, as well as retail locations where bulk is sold. Prices will vary greatly depending on the retailer.)

Food-grade buckets, #10 cans, and jars are easy options. Remember that giant jar of pickles that I mentioned you can get at Walmart? Wash it out with bleach a few times, and also with soap, and the pickle smell will dissipate, leaving a great place to store beans. Bulk spices can be stored in large glass jars. (Ball has rereleased their half-gallon jars and they are also making gallon jars again! I saw them at Walmart).

Many items can be bought in bulk in the buckets from different bulk companies, and then you can refill them with bags of items after you have emptied them. You can also purchase buckets online through bulk suppliers, at Winco, and from your local grocery store bakery (ask the bakery department for their old buckets. You will probably have to wash them; they usually come filled with icing. They may even give them to you for free!)

A bucket lid opener is important for opening buckets that are closed. For items that you are getting into on a regular basis, I highly recommend having gamma lids, which are screw-off lids that can go on your buckets. These can be expensive, so like the other items, shop around for the best price.

I store several bulk items inside in my kitchen, but I also built a large insulated pantry in my garage (a great blessing when you cannot buy food for a year).

What are your favorite sources for bulk items? If you know of a local (to you) store, please list the store name (with city and state) or city, region/province/canton, and country, if outside the U.S, in the comments.



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1. Eat more meatless meals

"But my husband won't eat meatless meals!" you say.

If he isn't bringing home the bacon, you can't cook it.

I know that sounds harsh, and it isn't meant to be. I've talked with a lot of women who say that they drastically have to cut their food budget, and their husbands are insisting on meat at every meal.

If your income has been cut, you're going to need to talk to your husband about the grocery budget. You're going to have to be frank about what you can and cannot afford to eat. Meat is a huge and very expensive part of a grocery budget.


Some meals are easy to make meatless:  Chili, pizza, pasta dishes (think meatless spaghetti or fettuccine alfredo), baked potato bar, and bean burritos. My husband is the one who introduced me to bean burritos. They were a staple meal for us when we were first married, and the first time I stocked up on something in bulk, it was canned refried beans at .33 a can (the grocery manager ordered them for me while they were on sale) so that I could make these. Since then, I've learned to cook beans from scratch and make my own refried beans (my children like the beans whole in burritos) and I've made some changes to make them even tastier.

Black Bean Burgers 540

You can also substitute for the real thing. No one will think black bean burgers are meat, but they're quite tasty and still fulfill nutritional needs.

Lentil tacos are another way to go. When we have tacos now, they're always made with lentils.

If you need to fool the family, however, my meatless chicken fried steak recipe has fooled a lot of readers' husbands and teen aged sons. I receive a lot of emails about this recipe. They all say, "I served this recipe to my family and my husband/teen aged sons loved it! Afterwards, I told them it was meatless, and they didn't believe me! We will be making this recipe again."

When I do buy meat, I have a strict limit on price. I don't purchase meat over $2 a pound. Keeping my bill below $100 a month, however, has meant keeping that amount lower whenever possible, which means that I usually aim to keep my meat costs below .79 a pound.

Rather than buying meat all the time, I look for when the sales are super low, and I stock up and freeze the meat to use at other times.

What meat can you buy for under .79 a pound? This depends a great deal on where you live, as prices vary widely across the U.S. and certainly around the world, but where I live, I've found that I can usually buy:

Whole chickens for .69 to .79 a pound on sale throughout the year (I get the biggest chickens I can find, usually 4-5 pounds).

Ham goes on sale at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and at Easter. (I find the lowest prices at Christmas and Easter).

Turkey in November for Thanksgiving sales (they also go on sale at Easter, but they are usually a bit higher-priced per pound). I will buy as many as I can in November, as these have made up the bulk of our meat supplies for the last several years. I usually cook a turkey every 4-5 weeks.

We then work to stretch our meat purchases as much as possible.

If I cook a whole chicken, we'll have a little chicken the first night, use the majority of the rest the second night in something, such as enchiladas or stir fry, and I'll cook the carcass with any remaining meat attached for soup after that.  The meat portions are small, but we each get some, and then it isn't another meatless meal.


I should mention that I plate out our meals. With many small children, we learned it was easier to cut everything up ahead of time. The bonus is that I can give them lots of vegetables, so I don't have to worry about anyone not dishing up a vegetable for himself on his plate. Anyone can have seconds after he has eaten what is on his plate, but there are not usually seconds of meat.

We usually slice up our hams on our meat slicer for sandwiches. We'll have a few meals of ham, some of ham and eggs, and then the rest will be used on pizza (where you don't need a lot of meat to make everyone happy), for sandwiches (we don't stuff the meat on sandwiches), and in crepes with cheese.



Turkeys are easy. I use them anywhere I would use chicken. Cooked turkey can be portioned out into freezer bags and used to throw in a lemon dill sauce over rice, in curry, in stir fry, in soups, in enchiladas, in cacciatore, etc. I have also sliced the turkey on my slicer to use for sandwiches, or we have shredded it to use for sandwiches. Lunchmeat at .67 a pound is wonderful!

I like other meats, too, but when ground beef and chuck roast rose from $1.99 a pound on sale to $3.49 a pound on sale, they priced themselves out of my budget. I did not buy any ground beef in 201,1 and I only bought in once in 2012 when a friend pointed out a sale for $1.99 a pound (I was also able to use $10 off on the purchase of it as well thanks to store coupons). I haven't bought chuck roast since 2010. Pork roast is still on sale here for $1.89 to $1.99 a pound, but much less often than it used to be; I see it that price only about 3 times a year now. It is a much rarer treat for us to cook a pork roast, or to buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts (also on sale for $1.99)  because they are more than double the price of the meats I mentioned above.

In general, I cook 12 turkeys a year, 6-8 hams a year, 8-10 whole chickens a year, a few pork roasts, and some boneless skinless chicken breasts a few times a year. We have meat every week with that, but not every day.

This year I only have had 8 turkeys to work with, but we found some amazing deals on chicken (.19 a pound! ) so we have still had plenty of meat, for even less!

When I do have meals with meat, it makes my cost for meals for the day over $3 (My goal is to keep the cost for 3 meals a day plus a snack to $3 total for all 9 of us). I can serve meals with meat that are over $3, as long as other days in the month I can feed us all for $1 to $2 a day. Having lots of meatless meals makes the meat meals possible.

Simply using less meat in a recipe (such a meat sauce for spaghetti) will also cut your costs. Combine that with several meatless meals a week and you'll see a huge difference in your grocery bill!

 
What meatless meals go over best with your family?


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Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Introduction

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During 2011 and 2012, I needed to keep our grocery budget down to $100 a month for our family of eight (which became nine in 2102). Some months I had nothing at all to spend, some months I only had $10 to spend, and other months I could spend $200, but when averaged throughout the year, both years I spent an average of $100 a month on food.

Because I don't shop every week, I look at my grocery budget on a monthly basis. After all of our monthly bills are paid, if there is money left over, then I can use it for groceries, toiletries, and other items. If there is none left over, then I don't go shopping, and I live from my pantry and garden (often for several months).

In order to make sure we have plenty to eat, I've constantly reworked our meals. When I switched website host providers in January 2011, I completely redid my entire website. As part of that, I redid all of my menus, because I had realized that they had become too expensive for me.

 
I don't follow my seasonal menus exactly. I use them to plan meals from what we have. I'll look at those menus and see what is ripe in the garden, and what I already have in the pantry and freezer, and I plan from there. (Note that I do not plan from the ads).


This week, for example, the apricots will be ripe on my tree. I don't know exactly what day they will be ripe, so I cannot plan a specific meal where we will have them. I do know that they will be eaten this week, however, and part of next week, as they ripen.

I know that days don't always go as planned. I didn't get bread made this morning in time for the sandwiches that I was planning, so I switched lunch to be a quick stir-fry. I already had the ingredients on hand, including some green onions and Swiss chard in the garden. Needing a quick meal doesn't have to change my budget by requiring us to eat out; I just change my plans and make something using what I have.

At some point, I anticipate that our budget will increase, as our income increases. One day, I will have 5 teenagers all at once, and they will eat a lot more than they do now as children! There are also things that I would like to buy that I don't now, and things that I rarely buy now that I would buy more often, should our budget increase.

Most importantly, however, I've learned that I can feed our family nutritious meals within our means.

I've spoken about this topic in public, and many readers expressed the desire to hear what I said. I've decided to break it up into several blog posts, so that I can talk about each thing that we do to lower our budget in more detail, and make it possible for you to ask questions to help you lower your own budgets, whatever they may be wherever you live in the world.


Tagged in: 40 Cents a Day
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