The real key to saving money on groceries is to stay stocked up so you never have to pay full price for anything. Buy several of whatever is on sale so you don't run out and end up paying a lot. You can't do this with fresh fruits and veggies...the only way to save on them is to buy what's in season (unless you have a big freezer and can freeze those seasonal items when they are at their cheapest)...but it works with almost everything else.
Many people think that you must have a large kitchen with lots of cupboards to stock up. This is not true. Our kitchen is very small but we don't let it prevent us from buying things when they are offered at a good price. Look around your house and see where else (besides the kitchen) you can store food. Do you have a closet in which you could install shelves? A dry basement? You could even put some sort of shelving in an unused bedroom.
Rolling carts are another storage alternative. At our old house we didn't usually use the kitchen door to the outside of the house so we had a couple of 3 shelf wire carts in front of it. This enabled us to utilize the space and still have access to the door in an emergency...the carts could just be wheeled out of the way.
In the house we live in now we have installed wire shelving on the wall of the cellar stairway. Most of our canned goods are stored there and are easily accesable from the kitchen. It's like having a big walk-in cupboard.
Having a freezer allows you to stock up on meat, frozen veggies etc. Just remember that a freezer uses electricity so if you don't put it to good use you may not be saving as much as you think. If you do use a freezer it's a good plan to label and date everything before you put it in. Also take an inventory every 3-4 months and try to use up the oldest stuff first. We have a small chest freezer in our basement and between that and freezer on top of the fridge we can store quite a lot of meats and frozen foods. We keep an inventory list posted on the refrigerator door that lists what is in both freezers.
Staples like flour and sugar are usually on sale during the holiday season. Buy as many as you have room for and you'll have baking supplies for the year. Don't worry about sugar getting hard...a few seconds in the microwave will soften it up. If you use a lot of rice buy it in 20 lb. bags. Store it in large jars (you can get really big ones from restaurants or the school cafeteria...they're usually happy to give them away rather than filling up their dumpster with them). If you will be storing grain products (like flour and rice) for a long time it's a good idea to put them in the freezer for a few days first then store in airtight jars to prevent them from getting those nasty little bugs in them later.
Cheese is much cheaper to buy in large blocks than sliced or shredded. It also keeps better in a large chunk. If you love the convenience of preshredded cheese do a bunch of it at once and freeze it in plastic bags. Most cheeses freeze well. The soft, white cheeses like cream or cottage cheese are the ones that don't.
We've included this message from Mike and Karen in the stocking up section since you could indeed stock up on powdered milk if it went on sale and not have to worry about it going bad, unlike fresh milk:"A lot of recipes call for milk. I make alot of gravy in our home because biscuits and gravy is a good filler for those expensive beefy meals. I use less meat and more fillers. I buy powdered milk for cooking. Milk in my home town usually runs 1.99-2.59 per gallon. That's 12-16 cents per cup! I can buy a 4lb box of powdered milk at Aldi for 5.99. I use 1C to 1qt of water. I can make milk for cooking for 6 cents per cup! It can be used in almost any recipe that calls for milk. I have convinced several of my friends to do this too."
Karen also sent us her recipe for homemade "Bisquick":
2T Baking powder
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and beat with mixer on low until it is the consistency of bisquick. Use in any recipe where you would use regular bisquick.
Trish Green sent in this suggestion for stocking up on bread and other baked goods: Bread is always so expensive that even if you buy the store brand it can cost you $.99 cents for a small loaf. I found a Thrift bread store that sells day old bread,snacks,rolls,buns, and cookies. I bought a loaf of Wonder regular sandwich bread for $.45 cents and hamburger buns for $.50 cents. The bread had a supermarket price tag that read $1.24 still on it. That's a savings of 79 cents!! I always freeze a loaf of bread and keep a loaf in the refrigerator. I invested in a hard plastic bread keeper at Wal-Mart for about $5.00. it has a seal tight lid and the bread never gets crushed. I can have fresh bread for up to a month in the fridge and if I let it sit on the counter it will only last for two weeks.
Jessica Powell sent this suggestion for storing breads from the bakery thrift store: I too visit the day old bread store. We eat some type of bread product with every meal, and the children prefer variety. I bought all the different types of breads we enjoy, and split them up into smaller sections accoding to approximately how much we eat of that item in one serving. Each package is frozen in one section of my very small freezer, while the other side contains all of my freezer cooked meals. Reaching in to lay out dinner to defrost also prompts me to grab a bread item. We have different breads each night, while maintaining the quality and price savings. I hope this helps someone else as well.
Mary Jane (who also sent ideas for our Christmas and Household sections) sent this email about ways that she stocks up: When you shred and freeze cheese remember to add a little flour to the batch to coat so it won't freeze in a chunk and can be easily separated. After the holidays I recently checked the bargain basket at my home town store and found cranberry sauce(both kinds) for 10/$1.00 and the dates were good for a full year.Instead of buying jelly or cranberry juice I incorporate this in my recipes.I love cottage cheese and found it freezes pretty good so I thaw that out and eat a little cranberry sauce with it. I also make pbj with the cranberry. I also found canned pumpkin 10/$1.00.I bought 10 cans of pumpkin because pumpkin pie is my daughters favorite and I don't have to feel guilty when I make an extra one for a suprise! Also I love jams,jellies and marmalades but they are expensive and the cheaper brands are not very flavorful or are loaded with too much sugar and preservatives! I find if I buy bargain fruits or sale fruits I can make a nice batch of homemade jam and it is still cheaper because I like the flavor and I am not throwing away jam that everyone tired of.
Here's an interesting preparation tip for those cheap macaroni and cheese dinners that we often stock up on from Rebekah. We suggest that if you like this idea you also stock up on cheap margarine: I used to stay away from cheap 3/$1.00 boxes of macaroni and cheese. They just didn't taste very good , so I'd often give in and buy the more expensive brands. One day, quite by accident , I discovered a way to make them taste as good or better than the more expensive brands. It was a few days before payday and I'd decided to go ahead and use the last two boxes of cheap mac and cheese I'd been avoiding for months. After draining the macaroni I discovered that we had no milk. I went ahead and added twice as much margarine and mixed well. I omitted the extra salt and then mixed in the powdered cheese. Wow! My family really loved it. It tasted and looked--well, cheesier. Now I never add milk. I also discoved that my local super market will put these mac and cheese kits on sale every 4-6 weeks. I can get them at 6/$1.00...and I get a whole bunch:-)!
June Ackerman sent this message about ground turkey: I find that I use ground beef more than any other meat in my house. I started using ground turkey because of less fat but found that fresh ground turkey many times is more expensive. I bought it when is was on sale and stocked up. One day I saw a ad for frozen ground turkey on sale for 99 cents a pound! Fresh ground turkey I would buy on sale for $1.99 for 20 oz. What a deal! The brand name for the turkey is Jennie-o and Louis Rich and it comes in tubelike packages found by breakfast meats like sausage. I also feel safer cooking with this meat as I think since it has been frozen if there was any contamination it would be found by the time I buy it.
Bobslovah@aol.com sent this idea: I recently bought chicken breast BOGOF, for 99 cents a pound. I froze it (of course). I thawed it out today, and what i thought about doing is, instead of baking it, I'm going to boil all of it. That way, I will have chicken stock, the meat will not be dry, and I don't have to use all the meat, I can separate it and maybe use some tomorrow, some next week, etc. Now, if some one can give me a good idea on what to do with the chicken skins....after they are boiled for the fat and flavor what good are they? Anyway, like I said, I'm a beginner, and someone may know a lot more about this subject than me, I will check back again for more tips! Thanks for letting me share!
Jeanna sent these ideas: I buy 50 pounds of flour at a time and freeze it for future use. I start buying Christmas cooking items in the fall (butter, canned pumpkin, etc.) when it is a lot cheaper! I try to shop at the bakery outlets, get the good breads and freeze them, too. You can usually get other items there too like jelly and jams, catsup, cookies. If I want to make steak for dinner, I head to Sam's club. They will sell me the roast I want and then I will go home and cut my own steaks. It works great, I like mine a little on the rare side and my husband wants to make sure that it is really dead before he will eat it! SOOO, I cut my steaks thicker than his or cook a big roast on the grill, slice and he eats the "Dead" pieces and my son and I eat the pieces that are a little more rare and save the rest. We will cook that again the next day for steak sandwiches or fajitas!
From Timothy Gorman: Non-perishables are good things to buy at warehouse stores. My wife and I bought a box of trashcan liners at Costco over a year ago that cost $10 and so far we have used only half of the box. Other good items are laundry and dish detergents, and plastic zipper bags (both sandwhich size and storage size). I have noticed that most paper products are actually more expensive than in a large supermarket. I've also read that you know that items at Costco have been marked down as low as possible when the prices end in 77 cents, such as $129.77, but I'm not quite certain if that's the actual number. Other chains have other amounts. The information is out there if you look.