Need to Lower Your Grocery Bill? Bring Some Old-Fashioned Frugality Into Your Kitchen

by Jessica Sommerfield · 11 comments

cooking spaghetti
Does it feel like your grocery bill keeps growing? Sorry, but you can’t blame it on inflation. Food-at-home prices dropped 1.6 percent since last July — the sharpest decline since 2010. Maybe you’re eating healthier or haven’t been as diligent about shopping sales ads and using digital coupons, rewards cards, or rebate apps. Or maybe, like me, too many convenience foods are creeping into your kitchen.

Convenient prepared foods – even their healthy versions – are so… convenient. It’s nice to have pre-cut, pre-mixed, prepared foods for the times our schedules get a little hectic, but they can quickly become an excuse to get lazy about food preparation — and jack up the grocery bill.

Back in the ‘olden’ days, folks didn’t have the option of prepared breads, sauces, dressings, or meals-in-a-box. They used basic staples to make everything they needed. I’m certainly glad I have the option of buying marinara sauce instead of having to make it every time I want some pasta, but I think it’s time to bring some old-fashioned frugality back into our kitchens. Here’s how we can do it.

Stop Buying Pre-Cut Veggies!

This one annoys me because I’ve been guilty of it. For years, I bought baby-cut carrots because, well, who wants to peel and cut a bag of whole carrots when you can buy them ready-made? I finally stopped to realize the price difference between the two – roughly 50 to 60 cents per pound. Ouch! I also realized it only takes about five minutes to peel and chop a bag of carrots.

Busted.

Now the only time I succumb is when the cut versions are marked down – a lot. Reduced-price chopped veggies might be past their prime for snacking, but they’re great for throwing in stir fry.

Learn How to Make Things from Scratch

The term “from scratch” is scary to some people because it evokes images of slaving over the stove. In reality, there are dozens of items we use on a regular basis that don’t take much time – or skill – to make from scratch. Not only will this help you stay within your grocery budget, but you’ll enjoy fresher, less preservative-packed foods. Take a look in your fridge and pantry and write down staples you use on a regular basis. Can you learn how to make some of these just from watching a few YouTube videos? Here are some suggestions:

  • Dressings – most contain five or less basic ingredients you probably already have on hand and take only a few minutes to whip up
  • Sauces – these may require a little more time simmering, but still – easy.
  • Hummus and other dips
  • Oat and almond flour — just blend oats or almonds
  • Bread – no-knead breads are easy to make even if you’re not into baking
  • Cereal, granola, protein and energy bars

Preserve In-Season Bounty

Produce is at its best and cheapest in the summer and fall, but then January rolls around. The word “preserve” elicits visions of canning and pickling, but the modern alternative is simple – prepare and freeze. You might be surprised at some of the things you can freeze. Most vegetables and fruits keep well frozen, and you can also freeze trays of fresh herbs in olive oil, broth, and egg whites or yolks.

Re-grow It

Don’t have time for a garden? No problem. Scallions, celery cores and herbs can all be grown and re-grown right in your windowsill.

Bring Back ‘Sunday Roast’

Save money on meat by buying tougher, cheaper cuts and slow-roasting them in broth, herbs, and spices for a few hours. Plus, if you start the roast early, you won’t have to wait for dinner (they were on to something when they invented the technique).

Just because we have so many convenient, prepared foods at our fingertips doesn’t mean we have to use them. Bringing back a few old-fashioned practices into your kitchen will shave your grocery bill and revitalize your enjoyment of fresh, home-made ingredients. What are some things you save money on by doing the ‘old-fashioned’ way?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

Arminius Aurelius September 29, 2016 at 12:41 pm

For a working family a Crock Pot [ slow cooker ] is great . You can chop up vegetables the night before and then the next morning before going to work put your beef , pork or stew meat in the Crock Pot with the vegetables . Set your timer for 4 , 6 , 8 or 10 hours and when you get home , your meal will be ready . Just put together a salad and you have a great meal. I made a beef stew yesterday and it is good for 4 to 5 meals . Living alone I portion out the dinner and freeze 2 or 3 meals for another evening . No fuss , no muss .

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David Ning September 30, 2016 at 10:10 am

I’m tasked with taking care of the kids for the next couple weeks and cooking for them have been really tough (my wife always did the cooking). I’ll definitely have to look into recipes with slow cookers!

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Centsai September 27, 2016 at 6:41 pm

Grocery stores always charge you more for pre-cut veggies, when it is SO easy to just cut them at home! All it takes is a couple extra seconds, and saves you at least a dollar or two (which adds up quickly)!

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David Ning September 30, 2016 at 10:10 am

Convenience convenience convenience! How much are you willing to pay for it? 🙂

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Dannielle @ Odd Cents September 27, 2016 at 3:26 am

I make all of my sauces from scratch (except Alfredo sauce.) Not only does it save me money, it also tastes better. I told my mother to stop buying pre-cut veggies because it’s simply a waste of money. I also make my own pizza crust. Making a good bread is the next thing I want to learn how to do.

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David Ning September 27, 2016 at 12:37 pm

Wow good for you Dannielle. And since you know what’s actually in the sauce, you know it’ll be healthy for you and your family.

DIY is really the way to go!

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Latoya @ Femme Frugality September 23, 2016 at 11:10 am

I want to try my hand at making more dressings and sauces. That’s one tricky one for me. Great tips!

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David Ning September 23, 2016 at 1:25 pm

I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it once you do it a couple times. The hardest step to make is always the first one!

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Jessica Sommerfield September 23, 2016 at 10:55 am

I think you might be right about the taste, but they’re definitely more processed than whole carrots. Just reading articles about how they make them is a little scary!

I got rid of my crock-pot in the last move, so I still need to get one. Meanwhile, I have a big stock pot works great for slow-simmering soups and such!

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Jonathan Dyer September 23, 2016 at 10:27 am

Great points. I am definitely guilty of buying baby carrots too and, maybe I’m crazy, but I swear they taste better. After being shamed by this article though I will now try to change ;).

However I am on board with making roasts. Crock-pots are also lifesavers!

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David Ning September 23, 2016 at 1:22 pm

Haha don’t let anyone shame you!! 🙂

Seriously though, do what works for you but make sure you spend your money consciously!

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