Hi, I’m Liz! I’m the author of Little Budget Big Life and I’m super excited that Katie invited me over to Fun Home Things today.
Here’s my story. After years away, living everywhere from tiny towns to a metropolis of millions, I have returned to Western Kentucky, where I grew up. I write Little Budget Big Life, where I share my approach to embracing a little city lifestyle–from family life and my homeschooling experience to gluten free meal ideas and saving money on, well, just about everything.
Bargain shopping for food is one of my continuous goals. Our family is small, but groceries can be a huge expense if we’re not careful. Chris–a cartoonist–works at home, and Pip–an active 8-year-old who has celiac disease and must adhere to a strict gluten free diet–schools at home, which means we typically eat three meals and several snacks at home on most days.
I’ve done the couponing thing in the past, and I know it works great for some people, but I didn’t see a good return on my time invested, so I dropped the habit. We eat well without breaking the bank, but it takes effort. If you’re looking for ways to save on groceries, start here!Get to know more than one grocery, and visit each of them regularly.
My little city has three grocery options–one national chain and two independent–and I shop in at least two of them each week. I visit Kroger once or twice, as it’s my best choice for produce and gluten free packaged foods, and I stop by one of the independents each week for meat, cereal, and sales.
Our local Kroger bags up “imperfect” fruits and veggies and sells them for $0.99 per bag.
Train your eye–and your kids–to spot manager’s specials.
When Pip was tiny, I gave her the job of finding sale tags. It kept her entertained and it helped me find things I may have missed. Years later, she still points out manager’s special tags at the grocery for me. Some stores gather all their “reduced for quick sale” items in one place, and some stores keep them scattered throughout their departments; figure out or ask what your groceries do, and start your shopping trips there.
Check every department for mark-downs. It takes a little time at first, but once you figure out the methods of your grocery stores, your visits can be quite quick.
One day I happened upon a woman tagging all the “manager’s specials” in the meat department. I said, casually, “hey, I should just follow you around!” She smiled and told me that she does this every Saturday morning. And now I know where and when to find the best prices on the largest selection of meats.
Yes, you’re looking at pork ribs for $0.99/lb and steak for under $3/lb.
The “economy” package, and sometimes the store brand, is not always the best bargain. Shelf labels often have a price per unit listed–check for the lowest one on the variety of brands and sizes available when looking for the best deal.
Check those unit prices! You have to look closely, but sometimes the name brand or the smaller package is more cost-effective.
Let me stop right there to say that you’re not going to find every item you want on sale every week at every store. It’s not going to happen. Well, it doesn’t for me, anyway. But if you start with the sales and specials, you can fill in the gaps with regular priced items. OK, now let’s get those groceries home and get back to business.
I am all for planning meals before they happen–it saves me a lot of stress come mealtime–but I don’t do it until after I’ve been shopping. I’d much rather see what I find for great prices and then create a schedule based on that than try to find on sale the ingredients for my preconceived plans.
Some of our favorite meals have come from “well, what did we find today?”
Serve small portions.
I always start small. Everyone is welcome to more, but I’d rather spoon up second helpings than throw away whatever has been left on someone’s plate.
Keep leftovers–even the bits and pieces.
Throwing food away is one of the easiest ways to waste money on it, and also one of my pet peeves, so I save everything that isn’t on someone’s plate at the end of each meal. If there’s enough leftover to re-purpose into another meal for the family, I do that. Bits and pieces that wouldn’t serve all of us go into my refrigerator, and I use them one of two ways: snack plate or smorgasbord. Pip and I often eat snack plates for lunch; I start with whatever needs to be heated, and then continue to add cheese, fruit, or veggies until there’s a healthy variety. Smorgasbord is what I call a dinner where I get all the leftovers out of the fridge and everyone fills her or his own plate, with the pickiest eaters going first; each meal looks different, but everyone eats, and valuable food is enjoyed rather than tossed out.I’m always looking for new ways to save on groceries, and I’ll continue to share them–and many other money-saving ideas–at Little Budget Big Life. I’d be glad for you to stop by!