Groceries are the single largest discretionary line item in most family budgets. Which is why we spend so much time looking for coupons, for sales, and for cost saving tips when we are planning our family grocery usage. Some people like to include everything they buy on a supply run in their grocery budget and some prefer to split it up between FOOD and OTHER. I’m here to ask you… how do you trim that bill? What’s your best cost saving tip on diapers, paper goods, how to make buying in bulk work for you? Let’s dish.
BUT WAIT. Because I’m never satisfied, I want to not only save money, I want to save time too. Because being frugal is good, but not at the expense of hanging out with my dudes. Here are my three favorite thrifty tips to start the discussion:
Parchment paper for burgers and more: You’re probably already familiar with the concept of “buy in bulk when the price is good and freeze to use later.” We invested a few (like seriously a few, I think it was $6) in a burger patty maker so when ground meat goes on sale, we can make burgers and freeze them. Then when it’s burger night or Mommy isn’t cooking night or weekend lunch or any other time we’d be tempted to go out for burgers, we pull a few out of the container in the freezer and my husband, who has become quite the burger expert, cooks them. The secret to this tip is pre-cut squares of parchment paper. A large pack of them is fairly inexpensive and putting a sheet between each burger is the difference between being able to “grab a few” and cursing at a giant lump of stuck together burgers. It’s not just for burgers. I use these to separate large blocks of sliced cheese into reasonable hunks before I put them into the freezer.
Herbs make everything taste expensive: Nothing gives you more flavor bang for your buck (and your time!) than fresh herbs. Parsley, thyme, rosemary, chives, dill, basil, oregano, and mint are tremendously delicious fresh, but cut herbs are pricey to buy and don’t last as long as you’d like. (Are you drooling a little? I admit it, I am.) The good news is that if you have room to garden- even if it’s just a couple pots on a sunny windowsill- herbs are incredibly inexpensive to grow. Most are perennial, which means they come back year after year. Garlic starting to sprout? Don’t toss it. Separate the cloves and plant them. You can use the tops like chives and get the flavor of garlic. The best part? You NEVER RUN OUT. You can throw a little fresh rosemary or thyme into absolutely anything and you’re always ready.
Prep first, then freeze: Buying meat in bulk is great, but even if you separate into meal size portions before you freeze, you are still screwed if you forget to thaw anything for dinner. Sometimes that means a trip to the store, and for some reason I never, ever, EVER get out of the store for just a few bucks. There is always “one more thing” that you pick up “as long as I’m here” and then your budget is totally blown. When you are prepping chicken, beef, or boneless pork for the freezer, make your sauces and throw them right in the freezer bag with the meat. Pick recipes that can go either on the stove or the crock pot, and you will be good to go even if you forget- the meat is already marinated and all you have to do is cook it. It might take a little longer from frozen, but not as long as going to the store. JACKPOT. (Make sure you lay them as flat as possible while they freeze so they take up less room in your freezer.)
Trifty JMM Dana S. has recommended growing my own lettuces in milk jugs, and I’m definitely trying that this year. (I’m going straight for the pricey varieties… no iceberg for me!) My attempts at baking my own bread have been a total bust in the “time saving” department, so if you have any tricks for success, lay ‘em on me. (So far I can have fresh bread fast OR delicious, but not both.) And I’m a TERRIBLE couponer, but thrifty JMM Jen SD has made it her personal mission to reform me. I’ll let you know if she succeeds.
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