Cutting the Food Bill

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Sorting 300+ pounds of pork

On our December break from formal homeschooling, the boys and I did a kitchen pantry and freezer overhaul that I hope will keep us more organized and efficient with our meal planning and food budget. We spend a lot of money on food, and this is an area of our budget I would like to cut. Just streamlining our cabinets helped a lot. I think I had nuts in about 4 different places in the kitchen. Now they are all grouped together, and let’s just say, I don’t have to buy nuts for awhile. We are stocked with meat thanks to our neighbor. His beef and pork will keep us well-fed until summer. I would like to buy a dozen chickens from another neighbor, but we need to make some freezer room first. I am making an effort to shop sales by looking at the weekly ads online. Ideally, I would like this to become Vincent’s job, however he usually has his own agenda in the kitchen and it never, ever saves me money!

A couple of tools were indispensable for both inspiration and execution.

#1 List Planit This is a website that features a variety of PDF e-planners that offer to help organize any part of your life. I used the Meals e-planner for organizing my pantry which had a variety of inventory sheets. I recorded what we had in our cabinets, generated a list of what we needed to purchase and also noted staples I like to always have in the house. This food inventory is particularly helpful in the freezer department.

#2 Good Cheap Eats I love this blog! Jessica has great recipes and great advice to help lower your food bill. She is currently running a pantry challenge that I am doing as well. Honestly, our cabinets are blessedly stocked and really, all I should need to shop for is fresh produce, eggs and milk. That’s the goal anyway.

#3 Plan to Eat I love this website. It is an online recipe box/meal planner/grocery list. I have definitely not maximized everything it can do, but I love, love, love the little bookmarklet that lets me seamlessly add recipes to my recipe box from anywhere online! It works automatically about 75% of the time and the other 25% I just cut and paste. No biggie. (This is an affiliate link.)

#4 Trader Joe’s has come to town and it is a game-changer in my opinion. Their prices are incredible and I love the lack of choices. We have done the bulk of our shopping there since they opened in November. If I can steer myself away from the cookies (very, very difficult) and keep to the list, we will automatically be saving money.

#5 VitaCost Andrea turned me onto this site. I love it for some groceries (mostly snacks and coconut oil), but the real saving is in personal products. I should be able to put my kids through college from the savings on toothpaste alone. Man, was I getting gouged! Anyway, all around great prices and fast shipping. (If you use the link from this post, you should save $10 on a $30 order and I should get $10 on my next order. If this isn’t the case, let me know in the comments.)

What do you do to save money on groceries? I’m all ears!

13 thoughts on “Cutting the Food Bill

  1. Wow! I just checked out Vita cost. Their prices are amazing! The only downside is that I really like to purchase locally if I can. Our local hotspot to get those personal care items is a local, family owned store. But wow on the prices at vitacost!! That will save us a ton. I also shop trader joes. I get way more food for money there. It is also very stress free shopping because there are no choices!! I love it. Great plan. Thanks for sharing.

    • I have the local-guilt too. But for things like toothpaste, not so much. I try to keep in mind the majority of our food does come from local sources (like right next door!) and saving money in one place, lets me spend more in another.

      I can get chicken so much cheaper at TJs than at my neighbor’s. But I know he is just about breaking even. This is not fair and goes to the heart of the small farmer plight. So I buy our whole chickens from him (and get 3 or more meals out of one bird) and buy frozen chicken tenders at TJs for quick lunches. It’s a compromise I can live with.

      Hope all is well with your school year so far.
      Sheila

  2. This is a great conversation. I like to save time and money by ordering online thru “PeaPod” home delivery. It’s like Magic! I can order online as I think of things and then it’s all delivered to my kitchen. (I believe the delivery charge is offset by avoiding unnecessary purchases in the store.) Another favorite is ordering online thru our local Whole Foods and then picking it up curbside. Grocery shopping is one of my least favorite and these two options have been great for me. I’m also looking into local farm deliveries in the neighborhood. I’ll check out Vita Cost too.
    Thanks.
    xo

    • Oh life in the big city! We do not have anything like that out here in the sticks.

      I totally agree about the delivery charge being offset by avoiding unnecessary purchases in the store – I try to go to the store as infrequently as possible. If I just need one or two things, I will ask Tom to pick them up, because he just gets those 2 things. If I go, I will get 45 other things!

  3. That is so true. I am determined to get back on our food budget. I do our big shopping at the commissary that is 45 minutes each way but the savings are definitely worth it. For everyday shopping, I use Aldi. I buy some of our meat from a local farm when I can. For some reason, joining a CSA in our area has just not worked out well, but in warmer weather I do go to the Farmer’s market regularly. We are starting our own veggie garden this year. My sons have promised to build it before my eldest goes back. I am going to check out Vitacost!

  4. Hi Sheila,

    Oh I WISH we had a Trader Joe’s here! Lucky you…

    I also love Vitacost and the flat rate shipping to Hawaii is not bad. For bulk items like raw nuts, coconut oil, and the multitude of gluten free ingredients, I’ve found that Amazon often has lower prices than Vitacost IF I can get free shipping. One example: a bag of gluten free oatmeal costs almost $10 (yes, $10) at our local Whole Foods, but I can get that same bag for a little over $4 (AND free shipping) from Amazon. I find myself looking online at Amazon before I go to the grocery store.

    Thanks for this great post. Going thru my pantry and cleaning my freezer have been on my “to do” list for a couple weeks now…

    Aloha,
    Lori

    • We just got a Trader Joe’s, so I know exactly how you feel.

      Amazon has just come onto my radar for groceries. I need to do some price comparisons. Do you have Prime? I don’t but maybe I should? Something else to consider.

      Please tell me at least pineapples are cheap in Hawaii??

  5. I have just today been thinking (again) about our food bill and how to cut it. Since moving to Canada I wistfully think of Trader Joes. I will take a look at the planner. We are having a new baby next month and I need something everyone can reference being upable to scoop out what is in my head for planning!

  6. I’m wondering if you know about Azure Standard or The Grain Loft? They are bulk buying clubs. Azure is based in Oregon and recently added a drop to Asheville. I’ve made a few orders with them and been really pleased. The Grain Loft is new to me, but the same idea. Its based in Greer, SC, so almost local! I haven’t ordered with them yet, but I am planning to get in on the next round. I haven’t heard of Vita Cost. I’ll have to check them out. And Trader Joe’s? Oh so happy to see them, but it can be difficult to avoid the extras.

    • I don’t know about either the grain loft or azure standard. I will google them. I get my wheat berries in bulk either on a trip to Atlanta (DeKalb Farmer’s Market) or online from Honeyville Farms. They have a $4.99 flat rate shipping which is great for 50lbs of wheat.

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