No, this doesn’t include couponing, I’m too lazy for that. It doesn’t mean starving or eating lesser as well, we love our calories too much.
As myself assigned job is to run an efficient and effective household, like any diligent stay at home wife, I’ve tried budgeting. Been there, done that lots of time and we still end up with average food bill and huge pile of compost. Now (so far) I found a better way to significantly reduce both.
This Savvy Kitchen should adhere to my crazy standard which includes the following qualifications:
- we (especially my meat loving husband) should not feel deprived
- it should be healthy (few occasional chips is fine)
- it should be less than 300/mo or $3600/yr (half of what average Canadian family consumes)
- it should be easy and fun enough for me to do it consistently
This system I currently use is a no brainer. It’s all about simple yet very rewarding principle of “smart consuming and buying”. If you’ve been running your kitchen for quite a while chances are you have a pantry full of stuff you didn’t even remember you have, I suggest you start at step 1. But if your staring with a clean slate, proceed to step 2.
These are the steps I’m currently doing:
1. Organize and eliminate
This is crucial step. Organize your pantry, fridge and freezer and all places you store any edibles. Make sure that items that will soon go bad are visible at a glance. This will make step# 2 a lot easier.
If you don’t think you wont be able to consume them as fast before they turn bad, preserve them or throw them away. Or give it away. Having doubts if you will ever consume it? Aside from space saving reason, keeping them will just increase your fridge temperature, which bacteria loves.
It’s also wise to use labels if you don’t have transparent containers. For freezer items, always always label. Chances are you won’t be able to distinguish frozen chicken from beef stock weeks after.
Label. Because who would know if it’s sirloin or ribeye?
2. Reverse meal plan
Thinking of what to eat for the week ahead is not that easy especially if you rather do your grocery once. Depending on you cooking or experimentation skills, there’s just millions of dishes to choose from. But ‘reverse meal plan’ makes it so much easier. Reverse simply means planning all your menu based on the items you already have and will spoil soon if you don’t use them. You have some bell pepper left ? Choose a dish that you can cook with it. You didn’t just significantly reduce your option by only considering dishes that need pepper, you also saved the poor veggie from rotting.
If you have tons, start with those that will expire/ spoil sooner. Or be creative, maybe you can bake eggless muffin with that over ripe bananas.
3. Think before you buy
- Compare prices. Check prices online, watch out for sales or promo. This maybe tedious at first but after few months of doing it you will be so good, knowing when and where to get best deals will be part of your maternal instinct. Price matching may even come in handy at times.
- Choose generic brands( aka store brand, aka no brand at all). Most of the time these items have the same manufacturer as the brand you see on TV. They are usually(not always) cheaper because they don’t need to spend on fancy marketing/advertising.
- Choose major supermarket against tiny store in front of you. Small stores usually get some items from big stores adding few cents to each tag price. Another reason is, most of the time small stores have bigger absolute overhead cost than big stores, which is of course you need to pay for.
- Refill. You don’t need to buy those fancy McCormik every time. Don’t ignore those in larger resealable packs.
- If you want to experiment on ingredients you haven’t tried before, your best bet could be the bulk section. This will come in handy when you got a new recipe that calls for a tablespoon of tumeric and it’s not worth keeping even the smallest bottle. It might sound counter intuitive to buy small portions here but generic still beat the price of bulk when in comes to items like flour and Parmesan.
- That being said, check the unit price. Stores might be sneaky sometimes as they try to push some items out of their selves. Also, sale or bigger packs doesn’t always means cheaper. Just be smarter and check those tiny numbers, especially below those bright red tags.
- Choose on season fresh fruits and veggies.
- Consider frozen vegetables or fruits as they can be cheaper than fresh ones.
4. Stick to your list, unless you don’t have to
I know it’s easier said than done when you see those 20lbs potatoes for $3 (that’s why I end up with a potato garden in our pantry at one point). Not only it takes up those precious space, but you might also need to have a logbook(which I actually tried and failed the 1st week) to keep track of your inventory if your mental-note-taking ability can only handle data for maximum of 60 seconds like mine.
Consistency is the key here. We usually do our grocery every week to avoid an overwhelming storage and meal plan. It can become a habit as you go along.
- Produce your own stuff. It’s much cheaper(healthier and much more delicious..I might be biased here) to make your own waffle mix for example. You may also look for alternatives in the kitchen say use vinegar instead of dish washing detergent and rinse aid.
my homemade waffle mix and with homemade(of course) chocolate dip
- If you purposely (or impulsively) end up with a bag or 2 more than what’s on your shopping list, you can prevent wastage by doing some preservation and packing techniques. (I could have had a freezer loaded with hash browns instead of a sack full of growing potatoes)
- Repack items before freezing. This is to avoid ‘re-thawing’. For family of 2, this will be handy next time you buy 2 kgs bacon on sale.
Repack. It can be tempting to eat the whole 500 gm
Been doing this for just 2 months now, and so far so good. Not on the $300 mark on regular basis yet, but we are getting there. By the way, I considered eating out as part of food expense as well and this will only work if you cook your own food. I might be posting our progress soon.
Although, we never really have high food expense (last year’s average is $400/mo, since I always love cooking at home instead of eating out), I can still see significant reduction. This is despite my pregnancy, which means I need to be extra healthy and careful with what I eat.
I would love to hear what are you doing to reduce your food expense. Hope you share it in the comment below.