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Monday, August 12, 2013

Cutting the grocery bill: my plan (or part of it)

Another area we are reducing our spending is groceries. By groceries, here, I mean food only, not cleaning supplies, paper products, hygiene items, etc., just food.

My current budget has averaged $210 a month, for the five of us. I am hoping to reduce this to an average of $170 per month. It's been years and years since we last spent this little on a monthly basis. Our kids were very small, and food was not so expensive, then. I'm not sure we can meet this goal, but I'm going to give it a shot. The one thing I have on my side with this, is the shopping for food is strictly my department. I'm not sure that I can recall the last time my husband did any grocery shopping. It's just not his area. But my doing all the shopping puts complete control in my hands.

Here are some of the ways that I plan on cutting this budget further:

Forage more. We've already begun our foraging for blackberries, about 2 weeks earlier than most years. Some of the berries are for immediate consumption, while others are for the freezer. I'd like to have about 15 quarts of blackberries in the freezer by the end of the season.

Use up as much as possible from the garden. An example, many years, we simply tire of kale or Swiss chard, and while we eat most of it, a fair amount just goes to seed. This summer, I am already freezing some for later consumption, and trying to make sure that right now, these veggies are featured in our meals more.

Use things from the garden that I don't always think of as vegetables, including squash blossoms. Some years, I remember to make sauteed squash blossoms. They are so yummy. Slice up the squash blossoms, and saute with butter, salt and pepper. My family also really enjoys squash blossom fritters. In another week, it will be too late for any pollinated pumpkin blossoms to become pumpkins. That's when I'll start harvesting the blossoms.

For the summer and early fall months, feature garden produce heavily in meals. Our dinner plates are heavily laden with vegetables these days. It's not unusual for dinner to contain 3 servings of veggies or fruit. A plate like this is supplemented with inexpensive grains and beans.

Eat more meals based on beans. One of the ways that I am making sure that I use beans often during the week, is to soak all the week's beans over the weekend, and keep them in the fridge. I soak a variety each Saturday, and can quickly cook and use them, throughout the week. Plus, I feel I have something of an "investment" in the beans already, by soaking them in advance. So I am more motivated to use them in meals.

Hold off on shopping for meat until November and December, and stock up on turkey and ham then (that is if the mystery pork virus hasn't driven ham prices sky high). Typically in our area, turkeys are at their lowest price of the year the weeks before Thanksgiving, and hams are at their lowest price of the year right around the Christmas and New Year's holiday. Last year I found whole turkeys for 39 cents/pound and whole hams for 99 cents/lb. There are usually "deals" with these prices, such as spend XX amount of money. But I discovered that many of the stores allow you to apply the cost of gift cards to your minimum spend. So, I purchased many gift cards to use as gifts for Christmas and birthdays, to meet that minimum spend amount.

I also find that during the fall and winter holidays, many of the items that I consider staples are at their rock-bottom price for the year, such as butter, baking supplies, cream cheese, canned veggies (including olives -- I only buy olives this time of year, and use them throughout the coming year) and fall-harvested, long-keeping vegetables.

When I do serve meat, I'll continue to fill our plates more with vegetables than meat. Many vegetables are far cheaper per pound than almost all types/cuts of meat. Even when I have to buy veggies, it will still be less expensive to fill most of a plate with vegetables, and a small piece of meat, than putting together the standard meat and potatoes dinner.

Put aside some money this month and the next, so that I can stock up in the fall. This month, we're only buying milk, eggs, canning supplies and any items on my staples list, that hit a rock-bottom price. I'm just making do with what we have. I'll take what's left of the budget and save it for November and December. I will also try to cut back on grocery spending in September, as well.

Make even more things from scratch. A for instance -- last weekend, we made s'mores. We were out of graham crackers, so my daughters made a small batch. We talked about me digging out my marshmallow recipe, for the next time we wish to make s'mores (as we'll then be out of marshmallows, too). And once the supply of bargain-purchased chocolate (clearance Valentine chocolates) is gone, we'll make cocoa frosting. Frosting makes quite tasty s'mores.

Use up every last drop. Save liquid from cooking veggies, for soups and sauces on another night.

Get every last bit out of bottles and jars. I used a rubber spatula at lunch time today, and scraped enough peanut butter from 2 "empty" jars to make myself a sandwich.

I've been using sweet pickle juice in faux BBQ sauce and faux ketchup. For BBQ sauce, some sweet pickle juice, tomato paste, soy sauce, garlic and ginger. For ketchup, tomato paste and sweet pickle juice, with minced onion and a pinch of salt.

I used dill pickle juice in a few batches of lentil and bean soup. I like the tang that the vinegar adds to soup.

I rinse "empty" milk jugs and yogurt jars with a bit of water and save for using as part of the liquid in muffins, pancakes and cornbread.

I save pasta-cooking water and olive brine, and use to flavor and enhance soups, chili and sauces.

Ration out expensive foods. Expensive foods, such as coffee, cheese, butter, chocolate and meat, can be budget busters. I've packaged all the shredded cheese for the freezer, with labels with such readings as, "cheddar--August".

Coffee grounds are being measured carefully for each pot. And when it's gone for the day, we switch to something like like tea or water.

We are down to 2 bags of chocolate chips. These have to last a while, so I am having to discipline myself not to eat *any* of them.  (The key for me is to freeze unopened bags. Once the bags are opened, well, that's the end of them. I have no self-control!) I'll save what I have for particular recipes, like toffee candy or some bar cookies that my mom always made for special occasions. When we're wanting something chocolatey, I'll use the more economical cocoa powder. And hopefully chocolate chips will go on sale for a good price again this fall.

Butter -- my daughters used an entire stick of butter in a batch of polenta the other week. I have since frozen the bulk of the butter, and leave just a few day's worth at a time in the fridge. And they understand, now, no more super buttery dishes, at least not until I find it on sale again.

Keeping snacks and treats made and ready to eat, for the family. Even if it's just a plate of carrot sticks and dip, or a large bowl of popcorn, the family will snack on this, before poking around in the pantry for something else.

Let nothing, I mean nothing, go to waste. This will require diligence on my part. I'll need to check supplies often, to look for produce about to expire, or bread that could develop mold. I have been only keeping out half a loaf of bread at a time, the rest is kept in the freezer. We had a bad run of moldy muffins, pancakes and bread last month.

Staying out of stores. Sure, I'll miss one or two great deals, but I think I'll save more in the long run by just shopping less. It seems every time I go into a store for one or two items, I come out with half a cart-full of stuff that while a good price for what it is, it wasn't totally necessary, or could have been made from scratch at home.

Revisiting the pricing on powdered milk. Years ago, we would buy 55 lb sacks of non-instant powdered milk from the Darigold distributor in Seattle. At that time, buying milk this way was less expensive than buying fresh milk. As the price of the powdered milk crept up, the price on fresh milk seemed to come down, so we went back to fresh milk. I'll be checking into the non-instant powdered again.

Planting a fall garden, and taking good care of it. I have some row-cover, season extenders that I'll put over some of the fall veggies, to prolong the season a couple of weeks into November. I've planted snap peas, kale, chard, and lettuce for the fall garden, and will add spinach and mustard greens in a week. I also started a pot of basil, a couple of weeks ago. It's on the deck right now, but I'll bring it indoors in early September, and keep it in a window. I plan on digging up a few chives, and 1 parsley plant, for my window herb garden, too.

Sticking to my personal price limits on certain foods. I have certain prices that I don't like to go over, on specific foods, like 70 cents/lb on whole chickens, or 40 cents/lb on oranges, or 35 cents/lb on carrots. I'm going to try and only buy these items at my own imposed limit. Of course, these limits are based on last year's availability, and could change for this year, as the market dictates. But I won't slide my limits up by too much. If anything, I'll find alternate foods, which satisfy the same nutritional need, such as whole turkeys provide protein, just like chicken, but at a less-expensive price.

When the money for the month is gone, it's gone. I'm going to try to stick to this, and not have a huge overage, going into the new year. I'll try to always set aside some of the budget for basics, like milk and fruits/veggies, for the end of each month, so that I won't have to spend into the next month's grocery money, to have the foods that I feel are important for my family to have daily.

And finally, really enjoy the foods that we have. There's this thing that I do. I call it "brownie shaving". I go into the kitchen and shave off part of a brownie and pop it into my mouth. 10 minutes later, I'm back in the kitchen and I shave off another little bit. A while later, I am back again at the brownie pan, shaving off "just a smidge". Before I know it, I have eaten 1 & 1/2 brownies, but never got any real pleasure from them. Compare this to when I cut myself a brownie, put it on a plate, step out to the sun, sit down and just really savor that brownie. I get so much more enjoyment from that one brownie, than I did from the shaved 1 & 1/2 brownies. If we really put effort into preparing good food, and then take the time to savor it, we won't feel the deprivation of a tighter budget. Food was intended to be enjoyed and shared, not wolfed down so that we could get on to the next activity.

To be really honest, I'm not sure we can cut our grocery budget this much (the plan is to reduce it by $40), and still maintain the quality of our diet. It's very important to me that we eat many servings of fruits and vegetables each day. I know the campaign is 5 A Day, but we try for more. Once the garden is no longer producing (or even producing less), I'll be buying produce again, and that gets expensive. If we can't meet this goal, I certainly won't beat myself up over it. Groceries and heat are the two areas that I'm not willing to go overboard to save money. I'd rather cut back someplace else.

Help me out, if you can. What are some ways that we could cut back on grocery spending, and still eat well?


  1. I think most of the things I do you already know.
    I would also remember to switch to seasonal veggies. For example while garden salads are prevalent not, a cole slaw salad may be more winter appropriate as far as costs go. Or perhaps an apple and raisin salad....use your homemade yogurt with a tiny bit of vanilla to make a creamy dressing.

    Remember too that frozen veggies can be used in salads. One of our favorites is a scaled back version of the 7 layer salad that uses green peas. Frozen corn with a cup or two of leftover beans, some seasonings and a tiny touch of olive oil are great.

    I know you are like me and sometimes find a menu a little stifling. I've made one up this month with the knowledge that things can be deferred if we receive fresh produce (happened three times this past week) or if we have leftovers to be used up that won't go for lunches. To fight any chance of the family complaining I wrote each meal out on a sheet of paper and put on the refrigerator. If they don't want what is on the "schedule" for that night, as long as they let me know in enough time, they can chose any other meal on that sheet. They feel like they have choices and I feel like I don't have to worry about them asking for things I don't have on hand.

    For my area, powdered milk is cheaper.

    Also I am trying to remember and can' you dehydrate anything? If you do, I find that a small amount of dried berries added to plain muffins or pancakes seem to make them special, increase the nutritional value, and cost very little compared to chocolate chips or nuts.

    1. Hi Shara,
      Thank you for your ideas! They're very helpful. We (by we, I think I mean me and one daughter) love our salads here. I do make a lot of cole slaw in winter, but I may be the only one who really enjoys my slaw so often. I think I need to change it up a bit. Maybe ad some other veggies to the slaw, or vary the dressing.

      I've started menu planning once again. Being on such a tight budget, now, I am finding it very helpful to spend some time each Monday thinking of different ways to serve inexpensive meals, while keeping the garden in mind. And I can plan baking days and microwave days this way, too.

      I do dehydrate fruit. I will keep your suggestions in mind. That reminds me, I need to do some dehydrated rhubarb again soon.

      Thanks for your input.

  2. OOPs didn't mean to write a book.

    should have said "prevalent now"

  3. It might be easier to cut your non-food groceries down as a lot of those can be purchased with coupons/at a discount. We picked the first of our blackberries this weekend. About 3 cups, used half for muffins Saturday and they were yummy. The rest went into the freezer. I am the only picker however as hubby has told me he hates it (funny though he loves eating them). Cheers!

    1. Hi Cheapchick,
      You may be right, that cutting in other areas may be more achieveable, I am working on non-food household items, too. And I found a good deal (with coupon) on shampoo this weekend -- 69 cents for an 18 oz. bottle. I bought the limit, which was 4. I think I just need to look more for those deals.

      The blackberries are looking very promising this year. We had some on our oatmeal Saturday and Sunday mornings. Very yummy! I can understand your hubby and not liking the actual picking of the berries. I find picking blueberries and huckleberries to be tedious. They're so small, that it takes a lot of picking to amount to much.

      Thanks for your suggestion. I'll be doing a bit more looking for coupons and deals.

  4. I've found, that for most recipes, you can lessen the amount of butter without adverse effects. I usually start with cutting out about 1/5, and if that's okay, go down again next time. Sometimes I've gotten down to half the butter! Also, in some recipes, you could substitute oil for some of the butter. I do this for one of my muffin recipes.

    1. Hi Sharon,
      Very timely advice! Today is baking day, here. I cut back on some of the butter (and subbed half oil) and a lot of sugar in the sandwich bread dough. But where I think it really amounted to a big cut was in the zucchini bread. I was following a recipe in a cookbook and it called for 1/2 cup of oil and 1 cup of sugar per loaf! I like to reduce both sugar and fat in baking, so that amount of sugar jumped out at me. I'll be cutting the oil to 1/4 cup (the shredded zucchini should make it moist), and the sugar to 1/2 cup. I'm just serving this along with soup, so thought it didn't need to be all that sweet.

      Some years, I use applesauce as a substitute for some of the butter in recipes. I don't have as many apples as usual, but I may try cooking and pureeing zucchini to use in muffins, to sub for some of the oil. As you can probably guess, I'm approaching baseball bat-sized zucchini these days!

      Thanks for your advice, very timely for me today!

  5. Holy Moly! Well, I'll be curious to see how much more blood you can manage to squeeze out of this particular turnip! I seriously think you should write a book on this stuff because you are AMAZING!

    Anyhow, I have to say that I totally LOVE the "brownie shaving" analogy, and I think it can be applied toward many things in life. It sorta reminds me of that diet strategy that people always talk about - how you should have 5-6 small meals throughout the day. Every few years I fall into this trap and decide to give it a try, but for me it always just completely backfires. I end up in a situation where I feel hungry all the time, even after I eat, so I end up eating more than I otherwise would!

    I'm struggling to think if I have any ideas to share on saving further on food costs. My Ex was into fishing big time, so we always had free fish to eat, and I imagine in your neck of the woods you might also be able to dig clams and stuff like that. Oh wait, I seem to remember that you don't like fish. Well hmmm... have you considered raising chickens? It seems like WAY more of a commitment than I'm willing to make, but people who have them seem to love it.

    The only other thing I can think of is something I discovered last month in my "ethical eating" challenge when looking for salvage foods. I discovered that my local grocery store does much of its stocking on Sundays, so if I went shopping on Sunday evening there was a plethora of produce and dairy in the markdown bin. Anyhow, you might try scouting out when your local stores stock their produce, dairy and meat sections, because I was able to score some great deals that way.

    There's always freeganism! I fear the idea of dumpster diving for my food was a tad bit too much for me, but in my travels I did stumble upon a blog (the name of which I can't now remember) written by a woman who got amazing amounts of food for free. She had struck a deal with the produce manager at her local store where he'd save all of the throwaway stuff for her each week so she could use it "to feed her chickens." Now she really did have chickens and she did actually use some of the food to feed her chickens, but she discovered that a huge amount of the produce that got tossed each week was perfectly fine, it just wasn't terribly pretty, so she used more than half of her weekly haul to feed her family. It struck me as a very interesting idea.

    Have you seen the movie, "Dive"? It's a documentary about a young couple who feed their family completely for free with salvage foods. I'm still not sure I could "go there" but it was a fun film and quite inspiring. If you have Netflix, you can stream it.

    I'm eagerly awaiting the rest of your plan. You're such an inspiration!

    1. Hi Cat,
      so now I have to make a confession -- our family is not totally adverse to dumpster diving, and has eaten food that others discarded. Now we don't do the whole, space suit, long stick to poke away rats, in the dumpster behind the grocery store, sort of dumpster diving. What we do is salvage what others are about (and in my husband's case, what has already been thrown out--we tease him about this one, this guy has an iron stomach and will eat anything) to throw out. For instance, when I work coffee hour at activities at our church, I bring a large bottle/jar to take home any coffee that will be tossed. Last summer, I worked at the church BBQ. They had a ton of leftover cooked hotdogs in the buns that never made it out to the people, but stayed in the kitchen. They were going to throw these out. I took home several dozen, took the dogs out of the buns and froze the buns and dogs separately, to cook with later. Once a month, at my husband's office, the fridge gets cleaned out. Stuff that's left at the end of the day will get tosses. My husband will eat some of this, and bring a couple of things home (he knows I'm a bit squeamish, so he only brings me things in original packages). My kids were given the leftover communion bread to bring home one week, which was already cubed and became strata. My daughters volunteer at a monthly tea and bring home sandwiches, cakes, pies and cookies. So not the in-the-dumpster sort of diving, but more salvage. No, I never did see dive. But I'll see if I can find it somewhere online.

      That's funny about the lady who arranged for produce to "feed her chickens". Even if this was her original purpose, it does seem easier to tell someone that you intend to feed animals (birds is another good one, for bread products), rather than yourself, when you see acceptable food is about to be just thrown away. Americans can be both too squeamish and proud at times.

      We go back and forth on chickens. If eggs were more expensive here, then I definitely think chickens would be well-worth the expense to raise them. There's also the question of what do you do when the hens stop laying. I'm not sure I could eat a "friend" that I had raised. I get very attached to pets, and chickens would become pets to me. Now my husband, the guy who will and does eat anything, would most definitely eat our own chickens. In fact, I'd probably have to keep a keen eye on him around the coop! If a hen missed laying one day, he may take that to mean "chicken dinner tonight!" But this is exactly the kind of guy you want to have around when there's a spider invasion in the house, or some wasps have set up a nest just outside the door, or the rat trap in the attic needs emptying.

      I will ask at our local stores when they do their markdowns. I have a good idea on milk markdowns at one store, but I'll ask about other store's markdowns. Thanks for your suggestions.

    2. Oh, I'm totally on board with salvaging food from group functions. My senior year in college I was a head resident. At the beginning of the year we had a big welcome picnic and when it was over there was a TON of food that they were just gonna toss. I salvaged a freezer full of cheese, cold cuts and hamburger patties, and fed myself quite nicely for a good chunk of the school year off of that haul! And when I worked at the music school there were plenty of opportunities to save food from various potlucks etc. I can't believe what people throw out!

    3. This is an area that kind of bugs me. While I'm glad to salvage whatever someone else wants to dispose of, it bothers me that we have so little regard for the work and effort that went into procuring or raising/growing the food. The first time I worked the coffee hour I could not believe that nearly a gallon of brewed coffee was going down the drain. I just don't like waste, I guess. Wow! That's an amazing amount of food you salvaged at the that college picnic! And to think they were just going to dump it. When my son was volunteering at the food bank, they had regulations that prohibited them from giving out past-date food items. he brought home something nearly every week. But in my readings on sell-by dates, in a lot of cases these dates just mean freshness, and not safety or even quality of nutrients.

    4. our church coffee hour usually every last drop of coffee is drunk! Also, any extra food gets divvied up amongst the parishioners before everyone leaves. Or the food will be put in the freezer for another coffee hour.

    5. Maybe, the women preparing the coffee are better at judging how much to make, than at ours! With cookies, and breads after coffee hour, it is often left with a tag for the youth group to have that evening. But with that church BBQs, in particular, they had dozens of hot dogs, still bundled in foil , and were begging the kitchen crew to take some home. So all of us who were working VBS that week took a dozen or two home.

      I do really like the idea of giving the leftovers to all of the parishioners. You never know which family or couple is struggling financially, or maybe just can't do the baking for themselves any longer, and for them to receive a small packet to take home is a real blessing, without the embarrassment of being singled out. I'm going to see if we could do that after coffee hour at our church. I know a few people who would likely appreciate that.

      Thanks for your inspiration!

    6. This is the blog about the lady who gets the free produce for her chickens
      She first takes out the still good produce for her family and gives the rest to her chickens.
      Alana D.

    7. Hi Alana,
      Oh I know that blog! Thanks for giving us the name!

  6. Lili
    You already have some great ideas going into this quest to reduce your grocery bill, usually the one area that most* can pinch back on. Some thoughts:
    -max out your garden now and as long into the Fall as possible. Can/freeze/dry whatever you can get your hands on. Check Freecycle of all places, people often will post "we've got zucchini, come and get it!". Foraging and taking advantage of your home grown fruit is such a blessing.
    -menu plan-I am a strong believer in this. Even if it's just a list of meal options for the week or month, it's a place to start. Plan your menus with what is already on hand: in the garden, in the fridge/pantry.
    -reduce meat consumption
    -serve home made soup, made for pennies! 2 x's a week
    -plan one meal to be a "big meat meal" such as a roast chicken,and serve a few slices/person but reserve the rest for other meals this week or freeze for future meals (2 cups is a good basis, if not 1 cup)
    -start making a framework outline of what your family usually has for bfst/lunch/dinner. Ask yourself:
    -can you acquire these ingredients in alternative shops/venue?
    -you substitute some of these?
    -can you reduce amounts in recipes without noticing?
    -can you make it yourself for less?
    -are there alternatives that you enjoy just as much?
    -seek out low budget recipes on blogs, state extension service websites, "google"

    Carol in CT
    -be a good steward to your leftovers

    1. Hi Carol,
      Freecycle -- what a great idea! I hadn't thought of that, and maybe I could substantially add to our stashed produce for winter. We have neighbors that don't pick their apples. In the past I've offered to pick, in exchange for baking them a couple of cobblers or pies. And that has been a very good arrangement.

      I am trying harder to remake favorite recipes, using less sugar and fat. I made zucchini bread yesterday with half the amount of fat and sugar, and it was still sweet and moist. And my granola recipe -- it's from Jane Brody's Good Food Book, already low-fat/low-sugar, I made it with even less sugar and butter/oil, and added extra oats, yesterday. One of my daughters is very interested in eating less sugar, so this works very well for her. And i think we can all do with less sugar and fat.

      Thanks for all your suggestions!

  7. I'm not sure if you would get any new ideas, but when my son first starting cooking for himself and living without much money he found many websites with good suggestions. Such as which cookbooks use simple cheap but healthy ingredients. Too bad that he doesn't have enough money for internet now to look up ideas. He is getting quite creative with his cooking.

    A couple of other comments. I too have price points that I won't go above for most things. However, I have had to adjust them sometimes because of an overall rise in prices. And I love taking just a little of a brownie at a time. That way I get to have the wonderful taste in my mouth more times than if I ate a big piece at once. Let's face it. Brownies are good no matter how you eat them.

    I know you will do well with this challenge. My sense is even though you tried to eat down some of your stock, you still have a lot of food in store to use until you buy your specials in the fall. Good luck.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I was just talking with a friend about what my price points used to be, 39 cents/pound for veggies, 40 cents/pound for fruit, 99 cents/pound for beef. Gone are the days. . .But of course, salaries have also risen. So hopefully it's a wash.

      For your son, we've been in a similar position. I was writing for a local newspaper. I didn't have office space, but worked from home. Then, our one and only computer died. I did all my work at the local library, a couple of hours at a time, for almost a year. At least, nowadays, you can get free Wi-Fi in a variety of places, if you have a laptop.

      It does astound me just how much is still in the pantry and freezer. We haven't had to touch much in the freezer this summer, due to the garden in production. Thanks for the good wishes! Much appreciated!

  8. others have already provided many good possibilities in their comments, so I don't have much to add, except use to the max any possibilities you have with your most prolific garden plants. If its zucchini or rhubarb, for example, you can substitute it for so many things, especially in baking. I'm planning to make rhubarb jelly this year, because that's my most prolific item (despite a major hail storm a couple of weeks ago and a super destructive thunderstorm last night.) I'm also trying to use things up better -- I'm not great and remembering to use up as I go, so I'm cooking items now and then freezing them. Case in point -- great deal on broccoli at the store so I cooked it all up, rather than continue to use it bit by bit from the fridge. I now don't have to worry about using it up before it goes bad and I have ready cooked items for quiches, etc. Just an idea that might help. And talk to your neighbours and friends -- if they have fruit they don't want to deal with, grab the family and pick their trees bare!

    1. Hi Jayne,
      Wow! Another devastating storm! I'm sorry to hear about that. It gets so frustrating, doesn't it?

      I think your plan to cook things and freeze them right away is an excellent one. So many times we have good intentions, but then life gets in the way, and intentions are pushed aside. And now you'll have that broccoli ready for a quick to prepare meal.Even just knowing that you have broccoli ready to use will inspire you to cook something at home, instead of picking up take out on one of your long days running errands/appointments.

      I will be asking neighbors who don't pick their tree fruit. So many have apple trees, but they don't bother with them, for whatever reason. Sometimes it's difficult work for them, sometimes they have more than enough income that the time spent harvesting their fruit doesn't seem worthwhile. Who knows, but I'll be asking this year.

  9. One of my readers mentioned your blog today. It sounds like you and I have a very similar approach to feeding our families! I am not buying any food this month. I don't know if I'll shop in the next few months until November, either, unless our circumstances change and that coincides with a great deal on pasta. If I find it possible to shop, I will buy oil.

    However, eating down the pantry and freezer in preparation for November and December's sales is a great thing. We've been counting how many turkeys and hams we have left and figuring out what I need to cook before the beginning of November to make room for new turkeys.

    I'm running a series of posts on my blog right now called Eat for 40 Cents a Day (which is what we had for the last two years: $100 a month for 9 people). I still have several posts left to write, but there are 6 up so far. Perhaps you can glean a few ideas there.

    1. Hi Brandy,
      I have your blog on my reader. I try to keep up with several blogs, but don't often have time to comment. What you've been able to do is an inspiration. Blogs like yours keep me motivated, knowing that if someone else can make it, so can we.

      Have you heard anything about pork prices this year? I was reading about a pork virus which could cause bacon and ham prices to soar this fall. One never knows.

      $100 a month is an astoundingly low budget for your sized family. I'll make sure to read each post thoroughly.

      Thanks for commenting!

  10. There are some great tips there :) I'm really glad you're not compromising on fruit and veggies - it's often cheaper to just fill up on grains, but fruit and veggies are so much better for you!

    The only suggestion I can make is to try eating less fashionable meat like offal or offcuts (maybe to make soup). This saves me quite a lot of money.

    1. Hi Economies,
      you are amazingly brave! To go from being a full-fledge vegetarian to trying some of the meats that you have. I will see if I have any courage to screw up to maybe, try to cook something from inside the turkey this November. Maybe I'll start with the neck. My mom always cooked the neck for broth. Maybe I could start there.

      Yeah, you and I both know first-hand about grains, and issues they can contribute to. The western diet is a bit too grain-heavy, leaving little room for the nutrient powerhouses of fruits and veggies. While some produce may be expensive for some areas of the world, there is always something that's relative bargain. For instance, with orangey fruits/veggies, mangoes and papayas are pricey in our area, but carrots and pumpkins are cheap to even free in the fall. Fresh tomatoes are expensive in winter, here, but canned tomato paste is a bargain for all the lycopene it provides.

      Thanks for your input!

  11. Pumpkin leaves are also edible and feature in African cuisine. I would think they would have to be cooked well because of any spininess.

    1. Hi Brandy,
      I had no idea that pumpkin leaves would be edible. I'll Google it and find out how to cook them. Thank you for that tip!

  12. I have discovered that 1/4 tsp. of baking soda added to items such as rhubarb sauce or other dishes with fruit can cut the amount of sugar needed dramatically since it neutralizes the acid. Also, adding a bit of vanilla and/ or cinnamon will make something taste sweeter without the need to add anymore sugar.
    The "woodier" broccoli stalks, the "heart" of cauliflower, etc. can be shredded and added to slaw or soup.
    Also, the outer leaves of broccoli and cauliflower can be dipped in batter and fried and eaten or cut very fine and added to soups, omelettes, etc.

    I also keep the vegetable peelings, water drained off canned veggies or from cooking frozen, from rinsing out tomato based cans, etc in my freezer and when there is enough I put it all in my crockpot and use to make a vegetable broth for soup.

    1. Hi Sandy,
      I had read about baking soda in fruit dishes, and tried it a few times. Thanks for reminding me about it. I'm making rhubarb-blackberry sauce tonight, so I'll do that! I am trying to make our sugar last as long as possible, and this could really help, plus it's probably a lot better for our health, to not eat all that sugar (rhubarb sauce does take quite a lot of sugar).

      And you gave me a great idea with the broccoli stalk use. I've just been picking off the florets on our plants, but maybe I could cut further down and see how edible it could be, if peeled and shredded. I just hadn't thought to cut further down the stalk. Thank you for the idea! And the cauliflower leaves battered and fried sound yummy! I know my family would enjoy that. Have you ever fried parsley? I made that made years ago. I'll have to try that again this year.

      Thanks for your ideas!


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