Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Living Smart Living Small: Groceries Edition

Friends, Readers - let's talk groceries. We all have to eat, and we (mostly, most of us, most of the time) want to eat well. Doing so in a small house and on a budget can be a challenge, but there are lots of ways to make it easy (as pie? that you made yourself...)

Living Smart Living Small Seven Steps to Savings on Savories 

1. Shop at Aldi.

This is my NUMBER ONE piece of advice to help drop your grocery budget. We were struggling to keep under $175 a week for a family of four at our local branch of Big Name grocery store, but now have very little trouble staying around $125 a week now just by switching to Aldi. And, at those savings, I figure that my 15 minutes of bagging my own groceries every week just made me at least $100 an hour!

Occasionally I will need a product that Aldi doesn't carry, or another version (like dishwasher detergent - the powdered kind works waaaaaay better, costs less, does not come in a plastic container AND lasts longer). I shop around online at big name stores to see where I can get the best deal.

2. Cook at home. 

If you're into living smart AND have read any of my posts, I shouldn't even have to remind you, but just in case, I will.

Eating out on any kind of regular basis is one of THE quickest ways to kill your budget without even realizing it.

The good news is cooking at home can be fun and enjoyable. It also tends to be healthier - and you'll get more choices because [cue drum roll...] you will make those choices yourself at the grocery store each week!

Bacon - YUM! See how much fun it can be to cook at home?!
For us, a family of four, including two kids with huge appetites (already!), three of us with food allergies and one of us with GI issues, eating out has become almost always a hassle. Fortunately, hubs went to culinary (yeah!) and I also like to cook, plus our kids get involved (for better or for worse, sometimes both and we wouldn't have it any other way). Oh, and we live in the woods, so most eating out experiences are easily 25+ minutes away... so let's just say that cooking at home has become part of our Living Small lifestyle.

That being said, we have many weeks that get super busy with work, school and play, and cooking seems to be the last thing on anyone's mind, while eating is still the first. On weeks I know I'm going to be swamped, I take a few hours on Sunday afternoon and cook up a storm. I've been known to make lentil meatballs, meat meatballs (that's a thing, right?!) and a roast chicken in one night. Roasting the chicken with celery, onion and carrots gives me the basis for my soup, so that's easy too. Anything leftover after two or three days goes into the freezer for future meals.

3. Bring your lunch (and snacks) with you.

This goes along with #2 above. Because, if you're already cooking at home, you might just possibly have some leftovers hanging around that you can toss into your work bag and enjoy again with your wonderful friendly coworkers.

And, if you don't, let me just introduce you to my friend PB&J! Still good after all these years. Goes great with an apple and a thermos of coffee.

4. Buy in bulk.

This is a tough one for small and tiny homeowners, but it can be done. I'm about to buy 25 lbs of gluten free oats and save roughly $60. I'm looking for someone to split it with, so I only have to store half of that but will still recognize substantial savings.

5. Go vegetarian.

Or, at the very least, eat less meat. And you don't need to replace it with fancy pre-made vegetarian food. Stick to legumes (lentils are CHEAP, my friends!) or tofu for protein. Get fancy with your recipes and trying new things - my latest is making lentil "meat"balls. It cost me less than $3 to make 3 dozen, so $1 per meal. See? Super cheap!

6. Buy whole chickens.

Whole chickens are THE best. Cook it once, eat it twice - plus, use the bones for soup. So, three meals in one! (Have I ever mentioned that I also love saving time?!) And they cost less per pound than other cuts.

That also means that red meat takes a back seat in our house. We do love our classic burgers once in awhile, but steak is saved for a very, very special occasion and usually grabbed if and only if it's on sale.

7. Try intermittent fasting (IF). 

**Obviously this is not a health blog, and I am not any sort of dietitian or doctor so please check with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about changing your diet.**

If you haven't heard of IF, I'd say it's one of the latest buzzwords to overlap into the FIRE community. And of course there are LOTS of ways to do it, and all kinds of ideas about what is best for your body, but essentially it means eating during a designated time period and not eating outside that time. For most methods that means skipping one meal a day.

For me, I've chosen to skip lunch. I'll eat a power breakfast (two eggs & veg, like peppers and onions or whatever we have in the fridge) and then stop the daytime snacking and wait for dinner. Whenever I'm hungry, I drink a cup of herbal or decaf tea and get back to work.

I don't do this every day, but I can generally follow my plan during the work week without too much trouble. My experience is that I feel better eating this way, and it's helped me be more conscious of what and how much I ingest.

Other Reads to Whet Your Appetite

These are some ways that we have been consistently able to save money on food, while eating healthy and heartily for all our family. There are lots of other amazing tips out there in the interweb. For more inspiration, I'm linking to some posts from some of my favorite blogs on saving some bucks at the grocery store:

The Frugalwoods' guide to frugal, healthy eating

Mr Money Mustache's post on killing your $1000 grocery bill

Early Retirement Extreme's post on grocery shopping

I'd love to hear your tips and tricks and read any posts you have to share, because learning is fun - almost as much fun as saving money!