The holidays are coming up, and while It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year it can also be a budget buster of a season too. I wanted to return to the topic of saving money in the grocery department before all the crazy hits next month. After much research of households who manage large families on a small budget here are some of the jewels I have taken away.
Make a list of items you routinely buy and make them yourself.
Example: I almost always buy pasta sauce, coffee, milk, cheese and granola.
Pasta Sauce. I never did my own because I had a picture in my head of slaving over a simmering pot for hours all the while growing grey hairs. But, in the spirit of this project I decided I would take a stab at it. And Oh. My. Gosh. I was so wrong. Pasta sauce is the easiest thing in the world to make. Now I make my own in larger quantities than I need and freeze the remaining for later use. I’ll post my you’ll-want-to-bathe-in-it pasta sauce recipe later this week so follow me if you aren’t already.
Coffee. Brian and I roast our own coffee on none other than an air popcorn popper. It is always fresh and we get high quality beans from a local roaster at half price. For coffee drinkers like us, it’s a no brainer.
Milk. Living in the country we now have access to fresh, raw milk at $3 a gallon. I buy 6 gallons at a time, freeze some and use the rest for cooking and making yogurt. (Note: Milk freezes well it just needs room to expand. Remove a cup from the gallon and you won’t have issues.)
Cheese. Is expensive!!! I buy the 4 lb block of cheese and use my food processor to shred half and slice the other half. Then I bag it all in zip lock bags and it is good to go whenever I need it.
Granola. I don’t like the GMO cereals and the Organic NON-GMO is like pouring gold into my kids’ cereal bowls and then watching them spill it on the floor. Ahh! So I started making mine. It is surprisingly easy but it does take some monitoring, so I suggest trying this in the evening or at nap time for those of you with kiddos who “want to help.” It makes about 25 cups and lasts for a solid month. Plus, you can dress it up with whatever you want. I’ll post that recipe later too.
Buy what you can’t make in bulk
Spices. I prefer to season my food with herbs and spices rather than salt and pepper. It’s more fun and healthy that way. Problem is, spices are expensive. One friend of mine buys her’s at Trader Joes in the large bags and then refills her spice jars with it. We don’t have a health food store that is easy to get to here so I buy most of my spices and herbs in bulk at a store like Sams or Costco. Of course, you can always make your own spice blends too. But then, you need spices in bulk to make all the blends you don’t want to buy… so do what you want.
Staple Items. Flour, Sugar, Oatmeal, Rice… Chocolate Chips (Oops, how’d that get in there?). Whatever you use on a constant basis and cannot easily make on your own pick up in bulk. Store it in large containers in your pantry and don’t worry about running out of your basic kitchen supplies during the holidays. My personal goal is to buy staples once a month and only fresh produce weekly. What’s yours? I love learning about the different methods. I have a feeling there are some fierce meal planners out there who are just dying to share ideas with us!
Dont let your kitchen intimidate you
I have five attention needing kids. If I stop paying attention, someone is eating a deadly mushroom in the back yard. I don’t have time for extensive homesteading activities. Our coffee takes us 10 minutes. The cheese prep about 5 minutes. The pasta sauce is around 20. I always do it when I would already be doing it for dinner so I am not going out of my way. Don’t let your kitchen intimidate you and get caught in the one-meal dinner that takes you 45 minutes to make. With your food prepped and ready to go you’ll be surprised how easy and budget friendly holidays can be. I know many of you have more tips up your sleeves so go ahead and post them so we can all glean from your wisdom! Happy grocery shopping.