People are sometimes amazed when I tell them that I average $125 a week for groceries/household products for my family of six - this includes shampoo, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, etc. I know that there are lots of people who do it for way less (see Money Saving Mom for an example of $40 a week - although in my defense, she has a much smaller family and access to a CVS!). But when I look at the governments numbers I'm doing pretty well: The USDA Thrifty Food Plan (upon which food stamp allotments are based) says that to feed my family it should cost $189.00 a week. That is the food stamp amount, if I went with the "moderate" plan, it should cost me $240.20 a week - and that is just food, not household supplies. So, though I have a long way to go to be among the truly frugal people, I'm feeling ok. And I know I'm doing better than a lot of my friends, because they told me I am!
How to keep food prices low? You have heard a lot of the stuff before: stay away from prepared foods and make stuff from scratch, pay attention to unit pricing, buy in bulk if it makes sense, eat some vegetarian meals, use store brands, use coupons. I do all of these things and know they work to keep the budget low, but my secret is shopping from my basement. Whenever I need an ingredient for my favorite recipe, I go to my basement store and get what I need - and it is always at the lowest price I can find it!
No, I don't have a grocery store in the basement, I have my food storage, what most people would call a pantry. Our church stresses the importance of having a supply of non-perishable food on hand in case of job loss, emergency, natural disaster, or whatever. So, I have an awful lot. It can cost a lot of money to buy a lot of food at once, but I have a strategy.
My strategy is this: when I find something on sale, a really, really good sale, a won't-be-this-low-again-for-awhile sale, I buy lots of whatever it is. For instance, if I find spaghetti sauce for 69 cents a can, I'll buy 10 of them (or more, depending on what amount I already have on hand). Once I have those 10, I won't buy spaghetti sauce until I can get it at 69 cents a can again. I have kept a price book for a long time and am pretty aware of what a "good" price is in my area. I have limits of what I'll spend on certain things and I won't go over. But I very rarely have to because I have a stash of stuff in my basement and I can wait until it goes on sale again (I'm having to adjust my "limits" on stuff due to the rising food prices, sigh). By doing this, I can always make spaghetti with 69 cent spaghetti sauce instead of deciding "Hmm, I think we'll have spaghetti this week" then put it on the grocery list, then buy it for $1.79 a can. I just go shopping in the basement.
(Mind you, the ambiance isn't beautiful - please remember this is my basement!!) I do the same thing with chili, tuna, canned soups, canned beans, canned tomatoes, and lots of other stuff. Some stuff I buy in large quantities at Costco and store them in big white 5 gallon buckets:Of course, you want to use food-grade buckets and not the ones your paint came in! I use the ones my strawberries come in every year and then I have bought a few. Things like rice, lentils, and giant bags of chocolate chips get stored in here (Because, really, what is life without chocolate?). With a few exceptions I keep anything not in a can or jar in a plastic bin -you know, those under-the-bed type boxes? We had a mouse problem years ago and now I'm a little compulsive about it. I also have my home-canned stuff down here: It is getting kind of low because it is June and I will start canning for this year in July and August. I try to only can about a years worth that way it doesn't sit around for a long time and lose quality. I don't always get the numbers quite right, but I try! I also have the most important stuff stored:Can't live without it (does anyone know of a local chapter of Diet Soda Anonymous? Never mind, I haven't reached rock bottom yet and I'm not ready!) But the same strategy holds here, I won't pay over $2.50 for a 12 pack. When it goes on sale for that amount or less, I buy a lot. I keep the important stuff for my kids too:
I love going "shopping in my basement." Hope you enjoyed this tour of Jill's Crazy World Food Shoppe, come by again soon!