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Spend Money to Save Money on Groceries?

by Shawanda Greene

Watermelon SlicesIf you want to save more money on groceries, like every other area of your finances, you’ve got to be honest with yourself. It’s common for people who’ve recently set out to reform their spending habits to go overboard with frugal living tips.

There’s one tip in particular that makes perfect sense in theory, but completely falls apart once put into practice. Surely you’ve heard the one that says you should avoid convenience foods.

Presumably, if you shuck your own corn, dice your own onions, and debone your own chickens, you’ll save money you would’ve paid the supermarket for this service. After all, you are trading time and money for convenience.

You naively believe a few extra minutes of food prep is easy enough until you realize you’re too busy, too lazy or too uninterested to bother. So, all that fresh produce and poultry spoils in the fridge meeting the same fate as your dreams of swapping a little bit of time for a lot of money.

We’ve got to make saving money easy. Otherwise, we won’t develop habits that’ll allow us to do so. When you come home from a soul crushing day at the office, do you really want to top your tacos with homemade guacamole, cheese you had to shred, and tomatoes that needed to be chopped?

NO! You’ll pay $16 for the Thai Square crispy fried duck before you do that. (Never mind me. I’m projecting.)

It took me a while to learn this lesson. For some reason, creating a meal from scratch evoked a since of accomplishment. But cooking grew into an unnecessary production involving hours of meal prep that yielded food that made me go “meh” instead of “mmm”. After guiltily hanging on to the nondelicious food for a week or so, I tossed it.

That’s over now. I know I ain’t doing all that work. It’s simply too much for a working woman to bear.

You’ll waste far less food and, resultantly, money, if you follow Shakespeare’s advice, “To thine own self be true.”

Here are a few convenience items that make cooking at home easier.

  • Precut frozen broccoli, bell peppers, onions, and mixed vegetables
  • Packaged seasonings and marinades
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Flavored rice
  • Canned beans
  • Instant grits
  • Filleted fish
  • Deveined shrimp
  • Shredded cheese

With that said, I can’t leave without sharing the three best ways I know to save money by doing the work of your grocer.

  1. Divide leg quarters into thighs and drumsticks.
  2. Cut chuck roast into bite sized pieces for stews.
  3. Separate a family pack of meat into smaller portions.

Every one of those techniques require nothing more than a sharp knife and freezer bags.

What other practical tips do you use to save money on groceries?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

los angeles bankruptcy attorney March 22, 2011 at 11:31 AM

Coupons coupons coupons. The chick that runs the blog couponingtobedebtfree.com always posts how to get free stuff from cvs, walgreens and rite aid. But coupons rule.

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TheyCallMeCheap March 23, 2011 at 7:24 PM

I have the hardest time keeping up with couponing. I intend on finding a web site where I can buy sales inserts and use the coupons along with The Grocery Game. I figure I'll get around to it eventually.

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Amanda March 22, 2011 at 6:43 PM

We have started eating vegetarian dinners a few times a week. I was raised on a cattle farm in the Midwest, so it was a little out of my comfort zone at first, but I have learned discovered a lot of amazing Indian and Asian dishes.

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TheyCallMeCheap March 23, 2011 at 7:37 PM

I find ethic foods to be soooo flavorful. Lebanese cuisine is one of my faves. I'm sure Americans consume more meat than most. Although I'm not huge on vegetarian dishes, I should work more into my diet. I figure you gotta eat more vegetables if you get rid of the meat. Right?

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eemusings March 22, 2011 at 10:29 PM

Hmm. I buy basics like curry paste, soy, sweet chili, and then make my own sauces and the like from those.

Canned and frozen veggies are also great (but there are some like mushrooms and capsicums to name a few I only ever buy fresh).

I'd like to make my own bread as bread is so pricey now….but I just don't have the time.

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TheyCallMeCheap March 23, 2011 at 7:46 PM

I'm with ya on the canned mushrooms. Puke. Garlic is another food I have to have fresh. However, capsicums (bell peppers?) are expensive, and I almost always let them spoil so I stick with the frozen ones.

Every time I feel tempted to try my hand at homemade bread I talk myself out of it. I just can't envision myself making that a success.

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TheyCallMeCheap March 23, 2011 at 7:28 PM

Homemade noodles? That does sound like a lot of work. I've never really paid attention, but I'll keep a look out going forward for inexpensive whole chickens. I stumbled upon some boneless chuck roast the other day for $2.24 a pound. That's a steal around these parts. I wish I could stock up more, but my apartment is only about 650 sq ft, so space is limited.

Thanks for the tips!

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afleetingbeatingofhearts April 1, 2011 at 8:32 AM

I bought chicken cut into strips for stir-fry and it was not much more expensive than the one that wasn't cut into strips.

I cut up all my veggies at once and put them in containers.

To make sure I don't spend too much on convenient sodium-filled frozen foods, I eat before I leave. Then I eat something sweet (milk chocolate) without drinking water after. That way instead of looking longingly at the chocolate, I look longingly at the vegetables and fruit.

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zealous3 May 13, 2011 at 3:32 PM

The most I cook for is two ppl so I always wait for "family pack" sales on meat (really, only chicken and ground beef), split it and freeze in smaller portions. Also, I "debone" my chicken parts…ie I buy bone-in thighs/breasts and remove the bones myself.

I USED to blanch and freeze veggies….actually I should do that again as I am leaving for a week and everything is going to spoil. :/

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