One would think that we couldn’t come up with any more ideas to reduce your grocery budget. Of course, one would be incorrect, because as prices go up we all need to figure out ways of getting the most for the money we budget. The good news on the matter of groceries is there are more things to do these days other than clip coupons and look for sales. In fact, some of these suggestions may have individuals visiting the supermarket less than normal. Here are a few of the items we’re proposing to help you stretch the grocery budget.
Mass meal planning. In a previous column we suggested you plan your meals out for the week. We want to expand on that idea and ask that you consider planning a meal calendar that covers an entire month. Why take the time do this? Well, there are a few advantages. One of these is knowledge of what you and your family will eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner across a period of 30 or 31 days. This means there are no surprises or questions on what should be made that day. The second advantage is you know what has to be purchased to make it happen; therefore, you can make the meals ahead of time and take advantage of sales where you bulk shop for various ingredients. At the end of the month there may be some money left over in the grocery budget to move to the next month or put toward a debt payoff.
Garden to table. We’ve discussed growing a garden before, but we haven’t discussed growing a GARDEN. The difference is planting a few crops in a small area of land as opposed to maximizing the space for various fruits, vegetables and spices. Yes, this can take some time and money to start off. On the plus side, you avoid mowing your lawn on a regular basis. You may not even have to pull weeds since many types of overgrowth are good for the development of crops.
Depending on where you live, planting can take place as early as March and end right before the first frosts of October. In those several months you can grow leafy vegetables, squash, watermelon, tomatoes, various berries, numerous seasonings like oregano and thyme, and pumpkins. All of these can be picked, washed, and prepared that same day for a simple meal with very few ingredients. This avoids numerous trips to the farmers’ market or produce store.
Homemade desserts. It may be easier to grab a package of cookie mix at the supermarket to bake a batch; however, it may not seem so convenient after reading the ingredient label. There is much more than egg, sugar and flour in these packages. Forget them and focus on making desserts at home for a few reasons. One, it doesn’t take much longer to whip up a batch of homemade cookies with cupboard ingredients than it does from a prepackaged mix. Second, you’ll get much more out of a recipe than the package. For example, many packages of standard chocolate-chip cookie mix produce around 18 cookies while a cookbook recipe can produce as many as four dozen cookies, giving you the ability to keep some out for now and store others in the freezer for later.