Creative Ways to Save Big on Your Grocery Bill

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

We’re all trying to save on food these days and homesteaders are no different. While most folks we talked to admit that cooking from scratch and growing their own food are a good place to start, some haven’t made the jump to a garden that provides all their food needs. They do admit that buying in bulk, canning and planning meals around “in season” produce is a good way to go, and offer these helpful hints for saving on your next grocery bill.

  • Share a CSA with another single person or couple and split the cost.
  • Ask neighbors who have over loaded fruit trees if you can pick unwanted fruit from their trees.
  • Glean fields for Second Harvest or other local food banks who work with local growers to reclaim un-harvested produce and reward volunteers with part of what they pick.
  • Trade with a local hunter – your canned, frozen or baked specialties for wild game or fish.
  • Ask a local butcher who processes wild game for bones and odds-and-ends that can be made into stock or broth.
  • Start a “micro-coop” with family or friends, buying large qualities of staple items like flour, sugar, rice, beans, coffee and wine and splitting them with everyone.
  • Consider volunteering for a vendor at your local farmer’s market in exchange for leftover produce. There may even be enough to can.
  • If you live in an area with wild game, consider contacting the local police department or game warden to have your name put on the list of “takers” for animals that have been killed by vehicles. You may have a short time in which to react, but the venison, elk or other wild meat could be worth the effort.
  • If you live in maple syrup or honey bee country, ask a local farmer if you can help with the harvest and processing for a gallon or so of the good stuff. The hands-on education would also be sweet.
  • Many grocery store chains will give away “past prime” produce for livestock uses if asked. Many times this produce is not past eatable, just past sellable, and can be made into a variety of dishes or baked goods; canned or frozen for later use. What isn’t useable can then be given to chickens and pigs, or cooked down to supplement dog or cat food.

Other creative ways to stretch food into nutritious meals can also mean stretching every dollar.

  • Toss together all kinds of veggie and meat odds-and-ends into fabulous stir-fries or satisfying soups.
  • Use “filler” ingredients like rice, celery, onions and potatoes to add bulk and flavor to dishes.
  • When recipes call for filler type ingredients try using oats, barley, brown rice or potatoes for added variety.
  • Many dishes can use beans or legumes as the prime ingredient instead of meat.
  • Cut down on the quantity of meat in your meal and load up on “in season” veggies, greens and fruit. Meat servings of 3 to 4 ounces should be sufficient if there are plenty of side dishes to go along with it.
  • Get every last bit of meat off “bone-in” cuts of meat, chicken, turkey or rabbit carcasses. No matter how much you think you’ve pulled off the bone there’s usually enough, when cooked, to make a small pot of soup, a casserole, a stew or a pot pie when mixed with vegetables. The broth can also be frozen and used later.
  • Go Meatless! One or two days a week. Or, substitute protein packed eggs for a meal that would normally include meat. Omelets, frittatas or egg scrambles with potatoes and fruit can be just as satisfying as a tradition dinner entrée.
  • Use up all the food you buy. If produce is passing its peak plan a meal around them so they can be used. Don’t pass up the chance to use spent veggies in baked goods either. Zucchini and carrots make great quick breads, bananas are fabulous in pancakes and corn can be added to muffins for sweet, yummy, nutritious treats.
  • If you can’t use “past-prime” veggies right away toss them in the freezer for later use.
  • Instead of sipping on that pricey designer wine check out the two-buck-Chuck selection at Trader Joe’s. He may just be the only man that won’t let you down!

Armed with these grocery saving tips you are now armed to go forth and SAVE!

If you’re looking for people in your area to share or split bulk items with, check out  Or, if your area is not listed consider starting your own split group with neighbors, family and friends.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Yuya Tamai

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