- Food and Cooking
How to Save Money on Groceries Without Coupons
Everyday I read stories about people who spend very little on groceries because they are excellent coupon collectors. I've tried to join the coupon community but I never seem to find coupons for things I want to buy. I admire these coupon heroes who are able to match their discounts with stores who are already offering sales on the same product. It must be a great feeling to leave the market with hundreds of dollars worth of food and only spend $50. Several years ago I worked as an analytical chemist where I encountered many chemicals. When I read ingredients in the supermarket I put 90% of the items I pick up right back on the shelf. So, how do I save money on groceries when I don't have coupons for the things I want to buy?
Growing your own produce is an excellent way to save. Obviously the savings will increase as the size of your garden increases. Even a few tomato plants can be used for several months. Turn the tomatoes into sauces and salsas and can them for the months ahead. During the peak of summer the local farmers market if full of seasonal produce. Whether you buy seasonal produce at the market or the grocery it is often cheaper than the out of season varieties. Items which are out of season have been shipped a long distance which drives up their cost. The time that elapses between harvest and display at the market decreases the level of nutrients found in fresh fruits and vegetables.So, seasonal produce is potentially grown closer to home so it doesn't have to travel as far to reach the store shelf. In addition when there is an abundance basic economics will drive the price down.
Herbs and spices add a tremendous amount of flavor to food without having to use an abundance of salt, sugar, or fat. There are a few perennial herbs I have had a lot of success with because they seem to grow anywhere. Thyme, sage, parsley, and oregano don't require any special maintenance. Simply put them in the ground and water them occasionally. Rosemary is also easy to grow but it is a bi-annual. After the first year take a cutting from the plant and dip it into rooting compound to grow a new plant.
When buying spices in the market there is a wide variety in the Hispanic food aisle. Many of them are under $1 because the are sold in plastic bags instead of bottles and jars. If you don't have a spice rack simply save your current spice containers and refill them. Instead of buying spice mixes or flavored salts such as garlic salt I buy the single spice and create my own blends or add salt to the garlic powder. This enables you to use your spices for multiple dishes without having to buy additional spices.
Meat is one of the more expensive ingredients bought at the market and coupons are rarely offered. The easiest step is to sum up your portion size, it should be the size of your palm. Cheaper cuts of meat offer an added benefit to those who don't have much time to cook. They are generally tougher cuts of meat filled with a lot of connective tissue that requires slow cooking in a crock pot. Simply place the meat in the slow cooker before you leave for work and come home to a glorious feast of roast beef, country ribs, or a small chicken.
Most quart sized containers of beef and chicken stock in the market are $2.50 to $4 and I don't think they taste as good as homemade stock. Even if you don't braise the meat, the pan drippings and remnants can be used to make stock. On the first night have roasted chicken. The next day use any remaining chicken for a salad, pasta, or casserole dish. When you've eaten all of the meat, place the bones, skin, and any remaining chicken into a pot of water with herbs and spices. I recently spent $8.50 on 2 chickens that were $0.89/lb and made 8 quarts of chicken stock after 2 chicken dinners. Without any coupons I still feel like they paid me to take the chicken out of the store.
Another obvious choice is to make friends with the inexpensive ingredients. Typically these are starchy foods such as pasta, rice, and potatoes. Their charm lies in the blank canvas they create. They cook relatively quickly and can be used for an easy dinner when combined with leftovers or simple ingredients.
Don't Throw Food Away
As it turns out, Americans waste an astounding amount of food — an estimated 27 percent of the food available for consumption, according to a government study — and it happens at the supermarket, in restaurants and cafeterias and in your very own kitchen. 1
To save an instant 27% on your grocery bill don't throw away food, eat your leftovers. There are people out there who can eat the same thing several days in a row. For those of us who need variety it's time to get creative with what's in the fridge. Fresh produce is usually the first to go so throw the fruit into the blender to make smoothies. Vegetables are perfect for frittatas, soups, stir-fry's, and side dishes. Turn last night's meatloaf into chili, an Italian meat sauce, or use it to make stuffed peppers. Roasts can be used for sandwiches, stews, or a stroganoff. The possibilities of creation are endless.
When it comes to dairy use the cheeses for toppings and sauces. If you can't think of anything to pair them with, fruit, chocolate, crackers or a baguette, and a bottle of wine make a great midnight snack with a plate of cheeses. Most store bought milk has an expiration date within a week of the day it is purchased whereas organic milk has an expiration date which is a month from the date of purchase. If you find yourself pouring out spoiled milk every week switch to organic and save yourself some money. You'll also cut unnecessary steroids and antibiotics from your diet as well.
Drink More Water
Water is the best thing you can put in your body. Every chemical reaction and electrical signal sent through the body rely on the blood's watery matrix. When you're dehydrated things don't travel as efficiently as they could. Instead of bottled water or sodas buy a filter for your faucet or a filtration pitcher. Some people take a filtration pitcher to work and use it to fill a water bottle several times a day.
Avoid Convenience Foods
Convenience foods are found throughout the market. Although they can help a family find extra time during the day there are a prices to pay. Initially these foods are often more expensive due to the amount of processing that was required for their creation. Convenience foods that immediately come to mind are in the frozen food aisle however they can also be found in the produce aisle. Consider the cost of a bag of carrots versus baby carrots. Look at the difference in price between spinach you have to wash at the pre-washed variety. The same is true when you're buying meat. If the bones and skin have been removed the price is higher.
With a little imagination in the kitchen and simple math at the market you can save yourself quite a bit of money without coupons.
More Money Saving Ideas
- Save Money and Buy Your Next Pair of Eyeglasses Online
Learn how using the numbers inside your eyeglasses will improve your eye wear shopping experience forever. With these numbers in hand it is easy to buy new glasses online and pay a fraction of what you would in a store.
- Alternate Uses for Common Household Items
Learn how to re-purpose disposable items before throwing them away. Baby powder and pasta water have uses you may not know about.