Last week I shared Laine's Letter about her pantry. This was a good foundation for me and still motivates me!
The photos in this post are Teri's Pantry. Teri sent me these pictures earlier in the year and I am still in awe of them! I have had so much help and friendship from so many ladies this year. Thank you Teri.xxx
Today I am going to share Fearless Food Shopping. Now, do remember in regard to prices these letters are getting pretty old now! But the content is as wonderful as ever!
There are some gems in this that are very important...
Fearless Food Shopping.
My food budget for the month is $260. This is for a family of six with three eating as men. (My teenagers eat the same amount as my husband.) And also my dad, who lives next door, stopping in at dinner time for a chat and a bite to eat. ~Smile~ I will be sharing with you many ways that I save money on food. I think it was meant to be quite a bit of work to save money as revealed in this verse:
"She is like the merchant ships, she brings her food from afar." Proverbs 31:14
Notice, it is ships in plural. Not just one merchant ship, but many merchant ships. There is a lot of work going on here. A lot of learning and growing as well. I think these next verses that follow also show the wisdom of a frugal cook in the family:
"Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine, in the innermost parts of your house." Psalm 128:3a
"House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD." Proverbs 19:14
You can't find a wife like this without the LORD, and you can't be one like this without Him either.
"There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up. Proverbs 21:20
This verse comes right under the verse where it is better to live in a desert than with a contentious and vexing woman! I think a man can have precious treasure and oil in his house with a wise and frugal wife by his side. I have learned so much from such women of God.
It is a privilege for me to stretch my husband's paycheck as much as is possible. One of the ways I can do that is by my strength in the kitchen. The stronger that I get in that room, the more that I can save us. Not only that, but the better we eat and the tastier it is as well. It is blessing upon blessing upon blessing. With this in mind, I share with you how I save money on food up to this day:
1~ I do not spend a certain amount of money each week. Some weeks I might only need a couple of items at the market like milk or fresh vegetables. I do a major food shopping once a month. I pray when I go, while I shop, and at the check out. Everything in the store is set up to get me to spend more than I need to; so I never want to go shopping without the LORD Who has "eyes to see". At this time I buy most of what I will need all month. So far this month I have spent $190 on our food shopping. If I could not go shopping for over a month or more, I would still have enough food to feed my family. I have learned the value of keeping a well stocked pantry (as I shared before) and continue to learn how to do this better and better each year. I don't like to spend all my budget at once because there are usually some store specials that will come up during the month that I like to buy. So each week I check the ads that come in my mail to see what is on special. Sometimes there is nothing, and sometimes, like this week, there are pears for 20 cents a pound.
2~ I buy many things in bulk. It saves us money and time. I don't buy everything in bulk in one month, but rather stretch it out over the year. In that way my food budget is not overly stretched any particular month. I like to have dried as well as fresh on hand. So if I need it, I have dried milk available.
3~ I cost items out. This helps me to avoid buying items that I can make much more inexpensively. Take french bread, for example. I can make two loaves for 50 cents. ( This recipe was shared in a past letter.) So I am not tempted to buy it at the store no matter how good that hot loaf smells in the bakery. I can make a large pizza for under $3. So, again, I am not tempted to buy it. (This recipe was also shared in a past letter.)
4~ We have some meatless meals. I love to make a meatless meal that everyone likes. My husband was raised on meat almost every night. So it has been a slow process to change our dietary habits. I had to do it primarily for financial reasons, but I now realize that it is healthier for us. I also make meals from many different countries. Many other countries, such as China, use far less meat with lots of fresh vegetables for an abundance of flavor and good health.
5~ Our markets mark down their meat early in the morning, so once or twice a month I will go to the market at that time to see what I can find. It is a challenge for me to see if I can make a piece of meat work for two or three meals. Oftentimes I can do this by using a recipe from another country. As I shared before, I love to check out cookbooks from my local library, especially cookbooks from other parts of the world.
6~ I shop many different fruit stands and stores. I keep my eyes open for good specials. The wise woman in Proverbs 31 was likened to merchant ships, so there is no question that she was a keen shopper looking for the best in quality at the best possible price for her family. It is not uncommon for me to stop at seven or more stores when I do my first big shopping of the month. I run in to get what is on special or what is found at that store at a good price, and then I'm back out again. I find this easier to do in the early morning when there isn't too much foot traffic. It did take some getting used to, and I am pretty tired when I come home, but I only do this once a month, so it is a good workout for me. ~Smile~ Plus I save us hundreds of dollars in a year's time by this method. Yes, I have taken my children shopping with me since they were infants. Sometimes my husband and my children both are with me. Sometimes I shop alone or with my mother. It always varies.
7~ I keep my coupons with me at all times. I am not a big coupon shopper, and if coupons were stopped in this country, I would still be able to save money for my family by other methods. But since they are offered in our country, I take advantage of them when it is profitable. Take this month. I noticed that six dented boxes of Wheaties were marked down in one of the supermarkets. (I love to check the marked down section of each store when I shop.) I was able to buy all the boxes they had for 29 cents a box. I don't buy cereal often unless I can get it under a dollar a box, so this was right in my price range. (I don't buy the sugary stuff even if I can get it for free.) Where I save predominantly in this area is by making my own granola and such. So if I could never buy cereal with coupons, it would be okay, as I would make granola and other kinds of cereal for my family. I also found Ivory soap (packaging ripped) marked down in the same aisle, so I was able to get all twelve bars for pennies with my coupons.
8~ I try to buy "real" whenever possible. So I use butter, not margarine. I use bread flour or freshly ground wheat flour, not all purpose flour. I use olive oil, not all purpose oil. I am moving more and more into whole grains and such as we get more for our money and our health.
9~ My food budget does include paper products, cleansers, and such. The only thing that it does not include is our dog food. I have that budgeted separately. When toilet paper goes on sale, I buy a lot. I store it under my son's bed. Sometimes I do not buy toilet paper for months at a time. I do not use paper towels much anymore, rather a rag. Instead of paper napkins, I have switched to cloth napkins. As I shared with you before, I make many of my own cleansers which is much cheaper and healthier. I also use half the required amount of detergent when washing my clothes and just let it agitate longer.
10~ If it is profitable for me to send in a refund, I will do so. This past shopping trip I will get a free pair of rubber gloves for buying a rust stain remover. So I mailed that off the next day.
11~ I love to do things with leftovers. So often little pieces of meat and potatoes will be chopped up the next day and find their way into a burrito for lunch. Or some squash or leftover oatmeal will find its way into a batch of muffins. Or some mashed potatoes will find their way into a loaf of bread. I love to learn and I find that when you love to learn, you do! So I am learning monthly how to do more with what I've got in my kitchen. Many times I will buy a piece of meat that has been marked down and not know what I will do with it. This month a turkey leg was one such piece of meat. I bought it for a little over a dollar. I cooked it on low all day in the crock pot with vegetable and seasonings, then took the meat off the bone and chopped it up. I made some Chinese noodles. I took some of the noodles, put them in a bowl for each person with some of the turkey and broth on top, added a few dashes of soy sauce, and served it with a piece of homemade bread. It was a hit!
12~ Cooking from scratch is so important in my method of food savings. When I first began to learn to cook, I started in the "soup corner." Once I learned how to make soups, I progressed on to bread. And so on and so on. I am still learning. It is such fun! So I do not "menu plan" or cook ahead for my freezer too much (only a small one above the fridge) or count on the garden (still learning there, but hope to add more savings in the future). Rather I take out one of my pieces of meat or vegetables in the morning, then sit down with my cookbooks to see what I can make with it. I always ask the LORD to show me the way. It is never boring because I am always trying something new.
13~ This year I did a bit of canning because it was profitable to do so. Each can of peaches cost us under 40 cents. I have also been dehydrating. I am so excited to learn how to do this. I have started bags of mushrooms, chilies, bell peppers, peaches, pears, apples, carrots, celery, spinach, and tomatoes. Some are fuller than others. It is so nice to know that if I need a certain item and I do not have it fresh, I just might have it dried. It is like having a mini fruit/vegetable stand in my pantry.
14~ I love to collect recipes. I love to collect unusual recipes. Recipes that do not have eggs or oil or butter. The reason for this is there might come a time when I will be so glad that I have these kinds of recipes. Some of these ingredients might be hard to come by if we fell upon hard times, so I see the value in recipes like these. That is why I will make a cookie recipe with oil. I like to make different kinds of recipes so that I'll know a good one when I need it. Many times I will see something marked down at the store and a certain recipe will pop into my head as soon as I see it.
15~ I enjoy learning how to make things and stretching myself in the kitchen. Such as cheese. I have made ricotta, cream cheese, and cottage cheese. But I want to learn how to make cheese using rennet. I hope to do this soon. I remember how much fun it was to learn how to make sour cream and buttermilk (recipes shared in past letters as well). I make those without thinking now. So I hope to do the same with cheese soon. It is so helpful to know how to make things from simple ingredients. Then I do not need to go to the store, rather to my pantry. Take noodles, for example. If I don't have noodles on hand, it is very good to know how to make them. I might be out of noodles, but not out of the ingredients to make them. Within 40 minutes, I can have noodles ready for the boiling water and my recipe.
16~ There are a couple of stores that I go to every three or four months. They are an hour away, but worth the trip when I do make it. I always look forward to these trips. This is the time that I will buy some items in bulk.
17~Bakery cakes have never been in my budget. I remember when I was asked to be in my friend's wedding. One of the girls, who was also in the wedding, threw her a bridal shower. She asked me to buy the cake. I knew that I couldn't afford a big cake. So I told her that I'd make it. She looked worried and asked me if I had ever made a large cake before. I had to admit that I hadn't. But I told her that if it didn't work, I'd buy one. Well, I practiced and practiced. My family loved eating my efforts. ~Smile~ The day of the shower I brought a cake that looked like two wedding rings entwined with a cream cheese/whipped cream frosting and fresh strawberries. Everyone loved it. I saved us some money, plus learned a lot in the process about cake decorating which I have used time and time again.
18~ I am about a year ahead on my toiletries. What I mean by this is if I did not buy tooth paste, deodorant, shampoos, and such for a year, I would have ample supply. I have been buying them with coupons when they were on sale and free or near free, so I have stocked up quite a bit. They don't go bad as with food. And if I need to use something for a gift or a food basket, I have it there and ready.
19~ I buy most of my spices in bulk. Much more inexpensive this way.
20~ I have been training myself to do my cooking early in the morning. I find that I do a better job and feel so much more accomplished when my meal is well on its way early in the day. (As taught in Proverbs 31.) It is pure pleasure to pull out a meal that was made earlier in the day to share with my family in the evening. I am usually pretty tired by then, and so very, very glad that my meal is ready.
I hope these tips have been a help to you. I am still learning how to save money on my food shopping, and I am sure many of you could share so much more than I've shared here. May the LORD bless you as you serve Him in your kitchen.
One of the biggest things in our whole budget is food. How we manage that is so important to the whole budget and our health. But also to how much we can build up our pantries. If we never have enough or extra we can't really get ahead with the pantry. So getting ahead with food and supplies is a really important thing. The only way to do that is being pretty clever with cooking from scratch and making the most of bargains and what we can find. Saving in one area to build up another can work miracles. I would rather make a pizza than buy one. I would rather spend the difference on the pantry.
The other gem was pointed out to me by a reader. Laine said she studies old cook books and also thinks of alternatives to ingredients. She says in tough times certain ingredients might not be available and we need to know what we could do then. This is a very good idea. Do we know how to cook decent meals out of absolute basics? Without any fancy ingredients or pre prepared things?
These are skills worth learning and increasing. Knowing how to cook stock, soups from just about anything, basic bread and simple filling things is very important. Also knowing how to go to plan B when plan A just isn't possible.
The same with your pantry and storage. Can you make meals from what you have? In a crisis or shortage very basic cooking is fine. Actually very basic cooking is usually very good! But those basics are really important skills to have.
Someone commented to me recently that in a crisis is no time to learn skills! Learn them now and as you can so you have the skills you need when you need them.
This series has been a big learning curve for me. You can take an empty space and turn it into a pantry in a year or less is one thing I learned! Thank you to all the ladies who helped me via comments, emails, letters, photos and guest posts.
I still have a couple of Pantries and Preparedness posts for the year. Then we will see what the new year brings! xxx