Feeding My Family for $129.99: Little Lessons in Frugality

As someone who publicly admits to being cheap to sometimes ridiculous extremes, I wondered if I would learn any new tricks for saving money on grocery shopping during my month of cheap eating. It seems like every time you read an article about saving on food, you hear the same things over and over: use coupons, plan menus, buy in bulk . . . zzz. I’ve posted about some of my unconventional money-saving techniques here on the Green Baby Guide. Here’s my article on Saving Money on Organic Groceries that contains most of my tried and true tips.

During my month of super cheap eating, I got to put most of my old tips to the test. I also learned a few new things. Many of them might be obvious to you but new to me. And some are kind of specific to my situation and the way I eat. But here we go!

Buttermilk pancakes (made with instant buttermilk and oil) are fluffier and faster to make than the recipe with real milk and butter. I’ll post a recipe next week!

Six servings per recipe is efficient. Everyone knows that it’s a good idea to make big batches of things so leftovers can be eaten for subsequent meals, but during my cheap eating month, it was a necessity.

Popcorn is a cheap snack. I knew popcorn was cheap—but how cheap? We calculated $.29 for a huge bowl popped on the stove top with oil.

Veggies are cheaper than baked goods—and cheaper than wine. I go to a lot of writing group and book club meetings each month. Normally I’d bring wine ($4-6). During the cheap month, I brought home-baked treats ($2.50-$5.00), but after a while I got tired of baking and brought raw veggies (under a dollar) or cooked edamame ($.85).

Bagged spinach/kale is not really more expensive than bunches. In fact, the bagged kale and spinach from Trader Joe’s is significantly cheaper than the loose bunches from Fred Meyer.

Cage-free eggs are cheapest at Fred Meyer. I found them for $1.99/dozen on sale. $2.29 regularly. Second place: Whole Foods. Last place: Trader Joe’s. This surprised me.

If you like this picture of me standing over a pot of eggs, you’re going to love my egg cooking posts.

I also made a few resolutions after my month of deprivation. We’ll see how well I do with sticking with them!

  • I will put more effort into gardening.

    I grew these myself a couple years ago. This year I wasn’t so lucky.
  • I will continue cook up dried garbanzo beans for Audrey. Cheaper than the Tillamook Sharp cheddar she loves to snack on.
  • I will continue to make grain salads. We lived off improvised salads during the month of May. Here’s the main course tabouli recipe I used, though I modified it a lot.
  • I will continue to be mindful of using up ingredients before buying new. I was amazed at how much I had tucked away in my cupboards. Just a cup of rice here, a quarter cup of lentils there . . . but it all added up.

What are your unconventional money-saving tips for grocery shopping or cooking on a budget? I want to know!

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