Mary Ostyn
July 20, 2010


You know the drill. You walk into the grocery store with a long listand a finite budget. The last thing you want to do is spend two weeks’worth of grocery money on one week of food. But prices these daysmake it ever more challenging to stay within a budget. What’s a smartshopper to do?

1. Make a list and check it twice

Lists are tremendous money savers. Begin by thinking in terms of meals.Before I head to the store, I scribble out ideas for two weeks ofdinners. Half the meals are family favorites: cheesychicken enchiladas, creamypotato soup, and pastacarbonera are regulars. I then thumb through cookbooks and fill therest of the two weeks with new and interesting-sounding recipes.

Once I’ve decided what we’ll be eating for the next couple weeks,next I write down the ingredients that I lack for thoserecipes. I skim recipes, check the pantry, dig through the freezer, andcheck my cupboards, making sure that everything I’ll need is either inmy kitchen or on my grocery list.   Once I have all the dinneringredients written down, I add the items we typically use for breakfastand lunch, as well as goodies to make baking possible.

2. Go to the store less often

When you run out of something, write it on your grocery list.   Butdon’t race to the store the instant your list gets an item or two onit.  Every trip to the store is a  temptation to impulse-buy.So I challenge myself to go just a day or two longer between shoppingtrips. We live 20 minutes from the store.  The other day when I didn’twant to run to the store just for hamburger buns, I made my ownfresh homemade rolls.

3. Expand the list of things you can makeyourself

Did you know that you can easily makeyour own granola? Homemade white sauce takes 5 minutes to make andcosts a fraction of a can of cream soup.  Homemade saladdressing is equally fast and will save you a cool $2. Not bad for a5 minute time investment.  Even better if it saves you a trip to thestore where you would potentially spend much more on impulse buys. Learning to make just one item per week will consistently give you moremoney in your pocket.  Remember, it’s not only this week’s new recipethat will save you money.  Gradually learning to make a variety ofthings for yourself will make your savings snowball.

4. Stock up when prices hit rock bottom

And I mean REALLY stock up.  Last October I bought enough groundbeef on sale to last til February, which effectively extended thatOctober sale for months, for me anyway. Around Christmas time I put lots of$1.50/lb butter in the freezer, enough to make baking more affordableall winter for us.

5. Don’t be afraid to try new recipes

To earn a repeat appearance in my kitchen, a recipe needs to betasty, easy to cook, and have ingredients that are affordable and easyto find.  Don’t overlook ethnic food. I’ve found Chinese, Mexican andEthiopian food to be both affordable and delicious. This WestAfrican Peanut Chicken is a good example. And here’s anotherbonus:  ethnic grocery stores often have great prices on things likespices, sesame oil, coconut milk, and specialty pasta.

6. Remember WHY you want to save money

I developed my money-saving strategies so that I could stay home withmy kids.   You may be dreaming of finding enough extra cash to pay offa car or take a cruise or have another baby.   Keeping your goalsclearly in mind will make it easier to do the little daily things thatwill move you towards that goal!

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