In an effort to be “frugal” with my money and to stretch it out more – I’ve started thinking more about how to make food last longer and how to lower my monthly grocery bills.
I now go through the cupboards and make lists of things I really need instead of just guessing at what I might need. Taking inventory of what you have on hand is a good way to prevent over spending.
A friend on Twitter recommended that I start using beans and canned goods more. This is really good advice. I switched to Instant Cart and started using Walmart groceries – because it’s more value for the buck.
Walmart groceries are the way to go
For instance, my cart currently has 38 items in it. And it’s only sitting at $67 CDN. If this were Loblaws or PC Express, the prices would be doubled. Then you factor in delivery fee. Tip. And for half the load too.
My new fridge is also a different size. I have to buy smaller items so the food will fit. But I also have a bigger freezer so I can stuff more things in there. It’s just something I have to get used to.
Instead of ordering in groceries once a week, I’m really watching how much I spend. I’m trying to cut back to two big trips each month. And I’m trying to make sure to use up the food in the fridge before it goes bad.
There is a No Frills across the street from me. I plan on running there when I need just a few items. But it’s really hard to walk with heavy grocery bags. So for my big orders, I shop online.
The Frugal Life – changing the way I shop
I think the hardest part is being single and trying to use up things like stocks of lettuce and spinach. It’s too much for one person. So, I’ve been looking into ways of using these items up in recipes that I can freeze for later use.
When it comes to paper goods or household items, I wait for them to go on sale and stock up every two or three months. This way I never run out of toilet paper again. This happened early on when the pandemic first started. That really sucked. You can’t flush paper towel down the drain. So it meant a lot of trips to the garbage bins. Luckily, I only had to do this for a couple of days before a friend dropped some off for me. People had cleaned out the stores totally.
While shopping online can be hard to know what product you’re going to get, I find it useful because I can see how much money I’m spending. I can make changes. Add substitutes and look out for sales.
Pre-pandemic world, I hated going to the grocery store on the weekend when it was super busy. People would push past you if you took too long to compare products. Or they bump into your cart. Or just stare at you for whatever reason.
And so, it’s online shopping for me.
What I really like about using Instant Cart, is some of the shoppers will send me photos of the products that they want to substitute with. I’ve had mostly good luck with the Walmart orders so far.
Getting the most out canned foods
Even though I’m trying to be healthy and eat mostly natural foods like vegetables and fruit – sometimes you can stretch your budget further by stocking up on canned goods. A friend suggested this to me and for some reason my brain just clicked and I had an “a-ha” moment.
I searched for canned foods on Walmart and organized by the lowest prices to see what my options were. I was floored to see that Great Value had cans as low as $0.67 for soup! Compared to Campbell’s soup which I always find overly salt – $1.47 or higher. So, for my next order, I’ve loaded up on cans of beans, soups, dry soup mixes and things I know taste pretty good.
You can get pretty far with dry mixes as well for soups. And of course, there’s my childhood favorite of Ichiban noodles which I still love on some days. They’re great when you don’t feel like cooking. Totally terrible for you. But so tasty.
Tuna, crab meat and other seafood mixes are pretty decent in canned form. I stock up on Clover Leaf cans. They’re small and you don’t need a can opener for some of them. You can use tuna in sandwiches, casseroles or salads. Add a bit of mayo or cottage cheese, pickles and cucumber, and delicious.
Food items that won’t break your bank
If you’re shopping online, change your search options to “lowest to high cost”. It’s true, brands like Great Value and No Name, aren’t the best quality foods. But if money is really tight for you, this is the way to go. Here is a list of items you can buy to help stretch your monthly paycheck. Keep in mind, I’m in Alberta, Canada. Prices might be region specific.
- Canned goods – tuna, beans, soup,
- Fresh vegetables – celery, carrots, lettuce, mushrooms, spinach
- Pasta and rice – egg noodles, sticky rice, and so many more great options
- Frozen vegetables or fruit
- Herbs – buy once, reuse and plant at home
Home grown foods
This is something I want to try this summer. I have a decent sized balcony that faces the sun during the day as you’ve seen. My sister ordered some seasonal herbs online and will give me her leftovers. I have a batch of green onions that are trying to grow on my kitchen table. It’s sort of working. I think they would work better with potted soil – which she is also bringing me.
People who own a house have a better chance of growing their own foods. But I’ve sought a lot of feedback from my community on Twitter and found out that I could grow things like grape tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and herbs pretty easily. So, instead of flowers this year, I think I’ll try a small vegetable garden.
My only concern is the amount of bird activity here. We have tons of geese that fly over, and thousands of gulls everyday. Thankfully, not too many magpies this end of town. But the gulls are seriously annoying.
Being on the third floor, I shouldn’t have to worry about squirrels or critters. But you never know!
Growing your own food, can definitely keep the costs down on monthly groceries.
Batch cooking and reusing food
This is something I’ve started doing. If I have leftovers from the night before, I try and find ways I can repurpose the food and freeze it for later use. Or I’ll cook two or three dishes so I can have leftovers the next day. I constantly take inventory of my fridge so I’m not letting anything go to waste.
The great thing about fruits and vegetables is how easy they are to freeze. If you have carrots or broccoli for instance that you haven’t used – you can easily store them in a ziploc bag for later.
So, those are my tips if you are looking to save a few bucks on your next grocery trip. I find the price of food to be so high right now. Meat – I buy on special occasions. Although pork and ground beef tend to be cheaper options. Fresh seafood? Forget it. It’s out of my range. Steak? Maybe once a month as a treat.
How do you prepare for your monthly shopping trips? What tips do you have for making your food last longer? Let me know in the comments.
(just as I typed the part about the birds, not even kidding… I’m watching a huge flock of geese fly by)