I'm so glad I spent the month of January learning to resist the temptation of sale ads and make do with things I have at home whenever I need something (or think I need it--LOL) because I am now using the concept to try to cut our grocery bill while still eating a healthy diet. At one time, I was a coupon queen--one of those people who can walk out of a grocery store with a hundred dollars in groceries for free. Over time, our budgets and diets and health needs have changed, and I have become pretty picky about what I bring into the house, and pretty laid-back about what I pay for it. And since I never really LOVED to cook, I've gotten a little lazy. But in looking at what we spent on groceries in January ($633), I decided I needed to put a little effort into trimming that back. My goal for February is to cut back to $100 per week. I realize there are people out there who can feed their families on $100 per month or less, but my family has its particular set of challenges. We have, among other things, an egg allergy, lactose intolerance, hypoglycemia, reflux, and a sensitivity to food additives and coloring. Two people in the family have to follow a low-carb diet, so I can't base meals on pasta or other starches or even serve too many of them in one meal. It is quite difficult to put a meal on the table that everybody can eat, so I try to stick with what works. For the most part, our household is 100 % sugar-free (with a tablespoon or so of honey used in baking) and about 80% organic. I don't buy many prepackaged or processed foods, and try not to buy anything individually wrapped.
I've had to stop looking at the grocery sale ads and coupons, because what I am tempted to buy right now is nothing we should eat. I mentioned in my last post that when I feel a little stressed, I love to bargain-hunt because it brings me a measure of control. Well, I've had to stop myself more than once from getting out the coupons and making my list of all the foods I can get for cheap or free, because once I got them home I'd spend all my time keeping the kids out of them. Crazy, huh? So here's what I did--I shopped at home first. I looked through everything I had on hand and decided to go ahead and use it as long as I can to avoid having to buy anything. I spent a day cooking, and made a quadruple batch of pumpkin muffins using a large can of pumpkin still hanging around from the holidays. We all love these, and they make good breakfasts, snacks and lunch-box fillers. I also made 2 loaves of very easy whole wheat bread, a double batch of homemade whole wheat waffles for the freezer, and a double batch of frozen yogurt treats . I cooked down a chicken carcass and froze a couple of quarts of broth, then used all the leftover odds and ends of vegetables in the fridge to make soup. (which I froze in individual containers for lunches). I made homemade popsicles with the juice drained from a can of pineapple and also with some leftover yogurt. And over the last couple of days I've been cooking dried beans as I have the time and getting them into the freezer so that we can stretch the meat that I put into our entrees. We've even been using all those hotel packets of coffee in the morning, just to use them up. So all in all, these things stretched our groceries out for several days past when I normally would have decided we were "out" of food. And luckily, since we had so many extra homemade things around, I was able to pare the grocery bill down to $91 while still buying everything organic.
My sister and I were discussing the other day how ironic it is that when you "simplify" your diet, it becomes more complicated. There is nothing easier about baking a batch of cookies or a loaf of bread when you could simply rip open a bag and be done with it. But there is nothing quite like those times--the kids "helping" at the counter, the little one climbing on a chair and sneaking his chubby fingers into the bowl for a taste of whatever he can get, the smell of baking permeating the house. Opening a box or bag robs you of all of that. So in a way its easier, but look at what you've missed. The camraderie in the kitchen and the wonderful smells of food are things that make a house a warm and loving home. I'm glad to have these times!