Madsow writes at Engineer A Debt Free Life. He is a nearly 30 year old test engineer striving to get out of debt. Instead of spending time doing unproductive things, he is spending his time researching frugal life and living for less.
I discovered Clever Dude earlier this year when I started reading blogs as a way to inspire me to get serious about getting out of debt. It has proved to be an inspiration and is one of the blogs that inspired me to start my own frugality and debt-elimination blog. It is an honor to write a guest post for one of my original favorites.
After we started to get focused and came up with a real budget to follow, we found that groceries and eating out were huge expenses. We stopped eating out just about all together, that was a no-brainer… but what to do about the massive grocery budget? As an engineer this is what I do, take a problem and design a way out. So I designed a three step plan to drastically cut our food bills.
Step 1: Bulk cooking
We started only buying our meats in bulk when it was on sale and bulk cooking. We started with meat, but bulk cooking and preparation has done many wonders for us. Clever Dude inspired me with his Frugal Lunch article on mass assembling PBJ’s. This applies to everything.
Buy ground beef on sale 5 or 10 pounds at a time and cook it in the roaster in the oven. You can cook it plain, bag it and freeze it if you like. We often make taco mix, pasta sauce and sloppy Joe mix this way and freeze into portions. The best part is when you come home tired at the end of the day, you don’t run down to KFC and pick up dinner. You just pop dinner in the microwave and 10 minutes later you are chowing down on a cheap home cooked meal.
Step 2: Take an inventory
Think about this a minute… how much more frugal can you get than not buying things and being happy with what you have? For instance, we spent all of October making many of our meals out of stuff stored in the pantry and freezer. Things were looking pretty depleted and I thought we were going to have to hit the store again, but by taking a few minutes to write out an inventory of exactly what we had on hand I was able to make combinations for dinners and managed to come up with another 29 suppers. That’s a whole month of free suppers just by using what we had and as an added benefit you actually eat things before they go bad.
(Note from CD: We actually just proposed to eat only what we had in the cupboards instead of buying new food. We were amazed at what we had!)
Step 3: Plan your meals and make a shopping list
Like many people, we used to go out grocery shopping and pick up whatever we thought we needed to get though the week. Turns out, most of the time we bought about 30% more food than we needed and almost every week we bought stuff we already had sitting at home. By making a set menu the weekend ahead, we could see just what we needed and bought only that. Wow, did this help cut back!
I hope my three step approach will help you with your grocery budget blues as much as it has ours. Bon Appetite!