Friday, September 06, 2013

Book Review: Cut Your Grocery Bill In Half

I recently borrowed the book Cut Your Grocery Bill In Half with America's Cheapest Family from the library. It was a wonderful read and gave me some new ideas and a fresh dose of motivation to work on fine-tuning my grocery spending.

I used to be a super coupon queen but since changing our eating habits, I just don't do as much of that as I used to. I still use coupons though when I can, just not in as large of quantities as before.

When folks ask me about coupons, I always tell them that coupons are only one way of lowering the grocery budget. While coupons, especially if your store doubles or triples the value, can help to drastically reduce your out of pocket costs, there are many other strategies to cut your grocery costs that are easy to put into practice wherever you live and don't depend on the coupons available or your grocery store coupon policies.

I loved that this book was not just about using coupons but thoroughly covered many aspects of grocery spending. The big emphasis was on planning and efficiency. The more planning you do--from your pantry/freezer inventory, to menu planning, to shopping once a month, to freezer cooking--the more you will save, both in time and money.

The authors, Steve and Annette Economides, grocery shop once a month for their family of 7 and at the time of writing, spent only $350 a month! This book isn't about just eating beans and rice either--they eat a good amount of meat, fresh fruits and vegetables.

We currently spend $300-350 a month to feed our family of two adults, plus regular hospitality. This includes food, cleaning supplies, paper products and personal care products. It doesn't include dog food, vitamins, or eating out. I'm not out to drastically reduce my monthly amount but rather to find ways to make my dollars stretch a little further. We find that we feel so much better when we don't eat many grains so we try to stick with that fairly closely while eating at home. The downside is that a low-grain diet isn't quite as cheap as eating more breads, pasta and cereal. Could I feed us a low-grain diet more cheaply? Yes, probably, but most likely I wouldn't be able to cut the amount in half at this point, except in dire circumstances. Then you just do what you need to do!

The strategies in this book are ones that can be applied to each family's situation and dietary needs. I'll mention a few tips that stood out that I would like to implement.

  • Before menu planning, make a list of main dishes, veggies, fruits and starches you have to choose from. This makes menu planning super simple since you'll just have to match up the meat/main dish with a side or two.
  • Before grocery shopping and menu planning, take stock of what you have on hand by taking complete inventory of your fridge, freezer and pantry. Make notes of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack foods you already have. 
  • Menu plan for 2 weeks, then work up to planning for the entire month!
  • Food for thought: A fridge or freezer outside or in the garage can be an energy hog. The higher temps make them use more energy. 
  • The Economides family would eat out for $18 or less (usually take-out). I wonder, since there are just two of us,  if we could do this for $10 or less for those meals when it's been a super crazy day and we want something quick. Some ideas for this are Chinese carryout, chicken from grocery store deli, dollar menu items and pizza. They suggest adding some side items from home for many of these options. And obviously, if going to  a sit-down restaurant,
  • Because they shop once a month, they make sure they're stocked up on canned fruits and veggies to add variety at the end of the month when the fresh produce is gone. I use a lot of frozen veggies but know a few canned goods wouldn't hurt either.
  • To know how much of a certain item you use in a specific time frame, label cans/jars with 1,2,3,4 etc. of however many you bought and the date purchased. When you get to the last one, you can tell how long it lasted and how many to stock up on when on a good sale or to last the month.
  • 1 chicken, 3 meals: Roast a chicken. Divide meat into 2 piles. Use 1 pile for chicken salad sandwiches for meal #1 and then divide the second pile to use for stir-fry or stew for meal #2 and make soup for meal #3. I've used this idea before; many chicken recipes would work with this technique. 
  • The authors are big on Once-A-Month Cooking. They cook and freeze 17 meals each month right after their big shopping trip, divided into categories such as 5 beef dishes, 6 chicken/turkey, 2-3 pork/ham and 3 misc. dishes such as lentil vegetable soup or calzones.The other meals are roasts, chicken and things that can easily be made fresh.
  • A quick tip I know will come in handy for my own freezer cooking is to label pans on the end for easy reading once stacked in the freezer!
I got a lot out of reading this book and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see if there are any other ways they could be saving money on groceries!

**I was not  reimbursed in any way for this review. All opinions are my own! Thanks to my local library for having this book available!**


Tracy said...

This is an awesome book review. I may have to add it to my 2014 reading list!

Rhonda said...

Good review! I've seen the Economides on TV a few times and thought they had real and practical advice.
I do use coupons but they don't save me much on food. They do really help with personal care like shampoo and shaving things, and diapers.