Of course we still have those last minute store runs from time to time, but I have found that a little preparation and planning goes a long way. My husband works hard so that I can be a full time stay at home mom and homemaker. My job description includes a lot of things, as well as one of those ambiguous "details and responsibilities may change unexpectedly and without notice, so be prepared for anything and everything" disclaimers.
One of the nice things about my job is that I am my own boss, so I get to choose what I do and how I spend my time. Since our income decreased when I stopped working to start being a mommy, I decided that part of my responsibility would be trying to find ways that our family can live frugally. I've found lots of ways to do that, and I want to share some of them with you.
Cooking From Scratch
I've discovered that most things are cheaper and healthier to make from scratch at home than to buy pre-made. It usually takes more time, but it is worth it, and as a stay at home mom, I have more time than I do money.
One of the first things I did after I started staying at home was to make my own bread. I'll admit that this has meant my husband has gone to work with many oddly shaped and textured sandwiches, but the loaves tend to come out pretty good now, even though I continue to experiment and refine the process, I have the basics figured out and we are eating healthy, fresh whole wheat bread every week for a fraction of the cost we could get it at the store.
For dinner we are having black bean soup. It is a new recipe I found online, so we will see how it turns out, but I am excited to use some of our dried beans as well as yummy fresh produce. Sites like foodily.com make it easy to use what is in the pantry in new and creative ways.
Learning to cook has been an interesting journey, and I still frequently make mistakes, but I feel like I am learning enough basic principles and concepts that I can now substitute and adjust recipes to fit my needs and still have it turn out edible.
Since it does take longer to prepare, I usually make more food than we need and save extra in the fridge or freezer. It is great to come home after a long day and realize that rather than preparing something complicated, a few minutes in the microwave will revitalize Outback Potato Soup (copycat recipe).
Buy In Bulk Or Co-op
I recently discovered Azure Standard. It is awesome. Healthy food. Affordable prices. Local delivery (for us at least). We are using it to build up our food storage with food we know we will eat. As a single person sharing an apartment, I had very limited storage space, but now even though we have a small apartment, at least all of it is available instead of 6 jugs of milk in the fridge.
I'll use refried beans as an example of the value of buying bulk since most people use those for a quick and easy meal. Refried beans can be had for about $1 a can. You can find a pretty good deal if you buy a lot of cans at a case lot sale. A little research shows that it only takes a few hours to make them in the crock pot using dried beans (I usually plan on about 6-8 from the time I put them in until dinner, and there are always lots of leftovers to freeze for later). I can get pinto beans at Azure Standard for about $1 a lb. Or I can mix them with black beans or pink beans to vary the nutrition, flavor and price. Someone did the math and figured out making your own is about $0.19 a cup as opposed to about $0.73. Tastes way better too.
So our recent venture at Azure Standard means that we probably have at least 6 months of food storage of dried stuff (wheat, oats, beans, rice, sugar, etc). It would last us 20+ years, but we intend to eat it long before then.
Our other favorite place to get food is Bountiful Baskets. We get produce here every other week for only $15. It is enough produce to last us two weeks, and getting a variety of fresh produce helps us eat healthier. If we went to the store, we wouldn't get the same quantity and variety as we do in our baskets. Besides, I hate making trips to the store with a baby in tow.
When I first started staying at home, I intended to do lots of couponing to save money. It didn't take long to decide that couponing took a lot of time and energy and in the end, most of the deals are for things I don't need or want. Instead, I discovered ways I could save money, eat healthy and have time for what matters most.
I know there are other options out there, but this is what we use and we love it. Now the only food we need from the store is animal products (milk, eggs, cheese, meat, etc.). I hope to eliminate that need one day with a backyard containing goats and chickens, but we shall see.
I know these options aren't available for everyone or don't fit into your life style. But they are things that have made my life so much better. It is nice to enjoy time at home and know that I have everything I need for a tasty dinner without dealing with the grocery store.
Are grocery store trips a burden to you? What ways have you found to eat healthy without spending too much?