Monday, February 24, 2014

Basics, revisited

I had 150 hits yesterday.  Yay!  

With new readers, I think a synopsis is in order.   Groceries on the cheap was started because I was hearing of people that wanted to know how to stretch their food dollar.  They were on snap and they were running out of money before they ran out of month.  I had been a single parent on the 70s and with double digit inflation and a recession, had gone through challenging times.  Almost 1/ 2 my months pay went for day care, and the  other 1/2 went for rent.  There was little left.   I remember one month spending 25.00 on food.  I learned a lot from  my mom.  Then, I began reading everything I could to learn to stretch a buck.  I tried a lot of things and streamlined a lot of ideas to tailor them to our needs.   I came up with a plan that was not too time consuming, but cut our food bill in half and still gave us decent meals.

Like about anything in life, it begins with planning.   Add smart shopping and cooking from scratch and you have a concept for success.  There are a lot of people that feed their families for less.  I usually take a middle of the road approach to everything.  I'm a libra, as if you couldn't tell!   I don't want to make my while life cooking.  I have a lot more to do even though I am retired.  I have grandchildren, a business, a blog, and belong to a women's group .  I'm old.  By the time dinner time comes around , I want fast and easy.  I don't want ready made or dinner in a box.  They are expensive and full of preservatives.

My solution is batch cooking.  When your meat is already cooked, dinner prep is 1/2 way done
When you pair that with the concept of buying the " loss leader" of meat for the week it's a real
winner.  Every week, the stores put one meat on a really low price.  Often they rotate the meats.  We used to call them loss leaders.  I was corrected by a reader that had worked in the industry.  Apparently in some states stores can't sell things at a loss.   Never the less, stores have really good
sales on meat in a rotating basis.  I can almost bet that one week of the month I can find chicken at a dollar or less a pound.  Last month I found it for .50.  I bought two.  If you purchase enough of the loss leader in.bulk to feed your family once or twice a week for a month.  Cook and freeze it.  Rotate the meats .  In four weeks, you eat a variety of meals and the meat is cooked ready to go and you have paid the RBP ( rock bottom price) and portion controlled your meats.  I use chicken, pork loin, sausage( Costco) good hamburger.  I used to buy  a sirloin beef roast, but now the cost is prohibitive.  I try to average two dollars a pound for meat.  Averaged in with two vegetarian meals a week and a fish, I can average five dollars a dinner--total, not a plate!

We are lucky to have 4 chain stores within a couple of miles from the house.  Two of them are paired with dollar trees.  Of course there are also at least two princess stores too.  Sadly, on a thrifty or snap budget, they are off limits.  I hear they have good buys-- good buys on designer, specialty foods that are out of reach for a person on a three hundred dollar a month budget.  I try to buy and eat low fat, salt, and sugar.  That's about it for my budget.  Those are  the things that have been proven to be bad for your health that are also doable on a shrinking food budget.

Snap is being cut yet again.  The drought is making prices rise, and now we hear of more drought so there doesn't seem to be an end. It's a bad combination.  ( I would really like to see the legislators that feel the need to give mass bucks to foreign aid and cut SNAP live for a week on snap allotment.  ). We just have to cope.  I was always going to write a book when I was a single parent, " cope is a four letter word spelled HELL". LOL

Fortunately, there are tools to deal with high food prices.  Groceries on the cheap is all about using those tools. Some people not concerned with prices read this blog for the time saving tips that go along with cooking on the cheap.  I spend more time shopping, and less time cooking to create a balance.  If cooking is your passion and you enjoy spending all day cooking dinner, go for it.  That just isn't my forte.   LOL

Cooking from scratch doesn't have to take all day.  I love the concept of passive cooking.  The crockpot can be your best friend as well as a food processor.  Often times you can find them on sale or at estate sales cheap.  They are real time savers as well as money savers.

Things NEVER to buy

  • Deli roasted chicken ( not enough ratio of meat to bone, usually four times the price of DIY, and you don't know where it came from.  ) you are paying dearly to save ten minutes of work.  
  • Bread crumbs. Why pay exorbitant prices for someone else's dry bread. Stick it on the oven to dry, whirl  it in the food processor  and store it in an air tight container. When I didn't have a food processor, I grated it on the biggest side of the box grater outside onto a sheet pan.  The 
  • birds got the mess !  
  • Pre-made anything.  You are paying dearly in most cases for someone else's labor.  Do the math.  My daughter and I made lemon pound cake.  We did the math, we figure we made 212.00 an hour making it vs buying it by the slice at the big bucks coffee shop.  That being said, there are a few things that are either too time consuming to make, or are cheaper than scratch especially with a coupon.  
  • Spice mixes or pre-made  extras that go with your meat.  Often they cost more than the meat!  That doubles the cost of your meal and most of the time there is a recipe on the Internet for scratch that takes little time.  There are recipes for mixes on earlier blog posts. Taco seasoning is especially expensive. 

That's a bunch in a nutshell.  

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