Groceries are my family’s biggest expense. Even higher than our mortgage. Interestingly, we spend roughly what the government says is reasonable for a family of 9. So I guess it’s not terribly bad.
Still, it’s a huge figure and I know I can do better.
What I Won’t Do to Lower Food Costs
In the past, I’ve lowered our food costs by couponing. Nope. Not willing to return to that life. It was stressful and difficult and I dropped it immediately when we discovered ALDI (where we do almost all our shopping).
Another thing I won’t give up is InstaCart.
UPDATE: Instead of just guessing at how much using InstaCart was really costing me, I decided to do a simple experiment.
Went shopping at Aldi.
Created mock order on InstaCart with identical items.
Price difference was, with tip, $4.08
My annual fee to use Instacart is paid for by referrals, so that doesn’t enter into the equation. (If you use this link we both get $10 in free food!)
So while I’m always looking for ways I’m being lazy or valuing convenience over savings…. Instacart stays!
While it does cost me a bit more, I still get my groceries delivered from ALDI, which has the very lowest prices in my area. And I believe the small upcharge is worth it. Why?
Because as I mentioned in my first optimization post, my energy is my most precious asset. Grocery shopping wears me out. Especially when I have several kids in tow (which I always do). Being able to shop without taking kids means I’m more in control of my shopping. I simply click, click, click, done.
And, using InstaCart (full disclosure: affiliate link) means I stay OUT of the store. ALDI often has these tempting Special Buys that I don’t need. And it takes SECONDS to do my shopping. I will not be dissuaded. Ha!
We generally don’t eat fancy, expensive or prepared foods. We eat oats or veggie scrambled eggs for breakfast (bacon is a rare treat). Lunch is usually tuna, boiled eggs, smoothies, homemade soup or leftovers. Dinner is typically meat with three veggies.
Operation: Zero Food Waste
So now for what I am doing to lower food spending. It’s all about having zero food waste. Food waste really bothers me, but I have gotten a bit lax about staying on top of it. So here’s the plan:
Brush up on my old favorite “use it up” recipes: frittatas, soups, omelets
These past couple of weeks I’ve made lots of omelets and added the last bit of random veggies.
I’ve also thrown a lot of leftover veggies and grains into soups. I’ve found that if you puree the veggies, you can add almost any veggie to a soup and nobody even notices. I made a delicious creamy tomato soup that had pureed leftover cauliflower as its base. Noone was the wiser.
Take one for the team.
I eat stuff nobody else will. That last tiny bit of soup that’s slightly burned on the bottom. Edges of the oatmeal clafoutis, all dried out. Crusts on the little kids’ sandwiches. Etc.
It’s not always fun, but who said adulting was? I do get a warm feeling of satisfaction from nourishing my body with little bits of this and that that nobody else wants.
Cook smaller dishes.
For years I’ve had to double or triple every recipe to feed my family. Things change though! I’m not really feeding 9 anymore. 9 people do live in this house. But, my eldest son cooks his own meals. And often, one of the teenagers is gone either working or with friends at mealtime.
So, it makes more sense for me to plan on cooking for 6 and if everyone shows up, eat leftovers myself (I’ve actually done this several times recently).
Eating out: it ain’t happenin’.
In a family this size, even ordering cheap pizza is going to set us back $60+. A meal out, easily $100. So, it’s not something we do very often. It’s reserved for special occasions. Like mine and hubby’s wedding anniversary. And the 18 year old’s homeschool graduation dinner coming up soon. (He asked for Indian food instead of a party, so…).
Saving Money on Coffee
I bought a Nespresso maker (full disclosure: affiliate link) last year. I love it. It keeps me from buying Americanos and lattes. It was a wise purchase, because .50 knockoff espresso pods purchased at Target are clearly cheaper than $3 coffees.
But, over the summer I became addicted to iced coffee.
I have found that making it at home is simple and cheap. (Bonus: cold brew isn’t acidic.) But sadly, I do not like the taste of it nearly as much as iced coffee purchased in a coffee shop. I’m still not buying it out, but I don’t enjoy it homemade nearly as much. I know – First World Problem alert.
I’ve been using cold brew filter bags purchased from Brandless. Next I’ll try brewing a Nespresso pod and pouring that over ice and water and report back. If you have any suggestions for amazing iced coffee made at home, please leave them in comments!
Another way I save money on food is to buy snacks when I know I’ll be traveling. I’m heading to a Leadership conference with my company next month. They will provide breakfast, coffee and lunch during the event. But, I am not paying for overpriced airport snacks or more than one dinner! (My rule when traveling for business is that I get one dinner out.) My carry-on bag is stocked with oatmeal cups, nuts and protein bars.
Frugality is so often about simply planning ahead.
What are your favorite practical tips for saving money on groceries?
Update: We joined a warehouse club. More on the Aldi vs Costco debate here!