Grocery Budget Tips: Tip 2 – Make Do Without

Welcome back to the grocery budget series!  Here is tip #2:

We learn do without. It sounds scary, but it’s really been a blessing to see things from a different perspective.  Instead of thinking “I don’t have enough money for everything I want to buy” I break my list down into necessities and find ways to make do without the things that are not essential food items.  Sometimes I need to let go of hangups like thinking we need milk as a necessary ingredient, or I need “x” because I buy it every month.  If I allowed my grocery budget to control me, I’d be spending triple or quadruple what I currently do for items that I want.  But being able to say no is important, even to yourself.

I don’t buy many snacks (usually buy crackers to pair with cream cheese, peanut butter or cheese, and pretzels – any other snacks we make and they come from raw or basic ingredients such as plain popcorn popped in our air popper).  I don’t buy cereal unless it’s for an occasional treat (I am happy to do without the sugar, colors and artificial this-and-that).  We don’t buy much other than raw and basic ingredients – I have found we can make many of the items we used to buy – even ingredient-type products.  When I have the money to be lazy, we might buy taco seasoning, breaded chicken (my husbands usual meal after work), chips, things like that.  But we understand that we don’t have to and that makes all the difference.  Can’t afford it one month?  No big deal, we can make do!  That goes for any other ingredient we might buy.  Our meals change according to what we do have.   If we have to scrimp and save, we plan more meatless meals, less expensive meals (expensive meals in my book are meals with ingredients like cream, cheese or beef), and get creative.  It’s amazing what you can do with some basic ingredients!

Some of my greatest learning in the kitchen comes from the ingredients I don’t have – I have to learn how to make do without, or learn of a substitution for whatever reason.  Sometimes the money just isn’t there, sometimes I just don’t have time for a trip into town to go to the store.  That doesn’t mean we don’t eat – it means we improvise and make do without.

If I find myself unable to afford to buy ground beef one month, then I learn to do new things with pork or chicken.  If I don’t have enough milk to get us through the week, I learn how to make do without and discover ways to tweek recipes to work with what I do have.

Make your grocery budget work for you.  If you have a set amount set aside for groceries, decide what items are most important to you.  Make a list, estimate your total.  Find ways to make do without or substitute what you need.  Can you make something instead of buying it?  Can you trade with a friend?  Is there a less expensive way to obtain it, such as through a discount store?

As a quick side note, sometimes I freeze small bits of leftover cheese, milk, butter, etc. when it is nearing its expiration date and I have purchased those items new.   I also freeze vegetables when they are either nearing the threshold for going bad soon, or when there is so little left and I can’t use it right away (such as a single celery stalk). I can’t tell you how many times having a cup of cheese or a few tablespoons of butter in the freezer have saved my meals!

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