Grocery Budget Tips: Tip 20 – Challenge Yourself

Welcome back to the grocery budget series I am finally done writing.  In this series, I have shared the top 20 ways that I can think of that our large family uses to keep the grocery budget from getting out of line.  To learn more, visit our introduction.

Challenge Yourself.

“You don’t know until you try,” was a phrase I heard often growing up.  I apply this to my life all over the place!  That is perhaps why I have the mindset of doing as much as we can to live off the land because, well, I’ve tried and in many cases “it” (whatever “it” is), has worked!

For many people, the grocery budget is often the first place considered when money needs to be saved.  There is often work that can be done that can save a significant amount of money in a fairly quick manner, if you aren’t already doing everything you can to keep your budget low.

If you need to cut corners on your grocery budget, where do you see an area that can be cut the most?

Removing eating out is an easy one to spot.  Preparing the meal you normally eat out, the night before, is helpful.  Telling yourself to “deal” with your homemade lunch when you’d rather eat out is also helpful.  Sometimes changes are hard, but you have to find what works for you.

Convenience items are also a fairly easy item to cut out, also.  But this can mean different things to different people.  Buying ground meat isn’t really a convenience if you don’t have a meat grinder to do it yourself. And, not everyone realizes the vast majority of the food purchased can be made at home so many people don’t realize there are options!  As well, some families are stretched so far with the time they have available to prepare and cook meals, that some of these suggestions in this series just may not work.  I was sharing what works for us but I completely understand these techniques don’t work for everyone all the time.   I do hope that you can pick out something that may benefit your family though!

Maybe you will find it helpful to cook once a week, if you have a free weekend day each week.  Gather the kids and start a new tradition of making dinner meals to get through the week all at once.  The time you spent cooking now, when all the ingredients are out and the kitchen is in use, may help free up time in your crazy week nights.  Eat some meals fresh during the beginning of the week, but freeze the meals you will eat later in the week.  Maybe your time would be better spent making a weeks worth of breakfasts to reduce your need for cereals and pricey frozen breakfast foods.  Or, choose simple breakfasts that don’t require much time to prepare and will cost less.  Maybe instead of that high priced box of cereal, you can fill up on toast or bagels with a healthy spread, oatmeal and grits can be made ahead and heated up for a quick and filling breakfast.  I have a few more breakfast ideas here.  Maybe your challenge is lunches – use websites like pinterest to find new ideas for lunch boxes so you can prepare them at home and mindfully avoid the convenience cost of snack foods.

Maybe you find that you never know what you are going to eat from one meal to the next and you consider yourself a procrastinator.  Because of this you reach for ready made meals more often than you’d like.  Maybe your challenge will be pushing yourself to prepare the next days dinner the night before, before you go to bed.  It only takes a minute to pull meat from the freezer to thaw, then a few minutes to prepare vegetables.  If you are planning a crockpot meal, maybe you can throw everything together in the crockpot the night before and store it in the fridge. The next morning, place the crock in the cooker and start your day!

Maybe you are in a meal rut and are sick of food.  You’d rather it be prepared for you so you don’t have to deal with it.  I get into food ruts.  I find a helpful fix is to look for new and exciting recipes to try, or I rely on meals I have placed in the freezer for a day or two.  Maybe you could challenge yourself to find new recipes to try that might give you a fresh outlook on food.  ‘

Maybe you don’t know where to start, but you need to start somewhere.  Maybe you spend too much money on food and you know you can probably cut back, but you just don’t know where or how to begin.  For this I say challenge yourself.  Pick one thing from my list of tips, and try it.  If you buy lots of meals that are premade, pick one you like and look up a recipe.  Try to make it yourself.  Include one meatless meal per week.  Prepare one lunch per week instead of eating out.  Add a crockpot meal one day a week on your busiest day.  Challenge yourself to make one complete meal from scratch.  Let the kids help.  Cut your own vegetables instead of buying them peeled and cut.  Bake your own bread.  Make pizza or spaghetti sauce instead of buying the jars.  Watch youtube videos.  Start boards on pinterest for lunch, dinner, and from scratch ideas. Talk to your friends that love to cook. Take a few minutes to plan the next weeks meals ahead of time instead of deciding what you will eat when it’s lunch time.   Before you go grocery shopping, take a look at the circular (often available online) and plan your shopping list around the sales that save you the most.  Buy something new, that is affordable, and learn to cook it.  Are pork chops on sale?  They are often a very affordable cut of meat.  Buy them, then research how to cook them in a way that appeals to you.

I will warn you that if becoming more familiar with food is a new thing, pace yourself.  You will spend more time in the kitchen as you become familiar with how to cut vegetables, read recipes, and put meals together.  Cooking is a skill, and skills take time to develop.  Don’t give up after a week because you didn’t see a huge drop in your grocery bill and you spent way too much time in the kitchen. Give yourself grace.  You will probably burn things or undercook food.  It happens. It’s all a part of learning.  Throw the undercooked food back in the oven and cut off the burnt parts!

Cooking doesn’t need to become a rigid, only-from-scratch thing you do, unless you want it to.  Definitely give yourself time to learn in the kitchen, but don’t feel guilty about enjoying a meal out if you can afford it!  Start simple, and if you aren’t sure what simple meals, talk to your friends.  Use recipes that you can read and understand.   Involve your family, let them help and teach them as you learn.

I try to learn at least one new thing in the kitchen each week.  Whether it’s a new cut for carrots, an entirely new meal, using a new ingredient, making a different ingredient from scratch, learning a new cooking method… I love to learn.  It has made me the cook I am today – I still have so much to learn but I can look back and see how far I have come.  I can look back and remember the storebought dough I made rolls from one night that were so hard my husband could hit them with a baseball bat and sail them into the cornfield behind our apartment (and they didn’t break).  I remember that my rice had always been too hard, undercooked, or to sticky – for YEARS!!  I didn’t know how to brown beef before I met my husband.  I had many, many failures.  But even more successes – because I tried.  I took on new challenges.  I ask myself often, “I wonder if I can make this?” And then I try.

I would love to hear from you what you are challenging yourself with.  If you need a place to start saving grocery money and you are lost, maybe I can help you. Feel free to contact me.

A new year is almost here.  If you need to make a change to your grocery budget, this is a great resolution to make!

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