Friday, September 23, 2016

Back To Basics: Food

Rhonda, one of my long time readers, reminded me in the comments yesterday that everything seems to be getting more expensive even without large unexpected surprises. She is so correct. Hubby and I just had this conversation on Wednesday evening. I was so proud of him. Our doorbell rang and there stood a little 9 year old neighbor of ours selling some item for homeschooling. I know schools send kids out to sell all kinds of things like cards and wrapping paper this time of the year but home schooled kids? It has annoyed me since we retired because I paid  the way for my kids and never let them go out door to door to sell anything. The schools never made but a percentage off what was sold so we always just sent a small donation for them to keep with no product. Hubby nicely turned her down. I was shocked because he has purchased all kinds of things from the neighbor kids the past 6 years. I asked him how come he turned her down and he said because everything is getting more and more expensive so we need to watch our own money very closely in retirement. I was so proud of him.

Now let's talk about my basic food plan. We already have a very good stockpile of food in our home consisting of two freezers that are almost full, two pantries in the kitchen, our refrigerator, and our basement pantry. We will be eating from them. Of course we will run out of a lot of things and have to replace them but only the basic things on my list below will get purchased. No frills, just what I consider basic healthy cheap from scratch food. That is what my grocery lists will consist of.

I will scan the store flyers on Sunday and note on my list any foods from the basic list that I need. Next I will check to see if Aldi's has it cheaper. If there is a great price( better than Aldi's) at a regular grocery store, I will look for a coupon or a rebate from one of the apps like Ibotta or Checkout 51, etc. I will also take note of any free after coupon items and if they are healthy items, they will go on my list.  

After I scan the flyers and get any store coupons that I might need, I will throw them away since I only plan on shopping once a week at the most. I don't want to be tempted all week. If there is nothing I need that week, I will not go near a grocery store. 

I also plan on putting all of my cheap recipe books on my pantry shelf in the kitchen. Many of them were written in the 1950's and 1960's. They used good cheap basic food in recipes.

No food will be wasted in our kitchen. Leftovers will be eaten until they are gone or frozen for future meals. I will keep a daily eye on produce and expiration dates for dairy and canned goods so that nothing will get thrown out. I will run my kitchen like a restaurant so that everything gets used up. 

I will menu plan every week so that I know what we are having every day of the week. I will co-ordinate our calendar with our meal plan so that I have an easy dinner or leftovers on the days that we will be out until dinnertime. There will be no excuse for stops to pick up fast food for dinner because I feel rushed. 

We will be eating out one day next week because it is Hubby's 70th birthday and he wants veal parmesan. It is cheaper for us to go to our local restaurant for this meal than to buy veal cutlet and the other items for this meal. We will have one beer each(now that the Dr. says Hubby can have an occasional beer) and then water to drink. The beers at the hour we go will each be a $ 1.00 off. They also have a dinner for two but I am not sure that the veal is included. But I will ask. My birthday is two weeks after his so I will consider his dinner my celebration too. We also have a free dessert coupon so we will share whatever that is. If we are too full of pasta, we will bring it home for another day. We also have an 80th Birthday Party to go to at a restaurant. Our meals are paid for by the host but we will make up for it with the restaurant gift card that we give the birthday recipient. I don't foresee any other meals out in the foreseeable future. If we have one, I will let you know.

Here is my list of basic items:

Rice,pasta, dry beans, potatoes(in November I will look for these at a $ 1.00 a lb. or less), and onions

Apples because they are in season for Fall. Any fresh, canned or frozen fruit that is $ 1.00 lb. or less. Fresh cranberries at Thanksgiving if the price is right. I freeze these and use them all year in breads and muffins. Juice when I can find it cheaply.

Canned pumpkin at Aldi's(to replenish my supply),
or fresh pumpkin that I can cook and freeze if the price is cheap. We are not known for cheap pumpkins in this area so I may not find a good price. The canned will most likely be cheaper.    

Squash(under $ 1.00 a lb), lettuce, tomatoes,and any veggie that is under $1.00 per lb. Otherwise I will buy frozen bags of veggies on sale for $ 1.00 a lb.

Baking supplies( which includes raisins) at rock bottom prices(especially in November and December). I will be making all of my own bread( including English muffins), muffins, rolls, pizza crusts, pie dough,pancakes, waffles, donuts,cookies,( I already have the ingredients for these), cakes,and any other dessert that I have the ingredients for.

Any condiment that I can make cheaper than buying them, I will. Tartar sauce, cocktail sauce and salad dressings come to mind.

Olive oil

Spices(although it will be a long time before I run out of these). When I do I buy them in big jugs at the warehouse club.

Peanut butter and sugar free jam. 

Milk, Half and Half(no creamers), sour cream, all cheeses, and eggs under $1.00 a dozen. Butter(at rock bottom prices around Thanksgiving and Christmas). I have enough to last me until then.

Canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and paste( for making spaghetti sauce).

Tuna, canned chicken, and turkey at the warehouse club with store coupons for lunches.

Coffee K-cups as cheap as I can get them. I am well stocked(5 large boxes) because Hubby does not seem to be drinking coffee these days. I only have one cup in the morning.

Plain oatmeal.

Honey and maple syrup.

Vinegars to use in salad dressings and other recipes and for cleaning.

Tortillas and taco shells.

Crackers which is usually Ritz, Saltines and Triscuits.

Any meat or poultry under $ 2.00 a lb. Turkeys hopefully will be cheap before Thanksgiving. I have one large turkey in the freezer right now that I want to cook as soon as the weather cools off here. Besides turkey it will mainly be pork chops, boneless chicken or thighs, ground beef which is rare at this price, and reduced for quick sale meat. I have a lot of shrimp and haddock in the freezer right now. When it is gone, there will be no more because it is not cheap.

I don't think that I have forgotten anything but if I have please remind me.

Hopefully this plan will get my atrocious grocery bills down.

Pictured above is a homemade chicken lasagna that I made in a roasting pan. I baked it last night. We had it with a small salad and homemade garlic toast. There is plenty for many more meals. Some of it I froze in portions and some is in the fridge to eat over the next couple of days. When I want to reheat it, the microwave will do a quick cheap job. Cooking in bulk saves you time, money and energy. 

Feel free to let me know if I forgot any basic item by leaving a comment. Any comments are most welcome.               


  1. We are practicing ultra frugality in my home as well. And my grocery budget is the one area that I always know I can cut pennies (and dollars!) from. This is a great list of basics.

    How do you make sure you have plenty of variety in your menus? I tend to get in a rut with cooking the same things over and over again.

    1. Hi Stephanie,

      I will change up side dishes..make different flavored rices, potatoes(roasted, mashed, au gratin,etc.) I also will serve meats in different ways. The trick is to make Hubby think that he is getting a variety. However, right now we have lost of different things because of the stockpile.

  2. Thank you for your tips and showing your own plans for getting the bills down. I used your advice before of using the toaster oven instead of the oven and we got our gas bill down to 25$ which is cheap for us. Also this is our first full summer season that we have made it through without a 200$ plus electric bill. We almost made it through the season last year but oddly enough September and October both had heatwaves. Very exciting stuff! Our next challenge is our food because i have a very bad habit of buying a lot of groceries and then also getting takeout sometimes several times a week :(

    1. Hi Amanda,

      Kudos to you on the gas and electric bills. It is amazing what can be done with so little effort.

      I hear you on the food and takeout. I am trying to get back to where I was.

  3. Looking forward to your series. We are currently one income with 3 teens (2 are boys) and we go thru groceries like crazy! I was able to get in on a bulk apple buy where I will get 40 pounds of apples for .50 per pound. I am wondering if I should have bought more. I know our local grocery ads just aren't as good as they used to be and really good deals are harder to find.

    Tomorrow i am going back to the store for my 3rd round of soups with ad coupon + mfg coupon making it .49 per can.

    I am hoping for some good deals on butter and baking supplies as the holidays get closer

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Thanks. I had two teen boys and I feel for you with how much groceries they will eat.If you have a place to store those apples so they won't go bad or you can dehydrate them, I would get some more. My boys could go thru 50 lbs of apples in no time. Me too on the butter. I would love to see if at least $2.00 a lb.

  4. I think you pretty well covered it! That chicken lasagna looks delicious. I've been making my lists also because I need to save since our little car died and my husband is convinced that we need to replace it even though I think we can manage sharing my car for the time being.

    1. Hi Debbie,

      Thanks. We have managed now with one car for over 15 years and we did for many years when the boys were young to. But if husband is convinced then saving the money to buy the next one is the way to do it. The best of luck to you.

  5. Great list! I so want to stock up when things are the cheapest. Hopefully little by little, I will have a good stockpile.

    1. Hi Kathy,

      Little by little is the way to do it. Good luck!