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Cutting Back on Your Food Costs--Part 2--How to Shop Well

Food expenses aren't static and therein lies the problem when shoving them into a tight-fitting budget. Take November and December, for example. You always spend more. Then in the summer months, you spend less. But if you learn well these next two tips, you will have stored-up foodstuffs when times are financially snug because you will have stocked up by shopping well.

In Part 1 of this series, we learned in Tip #1, to begin with, a food budget using the USDA suggestions. Then in Tip #2, we started eating up our present provisions. Big savings right there! In this Part 2 blog--"How to Shop Well"-- we will acquire two more important points. Tip #3--Involve Your Family, and Tip #4--Start Stockpiling.

Tip #3--Involve Your Family

When my food budget efforts burst, I didn't involve my entire family. After all, shouldn't they have some say in what they get to eat? Thus, through the years, I began applying these three consistent actions:

  1. Tell them they WILL BE eating the same dinner for two nights in a row.

  2. Ask them what favorite things are that they'd like to eat for two nights in a row.

  3. Teach them to shop frugally by bringing them with you to the grocery store as much as possible.

(OK, after Covid-19, number three probably sent shivers down your spine, but hear me out on this, that last one.)

The explanation of why they will be eating the same dinner for two nights in a row is rather simple: it is much easier. Now from that bold yet effective statement, you can speedily draw out your family's favorite dishes. And you, in your wisdom, already have pencil and paper in hand to take down those important preferences. From that list, then, make up your master 31-day family menu as one of the Kennedy wives did, and get started serving meals two nights in a row. It will save your sanity and help keep your food budget in check.

Now for the third above point of bringing your offspring with you when you grocery shop. Here's why it's important.

*** They learn the necessity of shopping the perimeter of the grocery store instead of its inner isles because on the outside is where fresh organic foods are found--vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs, milk, loaves of bread. And as their wise mentor, you point out that the inside isles are where processed foods lure you into purchasing them by offering you big discount coupons. And here, at this exact point, is where you show your child that coupons only drive you to purchase dead foods versus the more alive foods as found along the edges of wherever you shop. No one can convince me that dead and boxed foods ever assisted my family's health.

***And while shopping with your offspring might seem daunting, give them a good math lesson on shopping with cash and calculator and how this simple practice causes one to spend far less than using a credit card. For example, I watched my oldest child effectively use cash and a calculator later in his 30's when he was living as a single dad. I was so glad shopping well had transferred this knowledge. When we all shopped together, I also allowed each child to toss in one price-declared item. Several undeclared ones always slid through to the register, but it was a small cost to pay for children who learned the meaning of a food budget and how to best help in the grocery aisle. Because as our family grew, I could say, "David, go get organic mustard, and he'd actually do it. Amazing. A few extra treats thrown in were worth their assistance and their knowledge in shopping well.

Tip #4--Employ The Pantry Principle

One of the many beauties of aging is watching simple truths pan out. Take "The Pantry Principle," for example. This concept surfaced for me in the late 1900s. The idea is simple. In your pantry or supply locker, have at least two of everything. That way, when you cook with one jar, can, or pasta box, you'll have one left. Many theories say to buy as much as you can when you can and to watch grocery store fliers for discounts where at the ends of grocery isles, the flier "loss leaders" can always be found. Grocery stores lure us all in with these discounted items—10 cans for 10 dollars. Yes, loss leaders are a great bargain, but after 40 years of cooking, I've found that less is more.

Because unless I am feeding seven, I don't need seven extra cans of green beans. One extra will do. So with The Pantry Principle, start accumulating two of everything. That means when those lean times come, you will have extra cans in your pantry to lean on.

An ambitious three Month Family Favorite Meal Planner

John 4:34 states, “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.’“


Martha Wild King, M. Ed., Author

The Frugal Catholic: Learn to live on less to give and save more.

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