Here are some of my thoughts or tips. If you have something to add on to, please feel free to enter them in the comments. These tips involve some work, so these might not work for everyone. Here they go...
- Buy in bulk the things you use up most. For example rice, instead of buying a 10 lb bag, buy 20 lb bag. Stock it up when there is a sale. Rice doesn’t go bad for years if stored in cool, dry place. Same goes with all purpose flour, bread flour if you bake regularly. I found 50 lb bag of bread floor for 14 dollars in Costco. It does need to be stored, but I bake bread at least twice a week for just the house. When I entertain, it gets used up more. Some of the things you can stock up in bulk are oats, sugar, dals, grains like chana, dry peas, rajma etc. Mixing couple of bay leaves will keep the bugs away. Another way to keep bugs away is to freeze the unopened packets of dal/legumes for couple of days and then transfer to containers. This ensures that the nits if any are killed so that there won’t be any bugs in them. Nuts can be bought in bulk too. They store for a year in freezer. Just take small amounts at a time and put it back in the freezer. Buying big packets of soji/rawa is cheaper. Just roast it and keep it and they’ll stay fresh for months. You can actually roast them in the oven with no effort.
- Just buying in bulk does not save any money if it goes wasted. If you are worried about spoilage, try finding someone who might be interested in the same ingredients and split these with them. It works out great since you don’t have to store all of it.
- People pay a lot for the name brand. Quakers oats (2lb +) box costs approximately 3 dollars in most of the stores. (It is 3+, not less anywhere I have seen) If you go for the store brand, it is always less than 3 dollars. Even in Indian stores, Lakshmi brand or Deep brands are more expensive unless they are on some kind of promotion or sale. Basically all these are the same, and it doesn’t make any difference if you use the store brand except for saving some money.
- Major share of grocery bill is milk. I know you cannot get this in bulk and store. Shop around and keep an eye on the sale. Sometimes stores sell milk for half the price as a promotion. You’ll be able to find some store which sells it cheaper and if that store happens to be on the way to your work or another grocery store you regularly visit, it is actually good thing to buy it there. I know lot of people might think it as waste of time, but you can get enough milk for up to 3 weeks and store it if you have enough space in the refrigerator. Plus, make your own yogurt. Homemade yogurt tastes better, doesn’t have any additives and is more economical. Just do the math here. If you make yogurt for half the gallon of milk, which is around 2 dollars, check how much yogurt you can get for 2 dollars. It is that simple.
- Butter can be bought when on sale or from stores like BJs, Costco, Sams and frozen for later use. It is so cheap to buy like that than individual packs.
- “Homemade is money saved” - This is so true. We are all humans and we all need a break. Instead of eating out just out of laziness, plan ahead and when you make curries, make more and freeze in individual containers so that it is enough for one meal for your family. You can freeze idly batter, dosa batter for up to 3 months. I have a wet grinder and when I make these batters, I make more and after they are fermented, put in different freezer safe boxes (just enough for one or two times) and freeze them. When I am out of the batter in the refrigerator, I take it out and thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours and use it. I don't keep this for more than two days after thawing.
- Buy vegetables from local truck patch or farmer’s market when available in bulk and either freeze them or cook something with them and freeze/can. This summer, I bought a basket of 28 lbs of tomatoes for 10 bucks and froze half of that. With the other half, I made tomato jam, tomato gojju, tomato soup. We are still using the jam. And gojju typically stays in refrigerator for a month if made in proper way. Compare it with 99 cents/pound (cheapest you can get tomatoes around where I live) against this.
- Research the prices in all the grocery stores in your area. I have found that ALDI is the cheapest though it doesn’t carry everything we need. Next comes Walmart super center, Wegman’s etc.
- We are vegetarians and I do use eggs sometimes in some recipes even though I do not eat them. (I decorate cakes for family and friends and it is easier to carve, stack the cakes made with eggs rather than egg less cakes) I have found that there is no reason not to use medium size eggs where it calls for large unless the number of eggs in the recipe is more than 3. I am putting this here since medium sized eggs are cheaper than large eggs and are sometimes on sale for half the price compared to large eggs.
- I basically bake and cook everything from scratch, but I do keep cake mixes in my pantry for emergency purposes. With kids around (you cannot make them eat fruits all the time), when they ask for brownies, I can make a batch of brownies using cake mix (actually two batches since this makes a huge pan compared to brownie mix) in 30 – 35 minutes for less than 2 dollars whereas I would use 2 dollars for brownie mix alone for half of this. Refer to my recipe as to how to use a cake mix to make blondies. Same if you make with chocolate mix, it comes close to a brownie.
- Buy berries in season and spread them on cookie sheet and freeze them. Once they are solidly frozen, pack them in Ziploc freezer bags and freeze them. This will be half cheaper than buying frozen berries when not in season.
- If you have kids, morning breakfast can be an expensive deal too unless they eat Indian breakfast. Most of the time a working mom like me, has no time early in the morning to make an elaborate breakfast everyday. I do give my kids pancakes, waffles some days. Some days they eat cereal. When I give them pancakes or waffles, it is not made then and there. Even a half batch of pancake would make at least 6 and unless you have more than 3 people eating, it is sort of waste of time. I make it every other weekend and when cooled, freeze between wax papers. Just take them out and pop it in the microwave for 20 – 30 seconds and the pancakes or waffles are ready. I even make the syrup myself once in two weeks. Recipes for them will follow soon. These are much better and healthier than eggo waffles or pancakes you get in the freezer section. At least mine are just 2 weeks old and I save money on it too.
- If you like Granola and use it regularly for breakfast, it is cheaper and better to make it at home than buy from the store.
- It is Holidays season now and even though we do not celebrate Christmas, we have to give some gifts to teachers, colleagues etc. Even if your budget is 20 dollars per person, you can’t get anything decent for that money and that 20 dollars times number of people you are gifting add up to a big fat amount. I always bake something for the school and teachers. They love my food and I love baking and it saves me some money on gifts. I would rather give something they enjoy rather than giving something they stuff in their basement and clear it up in their next garage sale.
- Use coupons. If you use coupons at least 2 times on 50 % of the products you buy in a wholesale clubs like BJ's or Costco, the savings will pay for the membership themselves. You are getting free membership for already low prices.