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Q&A Tuesday: How do you save money on groceries in rural areas?

I’m writing to you to see if you have any suggestions for people who live in rural areas, far from Walmarts, Targets and Walgreens. My husband and I live and work at a Baptist camp in the Panhandle of Texas with our sweet baby girl. We try to use cash for everything, and have tried to narrow our budget down as much as possible in order to eliminate. The nearest of any of the stores I mentioned above are at least two hours away. I can use coupons and things like that at the local grocery stores, but things are so much more expensive here (for example, sometimes $6 or $7 for a box of cereal).

I am also trying to be healthy for my family: whole grains, lots of fruits/vegetables and little processed foods. That, however, also adds up. Healthier foods are often more expensive, and the produce sections can be really shabby. Do you have any suggestions or advice?
-Lacey

Lacey, it sounds like you are doing a great job already, so be encouraged!

I’ve never lived far, far away from big box stores before, but my advice would be to “think outside the box”. You’re not going to be able to score some of the amazing deals other readers here do, but you can still keep your grocery bill rather low. Here are a few ideas I had (many which you’re probably already doing!):

Stick with simple meals. It sounds like you are not using a lot of processed foods, which is likely helping you keep your grocery budget low. If your husband is okay with it, you could plan a weekly meatless night where you have burritos or beans and rice. A weekly breakfast for dinner, a weekly soup night and a weekly homemade pizza night are a few other simple ways to keep dinners inexpensive. If you serve meat as a condiment rather than the main thing, you’ll usually greatly reduce your grocery budget. (Mary Ostyn writes more about this in her book, Family Feasts for $75 Per Week. Excellent book, if you’ve not read it yet!)

Examine your expenditures. Where are you spending the bulk of your grocery money? If it’s on household products, consider making your own cleaners, using cloth diapers or and eliminating paper products.

Look for great deals online. Based upon the price of cereal in your area, I’m guessing the sales at Amazon are usually always going to beat your local prices. You could also look into ordering from places like Mountain Rose Herbs or other online sites. Watch for specials, free shipping offers and coupon codes.

Consider growing a garden for as much of your produce as you can. If you don’t have a green thumb, see if you can find a friend who grows a garden who might be willing to sell you produce or barter their extra garden produce for your willingness to bake them bread or babysit.

Buy in bulk. If you’re eating mostly whole foods, I’d suggest making a trip to the nearest town every few months to stock up in large quantities. It would totally be worth a drive of an hour or two both ways to save $500 on your groceries. You’ll want to calculate in the cost of gas as well as the wear and tear on your car, though, when considering how much this will save. And remember that your time is valuable, too, so I’d only recommend a big day trip like this every six to eight weeks.

Keep a positive attitude. Maybe you can’t get great deals on groceries where you are living and you’re probably going to have a higher grocery bill than others, however, I’m almost certain that living where you live is providing you opportunities to bless and minister to others which are worth the extra costs.

What ideas do the rest of you have for saving money on groceries when you live in rural areas?

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118 Comments

  • Katie says:

    Id suggest checking out the subscribe and save option on amazon for frequently used things. Coffee or cereal for example. Also sign up for amazon mom for diapers ect.

    • Maria says:

      This! I’ve seen good deals on cereals, even on Cascadian Farms, which would really help her save!

    • I agree! I recently discovered soap.com and it’s so nice because it’s free 2-day shipping for orders over $25 and the prices are comparable to the Walmart that’s 30 miles away but I would spend more time and money on gas if I had to drive there for everything. So, now I get contact solution, kleenex, Tom’s of Maine deodorant, lotion, vitamins, etc. through soap.com
      I highly recommend amazon.com diaper deals as they often have things on sale, esp. when you buy in bulk.
      I live in a rural area (Wyoming–it’s all rural out here!) and I try to hit the sales each week at the local grocery stores and order online and look for opportunities to shop at bulk food clubs when I’m in the big city.

      • Jenny says:

        Also check out alice.com for toiletries. It’s also free shipping plus it applies available coupons too. I’ve used the site before when I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it to the store before we ran out of necessities.

        • Jessica says:

          I agree with alice.com, soap.com, and amazon. I get my diapers from amazon and have had good experiences on deals from alice and soap. For instance, soap recently had a good deal on swiffer products and on glad products.

  • Jen says:

    I have noticed at our nearest Aldi store (Wooster, OH) quite a few Amish people buying in bulk. They have huge orders to make it worthwhile for their long and infrequent trips into a larger town for bargain shopping. You might research and see if their is one within a reasonable driving distance.

  • Melodie says:

    I find that cooking from scratch saves a bundle too! Forget the convenience foods. Coupons make them go on sale enough to be worth buying sometimes around here, but in areas where competition is scarce, you are likely to see the prices drop reasonably.

    Get a bread maker, get a pasta maker, even a food mill. If you are in a rural area, then my guess is you are surrounded by farmers. Buy produce, grains, etc directly from them if you can. And ditto to growing a garden. In fact, if you have enough land, you may even consider raising your own steer. It’s really not as hard as you’d think. Do people hunt in your area? Could you pay a hunter to share his bounty with you? Are there ranchers nearby that will sell you a quarter cow or pig after butchering to stuff in your freezer?

    You may find that your options seem more expensive, but ultimately it may force you to live healthier and be a blessing in disguise.

    • Fireweed says:

      And don’t waste money on things like a pasta maker or bread maker—you can easily do those things by hand!

      • Johnlyn says:

        I love my bread maker! One of the best things I’ve ever invested in. Yes, I could do it by hand, but it makes my life easier by having one.

        They often have these at thrift stores.

        • Holly says:

          My mom has gotten several George Foreman’s, a meat grinder (very good for making filler-free cheaper ground meats from roasts), bread maker, and juicer from thift stores. Great tip!

      • Crystal says:

        Personally, if you’re able to get a breadmaker and use it, I think it will pay for itself very quickly in the time you’ll save. Yes, you can mix and knead bread by hand, but being able to throw it all in the bread machine in a few minutes and then having beautiful dough ready to make into rolls, cinnamon rolls or a loaf of bread after 1.5 hours is so worth it to me. Truthfully, I’d make bread a lot less often if it weren’t for my bread machine.

        Time is money, too, and I’d say that most weeks my bread machine at least thirty minutes — plus, it means we have a lot more homemade bread, which is less expensive and better for you. In a year’s time, that adds up really quickly!

      • Lee says:

        The bread maker is great, but the Artisan bread in 5 min a day is great too. and a lot less work than all the kneading traditional bread takes.

      • Yes! I’ve recently learned to do both! It’s so easy, and my husband says he’ll never go back to store-bought bread!

      • Jennifer says:

        I love, love, love my bread machine. I use it for so many different things. Allrecipes has a awesome Bread Machine Calzone recipe. I have an Oster and love it. Sam’s Club, if you know someone that has a membership, has great prices on instant yeast and bread flour. I keep the extra pack of yeast in my freezer, but if you know someone who also has a machine you can easily split the cost. I keep the extra flour in my deep freeze in old plastic coffee cans.

        I also have a pasta machine and really don’t use it that much because of the mess involved. My mother in law uses hers all the time but she enjoys it and has more time on her hands because she is not chasing down bargains all the time!

  • 1. Find some other similar families and carpool to that big city, or partner up for those bulk buys. If she found three other families and they went to that city once every three months, each woman would only have to go once per year to stock up.

    2. Where she is, she should be able to grow a garden for 9 months of the year as opposed to just summertime in northern climates. Even ‘brown’ thumbs can grow herbs, tomatoes, green beans and greens.

    3. “Whole grains” doesn’t just mean the expensive ones. Popcorn is a whole grain. Corn on the cob is a whole grain. Oatmeal is a whole grain.

    4. Look into Angel Food Ministries and farmer’s markets and u-pick farms.

  • Jennifer says:

    Why not order your groceries online? Amazon has a ton of food products and I know I can get organic cereal for $3-4 a box on a regular basis at Amazon, much better than the $6-7 a box. I second the recommendation to make the drive every few months. I remember seeing a video of a family in Alaska that had no access to a grocery store expect when they took a plane, which they did, twice a year. It takes planning and saving for such a large purchase, but in the end you will likely save a ton of money. Good luck!

    • Melissa says:

      I’m really all about the planning. I used to live about an hour and a half from a walmart and large grocery stores and my husband and I will be moving out of town again shortly so I will be in the same ‘boat’ again soon. But in our busy lives, I “NEED” to be able to get some of the quick pre-made things, especially since our family has become accustomed to eating things like that and my husband’s favorite breakfast ever is Lucky Charms, LOL!

      I would plan our meals for three months at a time and spend the weekend after my big trip cooking up a storm. I can figure on a box of cereal lasting our family three days and then I pre-make whole grain pancakes and freeze them individually. Other things I pre-make is Chinese Fried Rice with chicken and eggs – I’m with ‘money saving mom’ on the skimp on the meat idea – I use twice the brown rice so our meat goes twice as far. I freeze the meals as flat as possible so I can fit LOTS of them in our freezers.

      I puree veggies and freeze them so that I can add them to all kinds of sauces, soups and foods – EVEN bread. I pre-make dough for pie crusts, roll them out and freeze them individually so all I have to do is unroll and bake. I also do the same with homemade honey-wheat bread – the dough freezes just fine. Thaw and bakc.

      I have a family of brand-name junkies too. All of my cleaning products, hygiene items and other random things are brand-named, so coupons are huge for me. Sometimes I even go onto thecouponclippers.com and ebay to purchase many of the coupons I’ll need for my ‘big trip’. Again, planning is absolutely essential. Find four stores in the city that are coupon-friendly. Get their flyers ahead of time and plan each stop according to how you’re able to match up the coupons. You CAN do it!

  • Kristen says:

    Thanks for this article! I don’t live in a rural area, but I live in Hawaii, and things can get a little outrageous here. I am very lucky to have the ability to shop at the military commissary, and save a lot of money. Still, some things add up fast, and I appreciate the organization of ideas in this article that I can systematically work through. Today, I’m going to do some price comparisons for non-food items at Amazon. (They won’t ship the food to Hawaii, but they will ship toilet paper I think!)

  • Noelle says:

    I would also suggest asking the local grocer when they do markdowns.
    Plan your shopping around this time whenever possible and you might find some good deals on meat, dairy and produce.

  • KatieBee says:

    Amazon offers an entire section of warehouse deals-cereals, PB, etc. and quite a few organics too. The prices are pretty reasonable, plus no tax (depending on your state) and no shipping if you are a part of one of their niche groups.

    Growing up on a rural ranch, we left very few times throughout the year. We had a simple garden, canned as much fruit as we could, had 2 big freezers where we froze fruits and vegetables that we couldn’t eat right away. I can’t tell you how many quarts of applesauce we went through – probably 100 or more a year (there were 5 kids). The last few weeks of each season were kind of brutal – you basically were cleaning out whatever was left, so meals were a hodgepodge. But very little ever went to waste.

    Invest in restaurant quality covered bins for grains, sugar, cereal, etc. – you will thank yourself later when you have no bugs in your food :). Learn to can; buy a dehydrator (fruit leathers are great homemade). Good luck!!

    • Melissa says:

      To add – a big freezer that you can organize is a VERY worthwhile investment. I even keep extra flour and sugar in there to prevent bugs (I used to live in Florida and this was frequently an issue there). The covered bins are also a great point.

      A few of my other very worthwhile investments were a strong mixer (I use this to kneed my bread), two dehydrators and a smoker for meats and fish. Jars for canning are another expensive investment but I think they’re worth it. I prefer freezing though because I feel that the less you process foods, the more nutrients can be kept.

  • Jenn says:

    I grew up near a town of 27 people (for real!) and my mom & dad learned quickly the art of living frugally even in the middle of nowhere. These are the things they did:

    1. Grew a garden (a big one!)

    2. Raised chickens for eggs & meat (which may not be possible for some, but we lived on a farm). We ate lamb as well, which we raised.

    3. Shopped in bulk for things like flour, sugar, beans & rice when we went to the nearest “big” town for groceries

    4. Bargained and traded with neighbors for produce or other items they had they we didn’t have, including meat from hunters.

    5. Cooked from scratch and baked and froze bread & buns for the times when Dad needed meals brought out to the field. Mom would also buy lunch meat and cheese in bulk and then freeze them.

    6. Canned and froze our own produce, both fruits and veggies. We lived in North Dakota, so we couldn’t get fresh produce in the winter unless purchased in a store. We stored potatoes, carrots & other root veggies in a root cellar over the winter.

    7. Accepted the fact that we might have to pay more than some people for some groceries, but that we probably saved money in lots of other ways!

    As a mom, I employ some of these strategies too, but I live in town so we don’t have chickens. Looking back I see how industrious my parents were and how they taught me so much in the area of self-sufficiency.

    • Jenn says:

      One other thing we did when we quit raising sheep was buy 1/2 beef from some neighbors; they pastured their cows, so it was pretty much organic and it was much cheaper than purchasing from a store. Keep it in a large freezer and find lots of recipes for beef and you’re good to go 🙂

  • Danielle says:

    Thankfully, we do have big box stores nearby, BUT we have a tight budget and a growing family. So I need to cut costs in any way possible. So, as for eliminating paper consumables, you can go a step further than using rags instead of paper towels by finding a suitable substitute for Kleenex. We go through tissues like crazy with allergies in the family and cold season in full swing, so I used an old cigar box of my Dad’s to hold small “hankies.” It’s an attractive wooden box that sits on our counter where the Kleenex used to be. When we’ve used one, we put it in the rag bin to be washed with the next load. We’ve used cut-up T-shirts, but those thin Circo baby wash cloths you can find at Target work well too. Maybe this idea is too icky for some (I am finding I need to have a box of disposables on hand for guests), but once you’ve done cloth diapers, you’ll try almost anything. Cloth menstrual pads and panty liners are another option to consider. The only paper good we still buy is toilet paper 🙂

  • Jennifer G. says:

    You could also ask the manager of your local store if they’d be willing to give you discounts when buying by the case or bushel.

    • Rachael says:

      Great post! I am so excited to here ideas since I live in a rural area about 45 minutes from a larger city. While I am able to get to the larger city once every week or two, I try not to! Some things I do save money include:

      1. Shop once a month at Sam’s Club and stock up on paper products and other staples (flour, for example). I buy 3 gallons of milk at a time and they last for two weeks or so, for a family of four (one who is a baby). I also buy fruit, but save the apples and oranges for the second week. We also eated canned fruit when we run out of fresh or just buy bananas (they are the cheapest) at our local store. Since I can not get every super deal at the grocery, I am generally happy with the prices and know Iwon’t run out of something I need–having to pay the extra price of buying it at my higher priced local store.

      2. Also, continue to use sales and coupons to buy groceries when I do my big once a month stock up trip. When I know I am going to town, I make a very organized list and catch the sales and use the coupons I can. I also make sure to go to stores that double to further my savings. For me, it is absolutely worth the gas money to do some of my shopping in a larger city. I try to make a day of it and do something fun, too–even just going out to a nice lunch.

      3. I don’t garden, but I help my brother with some other chores and he shares produce with me. We, too, can and freeze a lot of summer produce. Also, a family in our town has a farm stand every summer at rock bottom prices and I use this on a weekly basis.

      4. Use the sale ads from my local store if I have to shop there.

      5. Buy milk at the gas station in town, which is much cheaper than the local store.

  • Holly says:

    You could start a group with other families to buy in bulk from farmers or from bulk food stores. It may take a little bit of coordinating, but a cooperative could save you a ton of money.

  • JRF says:

    I definitely agree on starting a garden, it is amazing how much you can save by growing your own vegetable. I live in the city with a tiny garden, but I still have fresh herbs year round, cherry tomatoes and more..it definitely saves.

    If you have lots of storage room, you should consider buying half a cow from a local farm, you might also be able to find great deals on eggs and dairy this way.

    JR
    Frugality Is Free

    • Amy says:

      Everyone is giving great advice on buying a part of a beef for meat, which is good advice- go for it! But don’t stop there, ask a dairy if you can buy some milk, and find a chicken farmer for eggs. I buy milk from a local dairy for $2/gallon. Then I take the cream from the milk put it in my electric butter churn and make butter. I trade some of this butter for a dozen eggs. So for my $8 per week I get 3 gallons of milk(4 gallons less 1 quart each taken of cream), 1 dozen eggs, some butter and buttermilk.
      Look at yard sales and thrift stores for canning jars. If you can get into canning for not too much expense it is a great way to make cheaper foods. Salsa, applesauce, canned pie fillings all are better tasting and much cheaper than store bought. Get a juicer and make/can homemade juices. Where I live in Idaho we have lots of wild growing apple trees. These small apples aren’t real great for much cooking, but are great in juice! My brother made a homemade apple press and each year my extended family gets together and makes apple juice. We get anywhere from 50-100 gallons of juice to share and take home to can!

  • Heather says:

    Good ideas. And think how much cheaper your property taxes/housing costs must be there than in the big city. So at least you’re saving there. And I find that in urban and especially suburban areas, there is more of a spend, spend, spend culture. There’s a lot of pressure to put your kids in expensive programs, have your house “decorated”, drive nice cars, etc.

    • Kristen says:

      Ain’t that the truth. If you don’t have the biggest, baddest, bestest, of everything you get looked down upon. I just keep Dave Ramsey’s mantra in my head – Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’ because the Jones’ are BROKE! LOL!

  • Lisa Myers says:

    Are there farmers near you that raise chickens for eggs, dairy cows, etc? See if you can barter something with them – watching their children, sewing, ironing, canning, baking, etc… My husband and I have found that purchasing 1/2 a cow and having it processed at a local butcher gets us a year’s worth of beef for around $.80 a pound. You have to pay for it up front but it certainly helps our budget throughout the year!

    • Chandler says:

      I am just learning about this as well, but it also allows you to have your meat packaged as you like…and it can be healthier based on how they raise their beef. I am looking at doing this when the season starts back up.

  • Steph says:

    Azure standard (azurestandard.com) has recently begun delivery to parts of Texas. Depending on where you are located, they’re a good source of natural/bulk foods. Some things are pricier than we can get locally (in central TX), but the whole grains, honey, etc are less. The current route goes south into Amarillo (from OK/KS) then heads East. You might check them out. We’ve been pleased so far, as the ‘healthy’ options down here are hard to find or just too expensive.

    • Julie says:

      I 2nd that about Azure Standard. I get all our bulk flour, sugar, dried fruits, yeast, etc from them. For us in Oregon it is free shipment if we pick it up from the drop point on the scheduled day. Very nice option to have!

      I agree about gardening, buying a whole or half beef etc. Those are all things we do along with canning hundreds of pounds of fruit each year! We have 4 kids and I feel like we do pretty good with the food budget between the canning, some couponing, planning meals to what’s on sale, and learning to cook from scratch more and more.

      Check our Azure Standard, hopefully they have a drop point near you! Good luck saving money!

    • I was also going to suggest Azure Standard. Having the food come to you is a great way to do it. They have food-grade buckets as well, and gamma lids, which are wonderful for the buckets that you open frequently.

      I live near big box stores, but I save a lot of money buying in bulk. I buy oats, beans,wheat, and flour in 25lb bags, popcorn and rice in 50lb bags.

      You can also buy potatoes in bulk as well.
      Azure Standard also has bulk fruits and vegetables (including lots of organics).

      • Andrea Q says:

        Frontier is another natural foods co-op. They do not have as much selection as A.S., but their spices are awesome.

        I also use Amazon groceries. I got a case of organic pumpkin last month for $1 per can, which is less than half of what I would pay at a grocery store. Shipping was free because I ordered more than $25 worth of items. They still have the pumpkin on sale, but it is now $16 per 12.

  • JKS says:

    Lacey:

    As a short-term Lubbock-ite, I understand how expansive “the Panhandle” can be. The best steaks that I’ve ever eaten came from PaiDom Meats near Nazareth–grass-fed, no antibiotics, etc. You may want to investigate a “community” whole cow delivery or some other option. More information can be found on their website.

    Best wishes and stay warm!

  • Katy says:

    We live in a rural area too, a small valley with only 2 towns, and the nearest walmart is about 45 minutes to an hour away depending on how the pass conditions are.
    I definitely try to use coupons and stock up when I do make the trip to larger towns, although often it is hard to match sales with coupons for the type of deal many others can get in larger areas. When we go visit family and friends we try to stop in at local larger stores and stock up on any sales they are having (and if I have time in advance I try to get coupons and know which stores to go to, but with a little one that doesn’t always happen!)
    Everyone has had great suggestions on this question, but one thing no one has brought up is something that often holds me back when I go to order something cheaply through Amazon or buy over at Walmart – spending dollars in our local communities helps our local economy… I am all about saving my family money, but I also want to make sure I spend money locally so that the stores (and employees they support) stay around too. Both so that the stores are there when we need them, and so that there is a larger community to provide a support network to our family! Its a hard balance.

  • Michelle M says:

    Buy in bulk online. Places like honeyvillegrain.com have great prices on larger quantities of basics and cheap shipping. And make your trips to the city count. I live out in the sticks too, and when I get into town it’s a much bigger shopping trip but I’m only doing it every 3-4 weeks. So if you think about all the impulse money you are not spending by walking/driving by those stores everyday the big shopping trip isn’t so hard to swallow.

  • Grace says:

    I can really relate to you Lacey, since the nearest big box stores are about 90 minutes away. We have a local grocery store but again the prices are pretty high. We go to town about once a month. Here are things that I do.

    Look at Amazon for grocery deals. I can get cereal, and other non-perishable items for decent price. If it’s on sale sometimes for cheaper than a grocery sale.

    Get a membership to Costco, Bj’s, or Sam’s club. It’s worth it for the flour, sugar, bread, and paper products that I buy. I also buy milk and freeze it. Way cheaper than buying a fresh gallon of milk. If you shake it as you defrost it, it will be fine.

    If you don’t have one, get a freezer. Preferably one that is a manual defrost. I actually have two. One is 17 cubic ft upright and the other is a 21 cubic chest best thing I ever got. One I got as a wedding gift, the other we paid $50.00 at a yard sale. Get a big one since it will pay for itself!

    When you know you are going to town and something is a really good price, buy it and then get a rain check. I tell them I am only in town once a month and they make it good for 3 months.

    Also in the fall a lot of grocery stores here do a case lot sale. Hit those hard since you can get some really good buys. I got a years worth of honey, peanut butter,frozen french fries, and frozen veggies for a fraction of what it would have cost me normally. They also let you use coupons so you can get double the savings.

    We usually buy a half a beef every year. We live in Ranch country and I can get organic beef for $1.99 a pound if I buy a half.

    Grow a garden. At least attempt. I’m in Montana so I have a REALLY short growing season. I need a green house to get a lot. But root vegtables and peas grow here pretty well.

    I have a gluten intolerance so I actually buy some of my GF stuff directly from the manufacturer. Way cheaper.

    Just so that you know I work on a $150 grocery bill for the month. That includes all my toiletries, paper goods, and food. There’s only 3 of us, and $50.00 is immediately set aside for a costco run every 3 months, and another $25 goes toward buying my next half a beef. The rest is spent. Anything left over goes into my fall case envelope for next fall. Usually I have about $300 saved plus $75 for that month.

    I hardly ever buy processed foods. I can’t eat them anyway, so it’s a waste of money.

    Pop, soda, and juice don’t have a place in my house. My son doesn’t really like juice, so I never pushed it with him. I’ll buy it when I can get it for a $1 or less. Water is better for you anyway.

    When cereal runs out, I always have oatmeal on hand. It’s cheap and filling. We also do pancakes a lot. My husband loves them so he’ll do up a batch for my son and himself.

    I make a lot of stuff from scratch.

    I have gotten in the habit of having two or three of everything in the house. So when one runs out I just open the next one. Condiments, seasonings, (if you use enough of it) shortening, and canned sauces.

    If you haven’t been raised this way, please give yourself time to adjust. Also if you have a little one, relax. It took awhile for me to adjust after having my son and I had been living here for 10 years!

  • Jenny says:

    My husband works at a camp, too, so one of the things that helps us save on our grocery budget is rounding up leftovers from the camp kitchen once a group has left. My favorite is when there is leftover chicken (already cooked) because it is perfect to throw into a pot and make chicken taco soup, or to make a heartier caeser salad. We have been able to snag a gallon of milk every now and then, too, if it is due to expire before the next group is scheduled to arrive at camp. Maybe there are some similar possibilites for your family at the camp where your husband works???

  • Maria Miller says:

    I just wanted to add, Lacey, that groceries might not be cheap near you, but you are probably saving money on another item in your budget that costs more for others living in a larger city. All you can do is your best, even if your best looks different than someone else’s.

    Kitty

  • Katie says:

    All of these suggestions are good. I’d add to the encouragement to think “outside the box.” Check on localharvest.org to find farmers in your area. I buy almost all of my meat, eggs and produce from local farmers.

  • Beth says:

    We live in a big town but 2 times a year make a trip to get a 1/2 of cow. If you are around alot of farmers I am pretty sure you could get part of a cow and split it ….even with the processing it is much cheaper. We gets ours from a friend and they have some Menonites process it and it comes out to $2-2.5 lb. That is a big savings. Also if you are running out of room for staples we had an extra bathroom with a shower/tub that we did not use. Put a shelving unit in and store staples behind the curtain 🙂

  • Marsha says:

    If canning isn’t part of the writer’s routine, then I highly recommend it. Like buying a cow or pig, the upfront costs is not a minor consideration, but the tools can be bought at a reasonable price and the payback time is short. Being able to can bulk purchases can make a long(ish) trip to an orchard, farm or distant store more worthwhile.

    • Nicole says:

      I have seen a lot of canners go cheap on auctions (real ones- not ebay)- it depends on the jars, but I have seen them go at pretty reasonable prices compared to new ones. I also find jars and canners at garage sales for a steal! ALTHOUGH, you need to inspect any used jars/canners and make sure they aren’t chipped, irregular, etc.

      • Andrea Q says:

        I’ve found jars half-price at the end of the summer. I use them in the freezer.

        • Becky says:

          I put an ad in our local paper for canning jars. Lots of older ladies in our rural community canned for their families for years- but were done with that phase of their lives and were happy to clean out their garages and pantries of excess jars- especially to help out a young mom just starting to can. I got lots of jars for cheap or free.

  • Lacey,
    I am telling you that you NEED to get the book The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. It is written by Amy who formerly published a newsletter about saving money. She was in the same situation as you with few stores around and she shares all of her family’s ideas for saving money whether practical, amusing, or crazy. She has 6 kids and raised them on her husband’s 30,000 per year military salary while saving for and buying a house! I know for sure some of her ideas will apply to your situation and if nothing else her book is great inspiration and fun to read.

    • Becky says:

      Oooh yes! I adore this book! She takes things to a whole other level! Whether or not you decide to go to her extremes- she will make you think about spending and consuming in a whole different light. Great book!

  • Joanna says:

    I have been using the “Miserly Mom” recipe for breakfast granola and we love it. It is inexpensive to make and the great thing is it doesn’t get soggy in milk!

    No Fat Granola Recipe
    ‘The Miserly Mom’

    5 c. quick oats
    3/4 c. br. sugar
    1/3 c. frozen concentrated apple juice
    1/2 c. dry milk
    1/3 c. honey
    2 T. cinnamon
    1/2 t. salt (optional)
    1/2 c. dried fruit (I use raisins)

    Mix sugar, juice, dry milk and honey in saucepan, and heat until sugar dissolves. Combine other dry ingredients in large mixing bowl. Pour sugar mixture slowly over dry mixture and blend well. Place on cookie sheet. (I usually do half a batch at a time) Bake at 375°F for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

    Options: You can add nuts, sunflower seeds, coconut, sesame seeds, peanut butter or whatever you have around, but it will add to the cost and may dwindle savings.

    Also, I sometimes get ‘creative’ and add a 1/2 teaspoon of cloves or ginger or nutmeg. Or if I’ve dried some extra apples I’ll use apple pie spice in place of the cinnamon but decrease it to just 1 T.

  • Shawna says:

    I live in a rural area too, not as far out as you do, but far enough! One of the great things I’ve discovered (being a former city girl) is many of the near by farmers will allow me to pick my own produce for really really rock bottom prices. Can’t beat it that it’s uber fresh and costs less! Talk to folks in your community about ways to save, or what they are doing. (I’ve learned so much from the older folks at my church. Course, they think I’m a complete idiot, but I don’t care, they’ll share their secrets willingly if you ask.) I’ve found folks in my church who make honey which I get super cheap in comparison to store prices and it’s locally made, which discourages my allergy flare ups. Folks around here will also “share” a cow when its butchered etc. You just help pay the buthchering and feed costs. Also, try making your own cosmetics, soaps, lotions, and shampoes these cost a bundle even at the large stores. I found a great lotion recipe at: http://asonomagarden.wordpress.com/2009/02/26/how-to-make-handmade-handlotion-w-label-download/
    I add dollar store vitamin e cream after the lotion is set up and I have awesome creams tailored just for me. (These are also great for trades for other goods…you can always swap a jar that cost you less than a dollar to make for things you can’t make yourself.) I found a neighbor who sells a dozen eggs for about $0.75 for a dozen, which is significantly less than the stores. It really depends on what is available in your local community, and then you can plan accordingly for the other items you have to order, or drive to get. For me, my time with my family is more important so I order what I can’t get locally or driving for an hour or less.

  • Check out the weekly ads online for the bigger stores. You can get an idea of when they have the best sales and make that week your monthly or bi-monthly stock up trip.
    Meal Plan like crazy. Try two weeks at a time, then expand to a month.

  • theresa says:

    the best idea i’ve got is to get together with friends and split shipping and buy such large quantities that the price is rockbottom – also, do sprouts on the countertop, grind your own wheat, make grain coffee, etc. – try crazy, alternative things and only stick with the ones that work for you (try to borrow big ticket items like a grinder until you decide it is for you) – do you possibly have a rite aid? because that is the game to get into for all kinds of free stuff, including food – additionally, experiment with doing with less – seriously – reduce consumption on everything until it hurts, then backtrack a bit – one cup of tea instead of three (or just reuse the teabag until it’s just hot water), just a few nice outfits for the kids who grow fast and don’t have to go somewhere everyday, only using the car when you have enough errands to make driving it worthwhile, put off replacing items and think creatively about how to replace them – for encouragement, read the little house on the prairie books to your daughter – you will both enjoy the time together and you will be amazed and challenged by the the ingalls family’s ingenuity and the wilder family’s work ethic!

  • Tracy says:

    We also live about an hour and a half from Wal-Mart. I typically make one large monthly trip to go do majority of my shopping to stock up (as our rural grocery store is also crazily expensive). I have another friend who coupons with me, and she also tends to make a monthly shopping trip. Sometimes we go shopping together, but on the months where our shopping trips are different she will give me a list of items and coupon match-ups (we check the walgreens and local grocery store ad on-line for the week we go shopping), and I’ll do the same for the week she goes shopping. Often we are wanting to get the same deals, so the the extra shopping only requires us to have an additional checkout.

  • Camille says:

    I live in a metropolitan area and I rarely go to a grocery store or a big box store for food because we try to eat as much organic and natural foods as possible.

    I would suggest calling Azure Standard to see if they have a drop near you. They offer a large offering of organic and natural foods at bulk prices. If they don’t have one, see if you can start one.

    I’m also guessing that you probably have a lot of local food available to you — beef, chickens, eggs, etc. Check Craigslist, Yahoo Groups, MeetUp, etc to see if you can find local buying groups or sources.

    Look around for a Frontier buying club. Frontier offers a lot of organic household items at wholesale prices if your order is high enough. Call them and find out how to get started with a wholesale account. Then list the group on Craigslist, Meet Up, etc. I’m sure there are others in the same boat in your area!

  • Jessica says:

    I know a lot of missionaries that live in remote areas overseas {ie: no access to a grocery store!} use the cookbook More with Less – it is a WONDERFUL resource for inexpensive meals and includes a lot of bean recipes, which most cookbooks do not.
    My only “complaint” with it is a couple recipes call for MSG and soybeans, neither of which we ever use, but other then that the recipes are solid and made up from inexpensive, easily accessible ingredients.

  • Erin says:

    When I lived in Montana I had the same problem. I would make a trip to “town” about once a month to go to Costco and Walmart. I would never buy things like cereal at our little grocery store in our small town. I would get as much produce as I thought we could eat before it went bad when I went on these trips. We just weren’t really able to have fresh produce all the time.
    Also you can see about ordering in bulk from a place like this:
    https://www.azurestandard.com/
    I don’t know if they deliver anywhere near you or not.
    Are you able to place food orders through the company the camp uses for its dining hall? That would help as well if there were things you could get in bulk.
    Thank you for serving at your camp. Christian camps have a special place in my heart. 🙂

  • pat says:

    Since you work at a camp talk to the person who does the planning and ordering of food. Most camps let you add to their order thereby getting a business discount. Some camps will also take your portion out of your paycheck automatically. Other camps want you to deal directly with the supplier. I get the best deals at a restaurant supply house. I buy potatoes in 50 lbs sacks and split with a neighbor. It is a win-win-win and has brought us closer together as friends.

  • Jen says:

    Utilize farmers’ markets if you can. Produce is usually very reasonable if bought direct from the grower.

  • Amanda says:

    When we lived in Africa, we had to change what we ate! It was too expensive to eat like an American, but we could afford to eat like a Kenyan 🙂 (with an American splurge here or there). I would encourage you to give up on the cereal and things that are really expensive and find the kinds of food that are plentiful and cheap near you 🙂

    Also, I agree that amazon and other online resources could be PERFECT for your situation! Good luck!

  • Natalie says:

    Great post and lots of great suggestiosn from people.

    I think I saw this mentioned on a few replies. I grew up in a rural area and my parents always bought a cow and pig from a farmer they knew. It saved a ton of money and supported local farmers.

  • Mel says:

    Definitely check out Amazon. If someone had told me a year ago that having something delivered to my door would actually SAVE me money, I wouldn’t have believed it! But we now buy regularly from Amazon–groceries, diapers, toilet paper, you name it! We’ve found that Amazon’s specials are often even better than in store sales with coupons. Also, because you have a little one, you could qualify for “Amazon mom” and get free shipping.

  • K Wessel says:

    Ask for food as gifts. I know it sounds weird…but how many gifts have you received that never got used or were hardly used? The money relatives spend on gifts could be used on non-perishable foods, like cereal. They can wrap them if they want, too. I remember when we were first married, my husband “won” a big package of toilet paper in the white elephant exchange. It was the best gift ever!

    • Amber L. says:

      Thank you for this mention. Everyone thinks it’s strange but my grandmother gives us chicken for Christmas (we don’t eat pork or beef). She always said she didn’t want to give us money and we have a butcher shop here that gives you a price break if you buy chicken breast in a case, 40 lbs. She buys it and puts it into dinner size portions in ziptop bags, labels them and flash freezes them. Then she sets up a time to come over to our home and celebrate the holiday and unloads her cooler into my chest freezer. My meal plans are so much easier knowing that once a week we have chicken already frozen in meal size portions in the freezer and it saves me time and money too! A win win for everyone!

  • Nicole says:

    I see a lot of people mentioning canning and freezing. I love to do this and so do my kids, but the cost at first is really scary. I see canners, jars, rings, etc. go for very cheap prices at auctions and garage sales. You can even find old ladies who will gladly give you their old jars if you haul them out of the cellar or basement for them. Of course you need to check them over and make sure they are in good condition, but it’s worth the effort. I get a lot of books on canning from my Grandmother’s extension recipe collection and the internet. I save so much money each year by canning and freezing, plus I know what has been added to the food.

  • I grew up in rural north central part of Kansas! It was beautiful with all the fields and animals but not a convenient place for stocking up on amazing deals. The closest local grocery store was 20 plus minutes away and the nearest “big” town was Salina which was 2 hours away. I agree with the ideas already mentioned above! Here are some additional ways we saved growing up (and my parents as well as extended family still save using these tips and more):

    1. Share a Cow – we had several local ranchers in the area that would let you split a cow among a couple families to help save on the cost of meat. Even better we knew of a few ranchers that in exchange for a few hours of labor they would share a cow with you as your payment.

    2. Milk Lady – my Grandma still gets the majority of her diary and milk products from the milk lady. She comes by once a week to deliver milk and various diary products. Check to see if there is one in your area.

    3. Wild Game (Deer, Elk, Pheasant, Quail) / Fish – I never got into hunting but I had family and friends that would hunt and fish during the various seasons, a lot of times they would have more meat then they could eat and were willing to share or sell some to you at a discount. Growing up some of the guys would give you the meat if you offered to just cook some for them!

    4. Car Pool & Send a List – we lived in a small community, when someone was planning to head to a larger “town” they would often ask the neighbors if they would want to car pool or if they had anything they needed to be picked up. By car pooling you split the gas and if there was something at a store they were already going to they would get it for you. The next time you went you would return the favor.

    5. Ask a Neighbor – if you run out of a staple during dinner preparation you don’t have the convenience of running to the store if it is more than 20 minutes away (one direction, plus the stores usually close at 7 PM) so you call your neighbor for an egg or cup of flour and they do the same when they run out.

    6. Raise Chickens – we either raised our own chickens or got all our chicken and eggs from neighbors who raised chickens. If you don’t want to raise them yourself locate a local farmer who has them and establish a good relationship. Plus that same farmer may have a large garden they are willing to share some of the produce for a few hours of weeding.

    6. Order online – this is getting easier to do since stores like Amazon offer free shipping on many of their orders. There are a lot of wonderful staple items and even perishables you can now get delivered to your door.

    In a small community there is still a lot of barter going on, but like any relationship it is a two way street. When everyone helps in whatever way they can it creates savings and benefits for all involved. You may have to initiate it with neighbors but it is so worth it. I am sure there are more wonderful ideas, just wanted to share those off the top of my head. Good Luck and Happy Saving!

  • Lacey Wilcox says:

    Well, I’m “Lacey,” and am incredibly thankful for such great comments. I’ve already been looking into putting some of them into action soon!! A big thank you to all of you!
    One thought though: it would more than break my heart if I came across like I didn’t love our position. I truly can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be (except for maybe a coffeeshop…lol…jk). I was just seeking some insight on being even wiser with the blessings the Lord has given us!
    Thank you all!! 🙂

  • Linda R says:

    Alice.com has a small selection of cereals and other nonperishable items at reasonable prices if you don’t want to buy in bulk. A minimum of 6 items is required but shipping is free.

  • Annie says:

    Excellent ideas in the comments and original article. As a long time rural resident who keeps her grocery/household budget under $13/person per week, I would add:
    1. Develop a relationship with that local grocer. Ours is expensive but has weekly sales. My husband does most of the local grocery shopping and always stops to chat with the owner and in the process we have discovered ways to save while supporting a local business. About half of our monthly grocery budget is spent in our local grocery store–usually hitting the sales. I seldom use coupons for food products.
    2. Use your head and your calculator. This is your best strategy. Gather information, do the math and evaluate your experiences. Not all gardening saves money. Include the price of membership to Costco/Sam’s in your thinking.
    3. Be willing to change the way you eat. I don’t mean to stop eating whole foods, but evaluate what foods you eat by price, storage and preference. Eat seasonally. Whole foods are not particularly expensive–but organic, whole grain, cold cereal is outrageously expensive.
    4. Keep your ears open to locals–especially those who prefer whole foods. Find out how they manage their grocery shopping. Some areas have religion affiliated stores (Amish, Mennonite) or a LDS pantry that is open to guests. Take time to find out what types of products your local feed store carries.
    5. Make any shopping in a large town worth the time and money. A regular, carefully planned shopping trip can make a big difference in the bottom line. I include Walgreens, CVS and Sam’s Club in our city shopping, but I am careful to spend all RRs and ECBs before we drive home.
    6. Online shop Amazon, Walton Feed, Honeyville, etc for products that cannot be bought locally.

    Just keep working on it. Over time, you will learn new skills, new tips and adjust accordingly.

  • Fireweed says:

    I live in an extremely remote area of Alaska, where milk is $7 or more a gallon. (Gas is $8 a gallon…) I bought a year’s worth of household goods (I don’t use things like paper towels, so it was cleaning supplies and toilet paper) from soap.com. The first time you use them, it is 15% off your total order and free shipping; I did some comparison shopping on line and their prices matched or were lower. For holidays we ask family to send us cases of toilet paper or light bulbs; at first they thought it was weird, but now they understand why and I think it is a relief to never have to think what to buy us. If you don’t have a garden area, do a container garden. Even if all you have is one pot of greens and one of carrots, you’ll be doing well. One year we kept track of every penny we spent on putting in the garden, and what we took out of it; when we totaled up what the produce would have cost us in the one small food store in our town, and subtracted the money we spent on supplies, it turned out we grew over $1000 more than we spent on putting in the garden. Economize with things like powdered milk; if you cannot stand that, buy full fat milk and water it down with a quart of water to stretch your gallon. Never waste anything—if it is too wilted to eat (but not rotten, obviously) then put it in a tub you keep in the freezer that you use to make soup when it is full. Never throw away a chicken carcass, use it to make soup. If you have the room, have 2 or 3 chickens; they will quickly pay back the outlay in food and straw…always plan ahead so that you never drive someplace that you don’t stock up on groceries.

    Good luck. It is hard, but it can be done.

  • Jenna says:

    I live just as rural as you now going on my third year. I am a city girl and believe me this is hard! I shop by making a complete list and I go to the big store every 14 days and I almost never buy from our local grocery stores.

  • MK says:

    For meat we buy in bulk when it is on sale and since we don’t want to pay for an extra freezer we can it. It is really simple to do and you can use canned meat for tons of things.

  • shayla says:

    Try http://www.alice.com. You can get most big box store products here at a reasonable price, use coupons, and free shipping! I used it once and it was great. They packaged everything really well too. You can make a list based on how often you use it, save the list and go back to it when you are ready to order again.

  • Sara says:

    I was going to suggest Amazon (even prime!) as well. I see some awesome deals on that site!

    Also, consider making a day trip to food stores far away. Maybe only once a month! My mom used to drive 45 minutes to the nearest ALDI when we were on such a tight budget growing up. She would buy canned goods, chips, cereals, etc. Anything that expired in 3-6 months instead of 1. She would spend about 200 dollars there every 1-2 months. That left bread, milk, lunch meat and produce to buy weekly. She’d spend under 100 each week…Usually only about 50 or 60 dollars. We lived on that budget for years feeding a family of six home cooked meals.

    • Stephanie says:

      Bread, milk, and lunch meat will freeze if you want to stock up with a month’s worth of those items. I usually buy at least a month’s worth of bread (for $1.09 instead of $3.50 for the same brand, and this isn’t white stuff) when I make it to a specific store. I have not noticed any difference in texture or it going bad quicker. We do keep our bread in the refridgerator though for daily use, so that may help it last longer too.

  • Lori Carter says:

    These are some great ideas to consider even when some of these stores are close to you. Thanks!

  • Jessica says:

    Another option to look into is a local CSA/co-op for fresh vegetables and fruit. You can find if there is one near you: http://www.localharvest.org

  • Elizabeth says:

    Not sure if anyone else has already suggested this, but you might look in to azurestandard.com for fresh produce and other organic things. You’d have to see if there is a drop point within a reasonable driving distance of you for their monthly pick up, but I have friends that use them and are very happy with it. Good luck!

  • sarah says:

    Could you have a chicken for eggs?

  • Courtney says:

    Look for farmers in your area who are willing to sell/barter produce like you said but also look for beef and poultry farmers. Certain farmers are willing to sell you half a cow or as many chickens as you need, they’ll slaughter them for you, then you pick up the meat. For a family of three half a cow should just about last you a year. Also check to see if your local high school has an Agriculture program. If they do they will probably have a garden or grow produce in their greenhouse. You might be able to work out a payment/trade-off for them to grow your produce. I know my ag dept would’ve loved community members buying our produce.

  • Erica says:

    We live in a pretty rural area. Luckily we are around several Amish communities and are able to shop at grocery stores they run. They don’t always have a big inventory but $1.00 per box cereal is pretty good for us! Just yesterday I hit one of the stores we call it the “bent and dent store”. I purchased 2 boxes of pop tarts, 4 boxes of cereal, 12 packs of gum, 1 can corn, 1 can creamed corn, 2 boxes scalloped potatoes, 2 boxes of granola bars , 1 bottle of BBQ sauce, and a chocolate bar for just over $18.00. In the summer they carry lots of fresh fruits and veggies and always have a great inventory of spices, flour, sugar etc.

    • Stephanie says:

      This is one of my favorite stores, the salvage store. Just went there earlier this week. I have learned to stock up on an item I will use when I see it because there is no guarantee that it will be there next time. I was hestiant at first to shop there, because of the stigma that may go with it. However, I feel very different about it now. It isn’t all expired or dirty stuff, which is what I thought. Some of it may be that the manufacture changed labels, or that a store ordered too much, or maybe it isn’t selling as well as the other store thought it would. Some of it is dented, which I tend to shy away from personally if it is a can, or expired, which is actually the “best if used by” date not the “dangerous to eat after this” date, so I do try to keep my eyes open for those. The majority of it though you can’t tell if you got it from there or from Walmart.

      Most of their items are cheaper than our local store will have it, but not always. Their milk, for example, is more expensive, but their yogurt is cheaper. Guess it all works out.

      This is the first place we have lived that has this as a shopping option. It is also run by Amish, which may be why. I count this as a “use what you have local to you” option. It was not always something that I could do, but I can where we are now, so I do. It has actually decreased my use of coupons (which ours no longer takes) and trips to the further away stores.

      The local Amish community also has a produce auction during the summer that is open to the public. Most prices are wholesale, but it can vary from week to week depending on who is there and what has just come in to season or is going out of season. It also helps to know that the quantities are also wholesale. So if you will have a hard time figuring out how to use three or six bushels of green peppers, it may not be the best option for you. Make sure you pay attention! As the bidding is usually PER bushel or pint or such, NOT for the whole pallete. Check with your local auction to see how they do it and perhaps go to one just to observe the first time. I go with a friend and we usually split what we buy. What we can’t use (too much for either of our families) gets put out on our produce table for our neighbors to buy from. We may not have the biggest selection, but we can beat the local store prices. Our neighbors get cheap produce, we make some money back, and also end up with fresh, cheap produce.

      Sometimes I will call friends after going/on my way home to see if they want any of what I got. Sometimes they insist on paying me and sometimes I just give it to them because it was such a good deal for me. Like when I got 90 cantalope for 5 cents each. After some people at the auction bought about 30 off of me, the rest I gave away. All I really wanted was 1 melon, so the amount I spent on 60 was about what I would have paid at the store for the 2. Unfortuantly this deal never came around again; I just was at the right place at the right time. This is another “see what your local area has” option. Again, not something I’ve been able to do in other places.

  • soury says:

    I just posted a topic on this very topic, you might something useful from it:
    http://www.choosingsimplicity.com/2011/01/finding-good-deals-at-your-small-town-grocery-store/

    I just stopped in again at our small town grocery store and scored more $0.99 cheese blocks!

  • Dianne says:

    My family has worked at a couple different camps. I agree with a previous commenter, take advantage of the leftovers (my husband is a cook so the food was always wonderful). I often got chicken or pork and tried to get creative to morph it into a different meal.

    Are there other families at the camp? I’m sure that they’re in the same boat as you. If I were you, I’d ask if they’d like to help you plant a “community garden.” You all could share the start up costs, work, etc & reap the benefits. You could also cooridnate schedules and when you do have to make a big trip you all could split gas.

    Lastly, I wanted to encourage you in what you’re doing. I know that camp is a very rewarding, but at the same time very exhausting ministry. No one really understand what it’s like until they have worked full-time themselves. One of the best pieces of advice I got from another wife in camp ministry was to be creative & think outside the box in every area (time, resources, etc.) Because of your unique situation things will look a lot different for you than they do for most. God bless you as you minister to so many.

  • ks grandma says:

    I keep several types of seeds for sprouts on hand. They keep nearly forever, growing sprouts is no big deal, and if you have not been to a produce department for awhile, it’s nice to have something fresh. And this may not be the time in your life to think gourmet. Plenty of simple food can be quite tasty, keep you within your budget and be healthy for your family.

  • Krista says:

    Lots of good ideas!

    It is hard to hear all the tips about double and triple coupon days when no one within hours of you ever doubles coupons, and deals found on meat like ground beef for $0.99 a pound? In my dreams! But even though I can’t cash in on some of those deals, I have found ways to keep my grocery budget down.

    I would recommend a stand mixer over a bread machine. It won’t bake the bread for you, but is so much more versatile-especially if you consider the available attachments. And it makes bread making so simple. Toss in the ingredients and turn it on. I never buy bread anymore.

    Since there are no stores near me that ever double coupons, I have simply figured out what foods are less expensive and that is what I build my meals around. It is nice since “coupon foods” tend to be more processed, we eat mostly from-scratch foods simply because they are less costly.

    Try to plan meals in succession. That is make something Monday that will turn into something else on Tuesday. (Roast a chicken one day for dinner. The next day have chicken quesadillas. The next day chicken soup.-if that’s too much chicken for one week, freeze the soup!) There is much less waste this way.

  • Michelle says:

    I’m sure someone has already commented on this part, I tried to do a quick scan….but I have discovered Subscribe & Save on Amazon.com for Amazon Moms. If you buy enough, it’ll let you have the amazon prime membership for free for so many months and that means free shipping. You can order cereal through there. It’s a hit on the budget at one time…only cause you have to buy 4 boxes at a time, etc. etc. and I saw a package of 4 boxes of cereal for $10 and that is just beyond your local budget of $6 or $7 a box.
    but…it’s soooo worth while. I ordered Tide detergent and won’t need it again for months and months, but it was very much worth the $47 investment.
    Good luck in your search. I am originally from a very small town and understand the prices!

  • HMercer says:

    Amazon Subscribe and Save or Alice.com. We just went in with a group and purchased 1/2 a cow. I have about 60 lbs of beef in my freezer to last us the year. Purchase whole chickens and do just like PP mentioned; meals in succession.
    Oatmeal instead of cereal. Make friends with a farmer.

  • cheryl says:

    There are some great ideas here! One thing I did was found a friend who shopped alternate weeks that I did. It was great for both of us when there was a really good sale but it wasn’t worth it to drive for THAT item.

  • Julie C says:

    I wonder if you could network with someone 2 hours away that could barter their excess drug store items for something that you could share with them; maybe you have a skill in some sort of handwork (needle point, knitting, etc..)?

    I read of so many women donating their excess to good causes and your Baptist ministry camp would be a GREAT cause to donate towards. Do you need cleaning items, toiletries or female supplies?

  • Jennifer Schulte says:

    I agree with a lot of what has been said, particularly the garden ideas. Let me contribute a bit of my Master Gardener knowledge.
    Living in a dry climate, I suggest you take advantage of rain barrels at every downspout. Check online for how to make some on the cheap. Link them together and store up as much as you can for those in-between times when the tender veg needs a drink. Tap water isn’t so good for plants, nature’s unaltered water is better. If you raise the barrels, you can get more gravity for flow, otherwise, a bucket brigade is a fun activity. You can move a lot of filled, lidded jugs and buckets in a re-purposed kid’s wagon.

    Compost! Make your own “garden gold”. Layer together (like making a lasagna) raked leaves, dried grass (weed free), and kitchen veg/fruit matter (peels, cores, skins, stems, leaves) make wonderful fodder for a compost bin. You can make them on the cheap from nearly anything, or if you have the space, a pile on the ground does the trick. The more you turn it, the faster it goes. Keep it moist with an occasional sprinkle from the rain barrel. It is likely that you will have to prime your garden spot with better soil or heavy amendments. Composted manure has to be aged, but if you know someone who raises rabbits, their poo can go direct to the garden. Poo makes better plants! (wash well)

    Mulch. Keep the moisture you do have where it belongs, plus keep plant roots cool in the TX sun. Clean straw does nicely, as do commercially available wood chips, and even some garden fabrics.

    You can use zuccini in breads (freezes nicely), flash-boil tomatoes to remove the skin and then ziplock and freeze for winter (excellent in chili!), cut the corn off the cob/freeze on a cookie sheet/bag for freezer storage (slice peppers and onions and do the same). I was shocked to find my 5 yr old ate the majority of our spinach crop straight out of the cleaning bowl. Fresh is better!

  • Maria Beth says:

    I’m the wife of a part-time music minister. For several years of our marriage, he taught at Bible Schools for several months out of the year, and that’s a good way to lay up treasure in heaven, but certainly not on earth.

    When I worried about money, my mother told me, “He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and when you need something, you ask God to sell some of those cows and get you what you need. And then you Thank Him.”

    God has resources we know nothing about, and when you have a need, He knows exactly how to fill it. Just today, my husband, brother, sis-in-law and I cut up part of a beef from a local farmer. This was a meat cow with a dislocated hip which couldn’t make it in the cold. It took time and work, but we got about 100 pounds of meat for $1 a pound.

    It’s great fun to keep a “Jehovah-Jireh” notebook where you record all the ways God provides for you. One year when we were especially busy doing the Lord’s work, God creatively provided the equivalent of $6,000 through all kinds of ways, including a canner on freecycle.

    So that’s my best idea for how to make it when you’re far from stores and living on faith–Pray.

  • tulips52 says:

    We have been in camping ministry for 24 years. Fortunately, we have never lived in an area that remote. I just really have to laugh at the suggestions that you start a garden. Summer is the busiest time for us! The job is virtually 24/7 when campers are here all week. There is no time to tend a garden! We have always been solo at our camps: there has never been a camp community who might pool time and resources, so I grant that a community garden might possibly be an option if you have help.
    I agree with those who suggest a periodic trip to a warehouse club. We have practically run camps with Sam’s Club. I would also save coupons and have a massive ‘coupon shopping’ day with my daughter. She has since said that she would be so embarrassed when we pushed 3 carts around the grocery store, but it was a big savings. Also, what about the grocery vendor who services your camp? We have always been able to buy from Sysco or US Foods etc and add it onto the camp order and then reimburse camp for it. Most of the vendors run weekly specials, so we’d stock up on whatever was on sale that week. This is especially good for meat purchases. You do have to have some storage space so I would suggest investing in a freezer! Buying a case of 96 rolls of toilet paper is the only way to go!
    God Bless you!

    • Stephanie says:

      Growing a garden does take time. We have lived in 5 states and none of my gardens have looked the same from one place to the next. Part of it was because they are each in a different zone, but also because of time and space limitations. I think I have finally found what works for me, and that is a raised bed garden. I have maybe thirty minutes worth of weeding the whole season! Well, unless I didn’t leave the compost composting long enough and have hundreds of squash sprouts appear everywhere. 🙂 It is also easy to water and plant. For the three beds I have it may take ten minutes to water each week, and that includes getting the water into the bucket. Now, in northern TX you will probably need more water than what we use here in the midwest, but it still is not very time consuming.

      I followed the guidelines in the Square Foot Garden book and went from there. I used some boards my father-in-law had laying around (so it is 4.5′ square instead of 4′ square) and some paint from our basement to make the boxes. The rest of the items I’ve added over the past few years, one at a time. I have found that my tellises last at least two years (they will be going on their third summer here soon) so that isn’t an item I need to replace annually. For us, having fresh cherry tomatoes for our salads is the biggest savings. What I pay for a pack of seeds is what we would spend in one week on a container, and we get at least that much each week for several months. I’m still working on perfecting the growing of other things, but think it has to do with planting too late. My biggest expense was the soil/compost to put in the boxes, but that may be gotten around with a little thinking. I would recomment not using your normal soil because it is lacking in something (drainage, nutrients, etc.), even though it is tempting to do so. You could even start a worm bed in one of them, which is a great way to compost and add directly to your soil.

      It has been the easiest and least time intensive way I have found to garden. It also doesn’t take up a lot of room, does not require tilling, and can be taken out if no longer wanted.

  • Pamela says:

    I see a lot of great ideas but I think I can toss a couple in the mix. I also can and freeze from my garden, buy local, at sales etc. We live 30 minutes from a large store but are also dealing the loss of my job and a young child so frugality has become my ‘job’. Some things just don’t can or freeze well and there is always the canning expenses and freezer space issues to contend with. A couple of years ago my dad bought me an Excalibur dehydrator. This is the greatest investment. I can dry about anything. While I still can and freeze things like peppers I also make sure I have plenty of dried bell pepper on hand. It will quickly season soups that call for pepper, or use it as a seasoning like black pepper. I also dry zucchini and squash for use in soups and spaghetti sauce through the winter. Dried tomatoes – potatoes – carrots – cucumbers make great ‘chips’ for veggie dip. When I can find fruit in season I buy as much as I can afford and dry everything we wont eat in 1 week. If you aren’t sure how something will dry try just a small portion. there are books out there on making your own dehydrator. they may be just as effective in the dryer southern climates. Hang in there and do what works for you.

  • Lee says:

    I would investigate local farms. Help your neighbors and yourself 🙂

  • Kristie says:

    I see some suggestions about bread machines here, but let me put in a plug for the fearless do-it-yourselfers. It does save money (even cheap mixes can’t compare to bags of ingredients), and don’t be intimidated by time!! I make 12 loaves a week for our family of 8, and it really doesn’t add up to hours and hours of kneading like you’d think. Plus, my kids can help (including our 21-month-old “flour blizzard”). And, there’s a great option for us “rural folks”: our grain elevator sometimes sells the wheat by 50-lb. bags. We ground it ourselves a few years ago and it lasted almost a year. (And was much, much better than King Arthur’s!)

    We rurals also get to raise chickens–only drawback is they don’t lay in the winter. 🙁

  • Debbie Rioux says:

    I would be happy to share coupons. I may have access to coupons that may not be available in her area, I also get multiple copies from friends and family. Please share my email.

  • Shannon says:

    I have loved reading through all of these ideas. Like Lisa, I live in a very rural area and a couple of years ago looked at out grocery/household budget and decided we need to cut back what we are spending. Our local grocery store charges a lot more for his items than what I could find at larger chain stores. So now I do most of our shopping on-line or monthly shopping trip to a town 100 miles away. Here are some of my suggestions:
    1. Figure out what your family likes to eat – I really do not do a meal plan, but I know that what I like to cook and what they like to eat. Also, write down those things so that you can build a list for your “mega” shopping trip. I don’t purchase thing that we would not use.
    2. Learn to stock-up on food and household items. I loved the recent article from http://www.allyou.com on how to stock-up your food items. I started stocking up items like can veg’s, can fruit, soup, flour, sugar, ceral, etc when I did a “mega” shopping trip to a larger town. This saves me from having to go to our local store when I can build a meal from my stock pile. I keep between 3-6 months worth of food stock piled. One thing I do since I can not find any papers who will deliver where I live it order coupons off line (yes it does cost a little, but using coupons still saves me money) and I also print on-line coupons for these “mega” shopping trips.
    3. Purchase a freezer – I learned a long time ago that you can purchase things and put them in the freezer. I freeze milk, cheese, bread, even fresh items like mushrooms, bell peppers, carrots, etc. Then I am not needing to go to our local grocery store to purchase these things.
    4. Purchase meat from a local farmer/rancher or hunt for your meat. Every year we get 1/2 a beef, a pig and then my husband hunts. The cost per pound is cheaper and it taste better than store bought.
    5. Build a relationship with the store manager (at the store where you like to shop). I usually shop at Albertsons (when I get to town – our town 100 miles away does not have a Sam’s, Costco, etc but does have an Albertsons, Safeway, Wal-Mart and Kmart). However, over the last couple of years I have built a relationship with the local store manager. Then if I see on a sale ad that something is on sale, I contact the store manager and ask it he would hold that item for me at the sale price. I pay him over the phone, and then pick it up when I go shopping. It has save me extra money, as I still shop the sale ads (which you can look at on-line) and I can get the deal for that week with out traveling to the store. I have even told him I have a coupon for the items and he will even give me the discount on the coupon – I just give it to him when I get to the store.
    6. For fresh items, I do try to grow a garden, but our growing season is very short so we don’t get that much out of the garden. However, I purchase fresh thing when I go to town. Purchase things like whole lettuce, whole cabbage, whole cauliflower, broccoli, etc (whole things keep longer than bag lettuce, bag vegs)- I also purchase things like bag apples, oranges, banana’s, etc. One thing that I found is that I put things in a cold storage area of our basement. I have found I can keep things like fresh corn, potatoes, squash, carrots, and apples down in it for a month or more with out them spoiling.
    7. Sign up for on-line shopping. I have found deals on household items, food things like cereal – like yesterday on Amazon they had peanut butter on sale. Yes, sometime I have to pay for shipping, but given the cost of gas on-line is pays for itself to shop on line.
    By doing some of things, I have cut our family of four food /household budget down from $4,000 a year to $1,000 a year. Good luck.

  • Elizabeth says:

    We live in a small town and things often are higher here than elsewhere. We do take advantage a few times a year to shop Costco which is 90 minutes away and we go several times a month, for other reasons, to a larger town about an hour away and always shop then too. But a very nice way I have found to get some items much cheaper is via Amazon. If it is something coming directly from them, you just order at least $25 worth and the shipping is free. That has been the most helpful. Also, sometimes you can order directly from a company and get better prices. Worth looking into anyway. Many things that are canned or boxed will keep long enough to be worth buying a case of.

  • Lisa S says:

    I live with a similar store with $6 cereal and $6 jugs of welchs juice. I found something out on accident one day. I was in the store the day after the 18 packs of eggs passed their sell by date. They asked me while I was at the checkout if I wanted them, they couldn’t sell them. I said sure. They handed me 6 dozen eggs for free. So now, when I’m in there, I check the soon to expire type items like dairy, meat, and eggs, to see what dates they have on them. I stop by the day after said date just in case they have some left. If they are still on the shelf/in the case, I take a few up to the register and ask for a discount since they are past their date. They always end up giving them to me. You might try that.

    As for meat, this is actually one of the less expensive items at our store because it is locally sourced, so we eat sell quick sticker meat quite a bit. To save further, see if you can get the meat direct from a farm, maybe go in on a cow with another family or two. You can also do this with the produce and will likely have to, or eat canned, if your store is like ours. Right now, we have oranges, apples, bananas, and grapes for fruit. That’s it. So it is nice to stock up with farmers in the summer and can and freeze a lot of it for the winter months. We also dehydrate some of it. If you have to buy more than you think you can use, go in on it with another family. Or make a ton of jam/marinara, and see if the little local market will put it in their store to sell or buy it wholesale from you to make some of your money back. Or sell it in the next church bake sale.

  • Beverly says:

    I live in Illinois and shop at Meijer, which has stores in the midwest. The store is like a super Walmart or Super Target. It sells everything and now sells groceries and other items online. I don’t know if they will ship to Texas, but you could check it out. Just go to meijer.com You can even view the weekly ad online. Grocery items on sale are very reasonable.

  • Melissa Carter says:

    Love all the ideas. We live in the Ok Panhandle and my hubby’s a minister too. I have 4 kids and am just looking for the very ideas given. We try to have a cheap food added to every meal—usually rice, potatoes, or pasta. We also do the meatless meals. I need help with quick but cheap lunch ideas. We homeschool and I do not have time to prepare something elaborate. I hope I can add some of these new ideas. I know the food co-op near us does have a charge too…….

  • marilynn says:

    drive the 2 hours to walmart and buy staples for 6 months using your coupons. it is worth it/ or order online as others have suggested.no one should pay 6 or 7 dollars for a box of cereal. grow your own vegetables too and swap with the neighbors.

  • Sarah says:

    My husband and i also work at a rural christian camp, the closest walmart is about 45 minutes away, so we prefer to drive to sams club which is about 2 hours away and buy in bulk. We only have to do this every month or so. We usually take a big cooler with us and buy meat in bulk, then when i get home i package it in portion sizes and freeze it.we also heavily rely on our garden and freezer. In the summer we grow our own vegetables and fruits and i can and freeze them for the winter, we usually have more than we can eat!

  • Beverly says:

    I would do a search on local co-ops, they normally have a low monthly fee for produce (alot of times organic) and also can supply a lot of other foods for good prices. http://www.localharvest.org/food-coops/ is a great website to check out. If there aren’t any in your area, consider creating one…its a group of people who get together and make deals with local growers for lower prices, the produce is in season, fresh and great deals can be made.

  • Stephanie says:

    Make your own bread w/0 a mixer or breadmaker. I got the book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day from my local library and I love it! Now we always have fresh bread without spending a lot of time or money and all of the ingredients can be bought in bulk and stored. I used to use my breadmaker once or twice a week and made a lot of rolls, but now I’m making all of our bread, including sandwich bread and fancy artisan breads.

  • Colleen says:

    Check out Freecycle.org. This is a totally free message board where you can request what you need and see what other people are offering for FREE in your local area. This is not a barter or pay site. If someone posts that they are giving away diapers (which I have seen in our local Freecycle), they are GIVING them away. If you need canning or drying equipment, just ask. You would be surprised at what people have just laying around that they will give you if you will go get it. I have even seen them give away cars! The Freecycle network is broken down into cities, so the one I belong to is actually in the town about an hour away. I look at what is being offered, and if I can use it, I email or call the individual to set up a time for pickup. Then I plan my shopping trip to coordinate with the date and time of my pickup. I have gotten canning equipment, computers and monitors, a digital converter box, gardening equipment, a cd player, and a printer all for free. I regularly see folks offering children’s items such as toys, clothes, diapers, formula, you name it! I hope your local town/nearest city has a Freecycle group! The best part is when you find something around your place that you don’t really need, but it is too good to throw away. Just offer it on Freecycle! Someone may need just what you have and you could be a blessing to someone without even knowing it!

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