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Two Simple Ways We’re Cutting Our Grocery Bill

Want to cut your grocery bill? Try these 2 simple tips -- they're SO ridiculously easy!

Guest post from Amy

My husband and I are saving money to buy a home, so we have been cutting back on our expenses. Right now, we are tackling our grocery budget and trying to make it smaller. Crystal has often mentioned a book called Miserly Moms.

I was curious to check it out, so I ordered a copy for $0.01. It’s been the best cent I’ve spent in years.

I have been implementing two of the book’s principles so far:

1. Make things from scratch.

2. Don’t waste food.

After reading those chapters, I realized we throw away food all the time! My two young children often only eat half of their meals. We save the food in the refrigerator for “later”, but later never comes. So we end up throwing it away. This book suggests that we re-purpose that food for later use by freezing it.

We also buy unnecessary items in order to “make things from scratch”. I make things from scratch all the time, but I buy convenient foods to make those things. We love smoothies and I’ve been buying frozen fruit to make them. As I show in the following example, I could buy in season fruit at a cheaper price and cut it up myself, then freeze it for later.

Based off of these two principles, I would like to share my recent savings.

Make things from scratch:

I love buying organic whenever possible. My warehouse club is currently carrying delicious, sweet organic strawberries at 2lbs for $4.99. Let’s just round it out and say it costs $2.50 a pound. When I buy frozen organic strawberries for smoothies, I spend $4.65 for a pound!

Buying it fresh (and in this case in bulk), and spending 5-10 minutes washing and cutting it myself gives me a savings of $2.15. Imagine the savings if you don’t buy organic!

Don’t waste food:

My children ate strawberries for a snack, and didn’t completely eat any one. So I took those half-eaten strawberries and quickly chopped them up and added them to my frozen strawberries bag. That adds up to a lot of strawberries that would have normally been thrown away!

My daughter always takes the crust off of her toast, and instead of throwing it away as normal, I’ve been putting them in a freezer bag to make bread crumbs, French toast, or for use in casseroles for the future. You would not believe how many bread crumbs I save in only a few days!

Through this book I’ve realized that there is more we can do to save money and stretch our dollars. I hope these principles will be helpful to someone as it was to me.

Amy is a stay-at-home, part-time working mom of two adorable and precocious preschoolers. She loves saving money, gardening, and reading good books.

photo credit

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  • I have really been working on these two things lately but I alway want to learn more. I will definitely be checking out this book, Thank you for posting!

  • I just wish that I had a bigger freezer so I could freeze all of the leftover items instead of putting in my fridge for later, and like you said, later never comes. Thanks for sharing!

    • betsy says:

      Another thing I do is feed small children very small portions. Instead of dealing with the leftovers of 3 half-eaten apples, I’ll slice one apple, they eat, and if they want more, I’ll cut another one. To me, this is easier than dealing with leftovers.

      • Mona says:

        I do this too. My kids will each want their own apple, but they never finish it. I’d rather take the time to cut up an apple and know that it will be finished than find half eaten apples later!

      • steph says:

        I also buy smaller apples… if I buy a small apple, the kids will each eat their own down to the core, if I buy a bigger apple, I will either have waste, or need to cut them so there is no waste. I also have been eating their leftover apples, so there is no waste and I get some of my own fruit intake done for the day!

      • This is what we do as well. For our four young children, I slice one apple and one orange at lunch time.

      • Anitra says:

        I usually cut up an apple and split it between my two kids (or between my older child and me) – BUT if they insist they will ONLY eat a whole apple, I let them have it, then cut up the uneaten part for applesauce later (will store ok in the fridge for a few days).

  • Shelly says:

    I love getting in season fruit and processing it for later. I recently found a great deal on organic strawberries and I purchased 6 pounds. I dried them to use them in the oatmeal packets I make or we just eat them for a snack. It didn’t take much hands on time but it did save me a bunch as dried strawberries can be so expensive and have added sugar we just don’t need.

    • Marie says:

      how to you dry strawberries. Do you have a special machine? they are over $3.50 for a tiny bag at the store. I’d love to know how to make my own

      • Amy says:

        I use an egg slicer and dry them in my dehydrator but I’d LOVE to know if there is an easier way as this seemed like there IS a lot of hands on work the way I do it 🙂

        • Shelly says:

          I like your idea of an egg slicer, Amy. I just wash mine then use a knife to cut the strawberry into 4 slices and then place them on the dehydrator tray. I can get through a flat of berries in little over an hour, with the washing, hulling and slicing.

      • Shelly says:

        I use a dehydrator to dry mine. I purchased my first dehydrator at a Rummage sale for just $5 so be sure to check for a used one. The one I use now I saved up for a year to purchase and it’s a little bigger and does a great job. You can dry the strawberries in the oven too.

        If you will be using the oven, set the oven to the lowest temperature you can and then let them dry about 6-7 hours on a cookie sheet. Then if they still don’t seem quite dry enough (no liquid pockets) flip them over and let go a few more hours. If you have a convection oven the drying will go a little faster.

        • Cathy says:

          You can also do beef jerky the same way using any cut of meat you like and slicing it. I find that if I put my cake racks on the cookie sheet, the food dries faster because the heat can circulate all the way around it.

  • Jennifer Horn says:

    I have the book Miserly Moms and recommend it to all my friends. 🙂 Great book with practical advice. I have saved a lot of money in a lot of areas using that book.

  • Madeline says:

    My new make from scratch item is chicken stock. Whenever we have a rotisserie chicken or a roast chicken, I throw all the bones, skin, and yucky bits into my crockpot, throw in a wedged onion, some chunks of carrot and celery, then cover with water. I let it cook all night and end up with amazing chicken stock. I freeze it one and two cup portions and it defrosts very quickly.

    I also save vegetable scraps in my freezer (like the green parts of leeks) and throw them in, too. It tastes outstanding.

  • Are you willing to share how you make french toast with bread crusts? My kids are always peeling them off. My two year old does this himself without seeing anyone else do it before. How are kids so smart about crust? 🙂 I would love to find a use for these!

    • Jaimie J. says:

      To make french toast out of the bread crusts you just freeze them whole and thaw them out partially, dip them in the egg mixture like you would normally make french toast and fry them…we call them french toast soldiers!

      Also make good croutons…chop them up into little squares, put in a ziploc bag, sprinkle in some Mrs. Dash and shake. Put them on a baking sheet and bake them until crisp and dried out! Yummy topping for salads.

  • Great post! Those are two things that I also from time to time recognize that I’m not doing well at! I always try to freeze any leftover foods and I really love having a freezer full of food
    ! I LOVE to freeze my own berries! Strawberries were on sale at our local WINCO for a couple weeks ($.75/pound) and I definitely stocked up. I even did a post on how I freeze strawberries and use every bit possible here:

    I’ve never thought about saving the cut-off crust from bread for bread crumbs! GREAT idea!

  • If the kids aren’t eating all of their food at each meal, I’d start by serving them less food. If they want more, then they can certainly have it. That way, you don’t have to label whose leftovers are whose. All leftovers can be in a single container from which no one has eaten.

  • Great ideas! One of my favorites is to use my chicken bones (and veggie scraps) to make chicken stock – since I’m using leftover bits of veggies and bones, in essence, it’s FREE:

  • Bethany M says:

    It is unadvisable to save food that has touched mouths, teeth, and saliva. You are saving germs that can multiply and multiply and your frugal approach will lead to hanging your head over the toilet or a night in the hospital.

    • Erica C says:

      I had the same thought – the freezer doesn’t kill bacteria/fungi, only slows their multiplication until the food comes back above freezing. Also be careful with putting leftovers in the freezer – they need to be frozen right away (the day they are made), rather on the day of/before they go bad — same issues with bacteria and fungi.

    • Cheryl says:

      Probably okay if it will be cooked.

    • Whitney says:

      I was thinking the same thing. If you put your kids’ leftover fruit in the fridge and use it to make a smoothie at the next meal, then OK. Even then, I’d use it for just that kid – not to be divided among everyone. I have four small children, and it’s amazing how often one is sick and we don’t know it yet. That’s why we discourage sharing cups, utensils, or food. Re-dividing munched on fruit and bread (unless it is thoroughly cooked first) is going to similarly spread germs.

    • Ann says:

      Yup. This is one where I’d rather save our health than save germs. And DH has a total “ew” response to eating after the kids. I’d rather serve small portions and throw away what their mouths have touched!

      • Lacey says:

        I have to agree. When I first read it, I thought I wouldn’t want to eat it. Especially at someone else’s house.

    • WilliamB says:

      In my family at least, the feeling was that if someone were sick, the germs would spread regardless. But we didn’t put plate leftovers in anything we served to non-family members.

    • mar says:

      Im so glad someone finally said this. I thought that was a tad unsanitary. You never know where hands have been or if any sickness is incubating. Even with family you dont want to intentionally spread germs.

  • Jessica says:

    I wouldn’t recommend saving food that’s been bitten into. The bacteria from the mouth can spoil it quickly, even if you freeze it within a short amount of time. We all carry bacteria on us (hands, nasal passages, skin) that can get into food, multiply (doubling every 10 to 20 minutes) and releasing toxins. (I have a Masters in Public Health and worked at my state health department as an epidemiologist for 8 years researching infectious disease outbreaks and chronic diseases, so I’m not pulling that out of the sky… here’s a reference for you )

    You’d be better off cutting the strawberries into pieces or doling them out one at a time to limit the amount that gets bitten into and abandoned. I have little kids of my own (6.5, 3 and 6 months). Portion control is key.

    • Jessica says:

      I was thinking that it was gross to save food that had germs on it, too, for everyone else to eat later out of the freezer like that! :-/

    • Sarah says:

      Yes, this definitely sounds like a sickening disaster waiting to happen.

    • Erin says:

      Amen! As a dietician, I had the same thoughts about food safety. Taking partially eaten food and cutting it up to serve to others later is not only pretty gross, it’s also unwise from a health standpoint. Reading stuff like this makes me scared to eat at potlucks or other peoples houses.

    • Margery H. says:

      Yes, me too. I wouldn’t feed food that someone had their mouth on to another person, such as half-eaten fruit. I do save veggie scraps and chicken bones that may have been used, but these get boiled for hours to make broth, so any mouth germs are killed off.

      Fortunately, we can feed our partially eaten fruits and veggies to the neighbor’s hens, and she gives us free eggs!

    • Ellen says:

      So glad you brought this up! In my mind, saving half-eaten food in fridge/freezer is basically innoculating a real-live petri dish with your mouth! NOT safe!

      I would definitely practice serving smaller portions to the kiddos to help reduce waste. Or if you know they don’t eat the tops off of strawberries or the crusts off of sandwiches, etc, then cut them off BEFORE you serve them and then freeze. Great way to stay ahead of the game 🙂

  • Louise says:

    While the book only costs .01 the shipping is $3.99, so in reality the book costs $4.00. I have a Kindle but if I want the book for my Kindle it will cost me $9.99. I’d like the book but maybe one day it will be a free book for the Kindle. I’ll keep watching.

    • Kim M says:

      try your library.. I just discovered my library system has several copies, and have requested one. If I find it worthwhile to buy, I can do so afterwards 🙂

    • Sarah says:

      Or a local used book store. I’ve seen miserly mom at my book store for $1. I skimmed it in the store and set it back on the shelf for someone else to buy.

  • Kristin says:

    I have tried to cut back on food waste by giving my children much smaller portions to start. They know they can always have more but I waste less by giving them less. Because, honestly, the idea of saving crusts off partially eaten sandwiches or chopping up the bits of strawberries that they don’t eat grosses me out. I’m really glad it works for you, I just couldn’t do it!

  • Cheryl says:

    Those bread crusts can be cubed and frozen for Thanksgiving Turkey stuffing, too. And about the kids leaving half their food, try serving them less to start with and giving them more if they want it.

  • Debbie Rioux says:

    Another suggestion would be to give the kids half the amount to eat and give them more if they want it. 🙂

  • kate says:

    cut up the strawberries and the toast and whatever else before you give them to the kids, and serve them smaller portion sizes to start, don’t save half-chewed food.

  • Tammy Van Dyne says:

    I have the older addition of that book and love it! I need to find out if there is an updated one now. Congrats on your savings!

  • Tracy says:

    We’ve had many unexpected expenses in the past few months, our income has been reduced almost by half over the past year and we just heard that my very best friend is getting married in 3 months time in Scotland (we live in South Africa). So, we are on a mission to save every cent we can (literally)!

    I have made many things from scratch over the past month – bread, pancakes, cookies, muffins, pizza base, pasta sauce…..

    I am HUGELY surprised by how easy it actually is and how much money can be saved!

    And, it doesn’t take as much time as I thought either.

    • Kim M says:

      Not to mention how much better everything tastes homemade. I also started making more stuff from scratch. I use the IHOP knockoff recipe that Crystal had posted, and they are so much tastier than the bisquick pancakes I’d been using forever.. and takes just as much effort and no special trips to the store! Keep on experimenting!

  • Great ideas! I feel all we do is throw away food frustrating! Funny how we never throw cookies away though.

  • Roxanne says:

    For smoothies, we put strawberries in the blender whole. Yes, leaves and all. I read one time that the leaves were not toxic, and we’ve been drinking smoothies with strawberry leaves ever since then.

    For plain eating of strawberries, buy one of these

    It takes two seconds per strawberry and you end up not wasting as much as when you cut it or just try to eat close to the leaves. I believe I recouped the cost of that utensil on the first box of strawberries I cored.

  • Thanks for the reminders. I “know” these tips and have followed them for years, but I’ve gotten lazy recently (and I have the grocery bill to prove it!). These two simple things can be the first steps toward other money saving changes to help get back on track.

  • Carissa says:

    I’ve found a way to save that food your kids don’t eat on their plate. We only put a tiny amount of each thing on their plate (like a teaspoon) and make them eat it. If I go to the time to prepare something healthy for them I want them to eat it. And a teaspoon isn’t going to make them overeat. We have small snacks so they are usually hungry at meal time. Then they can ask for a little more of what they want. They always eat a variety, they usually ask for more (unless they aren’t very hungry) and they always have a clean plate. And they actually like or learn to like a lot of the food they thought they wouldn’t like.

  • steph says:

    I am always making creative things out of leftovers. Leftover chicken, gets made into wraps for lunch or dinner the next day. Leftover veggies, chicken or fish, gets made into some kind of fancy pasta dish the next day. Even just a tiny piece of leftover fish, can make a brand new meal idea when you chop it up, and add pasta, lemon juice and fresh parsley with grated cheese!

    Also, when bananas start to turn brown, if I don’t have time to bake banana bread, I peel them and freeze them for a future time, when I have enough bananas and time to make some yummy muffins or bread!

    • Amy says:

      I take the bananas 1 step further, I mash and measure them into recipe sized amounts (or whatever I have) and freeze them in bags. All you have to do is thaw and mix! My son actually just wanted to make banana bread but noticed we didn’t have bananas (he’s 6 lol) he was happy I had some frozen so off to make bread I go 🙂

  • Emily says:

    I have 3 kids with small appetites and I try to pay attention to how much they will normally eat and only give them that much. At one point that literally meant only giving them 3/4 of a sandwich! (because they would eat a half, ask for another half, and not finish it).

    If they are truly not hungry, I do save their meal, and that is the next thing they have to eat when they are hungry later. Freezing all the leftovers seems like a lot of extra work, and I would probably forget about the stuff in the freezer!

    • Amy says:

      Hello! I authored this post and just wanted to make a couple of comments. I didn’t save the parts of the strawberries that their mouths were on…I chopped that part off, because that’s just gross to me too. 🙂 Also, I took the crusts off the bread before giving the toast to my daughter. I should have made my sanitary precautions more clear. 🙂

      As for French toast…I use this recipe:

      Instead of large pieces of bread, I use the small pieces.

      Lastly, I don’t know about you guys, but my children’s appetites are always changing. I do give them small portions, but they don’t always eat…it’s unpredictable for me. But I like the ideas of starting even smaller…maybe one strawberry at a time, huh? 😉

      • Whitney says:

        I truly think one strawberry (or one quarter of a sandwich) is the way to go. That also gives you a lot of leverage for getting them to eat more of what’s on the plate. At my house, a lunch of sandwiches, carrot sticks and strawberries might see one kid eat just the strawberries and announce they’re full. So I’ll serve just one strawberry with the other stuff, and they have to earn additional strawberries by taking bites of the other two things. Not only does hunger win out, and there’s less waste, but they eat a more rounded meal.

      • Amy says:

        Maybe the article could be updated with this info? 🙂

      • Cathy Malliard says:

        My son is now 20 and still does not eat when his dad and I do. He seems to eat much smaller, more frequent meals. I found with him when he was young that a scheduled time for everything worked, especially food. He ate a small breakfast, then when he was hungry, I kept cereal, Cheerios or mini wheats, in zip bags and he ate those while watching cartoons. Lunch and supper were a little harder, but he had to eat 1/2 cup of food or he had to stay in the high chair until he ate. He loved to run and play, so this was his calm time and we actually involved him in conversations we had and he learned to talk and eat a family meal as well.

  • Carrie says:

    I feel weird about storing half eaten food (bacteria or whatever) but I have no problem with eating it myself, so I always eat those half eaten strawberries and apples myself and probably consume at least half of my fruit everyday that way. haha.

    Wasting is definitely a big money sapper and it’s one I sometimes get too lax about. Definitely I have to remind myself to serve tiny servings to the kids as they are the biggest culprits and to eat leftovers promptly! I hate it when something gets shoved to the back of the fridge and I find it too late! 🙁

  • Janee says:

    I loved the breadcrumb idea but if I have one who I know will not eat the crust, I would cut it off myself and freeze it rather than using something the kids have touched, eaten off of, or played with. I’m probably a bit of a germaphobe in that way but I know I couldn’t use it once they’ve had their hands or mouths on it. Like already suggested when my kids were that age I gave them just a little and had them ask for more if they were hungry. I also cut things up a lot so nothing was half eaten because it was bite size. Saved a lot of waste.

  • Jen says:

    I’m sorry but I would never save food that the kids had been eating or handling. Bacteria yuck! I always give them very small portions to begin with, and only the protein/veggies and if they finish that, then they get fruit as “dessert”. Or I give them how much I want them to eat, especially for my son who would snack every hour all day if I let him, and I make him sit until he finishes (when I don’t do this he is asking for a snack in a half hour!). I make them finish the crusts too if they want another half sandwich. Maybe it sounds too strict, but this is my own version of cutting down on wasted food!

  • I really enjoyed this post!

  • Melissa says:

    I checked Miserly Moms out of the library about 6 mths ago and read it. It was a pretty good book and had some good advice. I don’t have children, but still thought a lot of the ideas were applicable for my husband and I.

  • Wanda B says:

    I save bread crumbs, stale crackers, a leftover piece of toast, biscuits, or leftover cornbread in a loafbread plastic bag (saves on buying baggies) and freeze them for later use in cornbread dressing. Another saving idea is to wash potato peelings and boil them for your dogs. You can season them with any discarded food from the table or even a couple of boullion cubes. The dogs love them. You can also mix them with dog food.

  • Good points – both of them! It’s true that simple is often best. You’ve also bumped “Miserly Moms” to the top of my reading list. I bought a once cent copy, too, awhile back.

  • Sarah says:

    Just a tip I have learned with my little ones: if I cut the stem off, the whole strawberry gets eaten. If I cut the apple, every piece gets eaten. It is easier to think you are finished with a piece of fruit, if there is some you should eat around, or are supposed to leave!

  • As I just spent 2 weeks at lunch time eating the bits and pieces from my kids’ lunches I had frozen that frankly did not look appetizing (that’s why waste-averse Mom got to eat it all!), I have to say that freezing kids’ food for another day is not the best way to save money. Just cover their plates up with plastic wrap, write each kid’s name on the wrap or plate or cup with Sharpie (it comes off glass, china, and plastic easily!) and that’s what they eat next. You can also ask the kids how hungry they feel (Do you think you’d like half an apple or a whole apple today?) — which in addition to avoiding waste helps them tune into their hunger cues, which most American kids have deadened by constantly snacking. I never make my kids eat after they’re full, but what I serve is what they eat (of course I do my level best to serve items they enjoy; this is not a picky problem but a simple matter of leftovers management!) So if they don’t finish a sandwich at lunch, they eat it when they get hungry in the afternoon, or the next day for lunch. If they don’t eat their salad at dinner, no problem. But when the ice cream comes out, so does the salad — once that’s eaten dessert is available.

  • Christine says:

    Just a thought… wouldn’t allowing your kids to walk away from the table without “completely eating any of them” be teaching them that it’s okay to be picky and wasteful?

    I think it’s important to teach our children not to be picky eaters (or wasteful!) but to be “children who are grateful for what the Lord provides, not taking for granted even the simple things.”

    Here’s a very worthwhile post on raising children with a heart of gratitude:

    • Picky and wasteful? Not at all! Eating disorders and obesity are built on “clean your plate” ideology. Why should my kids magically be hungry at 6pm? Don’t you sometimes feel “not so hungry” at one time only to feel ravenous an hour later? Kids are humans too! I can keep a consistent schedule and indeed my kids usually are hungry at meal times, but if they’re not, no big deal! They just hang out at the dinner table, wrap up their food as I described in my first comment, and eat it later.

      • Christine says:

        I don’t subscribe to clean-your-plate ideology either. My children are encouraged not to overeat, to stop when they’re full. We too, save their unfinished portions for the next time they’re hungry. My thoughts about being picky and wasteful were referring to leaving a half-eaten strawberry and yet moving on to the next one, and the next one… For my children I would tell them when you finish the one you have, you can have another.

  • Amie says:

    My husband always serves our kids big dinner portions and about half of it gets tossed. I always go smaller and then offer more food if they’re still hungry. If they won’t eat, I save their food in the fridge for later that day when they ask for a snack. As for leftovers that are unserved, they become frozen lunches that my husband and I take to work. For example if we have some extra mashed potatoes one night, it goes in a container, the extra peas from the next night are added. We’ll add some meat (leftover from a meal, frozen mini meatloaf, or even a hot dog) and have a nice lunch to microwave at work. We intentionally make bigger portions so we’ll have lunches for work when we cook pasta dishes. I used to be a huge waster of food before my husband set me straight. lol.

    • WW says:

      As a God blessed mom of 3 boys, I wish I could have frozen and preserved all their left over/wasted food when they were tots, in a yet to be invented super duper freezer that has a food life span of ten years at least so as teenagers they can now help themselves!!!

  • Anna says:

    Did you know Miserly Mom also wrote a cookbook that is great!!!

  • Joan says:

    When I have a “to small for a serving” portion of veggies or meat I add it to a large ziplock bag. When the bag gets full I make soup out of it. Amazing how all the flavors mesh together for a wonderful flavor.

  • Brenda says:

    Thank you for this post, Amy. I find we waste a lot of food too. But what do we do with half eaten PBJs? lol.

  • Joanna says:

    Um, am I the only mom who never seems to get to sit down and eat until everyone else is finished? My meal is usually just whatever is left on the plates when the kids are off to the next thing. Mom = Human Garbage Disposal. How’s that for frugal? 😛

  • Barbara Tahir says:

    I wait until the end of summer when tomatoes are at their cheapest (25 cents a pound last year), buy tons and tons then throw them straight into the freezer. I am just now (June 30) using the last of the frozen tomatoes from last summer. Obviously these tomatoes are not good for salads or sandwiches but they are GREAT for cooking. So much easier to take the skin off a frozen tomato that you plunk into some hot water. Great for stews, soups, salsa, etc. And so much less bother than canning them!

  • Ryanne says:

    I have two broth bags in the freezer. One is for veggie/apple scraps and the other is for chicken scraps. When they are full, I divide the scraps between both crockpots, cover with water and let go on low for 24 hours or so. When done, I have lots of great chicken broth to use. I haven’t purchased chicken (or beef) broth for over 10 years. It’s all free because the scraps would have been thrown out!

  • Roberta says:

    The biggest savings on the grocery is to serve smaller portions to start then have some fruit later as a snack. When I have just one or two servings left I plate them up which makes for easier lunches or if someone is eating a late dinner they just need to warm it.


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