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  1. #1
    Resident Snot-Nose GZA's Avatar
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    Default What are your tips for reducing grocery bills?

    Hopefully this isnt the millionth thread on this topic... I'm about to go off for another school year and I don't have quite as much money as last year. I'm looking to cut down my grocery bill as much as possible through selecting good, cheap food and cooking things myself as much as possible. I'll definitely need to avoid eating out!

    What do you do to reduce your grocery bills? What are specific ingredients and dishes you like to make that are cheap and good? What else can be done?

  2. #2
    Member Inverness's Avatar
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    If you are willing to put forth the time...extreme couponing, and I'm not joking. You save proportional to how much time you put into it, but you can easily achieve pretty insane savings, given you live reasonably close to a store that will double coupons and other factors...big cities make it difficult. And it say's your from Canada...so I'm not entire sure how things work there?

    In terms of ingredients, I like to keep a good choice of spices available to make change-up semi-usual meals...you don't have to spend a fortune for good food, just be specific with what you cook and rotate it around relatively frequently.

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    Resident Snot-Nose GZA's Avatar
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    I'm not exactly sure what the deal is with coupons here as I have never tried using them before. In general, from what I can tell from having gone to the states and whatnot, our grocery stores and such are fairly similar. I'll be living in an urban area with two grocery stores within 3 or 4 blocks, a third in the adjacent neighborhood, a fourth a short bus ride away, and some mom and pop/ethnic food marts not too far away as well!

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    Senior Member ceecee's Avatar
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    The best thing to do is make weekly (or however you plan to shop) menus. You can use a store sales circular to help with that, building your menu around what is on sale, seasonal, maybe bulk sales if you have a way to store that. Coupons are great but only if you are actually going to use that item in the amount you have to buy (sometimes it's BOGO or more so keep that in mind). Here's some sites to find recipes and ideas.

    http://www.cheapcooking.com/
    http://www.kitchendaily.com/2010/03/...ap-meal-ideas/
    http://www.studentrecipes.com/recipes/quick-food/
    I like to rock n' roll all night and *part* of every day. I usually have errands... I can only rock from like 1-3.

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    likes this gromit's Avatar
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    Burritos. We used to eat those all the time when I was in college. Beans are cheap cheap cheap. Throw in some onions and green peppers and spices. Not bad at all. Pasta is pretty cheap but you'd need to add stuff. Actually a good one is a can of white beans, a can of tomatoes, lots of garlic, lots of oregano, and some parmesan cheese on top - cook garlic first in olive oil then add the cans, then the oregano and cheese at the end (salt and pepper to taste). This one is YUMMY on spaghetti.

    Also, omelets with frozen veggies and cheese. Or oatmeal bought in bulk with some dried fruit and nuts added in.
    Your kisses, sweeter than honey. But guess what, so is my money.

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    The biggest thing is probably to avoid processed foods and stock up on the basics. Always have potatoes, rice, pasta, spices, soup stock, etc on hand. Fresh, seasonal, unchopped vegetables and meat (you don't need the best cuts) will cost more at first glance than processed foods, but will make far more, healthier food if prepared properly. For instance, I can buy the ingredients for a stir fry for about $10 or a stew for about $12, and it will produce 4-6 large meals.

    As for a favorite recipe, here's my mom's spaghetti sauce recipe (which always tastes better when she makes it)

    1-2 pounds lean ground beef
    1 onion (chopped)
    1 stalk celery (chopped)
    2-3 finely chopped mushrooms
    1 green pepper (chopped)
    2-3 cans tomato sauce
    1-2 cans tomato paste
    1-2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
    1-2 cloves garlic
    1 tablespoon sugar

    Brown and drain the ground beef
    Add vegetables and spices, sauté
    Move to a slow cooker, add tomato sauce and paste
    Add sugar, cook on high 4 hours, or leave on low all day

    So easy to make, relatively inexpensive, and you can increase the amount you make just by adding more tomato sauce.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by dala View Post
    The biggest thing is probably to avoid processed foods...
    Really? You don't know how sad I get every time I pass the frozen aisle and see a kg of pizza go for the same price as a lb of ground beef. Its just not fair...

    My current strategy involves shopping on student discount days and only buying stuff that's on sale. This requires me to think on the fly about what sale ingredients I can mix together. It means I hop back and forth between the vegetable and meat sections but its fun. Drives my friends nuts though.

    I definitely agree on stocking up on basics though. You'll thank yourself for buying extra pasta that was on sale when the zombie attack comes. As a general rule, I always keep one frozen pizza in the fridge for emergencies, two frozen steaks and or sausage, and a pack of frozen vegies. I've always got rice and pasta. I also always have some snacks. If I go the grocery store one week and see nothing appealing, I can usually survive and wait for next week's deals.




    Oh and for the ultra starving student and not feint of heart. Ramen isn't actually your best friend. Aside from being nutritionally devoid and bland, it isn't that cheap. In most grocery stores, the price per weight is usually posted on on price tags for pre-made frozen foods. Take an hour to go through every frozen item in your grocery store and note the price/oz. In most stores the cheapest are those personalized TV dinners. But even within those brands, certain flavours are more economical. My record is 8.8 cents/oz. Helped me while waiting for my first pay check in the states while still having to pay rent.

  8. #8
    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GZA View Post
    I'm not exactly sure what the deal is with coupons here as I have never tried using them before. In general, from what I can tell from having gone to the states and whatnot, our grocery stores and such are fairly similar. I'll be living in an urban area with two grocery stores within 3 or 4 blocks, a third in the adjacent neighborhood, a fourth a short bus ride away, and some mom and pop/ethnic food marts not too far away as well!
    Couponing is extremely different in Canada, let me tell you. We don't have a tiny fraction of the available coupons in the states, and also most stores won't let you combine coupons let alone double coupons like they will in the states. There also seem to be better coupons available in the states (more for dollar amounts than 50c off) and grocery prices are higher in Canada as well, for the most part. Result being that it's nearly impossible to get all the free stuff you can in the states, and it's difficult/impossible to make coupons worth your invested time. It's still a fun hobby for me though, and if I order (free) coupons every so often online and keep them in my wallet and watch for good sales, I can get things for a pretty good deal. You have to be really conscious of what a "good sale" actually is though, and you have to be willing to keep coupons around without using them until it's worth it, AND you have to use them only for things you would buy at regular price anyway....otherwise you can end up buying stuff you wouldn't have in the first place, making you lose money!

    My pro tips -

    1) know what a good price is, and for anything storable, only ever buy at that price and buy enough to last a few months. Sales come in cycles: for example, every 2-3 months you'll see boneless skinless chicken go on sale for 8.80/kg, and occasionally, maybe once a year you'll see it go for 6.59/kg. Throw some in the freezer. LOTS of things go through cycles like this with a regular "sale" price and sometimes a "superawesome sale" price. Like cheese will go on sale for 5$ every few months and 4$ occasionally (maybe every 6 months). triscuits go on for 2$ every few months and occasionally 1.50. The regular prices are usually at least 1$ higher. NOTE: be careful not to buy things only because they're at a good price and then never use them, that's my constant downfall.

    2) for anything canned/packaged, find a discount store like food basics or price choppers and stock up. They can be as low as half price compared to loblaws and loeb! Even if you have to cab home the savings are often worth it if you do a big trip. Those stores often have awesome sales as well. Caveat: they usually have terrible-quality (but cheap) produce, buy at your own risk as it will often be bad the next day....

    3) planning is awesome if you can do it. I can never stick to it. But at least have an idea of the things you're willing/able to cook, and the ingredients necessary. So like, if you know you have pasta at home, and ground beef goes on sale, perfect! you know you'll have a use for it. try to avoid buying too much fresh stuff at once if you're not positive you can eat it within a couple days - that's another of my downfalls. So much spoiled food because I never end up cooking that broccoli in time, or whatever.

    4) despite the "not buying too much fresh at once", it's also bad to go to the store too often since every time you go you'll usually get a least a couple impulse things that you really didn't need, often unhealthy too. If you can manage to stick perfectly to a list (I can't) that's even better.

    5) if possible, get a big chest freezer and use it for all your meat! meat can easily be double the price if you have to buy it at regular price instead of on sale. If you have a frozen stock of meat, you never have to buy at regular price. caveat: if you ever lose power for more than 24h or so, this sucks enormously. I know this way too well.

    6) veggies always seem expensive for some reason, but it's usually cheaper to make your own food than buying the processed stuff. Especially if you do a giant batch and freeze it! Double-especially if you buy all the ingredients on sale. That said, I often buy the lean cuisines when they go on for 2$ because I love them, it's super fast, relatively healthy (minus the salt) and it's only marginally more expensive than making it myself.
    -end of thread-

  9. #9
    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    also you've heard this before, but beans and rice is "relatively" nutritious and certainly the cheapest half-way nutritious thing you can buy. Throw in some veggies and you're set. Look up recipes online for seasoning ideas - invest in some spices, they're a couple bucks now but they last forever and are vital for making food edible. Dried bean are MUCH cheaper than canned (usually) - but require a time investment, mostly soaking time but also a couple hours to cook (very low supervision though). You can buy both beans and rice in bulk for cheap if you look around.

    for breakfast steel cut oats are super cheap compared to other breakfast options (well, depending where you buy them....look around. I find bulk barn is the best around here) and IMO delicious. And very healthy.

    Eggs are fairly cheap, last forever without going bad, are relatively healthy IMO, and are easy to make in various ways.
    -end of thread-

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by mavericknm View Post
    Really? You don't know how sad I get every time I pass the frozen aisle and see a kg of pizza go for the same price as a lb of ground beef. Its just not fair...
    Think of it as price per meal rather than price per unit weight. Your frozen pizza will provide about two meals, but if you take that meat and mix it with some potatoes and vegetables into a shepherd's pie, that's about six or eight meals for maybe twice the price.

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