Stretching Your {real food} Grocery Budget: No Coupons Needed

Stretching Your Real Food Grocery Budget {Quiet In The Chaos}

With groceries at an all time high, we are all trying to find ways to make our grocery budget stretch.  I want to share a few ways you can make your meals go farther, using nutritious foods, on a budget.

  • Carrots in spaghetti– Every family as spaghetti lovers (in my house, it is everyone but me…) All you need is a cheese grater and you are good to go!  Simply grate your peeled carrots into the spaghetti sauce (I use 2 carrots for a recipe with 2 pounds of meat).  You can use this idea in any recipe that can handle a *hint* of carroty sweetness.  You don’t even taste the carrots, really.  But it adds bulk and therefore stretches that spaghetti for leftovers.
  • Zucchini in spaghetti– Basically do the same thing here, that you did with the carrots; only don’t peel them.  You can even use one carrot and one zucchini.  Not peeling them makes it easier to grate, and adds more fiber.
  • Fill in with rice or pasta– I am not huge on using carbs to fill in, because they don’t add a lot of nutritional value to a meal.  However, I do use long grain brown rice (the regular kind NOT minute rice), and sometimes whole grain egg noodles to fill in recipes.
  • Use all of the vegetable– For instance, when I use bell peppers, I cut the tops off and use them in my recipe (just pop the core off).  This is how I see it:  that amount of bell pepper is the equivalent to what will be found in one bowl of my 2 year old’s dish. Cut off and chop up the stalks of broccoli and cauliflower when cooking them- no one is going to notice it is the stalk after it’s been cooked in a recipe.  These parts don’t taste any different than the “main part” of the veggies- they just aren’t as pretty.
  • Always add a salad– This is so easy, and requires little effort.  Add a salad to every dinner (even lunches) and you can make the main dish stretch farther.  In our home, we all *love* my family’s Italian salad.  It is simple- olive oil, red wine vinegar, and garlic with salt and pepper to taste.  SO YUM!
  •  Menu plan– this is a LIFE saver for me.  Honestly, I am not sure what I did before I started menu planning?  But how does this stretch your grocery budget?  When you menu plan, you can make many dishes from the same ingredients.  So instead of buying a bunch of celery for one dish, you make 3 dishes that week that call for celery- a whole chicken and roasted veggies, chicken soup, and maybe chicken salad.  See a trend there?  You can also make a whole chicken (or two) on Sunday (one in the crock pot, one in the oven), and then use the part of a chicken for one meal, and the leftovers for the soup, chicken salad, and maybe even BBQ chicken sandwiches for lunch one day.
  • Start a garden- This is obvious, but look at what your family eats the most of?  We eat a TON of tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, squash, broccoli, and carrots.  These are things we like to plant in our garden, they don’t require a lot of planning or  caring for, just water and sunshine.  =)
  • Price Match- I know we all hate Walmart, I have never met someone that says, “oooh, I just love going to walmart.”  However, they price match!  Don’t get the paper?  Don’t have time to compare all those prices?  Do a squick google search for a price matching blog in your area; it is almost guaranteed some lovely blogger has already done the hard work for you.  In my area we have  I *love* this website, and use it every time I go to the store.  I write out my list, then add the pricematcherz price out beside the items on my list.  I can’t tell you how much money this has saved me on produce like grapes, apples, and bananas.  Now, if you have time to go to the other stores instead of price matching- good for you!  And some of the smaller grocery stores also price match now, so no need to go to the Big Blue for everything.
  • Start eating smaller portions- This is a BIG one, and one we are working on here in our home (mainly because I need to lose weight from my second child haha).  I let the kids have as much as they want- they are growing children with tons of energy,they need the third small bowl of chili more than I do  😉 But try cutting your first portion of everything in half, then if you are hungry go back for a second smaller portion.  This will help create leftovers for lunches/dinner the next day.
  • Don’t buy processed foods-  You know I am a huge advocate of eating real foods; whole foods that are not in a box, package, and are their own ingredient.  Processed foods- chips, crackers, cereals- They’re expensive!  Even if you have a coupon, it is cheaper and healthier to buy a real food version in bulk and prepare it yourself.  Replace chips with homemade chips (simply slice potatoes and bake), crackers with baked crackers, and cereals with oatmeal that you dress-up yourself (using raisin, dried fruit & sucanat or Grade B maple syrup).  This will save so much money and it is REAL FOOD.  All of the above can be made ahead of time and stored, or frozen!

What are some things you do to stretch your grocery budget?