Two years ago, my friend Jessica from Life as Mom asked me if I’d be interested in joining with a group of bloggers to write about how we eat well and spend less in the kitchen. Jessica brought together a diverse group of bloggers and we’ve been posting once a month (give or take) for two years now!
This month, we’re looking back at what’s changed in our kitchens over the past two years. Here’s the Eat Well, Spend Less posts that I’ve written:
- Simple Steps to Get Started Using Coupons (April 2011)
- How To Live Off Your Pantry (April 2011)
- How I Shop 10+ Stores (April 2011)
- Life Without A Deep Freezer (May 2011)
- What To Stock Up On During Summer (June 2011)
- Hospitality without Hassle (July 2011)
- Easy Snack Ideas for a Busy School Year (August 2011)
- Holiday Grocery Sale Outlook and Predictions (October 2011)
- Setting an Elegant Table on the Cheap (November 2011)
- Coping with Lackluster Holiday Grocery Sales (December 2011)
- Wasting Less in the Kitchen (January 2012)
- Splurge Yourself out of a Cooking Rut (February 2012)
- Taking Meals to a New Mom (March 2012)
- The Life Cycle of a Couponer (April 2012)
- Teaching Your Kids While You Grocery Shop (May 2012)
- Entertaining Weekend Guests (June 2012)
- Making the Most of Summer’s Produce Bounty (July 2012)
- Hot Breakfast Ideas that Require Little Effort (August 2012)
- Nine Tips for Spending Less Time at the Kitchen Sink (October 2012)
- Cooking Pasta Like a Pro (January 2013)
- Q&A: What We Waste, and Don’t (February 2013)
- Five Things I Plan To Do in the Kitchen This Summer (March 2013)
A lot has changed, and some things have stayed the same:
I don’t shop at 10+ stores much anymore. The amount of time I personally have to spend going around getting the best deals has decreased, so I’m now shopping at Sam’s Club, and King Soopers and Sprouts see me frequently. For over a year now, I’ve been buying my ground beef at Ranch Foods Direct. I stop in at Safeway every now and then for a good deal, but I don’t shop around as much as I used to.
I have a deep freezer now – albeit, a very small one, but I’m very happy with what I have since it keeps me from wasting too much food. I’ve been using it to cook more meals for the freezer, and right now it’s stuffed to the gills with partially-prepared meals.
I still clip coupons, but not very many. The coupon deals have decreased somewhat, my time to gather them has decreased, and I just haven’t enjoyed it as much as I used to, so I’m mostly concentrating on buying pantry staples and cooking from scratch. I still very much shop the sales, but I don’t use coupons quite as much.
Some of the things that I used to buy a lot with coupons are granola bars and cereal. These days, prepackaged granola bars are usually only purchased when going on a road trip, and cereal is a rare treat. It’s healthier to cook breakfast from scratch or make my own granola bars, and what I make at home is much more filling that what I was getting for cheap with coupons, so that’s been a change over the past couple of years.
A big change over the past two years has been my focus on reducing food waste. (I wrote a book about it, even!) If I may be so dramatic, a focus on reducing food waste has transformed the way I cook, and I would say that it’s a primary source of savings right now.
Last summer, I concentrated on kicking the fast food habit and we did! The kids still ask if we can go to such-and-such for lunch sometimes, but we don’t. Eating out is almost always a planned occurrence now, and frankly, I think back to all of those lunches we ate out and wish I could get that money back. :/
The past few months have been pretty tight as far as the grocery budget. Since Jeremy‘s income is somewhat seasonal, it’s very normal to have a couple of very lean months during the winter (though we have set a goal to plan better this next year), and we’ve spent approximately $450 per month on food (both grocery and dining out expenditures). I have to admit that this is incredibly low for us – I’m wondering if somehow I have input something wrong into the accounting software! :) (Ultimately, I’m thanking the Lord for his provision!)
I’m much more comfortable spending around $600 a month for groceries alone, but, as I’ve taught in Grocery University, your budget number should usually be thought of as an average over weeks or even months. I would guess that I will not be averaging $450 when I do the tally later in the year – I’ll be spending more over the summer to make up for the leaner months!
Recently, I started making my own bread (yes, I will be sharing the recipe soon) for sandwiches and I think this is definitely a habit that I will be keeping up with. (Probably will not be keeping up with the sourdough, though!)
So, those are some of the changes my kitchen and grocery shopping habits have seen in the past two years. Overall, I would definitely say that we are eating even better and perhaps spending a little less from two years ago (though that’s hard to say for sure, since I am feeding more people now).
How have your cooking and grocery shopping habits changed in the past couple of years? I love “talking shop” about stuff like this – click here to join the discussion in the comments!