Paycheck Chronicles

Five Fast and Frugal Tips for Fixing Dinner

With the cost of groceries going up every month, I'm always on the lookout for easy ways to pare the grocery bill.  Here are my five fast fixes for food prices:

1.  Use what's in your cupboard.  Spend five minutes looking through your food to see what's there.  Then check your fridge and freezer.  Make a plan to use some long-forgotten ingredients.  Use a site like Allrecipes to find recipes that will make good use of your pantry finds.  Their advanced search feature lets you put in specific ingredients, then select a meal, food style, and method of cooking.

2.  Find a meatless dish that your family likes.  Whether it is meatless lasagna, quiche or beans and rice, you'll save a bundle over main dish meats.

3.  Use your slow-cooker.  They're great for dried beans (see #2), inexpensive cuts of meat, and those busy days when you might be swayed by the drive-thru if you don't know that there is a hot and hearty meal waiting at home.

4.  Try different brands.  You might find some great choices.  For example, I know that my kids don't care what brand of peanut butter I buy.  (The husband is a different issue.)  However, I do have one who is picky about her oatmeal.  If you are shopping at a civilian grocery store, they may have a satisfaction guarantee on their store brands.  Ask at customer service, or check out their website.  The commissary usually has several name brands of differing prices.  With a little trial and error, you will discover which brands you can save on.

5.  Stock up.  This sounds a little the opposite of what I've written above, but it isn't.  If the commissary has peanut butter for a fantastic price, buy one more jar than you need.  If your local chain grocery is running an amazing special on cereal, stop in (if it is on your way) and pick up a few boxes.  Just think twice to be absolutely sure that a) your family will eat it, b) it will keep well, and c) it will be consumed before you move again.

There are thousands of grocery store money saving tips out there.  If you're overwhelmed, just try one of the things I've listed above.  Next month, try another one.  Eventually, you'll work out a frugal food strategy that fits your family and your wallet.

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