We Were Caught Up in the Boom
I was raised living frugally; we never went hungry, but money was always tight, and my mom knew how to stretch a dollar. She always shopped the sales and would buy only what was on sale at each store. My mom also kept a stockpile to save money on food.
In the late '90s, my husband and I bought a house. We both had pretty good-paying jobs, and as real estate values escalated, like a lot of people, we were feeling pretty prosperous. Our spending habits reflected our new attitude, and we were living "high on the hog," as my grandma used to say.
Now that our house is worth maybe a third of what it once was, and our income and net worth have fallen with the fortunes of the country, we have rediscovered our frugal ways. One thing that was easy for us to cut back on was the cost of food. We don't eat any less now; in fact, we probably eat better than we did before, but we're spending 1/3 or less of what we were spending before on food.
Live Frugally; Eat at Home
The most obvious way to save money on food is to stop eating at restaurants. We used to have a nice dinner out at least once a week, and anytime we felt hungry when we were away from home; hey, just stop somewhere for a bite. We have cut way back on eating out, and that goes for that morning cup of coffee at Starbucks too. I take my lunch to work, no more lunchroom vending machines either, that $1.50 a day doesn't seem like much, but it really adds up.
When an Item Is on Sale, Stock Up
Buying canned food and dry goods when they're on sale can really save you money. Many items are discounted on a six-week cycle, so if you buy six weeks' worth when it's on sale, you will never pay full price!
When you see an item you know you're going to use, and it's significantly discounted, why not buy a case of it instead of just a few cans? After all, you're not going to stop eating, are you?
- Make sure the foods you stock up on are things you like and consume regularly.
- If you don't have a big chunk of money to spend, start small and stock up on one item on each shopping trip.
- Shop at discount stores like Sam's Club, Costco, and Winco. Make sure to check the prices, though, to make sure you're really getting a bargain.
- Make sure to use the oldest stuff first. Even canned goods don't last forever.
- Don't go overboard on items like crackers and cereal; a couple of extra boxes is enough. Those things tend to get stale if you keep them around too long.
Having a Stockpile Is Convenient
Another upside to stockpiling is that it reduces those extra trips to the store to get some missing ingredient. It's so handy to just go out to the garage, basement or whatever. Besides, it saves on fuel.
I think a six-month supply is a pretty good goal to shoot for. You will soon see which items move off your shelves quickly and which need to be restocked less often. Once your stockpile is in place, you will be pleased to see how little you have to spend on your regular shopping trips.
Make sure you store your extra food in a cool, dry place. Some sturdy shelving will come in handy. Cans are pretty safe in the garage, but your dry goods are probably better off in the house. If you must store some of them in the garage, make sure they are secure as they can attract pests. Large plastic tubs with lids can help protect your supplies from moisture and are easy to stack.
When Disaster Strikes, You Are Ready
When everyone was rushing to the stores at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, we were already prepared. If everyone kept some basic supplies in their homes, there would be no need for the panic buying that accompanies any disaster. Sure, the bread shelves would probably still be empty, but you'd know you have what you need to get by.
Some Items I Keep in my Stockpile
Rice, Beans, Pasta, Crackers
Coffee, Tea Bags
Beef, Chicken, Corned Beef, Tuna
Soup, Chicken Broth
Green Beans, Peas, Mushrooms
Tomatoes, Tomato Sauce,
Chili, Pork and Beans
Fruit Cocktail, Peaches, Pineapple
Dry and Condensed Milk
Bottles and Jars
Peanut Butter, Jam
Catchup, Mayonnaise, Salad Dressing
Emergency Food Supply
In our area, we often have extended power outages in the winter. Having a good supply of food on hand can be a great advantage during a power failure or disaster situation. Even if you don't want to have a big stockpile like mine, I think it's a good idea to keep a pantry stocked with a couple of weeks' worth of food.
Coupons are very popular these days, I myself have not caught the bug, but I know people who have who do quite well with them. It seems like you have to put in a lot of effort, but if you're willing, you can get some great deals.
The only thing I notice is that couponers sometimes will buy something like five years' worth of body wash just because they have a great coupon. If you weren't going to buy it anyway, you really aren't saving any money. Also, it is taking up valuable real estate in your stockpile. Be careful about stocking up too much on lotion, the oils in it go rancid after a while, and it starts to smell funny.
Grow Your Own Food
Even if you don't have much land, it is usually possible to grow at least some of your own food. Where I live, the growing season is short, and the soil is poor, but still, each summer, we grow more tomatoes than we can possibly ever eat. It doesn't take much space, time or energy, and the tomatoes are so much better than those pale, flavorless things you get in the supermarket.
Freeze and Can
If you keep it well stocked, buying a freezer is well worth the price, and it will soon pay for itself. It is usually a lot cheaper to buy meat in a larger quantity and then break it down into smaller packages for freezing.
My husband makes a killer spaghetti sauce, and he likes to make five gallons at a time in one of those electric turkey roasters. He freezes it in packages just big enough for a dinner with a vacuum sealer. It's April now, and we are still eating spaghetti sauce made from the tomatoes we grew last summer! It's great for lasagna too.
Canning Is Not as Hard as You Think!
There was a time when I thought canning was out of the question, it just seemed like too much work, and I didn't have the time or interest to do it. But with all the fresh tomatoes we have as fall approaches, after we have eaten our fill of the fresh ones, it seemed a shame to let them rot on the ground.
I have always made big batches of fresh salsa in the summertime. It's a big hit with my friends and family. So I started small with canning some salsa. It was kind of addicting, it wasn't as hard as I had imagined, and it made me so happy seeing my pretty little jars on the shelf. Then I started canning the whole tomatoes. They taste just as much better than the store-bought ones as the fresh tomatoes do.
Cook From Scratch
For a while there, I was in the habit of buying lots of convenience foods that seemed like time savers. But I have rediscovered cooking from scratch. It doesn't have to be labor intensive or time consuming. There are plenty of simple dishes you can make that don't take any more time than a box of Hamburger Helper, and they taste better and are better for you.
In some ways, our lives have improved since we have been paying more attention to how we spend. My husband has actually become interested in shopping and even cooking. He loves chasing a deal and can't resist bragging about the bargains he finds, which is fine with me.
© 2012 Sherry Hewins
Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on January 06, 2016:
Hi, this is a great article on how to save from our daily habits. Very well constructed hub. It can be an elaboration and a supplement to my consumer surplus maximisation article.
Sharing it on G+
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on January 06, 2016:
Sherry, great hub and so useful for any season. I've stockpiled on soups, because I'm going to need it this winter. I also do a monthly big grocery list to get all I need to last me a few weeks. Congrats on HOTD!
Thelma Alberts from Germany on May 14, 2014:
I´m stockpiling too since I got married more than 30 years ago and we only eat in a restaurant during special occassions like anniversaries or birthdays. I live already frugally before I know how frugal I am. Thanks for sharing your wonderful and useful hub.
Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on April 09, 2013:
Thanks Beltane73. Couponing would make a great subject for a hub, but perhaps you don't want to give away your secrets. I suspect that the reason I don't care for it is that I don't know how to do it properly.
Holly Kline from South Jersey on April 09, 2013:
Upvoted and useful! I started stockpiling about 2 years ago and you're right, it really does help. I've gotten some great deals and saved a lot of money. I do coupon as well. When you put the two together it's awesome.
Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on March 04, 2013:
Rochelle Frank, I couldn't agree more. I'd never go back to those daily trips to the market. Thanks for your insightful comment.
Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on March 04, 2013:
Great list of strategies, and I do most of them myself. When I lived in the suburbs I had a supermarket literally on the other side of my back fence--- it was way too easy to just pop over there, or send the kids almost every day.
It is now a 50 minute round trip to the store (more if weather is bad or road work is going on), so I have to plan-- and keep my own "store".
I used to use a lot of coupons, but have learned that coupons are mostly for the highest priced, highly advertised, least nutritious, most processed foods. They are rarely a real bargain. You almost never see coupons for fresh, produce, protein or dairy. Sometimes they may be worthwhile for paper or cleaning supplies-- but often, even these, are for products with inflated prices.
Your hub is about saving money--- but, it is also about saving health and better nutrition.
Brian Dooling from Connecticut on May 08, 2012:
Another great hub! As I began reading I instantly thought how great this would be for be prepared for a disaster, but you mention it halfway through! Then I was thinking about the couponing and there again you covered it! I guess what I'm saying is your hub is very thorough! Voted up, awesome, interesting, and useful!
Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on May 06, 2012:
Thanks Dexter and Fancy for your comments, sorry, I guess I spaced on coming back to my comments. But I do appreciate your reading.
Angie, I wish I could take credit for getting the old man shopping and cooking. His work is seasonal and mine is year round 8-5. I think he got to feeling guilty about waiting for me to come home and cook his dinner. It only took about 25 years.
Katyzz, thank you so much for stopping by, sorry I lagged in responding to your comment.
Angie Jardine from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... on April 25, 2012:
Hi Sherry ... some great ideas here.
We don't each much tinned food ... just baked beans, which is just as well as we don't have much storage room.
But I have just planted up a veg garden and am really interested to find that you can grow great tomatoes on poor ground and a short season. (They are the only thing I tend to spend good money on as I like the small, sweet expensive ones at the supermarket). So it will be interesting how mine grow this year :)
I always cook from scratch too ... waaaay too much funny stuff in convenience food, and I'm interested in staying healthy and trying to avoid being any fatter ;(
And you're right, it is cheaper too.
Just can't get my old man to do much cooking though ... can you write a hub on how to do that please? ... lol.
Fancy on April 23, 2012:
I love my coupons and deals. I try not to buy anything a full price. Great hub!
Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on April 20, 2012:
Sandy Frost, thanks for your comment. When money is plentiful, or we feel like it is, it certainly is easy to get lazy and form extravagant spending habits. It's amazing how much less we really need than we think.
Sandy Frost from India on April 20, 2012:
Yes, I do agree. Usually, it is not noticed that how much extra cash we're spending on our eating habits when we relate these expenses to some cost-saving methods. Whether we apply them or not but this is fact that we can save 50% of extra bucks or more by cutting costs in such ways mentioned in this hub.
Well, thanks for writing this great hub. :) Voted up.
Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on April 17, 2012:
Hi Janet, I also cook with cast iron, the same I had down at the ranch. My kids "shop" at my house too, well mostly Sarah does. Thanks for commenting, and continuing to read my hubs.
Janet Pecoraro on April 17, 2012:
OMG, great hub! I still stockpile today; when we were in Boulder Bay I had the basement to store food. I never run out of food, paper towels, shampoo, etc. In fact, I love that my kids will come and "shop" at my house when they are short of funds. And of course, I don't charge them. I've recently dug out my cast iron and added to my pots, to get away from prepared food. I'm also baking bread. Thanks for writing and sharing this hub.....it's my favorite so far!