The Little House Living Show – Episode 003 – Saving Money on Groceries
Thanks for joining me in my first full episode on saving money with the Little House Living Show podcast! My hope for this podcast is that it will be a new way for me to connect with you, my readers, and for you to be able to listen to my words even if you are driving or having a busy workday.
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What’s In This Episode?
One of my favorite topics…saving money! This episode is all about saving money on groceries which is a great way to save money on your monthly budget if you need to cut out the excess. Today I’m sharing all of my favorite ways to save at the grocery store (and beyond!).
0:36 – Introduction
1:32 – Making a list
2:05 – Making a GOOD list
3:12 – Buying meat in bulk
4:03 – Strategies for buying meat
4:56 – Meatless meals
5:27 – Using a bulk foods co op
6:24 – Unit pricing
8:06 – Bent n Dent stores
9:34 – Finding the best surplus stores
11:24 – Eating from the pantry challenge
14:09 – Growing your own food
14:50 – Growing in any space
17:03 – Re-growing vegetables
17:35 – Foraging
18:39 – Trading for food
20:39 – Making mixes and freezer meals
21:40 – Buying frozen produce
22:43 – Buying and eating healthy foods
23:36 – Frugal produce
24:51 – Reader question of the week
25:21 – Are we Christians?
28:49 – Outtro
Links Mentioned in This Show
- Submit a Question for the Show
- Frugal Produce on a Tight Budget
- 12 Ways to Save Money on Groceries
- Buying Meat in Bulk
- A Beginner’s Guide to Azure Standard
- How to Shop at a Surplus Store
- How to Have a Pantry Challenge
- How to Re-Grow Store Bought Vegetables
- Edible Wild Plants Book
- Quick Start Guide to Foraging
- 23 Ways to Save on Healthy Foods
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00:36 – Hello everyone and welcome back to the Little House Living show. I’m excited that you decided to join me again today and I’m going to be talking about another topic that I really love today, which is saving money. Last week I got to talk about living simpler and this week I get to talk about saving money. My two favorite topics, I decided to start off this week by talking about saving money on groceries because that’s just a frugal must-do. If you want to live a more cost effective life, you definitely need to be saving more money on your groceries.
01:14 – Now, I don’t mean by that, that saving money on groceries that you need to eat unhealthy foods or processed foods because that is not what we eat in our house. To me, saving money on groceries is saving money on the foods that you’re already buying. The food your family eats.
01:32 – There may be some changes in your diet, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad thing. So today I’m going to talk about the best ways that I’ve found that to save money on groceries. Before you even get to the store, what you need to do first is have a plan for the grocery store and that means to have a list. Now I know that we all like to go to the store and think that we’re going to be able to remember everything that we needed or something like that. But it’s just better to go in with a list.
02:05 – You can make your list of variety of different ways. You can make your list based off of what your meal plan is for that week. You can make a list off of the coupons that you’re using. You can make a list based off of the sale ads or something like that. However you choose to make a list that works for you, just make sure that you do it and you do it before you get to the store and make sure that you take your list with you to the store because the list isn’t going to do you any good if you leave it at home.
02:39 – When make a list I use a couple different methods. I do make a list off of the meal plan that we are going to use that week. And then I also make a list based off of what is on sale at the store that week. So I actually start by making my meal plan based off of what I can get on sale and what I already have in the fridge and then I make my list base off what I need for that meal plan because of what’s on sale. That’s how I usually make my list.
03:12 – The next thing that you need to know about saving money on groceries is that you should try and buy your meats in bulk. There is a lot of different methods of doing this.. You can raise your own meats. We do that with our beef. You can buy it from someone else that raises their own meat. You can buy it in bulk from a bulk meat supplier. And there are several of those out there. We, we use a couple of these different methods. I do buy some meat currently from the grocery store just because we are not living by our regular sources of meat. So I’m still working on finding new sources of bulk meats, but we raise our own beef and brought our whole cow over to Ohio in the freezer.
04:03 – So we’re good on beef, so it’s just mostly chicken and pork that I buy elsewhere in bulk. But if you can find a good source of bulk meats, then that is going to save you a lot of your grocery budget, especially if you can find someone that just kind of does an overall pricing per pound. So they’re not charging you $12 a pound for a steak. They’re charging you $5 a pound, no matter which cuts you’re buying. That’s going to be your best bet. If you like to have a variety of cuts. Now if your family eats mostly hamburger or something like that, you might be better off just buying bulk hamburger and trying for a good price on that. But otherwise, go for a good average price overall for the type of meat you’re buying.
04:56 – I have a long blog article on, on buying meat in bulk and I will make sure that I link to that in the show notes. Meat definitely seems to be the most expensive part of any grocery budget. So if you can find a way to save on your meat, whether by buying in bulk or maybe having one or two meatless meal nights a week either way that is probably going to be a large amount of your grocery savings.
05:27 – Now the next thing that I wanted to tell you kind of goes along with that. So I wanted to mention it here and that is to utilize a bulk foods co op. Something that I’ve talked about quite a bit on the Little House Living website is how I buy my bulk foods from Azure. Their website is AzureStandard.com. I’ve been buying from them for over 10 years and they’ve been a pretty good source of bulk baking supplies and things like that. I don’t generally use them for a lot of the other things they sell, which is supplements and pre-packaged products like cereals and things like that. But I do use them as much as I can for bulk of baking supplies and sometimes the bulk produce and things when they have that and season. So it’s definitely a good resource to find a good bulk co-op that has good prices.
06:24 – Something that kind of goes along with that, and this is if you’re buying from a bulk co op or if you’re buying from the store, is to make sure that you check your unit prices of products that you’re buying and the unit is going to depend on what you’re buying. So it might be the price per ounce or per pound or even per package. It just totally depends on what you’re buying, but make sure that you’re checking the unit prices and comparing the unit price to maybe another brand or another store or something like that. And it’s a good idea to keep some kind of a price book to write those prices down in.
07:03 – So you will know, well my buy price for this product is this amount per pound. Then you know that if you see it on sale, if it’s better than your price in your price book, then that’s probably a good deal and you should get it for that price and maybe even stock up if it’s an excellent price compared to your normal buy price. Yes, definitely check unit prices and make sure that what you’re buying is actually a good deal because you could buy things from a co op and you might think, well this is going to be a good deal because I’m buying it from my bulk foods co op and I’m buying it in 50 pounds or, or whatever the amount is. But if you can find it on sale somewhere else, it may not be a good deal. If you are interested in buying from a bulk foods co op and you want to check out Azure, I’ll make sure that I link to my beginner’s guide to Azure Standard in the show notes for this show so you can see what they’re about and kind of get an idea of what I buy and see if that it might be a good fit for you.
08:06 – Alright, so moving right along, I am going to share with you my favorite way to find good deals on groceries, especially here in Amish country where I’m at right now. And that is to find a good dent n bent store. You might find it under another name, like a surplus store or a discount grocery store. By this. I’m not meaning like Aldi or some other store that calls himself a discount grocery store, even though that is, you know, technically a type of discount grocery store. What I’m meaning is a store that gets in dented cans or boxes or close to the expiration date products or discontinued products, things like that. They will stock all those types of things. So they’re always going to have different products. You never know what they’re going to have. Those can be an excellent store to find products that, that you are unable to get at the regular grocery store because they cost too much.
09:06 – I like to use them to buy things like crackers or the occasional can of soup or something if I want to have a little stockpile of easy lunches. Usually their products are offered at a really big discount because of maybe a small little dent in the can or maybe it’s missing the label or something like that. Whatever it is, they usually offer those products at a pretty good discount.
09:34 – Now I have been to some surplus stores that their prices aren’t that good or most of their products are very expired or things like that. And that’s why it’s important to shop around. If you have a, several of the surplus stores in your area, there might be one that gives better prices or just has better products overall. It depends on, you know, what supplier they’re buying their products from. To see what kind of products they get. Some surplus grocery stores have a lot of organic products and things like that and some of them don’t. So it’s a good thing to get to know your local surplus store and then sometimes you might go to a surplus store and it doesn’t seem like the products are good. It might be a good idea to ask the owners or the manager when they get their products in or when a new truck arrives because that is going to be the day that you want to go. Often you can get to these stores and they’re quite picked over already or just, you know, don’t have a good selection or something like that. So if you can find out when they get their trucks in and when they put that product out on the shelf, that’s probably the day that you should check them out because they’re going to have the best selection and the best deals before everything gets picked over.
10:57 – Now I have shopped at surplus stores for a very long time and I actually used to work at one for several years. So I’ve written a pretty extensive how to shop at surplus or discount grocery stores blog posts, and I’ll make sure that I link to that in the show notes as well. So if that’s something you’re interested in or if you want to try to find a surplus store in your area, hopefully this blog post will give you some tips and ideas on how to do that.
11:24 – So my next tip for you for saving money on groceries is something that we do every January. And sometimes we do it into February too, and that is to eat from the pantry. So during that month, we will try to not go to the grocery store and we will try to eat everything from the freezer in the pantry that we possibly can.
11:45 – And we do this for a couple of different reasons and that is to try and eat up the stuff that isn’t getting eaten. It’s not the things that you’re grabbing every month for your regular meals. So there might be a can of something that you bought for some odd recipe and it never got made. Or perhaps you’ve got too much of something in your freezer that’s just not getting eaten up. So that is a month where you try to eat up as many of those foods as you can. Now we like to do this in January and February because those are usually the months where I have a hard time finding the best deals in the grocery store on foods that we normally eat. So instead of spending more money on foods that aren’t on sale at the grocery store, we just do an eat from the pantry challenge and try to make as many things that we can from the foods that we have in the pantry.
12:38 – We will go to the store to buy fresh things as needed. But usually I have a pretty good stock of frozen vegetables or things like that that we can eat from instead. I have several blog posts on how to eat from the pantry and different challenges that we’ve done because it’s just fun. And if you join our Facebook group, it, I try to incorporate that in the group in January, so we can kind of encourage each other and help each other out when we have those weird pantry items that we just don’t know how to make it into some kind of savory meal. So those are things that you might want to check out if an eat from the pantry challenge is intriguing to you.
13:23 – Another reason that we do it in January and February is it gives us a good chance to kind of eat up some of that canned and frozen foods that we canned and froze from our garden or that we bought at the farmer’s market or things like that. It gives you a good chance to eat those things up a little bit more before the next gardening season begins. I know as a canner and as a gardener and someone who frequently shops at the farmer’s market, you tend to end up with a little bit too much. You go overboard with the, with the canned foods and stuff like that. So it’s a good idea to try and eat some of that up so it doesn’t collect dust in your pantry because you have too much of it.
14:09 – So of course I just mentioned being a canner and a gardener and that is a tip that obviously belongs on any list of saving money on groceries. And that is to just grow your own food. Now, you may not be able to have a big garden in your backyard. You may not be able to dig up the soil depending on if you’re renting or something like that. There is always a way to grow your own food, whether or not you have space, whether or not you have a yard, whether or not you can dig in your yard whether or not you have a good window in your house, there’s always a way that you can grow food.
14:50 – In our last house, I didn’t even have a very good place to have things growing, you know, a large amount of things. But I definitely utilized my Aerogarden. We grew lettuce and we grew Swiss chard and we grew kale all winter long. I had herbs that I stuck right up in the kitchen window because it was on the South side of the house, so it got the most sunlight. And even though it wasn’t a huge amount of food and it wasn’t a huge amount of space that I could have dedicated to those things, it was still something. We had fresh herbs that could go with our meals. I almost never had to buy lettuce. I definitely did not have to buy Swiss chard. I learned that that chard grows very well in the house. We didn’t have to buy kale or things like that. It was great. And we had that fresh stuff growing all winter long, so it was green and it was fun. And every gardener knows that they just love to have any green leafy thing growing at any given time. So there’s a way to grow a garden, no matter if you have a yard or not.
15:58 – And if you do have a yard or a patio, you can utilize raised beds or container gardening or anything like that, even vertical gardens in the summer. If you have a greenhouse or some kind of space in your house, you could try hydroponic gardening. I’ve done a little bit of that and definitely want to get into a little bit more. My parents actually have a nice small hydroponic setup in their small greenhouse and it keeps them full with lettuce and cucumbers and all kinds of things like that all the way up until December. And then they, you know, take a month or two off in that coldest part of the year and then they can restart it again right away. And so it’s a great way for them to be able to grow things in what would normally be a very short season because South Dakota has a very short growing season compared to a lot of places. So I would highly encourage you to grow things if at all possible. And I definitely think it’s possible.
17:03 – Another thing that you can do for saving money on your groceries that kind of goes along with gardening is to regrow a lot of your vegetables and I’m sure that you’ve seen the hack videos or articles or something on Pinterest and stuff on regrowing your vegetables and there are certain things that regrow like a celery and lettuce and green onions and stuff like that. And I think that I do have actually a short article on regrowing vegetables, so I’ll make sure that I link to that in the show notes as well if that’s something you’re interested in.
17:35 – One other thing that I wanted to mention that’s kind of along the same lines as this is to try foraging and that is just to find edible wild plants that are growing in your neighborhood or on your street or in your local parks or something like that. Now there’s a lot of tips and things that go along with foraging. You want to make sure that you’re foraging in a place that you can forage for food. You don’t want it to be sprayed and things like that. I have kind of a beginner’s guide to foraging, I can link to as well. And then there’s a book that I would recommend called Edible Wild Plants and that will help you just identify what things that you actually can eat when you’re foraging. But I would recommend finding a foraging book that is specific to your local area because every area, every state, every region is going to have different plants that are available to them. So that’s something to look for if you’re interested in foraging for free food as well.
18:39 – So I mentioned briefly a little while ago about that some of the things that my parents grow and my parents actually raised quite a bit of meat and something that we do with them is we, we swap for whole chickens that they, that they raise because at the current time we cannot raise our own chickens. And I like to use whole chickens for the meat, but then also for broth, we make quite a bit of bone broth. So something we do is we have a swap with my parents and that is for us, that is us trading something that we have or something that we can do for them. In exchange for chickens. It’s something that I’ve done with other people too, especially for, you know, bulk produce.
19:31 – Maybe someone has grown an extra amount of tomatoes or something in their garden and my tomatoes didn’t grow very well. Well I can always offer some kind of swap and to get their extra tomatoes. And it can be something as simple as, you know, swapping. You can, you can pull their weeds or you can do some of their mending or maybe you have some other skills that you can trade. Anything that you can trade to get that produce or that meat or anything that something else might have. It’s just, it seems often that we know of someone that has a little bit of extra so it doesn’t hurt. Just ask if there’s something that you can trade or swap or work for in exchange for that extra product or extra produce that that might have. That could be a really good way for you to save on your grocery budget. I know that it’s been a good way for us to save on our grocery budget because I can’t even remember the last time I had to buy chickens or I had to buy ’em broth and because I make my own out of the whole chickens that we trade for. So it’s been a really great swap for us.
20:39 – I just have a few more shorter tips that I wanted to share with you as well that I feel like are a great way to save money on your groceries. And one of them is one of my favorite things to do, which is to make mixes and freezer meals. And this doesn’t maybe save money on the actual groceries, but it saves you from eating out, which is usually a large portion of people’s grocery budget or food budget depending on how you break that up. So by making your own mixes and making your own freezer meals or doing some kind of meal prep or large batch cooking you can save money because you will have those food items prepared and ready to bake or ready just to make really quickly instead of feeling like you need to run to the store or and get something premade or eat out that evening or something like that, it can be a really great way to save on that eating out portion of your bill.
21:40 – The other thing that I wanted to mention was to consider buying frozen foods if you don’t already. And I don’t mean frozen meals by this. I mean frozen fruits and vegetables. Those are a huge part of our grocery bill. Every month we utilize Sam’s club and Costco for our frozen foods because I found the best prices there on bulk foods and we eat quite a bit of the frozen foods, so it makes sense for us to buy it from those places. But frozen foods are usually picked and packed at the, their peak freshness. So they still contain a lot of the nutrients so that they had when they were fresh. So instead of having to buy fresh produce, which can be more expensive, especially in the winter, we use a lot of frozen foods. So that can definitely be a good way to save a lot of money on your grocery bill too if you aren’t doing that already.
22:43 – And one more thing that I wanted to mention before I wrap up this episode was that I hope that you didn’t feel like I mentioned anything in here that was too much processed or you know, boxed foods or things like that because that’s not something that we normally eat. I did mention that sometimes we will buy some canned and boxed products from the surplus grocery stores, the Bent n dent stores. But that is really on a rare occasion when we can find a good deal on the things that we eat or you know, are buying some specialty item or something. Most of what we eat is healthy and it’s fresh and it’s, it’s still frugal. I have a pretty long article on saving money on healthy foods. So I’ll make sure that I link to that in the show notes as well.
23:36 – I’ve also compiled a list of the top 10 frugal produce that we buy. It’s actually all vegetables. I think it’s, it’s not fruit. But the, so the top 10 frugal vegetables that we buy and there are vegetables that are a great price year-round. So it doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter. They always seem to either be on sale or just a cheap price per pound.
24:03 – So those are kind of, some of the big ways that we save also is by using that list and then using some of these other tips to save on healthy foods in particular. But all of these tips that I’ve shared with you today are things that you can use on healthy foods. You can use these tips on organic foods if that’s what you eat. You don’t need to buy processed foods or boxed foods or anything like that to be able to save money on your grocery bill. You can buy healthy, you can cook healthy. Like I mentioned, you can make your own mixes and freezer meals so you don’t have to eat out or things like that, which is another way to eat healthy. So this is not only a great way to save money on groceries, but a great way to save money on healthy groceries.
24:51 – So when I first introduced you guys to this new podcast, one of the things that I said that I wanted to do was to answer some of your questions. I, I tried to answer all of the email questions that I get, but sometimes it can kind of be a lot and sometimes the answer to the question actually might be helpful to more than just the one person. So I was hoping to use this podcast to also take a little bit of time and answer some of those questions.
25:21 – So one of the questions that I got this week was from Emily and she asked if we are Christians and if that affects what we do and how we do it. And I’m not quite sure what she meant by this question as a whole, but I wanted to address it a little bit because it does pertain to what we do. So yes, me and my husband and our family are Christians. We actually are in full time ministry. We moved to Ohio because we are working with a missions organization. It is a non-denominational missions organization that sends rural pastors to churches that cannot afford them or cannot find someone that wants to come to their location. We’ve felt very drawn to this particular mission having grown up and lived in rural areas our entire lives. So we’re very excited to get started with this. And I never expected to be going into full time ministry, but here we are. So so that explains that part of the question. And then the other thing that she asked was if this affects what we do and how we do it.
26:34 – And I would definitely say that being a Christian, I mean, it affects every aspect of our lives. One of my missions has always been to encourage other people. Especially those that, you know, want to live a simpler lifestyle, which we believe goes along with biblical teachings to not be overly busy and to be distracted and to be able to have fellowship with others and things like that. And we couldn’t do those things if we weren’t living a simpler lifestyle. In fact, we couldn’t do full time ministry if we weren’t living a simpler lifestyle because we would be distracted by so many of the everyday things of this life. And, you know, caught up in so many worldly things that seem to be such an issue in this and age.
27:25 – But because we live a simpler life and because we live a more frugal lifestyle, we’ve been able to eliminate all of our debt, making us debt free, which I don’t know if you know, someone in ministry or are aware of, but those in ministry don’t exactly make a big paycheck. In fact, we actually have to raise all of the support that we need to be in ministry. So being frugal and living this frugal lifestyle has been a huge help into going into ministry and yeah, and just living out our Christian life as we’re supposed to live it out.
28:06 – So I hope that kind of answers your question. If you have another question, I will make sure that I link to that a little question form that I had last time or if Emily is this thing and wants it clarified a little bit, please feel free to ask me more questions. But that was the question that I wanted to cover today. I don’t want this podcast episode to get too long cause I don’t want to bore you. So I appreciate you so much listening to my podcast today and I hope that you learned some new ways to save money on your groceries. I would love to hear if you have extra ways to save money on groceries that I could either share in a future podcast episode.
28:49 – But anyway, before I keep rambling on, I just wanted to thank you for being here and thank you for listening today. I hope that this encouraged you to live a simpler, more frugal life and to keep on making the most with what you have.