Here’s How I Cut My Family Grocery Budget By Thousands of Dollars

We left the city for our homestead three years ago. With that move came a high mortgage and the costs of renovating a 150-year-old farmhouse. Around us, inflation was booming, and we had just had our first baby. While we lived frugally in our apartment while never sacrificing good, wholesome food, I knew I would have to make more grocery budget cuts and look for more creative ways to save money on food costs.

And so I did just that. In fact, I save my family thousands each year on the cost of food.

As a stay-at-home mom and homesteader, I discovered numerous ways to significantly reduce our family’s grocery expenses. We’ve saved thousands of dollars by raising meat, cultivating perennials, and tending to a large garden. Beyond those things are strategies and tips that any family living in any circumstances can use. So, while you may not be able to implement all these practices, there’s a wealth of ideas here that can inspire anyone to truly cut costs and live more sustainably. Here’s a detailed guide on how I slashed our grocery bills, packed with practical tips that can work for a variety of lifestyles.

The Power of Buying in Bulk

Bulk food in jars.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Buying in bulk is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to cut down on grocery expenses. Staples such as rice, beans, and flour are considerably cheaper when purchased in large quantities. Buying meat in bulk, whether from a local butcher or directly from farmers, offers substantial savings. This approach reduces the cost per unit and minimizes the number of trips to the store, saving both time and fuel.

Even for those living in urban areas, many stores and co-ops offer bulk buying options, and joining a bulk-buying club can help city dwellers take advantage of these savings too.

Let me give you a very real-life example: I buy 55-lb bags of organic hard white wheat berries that I mill into flour—now, you don’t have to mill your own flour; this works with bulk flour from the grocery store—but that bag costs me $50 and represents 25,000 grams of flour.

The average family-sized loaf of sourdough bread that I bake is 500 grams per loaf.

That means each 55-lb bag of wheat grains contains enough flour to bake 50 leaves of organic sourdough bread at $1 per loaf.

Where I live, a loaf similar in size and quality in bakeries costs anywhere from $8 to $10 or more. That means those 50 loaves of store-bought organic sourdough bread would cost my family $400 to $500.

That is a huge difference and tremendous savings.

Why a Chest Freezer is a Must-Have

Chest freezers.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

We’ve had a chest freezer since our condo days, so don’t tell me you don’t have the space for it. And you can find them on sale all the time.

Investing in a chest freezer has been a game-changer for our grocery budget, and it can be for anyone, regardless of where you live. It allows for storing large quantities of meat, vegetables, and other perishables bought in bulk or harvested from your garden. Freezing surplus produce during peak season means enjoying garden-fresh flavors all year round without the added cost. Urban dwellers can use a chest freezer to store bulk-purchased items and take advantage of sales, ensuring they always have nutritious options available.

This will let you buy whole, 1/4, or 1/2 of whole animals (we buy a whole cow to split with family each year), saving you tons of money and storing it.

Buying in Bulk: Investing in Whole, Half, or Quarter Animals

Bulk meat.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Buying a whole, half, or quarter animal from a local farmer is one of the most cost-effective ways to stock your freezer with high-quality meat. This approach often provides a variety of cuts, including steaks, roasts, ground meat, and specialty items like liver or bones for broth, at a significantly lower price per pound compared to retail stores.

By dealing directly with farmers, you can also ensure the meat is sustainably and ethically raised, which often means better quality and taste. Investing in a chest freezer is essential to store this bulk meat, allowing you to preserve large quantities and enjoy the savings year-round.

This strategy isn’t limited to those with ample space; urban dwellers can also benefit. Many farmers offer delivery services or have drop-off points in city areas, making it convenient for everyone to access farm-fresh meat. Sharing the purchase with friends or family can reduce costs and make storage more manageable. This method cuts down on grocery bills, supports local agriculture, and promotes a sustainable food system, making it a win-win for your wallet and community.

Embracing Simplicity: Go Back to Basics

Vegetables.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Go back to basics to save the most money. Root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, onions, beets), grains (corn flour/masa harina, rice, buckwheat, oats), beans, lentils, and other basics are all you need.

Adopting a back-to-basics approach can lead to significant savings and a healthier lifestyle, no matter where you live. Simplifying your diet to focus on whole, unprocessed foods reduces the reliance on expensive convenience items. Basic ingredients like grains, legumes, and fresh produce are not only cheaper but also more nutritious.

Preparing meals from these simple ingredients can stretch your budget a lot further. This mindset shift towards simplicity can transform your grocery budget and improve your overall well-being.

The Benefits of Cooking From Scratch

Creamy finished jagersauce.
Photo Credit: The Peasant’s Daughter.

Cooking from scratch is a cornerstone of homestead living and a major money-saver. By making meals at home, you eliminate the hidden costs and unhealthy additives found in processed foods. Home-cooked meals allow for complete control over ingredients, leading to healthier eating habits. Buying raw ingredients in bulk and preparing them yourself is far more economical than relying on pre-packaged options.

This is something that everyone can do, regardless of how busy you are. And if you’re wondering about the photo, that’s my must-try creamy German hunter’s sauce (jägersoße), a type of gravy you can serve over meat and vegetables.

Strategic Meal Planning: Make the Most of Sales & Pantry Items

Two bowls of thick leftover hambone soup full of beans, ham, potatoes, and root vegetables.
Photo Credit: The Peasant’s Daughter.

In the photo, you see my recipe for leftover ham bone soup with beans, a perfect example of meal planning where you make an oven-roasted ham with vegetables one night and then make this delicious soup the next day — or even overnight — with the leftovers

Meal planning is essential for saving money and reducing food waste in the city or the countryside. By planning meals around sale items and what you already have in your pantry, you can avoid unnecessary purchases and ensure nothing goes to waste. This method allows you to maximize your budget and maximize available resources.

Meal planning can simplify your weekly routine, reduce the stress of last-minute meal prep, and ensure your family enjoys nutritious meals every day. It’s a versatile approach that fits any lifestyle.

I see a lot of pushback online about how “unrealistic” it is for the average person to cook from scratch, but those people are overwhelmed and disorganized. The disorganization leads to overwhelm; the overwhelm creates more chaos and disorganization. Next thing you know, you’re ordering out constantly, getting takeout, and making excuses as to why you can’t change.

Just stop. Everyone can cook from scratch and make a meal plan; there are countless resources out there to help you master this.

The Joy of Baking Your Own Daily (Sourdough) Bread

Freshly milled flour sourdough loaf.
Photo Credit: The Peasant’s Daughter.

Baking your own bread (especially sourdough) is both economical and rewarding. The cost of flour, water, and salt is minimal compared to buying bread from the store, and the result is often healthier and tastier.

Sourdough bread, in particular, has the added benefits of improved digestibility and a longer shelf life due to its natural fermentation process. The ritual of baking bread can also be a therapeutic and fulfilling activity, providing a sense of accomplishment and connection to the food you consume. Plus, the aroma of freshly baked bread filling your home is simply unbeatable.

And as I demonstrated earlier — baking bread potentially saves you lots of money.

Maximizing Savings with Memberships, Buying Clubs, Online Flyers and Sales

Bulk grains.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

It may be an obvious tip, but it still belongs on this list because it’s very important.

Subscribing to online grocery flyers is a savvy way to stay informed about sales and discounts. Planning your shopping around these deals helps you get the best prices, and stocking up on sale items can provide long-term savings. Using digital flyers, you can easily compare prices across different stores and make informed decisions. This strategy helps you avoid impulse buys and focus on purchasing items that offer the most value.

Combining sales with bulk buying and meal planning can substantially reduce your grocery bills. And so many stores now offer free pick up or even delivery which will save you so much time.

Farmer’s Market Savings: Shop Close to Closing Time

Farmer's market.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Shopping at farmer’s markets close to closing time can lead to significant savings. Vendors often reduce prices to clear out their stock, allowing you to purchase fresh, local produce at a fraction of the cost. This practice supports local farmers and provides access to high-quality, seasonal produce. Building relationships with vendors can result in further discounts and bartering opportunities.

Shopping at farmer’s markets fosters a sense of community and encourages sustainable eating practices. City dwellers can take advantage of urban farmer’s markets for fresh, affordable produce.

Venture Out of The Cities & Towns

Amish buggy on road.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

When my husband and I lived in the city, we frequently traveled to Amish and Mennonite country to take advantage of their offerings. You can find some of the best prices on certain items — bulk honey and maple syrup, for example. And often you’ll find pastured eggs for a fraction of the cost, I used to stock up on several dozen eggs to last for the month.

Growing Your Own Food: Garden Self-Sufficiency

Standing in my garden holding a black rooster.
Photo Credit: The Peasant’s Daughter.

It doesn’t take a homestead or large garden to become self-sufficient in most or all of your vegetable and fruit needs. It really doesn’t.

I grew tons of food on the balcony of our old apartment and then expanded into a community garden plot. If you follow some simple techniques and strategies, you’ll be amazed at how much food you can produce with little land.

Growing your own vegetables is one of the best ways to save on groceries and ensure a steady supply of fresh produce. Even a small garden can yield a substantial amount of food, reducing the need to buy expensive supermarket vegetables. Gardening provides a rewarding way to connect with nature, improve your health, and gain a deeper appreciation for the food you consume. By growing a variety of vegetables, herbs, and fruits, you can enjoy the freshest, most flavorful ingredients right from your backyard.

Backyard Chickens

Chickens.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

This can be super-expensive or really save you money if done right.

Adding backyard chickens for eggs is another fantastic way to save money and ensure a steady supply of fresh, nutritious food. Chickens are relatively easy to care for and can be kept in rural and urban settings, provided you have some outdoor space and check local regulations. By raising your own chickens, you can enjoy the benefits of fresh eggs daily, significantly reducing the need to buy eggs from the store.

Chickens also contribute to a more sustainable household by eating kitchen scraps and providing rich manure for your garden. This closed-loop system not only cuts down on food waste but also enhances soil fertility, promoting better growth for your plants.

At the end of their laying years, old hens make some of the best-tasting soups and bone broths. Excess roosters (if you hatch eggs or buy straight-run chicks) make a phenomenol coq au vin.

Cultivating Perennials & High-Value Crops

Raspberry canes.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Growing perennials and high-value crops like berries and fruits can lead to substantial savings over time. These plants often produce year after year with minimal effort, providing a continuous supply of expensive items. Perennial crops like asparagus, rhubarb, and various fruit trees offer long-term yields with a one-time planting investment.

Berries, in particular, can be costly to buy but are relatively easy to grow and maintain. By focusing on these high-value crops, you can transform your garden into a money-saving oasis and enjoy fresh, home-grown produce throughout the seasons. Even in an urban setting, container gardening or community plots can yield high-value crops.

Stretching Meat Further: Savvy Recipe Strategies

German meatloaf sliced and ready to serve.

Learning to stretch meat further with specific recipes can make a big difference in your grocery budget. Incorporate dishes that use smaller amounts of meat but are still hearty and satisfying. Soups, stews, casseroles, meatballs, and stir-fries are excellent ways to make a little meat go a long way.

The photo is from my recipe for German meatloaf where breadcrumbs make up a good portion of the recipe.

By pairing meat with plenty of vegetables, grains, and legumes, you can create nutritious and filling meals that are easy on the wallet. These strategies are applicable in any kitchen.

The Art of Canning: Preserve Your Harvest

Home canned food.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Canning is an excellent way to preserve excess produce from your garden and extend its shelf life. By canning fruits, vegetables, and even meats, you can create a pantry full of homemade, long-lasting food. This cuts down on grocery costs and ensures you have nutritious meals available year-round.

Canning allows you to take advantage of peak harvest times and avoid the waste that often comes with an abundant garden. With a well-stocked pantry, you can enjoy the flavors of summer in the depths of winter. City dwellers can also preserve produce bought in bulk or from local markets.

For water-bath canning, you don’t need specialty, expensive equipment. Jars and rings can be reused endlessly; only metal lids must be replaced each time, and they cost pennies.

Why a Pressure Canner is Worth the Investment

Pressure canned food.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

I see my All American 921 Pressure Canner as an appliance, just like my stove and refrigerator. And it’s indispensable. Unlike my fridge and stove, my pressure canner will outlive me and still be useable by my grandchildren.

A pressure canner is a worthwhile investment for anyone serious about food preservation. It allows you to safely can low-acid foods like meats and vegetables, extending their shelf life significantly. Pressure canning can drastically reduce your reliance on store-bought canned goods while providing you with endless heat-and-go homemade meals for busy nights.

This method of preservation ensures that you always have a supply of high-quality, homemade food on hand, ready to be used in a variety of recipes. Investing in a pressure canner pays off in the long run with the savings and convenience it offers. Urban dwellers can benefit by preserving seasonal produce from local markets.

DIY Pantry Staples

Storage pantry.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Make your own: 24 Pantry Staples That Are Healthier & Cheaper Homemade

Homemade Salad Dressings

Salad dressings.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Cheaper and better: 11 Homemade Salad Dressings Better Than The Bottled Stuff

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