budget talk

Tips on Winning The Grocery Challenge

For those of you who missed my blog the other week, All You magazine is holding its second annual Grocery Challenge contest. There will be ten finalists and the winner will get a $1,000 grocery card and will also be featured in the magazine. The challenge is to spend $25 or less per family member per week on groceries during a four week period. The contest runs from June 20 to July 17th. Go to www.allyou.com/grocerychallenge to sign up. Beginning June 18th the magazine will send you a newsletter featuring tips for saving money and also recipes. I’d love to see a Budget Smart Girl reader win this so to get you thinking about ways to meet this challenge, here are some of my tips for cutting down on your grocery bill. If anyone wants to share their tips to help those entering the challenge, feel free to add a comment.

Eat With The Season
One of my favorite tips for saving money is to eat with the season and buy only produce that’s in abundance. There couldn’t be a better time for this challenge because more produce is hitting the stores and the farmer’s markets. Make dishes using vegetables, like stir frys, pasta with grilled vegetables, sandwiches using items like grilled zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes. And don’t forget desserts. Berries are in season and in a couple of weeks we’ll see peaches and plums hit the produce department too. They’re great by themselves but combine them with ice cream (one brand always seems to be on sale) and it’s an inexpensive dessert. And don’t forget fruits make great breakfast foods too. An added plus is they contain fiber and keep you feeling full longer.

Some type of pasta always seems to be on sale. Many times it’s just a dollar a box and you can do so much with it. Italian dishes, Asian dishes, hot or cold. It’s also a great way to extend meats and chicken and keep the cost of the meal down.

Another favorite budget foods are beans. There are so many varieties; you never have to get bored. Bean burritos, bean burgers and just like pasta, you can use them with smaller amounts of meat to stretch your dollar. You can even make things like black bean and corn (now also inexpensive) salsa and serve them with chips for a low cost snack.

Canned Salmon and Tuna
Besides pasta, canned salmon and tuna always seems to be on sale. I make salmon burgers for a quick meal. Tuna is great for salads when the weather turns hot. And both salmon and tuna can be made into wraps and served with a fresh fruit salad.

One way to win the challenge is to use leftovers. Most of the week my lunch consists of whatever’s leftover from supper the night before. Another thing I often do is make Sunday our leftover day. I turn it into a buffet and set out on the counter anything we haven’t eaten during the week. Items like leftover vegetables are also great in soups, which brings me to another money saying meal.

Soup and Sandwich
I don’t know about you but when the weather turns hot I don’t want to be in the kitchen or eat a huge meal. Soup and sandwich/wrap to the rescue…makes the perfect budget meal too.

Breakfast Any Time
Another money and time saving trick I use is to serve breakfast for dinner. Things like omelets, cheese and egg burritos, Eggs Benedict. Eggs are always a good price and pack lots of nutrition.

I hope you’re already using coupons, but if you’re not get into the habit of using them during the challenge. Find a supermarket that doubles their value and ask if you can swap coupons with friends and family.

Plan Meals Around Flyers
When I plan meals, I sit with my coupons and store flyers in front of me to see if I can match coupons, sales and pantry items together. I’ve discovered this is one of the best ways to stretch the food budget.

Pantry Challenge
Have you heard about a pantry challenge? Once a month you don’t go to the store…for other than essentials like milk, etc, instead you plan meals around items you already have on hand. Only the other day I was thinking if I used everything in the pantry and freezer, I probably wouldn’t need to shop for two, maybe three weeks. Do that during this challenge and you’ll definitely stay within the $25 or less per family member.

Shop Less Often
Even if you’re not relying on your pantry supply, try shopping less often. I’ve switched to biweekly grocery shopping and found it does save money. Why…because the more often I’m in the store, the more likely I am to impulse buy.

Don’t Be Loyal
One of my rules for being a Budget Smart Girl is you shouldn’t be loyal. If another store has a better price, shop there. Just the other week a supermarket I don’t usually visit was offering in store coupons, plus a $5 off coupon which I couldn’t resist so they got my business.

Next week, some more tips and recipes.

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