8 Ways to Lower Your Grocery Bill

by Ivory Soap

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Most of what TL and I do, we just do cause we’re strange.  But in tough economic times, our eccentricities may be of interest to others. Why? Because our weird Little House lifestyle is naturally low cost!  So, here are eight ways that being eccentric like us could help you lower your grocery bill.

1.  Five a day?  No way.  We’re more like nine a day.  A diet built on a foundation of fruits and vegetables is super healthy.  And it just so happens that it’s really low cost as well.  If the bottom of your pyramid is produce, there’s very little room in your day for expensive toaster tarts, whop biscuits, or cheese puffs.

2. Eat in season. But how do we tell?  Cause we know the seasons?  Not Ivory.  She just reads the ads and won’t buy any produce over $1 a pound, which usually means it’s in season.  Done!  Last week it was pink lady apples and local tomatoes-n-peaches at Schnucks.  This week it was more pink lady apples and local peaches with local tomatoes and valencia oranges from Kroger.  (Ivory doesn’t need to buy many veggies right now since her garden is rockin’…woot!)

3.  Like those long-living, hard-working folks of yore, the Little House ladies eat very moderate amounts of meat and milk products.  We’re ‘sprinklers’.  We make mostly one-dish, vegetable-based meals, with little or no meat/cheese mixed in.  Turns out, that’s a super low-cost way to eat (super healthy too.)

4.  If it doesn’t grow in the ground or walk on it–it’s not food.  (Yes, fish swim, but it’s not as snappy to say.)  Ivory won’t buy anything that wasn’t RECENTLY in one of those categories.    There’s not a lot of ‘made with BLANK’ at her house. Either it is BLANK, or it didn’t get bought.  We don’t eat peanut energy bars, we eat peanuts.   Ever see an energy bar tree?  Me neither.  Funny thing is, it’s really expensive to eat ‘made with BLANK’ and really cheap to eat BLANK.

5.  Be really weird about wastefulness. Ivory never pays more than $2 a pound for boneless meat/poultry/fish (except salmon filet night–that limit is $4 a pound).  Why?  Just cause she’s weird and any more seems like unnecessary extravagance.  She’s that way with ten dollars or a million in her pocket.  And TL’s hubby is just like her.  Rich or poor, we have our own internal wastefulness meter, and that sucker is set pretty low.

6.  Be a lazy cook/meal planner. I keep around the basics for the normal breakfast options.  I keep around the basics for normal school lunch options.  I buy the makings for a few simple dinners.  Apart from that, I am a SLACKER.  But, it’s amazing how long you can cook out of your pantry when you are too lazy to go to the store.  And if I’m too lazy whip up something creative out of my head, I use Supercook. You just type in what you have around the house, and it starts kicking out recipes.  That means, rather than buying new ingredients all the time, I’m using all that random stuff I already have hanging around.  Laziness is very cost effective!

7.  Buy booze. HA!  What I mean is, set a grocery budget, and whatever is left over, gets spent on grown-up frivolity.  Not that we don’t have a fun budget, but if putting those ridiculous specialty cheeses (that make Ivory’s internal meter PEG) back on the shelf means Mr. Ivory gets some spontaneous extra-budgetary brew–his tastes in food switch from budget breaking to remarkably frugal.

8.  Read the ads and SHOP AT ALDI! If you don’t have an Aldi, you’re in my prayers.  But if you have one within thirty minutes and haven’t been there? I’m so not talking to you until you go.  Mine is twenty minutes away.  My Wally World is two blocks away.  BUT, I can drive all the way to Aldi, shop, and be home in less time than it takes me to get out of Wally World…AND it’s half the bill.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

renee @ FIMBY August 20, 2009 at 6:41 am

I haven’t purchased meat, cheese or dairy products for years but I can tell you around here, even with sales, produce isn’t cheap.

I wrote a post about the challenges of this type of eating:

I don’t find it cheaper but more expensive in fact than a hot dog, mac n’ cheeze, white bread diet. Though I’ve honestly never bought that stuff anyway (but it seems cheaper).

Oh, I don’t have an ALDI, I’m assuming it’s a grocery store.

rowena___. August 20, 2009 at 7:22 am

ditto to aldi’s! we are blessed to have two within a few miles of home and i have been known to hit both of them just to see if one has something the other doesn’t. (almost always it turns out to be true).

thank you for telling us about supercook! i’ll be using that tonight. this whole post is so full of great suggestions, i esp. like the one about buying produce at $1.00/lb. if you shop at aldi, you can come home with a basket full of good, cheap, LOCAL produce well under that price. this summer i have canned so many strawberries and mangoes and plums and such, all for less than i could buy them fresh OR canned at kroger!

Ivory Soap August 20, 2009 at 8:08 am

Aldi produce is local? I had no idea!

Kathy August 20, 2009 at 9:02 am

Wonderful pointers! We follow the same basic ones. It’s worked lovely ever since I quit work. Now we feed 4 on a salary of 1. Our downfall is the booze, and once a month that expensive cheese. Being vegetarian has also reduced our costs. Amazing, fun and delicious. An adventure at every meal. Yesterday we had whole wheat pasta, canned black beans, chard, and pecorino romano, drizzled with leftover oil from my greek olive salad (last week’s treat). I never would have tried it, except I’m lazy too! 🙂

Myrnie August 20, 2009 at 9:03 am

We’re on board with ALL of this…except #5. I’m really having a hard time with meat right now. Do I really WANT beef that was treated so poorly, it’s under $2 a pound? Or chicken, or anything? I’ve been using up meat in the deep freeze, and eating a lot of eggs, until I can find a balance between happy wallet and happy animals! Maybe if I lived in a different part of the country, it would be easier.

I think I’m jealous of your Aldi’s, too- we don’t have it out here!

Love all these suggestions, thanks!!!

Kimberly August 20, 2009 at 9:17 am

I have a way of getting “happy meat” for a good price. Only thing is that you will need a freezer. Go buy a happy animal raised by your local happy farmer and have it butchered and packed. It will take a little foot work to find a farmer who raises animals like you want them. You will save tons of money this way. You can even go in as a group and split a large animal. The farmer will usually drop it off at the butcher for you. I raise all my own meat so that I get “happy meat” without drugs even.

Eugenia August 20, 2009 at 9:17 am

Hey Ivory,
Great suggestions! I’m looking on supercook right now to check out recipes. I wanted to let you know that your link to it is broken, though. (Not that it’s hard to type in, but I thought you might want to know). <3

Zoe August 20, 2009 at 10:27 am

Thanks for these suggestions. My husband and I recently started brewing our own beer in order to economise. We now make very tasty beer for around 30c per bottle (and have no more cans or bottles to be recycled). That compares to around $1 per can for the cheapest beer in the off-license. All of the regular supplies are stocked in our supermarket, and we bought the equipment from a home-brew store (with money earned by returning beer cans for their deposit).

2 Green Acres August 20, 2009 at 2:23 pm

I love all the tips! These days, I have been focused on the top three. With the garden at peak production, we don’t have room for anything but vegetables and more vegetables. We doubled the size of our garden this year and it has been a great adventure finding new ways to eat all of the fresh produce. Last night, my husband made tomato cream soup and eggplant/pepper/tomato/basil sandwiches. Yum!

If you are interested in other meals and recipes, check out my blog:


Erin August 20, 2009 at 2:32 pm

i shop at like 5 different places for gorceries. and i save a TON of money

1. find your local farmers market. I am blessed with river market in KC. i get tons of food really cheap (4/1.00 tubs of strawberries, 5/1$ pepper, 2/1$ cukes ect ect while in sesason. The only veggies i DONT buy there are baby carrots and bananas, and thats because they are SUPER cheap at aldi’s

2. bakery thrift outlet. I get name brand sara lee bread for about 75 cents a loaf or less. I buy 3-4 at a time and freeze it for later, bread keeps well that way.

3. I shop big lots or similar dicount stores for chips and the like. I can live without them but the hubbie and kids sometimes want chips, nuts, ect and i get these super cheap at big lots. i just dont pay over 2$ for anything and i do well there. I can also get energy drinks (my hubbie is addicted to those) for 50-75 cents each.

4. then i shop the ads and coupons at the local stores that double coupons. you’d be surprised how often you can get stuff for free if you find it on sale and use a coupon.

5. i stock up on frozen chicken and hamburger at Save-a-Lot. i can get chicken leg quarters for 10 lb for 4.90. and hamburger for 5 lb for 8.00. i save tyhe chikcen bones after cooking and use it to make my own stock for soups ect.

Also i save all the leftovers from every meal and on fridays we have “buffet” leftover night. Ah laziness the mother of invention.

those are my suggestions.

Kathy M August 20, 2009 at 2:50 pm

All good ideas. I don’t buy anything processed – it costs a ton, and is terrible for you. We go to a produce store for what we don’t grow, and it’s cheaper than any store around. I just bought 1/4 grass fed beef for $2.50 a pound – cheaper than store burger! We have planted every square inch of our lot in the burbs with berries, fruits, vegies, and 5 chickens to supply wholesome foods. No paper towlels or store cleaners either. I make my own bath soap .30 a bar, laundry soap .10 a load, and cleaners from vinegar, castile soap, and baking soda – cheap! The old days WERE better.

Megan August 21, 2009 at 1:03 pm

These are great! I love your blog, ladies! Some of these I’ve got down pat, but some I really need to work on. Thanks for the suggestions, and I’m super excited to check out supercook. isn’t the internet great?

My only suggestion to add, and you probably imply it, is to get over your preconceived notions of what meals are supposed to, traditionally, look like. Food/meals can be really really simple, and it’s much better that way! But when you start cutting out meat and dairy this just kind of happens naturally, I think!

Handcrafter August 21, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Aldi rocks! When I was first married Aldi wasn’t so great; their produce selection was horrible and quality questionable, they had no fresh meat and the general quality of their food was less than wonderful, even the cereals tasted awful. If I went there I could stock up on a few pantry items, but then I had to go to a”real grocery store” to get the meat and produce to make meals. At the time I was going to school and working full time so I didn’t have time to make the multiple trips.
Oh what a difference a couple of decades makes. Now Aldi is my primary grocery store. Their produce selection is at least 4X’s what it was before and the overall quality is as good or better than that at the supermarkets. I only go to the other stores for specialty items that they don’t carry.
I can’t comment on their meats though, because although we are carnivores, we now get our meats from my brothers-in-law. I get beef from one BIL for about 1/2 the cost at the stores (cut, packaged and frozen by the processor) and we paid only $ .6o/lb for a whole hog (we spent 2 days at my sister’s house butchering, making sausage and packaging- I even rendered the lard to make soap).
As far as waste goes- When I let something go to waste- money, food or some other item; I feel like I have failed or maybe a better word is lost- like in a game. And my competitive nature makes me strive to not let it happen again. I guess I’m weird like that.

Jana August 21, 2009 at 2:19 pm

How do you make laundry soap? It is so expensive in the store to buy the brands!

Ivory Soap August 22, 2009 at 8:46 pm

@jana just hit the search on our site. you’ll find it!!! But ask me if you have any questions.

alice44 August 24, 2009 at 9:41 pm

Guess I will google Aldi. I shop at a small local place for meat and veg (and could never make your meat price cut off except possibly on “Southern Grown Chicken” a non-starter). The nearest Walmart, which may or may not carry food, is a 30 minute drive.

Annie Rasmussen August 25, 2009 at 6:21 am

Way to write a post that is so memorable! I want to immediately print it out, stick it on my fridge, and laugh about it daily. You make me proud to “be really weird about wastefulness.” Thank you!

Rosemary August 25, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Thank you for the great tips. I am very excited that they are building an Aldi just 2 miles away!

Dana October 30, 2009 at 9:34 am

Can’t do vegetarian. Makes me crazy. Also, if the bottom of your food pyramid is fruits and veggies, you’re not getting enough energy from that. You have to make up the deficit either with starches or fats. Can’t do starches. Diabetes runs in my family and I’m exhibiting symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

My brain runs much better & is happier on the fats, and I don’t get the blood sugar spikes and crashes (I have learned by now what those “feel” like). So I can’t ditch the meat and dairy. I do, however, make an effort to source healthier versions of same. I don’t go by fat content, but by whether they were raised closer to how they’d live in nature.

Now that said, if you reconfigure your food intake so that your insulin isn’t constantly up… amazingly, you don’t get as hungry. I never could pull that off on a plant-based diet; I was always scrounging in the kitchen for another snack. Nightmare. You don’t save much on food if you find yourself wanting to eat more of it. And I know “they” all say to eat more fiber for satiety but that doesn’t seem to work for me. When I was vegetarian I was eating whole-grain and *still hungry.* Plus, I don’t fancy scouring out my insides on a regular basis with edible Brillo pads.

If you’re living frugally anyway then it doesn’t matter what your food pyramid is based upon. It’s worth it to me to eat in a more species-appropriate way. No matter what PETA says, we are not herbivores. That’s why we have fingernails and canine teeth instead of hooves or four stomachs–primates are bug-eaters, and our particular type of primate just happened to discover we could eat other stuff without dying, too. Bugs are animals, and are high in fat. There you go.

(I know… I know… weird comment to leave a stranger. LOL)

mom-and-rn October 6, 2010 at 9:33 pm

I do not buy a lot of processed food except goldfish crackers for my 16 yr old son. When I buy meat and dairy I will pay more for organic I get really nervous about hormones and antibiotics and who knows whatelse when I cook for my kids. And, no,no, no southern chicken.(Live in the northwest) I have driven by those tyson chicken farms in Arkansas…scary!

connie January 10, 2011 at 4:41 pm

I was raised in nw ark. and did my stint with Tysons’ . Could tell horror stories on what they feed those animals. FDA told growers years ago to stop injecting birds with antibiotics & hormones –so they did. But they just switched to putting it in the feed ! To get a growers contract with Tysons now you MUST sign an agreement that you will only buy feed from them ! And it has those additives in it ! :-$ No GOOD !

Yvonne March 3, 2011 at 9:30 pm

I like the tips posted especially about growing your own garden, would love to do that except that I live in a condo. Most of the produce and meats I buy are organic so not so easy on the wallet, do you have any tips for buying organic foods. I live in Canada and we don’t have an Aldis

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