October 5, 2011

How To: Save on Groceries in Small Ways

Posted by Kristin

If you haven't figured it out already two of my biggest passions are food and being frugal, so I've aquired lots of little tips and tricks to save some dough when buying food. Most of them are really easy and often taste better then the alternatives available in the store. So get ready for your pockets to be filled with green and your belly to be filled with goodness.

1. Cook and freeze your own beans.
I can get a 4lb bag of black beans for about $1.99 and it lasts me for months, versus a 15 oz. can which only serves 1 meal. It's as easy as this: dump the dry beans (I usually do about half the bag) in a bowl or pot, fill it with water so the beans are covered with a few inches of water, cover with a lid or towel, and soak for 6-8 hours. Drain the beans and rinse. Dump them back in a large pot on the stove and cover the beans with 1" of cold water. Bring the beans to a boil, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hour or until tender. Portion them into ziploc baggies or tupperware containers, let cool, and freeze. They defrost in the fridge over night or in about 10 minutes in the microwave.

Homemade black beans are so much richer in flavor than their canned cohorts.
 photo from Pintrest.

2. Pick herbs when they're in season and freeze.
Pick a big bunch of basil, parsley or any other leafy herb. Pull the leaves off the stems, wash, and dry thoroughly. Label a gallon-size ziploc bag with the herb name, place in the leaves, and freeze. Then just pull out the portion you want to use and either chop it or break into small pieces while the leaves are still frozen and throw them into your dish while you cook it.

3. Make chicken stock after you've roasted a chicken.
Place the leftover chicken bones in a large pot on the stove. Throw in 3-4 unpeeled carrots, 2-3 ribs of celery with leaves, 1 onion peeled and chopped in half, a bunch of fresh parsley,1 tsp of salt and pepper, and a few whole peeled garlic cloves. Cover the ingrediants with cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer for a few hours.  Let it cool and freeze in 1 or 2 cup portions.

Homemade chicken stock is much tastier and healthier than many of the canned options out there.
photo from Pintrest.

4. Buy items that you usually need in small amounts in larger quantities and freeze the rest. 
I do this often with a can of pizza sauce, chipolte peppers, or tomato paste. Just use small tupperware containers or ziploc baggies and label with the name and date. Labeling is key because any tomato product frozen looks the same, whether its diced tomatoes, tomato paste or pizza sauce.

5. Make homemade salad dressing.
I grew up with my mom making her own salad dressing every time we had salad I think because her mom, my grandmother, did it too. Because of that, I mostly make my own dressing because I just don't like the taste of the bottled stuff. I usually make a basic vinegrette following these easy steps: start by drizzling your salad with olive oil ( 3-4 counts) and balsamic vinegar (5-6 counts). Then sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a bit of sugar. Toss and adjust as necessary.  Once you get used to doing this, you'll always want to have your dressing this way!

6. Make a batch of cookies and freeze in small batches to be a quick dessert during the week.
Yes, cookies can be frozen! This is a great way to always have dessert on hand whether its for you and for a dinner party your going to (or for hospitality at church when its 15 minutes before service starts and you realize you were supposed to bring something this week, although that never happens to me...). They taste better if they defrost slowly at room temperature but you can defrost them in the microwave if you're in a pinch.

Just imagine having these waiting for you in your freezer...
photo from Pintrest.

Do you guys have any tips on saving money on groceries? Let the sharing (and cooking and eating) begin!


  1. Yay! Thanks for the tips. I've been scouring the web for ideas to feed us on the cheap (with recipes that do not involve packages of ramen noodles...).

    I like to freeze the little cookiedoughballs and then just pop them straight in the oven (just add a minute or two to the time). Also, homemade bagels and yogurt are two superyummy & easy ways to save on deliciousness.

  2. I scour the food flyers every week and when an item is on sale I buy a bunch of them, so I rarely pay full price for anything. If I have a coupon I can double I save even more. My shopping list is usually whatever is on sale that week. I buy my meat on sale or marked down at Stop & Shop because they have to sell it that day. I either use it or freeze it. I easily have 30 meals I can make from my pantry or freezer and I can feed 15 people tonight, for less than $20, if I had to without going to the store. All of it was bought on sale or grown in my garden. When I lived in an apartment, I use to store extra pantry items under beds and in hall closets, so anyone can do it. Every time I save a dollar at the grocery store, I am paying myself.