Monday, February 15, 2016

10 Simple Things You Can Do to Lower Your Grocery Bill

How'd you like to cut your grocery bill, improve your health, help the planet, and eat food that tastes great? It's within your reach. Here are a few ideas for making it happen. 

1. Don’t Buy Rinse Aid, Windex, or odor-repellents.

Use good ole white vinegar in place of all of these products. You may have to refill the rinse aid dispenser more often, but since vinegar costs about a tenth of those fancy, expensive, toxic, earth-polluting commercial rinse aid solutions, you’ll actually be saving money (and not contributing to the poisoning of our earth, sorry for the guilt-trip, couldn’t help myself.) Vinegar diluted with water, is more effective, creates on build-up, is non-toxic, and works great on windows, mirrors, and nearly all surfaces. Got a stinky trash can? Spray some vinegar in there and let it evaporate – it will remove the offending smell. Before you ask – yes - in all these uses, the vinegary scent disappears in minutes. There are lots of other ways to use vinegar to replace expensive cleaners.

2. Don’t buy expensive fabric softeners and dyer sheets.

Use vinegar as your fabric softener. Just pour ¼- ½ cup into the fabric softener dispenser for each load. I got by on ¼ cup for many years, but as my kiddos have gotten bigger and smellier, ½ cup is what is needed. Vinegar will save you money AND it won’t pollute the environment. Win-win, right? And those lovely scented fabric softener sheets? Unnecessary AND you’ll be healthier for it. (I’m not making this up – there’s plenty of evidence out there supporting the dangers of dryer sheets. I can also site the improvement in my own child’s asthma once we gave them up.)

3. Stop buying bottled water. 

I know exactly what you’re going to say – but what about Flint, Michigan? Thanks to Flint, you can be even more sure that your local government, water company, and public-watch group is making triply certain that your water source is safe. We all need to drink more water, so if you don’t like the taste of your tap water, there are lots of solutions. Add lemon or lime. Keep a pitcher in the fridge.  Storing it on the counter for a short period of time will allow chlorine and other chemicals to dissipate. You can even buy fancy pitchers that have an inner section where you can put lemons, strawberries, whatever-you-like to flavor your water. The bottom line is that not buying water in plastic bottles will save you money AND reduce waste in the environment AND be better for your health.

4. Make your own breakfast cereals. 

I’ve always thought that cereal companies should be prosecuted for the crazy over-pricing of cereal. Instant oatmeal is simply chopped up regular oatmeal. You can add brown sugar, dehydrated fruit or whatever flavors you want. Need directions? Click here. Granola is another expensive breakfast cereal that you can make easily yourself. Bonus is that you can tailor it to your preferences. Here’s my super simple recipe – but you could substitute different nuts, different dried fruits, or a different extract to change the flavor. Peanuts and raisins could easily be swapped in to create a PB&J flavor granola and dried ginger and coconut flakes are another yummy idea for a tropical granola. Remember recipes are always simply the starting point.

5. Make your own kid food. 

Applesauce is another criminally overpriced purchase. All you need to make your own applesauce is apples. And you probably have a few mealy, bruised ones rolling around in your fruit drawer. They make excellent applesauce. While all you really do is peel, chop, and cook, for specific directions, click here. Making your own peanut butter requires nothing more than a food processor and some peanuts. Not kidding. That’s it. What other staples could you make? How about crackers, bread, yogurt, chicken nuggets, fried cheese sticks, or bagels. Look at the foods your family consumes the most and consider if you can make some of those foods yourself. It won’t just save you money, but odds are it will taste better, too!

6. Make your own junk food. 

Think you can’t duplicate cheezits, pop-tarts, or chocolate covered candy eggs? Thanks to the internet and some very clever cooks, you can find a recipe for nearly every processed food online. Making it yourself not only cuts the price, but it cuts out many of the dangerous chemicals, preservatives, fats, sugars, and calories. (But even making your junk food yourself doesn’t mean it’s good for you!)

7. Make your own fancy party dips

Having a party? Need something to take to a party? You don’t need to run out to the store and buy an expensive pre-made dip or cheese spread. Make your own with that fancy bottle of relish, chutney, or specialty sauce growing crusty in your fridge. Create a unique yummy dip by blending what you’ve got with cream cheese or sour cream to make a one of a kind treat that will wow your friends. In a rush – just mix salsa with sour cream and you’re ready.

8. Use the veggies you have. 

If your veggie drawer is anything like mine, at any given moment it is full of the remnants of good intentions. There’s probably some rubbery celery, a few hairy carrots, maybe even half a pepper or a wrinkly cucumber. Take out everything and make my favorite lunchtime treat- chopped salad. Chop up the veggies, add salt and pepper, salad dressing, and maybe some nuts and/or croutons. Yummo. Want directions? Click here.

9. Make your own salads. 

It only costs pennies and take minutes to make salad dressing, croutons, and bread crumbs. Making your own fancy spice mixes is simple (they also double as great gifts), so is making flavored vinegars.

Croutons are the simple to make (and also make your house smell good) and bread crumbs are even easier. For croutons, simply chop your bread into cubes, toss them in olive oil (or spray them if it’s easier), dust them with garlic powder (and other herbs if you want) and bake them for 30 minutes at 300. Check that they’re relatively crunchy. Then turn off the oven and leave them inside for another hour. To make bread crumbs, toss a few of those croutons in a food processor (or place in plastic bag and mash). Easy-peasy. Croutons will store in a plastic container for weeks since they’re basically stale bread anyway!

Making your own salad dressing. It’s crazy-easy. There are lots of recipes out there in the wilds of the internet, but salad dressing is at it’s very basic – ½ oil and ½ vinegar plus salt and pepper. You can vary the vinegars, oils, and seasoning and create your own “house dressing” saving lots of money in the process. Store olive-oil based dressings at room temperature to avoid solidifying.

And what about the lettuce? I’d wager that anyone can grow lettuce – anywhere. If your yard is too small or the varmints too aggressive – try a cold frame. If the weather isn’t always cooperative, use a lettuce box. If you have no outdoors at your disposal, lettuce will grow under lights and hydroponically.

10. Eat less meat. 

This last tip is will not only save you money, but it will be better for your health and better for the environment. Plan intentional meat-less meals – soups, pastas, Mexican favorites are all easy to create without meat. We eat eggs quite often because we raise chickens, but eggs are another good-for-you, inexpensive protein, like beans, that are easy to incorporate into a simple dinner. Need more ideas or motivation, read this.

There you have it! Ten ways to not only lower your grocery bill, but improve your health and the planet’s!

If you’d like to learn more ways to live a happier, healthier, more intentional life, check out my book- Live Intentionally: 65 Challenges for a Healthier, Happier Life. It’s chock full of ideas, inspiration, and recipes to do just that!


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