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Saving on groceries: Get some helpful hints from some clever women

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It surely seems that grocery prices have gone up significantly in the past few months. It seems you pay more at the cash register and come home with even less food than usual. Betty Necessary of Kingsport, Tenn., pointed out that it’s not just the prices going up; it’s the sizes going down!

Grocery shopping to feed a family has definitely become a challenge that requires some effort in order to put appealing and nourishing meals on the table. The Knoxville Cooking Examiner asked some local friends to share their ideas for getting the most out of their grocery dollars. As usual, they came through with some great ideas that may help you with your shopping and meal plans.

One thing that you will notice about these folks is that they do “plan” both shopping and meals. They plan not only what they will buy but when. They carefully check the actual breakdown of price per serving, and plan to use coupons and shop special sales. The meals themselves are arranged to get double bang for the buck. And, almost every one of these ladies made it clear that they don’t waste a thing.

Saving money on groceries involves a lot of time. Most of us have more time than we do money, but the truth is that you will definitely spend a lot of one or the other. Of course, there are always occasions when we sacrifice money to save time for whatever reason, but convenience foods will always run your grocery bill up even higher. It is usually a good idea, however, to have some convenience foods on hand to avoid costly trips through those fast food drive-through windows at 5:00 p.m. on busy evenings.

Let’s start with Melissa Arnold from Kingsport, Tenn. Melissa works very hard at saving money on her grocery bill, and she has managed to cut it in half!

I have two stocked freezers and plan a month’s worth of menus accordingly. I only buy meat when there are great sales. For ex. Food city midnight madness on Friday will have boneless chicken breast for $1.79. I will get ten pounds or so. I shop once a month this way, with the exception of milk and breads. I have cut my grocery bill in half. Also, my garden will be twice as big this year and my goal is to fill twice as many canning jars as last year.

I have learned lots of ways to repurpose leftovers, too. Hamburgers go into chili. Rice mixes get mixed with a LITTLE meat for stuffed peppers. Gravy gets frozen to be added to soups. So do the little bits of meat and vegetables. Sometimes I use one container and dump it all in and freeze as I go. When it is full - it becomes soup or pot pie.

Tanya Rios from Bristol, Tenn., takes advantage of Kroger’s various deals, Kroger brands, and digital and paper coupons.

I look at the tiny little tags on the shelf that tell me price per ounce/lb/etc.... sometimes what looks like a smaller price is actually higher by volume. I read the tags for sale items; I got nine of the "special" items and the sale price dropped another dollar for each. I buy meats on sale and freeze them. With fewer treats, they really ARE treats now. I can usually save 10%-25% off my bill by doing these things. Gas points for food and prescriptions save me even more at the gas pump; I usually have 60-80 cents off a gallon each month!

Michelle Rock from Washington County, Va., also cans produce from the garden. She shares an interesting-looking coupon site with us.

I, too, can what I can from the garden and have started doing freezer meals. By couponing, you can get lots of toiletries free or at a very reduced cost. If you go to Hip2Save, she does the math for you and helps you find lots of great bargains.

Buy in bulk when it is on sale. We also have at least one meatless meal during the week. I also cook from scratch which cuts down on the more expensive box items. I also make a lot of our cleaning supplies and laundry detergent.

Becky Tillison of Bristol, Va., is creative with her use of leftovers, often making two meals out of one. Be sure and notice the creative ways she uses cheap, canned biscuits.

If I make beans and cornbread one day, I'll add chili sauce, spices and have chili beans next day. Left-over hamburger helper is baked and topped with cheese and served with toast.

If I have to use whole milk, I buy can evaporated milk and dilute with water. It taste like whole milk.

Becky makes a clever “biscuit pizza!” With extra spaghetti sauce, spread it over the cheap brand of biscuits and throw different things on for toppings.

Cheap Cobbler with canned biscuits: Roll biscuits out. Get a cheap can of favorite fruit and pour over the biscuits. Top with rest of biscuits, and bake til brown. You can also make cheap and yummy fried fruit pies with same ingredients.

Jeanni Creed Jones of Rincon, Ga., learned from her mother, Peggy Creed, how to efficiently feed a large family. You can read about the jam making she has learned from her mother in this article. “Jamming with Jeanni Jones.” Carrying on the tradition, Jeanni is also feeding a full house on a budget, and she offers some very helpful tips.

She and her husband have been stationed overseas in the military so she has learned to also adapt to different shopping opportunities and food choices over the years. Now, as retired military, she still shops at the commissary. Notice the amount of time she puts into her grocery purchases.

I just spent hours grocery shopping. I use coupons of all kinds, also take a calculator and divide to see if bulk is really cheaper. I always figure ways to make a meal go further. Buy meats in bulk and divide it up & freeze. I have 2 fridges w/freezers. I also can vegetables, make jams etc. whatever I can to make a dollar stretch.

Commissary shopping: I believe it is worth it due to most items being pennies cheaper. Meat is definitely cheaper, and there is the plus that we don't pay taxes on the groceries. It is considered a benefit from serving. I drive approximately 46 miles round trip. But we believe we still save even calculating the gas as well.

I also try to make the meals go into 2 meals. ie… roast potatoes, carrots, etc… turn into stew the second time around, served with biscuits. (Homemade of course, because homemade is cheaper to make.)

Thank you, ladies, for sharing your very valuable experience with us. These ideas will surely help us get more for our dollars at the grocery store and still provide nice meals for our families.

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