12 Strategies to Keep Your Food Cost Low & Quality High

Some say the cost of food is second in the average household only to the mortgage/rent payment. We put more thought into saving money on single purchases than into the constant expenditures for food and supplies that add up to a startling amount over the course of the year.  

We have a tendency to think of this as a constant drain, but the household is really a business. You are buying from shifting suppliers with constantly changing prices and products and transforming those supplies using your time and energy. You are in the business of growing and sustaining people.

If you want a quality “product” at a reasonable cost, the same practices apply to the household as to any business. Where it gets tricky is our “products” have emotional as well as nutritional needs that need to be met. They also tend to have opinions! Further complicating things, we may be battling our own emotional needs and attitudes toward food and how that reflects on our lifestyle.

I’ve adopted Twelve Strategies, many adopted from business principles to apply to your household.  Click on each to explore easy, helpful ways to use them and you’ll eat better than ever on the least amount of money you’ve ever spent.  Working in even a few strategies will get you going in the right direction to saving money.

Whether you are just concerned about keeping cost down, wanting to get out of debt, or are in serious trouble, know that there are no gimmicks, no shortcuts, just good common sense and great ideas on how to apply that to your own home.

(And a bit – or maybe a lot – of reading – you won’t find everything you need to know condensed into a few clicks – I know, because I looked…)


33 thoughts on “12 Strategies to Keep Your Food Cost Low & Quality High

  1. Lolly Williams

    Hi Mollie, I remember these Twelve Strategies way back when this blog was fledgling. No other website or frugal book has explained this concept of running a household as a business like this. I tried to remember the name of this blog “Frugal Homemaker,” “Frugal …uh..Housewife…” and finally I remembered “Frugal Hausfrau.” The site has changed dramatically and it is beautiful. You’re on Pinterest! Yay! I am so happy to have found you again.

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Lolly, so glad to hear from you! I lost track of you, too, and I feel like I’m seeing an old friend again! You probably don’t know this but your comments meant a lot to me when I was starting out! Not even my family supported me, but you stopped by. Thank you!!!

      And I’m wanting to redo some of these strategy pages…Spiff them up and make them more concise. it seems like no one wants to read anymore. 🙂

      I think maybe it was you who told me about pinterest!! As you can see, my pics have improved….but I’m still working on that!

  2. Good Golly, Miss Mollie! This was a great post and the comments were equally good! You gave excellent responses,I need to take the time to read all of your posts, but I was really interested in your 12 Strategies, so I am starting with them. 🙂

  3. I’m teaching my daughter some cooking too. She’s working at the moment and has no time to cook so she needs the easiest and fastest recipes. That’s also because she’s not crazy about cooking:) Here in Sicily things are pretty bad so we are also being frugal. No more eating out, no more fancy clothes…actually I wear my daughter’s clothes, a big saving, luckily I fit in them. I really enjoyed reading your post.

    • How exciting to hear from Sicily, and thanks for the lovely compliment, but I’m saddened to hear the economy is not doing so well there…it seems I hear of difficulties people are facing all over the world…

      I *wish* I could wear my daughter’s clothes, who is a size “svelte” even after her twins, while I’m a size “Grandma”…but I do have a young friend who works at a second hand store in a really nice area of town, which means they have marvelous, like new items, and she calls me when she comes across something she knows I need and/or will love. Once I got over the “idea” of it, I realized that I SHOULD have been checking out those stores all my life. As a matter of fact, maybe a fun post would be to take photos of some of my finds…

      One thing that inspired my cooking was cutting out a LOT of my meals at restaurants. I love to find recipes that copy or mimic my favorite dishes. One of my quickest, easiest meals is Coconut Chicken Curry: http://frugalhausfrau.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/6-jan-2914-coconut-curry-chicken-with-rice-5-45/ so if your daughter likes Curry and Coconut Milk isn’t too expensive there, it would be a great “starter” dish.

      I’m curious if you have a favorite family or regional dish that’s inexpensive that you’d like to share…I’d love to hear about it! You could reply here, or my email is Frugal.Hausfrau@gmail.com

      Thanks again, Francesca!

  4. marisab67

    also, why wouldn’t I find out when the store that donates organic berries is going to pull them? Your site is dedicated to saving $. Seems like you don’t really get that.

    • To tell ya the truth, there’s not much I DON’T “get” about eating well on a small budget, which is what this site is about, not just about “saving” money.

      This site is dedicated to my daughter, a young stay at home Mom, to help with all the things she didn’t learn while at home, and help others like her (or like me or perhaps like YOU?) who’ve found themselves in reduced circumstances due to economic downturns! I know that in this economy there are many who, while not eligible for any type of assistance, find themselves tightening their budgets! I would hope that at least some those who have had to seek assistance would find this site useful as well.

      I loved your article and suggestions on “How to Feed your Family from a Food Bank” http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2013/11/13/how-to-feed-your-family-from-a-food-bank/ but, I (and many others who commented) question the use of food banks that are set up by donation for those among us who have no other resources. I see no shame in using food banks if and when someone might need them – that’s what they are there for, but I (personally) see them as a short term resource.

      There are many of us who could benefit from getting all our groceries for free, including myself, but I would never take a scrap or morsel of food that might even possibly benefit someone I view as less well off than myself, and whether or not it is going to waste, or going to feed the hogs, isn’t, to me, valid. Frankly, that’s none of my business.

      While I applaud your choice to be a stay at home mom, I think the fact that you use food banks to feed your family to get out of debt, while you are a Chef with a good car, marketable skills and money in the bank was what caused many to be upset. Personally, I think that most people, in your circumstances would consider going back to work before “relying on the kindness of others to feed her family.”

      I do realize that is a judgmental attitude on my part, but it comes from my circumstances, background and a great empathy for those who have little. While I have never mentioned this on my blog before, the majority of my life I have been a single, working Mom, and in the 80’s, worked TWO jobs for quite some time to support my child because the father skipped out of child support, and I was left with the joint debt. It never occurred to me to seek any type of aid, nor to turn to a food bank. I didn’t consider myself poor, I had money coming in, it just wasn’t allocated the way I would have liked…I just considered myself stupid for getting into the circumstances I had to dig myself out of! And yes, I did so, thank you, on my own.

      I would not necessarily recommend this to others – I realize now it would have made things much easier for my family had I accepted help. I was smart, ambitious, resourceful and we got through it, but it left scars, for sure, I think particularly on my daughter. When having steak once at my parents, my daughter said, “Oh this is good…what kind of chicken is this?”

      Many of the poor, though, don’t have those kind of resources and are plagued by health issues and disabilities. Many aren’t able to muster up the strength or the will to work one job, let alone two, and so many are “working” poor. And many of those working poor work not only one job, but two and sometimes three. Companies offering part time work often don’t offer benefits, even in union shops.

      My blog does give stats as to what pages are accessed (not by person, so don’t anybody freak!) and I can see on the day you were here, NONE of my pages on how to shop well or budget were looked at. With careful planning and shopping, it IS possible to eat very well for very little. This might be a great page for you to read: Do You Feel Poor?? http://frugalhausfrau.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/do-you-feel-poor/ There is a BIG difference between “feeling” poor and “being” poor!

      In spite of my reduced circumstances, I am a regular DONATOR to food shelves and banks and also volunteer my time at a number of organizations. A 30 day shelter often needs a cook to fill in and there’s little more humbling than serving those brave souls.

      Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community – most food shelves and banks are run almost entirely on volunteer service, and these volunteers work SO hard and for nothing – it’s not surprising to hear they might not be particularly receptive to new ideas when it’s all they can do to keep the food coming and coming and coming…perhaps you might consider becoming a volunteer…even if you can’t give back with money, you CAN give back with services.

      In fact, perhaps you could volunteer in the capacity of showing others how to eat well on a consultative basis…I’m sure you could find local printers and business people who would be glad to help with things like tear off sheets for recipes that use the produce at the food shelves. I saw bins of apples in your photos – recipes featuring them might be a good start. I hope at the least you’ll follow through with your ideas to post good affordable recipes on your blogs! I think it takes a genius to take random ingredients and come up with healthy, cheap recipes. Goodness knows it’s hard enough when one has a pantry and freezer like I do.

      Another blog by a food shelf user, a single working mom, this woman so eloquently described her experiences with seeking help at a food shelf and how she felt when a woman at her job demeaned food shelf users, not knowing she was talking to one. It brought tears to my eyes: http://www.scarymommy.com/those-people/

      Food Scarcity in San Francisco: http://www.sfbg.com/2013/12/31/starving-boom “The problem goes beyond seniors. The report found that one in four San Franciscans lacks sufficient resources to purchase nutritious food, causing many to turn to food pantries for assistance.

      Those pantries are now well beyond their capacity, Food Bank representatives told us, and the system is bursting at the seams.”

      I’m curious – any comments from my readers?

  5. marisab67

    Look at my pictures on twitter. See those piles of produce? See the lack of people around them? Any questions? We live in the Sacramento valley. There is produce rotting on trees and in fields everywhere! there is a mountain of food that goes into a bin for the hog farm ach day if no one takes it.

  6. What a wonderful business-style article. It makes sense to think of the household as a business. If more people used this tactic, there would be less financial waste, and less food waste. What a great concept!

  7. You’ve got a treasure here, Frugal. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with the rest of us. It looks like a lot of work, but well worth it.
    Thanks again,

    • Thanks, Susan. I just know so many people who are struggling in this economy and have never been taught *how* to shop or cook or manage a household and keep within a budget or stretch the food dollar.

      It makes my day if I know even one thing I’ve said might help someone in even a small way, so thanks for your kind comment!

  8. Pat

    What a great post! I am so bad at budgeting and the fact that I have to test recipes throws our food budget off kilter even more so. I’m definitely going to be using your tips. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thanks, Pat. It’s inspiration that usually throws me off! When I see something that looks really good, sometimes I have a hard time waiting to cook it! When I cooked your Beef, Tomato and Green Pepper Stir Fry, I have to admit I didn’t wait for a sale on dow see, the fermented black beans – I just got them the next time I was in the store!

      Peppers were on sale, and I had round steak in the freezer (I buy the big ones on sale and slice some for stir fry and some for my Swiss Steak and freeze it in ziplocs) but the dow see made all the difference in the world in the recipe. (Now I’m determined to pick up some Shaoxing Wine for next time.) I do plan on making your Fried Rice this week for my Budget Meal of the Week, so check back!

      Here’s the Pat’s recipe for Beef, Tomato and Green Pepper Stir Fry: http://theasiangrandmotherscookbook.wordpress.com/2007/12/11/a-cooking-frenzy/

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