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Cutting Your... Grocery Bill (Part 2)
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Cutting down on our expenses is a must for all of us right now. So here is the second and last part of the strategies on Cutting Your... Grocery Bill (Part 2).

16. Maintain a healthy weight.
Once you begin eating better and dropping some pounds, you will notice you tend to eat less. This saves money and your health. Not only that, if you maintain a comfortable weight, your clothes will fit and you won't have to buy bigger ones, not to mention all the great deals to be found at yard sales where people sell their "skinny" clothes.

17. Substitute (or eliminate) expensive ingredients for less expensive ones.
Does the recipe have to be made with the expensive item? Can a cheaper version be found and taste just as good? Can you eliminate the ingredient all together? No taste difference has been found between real vanilla extract and imitation. In a fancy get together, you would want to serve a seafood platter… then serve imitation crab instead of shrimp. It is cheaper, still tastes wonderful, and keeps for much longer than shrimp. The same can be said for many expensive ingredients: look for alternatives and substitutes.

18. Can't substitute? Then cut down on expensive ingredients.
If you just can't live without that certain something in your recipe, try cutting the amount in half and see how it tastes. Keep cutting down the amount until the recipe starts to suffer, then add a little back in, until it tastes the way you like. You may be surprised at how little you actually need.

19. Grow herbs yourself.
Still want to use bundles of fresh herbs in your famous pasta sauce but hate the price? Plant some! Herbs are so easy to grow and so useful. Many are perennial: sage, oregano, lavender, mint, lemon balm, chives, the list is extensive.

20. Gardening.
Growing a few herbs may give you the courage to grow a full-fledged vegetable garden. Or you may want to try edible landscaping - putting plants in your landscape that give you food too, like fruit trees and the like. Check out books from the library, read a few gardening magazines and pick some gardening friends' brains. The most important advice: have fun and grow food that you actually eat.

21. Canning and Drying.
As you become more accomplished both in cooking and gardening, you may want to can those special sauces, pickles, and jellies for even more savings. There are many excellent food-preserving books in the library and bookstores s well as online.

22. Shop alternative sources for food.
Get creative and keep your eyes open. Check out the farmer's markets, food co-ops, farm co-ops, undamaged freight stores, restaurant and baking supply companies, wholesalers, roadside stands, health food stores, etc. Don't forget to ask about grocery store "seconds" those foods that may be slightly damaged and not quite perfect enough to sell at full price. Check out grower's seconds, as well as drops from fruit orchards. There are always cheaper alternatives, just keep looking and asking. 

23. Buy and use in season veggies and fruit.
They are usually fresher and cheaper. When tomatoes are in season, make lots of tomato sauce and can it, and plan to eat lots of BLTs. Check out seasonal cookbooks at the library for more ideas. 

24. Learn the sales pattern.
This is best done using your price book. Not only are there better seasons to buy some veggies than others, but also meats and other food staples tend to go on sale according to season, holiday, and what store you are shopping at. Hams are usually on sale around Easter and Christmas season. Learn the sales patterns of your favorite stores and stock up.

25. Try store brand and generics.
As with substituting cheaper things for the expensive, try lower cost items. Keep going down in price until you notice a change in the quality, then move back to the next brand/item up. You may discover that most brands are created equal and some generics are pretty good too. Some basics, like sugar and flour, really don't change from brand to brand, so go with the lowest price and/or what is on sale.

26. Use coupons and rebates occasionally.
I only use coupons and rebates if I like and buy the item regularly, and I can't get the item at a lower price by using store/generic brands. Some stores sometimes have some very good refunds on items you use. Your price book will be a great help in determining whether a coupon is really a good deal or not.

27. Free food sources.
Yes, there is such a thing as free food! The trick to any kind of wild food foraging is that you absolutely MUST know what you are picking, no guessing. Free food is not worth it if it  makes you sick or poisons you! Another alternative is the extra produce from relatives', friends' neighbors' gardens, fruit trees in your yard, or picked from with permission if they are in someone else's yard. You may be surprised at what you get if you just ask. Also consider bartering. Perhaps you could mow your elderly neighbor's lawn in exchange for a bushel of apples. Get creative.

28. Menu Planning.
Build your meal plans around: A) what you already have and B) what is on sale. You could also plan around what is in your garden and in season locally. Use all of the methods here to plan a loosely constructed menu plan. Try to think of many different ways to use what you have so you won't spend too much. Eat everything you cook and improvise with leftovers. So try it out, be flexible.

29. Once a month cooking.
Ok, it doesn't have to be once a month. It could be once a week or twice a month, or just bulk cooking. The secret is to make every cooking session count, this way you are not only saving money, but time as well.

30. Keep it simple.
You don't have to give up gourmet foods, but keep your daily meals simple. Don't feel like you have to make "five-star" restaurant meals every night -- make them special. Make the simple, humble meals, instead of fancy spreads.

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September 25, 2017

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