Cutting Our Grocery Bill

Okay first let me say that yes, we have been eating out of yard a lot.  And from the farm nearby.  And from the dairy. 
Now oddly enough, our grocery bill has barely gone down.  My husband, Edward, and I think it's simply from extras that we buy here and there.  Plus, Edward has pointed out that many times we've gone shopping at Walmart instead of the Commissary or Shoprite and we've gotten things for the house/yard that just get wrapped all up in our budget as "Groceries".  Then July was a bad month for groceries.  We had a big surprise (the surprise meaning "surprise we're all coming to your house this weekend) party for the 4th of July.  Since I had almost no time to put something together I purchased a good portion of the supplies. Chi ching. $50 worth of groceries. My birthday was at the end of July and we threw a big party which meant we purchased about $75 worth of "snack" items to go along with some of the fresh dishes I served.  June was equally bad since we went on vacation and spent on groceries that normally we don't buy and of course it was just the beginning of summer and our garden wasn't fully producing yet. (and the things it was producing were being eaten alive by the dang slugs rendering all our lettuces inedible and bitter)

So as a way of even further reducing what we're spending I've now added the following chores:
  • Homemade croutons.  Our son loves croutons on his salads.  I can't stand looking at the back of a package of these and seeing all the artificial ingredients. (including High Fructose Corn Syrup)
  • Breadcrumbs. I use this so often that I used to actually buy a container every other time of shopping.  No more. Instead I make the croutons and breadcrumbs with my dehydrator.
  • Creme Fraiche. No more buying sour cream.  This is our replacement.  I've really grown to love the taste of this! 
  • Mushrooms.  Just got our kits and started taking care of them regularly.  I'll be writing about that very shortly. We always buy fresh mushrooms every week.  Buttons, shitakes, oysters, etc. 
  • Yogurt.  Come this Autumn we'll be doing this again regularly. 
  • Dried Fruit.  Each and every time I see our commissary selling slightly damaged fruit that has been reduced I buy it, peel it, slice it and dry it.  This way our son will have dried fruit snacks to bring to school. He is a fruit MONSTER.  He will easily consume a dozen apples in 5 days.  I cannot wait till apples are in season.  We'll pick approximately 20 pounds and keep them around for a while.  Dry some. Keep some fresh, make some into desserts, can some. 
  • Cream Cheese. I now make this out of creme fraiche.  I just simply drain most of the whey out of the creme fraiche, add a bit of fresh ground sea salt and then refrigerate.  Hubby and I actually like this cheese over the store bought cream cheese!
Seriously we need to own a cow because of all the milk we use.  We make Kefir, Yogurt, Buttermilk, Creme Fraiche and we also have a 5 1/2 year old son that loves to drink milk so we easily go through 2+ gallons a week.  Once we get into winter our milk consumption will rise further as we'll be making ricotta, perfecting our mozzarella and possibly making cheddar. 
Come to think of it I really need to own some chickens too.  We eat about 1 dozen eggs a week.  You might say that our cholesterol is through the roof however I have just been tested recently and the doctor exclaimed how awesome my cholesterol is.  Now if I could just get my weight and blood pressure down!

Another thing that I'm going to do to further reduce our grocery shopping (and is also very Eco Friendly!) is purchase some Lunchskins for my son and for my husband and I. Amazon lists these for $25 which includes a pack of three reusable bags.

We go through massive amounts of Ziploc bags each month.  Whether its just for a sandwich or some cut up veggies or fruit so I'm hoping making the investment in these will pay off later. 

Now, the other side of the coin.  During this entire adventure my goal has been to keep gardening costs down to under $25 a month.  After all, I don't want to grow $50 tomatoes or eggplants.
The most I've spent is $40 and that was in April when we started purchasing bag after bag of topsoil, compost, and mulch.  September may be also a month when our expenses rise a bit since we'll be putting together our hoophouse for our two beds near the house. Those will grow our spinach, salad mix, brussel sprouts, carrots, turnips and swiss chard during the winter.  The challenge will be to keep it warm enough to keep the plants & the worms happy.  I do plan to move my smaller composter also into the hoop house to help things a bit since composting generates heat. Worse case scenario I figure I can always purchase some of those fish tank heaters and hook a few up in there. 
Here's an idea of what I'm planning. 
I don't think we'll make ours this big but it will be tall enough to walk into, just not stand fully. Only issue is this one will be in the shade, especially during the winter months.  It'll be a challenge!
We do have to purchase a bit more topsoil as the level of the soil has dropped but this time of year that's cheap.  No one else is buying topsoil or compost right now.  Same goes for mulch. 

I have a sneaking suspicion that our monthly grocery bill will go down when I least expect it.  Like in October. 

Now I do have to share one other idea that is completely unrelated to gardening but is related to saving money.
Hubby and I decided to cut ourselves free from cable tv and land line telephones.  We've kept our internet and have now decided to go with a Roku box.  Amazon lists the top of the line one for $98 which is a one time fee. 

We have also started subscriptions to HuluPlus which is $8.99 but it is free for one month since I liked them on Facebook and Netflix which is $9.99 which is also free for one month.  We will still have to pay for our internet which is super expensive right now as we're with Comcast.  Once the Verizon strike ceases we'll see our bill drop further. 
So we're going from $165 for Cable, Internet and Phone down to $83.  Once Verizon decides that they're all friends again our bill will drop even further to $57.  Not bad, eh?

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