Grocery budgets can be weird for homesteaders. In pursuit of a self-sufficient lifestyle we often end up outside of what most “normal” people think of when they consider what groceries even are! From garden produce to livestock surplus to home preserves, homesteaders take their groceries very seriously because we’re so often producing them ourselves. Here are 5 grocery budget savings tips that will fit into the homestead’s (or any home’s) routine!
Grocery Budget Savings – How to Quantify
Sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that money is the only form of capital. Don’t get me wrong, money is important for survival in our world! However, have you considered that your time and your skills are also forms of capital? What about your tools, books, and even your compost?
On a more personal level, your faith, your family, and your community are also assets that strengthen and support you. There are so many things to be grateful for and to count when we’re looking for resources.
When we think specifically about saving money on groceries, there are lots of people to mentor us in spending less and getting more. We have some special links at the end of the article that might help with straightforward savings. Probably the two writers that have helped me the most are
- Tiffany Crumbs at Don’t Waste the Crumbs who can help you create a frugal grocery budget and do much more.
- Victoria Pruett at A Modern Homestead who, along with Tiffany, can help you still eat healthy on a budget (along with a lot of other skills).
I encourage you to read both, and to share your favorites in the comments section to help other readers (and me, please!).
This article is meant to help you find some grocery budget savings around the homestead by doing homested-y things or tweaking what you’re already doing. So, from a homesteader’s perspective, here are some simple energy and money saving ideas for the kitchen.
I promised you five, but I actually threw in a bonus tip at the end. It’s one of my favorites! Are you already doing some of these or are there a few that are new to you?
1 – Grocery Budget Savings with a Slow Cooker
Use a slow cooker instead of your electric stove to prepare real foods meal. Slow cookers require a lot less energy to run than large cooktops. The Instant Pot type pressure cookers are similarly handy in this way.
The wonderful thing about these tools is that the meals that are prepared in them are typically simple and quick to set up. These appliances free you up from a bit of manual labor in the kitchen on days when you have other boats to row. Remember, time is money!
You can also adapt these recipes to use less meat and always use homegrown and home-preserved veggies to reduce cost.
- Here’s a quick 3-Ingredient Italian Chicken recipe to try this week.
- Snack Foods can also be made at home to reduce costs – try this Instant Pot Applesauce for starters.
- Have a Meatless Monday with a Biblically healthy recipe called Pulse.
2 – Barter to Save
When it comes to grocery budgets, homesteaders are uniquely positioned to reduce theirs through bartering and trading. We invariably end up with a surplus of something on the homestead every year, so let’s use those extras to trade for items we need.
You can let this happen spontaneously within your homesteading community, or you can make a plan at the beginning of every growing season and grow surplus on purpose. If you’re great at growing lettuce and your neighbor excels at growing potatoes, organize a trade.
Make a plan and expand your group to include as many people as possible. Be sure the assignments and expectations are clear in the spring, but be ready to flexible if the weather or bad bugs change the plan. I like to have a backup veggie crop or some extra herbs ready when plans go awry. If it’s people inside the agreement that flake out on you, don’t worry about it too much – things have a way of working out.
This bartering process will help you think outside the box when it comes to the acquisition of groceries and other goods. I traded goat’s milk for haircuts for a long time from a friend who was a professional hair-dresser—we looked awesome and she drank wholesome milk. A win for all!
- Here are 4 Quick Tips When Learning to Barter from An American Homestead
- Here’s a little twist from Insteading, remembering that there are many different ways and things to barter, Setting Up a Babysitting Co-op!
- If you grow your own food, grocery budget savings can start with your seed purchases every year. Set up a community Seed Saving group to swap seeds to save tons of money on seed stock.
3 – Forage For Grocery Budget Savings
Nothing saves more money than getting food for free! Learn how to forage wild plants, berries, mushrooms, nuts, and herbs. Like I said, this is all FREE food—who can say no to that?
Be sure to acquire quality books as you’re learning to forage, and take the information you find there seriously. This is a learned skill, but it will expand your pantry throughout the growing season. If you are a hunter or inclined to fish, you can expand your stores even further.
As you study, you will learn about taking only what you can use, sharing abundance, and paying close attention to the changing of the seasons. That sounds kind of like poetry.
Indeed, foraging has a rather introspective effect on me – maybe it will with you, too. Learning to harvest wild plants and even animals can help us become more food-conscious in all areas of our lives.
- Learning to forage well requires some study and a willingness to try new recipes and nutritious types of food.
- Understanding which foods are nutrient dense and which are less filling will help you and I to spend our commercial food budgets more wisely on foods that nourish.
- We begin to see that all these principles are connected.
Once we begin one energy or money saving initiative, we find ourselves involved in several more. That’s homesteading in a nutshell. Self-sufficiency requires work but the rewards are nourishing in more ways than one.
(Here’s a really interesting article on how one family broke away from unhealthy cultural food obsessions by embracing homesteading.)
Ok, enough of the spirituality of food! Here are some practical articles on foraging:
- If you want delicious, practical recipes that cover a wide range of foraged food, look no further than Grow, Forage, Cook, Ferment – I love this website and Colleen’s books. Here’s her Ramp Pesto Recipe which is a delight each spring.
- Raising the next generation of frugal homesteaders will serve us well as we age, so here are a few tips on Foraging With Kids from Practical Self Reliance.
4 – Save Money with Chickens But Learn to Grow Their Fodder
By all means, keep some chickens! However, doesn’t it often happen that the moment we learn one self-sufficient skill, we realize we’ll need about five more attending skills to actually save money while doing it. Eh, we’d rather be busy than bored, right?! And every skill we acquire grows our forms of capital!
So keep a flock of chickens for grocery budget savings, and then learn to grow fodder for them to eat. Or learn to sprout their grain ration to make it stretch farther and increase nutrition, and thereby flock health. Sure, you can feed them commercial grain ration, but they only sell it to people with money. At least in my town.
The cost of feed is going up all over, so figuring out ways to produce your poultry’s rations is certainly in the best interest of your budget. To help with that:
- Sprouting Grains for Fodder for Livestock by Attainable Sustainable
- How to Make Chicken Feed from Stone Family Farmstead
Eggs are a great commodity for sale or trade, and always remember that most wonderful form of chicken capital: manure! Manure can be composted to create food for the garden which will create health in your soil, so you can grow a larger, better garden. Which means even more food!
5 – (Listen to Your Grandma) Save on Your Grocery Budget by Cooking from Scratch
Cook from scratch. Start by choosing one store bought item that you can commit to no longer purchase. Learn to replace that store-bought item by making it yourself. This might help you get started:
—>>> Make Your Own Baking Supplies <<<—
For example, stop buying granola. Stop it. It’s so simple to make and by making it yourself you can buy the ingredients in bulk to save cash. Make big batches and dehydrate them to store. Use your homemade granola for breakfast and power snacks.
Eventually, you can stop buying the oatmeal that goes into your granola and start rolling your own oats. No, I’m not crazy—you can do this and it’s also a simple process. You just need a grain roller to attach to your manual wheat grinder.
Oh, did I mention you’ll probably start grinding your own grains at some point? Your mother-in-law may think you’ve lost your mind, but your bank account will applaud your efforts.
One thing at a time, though:
- Simple, no-sugar Cocoa Nutty Granola recipe from Nourished Kitchen (a great whole foods resource)
- If you’d like to use sprouted grains, here’s Sprouted Buckwheat Granola from Small Footprint Family
6 – Bonus – Learn to Preserve Food
There are myriad of reasons to learn to preserve food from the garden, grocery store sales, farmer’s market deals, and from your foraging efforts. We’re going to talk about just one of those reasons: learning to preserve food prevents you from wasting food you already have.
You know how it is during the growing season:
- Baskets of harvested veggies laying around waiting to be used
- Herbs hanging everywhere drying in bunches that end up getting dusty from waiting to be processed into containers
- Dairy backing up waiting to be used or sold
- And on and on…
Stop the madness and get it preserved! It’s important to eat fresh produce in the season it’s available but how nice it will be to eat that bounty in the off-season, too.
The only way I know to make sure I get all the things preserved is to schedule it all. This article might help you do that:
—>>>Once a Month Canning<<<—
You’re welcome to download the scheduling sheets from the book for free – get those below:
If you’d like charts and recipes and ways to use preserved food, you might want our Once a Month Canning E-book:
Why Bother With the Effort Of Being Frugal?
There are a lot of reasons why a person might seek out a more self-sufficient lifestyle. To be honest, unless I had to, I probably wouldn’t ever figure out how to make my own toothpaste and use a solar oven because those things take effort to learn.
Each time we’ve lost a job or had to cut back for whatever reason, I’ve had to learn how to make this or that myself, just to save the few pennies that made the difference between eating fresh eggs and powdered eggs—or powdered eggs and nothing.
I love central heat and take-out and store-bought pasta. It’s just that, so often, cutting wood from our forest is so much cheaper than setting a thermostat. I can’t tell you how much I miss twenty bucks worth of Chow Mein delivered to my door on days when I’m so exhausted from working all day that the idea of making dinner from scratch makes me want to cry. Don’t even get me started on rolling out pasta dough.
When you don’t have options, you can’t take them. So, you roll up your sleeves and figure out how to make it work. The best part about these forced frugal times in our family is that we pick up better habits and learn that we really can make our dollars stretch further.
Left without the options of convenient, store-bought ease, we do it ourselves and discover, in the end, that we survived. We haven’t lost anyone yet to the lean times and what we’ve gained has been impossible to assign a monetary value. It’s important to remember that our strength-building trials are crafted with as much love as our blessings.