- Make things from scratch. This can be the hardest change for people, but it really does taste better and I find I appreciate my meal times & tastes if I make it from scratch. Involve your kids, too! One can do clean-up, one can help pour ingredients, one can set table, etc, and then switch it up every week or so) Lukka already does this at 2 and he LOVES to help from making food, stirring something on the stove, washing the dishes or clearing the table!
- Buy from the bulk foods section instead of packaged items. This is literally 50% cheaper on most occasions than buying food packaged! Get some cute mason jars and store your foods there--it looks good in your kitchen and is frugal (it keeps better, too). Also, a great way to discover new foods like really really healthy grains & expand your ethnic recipes!
- Check your stores weekly ads & plan your meals that way (online or print version). For example, we shop at Russ's and they have a weekly ad that shows the items that are all on sale, and they run it online, too . When I see that certain items are on sale, I write them down on my list & then am able to plan our meals properly.
- Stick to your grocery list & don't go shopping when you're hungry! I know these are common sense, but it's true! I always end up buying way too much if I go to the store when I'm hungry.
- Try to shop weekly. This keeps produce fresher and waste down. There's only so much banana bread you can eat from over-ripe bananas and it helps focus on "just one week" until you get the hang of planning menus and you're able to do it on a monthly basis.
- Make a cash budget for groceries. This was what we did when we really had to 'watch it' for the last few years. We allotted $250/mo for groceries, put it in an envelope, and when it was gone, it was gone and it was us searching through the cupboards until next time. I know this sounds extreme, but it works SO well (although, takes lots of discipline).
- Your crock-pot can be your best friend. Here's some great tips (scroll down to the 3 part series) on using your crock-pot, and we use this for a nice warm meal at least once a week! Cheap, home-style, yummy meals, you can make anything in the crock-pot! (A favorite crock-pot recipe book of mine-5 Ingredients or Less).
- (Update): A local baker and friend-of-a-friend, The DISH, also gave a great tip--shop at the local ethnic markets. Spices, produce, etc. are all going to be less expensive, there is a lot more selection than a regular super market and get this...more ethnic.
The only thing that is "hard" about these things are re-adjusting to the fact that making meals/planning meals does take time....not a lot, but just more than "no time at all".
I hope this helps! We had to do so much trimming I became a connoisseur of all things frugal, and I found that these two websites were so encouraging and helpful: Passionate Homemaking and Keeper of the Home. I also love Tasty Kitchen website for recipes and every one I've tried was very good!