The July/August issue of Countryside (one of my favorite magazines) contains an article from Tracy Rimmer about how she saves money on food. In the article, Rimmer mentions her website, New Century Homestead, where she describes her family’s quest for self-reliance in southwestern Manitoba. Her philosophy:

Homesteading is an attitude, an approach, not necessarily a lifestyle. We believe that one can start small, and still make a difference. Indeed, that starting small must be the way for most people to begin. Every effort that is made toward personal self-sufficiency, toward reducing our levels of consumption, toward making better choices for ourselves, our families, and our environment, must be a good thing. If we can accomplish these things economically, all the better.

At her site, Rimmer offers a free 22-page e-book entitled More Month Than Money: Tightening Your Food Budget While Feeding Your Family Well [356k PDF]. This document describes here approach to feeding her family healthy food on a budget. She lists eight specific techniques, many of which will be familiar to GRS readers:

  • Understand the difference between “need” and “want”. Rimmer argues that many of us blow our food budget on wants. You can still enjoy the food you need without overspending on junk.
  • Plan your menus. “Meal planning is becoming a lost art,” writes Rimmer. “But planning can take a little of the rush out of the equation. Having a planned menu that we can work from can streamline our meal preparation time, and save us money at the grocery store checkout.”
  • Be flexible. You can’t always stick to your meal plan — and sometimes you won’t want to. Other times, you won’t be able to get the foods you need. Flexibility is important if you want to keep costs low.
  • Explore the role of soup in your family’s diet. Rimmer is a huge advocate of soup. She says that homemade soup can be delicious, healthy, and cheap.
  • Plant a garden. The author’s family has seven acres of land and over 6800 square foot for gardening. She grows most of her own produce. But she notes that even city dwellers on an average lot can grow some of their food.
  • Prepare meals from scratch. Learning to cook can save you money and provide more nutritious meals.
  • Buy in bulk whenever possible. Rimmer does a lot of “annual shopping”. She’ll buy certain items in bulk from local producers or suppliers just once per year (!?!). She’s able to do this because she has space. For the rest of us, she recommends shopping just once every few weeks.
  • Prepare basic meals with simple ingredients. Ah, this is one area where my food budget suffers. Rimmer points out that we don’t need fancy ingredients, like six kinds of salt. (I probably have a dozen kinds of salt in the cupboard!) Stick with the basics and you’ll save money.

In More Month Than Money: Tightening Your Food Budget While Feeding Your Family Well, Rimmer outlines how she puts these steps into practice. She offers advice about stocking a pantry, provides several recipes, and lists three weeks of sample meal plans.

Rimmer shares her annual grocery list (which she says provides “mega-savings”), but she also includes a three-week shopping list for the vast majority of us who can’t stock up for twelve months at a time. (This reminds me of once-a-month shopping.)

This e-book is short but informative. If you’ve been struggling with your food budget, it’s well worth a read.

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