Now that you have made a budget how can you reduce spending in areas?
Groceries: Grow a garden. Even a tomato plant in a container will be a start to reducing what you spend. You also get the benefit that the fresh food tastes so much better and you know it has not been sprayed with chemicals to preserve your internal organs forever. I really recommend making a raised bed square foot garden. I made my first this year with two 4X8 foot raised beds. I am learning a lot about improving for next year. We had the best tasting tomatoes ans I will never buy another grocery store tomato again. We also had enough zucchini and yellow squash off of one plant each to feed our family of seven and still put up some in the freezer. All of my kids will not eat squash so if your family eats a lot you would need more. We got one squash and one zucchini every other day during growing season.
Shop the loss leaders each week and use coupons. Each week grocery stores advertise loss leader items on the front and back page of their sales paper. The store is actually taking a loss on these items in hopes of drawing you into their store to shop so that you will buy other products. The secret is to take advantage of these items and not allow yourself to be drawn into buying more items that are not a good deal. When you take advantage of using coupons with the loss leader many of the items are free or nearly free. Don't forget that you can use both a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon on an item. If a store is too far to drive take advantage of their advertised sales price at stores that will match prices like Walmart. Publix will accept competitors coupons.
Shop the CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid free after rebate or extra care bucks each week. Start out slowly in order to build up a supply of rewards or extra care bucks. It will cost you the first month, then you are "rolling" your earned paper money for the next months deals. Walgreens and Rite Aid have the free after rebate items. If you use a coupon when you purchase the items they still refund you the total purchase price so you actually make money. CVS gives you extra care bucks that print on the bottom of your receipt. They expire in a month so make sure to use them before they expire. Walgreens is now giving the Register Rewards bucks on certain items. They also expire and you cannot purchase the same items again to receive another Register Reward so be careful to do another deal or buy items you need. For more on this see my old post here.
Save all of your bits and pieces from leftovers in a container or ziploc bag in your freezer. You can also add a little water to a baking pan where you have cooked chicken or meat and make a gravy type mixture to save to flavor soups or rice. Once a week or once a month take all your saved leftovers and make a soup or casserole. You are making a free or almost free dish. I save leftover macaroni and cheese, rice a roni, hamburger helper, there are a lot of things that you can save to add to a soup. The cheese sauces and other spices will all meld together. Other ideas of where to add bits and pieces of leftovers: make a chicken fajita or bbq pizza, quiche, in a quesadilla, in a roll up, casseroles, make hot pockets, creamed veggies over biscuits or rice or pasta or potato, or in a panini.
Add filler items to your recipes. Add cooked beans and rice to tacos. You can decrease the amount of ground meat. Add zucchini or yellow squash to spaghetti sauce. Serve chili over a bowl of rice or a baked potato.
When a recipe calls for milk use powdered milk. You can reduce the amount of milk and add more water without affecting the flavor of most recipes. Experiment in reducing added ingredients in recipes that are flavoring until you notice.
Buy chicken bouillon and beef bouillon cubes for less expensive broth if you do not have homemade broth on hand. It is cheaper than canned or boxed broth. Don't pay for the water. Make it yourelf.
Buy dry beans and cook them yourself. It is really easy. I like to soak them overnight according to the package then put them in a crock pot with a hambone and some seasoning and cook all day. You can do the quick soak method on the stove, which is also on the package if you forgot to soak them overnight. You can also cook them on the stove.
Cook and freeze meals for busy times.. Don't forget to make breakfast,lunch, snack, and dessert items. You can freeze pancakes, muffins, breakfast burritos, bagel sandwiches, biscuits, and french toast for breakfast. You can make bagel or sub bread with pizza toppings, hot pocket type sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly, tuna salad, chicken salad, or ham and cheese sandwiches. Make burritos or chicken enchiladas and freeze individually. Make up individual servings of soup, chili, chicken and dumplins, beef stew, pasta salad. You can freeze cookie dough, baked cookies, brownies, cupcakes without the frosting. Make cheesecake, pies, coffee cakes and other dessert items. I like to also keep cooked brown rice frozen in individual ziploc bags, twice baked potatoes, cooked beans, broiled vegetables, and other side dishes for quick side dishes to compliment a main dish.
If you have pototoes that are about to rot cube them and blanch in boiling water then immediately ice and put in freezer bags. Use for casseroles, soups, make mashed potatoes later, season and bake for a french fry type side or make hash browns.
An important thing to remember is to keep your spaces organized so that you know what you have. Have you ever gone to the store and bought an item full price because you don't know where it is or don't know you have it. Also, keep your pantry stocked so you don't run out of items. Start shopping your pantry instead of the stores. I am stocked enough that I am mainly just taking advantage of the weekly sales that I match with coupons.
How do you get started stocking up? Slowly. Each week, or shopping cycle, alot a certain amout for stocking. Start with $10 and spend that on really good deals. Next time, buy whatever is a really good deal for that week. If you don't have a lot of money to get going just do something each week and eventually you will have a full pantry and freezer. Here is an old picture of our pantry. As you can see in the photo I was low on canned foods, it is when I was organizing it before a shopping trip. I have over 20 boxes of unopened cereal that I store above the rod in the coat closet near the garage door. I now have the 5 gallon bucket that is filled with sugar. I have been buying the animal cookies at Sams and reusing the container for flour and rice. I buy rice and flour and sugar in 25 lb. packages then fill in with loss leader items. Right before Thanksgiving all the baking supplies will go on sale. Save up some money for stocking up at that time. In the summer bbq sauce and condiments go on sale. Stock up on candy after Halloween and Christmas and use for making cookies. Buy an extra turkey at Thanksgiving time. Ham will go on sale around Christmas and Easter. You can freeze them whole and cook later or you can go ahead and cook and freeze individual portions. Don't forget to save bones for making stock and flavoring beans and rice dishes.