When I think back to my pre-family, non frugal days, I cringe at all of the food I bought that was never eaten. Food that sat in the fridge for months until I did the 6 month fridge cleaning. You know what I'm talking about; food that is so moldy you can't identify it. Juice containers that have fuzz on the top. Condiments that you know you've had since you moved in, starting dating your significant other, or brought with you from who knows where. Ingredients you bought for one recipe and then never used again.
When I really started watching our spending, there was a lot of wasted money flying out the door. Food was one of first things I felt I could really get a handle on.
Every week I clean out the fridge, save what I can and toss what I need to. When you are diligent about going through the fridge it helps you to see what is and is not needed. If every week you're tossing out bad lettuce you are either buying too much lettuce or not eating it often enough. If every week you notice you run out of something, make it a point to buy more.
First off though, let me say that I enjoy cooking (most of the time) AND I married a chef. I am lucky in that regard. There are several things we have learned over the years to help us use what we have and save on what we need.
Bread is first - We go through a loaf of bread a week, if not more. Buying that much bread really adds up. If you're careful and have decent freezer space, buy it when it's on sale and stick it in the freezer until you need it. I bought several wheat loaves last week on sale for 79 cents! If you can make it yourself that's even better, but that is asking more than I think I am willing to do. Yes I can tell the difference between fresh and frozen bread. I just deal with it.
Butter comes next - Butter is expensive! It also freezes beautifully in a Ziploc bag. When I see butter on sale I grab 4 or 5 boxes and send them to the freezer for a while. I can't remember the last time I paid more than $2 for a box. Most times I can find it around $1.50. (At the grocery store last week, regularly priced store brand butter was almost $4.)
On to the Yogurt. It seems like yogurt is getting more expensive these days. I used to buy The Girl the low-sugar kids yogurt. Then I discovered she loves the vanilla yogurt I buy in the big tub to use for smoothies. So now we just buy the big container and spoon out what she wants. It's much cheaper that way.
Cereal - Cereal is a budget destroyer. A box can cost $4 (And have you noticed the box is skinnier? Not shorter - just skinnier - silly companies probably figured we'd never notice) Every few months you'll find a killer deal on cereal. Our local store just had Quaker cereals buy 6 for $10. I bought 6 boxes and stuck them down in the basement with the other 5 or so boxes I bought at the sale the week before. I will not need to buy cereal again until at least April.
Fruit - We make a fair number of smoothies at our house. I almost always use frozen fruit. It is considerably cheaper than fresh and sometimes fresher (especially if the fruit in question is out of season). Also it gives the smoothie a thicker milkshake texture.
Pantry Stocking - Keep your pantry stocked with meal makers. Tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, Rotel, cream soups, dried beans, pasta, rice, and chicken broth are definite staples. That way when you can't figure out what to make for dinner you can grab some meat, make a sauce with tomato or cream soup and serve it over pasta or rice. Quick and easy. Recently I added shredded cheese to the pantry lineup. Have you ever noticed that an unopened bag of shredded cheese is good for months? Buy Parmesan, cheddar and mozzarella when they are on sale. You can use them in everything and they are one of the consistent things I used to be missing when I'd find a great online recipe. Got some bread on its way out? Make a quick tomato sauce. Toast the bread in the oven, top with cheese and sauce and you've got a nice little snack. It's not real pizza, but it works.
I know there are tons of ways to save money on groceries. This doesn't even scratch the surface.
What are your tips or techniques to get the most out of your grocery budget?