It’s no secret that I live in the middle of nowhere! The nearest grocery store is 15 miles away. Since it’s the only grocery store within a fairly large radius, their prices are pretty high. So what’s a rural gal to do? How do you save money on groceries in the boonies?
Here’s seven of my best tips for cutting the grocery budget.
1. Once a Month, Head to the City
The big city for me is Spokane. As one of the largest cities in the state, you can imagine the grocery shopping options are plentiful. Much more abundant than in the nearby local town.
But, because of the gas and effort involved in getting there, I don’t like to shop frequently. So I do one major shopping trip each month.
To save even more, I try to time my trip to coincide with a dentist or doctor appointment. That way I don’t have to make a special trip.
I want to make this trip count, so the kids and I hit several stores. We always go to:
Cash & Carry
and we hit any other stores that we may need.
Yes, it’s a long day! We’re usually tired by the time we get home. But, every month our house is full of food that I know we’ll eat and I get to stay out of the grocery store!
2. Buy Local Produce
Whenever possible, I try to buy local produce. It’s a lot cheaper and I can get it in bulk easily. If you live in the middle of nowhere, chances are someone around you grows a lot of food.
Your mission? Find out who that person (or people) are, and buy from them. Are there any orchards, pick your own patches, or farmers?
How about a farmer’s market? Is there one nearby?
3. Grow & Raise Your Own Food
Do you know how expensive meat is? Ouch! Cut costs by raising your own.
If you’re in the boonies and have more space, consider getting a milk cow. (Here’s my Busy Mom’s Guide to Owning a Milk Cow.)
Grow a few tomatoes or plant some fruit trees. Turn your raw milk into buttermilk.
Do a little bit more each year, and before you know it, you’ll be cutting your grocery costs simply by raising your own food. And this food tastes so much better than anything you can buy!
4. Order Specialty Items Online
A small town isn’t the best place to purchase specialty items. Even if they carry them, you might discover the price is astronomical.
So do what I do and order those items online. If you set up with Subscribe and Save on Amazon, you can even have them conveniently delivered every month or two. Sort of like shopping on auto-pilot! Just be sure to check prices occasionally, because Amazon isn’t always the cheapest.
5. Be Creative
When a trip to the store takes at least 30 minutes of driving round trip, you really start to evaluate what you really “need.”
You can substitute a lot in a recipe and still make good food. Think of it as being creative!
Out of hamburger? Use ground pork or ground rabbit.
No green peppers? Substitute some celery for crunch.
Once you get used to making substitutions based on what you have on hand, you’ll be able to avoid last minute grocery runs.
6. Know Which Produce Lasts
One of the downsides of grocery shopping once a month is that the fresh fruits and veggies don’t always make it. But, by buying plenty of long lasting produce, and then filling in with frozen goods, I can usually make it through the month with only one additional run for produce.
Here’s what I’ve found lasts the longest:
4. Iceberg Lettuce
7. Winter squash
By buying these in bulk and storing them properly, I can include something fresh with almost every meal all month long.
I also buy berries and bananas and other “fun” produce, but we always plan on using those items within a few days. That means I don’t buy as many of them.
7. Have a Meal Plan
Without a plan, I’d stock up on groceries I never intend to use. I’d randomly buy ingredients and they might spoil and get thrown out.
I wouldn’t plan on batch cooking or anything else. And my grocery budget would skyrocket.
You have to have a plan! I always do an annual meal plan at this stage in life. It allows me to really stock up on what I’ll need–I’ve been known to buy a year’s worth of spaghetti before when it’s on sale.
Do you live in the boonies? How do you save money on groceries?
I’d love for you to share your tips in the comments section. Let’s save some money!