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How Cutting Our Grocery Bill Helped Us Survive Unemployment - Money Goals, Kitchen Solutions

How Cutting Our Grocery Bill Helped Us Survive Unemployment - Money Goals, Kitchen Solutions
From The Kitchn - October 12, 2017

It's the situation nobody wants to find themselves in, but many of us do. A job loss, especially a sudden or unexpected one, is a massive blow to household finances. You do not really have a chance to stop reeling from this punch in the gut before you have to sit down and address the money situation.

While we certainly did not relish this opportunity, my husband and I had the chance to find out just what we could scrape by on when he was laid off late last summer. While we'd known it was a possibility down the road, when it did come we had one day's noticeand we needed to spring into immediate action.

The good news: We had savings from having sold our home several months before, and I had regular freelance work. The bad news: We were about to launch a major renovation of our home that would tear through those savings (it was a calculated risk, as the reno was of our third-floor living quarters that we were converting to a full-time Airbnb precisely so that we would always have other sources of income!).

While certain costs were unavoidable, there was definitely fluff to be trimmed. The biggest culprit? Food.

We do love our good food, and I could not remember the last time we'd stuck with a grocery budget. Instead we'd wind our way through Trader Joe's or the farmers market loading up our prizes, and then wonder where our cash went.

We did the math and arrived at an amount that could be sustainable if, worst-case scenario, it took six months for him to find another job. Then we went to the store. That first trip took forever. We scrutinized every single price, compared costs on sizesit's not as easy as just buying in bulkand tried to crunch numbers on the byzantine promotions stores offer now (whatever happened to plain ol' coupons? What's with buy five of these random assortment of non-related items and get $1 off on each?).

How I Cut Our Food Budget

One thing we had in abundance now (well, my husband did anyway, aside from job hunting and taking classes full-time) was time. Here are some of the tricks we picked up.

1. I shopped at international markets.

We made an effort to browse the aisles of the local international markets, where producewas a fraction of the cost, and prices on bulk items like beans and rice let me breathe a little easier as we loaded up the cart.

2. I found the magic of dried beans.

We broke out the Instant Pot we'd picked up in our two-income days and learned that pressure-cooked dried beans were amazing. We could not get enough, and they cost just pennies a serving.

3. I did not let special ingredients go to waste.

4. I made everything from scratch.

5. I found the cheaper versions of my favorite staples.

6. I cut back on meat.

7. I made meals that created lots of leftovers.

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