So many of us are feeling the financial pinch, and groceries take an ever-bigger chunk out of the family food budget. But you can reduce the size of that chunk by re-evaluating your food and shopping choices. And guess what? It can be fun! Here are some sneaky ways to save money on food.
Your local grocery store probably sends out a flier in the local newspaper, or they have them stacked inside the doorway of the store itself. Some stores post their sales online. Make it a weekly habit to review these sales. Then plan that week’s meals based on what’s on sale. Of course, stocking up on sale items is something that is within many budgets; but make sure it’s a food that is or can be preserved.
When you’re in the store, keep a sharp eye out for tables and brightly-colored stickers. Foods that are on the verge of spoilage, near their expiration date, or that have damaged packaging are often on sale for super-low prices. You may have to do a quick re-plan of your meals if you need to eat the sale item that same day; or, take the item home and freeze it or make something with it that can be frozen or preserved.
Some shoppers pursue coupons with the devotion and zeal of the dedicated bargain-hunter. But if stashing perfectly organized coupons in plastic binders is not your style, you can still make use of coupons available online, through your local store, or in fliers. A word of caution about coupons – beware of changing your family’s food choices drastically to accommodate coupons. Many times, you’ll save more money by buying fresh, whole foods without coupons than expensive pre-packaged foods with them.
Whole and Homemade
It really is cheaper to buy whole foods and make your own snacks and meals than buying pre-prepared foods. Buy staples like flour (or wheat berries – which is even cheaper – if you can grind your own) and make your own baked goods; buy potatoes and make oven fries rather than buying pre-cut frozen potatoes; buy whole carrots and scrub and cut them; etc.
Even fresh produce is subject to expensive pre-preparation. Buying a head of lettuce and washing it yourself, for instance, nearly always costs less than a pre-washed salad in a bag. The same is true for pre-cut vegetables and fruits, and the expense is even greater if the pre-cut foods come packaged with dips or other flavor enhancers.
Let’s face it – meat is expensive, and adds a lot to the monthly food budget. And many health experts agree that it is not necessary to eat meat for three meals a day or even for one meal a day. It gets really pricey when you buy deli and packaged meats.
Try cutting back on your family’s meat consumption and try making things like vegetarian meatballs and black bean burgers. Beans are a very cheap meat substitute and can be used to make a lot of substantial dishes. In addition, dried beans do not harbor the dangerous bacteria that meat can.
It can be so much fun to plot, plan, and save. Enjoy!