The cost of groceries is on the rise and that’s a tough blow to the budget if you’re not prepared. Some traditional ways to cut costs include shopping sales, couponing and trying generic brands. What else can you do? We have some ideas to help you dig a little deeper into your food shopping habits and save some money.
1. Plan Before You Go. Check online for your favorite store’s weekly sales and plan meals around the bargains. If you know you need seven dinners, seven breakfasts and some leftovers for lunches, make a list of what’s on sale that you like to eat. For example, if they have rotisserie chicken and potatoes on sale, plan to have chicken with a baked potato and a veggie for dinner that night. A chicken sandwich will keep you full for lunch the next day. For dinner the next night, use up what’s left of that chicken to make soup, chicken pot pie or even add some barbeque sauce for sandwiches. Potato soup is filling, easy and reheats great. Two sale items can be combined with other things and reworked into a few meals with some simple planning.
2. Shop Once. Every trip to the store will cost you more than you think it should. Even if you run in just to pick up a loaf of bread, you’ll end up spending more than planned unless you have better willpower than we have. That’s because stores are designed to make you walk past lots of good stuff to get to the necessities. Before you know it, that $3 loaf of bread is going home with a dozen donuts, some chocolate milk and boxed mac and cheese. Plus you’ll have sticker shock because you spent ten times more than planned.
3. Be Prepared. Keep some quick foods to grab when you’re tempted to hit the drive-thru. We don’t always want to go home and cook, especially when we’re tired from the day, hungry and the drive-thru line is inexplicably short. Keep frozen pizzas or some skillet meals that can be ready in minutes. Ten dollars in frozen pizzas will be cheaper than $40 worth of take out.
4. Embrace Frozen Produce. We all love having fresh produce around but it isn’t always cost effective. Fruits and vegetables are picked at their peak and flash frozen so many are more delicious than the fresh. Skip the expensive steam in the bag products and experiment with steaming, roasting and air fryer preparation just as you would with fresh vegetables. Frozen fruit is great in smoothies and muffins, can be heated for a delicious pancake topping and is good just to thaw and eat as you need it.
5. Cut Back On Snacks. That bag of Doritos is way more expensive today than it was a few years ago. Try making popcorn, shopping generic brands or even opting for a healthier snack like peanut butter on toast or carrots with dip. Also, avoid waste by finishing one bag of snacks before opening another one. This is especially hard if you have kids in the house so try creating a special snack box just for them.
6. Look For Cheaper Cuts Of Meat. Chicken legs baked in barbeque sauce are delicious. Buy a cheaper cut of steak to cook in the Crockpot with some gravy. Buy a small ham to slice for sandwiches instead of expensive lunchmeats. Shop the sales and stock up your freezer as your pocketbook allows.
7. Have Breakfast For Dinner. Nothing comes together as quickly, cheaply or deliciously as pancakes and scrambled eggs. Add some frozen berries to those pancakes and you’ll have a meal that’s even pretty to eat. Plus, when you’re talking dollars per ounce, eggs are a cost effective way to get in some protein!
8. Audit Your Fridge. Saving money on food is about curbing waste as much as it’s about finding the best price. How much food gets thrown away in your house every week? Look through the fridge every couple of days to identify anything that’s at risk. If there’s a lot, put out all those leftovers buffet style. If there’s a little, take it in your lunch. Odds and ends of vegetables and meats go well in soups, omelets and pot pies. Surplus zucchini is great shredded and used as filler in meatballs or in delicious muffins. Google how to use up leftovers and be amazed at what you’re wasting.
9. Be Smart About Drinks. We all like our favorite fizzy drinks, fancy coffee creamers and sugary sports drinks but these costs add up and they have no nutritional value. Drink more water and save the fun drinks as a treat.
As you can see, a big part of saving money on groceries involves thought, planning and simply using what you have. It isn’t hard work and it gets easier to do with experience. You don’t have to adopt all of these changes at once to be successful. Choose one or two to try right now and keep working at making improvements as you can.