Who doesn’t want to save money these days?
Long before the federal government ‘fessed up and declared that we’ve been in a recession since late 2007, folks have been looking for ways to save money on groceries as food prices have crept (soared, some say) upward. Here are some basic tips to keep a lid on your food bill.
Plan your meals for the week.
It sounds obvious, I know, but if you overlook this basic step, the shopping cart becomes a money pit of stuff you think you’ll eat but that may end up languishing in the fridge or pantry (or, worse, getting thrown away). Take 15 minutes to plan what you want to eat for the week. Also consider how you can use the leftovers. For example, if you roast or grill a pork tenderloin, you can have it one night and use any extra in a sandwich another night. The experts at the Culinary Institute of America call this “planned overs”; it’s a strategy professional chefs use all the time, and it can help you mange your grocery bill.
Start shopping in your own kitchen.
That’s right, take a moment to look through the fridge and pantry so you don’t inadvertently purchase items you already have on hand. I’m always surprised to discover I already have one or two things that I was sure I’d need to buy.
Make a list…and stick to it. Grocery retailers place all kinds of impulse-buy temptations in the way of shoppers (I’m a sucker for end-of-aisle promotions). Those items can add up at the checkout counter. Be strong, stick to your list, and your wallet will thank you for it.
Check out coupons and store flyers for bargains on items you use.
Let me repeat: on items you use. Savings on stuff you don’t use is money wasted. That said, it’s a good idea to stock up when items you use are well-priced. Check out sites like Coupons.com, as well as manufacturers’ Web sites for special promotions.
Forget brand loyalty.
When it comes to brands, be willing to pick up a house brand ofdiced tomatoes, for example, if that’s a better buy. Also check out stores you may have ignored in the past. I recently shopped at the German-owned discount grocery retailer Aldi and was pleasantly surprised by the quality, as well as the prices. And now that I’ve returned to Southern California, you can be sure I’ll be checking out the 99-Cent Store.
Opt for seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables.
In winter, citrus fruits are a better buy, for example, than fresh blueberries. If you crave out-of-season fare, buy frozen or canned versions.
Remember, less processed=cheaper.
Whole onions cost less than pre-chopped ones, for instance, and whole heads of lettuce are cheaper than bagged and washed salad greens. If you’re willing to do some of the work cleaning and chopping, you will save money.
Use all of what you buy.
If you roast a whole chicken, save the carcass to make homemade chicken stock, which you then can use to make soup, sauces, etc. Use leftover veggies in a soup, or use them to make stock. Challenging yourself to make use of what you already have can yield some nice surprises.
…and for more ideas
Check out my story (and recipes) for eating dinner for a buck (yep, a buck) per serving.